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Introduction (blurb)

In the aftermath of the astonishing events of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the captain and officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise remain haunted by their encounter with the vast artificial intelligence of V'Ger... and by the sacrifice and ascension of their friend and shipmate, Willard Decker.

As James T. Kirk, Spock, and Leonard McCoy attempt to cope with the personal fallout of that ordeal, a chapter from their mutual past is reopened, raising troubling new questions about the relationship among God, Man, and AI. On the recently settled world of Daran IV, the former refugees of the Fabrini worldship Yonada are being divided by conflicting ideologies, as those clinging to their theocratic past vie with visionaries of a future governed by reason alone.

Now, echoes of the V'Ger encounter reverberate among the Enterprise officers who years ago overthrew the Oracle, the machine-god that controlled Yonada. Confronting the consequences of those actions, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy also face choices that will decide the fate of a civilization, and which may change them forever.


Freed of the Oracle’s totalitarian rule, the Fabrini are building a new civilization on Daran IV, which they call Lorina—Fabrini for “promise.” However, Natira’s new secular state meets with great opposition from the devout traditionalist majority who believe their governor is too heavily influenced by "Fedraysha" interlopers. Though factionalized, the traditionalists are warily allied under Rishala—the pacifistic new high priestess—on one side, and Dovraku—a terrorist leader who sees V’Ger’s ascendance over Earth as a sign that the Oracle will soon be reborn—on the other. Narrowly surviving an assassination attempt and with public unrest rising, Natira calls her ex-husband McCoy and his Enterprise colleagues for help.

Though happily settling back into the captain’s chair, Kirk struggles to live with the personal fallout of the V’Ger crisis. While the general public and the Fleet at large shower him in unwelcome “cosmic hero” worship, many of the Decker loyalists among his crew suffer a lack of confidence in their new captain’s tactics and reputation. Kirk himself realizes that his headstrong nature got the better of him in ousting Decker and he suffers some self-doubt. Spock faces his own demons in integrating his long-suppressed emotions with logic, and experiences prejudice from those Vulcans who scorn the V'tosh ka'tur and their many historic failures. McCoy finds himself outdated and unable to match Dr. Chapel’s widespread knowledge of the Enterprise’s diverse new crew. He dreads reuniting with Natira, understanding that he never loved her and only married her because of his desperate, terminal situation.

The Enterprise is intercepted and escorted to Lorina by the Shesshran, a territorial and highly individualistic pterodactyl-like species native to Daran V. They have only a grudging accord with their new Fabrini neighbors and are wary of the technologically-advanced but stingy Federation. On Lorina, most of the ignorant population still worships all computers, regardless of complexity, as divine. They fear Kirk’s status as a godkiller (the Oracle, Landru, Vaal, etc.); they distrust Natira for her betrayal of the Oracle; and they reject Natira’s efforts to educate the population and to assimilate myriad Federation cultures into (and at the expense of) their own as attacks on their religion.

Kirk meets with the allegedly dangerous Rishala to negotiate a peaceful solution and finds her to be surprisingly reasonable and insightful. The new high priestess seeks truths beyond the physical world and she scolds Kirk for sticking his head into the Fabrini’s affairs, changing their entire way of life, and then abruptly leaving without dealing with the repercussions. Simultaneously, she encourages him to restore his self-confidence by doing what he knows to be right. Rishala represents the devout nonviolent majority of Fabini and fears for the hardliners who follow Dovraku. Despite the common threat to their religion and their tenuous alliance, Rishala condemns Dovaku’s terrorist tactics and grows ever more wary of the danger he poses. One of her students, Tavero, is even swayed by Dovraku into bombing the school, killing himself and many other children. Rishala eventually realizes that the traditionalists fear this “ally” more than their secular enemy and she pushes for a peace summit between all parties.

Spock is tasked with researching the Fabrini’s incomplete and fragmentary history, filling in the data lost to time, illiteracy, and revolution in the hopes of finding a common ground that will bring the society together. He studies the surviving computer records while Lt Commander Christopher Lindstrom (previously of Beta III and now one of Natira’s advisors) hopes to fill in the gaps from oral histories. The science teams eventually uncover some lost records and the “Hall of the Creators”—actual graves and ancient murals buried within Yonada—hidden centuries ago to survive the purges of previous revolutions. Natira hastily publishes the first recovered lost tome, but her attempt to inform the uneducated masses about the Oracle’s lies is instead interpreted as yet another attack on the faith.

