Punishment and Crime

Epis­ode Num­ber: 1×12

Writ­ten by: Alan Patrick

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 3rd Septem­ber 2022

Guest Stars:

  • Dr Hans Schneider: Human med­ic­al officer.
  • Com­modore Banna Stoker: mutin­ous Star­fleet troubleshoot­er with a murky past.
  • Rear Admir­al José I. Men­dez: Star­fleet Oper­a­tions com­mand­er at Star­base 10.

Com­modore Stoker’s wild tale may not be so wild after all. Our recent mis­sions, both under her orders and those of Admir­al Men­dez have allowed us to see things that defy tra­di­tion­al sci­entif­ic explan­a­tion. What are we doing if we are not on a sci­ence mis­sion, after all? The com­modore dir­ec­ted us to refrain from keep­ing spe­cif­ic notes on our mis­sions and pro­gress, but I have to say that I am chal­lenged, intrigued, and even a little bit scared. Space is huge, and we don’t know who – or what – is out there. Or what the unknown can do to those we love. There are a lot of factors to con­sider here.

We have returned to Star­base 10 to con­sult with both Men­dez and Stoker on our next steps.

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 5797.1

Plot: When Com­modore Stoker van­ishes from the deten­tion facil­ity at Star­base 10, Lex­ing­ton is sent to an unin­hab­ited sys­tem to find her. While a land­ing party searches for her on the sur­face, the ship comes under attack from an unex­pec­ted direction.

The ‘A’ Plot: Lex­ing­ton arrives at Star­base 10, the extens­ive shipyards that are home to Star­fleet’s main fleets in the bor­der region. They slowly cruise past peri­met­er defence sta­tions, dozens of star­ships of vari­ous sizes in park­ing orbits, and oth­ers in orbit­al dry­docks, before dock­ing with the cent­ral admin­is­tra­tion facil­ity. Much of the star­base itself lies on the sur­face of the class M world below them.

Pryce and his seni­or crew cross to meet with Admir­al Men­dez, who asks them to bring him up to date with their dis­cov­er­ies so far. He in turn, explains what the sci­ence teams have figured out, includ­ing that the ancient civil­isa­tion they have been invest­ig­at­ing had a pres­ence across both the alpha and beta quad­rants, and was dis­tinct from the known pre­curs­or civil­isa­tions, although it may have been con­tem­por­ary to one of them. He believes Com­modore Stoker, cur­rently held in the deten­tion facil­ity on the sur­face, may be able to explain more, but she is refus­ing to answer ques­tions. Maybe Pryce might be able to help with that?

Pryce beams down to the sur­face, tak­ing Nossaag with him. Once they are cleared for access, a secur­ity officer takes them into the deten­tion facil­ity to meet with Stoker. She seems well, but a little bright-eyed, and is keen to hear of their pro­gress, which matches a lot of her own sus­pi­cions. Then she relates her belief that there is a con­spir­acy with­in Star­fleet, try­ing to hide the exist­ence of the ali­en civilisation.

At this point, there is a buzz­ing noise, and she shim­mers and van­ishes in what appears to be a trans­port­er beam. Alarms go off and the whole facil­ity goes into imme­di­ate secur­ity lock­down. Pryce and Nossaag are detained and thor­oughly invest­ig­ated for nearly an hour before being cleared. While Pryce con­tacts Men­dez to bring him up to date, a secur­ity officer known to Nossaag steps up to him, and con­fides in a low voice that he’s heard that Star­fleet Intel­li­gence is intent on shut­ting down their invest­ig­a­tion, with force if neces­sary, although it is unclear why.

Men­dez orders Pryce to loc­ate and retrieve Stoker as his highest pri­or­ity. Sensor oper­at­ors on the orbit­al sta­tion have traced a power­ful inter­stel­lar trans­port beam to the unin­hab­ited sys­tem of Gliese 411, about ten light years away.

They arrive in the sys­tem, and soon detect a single life­form on the sur­face of the largest moon of a gas super­gi­ant. While the sur­face is covered in tox­ic storms, there appears to be a sol­it­ary Human lifesign on the sur­face, pre­sum­ably Com­modore Stoker.

Pryce puts togeth­er a land­ing party, includ­ing A’Mathi, Nossaag and Schneider, but as they approach the moon, the dim orange star at the centre of the sys­tem releases a power­ful coron­al flare, which rap­idly closes on Lex­ing­ton, over­load­ing the shields and mak­ing ship­board sys­tems unpre­dict­able. Although A’Mathi organ­ises his main­ten­ance teams to restore full func­tion­al­ity to the ship, Pryce is forced to change his ini­tial plans to use the trans­port­er and has Adred take them down in the heavy shuttle­craft Mam­moth, along with pat­tern enhan­cers and envir­on­ment suits. As Mam­moth leaves the hangar deck, the main doors fail to open prop­erly, and Adred is forced to do some fancy-fly­ing to avoid hit­ting them.

