And Now for Something Completely Different…
Someone asked me recently about one of my old projects, Star Trek: Starfleet Academy. To answer their question, I’m posting the timeline that Paramount approved for the comic book series, before the plug was pulled by Marvel’s loss of the Star Trek license. These are effectively concise overviews of the issues we never got to publish…the further adventures of Matt Decker, Pava, T’Priell, Nog, and Edam Astrun…young Starfleet cadets trying to find their way in a very big universe.
Not really new myth…or is it? Some argue that Star Trek presents a mythic universe, complete with archetypes (Klingons as violent but honor-bound warriors, Romulans as sneaky schemers, etc.). You be the judge, and see if you can find some mythic themes in what we had planned for the series.
STARFLEET ACADEMY timeline
Time out of Mind 1: Decker
The cadets are more intrigued by the Viator artifact than ever when it survives being plunged into a star. But when Pava and Decker come into contact with it, with Edam nearby, gene-interfacing properties of the artifact are triggered, interacting unexpectedly with Edam’s telepathic abilities. Decker & Pava drop to the floor, their minds apparently wiped clean.
As it turns out, the artifact accidentally combined with Edam’s telepathy to hurl Decker’s and Pava’s consciousnesses back in time, into the bodies of their genetic ancestors. What follows is a lighthearted “Back to the Future” issue: Decker finds himself trapped in the body of his great-grandfather, Matt Decker, during his Academy days, when he met and wooed his great-grandmother…and now our Decker must fumble his way to seducing her to ensure his own survival! And to make things worse, he has a rival–a lothario cadet by the name of Christopher Pike! Matt manages to win the lady for his ancestor, just in time to be retrieved by Edam, who’s been working laboriously with T’Priell to right things (and sparking unusual romantic fireworks along the way, as her Vulcan side says stay away, but her Romulan side says come hither). Decker, who’s always been intimidated by his family legacy as glorified by his father, realizes from his experiences that his ancestors were human and flawed just as he is.
Time out of Mind 2: Pava
Our “Xena, Warrior Princess” issue: Pava finds herself back on Old Andor, where survival is a daily struggle. The men guard the geothermal hot springs–tropical oases that are the key to the long-term survival of the cluster–with their lives, while the cluster’s women go forth aboard ice schooners, hunting and warring among the snows blanketing most of that world. In the body of an ancestor, Pava is the captain of just such a vessel, committed to slaughter hundreds from a rival cluster under a long-ago vendetta. She must, or she alters history…but if she does, she must live with that atrocity staining her soul. She returns to her own life, thanks to Edam’s and T’Priell’s efforts, finally understanding the futility of vengeance, and how some Andorian customs are better left in history’s dustheap.
Charlie Evans comes crashing in on the Academy, turning to the only people he knows–Omega Squad–for help, with Q hot on his heels. Q has made Charlie an offer he can’t refuse: Join the Q Continuum, or die (there’s somewhat of a precedent for this, from the TNG episode “True Q”). The problem is, joining the Continuum is the last thing Charlie wants, because all he’s ever longed for is human contact. Q agrees that Charlie can stay among humanoids–if he can get Omega Squad to accept him. Weird situations abound as Q throws them curveballs, Charlie gets them out of it, and the squad faces the reality that life with an omnipotent Charlie may not be possible, despite the best of intentions on both sides. (Also, a rivalry starts to develop as Charlie is drawn to T’Priell, making Edam a wee bit jealous.) Finally, Charlie gets Omega Squad to accept him by apparently using his powers to wish his powers away permanently. Q is foiled…
…but having seen the artifact, now locked in a physics lab, Q cryptically tells the squad that they’re in for more than they can handle soon anyway!
SUBPLOT: Somewhere in deep space, a Borg vessel encounters a massive alien mother ship strangely resembling our artifact. Borg attempts at assimilation are futile, and the ship completely ignores them–except to abduct a dozen or so Borg, all the drones between the ages of 16 and 19.
In Search of Kamilah Goldstein
A quiet character study as Edam reaches a crisis. His on-again, off-again relationship with T’Priell is maddening, his psi talent messed with his teammates’ heads and nearly got them lost in time, Zund has been acting weirdly removed since the Romulan affair, the parents he lives to displease are now pleased that he’s at the Academy…all of which puts him one step away from deciding to resign. He’s never quite blended with the other cadets anyway, so before he quits he decides to investigate the one thing they all have in common that he doesn’t share: friendship with the slain Kamilah.
So Edam goes to Jerusalem and, via Edam’s telepathic journeys through the minds of people who knew her, he and we get glimpses of the woman and her life: what was it about this girl that could inspire Pava to turn her back on Andorian vengeance, Decker to find it in himself to forgive T’Priell’s betrayal, T’Priell to struggle to get her personas to work together? In the process, Edam actually discovers the truth about himself–that he’s ready to run from the Academy because, for the first time in his life, there are people he cares about and a place to call home. And that scares him. But rather than run from that, Edam decides to take on Kamilah’s mantle as a unifying force and work to preserve the team…even if he won’t admit that publicly to his teammates!
