A new world breeds new heroes… — Challenger was the sixth book of Pocket Books' 2000 ministeries, Star Trek: New Earth novels. The book introduced UFPF Challenger, a scrap-built ship that was intended to headline a continuation of the New Earth series entitled Star Trek: Challenger. The installment was written by the series' co-creator Diane Carey.
- Far from the reaches of the Federation, the starship Enterprise has been guiding the development of a once-obscure planet upon whose fate the future of the galaxy may now depend. The Enterprise has been the sole representative of the Federation, fighting a constant battle to protect the colonists from enemy aliens and standing alone against all those who have their own designs on the colony world.
- But all adventures come to an end. It is time for Captain Kirk and the Enterprise to turn over the guardianship of the colony to another ship and crew. The new ship arrives in the midst of a deadly attack on the colony—and is destroyed. With the Enterprise off fighting a new and powerful enemy that threatens the colony as well as its enemies, Commander Nick Keller, first officer and ranking survivor of the decimated crew, is marooned and at first alone—but he must find a way to complete his original mission and come to the aid of the Enterprise in what might be its most desperate hour.
The USS Peleliu, en route to Belle Terre to relieve the Enterprise from colonial guard duty, is ambushed during Gamma Night. Captain Roger Lake begins acting irrationally, firing weapons despite the fact that sensors are blinded by intense amounts of gamma radiation. When First officer Derek Hahn is injured during a console overload and explosion, Keller is forced to take him to sickbay via turbolift, which jams due to damage to guides. Trapped in the turbolift, the ever weakening Hahn asserts that Lake's mental condition is deteriorating due to exposure to Tavola methane three years earlier, at an away mission site Second officer Nick Keller failed to properly survey and secure. Despite vowing to relieve Lake once he makes it to sickbay, Hahn dies from blood loss before Savannah Ring can cut through the top of the turbolift and rescue them, making Keller acting first officer.
By the time Keller has been rescued, thirteen members of the Peleliu crew are dead, and thirty-four injured. Several hours later, after the assault halted, Lake orders the ship to go to impulse speed upon detecting new sensor readings. Science officer Tim McAddis gives Keller a commemorative Challenger half-dollar for luck and to help with decision making. After having McAddis direct several sensors forward and detecting what might be an object in their path, Keller orders Communications officer Tracy Chan to connect him to the helmsman at low volume, and orders the helmsman to plot potential escape trajectories. When one of the helm controls makes a sound, Lake attacks the helmsman in a paranoid fit, accusing him of conspiring against Lake and Keller, right before Gamma Night ends, revealing a gas giant in their path.
Meanwhile, aboard the Enterprise in Belle Terre orbit, Captain Kirk and Spock discuss increasing thefts of Quasar olivium in the shuttle bay. Kirk notes that Spock has been overworking himself and that the rest of the Enterprise command staff is on entirely separate assignments, eventually admitting that he would like to hand over Belle Terre to the Peleliu, which is bringing a number of specialists to train the colonists in how to survive on the harsh world they live on. During the conversation, an alien robot breaches the hull and heads toward the shuttle bay, where several containers of olivium are stored. Unable to stop it with phaser fire, Kirk and Spock helplessly watch it dissolve the containers, vacuum up the olivium, and spray Spock with a decontamination gel before it burns a hole in the hull to escape.
Several hours later, Kirk and Spock lead a team on hoversleds to investigate unusual readings at a planetary olivium storage site. It turns out to be the same robot that boarded the Enterprise, and proceeds to vacuum up several hundred tons of olivium ore. In the process, Kirk notes that the amount exceeds the actual physical volume of the robot before it flies off and disappears. Afterwards, Kirk meets Bosun Zane Bonifay, assigned to handle ore shipment, Ted Gyler, a phaser gunner, and Lucy Quinones, a security specialist planning to become a member of the upcoming planetary law enforcement division. After Bonifay suggests putting olivium in various containers made of different materials, in an attempt to discern whether some materials can render olivium invisible to the robot's sensors, Kirk departs.
Aboard the Peleliu, Zoa, an envoy of the Rassua, a race that showed no interest in joining or allying with the Federation prior to Belle Terre's jump in importance, uses a padd stylus to momentarily incapacitate Captain Lake. Keller immediately orders an evasive course, saving the ship from destruction. Afterwards, they detect a group of ships fleeing, with emissions matching those of their earlier attackers. As Keller is examined for injuries from the evasion, Zoa confronts Keller, urging him to take command. When Keller refuses, she punches him before leaving.
