(written from a Production point of view)
Commander Riker and the Enterprise crew struggle to help a Federation ally regain control of their lives – and their world...
- From the book jacket
- 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 a brutal dictatorship – one more concerned with preserving its own powers than protecting its citizens, or the world they 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 its too late – for the government, and Thiopa itself?
Counselor Troi, Captain Picard, and Commander Riker are in Riker's quarters listening to classical music when the captain receives a priority code communication from Starfleet Command. Picard is informed by Captain Kimberly Schaller that the planet he is headed to, Thiopa, is under pressure from the Ferengi to join their alliance. He is warned the Ferengi may also attempt to steal the humanitarian cargo the Enterprise is bringing to Thiopa.
- "Captain's log – Stardate 42422.5. The Enterprise is two hours away from the Thiopan star system on what has become a dual purpose mission. We are responding to an urgent request from Thiopa's planetary government for Federation assistance in dealing with a critical drought and resultant food shortage. The Tiopans have only recently disengaged from a long-standing association with the despotic Nauran Imperium. And now Starfleet has informed us that the Ferengi Alliance has designs on this sector. It is hoped our convoy of food and other desperately needed supplies will not only alleviate Thiopa's crisis but will also give the Federation a chance to establish formal ties with the planet before the Ferengi can take advantage of the chaotic situation."
With the Enterprise still en route to Thiopa, the captain reminisces about his first tour on the Enterprise, guided by his Oktonian escort, Lieutenant Snephets.
He is called to the bridge when a a group of Nauran starships attack the Enterprise and the cargo ships it is escorting. The Naurans are able to destroy one of the five unmanned ships before being chased off by the Enterprise.
The captain is then contacted from sickbay by Ambassador Frid Undrun, a Federation specialist assigned to the Thiopan aide mission. The captain is scolded by Undrun for allowing some of the much-needed supplies to be destroyed.
In Ten Forward, Ambassador Undrun sits alone, facing aft, away from the majestic outer windows of the lounge. Guinan offers him a drink – a syntheholic version of Kinjin wine. The ambassador notes that synthehol is probably the only good thing the Ferengi have contributed to the galaxy. Undrun explains to Guinan that he doesn't face the windows because spaceflight makes him queasy. He goes on to say that he envies Captain Picard and Commander Riker for having the skills necessary to run a starship. He explains that he is somewhat underqualified as an ambassador – that he was trained as an ecologist – something this mission required due to extensive pollution on Thiopa.
In the observation lounge, the senior staff discusses the upcoming mission. Data explain the despotic Nauran Imperium made contact with the then-early-industrial Thiopans several years ago. When Thiopa's new leader, Ruer Stross, came to power the relationship grew. In exchange for technological advancements – the Nauran's plundered the planets natural resources and polluted its oceans and atmosphere. The Thiopans have apparently kicked out the Nauran's and asked for Federation assistance to rebuild their homeworld. Data also informs the captain the Nauran's have set up several slave-labor camps nearby Thiopa.
Counselor Troi explains that the Naruans are extremely different than Humans. They are completely motivated by self-gain, and have very little understanding of the consequences of their actions – something Troi speculates their brains may be incapable of.
Captain Picard dismisses his staff, but Troi asks to stay behind to speak with the captain and first officer. She says she has sensed fear and a lack of self-confidence in Ambassador Undrun. The captain suggests they proceed with caution – keeping an eye on the ambassador.
The Enterprise reaches scanning range of Thiopa. On the bridge, Wesley Crusher reports that Thiopa is extremely polluted. Data describes the situation as analogous to a critically ill patient. The captain wonders what would cause a people to allow their planet to be so badly damaged before taking action against the ones causing it.
On Thiopa, Lord Ruer Stross, the dictator of Thiopa, is being fitted by his tailor, Supo, for an outfit to wear to his anniversary feast. He is impatient and stubborn, refusing to help Supo in any way. Stross is also quite gluttonous – he insists on having another snack, something Supo refuses to allow – citing that he will not be able to fit into the outfit just tailored.
A mysterious and uncanny women enters the room. Her name is Ayli, and she is a "shadow reader" – someone supposedly able to predict the future based on the flicker of lights against a wall.
Ayli warns Stross that he may not be able to achieve his goal of "Fusion" – to have all of Thiopa united before his death. He sees this as a gift to his people, but believes he can only achieve it when all of Thiopa's differences have been made null. He wishes for everyone to speak the same language and have the same culture. His goal however, is opposed by the Sojourners – a group of Thiopan's resistant to Stross' leadership. They began with only philosophical opposition twenty years prior, but have recently, under new leadership, began using violence to accomplish their tasks.
