Episode Number: 3×04
Written by: Christopher L. Bennett
Directed by: Jon Crew
Transmission: 29th June 2023
Introducing: Lieutenant Commander Jim Raynor.
- Major Konreth: Romulan Tal Shiar officer.
- Doctor Varalek: Romulan Tal Shiar science specialist.
- K’tosh: Member of the Klingon High Council, representing the House of Kang.
I have sent my senior officers to the Zeta Gracha system to investigate an ancient ruined city on its seventh planet. Previous surveys have shown the planet to be uninhabited, abandoned by its native civilization as its star swelled into a red giant, but the architecture has some similarities to that of the Tilikaal. The city is in the southern polar regions, still cool enough to be habitable.
Zeta Gracha is within reach of the Romulan Neutral Zone, and the Romulans appear to be taking an aggressive stance regarding potential Tilikaal sites. They have not yet ventured this far into the Expanse, but the team has been warned to keep its guard up anyway.Captain’s Log: Stardate, 49143.7
Plot: Romulan interference with a survey expedition to an abandoned world exposes the team to personal traumas, and leads to unexpected violence.
The ‘A’ Plot: The runabout U.S.S. Zambezi drops out of warp on the edge of Zeta Gracha, a system dominated by a glowering red star. Aboard are Lieutenant Commanders Zepht, Quinn, and Azonan, along with Lexington’s new security chief, James Raynor. Concerned about the potential Romulan presence they were warned of, they carry out several detailed scans of the system before approaching the seventh planet. Their mission is to examine the remains of the native civilisation and determine if there is any connection to the Tilikaal.
Scanning the world from orbit, they locate their target, a ruined city on the southernmost continent, and enter the atmosphere for a closer look. The sensors are picking up scattered life, mostly below the surface and away from the burning sun. Azonan wonders if there are cavern systems beneath the surface, but Zepht has not identified anything beyond what appear to be service tunnels under the city.
Choosing a suitable open area, Quinn brings the Zambezi in for a landing. Zepht begins a detailed analysis of the atmosphere, confirming that it contains enough toxins to make life unpleasant for unprotected humanoids, so they opt for environment suits with built-in filters. Thus equipped, they set out to begin their survey.
Zepht quickly comes to the conclusion that none of the ruins are Tilikaal in origin. While the shapes of doorways and building footprints share that culture’s obsession with five- and seven-sided shapes, many other elements of their architecture are not present, including the ubiquitous energy-channeling grooves in the walls. Curious about this extinct civilisation, he pushes to continue their exploration, and they press on.
Some time later, Raynor becomes aware that something is moving close to him. As he looks more closely, a large flightless, bird-like creature bursts out of the ground towards him. He reacts quickly, stunning it with his phaser before it hits him, but more emerge close to the other officers. Zepht is also able to stun his attacker, but Quinn finds himself in a hand-to-beak struggle with yet another. Azonan fights off another bird with his ushaan-tor, before Raynor is able to rescue Quinn with a well-placed phaser. Extensive tricorder scans show that there are no more of the creatures lying in wait, so the group move on.
Before long, Raynor becomes aware of furtive movement amongst the more distant ruins. Although his tricorder shows no sign of life, he’s wary of further attacks by the native lifeforms, so he begins to watch more actively. Quinn and Zepht seem to pick up his tension, responding in kind, while Azonan shakes his head, convinced he can hear faint alarm klaxons. Over the next few minutes, each member of the party experiences more odd events, each becoming immersed in a memory from their own past.
Zepht finds himself on a busy street in San Francisco on Earth. Hearing a low rumble and feeling a tremor, he turns to look out to sea, noticing a wall of water heading towards the city. Disaster alarms begin to sound, and he helps escort people through transporter booths to safety, before looking for stragglers. As the tsunami strikes, causing damage to a number of buildings, he spots a Klingon warrior trapped under a fallen pillar, in the path of the onrushing water. Going to assist, he levers the pillar far enough aside that the Klingon can pull himself free, then leads him to safety on an upper floor as the wave washes over the street. Then he is knocked out by falling rubble.
Azonan finds himself part of a damage control team aboard a battered starship. Alarms sounding, he and his colleagues are directed to assist with a plasma leak in the engineering section. As they approach, they find firefighting teams battling an intense plasma fire emanating from an EPS conduit. The situation supervisor points out that there’s a control valve further up the corridor but that the fire is blocking access. Azonan immediately volunteers to try to get to the valve, and suits up in protective gear. He makes it past the fire, but the controls are very close to the leak. He is badly burned as he closes it, before passing out from the pain.
Quinn is at the conn of a small escort, lying in wait in the ring system of a gas giant. As their target comes into view, his commander cautions him to wait for her command, but his eagerness gets the better of him. He initiates a complex manoeuvre, aiming to come around the back of a nearby moon to hit the ship from the other side but, as the vessel crosses the other’s wake, it is hit by heavy fire from the opposite direction. Quinn is thrown out of his seat and hits his head on a bulkhead, slumping to the floor unconscious.