Conflicted, Keller meets with Lake in his quarters, where the captain is reviewing the sensor recordings of the operation to save Belle Terre from the explosion of its moon. As the conversation progresses, Lake's paranoia becomes blatantly obvious, as he accuses members of the crew of conspiring to mutiny against him and Keller. Upon detecting an unknown alien ship approaching, Keller and Lake head to the bridge, with Keller resolved to find a way to keep Lake stable enough to get to Belle Terre.
Aboard the converted olivium chaser Pandora's Box, Doctor McCoy and Uhura are captives of Billy Maidenshore. McCoy, suffering from sleep deprivation and starvation, is being used as a hostage to ensure Uhura complies with Maidenshore's orders, which typically involve sending falsified messages about Maidenshore being on Belle Terre and authorizing Pandora's Box to move to areas and divert olivium. Maidenshore, who covertly took over Belle Terre's prison and then Pandora's Box (a ship he once owned under an assumed name), is revealed to be working with Kauld Battlelord Vellyngaith. As McCoy and Uhura watch through hacked security cameras, Vellyngaith complains to Maidenshore about the olivium thefts the robot has executed. Maidenshore, believing this to be an ideal distraction, then urges Vellyngaith to destroy the Peleliu to prevent Starfleet from stopping him, assuring the battlelord that he can separate the ship from the Enterprise and get the Kauld past the planetary sensors. After Vellyngaith departs, Maidenshore looks up and addresses the airlock security camera, revealing he was aware that Uhura and McCoy were eavesdropping.
Aboard Vellyngaith's ship, the battlelord laments the weak state of his forces, crippled by contamination from warp drive experiments in the facility that housed most of their troops. After a bout of illness, Vellyngaith explains to his doctor why they need the alliance with Maidenshore, before ordering that all soldiers who can fight be given medical treatment and crew ships for the assault on the Peleliu.
On the Peleliu, Captain Lake gives orders to destroy the alien ship, which is approaching at sublight speed. Thanks to the bridge crew stalling, they receive a signal from it with Starfleet encryption and Kirk's authorization code. Lake, believing it to be an enemy ruse, opens fire and severely damages the ship, which does not fire back. Eventually, one of the alien ship's crew attempts to beam over, and Keller uses his authorization codes to lower the shields, claiming it to be a malfunction.
Shucorion, a Blood captain, materializes on the Peleliu bridge, where he is briefly interrogated by Lake and Keller, before Lake declares Shucorion and his crew prisoners. Before taking Shucorion to auxiliary control on Lake's orders, Keller orders the damaged Blood ship be fitted with a low warp towing engine to bring it to Belle Terre as salvage. Later, in his new quarters (formerly those of Derek Hahn), Keller takes a shower and ruminates on the various issues facing him, including what to do about Lake. Zoa and Savannah Ring enter his quarters to discuss with their living arrangement, before the bridge contacts Keller for permission to transmit reports, including Shucorion's, to the Enterprise. Keller authorizes the transmission, despite his concerns for the safety of his crewmates.
Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk and Spock discuss the issue of the robots, while waiting for Lake and Keller. The robots have been redepositing olivium in Belle Terre's moon, which will eventually cause a pressure build up similar to the one they averted earlier. They realize that the olivium may be an artificially created substance made by the creators of the robots, and determine that confronting them and changing their thinking may be the solution to the problem.
Upon Lake and Keller's arrival, Kirk confronts them over the encounters with the Kauld and Blood, as well as the near miss at the gas giant, which was not included in their formal logs. Despite wanting to put Lake through a formal hearing for his incompetence, Kirk is reluctant to put Keller in command of the Peleliu due to his inexperience. The meeting is then interrupted by Bonifay, who shows off a sample of a new compound for storing olivium in small quantities. After Spock is handed the sample, one of the alien robots enters the room, takes the sample, and sprays Spock with decontamination gel before leaving. Kirk then leaves the Peleliu in charge of the planet's defense, assigning Bonifay as planetary liaison.
