‘Planet of the Ebon Pearl’ Part One

Episode Num­ber: 114

Writ­ten by: Michael Dismuke

Direct­ed by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 31st July 2021

Guest Stars:

  • Sci­ence Spe­cial­ist, 1st Class, Ara: Auran anthropologist
  • Lieu­tenant Ed Parish: for­mer Armory Offi­cer, SS Atlantis NX-05
  • Lieu­tenant Dar­lene Phillips: for­mer Chief Engi­neer, SS Atlantis NX-05
  • Lieu­tenant Shi­ro Taka­hashi: for­mer Chief Sci­ence Offi­cer, SS Atlantis NX-05
  • Lieu­tenant Ale­jan­dro Mar­tinez: for­mer Chief Med­ical Offi­cer, SS Atlantis NX-05

Cap­tain’s Log: Star­date, 9851.9

Fol­low­ing our adven­tures in the tem­po­ral worm­hole at BC-04, we find our­selves bur­dened with 47 time-dis­placed refugees. We are not hav­ing too much dif­fi­cul­ty find­ing accom­mo­da­tions for them, but Lt Astan has point­ed out the need for mak­ing sure this is in a secure part of the ship, giv­en the social dis­rup­tions on Atlantis. Since they real­ly need access to spe­cial ser­vices to help them accli­mate to their new cen­tu­ry, we are head­ing back to Deep Space 3.

Plot: Lyonesse heads for the entrance to the neb­u­la, car­ry­ing Atlantis’s crew back to Deep Space 3. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that won’t be as sim­ple as they think, and plans have to be revised.

The ‘A’ Plot: When the ship arrives at BC-05, they detect a sin­gle plan­et, anoth­er M‑class world, in a clear pock­et of cloud of ionised gas sur­round­ing the star. The cap­tain orders a probe launched to inves­ti­gate before Lyonesse attempts to nego­ti­ate the ionised gas.

The probe reveals a vast ocean, a breath­able atmos­phere and life. Most inter­est­ing­ly, the plan­et seems to host a prim­i­tive civil­i­sa­tion, an amphibi­ous race with an eel-like low­er half, and humanoid upper tor­so with a head and two pow­er­ful arms. They appear to live in com­mu­ni­ties along the coast, with a bronze-age lev­el tech­nol­o­gy and elab­o­rate pyra­mi­dal temples.

Odd­ly, there also appears to be a strong arti­fi­cial source of neu­tral par­ti­cle emis­sions in the cen­tre of the biggest city.

Con­sid­er­ing the main direc­tives of the mis­sion, the cap­tain feels com­pelled to inves­ti­gate fur­ther, but the Prime Direc­tive def­i­nite­ly applies. A con­fer­ence of the senior offi­cers is assem­bled to con­sid­er the options, Sci­ence Spe­cial­ist Ara attends as the ship’s res­i­dent anthropologist.

The emis­sion source appears to be locat­ed with­in the crater of a vol­cano in the cen­tre of the largest city. While no locals live on the moun­tain, it is sur­round­ed by habi­ta­tions and seems to hold major tem­ples near its base.

The emis­sions them­selves would make trans­porter use in their vicin­i­ty extreme­ly dan­ger­ous. The ionised gas in the sys­tem ensures that this part of the world is always well-illu­mi­nat­ed (there is no night), which means fly­ing in by shut­tle would result in dis­cov­ery by the locals.

Per­son­al inves­ti­ga­tion is def­i­nite­ly war­rant­ed, but they can­not afford to break the Prime Directive.

After dis­cus­sions that go as far as fab­ri­cat­ing a nat­ur­al dis­as­ter in order to force an evac­u­a­tion of the city, Dr Vale sug­gests that it may be pos­si­ble to make a dis­guised vis­it. Sur­gi­cal alter­ation would be too rad­i­cal, and portable holo­graph­ic dis­plays are not reli­able, espe­cial­ly with the radi­a­tion, but it may be pos­si­ble to fab­ri­cate “liv­ing pup­pets”, unin­tel­li­gent copies of the locals that can be remote-pilot­ed by crew mem­bers. There are some dis­cus­sions around the ethics of this, and the doc­tor explains the ori­gins of the tech­nol­o­gy in her home­world’s wars the pre­vi­ous cen­tu­ry, but they even­tu­al­ly decide to give it a go.

The ‘B’ Plot: As Lyonesse leaves the BC-04 sys­tem, Cap­tain Masu­da con­fers with Dr Vale and Lt Astan about the best way to accom­mo­date the sur­viv­ing crew mem­bers of Atlantis and what to do with them. Both offi­cers have already begun inter­view­ing their guests.

