Sent to deliver emergency famine relief to the planet Thiopa—the Federation's only allies in a critically important sector of space—the crew finds a brutal dictatorship—one more concerned with preserving its own powers than protecting its citizens, or the world they all share. Captain Picard is hesitant about turning over the supplies to the corrupt government: he fears they may never reach their intended destination. But can he convince the ruling council to change their ways, before it is too late—for the government, and Thiopa itself?
The Enterprise delivers Federation aid to Thiopa in the form of five cargo drones laden with foodstuffs and medical supplies. However, they are also accompanied by Federation Aid and Assistance respresentative Frid Undrun, a difficult Noxoran man struggling to maintain his self-image.
Thiopa, a potential ally in a frontier region bordering the Ferengi and other unknown threats, is facing drought and famine due to their recent rapid advancement. Forty years ago, Thiopa was just beginning its own industrial revolution when it made contact with the neighboring Nuaran Imperium. They traded the complete mining rights of their world for technological advancement, almost instantly being elevating to an era of nuclear-powered intrasystem travel. However, the Nuarans’ aggressive strip mining policies destroyed the planet’s ecology just as rapidly. With their world’s resources nearly depleted, the Thiopans severed their alliance with the Nuarans and began exploring associations with other powers, including the Ferengi and the Federation. Now, Supreme Protector Ruer Stross, the man who both instituted and dissolved the Nuaran alliance, seeks Fusion—creating a uniform society that shares one language, one religion, one culture, and one goal—saving their ecology without sacrificing their technology. Though Thiopan society is abandoning its old-world superstitions in favor of modern science, Stross is advised by Ayli, a shadowreader—or a kind of mystic fortune-teller. She stands in stark contrast to and disagreement with policy minister Hydran Ootherai.
The government is opposed by the Sojourners, the resurgence of a small but ancient religious movement. Early in Stross’ reign, a man named Evain reinterpreted the ancient Testaments for the modern era, preaching a different sort of Fusion between people and the land. Evain was against the wanton exploitation of nature under the gears of technological advancement, though he counseled nonviolence. It was only after Evain was arrested, incarcerated, and apparently died in prison that the Sojourners undertook a more aggressive resistance under their new leader, Lessandra. However, not all of the Sojourners are happy with the cost in lives of Lessandra’s tactics.
As the Federation convoy nears Thiopa, it comes under attack by several Nuaran interceptors, who destroy one drone before fleeing. Several later attacks are unsuccessful. Picard is invited to attend the feast celebrating Stross’ 40th anniversary in power, and he rails against the event’s opulence in the middle of a famine. Riker and Undrun examine the decrepit facilities that will warehouse the Federation supplies, and Riker is later captured by Sojourner insiders. Both the feast and the warehouse come under attack by the Sojourners, and the captured terrorists are executed on the spot. While held in Sanctuary Canyon (within the Sa’drit Void desert), Riker sees the true squalor thrust upon the Sojourners and their sympathizers by the “corrupt government.” He also learns that the Nuarans are arming the Sojourners. Riker bonds with Mori, a young Sojourner and the orphaned daughter of Evain, though she refuses to believe the government’s “lies” about her father’s death. He is soon kidnapped again by Glin and Jaminow, dissenters who disagree with Lessandra’s leadership, who plan to release Riker to the Enterprise, but Mori kidnaps him back, intending to trade the human’s freedom for aid in finding Evain.
Data works with Dr. Kael Keat, head of the Thiopan science ministry, to study the planet’s environmental degradation, which is quickly reaching a critical tipping point. Keat has proposed a weather control grid, though Data soon realizes that this miracle solution is beyond Thiopan science. Keat admits as much, but says that the (secretly unattainable) project is a means to secure the funding and popular support necessary for her true work in developing a workable fix. Undrun rallies against Picard’s reticence to deliver the food and medical aid (to a potentially corrupt government, Picard believes), and battles his own internal demons. Undrun fears the complete failure of his mission, and is unhappy with a profession that was forced upon him because of cultural expectations. He transports himself to the surface, intending to make his own deal with Lessandra and to trade himself for Riker, though he just finds himself a prisoner. Picard quickly follows Undrun and is able to negotiate with Lessandra, offering the Sojourners and their allies food and medicine. In thanks, the dissident leader points Picard in the right direction, enabling the captain to save Riker and Mori from a government air strike. Undrun is freed and everyone returns to the Enterprise.