Chekov adapts to his new role as security chief, but is wary of placing Ensign Vaylin Zaand in harm’s way. As a Rhaandarite, Zaand has not yet reached puberty despite being more than 80 years old. The “young” ensign also has difficulty integrating into human culture, which is much less structured than his native society. In private, he expresses great reservations over Kirk’s reputation. Chekov and a security team join the police in searching for the agitators, but Security Minister Tasari’s brutal efforts and Rishala’s passive resistance only lead to a riot and the high priestess’s arrest. Kirk ensures that Rishala gets medical treatment and is soon released, and she urges him to release his guilt over Decker’s death.

McCoy continues his downward spiral. After coming clean to Natira about his true feelings, he drowns his sorrows in alcohol and neglects his duties. He convinces Chapel to take his place in treating the victims of terrorist attacks planetside so he won’t have to face Natira again, and his limited xenophysiology knowledge nearly leads to the death of a crewmember—Specialist Second-Class Spring Rain on Still Water, an amphibious Megarite—in an emergency. Spring Rain only survives, albeit in a coma, due to Chapel’s guidance via communicator. Ashamed and chastised, McCoy realizes that he must pull himself together. He confronts Natira for her blind, harsh treatment of the populace, convincing her that building towards a compromise will work better than continuing Tasari’s use of force. The two share a cathartic release over their paternal tragedies and their recent failures (McCoy barely deals with euthanizing his father, and Natira reveals that her father’s indulgence of her youthful inquisitiveness resulted in his execution through the Instrument of Obedience. Witnessing her father’s death spurred her to embrace the Oracular faith out of extreme fear, and she is now fervently rebelling against the faith out of relief and self-loathing, now that she can safely do so.). They begin their relationship anew.

The peace summit on Yonada barely starts when Dovraku and his minions attack, seizing the faction leaders and Spock’s research team; only Kirk, Natira, and several security officers evade capture. The terrorists snuck aboard the asteroid ship by stowing away in the engine compartment of one of the transports and are intent on carrying out Dovraku’s will and restoring the Oracle despite suffering from lethal radiation poisoning. Dovraku reprograms and reactivates the Oracle, which now listens to the terrorist’s guidance and sees him as its “Prophet,” and he leverages the hostages against Spock, forcing the Vulcan to become the instrument of his ascension. Tasari is executed as a show of force. While Kirk and his team work to free the hostages, he and Zaand discuss trust. The ensign comes to see that the rumors about Kirk are not entirely true, that one must trust oneself, and that one must give trust to receive it. Zaand learns to trust the captain moments before he gives his own life to save Kirk’s. Kirk’s strike against Dovraku fails, and he and the security team are also captured.

Dovraku seeks the binary purity of machine logic over the imperfections of flesh. He believes that people are either “One” with him and the Oracle, or that they should be reduced to Zero. He fires Yonada’s remaining missiles around Lorina in a manner reminiscent of V’Ger’s attack on Earth, intending to cleanse the planet’s surface for his grand new era of rebirth. Dovraku forces Spock to conduct a mind-meld between the Oracle and its “prophet.” Pulling the prefix code from Spock’s memory, he has the Oracle reprogram the starship’s transporter to dematerialize himself and the Oracle and to combine them into one new transcendent being. Fortunately, the crew regains control of the ship’s systems and Spock uses the meld to incapacitate Dovraku and deactivate the Oracle. The missiles are also shut down.

In command of the Enterprise, Sulu faces off against a Shesshran fleet enraged by the Fabrini rebellion and Yonada’s aggressive actions. They intend to expel the Fabrini from their system and they launch an attack that threatens to destabilize Yonada’s ancient collapsed-matter core. Sulu uses the Enterprise to shield Yonada until the Oracle’s hijacking drops the starship’s shields. Thinking quickly, he bows to the Shesshrans’ dominance, using their prideful nature to trick and shame them into ending their attack.

Spock locates hidden historical records that reveal the true full history of Yonada and its people...


The Fabrini civilization grew up in fear of imminent destruction by their dying sun, Ganidra, but it endured long enough to develop crude interstellar flight. They launched several space probes as time capsules, ensuring that some record of their existence would survive, before turning to the massive Yonada project (One of these probes was discovered by the U.S.S. Intrepid in 2264, giving the Federation its first data on the long-dead society). Construction of Yonada took 60 years, and in 7954 BCE, the ship and its 40 million passengers set out for Daran IV. The ancient Fabrini had established contact with the Tishiki (the Shesshran’s ancestors) and had been invited to seek refuge on the neighboring planet. Unfortunately, Ganidra’s nova was proximate enough to reap considerable damage on the Tishiki and their civilization collapsed. It took nearly 10,000 years for them to rebuild and return to a pre-nova level of development. Upon learning of their ancestors’ contract, the modern Shesshran grudgingly allowed the Fabrini settlement of Daran IV.