The doc­tor’s assess­ment is that with appro­pri­ate treat­ment, they can over­come the trau­ma of both the war and more recent events, but that it will take expert care. Astan is wor­ried that the fac­tions that had formed aboard the strand­ed ves­sel have remained once they were removed from that envi­ron­ment, and also that there may yet be some kind of alien infil­tra­tor among them.

Masu­da decides it would be best to quar­ter them in one sec­tion of Deck E, where they can be mon­i­tored and have easy access to the med­ical facil­i­ties on Deck F. She will also sus­pend the mis­sion and return to Deep Space 3, in order to deposit the refugees for onward trans­porta­tion to Star­base 514 and its exten­sive med­ical facil­i­ties. Mean­while, the med­ical and secu­ri­ty staff are to con­tin­ue to inter­view them with a regard to estab­lish­ing their emo­tion­al con­di­tions and if there is any ongo­ing danger.

After about a month of trav­el­ling, includ­ing a high-speed pass through BC-03, the ves­sel arrives back at BC-01 to locate the pas­sage back to the out­side world. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there’s no trace of it! The pas­sage appears to have closed.

Reluc­tant­ly, Masu­da decides to take the only oth­er tun­nel out of this area, fol­low­ing the path to BC-05. Dr Vale and her team will need to deal with the refugees’ treat­ment themselves.

The ‘C’ Plot: The patch­es of ionised gas on the approach to BC-05b trig­ger a cas­cade of tech­ni­cal fail­ures across the starship.

First, ionised par­ti­cles accu­mu­lat­ing on the Bus­sard col­lec­tors lead to an over­load in the warp coils, forc­ing a shut­down of the entire dri­ve sys­tem to avoid a cat­a­stroph­ic fail­ure. The ship is able to coast in to stan­dard orbit on thrusters, but the engi­neer­ing team will need to de-Gauss large parts of the system.

The build-up of charged par­ti­cles also affects the lat­er­al sen­sor array, a key part of the high-res­o­lu­tion sen­sor sys­tems. Again, the sys­tem has to be shut down to pre­vent fur­ther dam­age. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this pre­vents detailed sur­face scans of the plan­et, mak­ing direct obser­va­tions impos­si­ble with­out the use of probes.

The charge over­loads in both sys­tems cas­cade into the main EPS sys­tem, caus­ing a series of localised black­outs across the vessel.

The engi­neer­ing depart­ment finds itself over­stretched in attempt­ing resolve all these issues, but luck­i­ly, the engi­neers from Atlantis are avail­able to help with the less advanced parts of the system.

The Arc: Lyonesse heads towards the far end of the Black Cluster.

Obser­va­tions: 24th cen­tu­ry surgery may be able to mod­i­fy a humanoid into a leg­less form on a non-per­ma­nent basis, but this does not appear to be pos­si­ble in the 2290s.

The crew of Atlantis will be stuck on Lyonesse for the forsee­able future. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, their fac­tions are still very much in evi­dence: the com­mand staff keep them­selves to them­selves, while the engi­neer­ing crew are learn­ing as much as they can about the new cen­tu­ry. The sci­ence team are learn­ing what they can, while their aware­ness of their own trans­gres­sions keeps them from social­is­ing in case of reprisals.

Dia­logue: Dr Vale: “Arti­fi­cial­ly trig­ger­ing a vol­canic erup­tion isn’t real­ly in the spir­it of the Prime Direc­tive, is it, Cap­tain? At least not in my days at the Academy.”

Ref­er­ences: Although not heav­i­ly use in the 23rd cen­tu­ry, its exis­tence has been estab­lished in Star Trek: Enter­prise, Star Trek: Dis­cov­ery and Star Trek: The Ani­mat­ed Series. It is much less sophis­ti­cat­ed than it will become in 70 years, and does not have the abil­i­ty to cre­ate appar­ent­ly sol­id surfaces.

Dr Vale-of-Winds ref­er­ences Alpha Cen­tau­ri’s wars of the ear­ly 22nd cen­tu­ry. The var­i­ous colo­nial fac­tions fought for over a decade over philo­soph­i­cal beliefs and gov­ern­men­tal sys­tems, deploy­ing a vari­ety of bio­log­i­cal weapons. Although cre­at­ed for war, these tech­nolo­gies formed the basis of mod­ern Cen­tau­ri bio­log­i­cal science.

Ques­tions: What hap­pened to the entry pas­sage? Did it close nat­u­ral­ly, or is some­thing more sin­is­ter happening?