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The Astromancer

Vice-Admiral Janeway hadn’t spent a night in the outdoors since her days in Indiana, when she and her friends used to break away, explore the limestone quarries and camp at Lake Lemon to watch the regattas. Stars seem so small and bright up there. Silver orbs go by her; conveying an air of equanimity.

“Navels give the impression of being somewhat frail, but they are actually very resilient and diligent workers and have this obsession with light. Their ghostly looks remind me of Bhytor and Thamas. Tomorrow shall be interesting”, Janeway closes her eyes after a smooth whisper. Her biomechanical suit is “wonderful”. She doesn’t feel any discomfort in trying to catch a rare good night sleep.

She dreams again of a younger self; in grainy black-white-sepia images:

“Class L planets are usually rocky and waterless; but this one has a big island in the middle of a lake, supporting prairies, copious vegetation and animal life... and why am I so young. This can’t be right!”, Janeway muses in her dream.

Navels insist she is their Astromancer and her role is to read skies. The funny thing is; they have a point. She too wants to find out about planet’s location. “Not an easy task”, since the only available astrometrics are inside her wrecked Ferengi pod. “Maybe I should try repairing the damn thing; but I don’t have B’Elanna with me”, she reflects.

The shuttle was a total loss. The Astromancer gets back in it to restart systems. She still can’t figure out what went wrong with the temporal rift: “It appeared stable. The tachyon pulse was robust and then... that overpowering light came out of nowhere”.

She is lucky to be alive and... back in her 20’s! The chrono-deflector got melted down by the tachyokinetic energy; draining away most of the dilithium as well. She could briefly replay some stellar cartography on screen; just before “...the whole caboodle” went off for real. “This pod is dead”, she grumbles as Navel children play with controls.

The Astromancer places a hand on her UT and look at her tricorder. They soon will be gone too; with no power and interface. “I just wanted to bring everyone home sooner. What am I gonna’ do now?”, she begins to sob aloud. Kids gets startled. Makhire -the boy present during her rescue- inadvertently hits a patch as he watches tears flowing from her eyes. Na’Far pods carry a back-up telescope, powered by a solar panel... a Ferengi thing! Janeway now knows what to do: “I got to take it to a mountaintop and, at least, have a bit of a connection with Space”.

A couple of weeks later...

Two grownup Navels steer a rustic rowing boat across the placid swaying lake; while a stream of ripples departs behind it. The Ferengi telescope stick-out the stern. The Astromancer and Makhire converge... talking about life and stars.
Makhire: Don’t you like our cousins’ mountain?
Astromancer: I love it! Beautiful place... but I can’t see the skies very well.

Makhire: You think it’s better... outside Navel?
Astromancer: Not sure; but atmospheric interference might be lower over the barrens.
Makhire: Demons live in there. They like to eat Navels.
Astromancer: So I heard; but I assure you Makhire... the area is deserted. Not a soul. Cartography...
The Astromancer stops; realizing Makhire can’t possibly imagine what the heck is she talking about.

Makhire: How can you speak our tongue so well?
Astromancer: I told you... this badge; but it won’t last forever. You’ll have to teach me your language later on. Do you understand?
Makhire: Yes! I do. It’s like with our cousins. We -kids- can whisper their tongue; but they... (he points at the grown-ups) can’t and must learn the signs.
Makhire makes signs with his hands.
Astromancer: Right! Something like that...

The boat docks on the shore.
Makhire: Look! Orbs turn brown...
Astromancer: What’s up with them?
Makhire: Brown? Heavy verve! Not safe... we should go back to Navel.
Astromancer: Makhire! Come with me; we’re doing this,.. okay?
The boy nods.

The group crosses an invisible threshold of humidity. The orbs stay behind. The climate gets hotter and dry. A muddy strip extends many miles width into the horizon.
Astromancer: The lake back there... is shrinking.
Makhire: I know. Orbs die too. That’s why you must read the skies for us.
Astromancer: We shall then hurry a little Makhire and... make it to that mountain over there.

