"Blood Dilithium" is the term coined by the crew of the USS Merevek to describe strange formations of dilithium crystals found in the Delta Quadrant's Gradin Belt after a massive subspace phase pulse passed through the region on September 16th, 2400. Although structurally identical to naturally occurring dilithium, Blood Dilithium has been seen to emit a crimson glow; perhaps the main reason why its nickname has stuck. The extreme speed with which blood dilithium grew on the surfaces of planets, moons and other celestial bodies has hitherto been thought impossible. Growth locations have thus far only been observed in areas within five lightyears of various subspace anomalies in the region. Starfleet Science has put out a call for further studies on blood dilithium, particularly regarding the numerous reports of a violent terror instilled in the minds of telepathic species in close proximity to it. Starfleet, however are not the only ones researching. The highly advanced, fanatically telepath-hating Devore Imperium has been aggressive in its expansion to secure new dilithium fields for itself. Not only has this contributed to the Gradin Belt chaos, rumours of the Imperium's sinister research into Blood Dilithium's anti-telepathic properties now abound.
The earliest reports on the appearance of new dilithium fields in the Gradin Belt date from September 19th, 2400 following the detection of a subspace phase pulse in the region eleven days earlier. News of its appearance quickly spread throughout the galaxy, attracting government and private mining operations alike to the area in the hopes of exploiting the new resource. Rumours of the new dilithium's strange effects on telepaths quickly began to circulate.
On October 13th, 2400 the USS Merevek became the first Starfleet vessel to perform a detailed analysis of the new dilithium. Operating on a diplomatic liaison mission near Turei space, the Merevek quickly diverted upon detecting dilithium deposits within the accretion disc of a 10km wide neutron star. The Merevek closed to a distance of 35,000km of the collapsed star’s core to obtain adequate sensor readings. Their course took them within the accretion disc itself, at extremely close range to high concentrations of new dilithium growing upon the rocky remains of planets that once orbited the collapsed star. Captain Correth later noted in her log that as the ship inched further through the jagged rubble, all eleven telepathic members of the ship’s crew reported a slow-building sense of unease. On moving within 10,000km of the most concentrated dilithium veins, abject terror began to rip through their minds.
Chief Medical Officer's log, stardate 77824.9. Photon emission tomography scans indicate patient H, a Betazoid, is suffering hyperfusion in the lateral temporal cortex. Observations are consistent with visual and auditory hallucinations arising from severe schizoaffective disorders. Symptoms alleviated only when the Merevek moved away from the dilithium field. Remarkably, structured questioning shows patient H’s experience to be nearly identical to that of the other ten patients affected. Auditory hallucinations have taken the form of a single voice of indeterminate sex, speaking in a low snarl. Clear statements recorded include, “Smash them all,” and, “Spill the blood of those that sent us here.” ~Dr. Vashek, Chief Medical Officer, USS Merevek
Blood Dilithium has so far been found only within five light-year radii of subspace anomalies in the Gradin Belt. The crystals have the potential to appear on any solid surface in these areas of space, including asteroids, planets, moons and artificial structures. Blood Dilithium crystals share the same refinement and starship fuelling potential as ordinary dilithium. Crystal formations can at times be extremely dense, wreaking havoc with planetary ecosystems and civilisations. All formations have appeared after the subspace wave pulse detected in the Gradin Belt on September 16th, 2400.
The proximity of Blood Dilithium growths to spatial anomalies has led some Starfleet scientists to theorise that the subspace wave pulse has somehow weakened interdimensional spatial boundaries. While currently an extremely crude hypothesis, it is thought that the Blood Dilithium may be spreading from a realm of space outside our current knowledge.
Blood Dilithium's effects on telepathic species are poorly understood. From what has been observed, the greater a species' telepathic ability, the more severe the observed changes in an individual's behaviour. Reports have varied from a general sense of foreboding experienced by mildly telepathic species (e.g. Vulcans, Deltans) to an all-consuming psychotic terror in fully telepathic species (e.g. Betazoids, Ullians). In the most severe cases, reported symptoms have included unknown, disembodied voices fueling a sense of paranoia within the affected. Voices encourage individuals to commit acts of violence and destruction against both personnel and/or ship's systems in the vicinity. To these ends, the use of handheld anti-personnel weapons, nearby objects, and the individual's own hands and teeth has been observed.
Reports of great upheaval in the Gradin Belt began to filter their way through to Starfleet Command by mid-October, 2400. The appearance of Blood Dilithium created "gold rush" into the Delta Quadrant, with mining operations from species across the galaxy racing to prospect new dilithium fields and capitalise on the strategic resource. There followed a huge spike in distress calls, placing great strain on Starfleet's limited resources deployed to the region as some of the only ships willing to attend. Undue confidence, poor preparation and unfamiliarity with the perils of the Delta Quadrant contributed to this.
