We have made it through not one but two years of amazing Star Trek stories. Time to celebrate with a gigantic annual!
I guess since the last one focused on our Captain, the next logical step is to focus on the second in command.
Our story begins as so many do on the bridge of the Enterprise. Commander Riker is finishing up a joke to Captain Picard when an emergency message comes through on subspace.
The emergency message is from Captain Halk of the Marco Polo. Her ship has been attacked without warning or provokation. In fact they were hit so fast their weapons, propulsion, and even sensors were all knocked offline before they could even get their shields up.
Their shields currently stand at 40% and it appears their attackers are now toying with them although they don’t know how long. They warn each of the enemy vessels are stronger than even a Galaxy class ship. Their transmission is then cut.
The ship is a deep space exploration vessel well outside of Federation space. Data calculates it would take them almost 2 days to reach there at warp 9.2
Picard orders the course plotted in and Troi senses Will is upset. More so than he usually would be at news like this. Picard overhears and asks what’s wrong. Will explains he knows Captain Halk.
Picard assures Riker that they will do everything they can for the Marco Polo. In the meantime he asks his first officer to find out everything he can about the system they are heading to–beta marada.
As Riker leaves to his task Troi points out it would have been easier to ask Data. Captain Picard notes she isn’t the only one with empathy. This gives Riker a chance to leave the bridge and collect himself.
On the turbolift, Will recalls a time in what looks to be his teens. He is ice skating with a girl we can probably assume is Halk although he calls her by her first name: Lyrinda. She challenges Will to a race on the ice and while he’s ahead of her he comes to a halt. They’ve reached a “dead man’s patch” of thin ice.
She basically calls him a wuss and skates right out on to the ice. He protests and begs her to get off from there. She jabs at him for being too much like his father (low blow) and he argues its crazy to risk one’s life for no reason.
The girl suddenly cries out in fear, and Will rushes to help her only to realize she was faking it. The ice is fine she just wanted to trick him in to going on it.
Young Will walks away from the girl in anger as she calls out “it was only a joke!” (And he likes this woman??)
The turbolift doors open and break Riker out of his thoughts.
Some time passes and we find ourselves back on the bridge, just minutes away from the coordinates they’ve been speeding towards.
Picard notes in the Captain’s log that while Commander Riker hasn’t spoken more about his feelings, it’s clear he is not optimistic. After all the Marco Polo was in rough shape before they even set out after her and that was almost 2 days ago.
From the conn, Data notes there is something up ahead. He urgently reqiests permission to change course which is immediately granted. The Enterprise narrowly misses some kind of energy strands that were remarkably dense and exterted a strong gravitational pull similar to a black hole.
The Enterprise narrowly misses the strange phenomena thanks to Data’s fast hands. What they saw was the event horizon of an unusually shaped black hole and Picard states he would like to investigate… on their return trip.
In her quarters, Counselor Troi studies the personal history of Captain Halk to be better equipped to help her when they arrive.
Lyrinda Halk was born and raised in Valdez, Alaska. She lost her father at the age of 12, and later went on to graduate from Starfleet Academy with honors, serving aboard the Trieste with distinction.
The more Troi learns of Captain Halk, the more she is drawn to the pain Will Riker feels; the more terrible it would be to lose her.
The Enterprise comes upon the Marco Polo and it is still intact though badly damaged. Ships sensors indicate there are life signs aboard the battered craft.
Four alien vessels surround the Marco Polo and Captain Picard attempts to hail them. No response. But that may be because there is no one aboard!
Readings indicate no life signs aboard the alien crafts. Data speculates these are essentially drones which is why they didn’t respond to any hails. And since they hit the Marco Polo so hard and fast, they didn’t have a chance to get any readings on the ships to tell them the same.
Picard asks Riker if his research would indicate who made these ships. Riker’s best guess is a race called the Darzun. A very old, very advanced race that we only know of through archaeological evidence.
Picard asks Data to compare the unidentified vessels with Darzun design, and he states the similarities are such that one may conclude they are indeed of Darzun origin.
Worf announces that they’ve entered phaser range and the captain orders him to raise shields. He then turns to Riker and tells him to organize an away team.
They arrive on the bridge and it’s not pretty. Bodies hanging over consoles and busted, smoking monitors.
The away team spreads out to help and Riker goes straight to the captain’s chair where Halk sits slumped over. She’s beat up but conscious and Will assures her everything will be fine. Considering her crew is laying dead around her, she disagrees.
Geordi and Worf survey engineering and surprisingly the warp core itself is undamaged. However, there’s no power going to the core and with the diagnostic systems as they are the two of them are going to have to start crawling around the support conduits to find the busted parts.
Doctor Crusher is working her way through the wounded, sending them up to the Enterprise in groups. She tells a man with a broken arm that he will have to wait and, being the fine upstanding officer he is, he understands. For now, Crusher is focusing on more serious internal injuries; Captain Halk is next to go.
Halk refuses, saying she can hold off and wants to see her crew safely evacuated first. But shes in no condition to argue and Riker assures her that they will save her ship.
As Captain Halk is beamed up, Will remembers a time when they were still cadets and on a training mission together. They are to board the abandoned vessel Caspian but are to pretend it’s got a full crew complement.
The shield and weapons systems are down along with communications. And it’s adrift in a meteor swarm. The group of 5 cadets are to run their own mission to save the Caspian.
Cadet Riker suggests they use a tractor beam rather than phasers. A wrong blast could send a chunk of meteor right in to the adrift ship’s hull. He’s appointed captain of this mission by the test proctor, and Riker takes right to the captains seat. Kinda.