They keep themselves off the mud by moving forward across boulders; though unaware of a ten-meter long sludgy creature, burrowing its way towards them. The snub-faced predator crawls up a cliff with its powerful front splayed-legs and flank them. They all stand still before their inevitable fate. The beast charges with its menacing tusks and half coiled tale pointing at the group.

Astromancer: Makhire! Get out of the way! Come with me...

The grownup throw rocks at it. The Astromancer fires a weak shot with her phaser gun; but the creature only gets more infuriated and sweeps Navels with its tale. They fall in the murky sludge. Other beasts move in for the kill. Makhire hides behind her. Navels make signs to someone coming from behind. The Astromancer tracks the signs with her eyes. A huge mountaineer dashes across boulders in long strides.
Janeway can detail his looks well in her dream. He takes good impulse and jump to strike the scary predator down with his obsidian macana. An orange orb shows up.

Makhire: Champion Rukhari! We’re safe.
Astromancer: I didn’t see him coming. What’s he doing out here?
The Astromancer asks Makhire... as Rukhari handles the beast.
Makhire: He fights demons.
Rukhari throws the beast towards the incoming herd. He rescues the fallen Navels and gets back to drier terrain with the two grownups on his ample shoulders.

Rukhari: Wakane torbo... Haukapi yarne!
The Astromancer glares at Makhire for translation.
Makhire: You strange woman... trespassed my hunting grounds.
Astromancer: I’m not... He’s just being vile.
Makhire translates. Rukhari rants and rave.
Makhire: He didn’t like... vile!
Astromancer: I came with you; if he hasn’t yet noticed.

Makhire whispers an explanation.
Rukhari: Quamarike haukapi!
Makhire: I’m a trespasser too; he says.
Makhire gets emotional. This is the first time a cousin calls him “trespasser”.
Astromancer: Great! You now made the boy cry.
Rukhari: Makailo taine quamarike wakane torbo.
Makhire: We both must go back home.
Astromancer: Tell him... I need to read the skies from that mountain.

Rukhari doesn’t approve.
Rukhari: Makailo taine! Keoto atele haounu tordo.
Makhire: Go back! Clouds can also clear over my mountain.
Astromancer: His mountain? I can’t work there with so many orbs messing up with me.
Makhire: “Tell them to back-off!”, he says.
Astromancer: Your cousin is incredible!
Makhire: He likes you too.
The Astromancer opens her blue eyes wide.
Astromancer: Huh? What?

MacPherson Nebula

A few Navels gaze at the three peculiar visitors striding up the promontory, dressed in weird wetsuits and with bizarre tools in their hands. White orbs glossy reflect shrouds of light on the trio. Janeway, Tuvok and Chakotay puzzle over the experience: “Shall we even be here at all?”, Chakotay puts across his concern. Janeway and Tuvok concur with him as they all recall their time together with DaVinci the night before, unfolding another scroll from his legendary drapery collection:

Lodom: Sensors reveal a coherent energy matrix 37 degrees ahead.
Seven: Emissions patterns…
Lodom: Organic…
Seven: Vertion particles…
Veya: A profuse influx...

Seven: Ionic radiation…
Lodom: High! 20,000 mSv...
Seven: Source…
Lodom: Traits consistent with a matter-antimatter explosion.
Seven: Someone detonated a photonic weapon in this sector.
Veya: Talarians? They don’t…

Seven: Borg may have provided them with know-how.
Veya: This is very... very wrong. Prime Directive… hello!
Lodom: Or another controversial example of technology convergence…
Veya: Why the interest?
Lodom: To play God… You saw Tudor.
Veya: Yeah! I know. He regards himself as divine!

Seven suspects something else could be happening.
Seven: It may have been the response to a bait message.
Lodom: From those beings?
Seven: I can’t tell. Insufficient data…
Veya: Anyway! Does this drama concern us in any fashion?
Seven: It might...

Veya: I don’t follow you.
Seven addresses Lodom.
Seven: Scan for neuropathways…
Lodom: I’ll be...! Similar to Human neocortex…
Seven: Positronics…
Veya: Starfleet’s signature…
Seven: We brought that lifeform to this timeline.