Yonada’s flesh and blood project engineers and civil leaders eventually gained mythical status and came to be known as the divine “Creators.” Ganidra itself came to be known as Nidra, the trickster goddess of fire and lies. The ship’s main computer was defined as the Oracle from the outset, despite some contradictory historical records. It was designed to teach and provide an unbiased history; to voice every point-of-view; and to be a common ground for all the disparate people on Yonada.

Over the centuries of Yonada’s voyage, complacency set in. The culture became uniform and stagnant owing to close quarters and a complete lack of exterior influence. The government focused on maintaining its own power rather than protecting the people and fulfilling the Creators’ teachings. Around 6,000 years ago, the people stopped caring for the planet-like ecosphere of the top levels, leading to ecological collapse, drought, and famine. Revolution against the corrupt priesthood made way for a secular state. This government rewrote its history and even its language to its own advantage, vilifying the old ways and embellishing the evils of the faith. The Oracle was shut down. However, they had no better solutions than the previous regime, and after 600 years and several failed revolutions, the secular state also fell.

In its place, a strict reactionary faith arose, owing to the failures of the lax secularists. The devout built their new system on distorted interpretations of history. The Instrument of Obedience was implanted into the entire population rather than just criminal offenders and the Oracle’s guidance was more harsh and literal than the Creators had ever intended. The new government’s severity made for a very stable society that endured for over 5,000 years—until Kirk defeated the Oracle.


With the truths of history finally revealed, the Oracle can again be a common ground for all. The Shesshran stand down and Natira and Rishala agree to work out their differences. The terrorist movement falls apart without Dovraku. Though reconciled, Natira and McCoy must again part company as she can’t appear to be too biased towards the Federation. McCoy finds a balance aboard ship and a treatment for Spring Rain’s condition. Kirk learns of Decker’s great interest in IDIC, which led the younger captain to assemble such a diverse crew, and in empathy and spirituality, realizing that Decker did get what he most wanted when he merged with V’Ger. He accepts his guilt, moves on, and comes to trust himself again. Spock finds a balance in integrating emotion and logic and accepts his whole self. He takes a leave of absence to reconcile with his father, driven by Dovraku’s inability to do the same. Sulu’s recent command experience spurs him to renew his pursuit of the command track—abandoned following his discouraging performance in the Kobayashi Maru test. Impressed, Kirk officially makes Sulu his second officer (and acting XO in Spock’s absence). Chekov mourns Zaand, the first subordinate to die under his command.




Gerry AubersonBandarBolekSara BowringChristine ChapelPavel ChekovMarcella DiFalcoJade DinhDavid FeinMichael HowardKi'ki're'ti'keJames T. KirkEdward LoganM'sharnaLeonard McCoyEnrique MercadoMosi NizhoniOdangaReiko OnamiJoaquin Perezzh'RalJanice RandTheresa RossR'trikahiMontgomery ScottSh'aowSpanlaSpockSpring Rain on Still WaterSternbachHikaru SuluShantherin th'ClaneT'HeshUhuraHrrii'ush Uuvu'itWoreneVaylin Zaand




Minakeli BaimaDediMiuraNalaiNidraTiluTomaneru Vari


Ak'pethhitSsherrak Ki'threetlChristopher LindstromOracle of the PeopleSoreth
Referenced only
Jonathan ArcherBalokTonia BarrowsChavi'rruLori CianaMike ClearyNancy CraterD'ArtagnanJoan DeckerWillard DeckerIrina GalliulinGanelaAmanda GraysonIliaTetsuo InomataEdith KeelerLi KwanLandruLongbothamShiboline M'RessMadasiCarol MarcusDavid MarcusMattesinoJoanna McCoyMiramaneeArex Na EthNicholsonHeihachiro NoguraPegasusAnnie RandRibasiSarekSemilaSonakSurakT'chanT'KhulnT'PolJocelyn TreadwayTyreeV'GerVaalVocariRobert Wesley

Starships and vehicles

USS EnterprisehovercarYonadaZhang Sui
Referenced only
USS ArchonUSS AshokaUSS ConstellationUSS DefiantEnterpriseUSS ExcaliburUSS ExeterUSS IntrepidUSS PotemkinUSS SacajaweaUSS SphinxYang LiweiUSS Zheng He