Ootherai, the Minister of Policy, and Stross' close adviser enters. He warns Stross that the Sojourners, and their radical leader Lessandra, will attempt to use propaganda to sway the Enterprise's views on Stross. He worries that if the Federation finds out about the Sojourners, they may withhold the much needed supplies – or worse, give them to the Sojourners. Otherai and Stross agree that any Sojourner sympathizers should be rounded up and arrested until after the Enterprise leaves.
The Enterprise hails Thiopa, requesting communication with Stross. Instead they are put in contact with Policy Minister Ootherai, who explains that Stross in unavailable. Ootherai invites the senior staff to join Stross at his anniversary feast – a peculiarity considering they are in the middle of a famine – but the crew speculates it may only be a symbolic feast to raise morale, and they agree to attend. Captain Picard also arranges to have Commander Riker and Ambassador Undrun beam down to prepare for transfer of the relief supplies the Enterprise has brought along.
The away team beams down, forced to wear oxygen masks to protect them from the various pollution-related toxins in the atmosphere. They walk into an enormous storage bulding – only to find the condition much below Federation hygiene standards – a large problem considering they are planning to beam down food, water, and medical supplies. They are greeted by Chardrai, supervisor of the facility.
Undrun confronts Chardrai about the unhygienic situation. Chardrai brushes him off, saying the Federation has authority over how the Thiopans use their supplies. Undrun responds by explaining that he is responsible for the supplies – and for the safety of the relief workers he has brought along with him. Chardria is appalled to learn Federation aide workers will be staying on Thiopa, but Undrun replies that the workers are there at the request of the Thiopan government.
The confrontation is quickly interrupted as a large explosion is heard outside the compound. They soon learn that Sojourner rebels have bombed a nearby facility. One of the attackers is caught by Thiopan guards, and brought to Chardrai, who is still in the company of Riker and Undrun. Chardrai calls the man a traitor, but the Sojourner retaliates saying it is not treason to oppose a tyrannical dictator. Chardrai orders his immediate execution. Appalled by the events that have taken place, Riker and Undrun beam back to the Enterprise to brief Captain Picard.
Picard, Troi, and Data beam down to Thiopa's central government building where they are greeted Ootherai. The trio is puzzled by the fact that a new government complex is being built, and that the people in the capital seem healthy and fit – all in a time of great famine. Ootherai explains that the new complex is to be named after Stross, and leads them to the feast.
Meanwhile, Lord Stross is still being prepared for the feast by Supo. Stross struggles to ensure he his at his best while Picard and company arrive for the feast. Stross cordially introduces himself to Picard, thanking him graciously for the assistance the Federation is providing. Stross introduces Picard to Dr. Kael Keat, a promising young Thiopan scientist who leads Thiopa's Science Council in an attempt to reverse the ecological damage. Data is fascinated by her studies and asks if he can speak to her after about her work. Keal is in turn fascinated by Data, as an android. Ootherai interjects, stating that the feast is about to begin, and leads the group into the complex.
Back on the Enterprise, Riker and La Forge are discussing the possibility of starting a jazz band. La Forge warns Riker that Worf wants to join the band, playing a Klingon instrument called a chuS'ugh (which translates roughly to "heavy noise"). Riker is worried that no jazz music has been written for the chuS'ugh, but is interrupted by Undrun, who storms in, very worried about what he experienced on Thiopa. He is slurring his words, still under the influence of the sedative administered by Pulaski, and not officially released from sickbay. Riker orders him back to sickbay. Undrun refuses, so Riker picks up the small man and carries him there himself. Riker and La Forge then walk to Worf's quarters, where they hear him warming up his chuS'ugh.
On Thiopa, the Feast is beginning. Much to the disbelief of Captain Picard, it is in fact a feast, serving enormous amounts of food to almost 3,000 people. Troi suggests the Thiopans may have lied to the Federation about the famine – but Data interjects that the ecological damage to the planet is quite real. Picard believes it is simply bad leadership, and relates this to the 17th century French nobility who lived in complete luxury while their people starved. He refers to Marie Antoinette saying "Let them eat cake," which, Data points out, she did not in fact say. The trio is troubled by their recent discovery, giving them all the more reason to meet with Stross and Ootherai. Troi feels guilt eating so much when the Thiopan people are starving, but Picard points out that with the Federation supplies they will not be starving for long.