Veya: What? Seven…
Seven: The first strain self-emerged onboard Enterprise D. Captain Picard believed it deserved the same kind of respect as other beings.
Lodom: Could it survive on its own?
Seven: To certain extent…
Veya: Not entirely then…
Seven: They require a constant infusion of vertion particles to reproduce.
Veya: I see. Picard gave them a little push.
Lodom: He fired on McPherson to increase vertion particles.
Seven: It worked. Most of the lifeform migrated to the Nebula.

Lodom: But not all of it…
Seven: Some stayed onboard and spawned like wildfire across Starfleet.
Lodom: Thus; we all have it in our starships.
Veya: Don’t they impose a potential hazard?
Seven: They may display unpredictable behavior during procreation.
Lodom: In which case… we go along with it and fire another photon torpedo.
Veya: Smart! They use us as transportation to populate cosmic leftovers.
Lodom: What’s their purpose?
Seven: CMO Beverly Crusher suggested a theory.
Veya: I can’t believe it’s just to bring themselves into being.
Seven: No! This lifeform is rich on self-replicating RNA molecules. If brought to the surface of a CHZ planet, it could become the precursor of more complex biodiversity.

An unfamiliar signal catches Veya’s attention.
Veya: What’s that?
Lodom: Tachyon pulses…
Seven: Frequencies…
Lodom: Alternating…
Veya: Seven! I’m getting a considerable subspace disruption.
Seven: Field magnitude…
Veya: 3.4 teracochranes…
Seven: Incoming Borg conduit…

A Borg sphere blurts out the matter stream of its transwarp corridor; emitting an intense emerald Polaron beam.

Lodom: They’re scanning our friends.
Veya: What for? I hate Borg.
Lodom: They’re now charging weapons.
Veya: Against us?
Lodom: No! They aim at the beings.
Veya: Seven! What shall we do?
Seven: Nothing…
Lodom: This looks like a good moment to break out.
Seven: They haven’t detected us.
Lodom: Exactly…

The Borg sphere fires its potent photonic weapon and for a split second, the crew of the Delta Flyer can see how large the mesh of tiny little orbs is. Borg detect fluctuations in their nodes and attempt to transwarp; but they can’t get away from the huge netting wrapping their sphere up before perforating subspace. Seven, Veya and Lodom take a deep breath and initiate maneuvers to avoid the vortex and leave MacPherson.

Back to Tutorial

Janeway, Tuvok and Chakotay reach the top of the promontory to watch over activities from high ground. They can digitally see it all through optical sensors in their helmets. Navel children play close by with crystal prisms.

Kiapo: I can’t reach the light.
The boy tries in vain to capture colorful reflections. Janeway glances at him curious. A thatch roofed village can bee seen in the background. A reticent Tuvok observe Navels.
Tuvok: Vice-Admiral; their ostensible fearless behavior perplexes me.
Janeway: Don’t worry Tuvok! They trust us... we’re backing them up.
Chakotay: Are we? Our crew doesn’t seem so helpful.

Downhill, crew have troubles assisting Navels with pulling ropes and pushing a huge Moai-like statue toward its hole. Neelix falls and flips over dirt. A rope looses and whips Miral in her buttocks. Some Navels have a blast. Others dance in short swinging steps. Takhare and Yukhure join Janeway and her senior staff up the promontory.

Janeway: Tom! How’re you guys doing?
B’Elanna: Well! As you can see; it hasn’t been pretty.
Tom disapproves her interruption.
Tom Paris: Vice-Admiral; we’re almost done here.
Janeway, Tuvok and Chakotay oversee how a monumental statue is placed besides other two imposing headstones. They remind Tuvok of the Sanctuary of Mentors.
Janeway: What do you think they represent?
Janeway directs her question to Chakotay.
Chakotay: Likely; they are modeled after real life characters.

Tuvok: Who’re they?
Tuvok directs question to Navels.
Takhare: Taraga and Makahe; they’re champions.
Takhare points at the two preceding statues.
Yukhure: Zhagori! Greatest Champion!
Yukhure proudly points at the last statue.

Takhare: It gets late; we’d like to express our gratitude for helping us to dance Zhagori.
Supervisory group pace its way down to Navel Village; when a girl cuts them off.
Gaya: You’re Sky Spirits!
Takhare and Yukhure hush at her. She runs down the trail.
Chakotay: Sky Spirits?

