(written from a Production point of view)
A mysterious alien artifact could mean death to the USS Enterprise crew!
- From the book jacket
- After several Federation and Klingon ships disappear while traveling a newly opened trade route, the USS Enterprise is sent to investigate. Their quest leads Captain Picard and his crew to an eerie space graveyard full of ships of every size and description, all of them, dead in space.
- At the center of the graveyard lies a huge, incredibly powerful artifact, constructed by an ancient alien race. And as the crew struggles to solve the mystery of the artifact, they unwittingly trigger its awesome power, a power that threatens insanity and death to all aboard the Starship Enterprise.
While conducting a search and rescue mission for several recently missing ships, the freighter Marco Polo and the IKS PaKathen, the Enterprise is snared within a tractor field and pulled to an immense spaceborne artifact. The structure is so alien in its form and energy emissions that most humanoids are driven mad from extended proximity. The crew is unable to even look at the artifact without feeling sick, Data's systems can't process the irrational forms, and Deanna Troi has to be induced into a coma to protect her from the emotional onslaught. Only Geordi La Forge is able to examine the artifact through his VISOR, declaring it to be extraordinarily beautiful. The ship's shields protect the crew from the worst of the energy patterns, though everyone suffers from anxiety, desperation, and worse in increasing numbers while the Enterprise remains ensnared. Many of the crew have extremely vivid dreams of past experiences, though most of these are nightmares. There are berserk physical attacks and suicide attempts.
Both missing ships are found nearby, though their crews have suffered from the same symptoms. The Klingons fought each other to death after an unsuccessful attack on the artifact, though a few catatonic survivors are rescued from the Marco Polo. Riker, Data, La Forge, Worf, and Dr. Gavar board the artifact in an effort to disable the tractor field, but they are instantly incapacitated by the alien environment. Only Gavar's Tellarite physiology barely allows her to stay conscious long enough to gather the team and order a transporter recall. Data is reprogrammed so that he is able to tolerate the alien environment (though this renders our own reality beyond his comprehension) and he returns to the artifact, learning that it is essentially an art museum. Incredibly complex videographic murals, flowing sculptures, music, transmitted emotional compositions – all created by the ancient Ylans, who prized art above all else and established a peaceful, harmonized civilization half a millennium ago. When solar radiation rendered them sterile and ensured their extinction, the museum/artifact was created as their legacy and their epitaph. The energy emanations functioned as advertisements in the Ylans' technology and understanding of spatial geometry, but they resulted in the inescapable tractor field in our frame of reference. Had they survived, the Ylans would have been distraught to learn of the inadvertent destruction of hundreds of humanoid ships and crews. Data shuts down the energy fields holding the Enterprise and his programming is restored to understand our reality.
Dr. Selar has been working closely with Thala, a blind young year. Regulations require that Thala be placed with her own people, though both orphans and the handicapped have little place in Andorian society, so no one wants to take her. Facing the prospect of life in a terrible institution, Thala plans to run away. Selar tries to place Thala in a Vulcan orphanage where she will receive excellent care while also considering an amazing job opportunity: head of bioelectronic research at the Vulcan Science Academy. There, she would oversee synthetic organ replacements that would help thousands, including Thala. She ultimately accepts the position and decides to adopt Thala, and both women relocate to Vulcan.
Meanwhile, Data tries to author a romance novel set in the early days of interstellar exploration, though his writing is atrocious and highly derivative. He asks several of his friends for their opinions though everyone is too afraid of hurting his feelings to be honest. Only Troi is candid and reminds him that the best authors write about what they know. As Data has never been in love, he is not best suited for that type of fiction, and he decides to abandon the novel. However, a Federation xenoarchaeology team planning to study the artifact requests that Data join their initial study of the artifact, giving the android the opportunity to learn about and share the entire Ylan art repository with the rest of the galaxy.
- Thala wears a sensor net similar to the one worn by Dr. Miranda Jones in "Is There in Truth No Beauty?"
- Selar spurned her arranged marriage to the selfish Sukat, strongly disappointing her entire family. The amount of grief she received over this choice inspired her to leave Vulcan for Starfleet and kept her from returning for fifteen years.
- The artifact's alienness is compared to the physical form of Medusans, as viewing it can instantly drive one mad.
- Jean-Luc Picard
- William T. Riker
- Beverly Crusher
- Deanna Troi
- Geordi La Forge
- Miles O'Brien
- An Andorian ambassador. His wife was a linguist who died when she contracted a virus when their daughter Thala (see below) was one year old. He and his daughter boarded the USS Enterprise-D before its mission Farpoint Station. He has known Beverly Crusher and Wesley Crusher since 2364. He was planning to move to Delma in the Vega Sector with her. Thev was one of the eighteen killed by the Borg in 2365.
- Thala was a blind Andorian girl born in space around 2359. Her mother was a linguist who died when she contracted a virus when Thala was 1. She has known Selar since early 2365. She and her father Thev boarded the USS Enterprise-D before the mission to Farpoint Station. She has known Beverly Crusher and Wesley Crusher since 2364. Her father was planning to move to Delma in the Vega Sector with her. Selar decided to adopt Thala as her daughter in 2366 when Selar was moving back to Vulcan.
- Howard Greenstein
- Starfleet lieutenant.
- Starfleet ensign.
- A doctor.
- Sonya Gomez
- Engineer on the Enterprise-D.
- Laura Wu
- Fritz and Penelope
- Penelope Johnson
- Clara Bernstein
- Ricardo Montez
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