As the exercise progresses they see the tractor beam approach may be too cautious as they won’t finish in their allotted time at this rate. While “Captain” Riker orders his team to do the best they can, Cadet Halk slips out the back door to the turbolift and heads to the transporter room.
A cadet on the bridge alerts Riker to the use of the transporter. Riker is of course shocked but the proctor in amusement tells the cadet that his crewman left the bridge a little while ago. And as the Caspian emerges from the meteor swarm it’s clear she’s a good helmsman too.
Riker hails the Caspian and orders Halk to return to the ship immediately. She agrees–after finishing escaping from the meteors and beating the allotted time limit by almost 12 minutes.
The Procter finds the whole thing amusing but Will does not. He scolds Halk for taking such an unnecessary risk. She smirks “Where have I heard that before?”
In the present, Data reports that the evacuation of the Marco Polo is almost complete. But as the words finish leaving his mouth, the alien drones turn and focus on the Enterprise!
Picard orders evasive maneuvers but the drones easily match them firing their equivalent to phasers and then photon torpedoes. The shields take heavy damage. Another volley will impact the hull.
As the Marco Polo appears to no longer be under threat, the Enterprise decides to withdraw for now to recover. As they leave the area, the drones discontinue pursuit and return to their positions around the Marco Polo.
Data and Picard muse over the programming of these drones. What made them attack? What made them halt that attack? Why didn’t they attack the Enterprise right away?
Picard theorizes if they move the Marco Polo out of the area, the drones will no longer be interested in it. And if they can do that, they can finish evacuating the ship without further interruptions.
The captain hails Riker on the Marco Polo and informs him of the situation. Riker calls down to Geordi who is still no where near fixing the engines and asks him to speed things up.
While he sits on the bridge waiting for Geordi to work his magic, Will remembers a time when he was on an alien planet, overlooking a vast ocean and sunset. By sheer coincidence, Lyrinda Halk shows up at the same spot. They exhange pleasantries and catch up a bit. Will is now stationed on the Hood whereas Lyrinda is on the Fearless.
Will takes the opportunity to apologize for the way he reacted during their cadet mission. Rather than just gracefully accept his apology, Lyrinda turns it in to a fight.
She then blames Will for ruining the moment, and confesses that she was in love with him when they were teenagers. Hell he’s part of the reason she joined Starfleet. She joined to get his attention and when she finally did something she thought would impress him, he chewed her out instead.
She ends up in tears and he hugs her. And they kiss.
Later that evening, they sit by a fire. Will is shirtless and Lyrinda is wearing his shirt so we can infer what happened after that kiss.
Lyrinda stands up and gets ready to leave. She no longer thinks a relationship is a good idea. They both want to be captains and neither one would give that up for the other. Will points out they can serve on separate ships but Lyrinda just points out that then they’d constantly be worried about the other person.
Lyrinda changes back in to her own clothes and they say their goodbyes.
Geordi interrupts Will’s daydreaming to let him know the transfer tunnels are back online. The engines will be up and running in a few minutes.
Riker praises Geordi for his efforts and then calls down to Dr. Crusher to secure her patients in case things get rough. He then hails the Enterprise to let Captain Picard know the Marco Polo is ready to get this show on the road.
Picard takes a few minutes to head down to sickbay and check on Captain Halk. He informs her of the situation and she is sure Will can make it out of there safely. She goes on to blame herself for what happened. She pushed her luck with the vessels but she couldn’t back down from the chance to learn about them.
Riker prepares the Marco Polo to leave the area, and they start off at warp 3. The drones pursue and Riker bumps it up to warp 6 but still can’t shake them.
They cross the point where the drones halted attack on the Enterprise yet there’s no change in behavior. In fact, the drones fire on the ship and knock out the shields.
Data begins to analyze the difference in behavior but Picard interrupts to tell him to place the Enterprise between the Marco Polo and its pursuers. They maneuver in to position and fire photon torpedoes.
The drones return fire and knock out the Enterprise’s shields, causing a hull breach on deck 11.
The Enterprise is no help, so Riker devises a plan to take the Marco Polo back through those super dense black hole strands from earlier. The drones are fast but slow to react to course changes so his hope is to fly through there and take them out.
Their shields gone, they enter the area with the black hole strands, and maneuver through the area. Worf is prepared for the worst.
Miraculously, the Marco Polo makes it out the other side. The question then becomes are the drones able to do the same?
The crew waits with baited breath as the drones enter the area. They don’t have to wait long to see the answer as the alien vessels get absolutely wrecked.
With the threat gone, evacuation of the injured crew resumes, and engineering crews head over to repair the Marco Polo.
Will takes a trip to sickbay to check up on Lyrinda. They hug warmly and she teases him about the stunt he pulled asking when he became such a risk taker.
Lyrinda tells Will she should have listened to him and not taken so many risks. But he counters that is one of the things he actually loved about her.
They both have learned something from each other.
I really enjoyed the angle they decided to take with this annual: exploring Will’s character as it relates to risk-taking. We see as a child he was far more cautious, but through his friendship with Lyrinda, he learned sometimes you have to take risks.
While Captain Halk was a little too willing to take risks, Will was able to find a balance which worked well during his time on the Enterprise.
The “girl gets angry with guy then they have sex” trope aside, it was an overall good story about finding that balance of risk and caution.
The letters to the editor this time aren’t too different from each other. They all praise the previous annual and pray for John De Lancie to do more comics.
With the sheer length of this comic, I’ll need a little more time to prepare the next post. So see you next week! 🖖