Episode Number: 1×12
Written by: Alan Patrick
Directed by: Jon Crew
Transmission: 3rd September 2022
- 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?