As the Thallonian Empire succumbs to violence and insurrection, the U.S.S. Excalibur prepares to launch on her humanitarian mission of mercy. But her departure is destined to be a memorable one, as Calhoun contends with an unexpected stowaway, a stormy relationship with his crew, and -- light-years away -- frightened refugees aboard a dying ship.
Mackenzie Calhoun has accepted command of the USS Excalibur. As he makes his first log entry, he is waiting for the remainder of the crew to report for duty. The crew has been assigned, but Calhoun has yet to find an executive officer. He notes that many of the candidates he has interviewed, albeit being well qualified, seem somewhat intimidated by him. He notes that the challenge will be finding an officer that not only he can tolerate, but also one who can tolerate him. Edward Jellico recommends Elizabeth Shelby for the position, hoping that her ambition and assertiveness will help keep Calhoun in check. Shelby notes however, that it would be a mistake for Jellico to think that she will attempt to serve as his snitch or rat on board the ship, as once she signs on her loyalty will be to her captain.
The story then shifts to Soleta, who was held at gunpoint during the cliffhanger at the end of the previous book. She is able to identify her captor, with a little prodding, as Lord Si Cwan, the Thallonian who helped her escape Thallon ten years ago. Si Cwan claims that he intends to collect on the debt that Soleta owes him for aiding in her escape, and demands that she somehow smuggle him on board Excalibur. He cannot hire a private vessel due to the fact that he has many enemies still in the system, namely a man named Zoran and require some protection. He is especially concerned with attempting to recover his sister Kallinda, who is still missing following the collapse of the Thallonian Empire. Soleta agrees to help him, but notes that at will be difficult to smuggle him on board due to his height.
Selar is confronting Calhoun about a problem with Dr. Maxwell, a member of her staff. When unable to provide a good reason for his dismissal, Calhoun basically tells her he doesn't care what she does with her staff as long as she has a good reason for doing so. When Selar thinks about the situation in more detail, she notes to herself that Dr. Maxwell bears a strong resemblance to Voltak, but refuses to admit that this could be the reason for her irritation with him.
Shelby is approaching Excalibur, and contacts Burgoyne 172, who also previously served on Excalibur with her, requesting to be beamed aboard as to meet with Calhoun privately before meeting with him publicly. Burgoyne complies and beams her on to the bridge. She proceeds in the direction of the ready room. However, her plan is halted when she nearly walks into Lieutenant Zak Kebron, who notes that he does not like surprises. Kebron proceeds to the Captain's ready room in order to alert him of Shelby's presence. Lieutenant Robin Lefler appears as well and introduces herself to Shelby, stating that Kebron can be somewhat single-minded, often only accepting orders from the Captain. The two notice Lieutenant Mark McHenry apparently sleeping at the helm controls, confusing Shelby. Kebron then reappears allowing Shelby to proceed through.
Calhoun tells Shelby that he just received a message from Jellico telling him not to choose Shelby as a first officer. Calhoun notes this means one of two things: either Jellico tried to get Shelby to spy on him, she refused, and he was now trying to block the assignment, or that Jellico was trying to use some sort of reverse psychology. Calhoun decides to name Shelby his first officer regardless. Shelby makes a point of asking whether or not their past romantic involvement played a factor in him accepting her, and Calhoun retorts that he took her on in spite of, not because of, this past involvement. At this time, Lt. Soleta introduces herself to Calhoun, mentioning that there is an urgent matter with her luggage that must be attended to.
Meanwhile, Ryjaan is concerned as to the fact that Calhoun will be commanding the Excalibur, noting to D'ndai, now the head of the Xenexian Government that his brother could easily interfere with their own plans for the sector. Ryjaan demands that D'ndai do something to impede Calhoun's efforts, else he will have to take the matter into his own hands.
As Si Cwan regains consciousness, he finds himself in a silver crate in Excalibur's cargo bay, nearly folded in half in order to fit. He and Soleta's plan was working, however complications arose when he was discovered by Zak Kebron, who proceeded to attempt to place Si Cwan under arrest. Si Cwan jumps out of the crate and demands to speak with the Captain, and when this request is denied he fights Kebron with relatively little success. However, Cwan is eventually able to break through and runs for the door, but as soon as it opens he is punched in the face by a waiting Captain Calhoun, as him and Shelby have proceeded to the cargo bay to deal with Soleta's "luggage problem." Calhoun orders Si Cwan be placed in the brig, but Shelby is furious over the fact that Calhoun was obviously aware of Cwan's presence on the Excalibur and neglected to tell her.
Meanwhile, Captain Hufmin of the transport Cambon has streched his ship's passenger limit well over the maximum in order to help evacuate Thallonian refugees. He attempts to take a shortcut through an area of space called The Gauntlet, in which war has recently re-emerged following the collapse of the Thallonian Empire. His ship is badly damaged when caught in the crossfire and a distress signal is sent.
