‘Return to Murasaki 312’

Epis­ode Num­ber: 1×10

Writ­ten by: Shawn Merwin

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 30th July 2022

Guest Stars:

  • Com­modore Banna Stoker: Star­fleet troubleshoot­er with a murky past.
  • Cap­tain Meredith Skaarsen: com­mand­ing officer of the U.S.S. Charles D. Wal­cott NCC-1874.
  • Adreth: friendly cit­izen of an altern­ate Taur­us II.
  • Lieu­ten­ant jg Mettus: Den­ob­u­lan sci­ence officer.
  • Dr Hans Schneider: Human med­ic­al officer.
  • Ensign Bhavani: Bar­z­an navigator.
  • Rear Admir­al José I. Men­dez: Star­fleet Oper­a­tions com­mand­er at Star­base 10.

We have been hailed by a shuttle from the U.S.S. Calico. For some reas­on, Com­modore Banna Stoker is alone on the shuttle, and she should be arriv­ing at any moment. How she got a shuttle from the Calico, and why she is alone, are mys­ter­ies that should be solved moment­ar­ily when she docks. I am head­ing to the shut­tle­bay right now to meet her, and hope­fully get some answers.

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 5678.6

Plot: Com­modore Stoker­’s mys­ter­i­ous arrival leads to a vis­it to Mur­a­s­aki 312, where the Enter­prise lost the shuttle­craft Galileo two years earli­er. While a land­ing party search­ing for ancient civil­isa­tion on Taur­us II gets lost between dimen­sions, Cap­tain Pryce finds him­self stuck between the rogue Com­modore and a Cap­tain determ­ined to arrest her.

The ‘A’ Plot: Cap­tain Pryce arrives on the hangar deck as a battered shuttle­craft lands. Its single pas­sen­ger, Com­modore Stoker, walks off the craft and imme­di­ately orders Lex­ing­ton to Mur­a­s­aki 312 at max­im­um warp, where they will be vis­it­ing Taur­us II. She refuses to give more inform­a­tion, intend­ing to rest in her quar­ters for the dru­ation of the trip, but she warns them not to respond to hails as they travel.

AMathi stud­ies the shuttle and con­cludes the dam­age is due to it being piloted at speed through a met­eor­oid swarm, and pos­sibly oth­er nav­ig­a­tion­al haz­ards. He sets his team to fix­ing the prob­lems and clean­ing up the scars, ahead of return­ing the shuttle to the Calico. Pryce, mean­while, has Nossaag set two guards on Stoker­’s door, to give him some warn­ing if she leaves.

The trip to Mur­a­s­aki 312 is unevent­ful, giv­ing the crew a chance to learn more about their des­tin­a­tion. Des­pite pre­par­ing for the ion storms and oth­er anom­alies sur­round­ing the neb­ula, Lex­ing­ton exper­i­ences a cas­cad­ing series of elec­tric­al and mech­an­ic­al fail­ures as she enters the glow­ing clouds, keep­ing the dam­age con­trol teams on their feet.

Stoker arrives on the bridge, trail­ing her guards, as the bridge crew tries to make sense of the sensor sweeps of the plan­et, which are return­ing widely dif­fer­ent res­ults with each scan. Some are indic­at­ing a desert world, some a trop­ic­al para­dise, with oth­ers show­ing vast snowy plains or grassy sava­nahs. At least one shows extens­ive civilisation.

Stoker explains that the neb­ula is the ori­gin of sig­nals resem­bling those from Bac­chus IV. She wants a land­ing party to sur­vey the area around the Galileo crash site, look­ing for more evid­ence of the ancient civil­isa­tion. She also points out that it would be a good idea to recov­er the remains of both the stricken shuttle­craft and the two Enter­prise crew­men that died there, as they are a poten­tial source of Prime Dir­ect­ive violation.

About three hours after the land­ing party beams down, sensors indic­ate the approach of anoth­er ves­sel at high speed. Moments later, the U.S.S. Charles D. Wal­cott drops out of warp off Lex­ing­ton’s bow, shields still cor­rus­cat­ing from the effects of the neb­ula. Imme­di­ately, there is a hail from Cap­tain Skaarsen, ask­ing if they’ve encountered Com­modore Stoker, as she is sus­pec­ted of hav­ing sab­ot­aged the U.S.S. Calico and stolen her shuttlecraft.

Pryce looks at the Com­modore in con­fu­sion, whereupon she snaps back at Skaarsen, telling her to back off and cease inter­fer­ing in a “highly sens­it­ive and clas­si­fied” exped­i­tion. Skaarsen refuses, emphas­ising that they have been ordered to bring her in. Stoker cuts the com­mu­nic­a­tion and orders Pryce to dis­able Wal­cott. When the cap­tain refuses, Stoker attempts to assume dir­ect com­mand of the ves­sel, order­ing the crew to relieve him of com­mand and open fire on the smal­ler ship.