SUBPLOT: A fleet of Jem’hadar ships attack the massive alien mother craft. It abducts every single Jem’Hadar from one of the vessels–only to spit them back out as unwanted genetic ooze. It then continues on its way, ignoring every other Jem’hadar vessel that uselessly attacks it.
Face of the Reaper
Halakith gets a signal from her people and is lured to a distant world, accompanied by Yoshi. Along the way, the two manage to reach an accomodation, only to discover that the signal is a deception of the beings who built the mystery artifact: the Viators. A powerful humanoid constuct–a Golem–sent by these enigmatic beings relentlessly pursues Halakith; apparently because she’s the last of her kind, her uniqueness somehow makes her valuable to them. With the Viators’ actions confirming that she’s the last one, she turns herself over to the Viators so as to meet the fate of all the other Halakith saurians. In doing so, she saves Yoshi’s life–bartering her own for his–and gives a gift to the Federation by hiding a probe on her person when the Viators take her aboard their massive mother ship, sending the first telemetry on who or what these mysterious beings are.
And I’ll find a way to work in Omega Squad, too.
CHIP: This issue is deliberately vague, since I want to be able to pop in a “How I Spent the War” story, depending on developments on the DS9 TV show regarding the war with the Dominion.
Based on the information coming in from every part of the Alpha Quadrant–Kovold’s warning, Murg’s condition, Omega Squad’s mental time-tripping via ancestors, Halakith’s fate and the Viators’ selective kidnapping of other sentients–a pattern begins to emerge. The Viators’ activity centers around genetics. But the abducted sentients have nothing in common genetically; in fact, the only link is that they were all young adults.
The Federation’s attempts at peaceful communication go ignored, just as the attacks of a Klingon fleet go ignored. But the danger the Viators pose, deliberately or not, becomes obvious once Starfleet figures out that the agonizing, grotesque fate of Murg and Halakith–total genetic instability–has been the fate of everyone the Viators have kidnapped. And worse, the massive Viator vessel is working its way towards Earth.
Viators–mammoth silicon-based lifeforms with chrono-phase technology–are so different from virtually everything previously encountered, that Starfleet fears they may not even realize that the beings they kidnap are sentient. So in a final, desperate attempt to make contact, they bring Edam, a Horta, and Vulcan priestess T’Lathne together in a three-way mindmeld, trying to create a consciousness capable of telepathically reaching the Viators. For a moment, they succeed–and come out of it terrified.
The Viators, it turns out, are “trans-sentient”–their consciousnesses are unknowable to us, as far above our own as ours is above the simple electrochemical “thoughts” of an ameba. They know we’re sentient…and they don’t care. As far as they’re concerned, we’re raw material: Our DNA is the microchip of their organic computing system, its genetic mutations and permutations ideal for solving complex equations. The best of all possible DNA comes when an organism’s biochemistry has stabilized after puberty, but before advancing age causes replication errors and DNA degradation–in other words, young adults. Like Starfleet cadets. And the best sampling of young adults would include lots of different species, offering a terrific variety of DNA. Like at the Academy.
Which is where the Viators will arrive in 24 hours.
Starfleet attempts to evacuate the cadets, only to have one of the Viators’ Golems, sent to scout ahead, set up an isolation field around San Francisco to hold everyone there until the mother ship arrives.
An armada of starships to defend the Academy is utterly ineffectual and gets completely ignored.
And a last scheme to use Omega Squad, partially “invisible” to Viator sensors thanks to their previous exposure to Viator tech, backfires. The cadets penetrate the mother ship’s defenses long enough to release an organic virus, hoping it will destroy the organic computer and thus the Viators. But the computer’s immune defenses wipe out the virus, and the Viators strike back with a chrono-beam that instantly disintegrates Omega Squad.
The Viators then proceed to obliterate the Academy and digest virtually every cadet there is.
Welcome to the world of Reno Sanchez. She’d be real sexy if she didn’t spend her days eating out of dumpsters and her nights sandwiched between passed-out drunks on lower Broadway; now that December has arrived, it’s getting awfully cold on New York’s mean streets, and she’ll take any warmth she can get. She’s hoping all the hoopla over the coming New Year–going from 1999 to 2000–will bring lots of stupid tourists to Times Square so she can pick their pockets. That’s the extent of her hopes for the future. Besides, it’s not like it’s the start of a new millenium–unlike most people, she knows that won’t come until 2001. After all, she’s pretty smart; in fact, she’s a genius, one who couldn’t fit in, fell into some bad stuff–heroin–and the rest she doesn’t like to think about. Now, even though she’s clean, she knows she won’t make it much past 2000 anyway. So she lives day to day. Maybe this chick passing by will give me a handout, she thinks.
Except this chick’s naked. And confused. And blue.