Yukhure: Endearing kid... HeHeHe! It’s a legend.
Janeway: We’d love to hear about it.
Takhare: Well! Supposedly, a Messenger came from above long time ago to announce an age of struggle between Sky Spirits and Demons.
Janeway and her officers get intrigued by Takhare’s story.
Tuvok: A tale indeed worth noting…

Yukhure: Many Navels believe in it; but our Astromancer…HeHeHe! She’s skeptic.
Janeway: Astromancer? I’d like to meet her.
Takhare: It’s not a good idea.
Chakotay: Why not?
Janeway and her senior officers wonder.
Yukhure: Don’t matter! She’s old and thematic.

Next day; outside Navel Village, Seven and B’Elanna discuss their tasks, dressed up in biomechanical suits and gassy/gleaming helmets. They use tricorders to assess the surroundings. Navels follow them with interest. Snails-like creatures of all sizes, some of them big as dogs, slowly crawl their way around.

B’Elanna: Seven! Your non-stop scanning pushes my patience to the limit. What’s wrong with this mud? Is not dirty enough?
Seven: We don’t prospect for any mud; and dirtiness is irrelevant.
B’Elanna: Oh well! Would you then be kind enough to enlighten me?
Seven: This soil doesn’t have the exact mixture of sand, silt, clay and organic matter.
B’Elanna: In other words; this mud is not perfect for you.
Seven: Precisely! In addition; I don’t see any source of straw nearby.
B’Elanna: I have an idea. Let’s run a test!
Seven doubts B’Elanna…

Village’s workshop…
Tuvok: Vice-Admiral; this is a first-rate workshop for a Neolithic culture. Their flint and obsidian tools are like nothing I had seen before.
Janeway: They burnish their pottery and gild their furniture. It’s so beautiful.
Janeway is delighted with their fine handicrafts.
Chakotay: Kathryn! I think their crafting skills fulfill our “expertise criteria”.
Janeway: I agree. I could take this lovely jar back home for my patio.

Icheb observes from the Sphere.
Icheb: Chakotay! Can you get closer to those implements over that table?
Chakotay: Yes! I’ll sure do. These are bones, horn, springy-wood and ligaments.
Janeway: All these smaller pots here are filled up with plant gum.
Icheb: What the amphora contain?
Tuvok: Tricorder reads birch-tar, bitumen and iron-oxide.

Janeway: What is all this for?
Icheb: Those are fibers for heavy-duty cordage and compounds for making glue.
Chakotay: These laminated bows and slingshots are impressive ordnances.
The weaponry hangs off a bamboo-like wall.
Tuvok: They are impeccably finished.

Icheb: Remarkable! Can anyone hold-back one of those big bows for me?
Both Tuvok and Chakotay try their best. They wonder if any Navel could possibly handle such rugged weaponry.
Tuvok: Three Klingons… could not get it in full tension.
Chakotay: They must belong to some very strong Navels.
Janeway: Or someone else in this island...

Out there in the prairie…
Seven: How many of these mud balls shall we make to initiate test?
B’Elanna: As many as you can before I say – Go!
B’Elanna throws mud balls to Seven; who after a little hesitation reacts and responds by throwing her own to B’Elanna.

Janeway checks on everyone.
Miral: We are through putting together their Crop Nursery.
Neelix: Navels joined us in stocking up seeds and sowing them in clay-pans. Nerhe should be sprouting soon and be ready for transplanting.
Janeway: Tom! Harry! Farming tools! How are they coming along?
Tom Paris: We finished a couple of tillers and a plough. We made them of hardwood and shod with flint-stone. We’re working on the yoke.
Harry Kim: Navels are excited about harvesting with a sickle.
Janeway: Have you guys been able to spot a draught animal anywhere?

Harry Kim: Negative! But; a boy mentioned “Marusos” when I mimic an Ox.
Tom Paris: They are supposed to pasture in herds up in high plains to the East.
Janeway: Icheb! We need to locate those animals.
Icheb: All right! I’ll be on my way to pick you guys up.
Janeway: B’Elanna! Seven! I haven’t heard anything from you two.