They choose to back Pryce, who imme­di­ately orders the guards to bring Stoker to the ready room, where he demands to know exactly what’s going on. Tak­ing a deep breath, she begins to relate the story of her son’s con­di­tion and her own, and of her quest to dis­cov­er its true ori­gin. She tells Pryce of the extra­di­men­sion­al intel­li­gence try­ing to make con­tact and the con­spir­acy she believes exists with­in Star­fleet to pre­vent it succeeding.

The red alert siren goes off as Wal­cott fires a photon tor­pedo at Lex­ing­ton, caus­ing ser­i­ous dam­age to the engines. Order­ing Stoker con­fined to quar­ters, Pryce scrambles onto the bridge, and orders Ensign Bhavani to fire phasers, tar­get­ing the attack­er­’s own engines. The Bar­z­an’s first shots miss the nimble ship as it twists out of the way. Pryce hails them, ask­ing them why they’re attack­ing a much lar­ger ship. Skaarsen replies that they had failed to hand over the wanted woman as reques­ted, for­cing them to take more drastic measures.

Adred begins evas­ive manouevres and Wal­cott’s fol­low-up shots splash harm­lessly on the shields, as Pryce fails to get them to back down. Bhavani fires again, inflict­ing con­sid­er­able dam­age to the smal­ler ship’s engines, and Wal­cott speeds off, her dam­aged engines still provid­ing a sig­ni­fic­ant turn of speed.

Once the land­ing party are back aboard, Pryce sends an encryp­ted com­mu­nic­a­tion to Sec­tor Com­mand at Star­base 10, request­ing inform­a­tion about Stoker­’s status. A few hours later, a reply arrives from Rear Admir­al Men­dez, ask­ing them to keep Stoker con­fined. He explains that Stoker­’s actions have shown her to be under the influ­ence of a non-human intel­li­gence, and that, until its motiv­a­tions are con­firmed, it must be con­sidered poten­tially hos­tile. He does, how­ever, want them to con­tin­ue to invest­ig­ate the ancient civil­isa­tion’s sites: Stoker seems to be cor­rect in that they’re obvi­ously con­nec­ted, sources of great power and poten­tially a threat to the galactic status quo.

The ‘B’ Plot: AMathi and Nossaag are assigned to the land­ing party, tak­ing Dr Schneider and Lieten­ant jg Mettus with them, along with a pair of secur­ity staff. Giv­en the proven effect of the neb­ula on impulse sys­tems, they decide to risk the transporter.

Their arrival is a little awkard, cour­tesy of the ion storm raging through the region: AMathi lands in the path of a stam­ped­ing herd of buf­falo-like anim­als, Mettus gets stuck between a tree and a low cliff, Schneider arrives in a patch of pois­on­ous veget­a­tion, and Nossaag appears in mid-air about 5 metres above ground. They recov­er from their vari­ous mis­haps with minor injur­ies and ren­dez­vous to try and loc­ate the wreck of the Galileo. On their way, they dis­cuss the appar­ent change in the envir­on­ment since the shuttle­craft crashed, as Com­mand­er Spock repor­ted a much drier climate.

Their tri­cord­ers lead them to a rav­ine in the nearby hills, and the wreck­age is under a pile of veget­a­tion a few hun­dred metres in, near a pair of unmarked graves. While the team are set­ting mark­ers so that Lex­ing­ton can beam up the remains, Mettus scans for Bac­chus-style anom­alies in the area. He notes the pres­ence of what appears to be a vil­lage of the indi­gen­ous inhab­it­ants nearby, then spots a strong energy source fur­ther up the rav­ine. Invest­ig­at­ing, the party dis­cov­ers a shim­mer­ing blue cur­tain of energy across the valley.

Sud­denly, they hear the noise of chil­dren approach­ing. With nowhere else to go, and need­ing to avoid fur­ther Prime Dir­ect­ive con­tam­in­a­tion, AMathi leads them through the cur­tain. On the oth­er side, the world is subtly dif­fer­ent: the veget­a­tion is thick­er and green­er, and the trail appears to be a care­fully laid path. Nearby there appears to be a plaque with writ­ing on it. Mettus per­forms more tri­cord­er scans and iden­ti­fies that there are plenty of hydro­car­bon byproducts in the air, indic­at­ing an advanced indus­tri­al civil­isa­tion. Fur­ther scans show a lot of build­ings in the area, and they soon spot what appears to be a paved high­way. Oth­er tri­cord­er read­ings con­firm that they are no longer in the same uni­verse and that the energy bar­ri­er appears to have taken them between dimen­sions. Unfor­tu­nately, the energy cur­tain does not seem to exist in this world. Decid­ing it would be best not to be dis­covered by the loc­als, they begin look­ing for anoth­er energy cur­tain, even­tu­ally identi­fy­ing one sev­er­al kilo­metres away. The jour­ney takes a while, as they keep to the more over­grown areas to avoid being spot­ted, although they have to cross an open park at one point, but they make it to the next cur­tain and step through.

