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  1. Beyond Aurora Nebula 231 According to Starfleet Intelligence, USS Rodman, USS Chi Song, and USS Agincourt had been either trapped by, or pulled into nebula 231 - not even close to the Alien Alliance. USS Rodman’s Commander Julian Trajan pushed off from the command chair as soft, wispy hues of pale pink intertwined with beige, cream, aquamarine, deep yellow, vividly glittering gold, and light blue appeared on the forward viewscreen. Within a few seconds it faded and reappeared, their tendrils dancing around the ship. It had been nearly a decade since Trajan had seen such glory within a nebula. Stunningly beautiful and mesmerizing, it elicited a child-like smile as the commander watched their tendrils sweep through the nebula. USS Rodman’s internal configuration varied from most science vessels. Nebular investigation demanded more intricate equipment, several extraordinary technical consoles, and highly trained engineers. Most of the crew had been aboard five years or more, were adept in their fields of expertise, and constantly focused on their consoles. A few were on their first nebular voyage, and focused more on the nebula than their consoles. Ensign Jersey looked up, wondering what the commander was watching, then gasped. “Whoa…man…” he said in astonishment, elbowing his team mate. “Take a look!” But she was already watching the screen. “It’s hard to not look, Luke,” Ensign Karel countered, mimicking his expression. “Never seen anything like it! What the hell….?” She ducked reflexively as the tendrils engulfed the ship for a few seconds, then faded to appear again some distance away to resume its ballet. “It’s called nebular mist,” Commander Trajan replied as he approached the screen and leaned on the starboard console. “Nebular mist,” he repeated with a sigh. “Something you see once in a lifetime. I’m sure you’ve seen the aurora borealis.” He turned, amused, to watch the ensigns' continued wide-eyed stare. “Aurora borealis, yes sir, a few times. The first time was when I was a kid. My dad got us out of bed just past midnight to watch. But this? It's... they’re… it's...” Karel waved a shaky hand at the screen. “Really different?” “Yes, sir. I’ve never seen anything like it, sir. It’s a… like a….” Hands wide, she shrugged in a struggle for words. “Something pretty unbelievable?” “Oh, yes sir.” “So… now that you’ve seen it,” Trajan said straightening up to tap on their consoles, “stop staring and get to work. Gather all the information you can before it disappears completely. This might be your only chance, the chance of a lifetime. And spit everything to Doctor Dankworth at the academy. Got it?” “Yes, sir!” they replied in tandem. USS Rodman was on its second tour through nebula 231, one of the most interesting nebulae they had ever explored. Trajan knew it wouldn’t be long before word spread and other science vessels would join them. Rodman, Chi Song, and Agincourt often went tete-a-tete regarding science expeditions. First come, first served? You got it. And this time it was their turn.