Back on the Peleliu, Keller confronts Shucorion over including the encounter with the gas giant in his report, before Kirk clandestinely meets with him in a corridor. Kirk informs him about the solar system's defense perimeter, and advises that the Peleliu not leave orbit in its weakened state. After briefing Keller on the situation and the Enterprise's mission, he advises Keller to avoid travelling in Gamma Night before beaming off the ship.
On Pandora's Box, Maidenshore confronts McCoy and Uhura with Kirk's recall order for Enterprise personnel, deducing that the ship is leaving. When Uhura asserts that Kirk is only leaving because Peleliu can defend the planet, Maidenshore points out that, thanks to the reports he had Uhura intercept, Captain Lake is unstable and can easily be manipulated. After some flattery, during which Uhura gets Maidenshore to agree to treat McCoy better, Uhura and McCoy come up with a plan to warn the Peleliu about the Kauld ambush by using one of the mining ship's phaser flares.
Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk, Spock, and Sulu, the only returning senior officer, pursue one of the alien robots into deep space. After following the robot to a group of asteroids, the Enterprise is severely damaged when the robot circles around the ship. The robot then flies into a planetoid without destroying it or exiting it, leading Spock to believe it has interdimentional properties. After destroying the planetoid to flush the robot out, the Enterprise resumes pursuit.
On the Peleliu, Keller has another encounter with Zoa and Savannah Ring, before yellow alert is announced. Upon arriving on the bridge, Keller discovers the ship is moving to investigate a supposed distress signal from Pandora's Box. Despite the warning that the mining ship should be nowhere near the location in its signal, Lake asserts that he has solved the navigational issues with Gamma night, and proceeds towards the given coordinates. Keller discovers Bonifay on the bridge, filling cracks with neutronium tripolymer coagulant foam, which is lethal if inhaled - a sign of collapsing discipline among the crew.
Thanks to McCoy and Uhura's warning, Keller activates the shields before the Kauld begin attacking. Lake succumbs to paranoia, accusing the crew of betraying them, before giving orders to maneuver away from the system's sun. Shields compromised, the Peleliu is then bombarded by javelins, metal projectiles used by the Blood and Kauld in close quarters combat, including one that penetrates into the bridge. Savannah Ring arrives on the bridge, announcing sickbay destroyed with all medical personnel in it, along with the near destruction of two decks.
As the ship begins spiraling into near total hardware and software failure, Lake orders security to turn their weapons on any officer who refuses to hand over their controls, only allowing himself and Keller to handle things. Shortly after Lake orders security to restrict Keller's movements, the bridge dome fractures as the Peleliu's saucer begins breaking apart. Tracy Chan is blown out into space, while Tim McAddis partially blocks the crack when he is sucked towards it. After grabbing the coagulant foam canister, Keller uses it to seal the crack at McAddis' urging, killing him in the process.
Keller then hits Lake on the head with a tool, knocking him unconscious and taking command of the ship. Putting Shucorion at the helm and Zoa at tactical, Keller drives back the Kauld assault with a spread of photon torpedoes, before deliberately running silent and hiding in Gamma Night.
Meanwhile, on Pandora's Box, McCoy and Uhura discuss the attack on the Peleliu, when Maidenshore confronts them. Initially hostile, Uhura uses his attraction to her to defuse the situation. After a brief discussion of Maidenshore's psychological profile, the two prepare to engage in a high risk stratagem to defeat him.
Several days after the attack on the Peleliu, Keller confronts Lake, who has been confined to quarters with a life-support cart, due to his head injury. After explaining that the ship is almost entirely nonfunctional and had to be towed to Belle Terre orbit, Keller tells Lake that he's under guard and will face a competency hearing once Kirk and the Enterprise return, which Lake perceives to be a massive betrayal.
On Belle Terre's surface, the Peleliu is being parted out for salvage in a valley that holds the wreckage of all the other ships lost by the Belle Terre Colonial Expedition, as well as Shucorion's Plume, wrecked weeks earlier by Captain Lake. Keller approaches Bonifay for help in building a new ship to take up the defense of Belle Terre, then asks Montgomery Scott to help design it. As construction proceeds, Keller recruits Shucurion, Ring, and Zoa into various crew positions, while Shucorion's Blood crew and the Belle Terre colonists assist in the effort. After sixteen days, the ship is complete and technically functional, despite the fact that many of the systems in the ship come from wildly different sources. Upon receiving word from the planet's sensor net that Kauld ships are approaching, Keller and his crew launch the still unnamed and untested ship to defend the colony.
Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk deduces that their earlier encounter with the alien robot included elements designed to scare them off the pursuit, then calls its bluff by lowering shields and going to warp 10. After using antimatter to lure it out of dimensional flux, they discover the full scale of the device, which is the size of a small planet. Sulu discovers that they are within 40 light-years of the last known position of a ship Kirk ordered to survey possible planets for relocation during the crisis with Belle Terre's moon. Soon after that, a portal appears on the bridge and Captain Mitch Dogan, captain of the survey ship destroyed shortly before the Belle Terre expedition arrived, steps out.
Dogan and his crew were rescued from the destruction of his ship by aliens soon dubbed "Multimillenials," who use Dogan to interact with Kirk and his crew. Inspired by the civilizations in the Sagittarius Cluster. The Multimillenials plan to head to a new galaxy to rediscover their sense of adventure, and in the process, seek to eliminate olivium, a waste product of their civilization. They also seek to neutralize a "Cold Factor," an earlier multidimensional olivium disposal device, which is threatening Belle Terre. Kirk negotiates through Dogan for the right to keep the olivium and Belle Terre's moon, by offering the use of the Enterprise as an asset in locating and containing the Cold Factor.
Aboard the newly constructed composite frigate, Keller and crew prepare to confront a fleet of thirteen Kauld vessels. Surviving the transition to warp speed, Keller intercepts the fleet and announces that the ship is "the United Federation of Planets Composite Frigate Challenger" and that the Kauld should stand down. When Vellyngaith asks to confer, Keller notices holographic hull plating on one of their ships that mimics a white srrender flag. Vellyngaith states, and Shucorion confirms, that he is aboard the ship of the Kauld leadership, the Common Cabinet, and offers to surrender. After distributing sidearms, Keller has them beamed to the bridge, where Vellyngaith puts a baby in Keller's arms, and begs for help, offering anything and everything the Kauld have.
Vellyngaith explains that the Cold Factor obliterated the planet they were storing some of the olivium they got from Maidenshore, while the other half is on the Kauld homeworld. As Vellyngaith verges on a breakdown in trying to convince Keller to help his people, Shucorion explains the difference between the Federation and Blood/Kauld mindset. Keller orders Scott to take a shuttle with most of the crew and the Kauld delegation before taking the newly christened Challenger to decoy the Cold Factor, starting with taking the olivium supply from the Pandora's Box.
Aboard Pandora's Box, the ship is suffering an environmental failure, causing Maidenshore to barge into Uhura's quarters. While he orders McCoy and Uhura to undo the sabotage, McCoy feigns being near death as Uhura taunts Maidenshore by pointing out they're willing to die for a cause, while Maidenshore isn't. McCoy sedates Maidenshore while he's distracted, before Uhura heads out to inform the prisoners that they need to follow her orders to survive.
After picking up the olivium from the Pandora's Box, Keller confers with Vellyngaith, who explains the medical problems of the Kauld military. After dealing with an argument between Bonifay and Shucorion, Keller leads the crew through an engagement with the Cold Factor, using the ship's towing engines to escape its power drain field. Challenger then goes to warp, mixing olivium into the impulse drive exhaust, luring the Cold Factor into pursuit. When the Cold Factor threatens to overtake the Challenger, Keller plans to detonate the warp core to, only for Kirk to appear through a portal linking both ships' bridges.
Kirk takes Keller to deck three on the Enterprise, explaining what they learned about the Multimillenials and the Cold Factor. Upon arrival, deck three turns out to be open space, where the Cold Factor is in a Multimillenial containment field. Upon meeting Spock, Keller is asked about the Peleliu, leading him to explain the events that occurred during their absence.
After landing the ship on Belle Terre for further outfitting, Keller receives a tattoo from Zoa, emulating the Rassua custom of tattooing events onto their bodies. Bonifay mounts the commemorative Challenger coin on the navigation console as a "precaution", before Keller meets with Kirk outside the ship. Kirk commends him for putting together Challenger and a crew to defend Belle Terre, telling Keller that he's promoted to Captain before going over Keller's full report. Keller states that he is willing to face disciplinary action from Starfleet Command over his actions, and Kirk agrees to take the full report to the admiralty, while stating that since Challenger is taking over Peleliu's two year mission, good performance might mitigate Keller's past failings.