Janeway can’t hear clearly. It is an L-Class Planet. She figures they may be having trouble with their communicator badges. Icheb arrives and beams her up, together with Chakotay and Tuvok. They’re confident about finding Marusos out there.

Mud patch…
Seven: We ran out of mud balls. Your test has failed. Do you have any other ideas?
B’Elanna: Sure I do; we could improvise.
B’Elanna sprints towards Seven and they get tangled fighting in mud. Enhanced by their biomechanical suits, they’re able to perform incredible moves. Some Navels surround them to witness in awe live MMA combat from the 24th Century.

Icheb: Those must be the Marusos.
Chakotay: Very big muskoxen…
Tuvok: We can’t fit them in here.
Icheb: We don’t need to. I can tow them down with our tractor-beam.
Janeway: Okay; let’s do it! We must hurry. We still have work to do.
Sphere tows two Marusos across a blue sky. Hiding behind boulders; three big folks talk gibberish as they watch a never-seen-before airborne operation.

From Voyager to Navel Village…
Doctor: B’Elanna! Seven! I’m disconcerted with your health readings. You’re showing symptoms of exhaustion and dehydration. Stop any physical activity!
B’Elanna and Seven try to catch their breath as they hear Doctor’s orders. They’re worn out and caved in dirt.
B’Elanna: Doctor! No troubles! We’re now resting on… imperfect mud.
Doctor ponders her answer. Seven and B’Elanna perspire copiously. They can’t fully open their eyes, blinded by sunlight. Navel children close in and throw mud balls at them. They run away giggling. Bhytor and Thamas show up.

Bhytor: You two could be court-martialed, discharge for bad conduct and confined to the brig for a reasonable period in accordance with General Order 39B.
Seven: Thank you Bhytor; we’re also aware of our right to remain silent.
Thamas stares at B’Elanna and makes her an offer she can’t resist.
Thamas: You’re a bad girl. Take it. Eat bread!

Marusos are furry and docile type of cattle with splashy tongues. Janeway focus on Tom and Harry fitting a wood made yoke. Chakotay and Tuvok instruct volunteers. They get slightly distracted by kids playing to take-off and land flying-like toys. Others observe and talk softly among themselves.

Takhare: Visitors trespassed and took Marusos from their pastures.
Yukhure: Mountaineers don’t like trespassing; but haven’t yet showed up.
Takhare: Oh! They’ll come down.
Yukhure: Shall we advise visitors? They might be -after all- Sky Spirits.
Takhare: No yet! So far they only seem interested in teaching us.
Yukhure: You think they may want something in exchange.
Takhare: I don’t know. All I’m saying is... We shall not risk our ties with Mountaineers for… some crops and bricks.
Yukhure: You’re right. How many Mountaineers shall we expect?
Takhare: They saw visitor’s flying-bubble. They’ll send the three champions.

Tuvok and Chakotay find Seven and B’Elanna working hard in their project with some enthusiastic Navels.

Tom Paris: Did you have fun looking for mud?
B’Elanna: You have no idea!
Tuvok: Outstanding! This sweatshop is already fully operational.
Seven: It’s rudimentary, but functional. Navels will mix mud and straw here. They’ll use these wood-made molds to make bricks and sundry them over there.
Tom Paris: Are you all right... B’Elanna? You look shilly-shally.
B’Elanna: It’s nothing! I now appreciate better… people with Borg content.
Tuvok: Seven! Is there anything noteworthy you’d like to add?
Seven: Yes! I do. No mud is unspoiled.

Janeway gathers her crew in village’s center just before dusk. Air is imbibed by smoky scents from burning firewood. Navels bring seafood, veggies and fruits. Janeway, Tuvok and Chakotay will get back to Voyager. Rest of crew shall stay overnight and wrap up early next day. Children play among rounded stones. Three big folks descend from the high plains; jumping and slaloming down hill. Chakotay scan Atlas stones.

Chakotay: These perfectly round stones are not carved; but forged.
Tuvok: Navels can’t melt rock in their wood ovens.
Janeway takes a quick glance before being interrupted again.
Takhare: This is a festivity in your honor. You should stay tonight.
Janeway points at B’Elanna, Tom and Harry.