With no permanent bases and limited supply lines, Starfleet's Delta Quadrant presence found itself stretched to the breaking point as the displacement of populations by Blood Dilithium growth and mining operations threatened humanitarian disaster. The sudden aggressive expansion of the Devore Imperium led to several tense standoffs with the advanced telepath-hating empire, forcing Starfleet to commit yet more units to protect threatened populations.
Concerned by these developments in the Gradin Belt and increasingly puzzled by sudden appearance of the Blood Dilithium, Starfleet has directed the Fourth Fleet to bolster its presence in the region. As the Task Force most commonly relied on to operate far beyond Federation space, Task Force 17 was chosen to spearhead efforts. Fleet Captain Erill'Yun Mek and Captain Andreus Kohl were given temporary command of all Delta Quadrant operations from a temporary command post established at the Markonian Outpost. Vice Admiral Alexander Beckett coordinated wider Fourth Fleet resource deployment from Alpha and Beta Quadrants.
The Fourth Fleet's response was arranged in three protocols:
The Fourth Fleet was initially tasked with locating as many dilithium fields as possible. Starfleet Science considered it a key priority to gather all the data it could. It sought information on the types of spatial anomalies around which Blood Dilithium had grown, patterns in which it had formed, its interactions with subspace, and details of its effects on telepathic species.
Ships of the Fourth Fleet spread out across the Gradin Belt in search of spatial anomalies. Captains were given wide discretion as to where to focus their searches. Long range explorers made for the outer edges of the Gradin Belt, cruisers dipped their toes into unexplored space, and smaller vessels took care not to stray too far from tenuous Starfleet supply chains. They faced challenges every step of the way from miners jealously guarding their dilithium hoardes to spacebourne lifeforms, Hirogen Hunters to fanatical officers of the Devore Imperium. Few Starfleet vessels avoided the capricious mores of the Delta Quadrant.
Upon discovery, the local area was to be surveyed and scoured for any signs of Blood Dilithium growth. Interactions between Blood Dilithium and local stellar phenomena, planetary (or interplanetary) ecosystems, particularly intelligent life, were to be observed and recorded. While still permitted to remain assigned to their ships, all telepathic crew were to be closely monitored when approaching the Blood Dilithium and its effects on their behaviour studied.
At this stage Starfleet Command needed theories about how this dilithium had seemingly been 'created' by spatial anomalies, and what lay behind the crystal's strange effects on telepath behaviour. It was ultimately hoped that some way might be found to neutralise the dilithium's harmful properties. This was made a key priority amidst growing fears that Blood Dilithium might eventually be weaponised against telepathic species.
As Starfleet scientists studied the Blood Dilithium itself, its sudden appearance continued to send cascading uncertainty throughout the Gradin Belt. A chaotic region of space only grew more so as entire populations were uprooted, either by Blood Dilithium rendering planets uninhabitable, or by violent expulsion by mining cartels and Devore Imperium armies. A humanitarian relief effort to address all disasters and atrocities in the Gradin Belt was impossible with what amounted to an expeditionary force of Fourth Fleet ships committed. However, as per the founding principles of the United Federation of Planets, Starfleet was bound to do what it could to aid the rapidly growing ranks of the displaced.
Furthermore, with each passing day Fourth Fleet Command grew ever more troubled by intelligence reports from Devore Imperium space. Several corroborating sources indicated the Imperium's efforts to synthesise anti-telepathic warheads from Blood Dilithium, capable of eradicating populations on a planetary scale. Were such efforts to succeed, genocide of species such as the long-hated Brenari would become a probability.
- The subspace wave pulse on September 16th, 2400 and subsequent growth of Blood Dilithium throughout the Gradin Belt mark the beginning of the Blood Dilithium Campaign.
- All we know is that the dilithium glows red, grows on things around spatial anomalies, and it causes violent erratic behaviour in telepaths who get too close. Feel free to present your crew's theories on how it got there, why it's affecting telepaths this way, and/or how to get rid of it.
- Starfleet's key priority is to seek out as much Blood Dilithium in as widely varied locations as possible for study. This does not supersede humanitarian concerns, however, and your ship remains expected to divert its attention to any developing disasters resulting from dilithium growth itself or the resulting actions of outside parties.
- In your Blood Dilithium missions, Starfleet support will be very limited. The Fourth Fleet will have no opportunity for reinforcement until the next opening of the Barzan wormhole on November 2nd, 2400. The Markonian Outpost has some repair facilities, but they lack finesse and efficiency. In the face of advanced powers such as the Devore, all ships must therefore exercise considerably more caution than they might in the Alpha or Beta Quadrants.