Sometime later, aboard the Enterprise, Kirk inquires about how Uhura broke Maidenshore's spirit, as Spock and McCoy enter the bridge with their usual bickering. McCoy states that some of the Kauld, possibly including Vellyngaith, are beyond help due to the effects of their antimatter experiments. Kirk decides to personally hand in the report on Captain Lake with added comments, and as the Enterprise departs Belle Terre, has the ship salute the Challenger, currently in Belle Terre's orbital spacedock.
- Baker • Zane Bonifay • Tracy Chan • Pavel Chekov • Ted Gyler • Derek Hahn • Joe Hurley • Nick Keller • James T. Kirk • Roger Lake • Billy Maidenshore • Makarios • Tim McAddis • Leonard McCoy • Lucy Quinones • Savannah Ring • Montgomery Scott • Shucorion • Spock • Hikaru Sulu • Nyota Uhura • Vellyngaith • Zoa
- Referenced only
- Cleopatra • Leonardo da Vinci • Barry Giotto • Harrison • Hippocrates • Laviolette • Michaelangelo • Moses • Evan Pardonnet • Sanjai • Tut
Starships and vehiclesEdit
- UFPF Challenger ("Mongrel-class" composite frigate) • USS Enterprise (Constitution-class Enterprise-subclass heavy cruiser) • USS Peleliu (Chesapeake-class cruiser) • Pandora's Box
- Referenced only
- CST Beowulf (combat support tender) • Challenger (space shuttle) • destroyer • USS Reliant (Miranda-class cruiser)
- Belle Terre • Occult • Quake Moon • Sagittarius Cluster • the galaxy
- Referenced only
- Berengaria • Big Muddy • Earth, Sol system, sector 001 (Iowa • Mecca • Nevada • Santa Fe, New Mexico • Yukon)
Races and culturesEdit
- Blood Many • Human (Egyptian • Eskimo • Greek • Italian • Jewish • Polynesian • Spanish) • Kauld • Rassua • Vulcan
- Referenced only
States and organizationsEdit
- All Kauld • Blood Many • Federation • Starfleet • Starfleet Headquarters • Starfleet Planetary Law Enforcement Agency • Starfleet Special Services Rescue Unit
- Referenced only
- NASA • United States of America
Science and classificationEdit
- chemistry • communications • disease • energy • flu • galaxy • Gamma Night • gas giant • hair • hour • lifeform • magnetism • minute • quantum mechanics • space • spore • star • star system • time
Technology and weaponsEdit
- communicator • data crystal • deflector shield • dynoscanner • hand phaser • impulse engine • intercom • knife • laser • laser knife • phaser • phaser pistol • phaser rifle • pressure pad • probe • rifle • robot • sensor • starship • stylus • tetragrid • transporter • turbolift • viewscreen • warp drive
Substances and energiesEdit
- amino acid • blood • electricity • gamma radiation • gas • gold • glycerin • gravity • ice • leather • lead • liquid • matter • methane • olivium • paraffin • petroleum • platinum • polymer • solid • Tavola methane • toxin • tripolymer • wax
Ranks and titlesEdit
- ambassador • bosun • captain • chief engineer • chief medical officer • commander • commanding officer • communications officer • crewman • doctor • drill sergeant • engineer • ensign • first officer • governor • gunner • helmsman • lieutenant • lieutenant commander • medic • navigator • nurse • rear admiral • science officer • second officer • security • security chief • sergeant • sheriff • specialist • tactical officer
- asteroid • banana • bay leaf • boot • candle • clothing • colony • coin • court martial • desert • drink • food • government • meteor • milk • moon • nation-state • peach • planet • potato • psychology • rank • red alert • Starfleet uniform • Starfleet uniform (2278-2350s) • technology • title • uniform • weapon
Throughout the novel, Quasar olivium is referred to as "quantum olivium." It is unclear whether this is an editorial error, or whether the substance was renamed in-universe to reflect its unusual properties.
Most of the references to prior novels, including several story elements in this novel, are from the other novels Diane Carey wrote or collaborated on (Wagon Train to the Stars and Belle Terre (novel)).
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