Episode Number: 3×10
Written by: Troy Mepyans
Directed by: Jon Crew
Transmission: 21st October 2023
- Dr Telen Daraas: Human researcher who sent the distress call.
We are travelling to the colony world of New Britannia to investigate a garbled distress call. The only salvageable part of the message speaks of an impending catastrophe. I have assembled a landing party to beam to the surface, assess the situation, and find out more about this catastrophe.Captain’s Log: Stardate, 49469.2
Plot: The crew investigates the sudden disappearance of the entire population of a remote colony.
The ‘A’ Plot: Lexington arrives in the FGC-68024 system in response to a distress call from the independent colony of New Britannia. Research into the background of the colony reveals that it was planted by the Rapture Foundation, a group dedicated to experimenting with self-sufficient utopian societies. While the world had been listed as a potential colony site by Starfleet’s scouts, it was far enough out of Federation territory to be given a low priority, so the Foundation had taken up the challenge. When Zepht comments that the colony obviously didn’t want to be associated with Starfleet and should be allowed to fend for itself, the captain reminds him that Starfleet answers all distress calls.
Lexington’s initial scans show the planet itself and its star are normal, despite the usual Expanse background radiation traces and anomalies. The world has a thriving class M ecosystem, with vegetation covering most of two large continents. They detect a fusion power plant at the site of the colony, but there are no communications signals emanating from that location.
A landing party consisting of Zepht, Azonan, Raynor and Crewman Servalan transport into the large plaza at the centre of the colony. They note that it appears to have been built in a broad valley in the middle of a desert, which seems an odd choice. There are residential and commercial buildings on three sides of the plaza, and a large ornate administrative structure on the fourth. There is no sign of life within the community.
Zepht and Servalan begin scanning for lifesigns, but both are concerned that there appear to be none in range. Raynor observes that there is no sign of conflict or struggle, so some kind of raid seems unlikely, unless it happened with total surprise. Servalan takes a closer look at the dry, sandy soil, then uses her tricorder to confirm that there is life present at all, even at a microbial level. The only life traces they can detect in the vicinity are in the nearby river – and they are much lower than would normally be expected.
When Servalan comments that the river bank is very unstable, being full of voids that collapse in on themselves, Raynor notices dips in the soil around the area. They theorise that all life in the area has been removed or destroyed in its entirety, including trees with their root systems. Zepht requests a detailed life scan from orbit: Lexington reports that the landing party contains the only life-forms of any size registering within 50 kilometres of the colony (except for the river).
They decide to begin their investigation at the administrative building, which appears to serve multiple functions. A tall glass spire looms over the centre of the sprawling building. They step through the front doors and see a reception desk in front of a series of 5 doorways leading to different sections of the building. Zepht hacks into the reception computer, finding a community diary and a reminder for a big community event entitled “The Stars are Right!”
Servalan investigates the doors, finding signs for “Administration”, “Fabrication”, “Medical” and “Laboratories”. The fifth door is unmarked and she opens it, finding a cloakroom and passage leading into a large circular auditorium, with benches arranged around a central dais with a lectern. The spire above the building allows multicoloured light in through its stained glass windows to shine on an ancient stone obelisk carved with familiar markings.
Servalan immediately calls the others in, and they begin to survey the room. While Azonan and Zepht examine the obelisk, noting the array of sensors and wires attached to it, the others discover that the floor and benches are covered in discarded clothing. They immediately make the connection to the Tilikaal and their extra-dimensional prison and Zepht realises that the colonists may have been caught up by a similar effect. He expresses concern that they may not have known what they were dealing with.
The focus turns to uncovering what the colonists had actually done. Zepht and Raynor head for the laboratories to begin looking for research data in the computers, uncovering notes regarding artefacts found at a site in the hills. The main researchers were Doctors Povos Nec and Telen Daraas, but it appears they rapidly began to disagree over their conclusions. The later parts of the research appear to be encrypted.
Servalan finds little of note in the medical section, but then trips over a dead body as she enters the subspace communications facility. She alerts Raynor, and examines the body, noting that the victim was shot in the back with a phaser at short range, and that there is no active decay taking place. Checking the most recent records, Raynor discovers the full version of the distress call.
Azonan examines the equipment attached to the obelisk and traces power cables under the floor. As he does so, he inadvertently activates the system, only finding out when he detects rising power levels in the cables. He rushes out to the power plant, intent on cutting it off before the artefact activates again. He decides not to shut it off completely, in case that causes further problems, but to restrict it to a minimal rise in power consumption.
Intent on hunting down more research data, Zepht locates Povos’s home, a normal-looking house filled with alien artefacts and religious texts in various languages, most of which are extinct. Amongst them he finds Povos’s journal, which records his search for a belief system that can really lead to a more peaceful society. The record includes his systematic analysis of many fringe beliefs, and how he rejected each of them in turn. The later parts of the journal appear to be written in a script Zepht doesn’t recognise.
Zepht returns to the ship and uses the library computer to identify the script, which turns out to be Sanskrit. The translation elaborates on Povos’s evolving plans, beliefs and research. Zepht is then able to access the final portion of the research data by assuming it’s not encrypted at all – just written in Sanskrit. This reveals exactly what the colonists did to activate the obelisk, a process requiring an exotic radiation burst emitted by FGC-68024 twice every local year.
It is now obvious that Povos succeeded in activating the obelisk and transferred all life in the area to somewhere else – or disintegrated it. As not all the colonists were members of the cult, it is likely that some did not want to be part of this, making their rescue imperative. Unfortunately, while Azonan is successful in preventing another activation, it looks like there is nothing they can do for the colonists for at least five months.
They take the research data to feed back into the Tilikaal project, intending to come back later (or send someone else) to retrieve the missing colonists when the next radiation burst is due.
The Arc: Dr Povos’s journals contain significant research into the nature of other dimensions and how to reach them, with a focus on the known Tilikaal artefacts. This research is likely to be useful in the ongoing efforts to free Ash’tamalia and her people.
Observations: Povos Nec founded the Rapture Foundation with the aim of creating a society that is not prone to the violence and suspicion that he believed pervades all 24th century societies. It has founded a number of experimental colonies, each independent of the Federation and usually located at the edge of Federation space. Each has experimented with a different approach to societal structure, striving to achieve some kind of utopia.
At its core, the Foundation is basically a religious cult devoted to the teachings of its founder, and a little over half the initial population of New Britannia was made up of adherents. FGC-68024 itself was selected due to its location within the Shackleton Expanse (therefore close to Tilikaal space) and the unusual radiation of its primary, which Povos believed would contribute to his goals. His journal reveals that he has come to the conclusion that the only way to achieve his utopia is to take his followers to another universe entirely.
Dialogue: Dr Telen Daraas’s full distress call: “This is Dr Telen Daraas calling for assistance from any Starfleet vessel in range. I’m at the New Britannia colony. It’s the cult … Dr Povos Nec … He won’t listen to reason and the cultists are backing him up… You have to stop them. If it is activated, the interaction with our sun’s radiation will be devastating! No one will survive the transition! Please help us!”
References: At one point, Azonan posits that the lack of life might be the result of an attack by a Crystalline Entity, but the evidence doesn’t fit: a Crystalline Entity would have consumed all life on the planet, and left only ash.
Questions: Are the missing colonists still alive? And can they be rescued?