This time, they find them­selves in a trop­ic­al jungle, with no sign of civil­isa­tion. There’s anoth­er cur­tain nearby, so they head that way, and emerge in the middle of a busy town street. Oddly, the loc­als, all around 3 metres tall, don’t appear to be too sur­prised at their arrival, although their rel­at­ive lack of height does cause some com­ment. As the party looks around, observing that they’ve emerged from a stone arch­way, and that the town itself appears to be of a late renais­sance level of tech­no­logy, they are approached by a woman, who intro­duces her­self as Adreth.

Speak­ing in what appears to be a vari­ant of Den­ob­u­lan, she wel­comes them to the town, and asks if they’ve come from anoth­er world. Real­ising that this soci­ety is already aware of oth­er worlds, they admit that they are, and that they are lost. She explains that this is not unusu­al, and that she can take them some­where where they can find their way home. Half-an-hour later, she leads them (and a curi­ous gang of over­sized chil­dren) to a cent­ral lib­rary, which con­tains guides and maps to the gate­ways between worlds. It does­n’t take them long, with the help of Adreth and the cus­todi­an, to work out their route back through sev­er­al more worlds to their home dimension.

Set­ting out across the city, they begin a jour­ney across about a dozen kilo­metres of the plan­et, and four dimen­sions, includ­ing a gla­cial age, even­tu­ally return­ing a few kilo­metres from their ori­gin point. They fin­ish tak­ing their read­ings and return to Lex­ing­ton.

Unfor­tu­nately, they find no evid­ence of the ancient civil­isa­tion or its tech­no­logy. It looks like the anom­alies of Mur­a­s­aki 312 may be natural.

The Arc: Com­modore Stoker­’s interest in the ancient civil­isa­tion is finally explained. She has been fol­low­ing a voice in her head, which she believes is from an extra­di­men­sion­al intel­li­gence try­ing to make con­tact, prom­ising advanced tech­no­logy to bene­fit the galaxy at large in return for her help. She has dis­covered that a large num­ber of oth­er people have also heard sim­il­ar voices, includ­ing her son, and that they have been locked away in vari­ous med­ic­al insti­tu­tions, dia­gnosed with men­tal con­di­tions sim­il­ar to schizo­phrenia. And she believes a con­spir­acy exists with­in Star­fleet to sup­press this inform­a­tion. She has been using Lex­ing­ton and her crew to research ancient ruins she believes to be con­nec­ted to the intelligence.

Star­fleet appears to have been unaware of Stoker­’s activ­it­ies until recently, and only took action when she dis­abled U.S.S. Calico’s warp drive after her cap­tain refused an order that would have put the crew in danger. Star­fleet Intel­li­gence is still try­ing to piece togeth­er the extent of Stoker­’s research.

Obser­va­tions: Taur­us II appears to be a nex­us point between altern­ate dimen­sions. Wheth­er this is the res­ult or the cause of the anom­alies embed­ded in the Mus­ra­saki 312 neb­ula is unclear. There are appar­ently a large num­ber of altern­ate Taur­us II civil­isa­tions, many of which trade with each oth­er through the gate­ways. All vari­ant Taur­eans are large com­pared to Humans, but few are as big as the ones that besieged Galileo.

Star­base 10 is a major fleet base loc­ated close to Ori­on space and the Klin­gon bor­der. It bore the brunt of sev­er­al ser­i­ous attacks dur­ing the recent war with the Klingons.

U.S.S. Charles D. Wal­cott is an Arch­er-class scout, a small, very fast explor­a­tion ves­sel. She is named for the dis­cover­er of the Bur­gess Shale on Earth.

Dia­logue: Stoker, when chal­lenged by the cap­tain of Wal­cott: “Dis­able that ship!”

AMathi, when he dis­cov­ers what Wal­cott did to Lex­ing­ton’s engines: “I’ll recal­ib­rate the Wal­cott’s cap­tain’s head!”

Ref­er­ences: Taur­us II is a plan­et in the Mur­a­s­aki 312 neb­ula, and is con­stantly exposed to a num­ber of elec­tro­mag­net­ic, ion­ic and sub­space phe­nom­ena. The world was the scene of a crash-land­ing by Galileo, a shuttle­craft belong­ing to U.S.S. Enter­prise, in 2269.

Rear Admir­al José I. Men­dez was pre­vi­ously com­mand­er of Star­base 11, and appeared in the ori­gin­al series epis­odes, ‘The Mena­ger­ie’, Part I and ‘The Mena­ger­ie’, Part II.

Ques­tions: Are Stoker­’s voices real, or a fig­ment of a men­tal ill­ness? Or are they some­thing she’s made up to jus­ti­fy her actions? Will Pryce suf­fer any reper­cus­sions for the dam­age to Wal­cott?

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