Back on the Excalibur, Calhoun, Kebron, and Shelby are interrogating Si Cwan in the brig. Si Cwan covers for Soleta by not mentioning her help in smuggling him aboard the ship, despite the fact that Calhoun is already aware of her involvement. Si Cwan then offers his services as a guide to Sector 221-G. After consulting with Shelby and Soleta, Calhoun decides to take Si Cwan along due to the fact that he has heard good things about him, and that he is basically a man of compassion despite being a member of the ruling family. Calhoun then orders a course set for Thallon.
While in transit, Shelby becomes concerned that McHenry appears to be asleep at his console. Soleta and Kebron intervene on his behalf, stating that McHenry is just intensely focusing. In order to prove this, Soleta has Lefler make a minor change in the ships course causing McHenry to jump up and demand an explanation. Meanwhile, in sickbay, Burgoyne 172 is displaying a sexual interest in Dr. Selar.
Calhoun decides to give Si Cwan the title of Ambassador and has Si Cwan and McHenry, who considers himself a history buff, give the crew a briefing on Thallonian history. The Thallonians are not native to Thallon, they were transported there in large Space Arks by an unknown race who used Thallon as a dumping ground for criminals. This is similar to the history of the nation of Australia on Earth. At this time it was a small, cold, and infertile world. However, when the outcasts arrived there, they found it to be a temperate and hospitable world with an almost limitless supply of pure energy. The cause of the discrepancy between the planet the Thallonians were intended to arrive at and that which they did arrive at cannot be determined with scientific certainty. The Thallonians were able to use the resources of their world to conquest neighboring planets, but were never able to locate the race that exiled them there. The briefing is then interrupted when Excalibur picks up the distress call from the Cambon. Si Cwan suggests that the vessel likely passed through the Gauntlet based on the coordinates they receive, and Calhoun orders a course set.
Hufmin considers jettisoning the passengers in order to increase his own chances of survival, but is ultimately unable to. The Excalibur arrives and beams everyone off the Cambon. Due to the fact that they are out of range of a starbase to tow Cambon to, Calhoun orders Burgoyne to repair the vessel. The Thallonian refugees are surprised and grateful to see Si Cwan alive. Meanwhile, Excalibur receives a distress signal from a ship called the Kayven Ryin, carrying nine passengers including Cwan's sister Kallinda. Calhoun says he cannot abandon the Cambon right now, and orders Si Cwan and Zak Kebron to take the runabout USS Marquand to rendezvous with the Kayven Ryin. Kebron is not happy with this assignment, and when Shelby confronts Calhoun about it he states that he hopes if Kebron and Cwan spend some time together, they will learn to work with each other, similar to how Kebron and Worf eventually smoothed out their difficulties. Cwan and Kebron depart the ship.
Soon thereafter, Excalibur is attacked by an unidentified vessel. Marquand approaches the Kayven Ryin and offers assistance. Meanwhile, the Thallonians aboard the Kayven Ryin begin to arm themselves, and one named Zoran says he looks forward to his reunion with Si Cwan.
To Be Continued...
- Burgoyne 172 • Mackenzie Calhoun • Si Cwan • D'ndai • Hufmin • Edward Jellico • Zak Kebron • Robin Lefler • Maxwell • Mark McHenry • Ryjaan • Selar • Elizabeth Shelby • Soleta • Torelli • Yates • Zoran
- Referenced only
- Alexander the Great • Beverly Crusher • Falkar • Kallinda • Morgan Korsmo • Alynna Nechayev • Jean-Luc Picard • Will Riker • Spock • Voltak • Worf
Starships and vehiclesEdit
Races and culturesEdit
- Brikar • Comarian • Hermat • Human • Romulan • Thallonian • Vulcan • Xenexian
- Referenced only
States and organizationsEdit
Science and technologyEdit
Ranks and titlesEdit
- ambassador • captain • criminal • doctor • executive officer • first officer • lieutenant • lord • refugee
- baseball bat • brig • cargo bay • distress call • government • history • planet • reverse psychology • sickbay • war • year • Zantosian ale
- Prior to the events in Star Trek: First Contact, Shelby served as Executive Officer aboard the USS Excalibur and Burgoyne 172 served as the assistant Chief Engineer
- Mackenzie Calhoun and Elizabeth Shelby were romantically involved during their time at the academy.
- After the Xenexian Revolution, Calhoun found he had little interest in governing, and thus his brother D'ndai took over the Xenexian government.
- Some time after joining Starfleet, M'k'n'zy returned to Xenex and accused D'ndai of selling out his people to Danteri interests and that Xenex was now free in name only. This incident created a rift between the two brothers.
- The Thallonians were originally a group of criminals exiled to Thallon, at that time thought to be an inhospitable planet. When the Thallonians arrived, they found it to be rich in resources and used these to begin conquering neighboring worlds.
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