Raynor is leading a squad of ground troops through the ruined streets of a colony town, alert for potential attackers. Seeing a group of Cardassian soldiers approaching, he orders his group to take cover and open fire. During the firefight, he spots a pair of enemy commandoes bypassing their defences at the far end of a cross street. He takes two troops with him to intercept, having to dodge phaser fire to do so. He succeeds in stopping them reaching his commander’s post, but is hit by a stray shot and loses consciousness.
The four of them awaken in a subterranean chamber, fenced in by a force-field generated by six pillars. Beyond the field is a makeshift laboratory, where a Romulan woman in a Tal Shiar uniform works with a metallic sphere. Four guards watch the prisoners as theyin turn survey the scene for potential weaknesses.
Azonan thinks he may be able to deactivate part of the field if he can get at one of the pillars, as they seem to be rather improvised. Zepht, meanwhile has been studying the script on the Romulan’s readouts, leading him to believe the spherical device is Ferengi in origin, although he does not recognise it.
As they start to figure out an escape plot, another Tal Shiar officer enters, demanding a report on Doctor Varalek’s progress. She responds that the device has issues working at range, but now that she has the test subjects in the room, she should be able to calibrate it more effectively. He demands she work faster, then ignoring her protests, turns to inform the captives that they will be the first to fall before the brilliance of the Star Empire, before he leaves the room.
Realising their time is limited, the captives enact their plan: Azonan and Raynor start a fake fight, which results in the Andorian “accidentally” falling to the floor next to one of the pillars. Shielded by the others arguing with each other about the fight, he begins breaking into the circuitry.
He makes short work of the force field, and the prisoners break out, launching themselves at the guards before they can bring their disruptors to bear. Unfortunately, Varalek realises what’s happening and activates the spherical device, plunging the captives back into their memories. Now that he is aware of the nature of the illusion, Zepht is able to break free of its influence, and realises that the Romulans have been affected as well. He quickly helps Raynor and Quinn to overcome the machine’s influence, but Azonan proves harder to rouse, curled up into a foetal position.
With the Romulans starting to recover themselves as well, Zepht decides that securing the room is a priority. A couple of the guards are able to fight back, but once Raynor is able to reach the confiscated phasers, the fight is over. They even manage to catch the commanding officer, Major Konreth, ambushing him as he leads more soldiers to join the fight.
Zepht shuts the device off, allowing Azonan to recover, though he’s obviously in great pain. Seeing Varalek, the Andorian charges straight at her, blaming her for dredging up his suffering. Despite efforts by the others to restrain him, he knocks her to the floor, then grabs his ushan-tor. To Zepht’s horror, he then leans down and stabs her. The Denobulan tries to save her, but is unable to stop the bleeding as she dies.
Realising that there will be other Romulans around, Zepht announces that they need to leave. They destroy the sphere and, taking Konreth as a hostage, head back to the Zambezi. Taking off, they manage to avoid a decloaking Romulan science vessel and jump to warp. Azonan announces that he will submit to justice when they reach the station, and spends the trip staring out of the windows, lost in his own thoughts.
The Arc: The away team is despatched to Zeta Gracha as its architecture shows Tilikaal design features. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a red herring.
Observations: Zeta Gracha is a star evolving into a red giant, slowly incinerating its dependent planets. The seventh was once an M‑class world, home to a thriving civilisation that may have achieved warp drive, but now it’s full of empty, ruined cities. It is hot, with a dense, humid atmosphere, and gravity 20% higher than Earth, but is bearable during the night.
Azonan served on the Ambassador-class U.S.S. Donegal during the end of the Cardassian Wars. Badly-damaged during a skirmish with three Galor-class cruisers, Donegal limped home, suffering numerous systems failures. Azonan suffered severe burns fighting a plasma fire, leading to a phase pulse infection, which nearly killed him and forced a lengthy period in medical rehabiliation.
One of Quinn’s early assignments was as a conn officer on one of a group of small escorts hunting pirates on the edges of the Federation. Already developing a reputation for impulsive actions, he pre-empted his commander’s orders, ambushing a pirate vessel earlier than planned. Unfortunately, the target was accompanied by three more ships, and his vessel was devastated by their return fire. Disaster was averted thanks to the presence of the rest of the escort squadron.
Zepht was a junior adjutant attending a diplomatic conference in San Francisco when a sizable earthquake and an accompanying tsunami struck. Able to aid a Klingon diplomat in a fashion that did not compromise his honour, he gained a life-long friend in K’tosh of House Kang, now a member of the Klingon High Council.
Raynor fought for Starfleet during the Cardassian Wars, and led squads clearing occupying soldiers out of newly-recaptured towns. He was nearly killed while stopping Cardassian special forces from destroying his captain’s command post.
Questions: What will be the fallout of Azonan’s actions?