‘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

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.

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 9851.9

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?