Things really get crazy for Reno as others, just as weird if not so obviously so, keep popping out of nowhere around her. Finally, there are four, only one of whom speaks English. Scared shitless, she runs; they pursue, thinking they must be here for a reason, that she must somehow be important to them. Then they realize that she’s homeless, a derelict…useless. They move on, thinking of their own problems, and, under the circumstances, ignoring hers.
Omega Squad figures out that, because of chroniton resonances from their first experience with the Viator artifact, they weren’t killed by the Viator chrono-disintegrator; instead they were thrown back in time–just them, not their clothes or equipment (Decker is without an eye). But why here, why now, why all drawn by the timestream to that unfortunate girl?
And now that they’re here, how do they get home?
Edam has worse news. Because his consciousness is shifting temporally back and forth between his own body and that of his “ancestor,” his father, in the 24th century (just like what happened to Decker and Pava in issues #20 & 21), he knows what’s happened in their own time. The Academy’s destroyed, and the Viators threaten the rest of the Alpha Quadrant; the cadets have no home to return to, even if they could. They’re trapped in a hostile, primitive world, with no place to go.
They’re truly homeless.
And they discover everything that means as, without money or friends, they’re forced into a hard-scrabble life on the streets. Just when those streets threaten to overwhelm them, Reno steps in and gives them the help they were too preoccupied to give her. She shows them how to survive on the streets.
The issue ends with that survival in serious question, as a Golem arrives back through time and confronts them all, looking to slaughter Reno. And if they could barely defeat a Golem when they had 24th century tech, how will they do it now?
That’s when Gary Seven shows up.
Seven of ’99
Gary Seven (from TOS’s “Assignment: Earth”)–older, grayer, but still a prime specimen of humanity–has been drawn to the scene by the surges in chroniton particles. He and the cadets work desperately to save Reno. The biggest problem, however, is Reno herself. She keeps deliberately putting herself in harms way. Only after the Golem is defeated does Reno explain.
She wants to die, because she has AIDS, and unable to afford life-prolonging medication, she faces a slow, horrible death. She figures this is quicker.
After overcoming initial shock (“You’re denied essential medical treatment…because of money?!?”), the cadets are more perplexed than ever. Through Edam’s telepathic time shifts, they’ve been able to check Federation databases, and there is no record of Reno making any significant contribution to history, nor of her having any descendants. She does indeed seem to die as just one more statistic. So why are the Viators out to kill someone unimportant? Why were the cadets drawn here?
The only explanation Gary Seven can provide is that, for some unknown reason, Reno is charged to the max with chroniton particles. “Oh, and by the way,” he adds, “I think I can use my transporter to send you all home.” The cadets, convinced that Reno is significant against the Viators even if they don’t know why, prevail upon her to make the trip with them; she’s got nothing to lose, after all.
The cadets and Reno arrive back in the 24th Century a split-second after their “disintegration,” back aboard the Viator mother ship, before the Academy’s destruction. And after much conflict, Reno finally puts two and two together…
…and drops some of her HIV-infected blood into the Viators’ genetic computer matrix.
Confronted with not just a virus, but one that attacks the immune system itself, and one that hasn’t been seen on Earth in centuries, the Viators’ countervirus defenses are overwhelmed. The system shuts down, and the Viators are destroyed–but not before they dispatch a lone Golem into the past to destroy this menacing girl at her point of origin.
Hours later, Reno is cured of AIDS with a simple injection, a cure from the 21st century buried in ancient Earth files. But she can’t go back, because to do so would be to change history, for now she’d live, maybe have children…so she stays on as a special participant/observer attached to Omega Squadron.
She’s left with a lot of ironies to ponder: the time paradox that brought her here (she was a magnet for the others because of her chroniton polarity, yet she ended up polarized in the past because of being sent to the future; the Viators dispatched a Golem to destroy her at her point of origin, yet it was that Golem’s presence in the past that convinced the cadets that Reno was important to bring her to the future)…that a disease that was a nightmare in her day ends up saving humanity’s future…that the Viators, to whom we are primitive biological artifacts, were brought down by a microbe, what WE would consider a primitive biological artifact…but most of all, that she’s gone from being a doomed, homeless lowlife, to being a dreamworld’s savior with a new lease on life, in the blink of an eye. And this time, she plans to make the best of it.
CHIP: I think the possibilities inherent in the Reno character are ripe–adjusting to her new world, dazzled by her swift change in fortune, dealing with the legacy of her sordid past, and how her backwards primitivism conflicts with and challenges utopia.
But best of all, she gives us a fresh perspective on the Star Trek universe. Through Reno’s eyes, readers will see that universe again as if for the first time–an ideal way to continue with this book’s introductory spin without alienating longtime fans. In fact, I think it’s longtime fans who’ll love this the most.
Men in Gray
A lighthearted issue as “Mutt & Jeff” from Temporal Investigations hound Reno and make her life a living hell!