Janeway: Thank you Takhare; but I have to go. Your people have been wonderful with us these days. This crew will stay and join Navels in celebration.
Tuvok: Takhare! What do you plan to do with your new knowledge?
Takhare: We wish to teach it to Mountaineers.
Janeway: Who are these Mountaineers?
Takhare: Our cousins up there. Their ancestors came from the barrens... far away.
Janeway: I may have seen one in dreams.
Yukhure: HeHeHe! Maybe you did. White orbs conjure up impressions on everyone.

Chakotay had to pop the question.
Chakotay: Do they use bows and slingshots by any chance?
Yukhure: Yes! We make their weapons for their games.
Tuvok: They compete.
Yukhure: Cousins contest in trials and we watch them carrying out great feats.
Janeway: Are they coming down here tonight?

Takhare thinks about it; looking for words.
Takhare: They don’t like festivities.
Janeway: Well! I’m sorry we won’t have a chance to meet them.
Yukhure: Maybe; tomorrow?
Janeway: You all get up early. B’Elanna! Get a good night sleep and clean up your suit. Icheb! Seven! Take us to Voyager!

Harry, B’Elanna and Tom are served with homemade meal and honored with a tribal play. They eat through their gassy helmets. Navels perform disguised in feathers and wearing rattan masks. They pretend to rise and fly; blowing winds and pointing at stars. Others dressed up with straw made costumes dance in short steps like Type-F. Three cousins bent in shadows, cuddling their two Marusos pasturing by the hillside. They then disappear... deeper into the forest.

At down; Seven and Icheb investigate the source of the orbs, a large hot-spring in the lakebed...

Icheb: Abiogenesis...
Seven: But how it works? These are not simple organic compounds.
Icheb: Sensors report recent geological activity...
Seven: External! Some kind of stellar event..
Icheb: A small asteroid?
Seven: Maybe...

Icheb: Wait! Getting cross-reference report on screen...
Seven: Photo-organic nodes with neural-transceiver properties...
Icheb: They can copy thoughts and retransmit data. They’re aware of each other.
Seven: But not of themselves.
Icheb: Borg...
Seven: It can’t be. How...
Icheb: Why not? We’re in the Delta Quadrant.

Seven feels awkward. Icheb should know better. He was Borg too.
Seven: Borg are driven by assimilation of technology to achieve perfection.
Icheb: These orbs are perfect!
Seven:They’re not. Each one of them only posses fragments of knowledge.
Icheb: They seem to put those fragments to good use and work together in sustaining a humidity dome over the lake area.
Seven: Which only serves as mega-catalyst for biodiversity.

Icheb: Don’t you find that convenient?
Seven: Convenient? For who?
Icheb: Navels...
Seven: Icheb! They’re in the Neolithic.
Icheb: I think these orbs encourage them to search for knowledge.
Seven: Then; we shouldn’t even be here teaching them basic agriculture and masonry.
Icheb: We’re here to jump-start their quest for progress.

Sensors pick-up multiple entries. Seven and Icheb watch on screen as 8472s’ ships go down in flames due to planet’s heavily charged atmosphere. Noisy explosions wake up everyone in Navel. An enemy shuttlecraft makes it through and lands just off the village.

Janeway: Seven! Come in! What’s your status?
Seven: Icheb and I are underwater. A malfunctioning Bioship made it through. We detect 23 Fluidian-Borg signatures.
Janeway: Can you communicate with our crew on land?
Seven: Negative! Bioship jams perimeter with infrasonic radiation. Intruders aren’t aware of our location though.
Chakotay: Seven! Up here; Fluidians amass a large hostile fleet out of the irregularity from which we jumped in.
Tuvok: Queen will be leading them into battle.

Seven: They became allies.
Janeway: We think she recovered her memory. Navels may be destined to play an adversarial key role in her troublesome future.
Chakotay: Seven! Those drones must be stopped.
Seven: The Sphere is unarmed.
Icheb: We could reconfigure its tractor beam into a shock-weapon.
Janeway: Good idea! Attack on Voyager is imminent. Keep us posted!
Seven: Understood! Seven out!

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