Riker helps Mori explore her father’s grave, learning that he is not interred there, but cannot offer her any more help because of the Prime Directive. She is left with some renewed hope that Evain might still be alive, but has no idea where to find him. Picard establishes a communications link between himself, the government, and Lessandra, informing all parties simultaneously of Data’s findings about the dire state of the environment. Stross refuses to listen to such unpopular news, delivered by offworlders no less, and neither side is willing to talk to the other. Unable to do anything more to save the planet’s ecology or society, Picard delivers half of the relief supplies to the government and half to the Sojourners, and the Enterprise departs.
Social commentary about the dangers of rampant ecological pollution, at a time when our effects on our own planet were reaching a head.
Federation first contact with the Nuaran Imperium came in 2298, when the military dictatorship attempted to conquer Beta Li’odo, a recent Federation ally. The USS Polaris repelled the attacking force. The Nuarans engage in slave trade.
Worf plays a Klingon instrument, a chuS’ugh. He auditions for Riker’s jazz band, but is not hired. Geordi, on the other hand, is very impressed, and he and Worf form their own band.
Despite Data’s claims that a weather control grid is beyond Federation science, later episodes show that many Federation worlds do indeed have well-functioning nets to control their weather.
- Argyle • Ayli • Berga • Bradsil • Chardrai • Beverly Crusher • Wesley Crusher • Data • Glin • Guinan • Jaminaw • Jeldavi • Kael Keat • Ken Kolker • Kuri • Geordi La Forge • Lessandra • Ligg • Mikken • Mori • Miles O'Brien • Hydrin Ootherai • Gina Pace • Jean-Luc Picard • Katherine Pulaski • William T. Riker • Rudji • Lanni Sakata • Kimberly Schaller • Snephets • Ruer Stross • Supo • T'Jai • Tresha • Tritt • Deanna Troi • Trottier • Frid Undrun • White • Worf
- Referenced only
- Marie Antoinette • Cutcheon • Durren • Evain • Onar • Buvo Osrai • Johann Pachelbel • Noonien Soong • W'rone Stross
Starships and vehicles
- Mars • Thiopa (Bareesh • Crossroads • Eloki River • Endraya • Kahdeen • Mannowai City • Sa'drit Void • Sanctuary Canyon • Thesra) • Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards
Races and cultures
States and organizations
Science and technology
- air • blaster • carbon dioxide • communications • communicator • earthquake • fire • holodeck • intercom • Murphy's Law • oxygen • phaser • poison • power plant • time • transporter • tricorder • turbolift • universe
Ranks and titles
- baroque • bridge • burrowskratt • candle • chicken • chuS'ugh • day • desert • doll • ealix • food • hardwood • Hidden Hand • jazz • journal • Kinjinn wine • language • lemon • magic • martial arts • medal • military • mountain • orca • planet • Prime Directive • rail line • ready room • robe • rope • science • sickbay • silberry • spider • synthehol • technology • Ten-Forward • village • war • water • weapon • Wesburri fizz • whale • year
Near the end of the story, Dr. Pulaski beams down to the surface of Thiopa to obtain a tricorder reading of some genetic material inside an occupied tomb. However, in episode 7 of season 2, "Unnatural Selection" the fact that Pulaski has never used the Enterprise transporter is a key plot point. Therefore, for the purposes of the Memory Beta Chronology, this novel can take place no earlier than immediately following that episode.
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The Outrageous Okona
The Schizoid Man