Azure NebulaDaran systemGanidraKachissat (Daran V) • Lorina (Daran IV) • Starbase 22
Referenced only
AvrosBeta IIIEkosFabrinaGamma Trianguli VIIotiaLantaru sectorMegaraNelghaOhioOrganiaPelosRegulus sectorRhaandarelRussiaSan FranciscoScorpius-Centaurus OB AssociationTriskelionVulcan

Races and cultures

AndorianArcadianAulacriAurelianBetelgeusianCaitianEscheriteFabriniHuman (Navajo) • MegariteRhaandariteSaurianShesshranTellariteTrillVulcanZaranite
Referenced only

States and organizations

CreatorsFaithfulFederation SecurityStarfleetStarfleet Corps of EngineersUnited Federation of Planets
Referenced only
Nehru UniversityV'tosh ka'turVulcan High CommandVulcan Science Academy

Science and technology

antimatterastrogatorAvrosian Worldlinkbiometric databombbrainchoriocytosisclothing transportercogcomacomputercrossbowdilithium matrixdiscussion boardexcavation phaserexplosivefluorinegravitygrenade arrowGuardian of ForeverhairHeisenberg compensatorhumanoidhyposprayhyronalinInstrument of ObediencelightM-5machinemesiofrontal cortexmicrowave signalmind-siftermissilenavigational deflectorneonNomadoxygenperscanphaserplasma cannonradiationradiation poisoningshieldssonic showerstunnersupernovatimetransportertri-oxtricordervoderVoyager 6warp drivewormhole

Ranks and titles

acolyteaideattendantcaptaincommandercommissionercommodoredoctorFederation Commissioner for Aid and Reconstructionfirst officerGoverness of the Promised World Lorinaguardlieutenantlieutenant commanderministerterrorist

Other references

abstract artalgaearboretumArt DecoBook of the Peoplebriefing roomcamouflagecitycity arenaclothingcolonydaydiamonddushiikemotionFedrayshaflabjellahgodgovernmentgymhistoryIDICjazzkeetharakelboniteKobayashi Maru scenarioKolinahrkonarile-matyamaskmind meldMona Lisamusicneutroniumofficers' loungeParrises SquaresplanetPrime Directivepuppetrecreation deckreligionSaurian brandyshoesickbaysociologysuicidesunglassesswordtechnologytempleterrorismtritaniumvicturiumvisual mediaweekxenopsychologyyear


Ex Machina is the novel that most carefully explains all the information that the film/novelization/comic Star Trek: The Motion Picture did not give about itself. It is the source of the divide regarding TMP's dating and expands on minor characters seen in TMP, giving them names and backstories. It was the most-talked about book of late 2004, the most-popular Trek book in early 2005 and is highly recommended for anyone wanting a fuller, better knowledge of TMP.

Related Stories

Behind the scenes

The story of this novel directly contradicts The Lost Years, according to which McCoy returned to the Fabrini prior to the events of The Motion Picture. According to The Lost Years, when he did so Natira was already married and rejected him; in contrast, according to Ex Machina she waited for him, but he rejected her.



Published Order
Previous novel:
TOS novels Next novel:
Seeds of Rage
Previous novel:
The Case of the Colonist's Corpse
TOS paperbacks Next novel:
Seeds of Rage
Previous story:
"... Loved I Not Honor More"
Stories by:
Christopher L. Bennett
Next story:
"Brief Candle"
Chronological Order
Previous adventure:
"A & Ω"
Section 8
Pocket Books Timeline Next adventure:
Pawns and Symbols
Previous adventure:
Debt of Honor
Flashback: Pages 38-44
Memory Beta Chronology Next adventure:
"The Haunting of Thallus!"
Previous story:
The Continuing Voyages of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) Next story:
Pawns and Symbols
The above chronology placements are based on the primary placement in 2273.
The Pocket Books Timeline places events from this story in 1 other timeframe(s):
Previous adventure:
Spock's World
Vulcan: Three
7954 BC
Chapter 18
Next adventure:
Spock's World
Vulcan: Four
The above chronology placements are based on the primary placement in 2273.
The Memory Beta Chronology places events from this story in 1 other timeframe(s):
Previous adventure:
Spock's World
Vulcan: Three
7954 BC
Chapter 18
Next adventure:
Lost Souls
Chapters 2, 8, 14 & 20