Break­ing through the cloud cov­er, the party are sur­prised to see that the sur­face of this sup­posedly des­ol­ate plan­et is covered in thriv­ing life, the ancient ruins draped in vines and oth­er veget­a­tion. It’s only when they get closer that they real­ise that the veget­a­tion is some sort of machinery, which has either been arranged across the land­scape in this fash­ion, or has some­how grown to cov­er it. It also appears to be act­ive now, which it was not earli­er – Schneider the­or­ises that the flare has ener­gised it.

They receive reports from Lex­ing­ton that the sys­tem prob­lems are get­ting worse, with the engin­eer­ing teams chas­ing around the ship resolv­ing one crisis after another.

The shuttle lands in a large plaza near Stoker­’s lifesign and the crew dis­em­bark to approach a large build­ing, giv­en an ornate goth­ic look cour­tesy of the machinery. They find some nar­row open­ings and clam­ber through into a large cent­ral cham­ber, choked with what appear to be vines, made up of wires and cables. It’s razor sharp and Nossaag’s suit is ripped, for­cing A’Mathi to make urgent repairs.

They find Stoker at the centre of the room, mostly envel­oped in machine parts. She’s unable to speak but seems aware of their pres­ence. A’Mathi begins using pre­cise phaser fire to try and cut her free, while the oth­ers pro­tect them from anim­ated tentacles that sud­denly emerge from the wires in the room.

Stoker is quickly released and, while Schneider tends her injur­ies, explains that there are life­forms with­in the wires. It is unclear wheth­er they are truly alive or some kind of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, but she knows they are hostile.

The anim­ated tentacles again try to grab them and Pryce decides that may be this is the chance to talk to them. He moves to let him­self be cap­tured, but Nossaag dis­ap­proves and throws him­self into the path of the tentacles instead. The Tel­lar­ite is grabbed and yanked into the air, where the intel­li­gence con­trolling the machinery takes con­trol of him, using him as a con­duit to issue demands to the captain.

It turns out to be fairly single-minded: it wants the ship and is not will­ing to listen to reas­on. After some back and forth, in which the cap­tain refuses to accede to their demands, Nossaag is yanked into the dark­ness and appar­ently killed.

At this point, they receive a new mes­sage from Lex­ing­ton: they are los­ing con­trol of the ves­sel, des­pite the repair teams’ best efforts, to some kind of invas­ive vir­us. A’Mathi real­ises that this is the work of the arti­fi­cial intel­li­gences in the ruined city, and that it prob­ably got aboard dur­ing the flare.

They rush back to the shuttle with the com­modore, but find it covered in elec­tric­al “vines”, although it does­n’t take much to cut that away so they can take off. Adred takes them back through the storms, which have increased in intens­ity, and they reach orbit just in time to see a mys­ter­i­ous black ship emerge from the shad­ow of Gliese 411 d and open fire on Lex­ing­ton.

With her shields down due to the vir­us, the old ves­sel does­n’t stand a chance, and a sub­sequent salvo of photon tor­pedoes breaks her back. As pieces of the star­ship plum­met towards the sur­face, the attack­er spots Mam­moth. Open­ing a chan­nel, its com­mand­er informs them that they have been “con­tam­in­ated”, and can­not be allowed to bring that con­tam­in­a­tion back into the Fed­er­a­tion. It is only logic­al that they allow them­selves to be des­troyed for the great­er good.

Adred puts on an excel­lent dis­play of fly­ing skills as he evades the incom­ing phaser fire, and after about 10 minutes of chas­ing them through the clouds of Gliese 411 d, the black ves­sel gives up the pur­suit and goes to warp, leav­ing them stran­ded light years from inhab­ited space in a sub­light vessel.

The Arc: The rem­nants of the ali­en civil­isa­tion appear to be hos­tile to mod­ern civilisation.

Obser­va­tions: Star­base 10 is a huge com­plex of orbit­al space sta­tions, shipyards, dry­docks and battle sta­tions, along with a large sur­face facil­ity. Stoker is being held in a high-secur­ity facil­ity set into the side of a moun­tain, shiel­ded against trans­port­er beams, neces­sit­at­ing that they beam into an approved location.

Gliese 411 is a small red star, closely orbited by a class T super­gi­ant with 14 moves, sev­er­al of which are Earth-sized. Gliese 411 d‑a is class H, dry, with a tox­ic gasses in a dense, stormy atmo­sphere. Beneath the clouds, much of it is covered in strangely organ­ic-look­ing machinery.

With Lex­ing­ton des­troyed and the sur­viv­ing crew stran­ded, albeit with use­ful inform­a­tion, the sea­son ends on an old-fash­ioned cliffhanger.

Ref­er­ences: The black ship looks like a Sec­tion 31 stealth ves­sel, also known as the Nim­rod-class. Wheth­er it is being oper­ated by Star­fleet Intel­li­gence, as claimed by Nossaag’s con­tact, or a Sec­tion 31 pre­sum­ably still recov­er­ing from the Con­trol Incid­ent, is unclear.

Ques­tions: There is still little known about the ancient civil­isa­tion. Are the arti­fi­cial intel­li­gences its cre­at­ors or just its servants?

Why did Star­fleet Intel­li­gence try to kill them? Is this part of Stoker­’s con­spir­acy, or are its motives related to the dangers demon­strated by Sec­tion 31’s AI, Control?

How will Cap­tain Pryce and his crew get out of this?