Worf finishes tuning his chuS'ugh and begins to play. Riker and La Forge dislike the sound, but say nothing. They begin to jam, and Worf explains that his Human parents went to great length to find a Klingon instrument, and that he learned from a computer program since no teacher was available. Worf plays a Klingon classic, which Riker and La Forge note is by no means jazz. Worf is disappointed, and puts his chuS'ugh back in its case.
"I face a decision that is both difficult and simple. In spite of the paradox there, such decisions are all too common in this line of work. The simple part is this: I feel morally bound to present Thiopa's leaders – both government and Sojourner – with the facts as we know them to be. And to offer our help, if they ask for it. After that, it's up to them. That is the hard part."
- - Captain Jean-Luc Picard
- In Chapter 1, Data makes reference to a Nuaran ship traveling at warp 11.
- This book was written when the producers were still attempting to make the Ferengi into a major villain. As such, they appear much more sinister and powerful than on television.
- In 1974, at age 19, author Howard Weinstein became the youngest person to ever write a script for Star Trek, selling "The Pirates of Orion" for use in Star Trek: The Animated Series.
- Weinstein originally wrote the story with Tasha Yar and Beverly Crusher but due to the changes between TNG Season 1 and TNG Season 2 he rewrote it for Troi and Riker. But he included Beverly Crusher for a short scene in which she is talking to her son via subspace communication. (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 8, p. 23)
- Jean-Luc Picard
- William T. Riker
- Deanna Troi
- Katherine Pulaski
- Geordi La Forge
- Wesley Crusher
- Beverly Crusher
- Head of Starfleet Medical – she appears only briefly in a communication with her son.
- The first chief engineer of the Enterprise-D – as recalled by Picard.
- Kimberly Schaller
- Starfleet captain working at Starfleet Command.
- An Oktonian female lieutenant with bright pink hair. She was Captain Picard's escort during his first tour of the Enterprise.
- Starfleet lieutenant, mission operations officer aboard the Enterprise-D.
- Frid Undrun
- Federation aide and assistance representative born on Noxor Three. Undrun was assigned to oversee the Enterprise-D's mission to Thiopa.
- Ruer Stross
- Sovereign protector and all powerful ruler of Thiopa. His greatest wish is to see all of Thiopa united before his death.
- An elederly Thiopan – tailor, valet, and assistant to Lord Stross
- A mystical "shadow reader", Ayli is supposedly able to predict the future based on the flicker of lights. She is a close advisor to Lord Stross.
- Thiopan minister of policy. He, too, is a close advisor to Lord Stross. He is hated by Ayli, something Stross counts on to ensure his two closest advisers will not conspire to overthrow him.
- Leader of the Sojourners.
- Ken Kolker
- Kolker appears again in Pocket TNG: Perchance to Dream.
- Gina Pace
- Pace appears next in Pocket TNG: Exiles.
- Supervisor of the location where the Federation relief supplies were to be held.
- Kael Keat
- A prominent young Thiopan scientist.
- W'rone Stross
- Lanni Sakata
- Pachelbel's Canon in D
- 17th century Earth music
- Beta Li'odo
- Eloki River
- A heavily-polluted river on Thiopa, near the location where the relief supplies were to be stored
- Ferengi Alliance (Ferengi)
- Kinjin wine
- An alcoholic beverage. Guinan had a syntheholic replica of it in Ten Forward
- Noxor III
- Nuaran Imperium (Nuarans)
- A powerful and despotic military dictatorship, with technology equal or superior to the Federation. They have total control over four star systems and seven inhabited worlds. The Federation's first encounter with them was in 2298 when the Naruan's attempted to conquer Beta Li'odo – a planet allied with the Federation. The USS Polaris responded, disabling one Nauran ship and preventing further attack.
- A race with bright pink hair, and which can only speak in the form of questions. At least one serves in Starfleet.
- Omicron Theta
- USS Polaris
- A Federation starship active at end of the 23rd century. Named for the star Polaris.
- Shadow reading
- A Thiopan mystical practice where some are believed to have the ability to predict the future based on the flicker of lights against a wall. With the growth of science on Thiopa, they are no longer acceptable in public – however many still consult them in private, including Thiopa's dictator, Lord Stross
- A dissident group of Thiopans opposed to Stross' rule
- Starbase 77
- USS Tripoli
- A Klingon musical instrument
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