Over the last few weeks there has been an intricate alternative reality game for the new Star Trek which has been keeping a lot of fans busy sorting clues and even visiting real world locations. TrekMovie has lead the way in reporting on the game’s progress, but it can be a challenge to follow. The game is coming to a close and there have been some recent new clues and so today we now try to put it all together in our guide to ‘the story so far’ with the Star Trek ARG.
MAY 8TH STAR TREK ARG REPORT 11 — The Story So Far (and it ain’t over yet!)
I saw Star Trek last night on IMAX. Wow. I loved the movie, and it gave me greater insight into what exactly this ARG is all about, as I tried to stay relatively spoiler-free before seeing the film. I have not read Countdown, but know enough about it and the movie to piece together a backstory for this game. The implications of it all are exciting. For those of you confused by all the excitement over the game, I’ll endeavor to tell it all here, avoiding movie spoilers as much as possible, but with some spoiler-laden conclusions and speculation at the end for those who’ve seen the movie.
THE STORY SO FAR
This tale begins with Nero, a Romulan who has traveled back in time from the distant future to destroy both Vulcan and Earth. In command of a gargantuan world-destroying starship, the Narada, he seems unstoppable.
Early image of Narada from first ARG websites
A disparate band of five Romulans have traveled back to present-day Earth to alert Vulcan of the impending disaster. Pursued by Nero’s thugs, they feel alone in our pre-warp society, blending in to avoid attention while relying on our relatively primitive technology to send out a warning transmission. Without the assistance of the as-yet non-existent Federation (not to mention, Starfleet), their desperate attempt to prevent genocide seems unlikely to succeed.
They are led by Kaleh, a level-headed and strong-spirited woman with an uncompromising resolve to see their mission through in spite of the impossible odds. Rising above the bickering and panic of her companions, she strives to keep them focused and united as their plans unravel.
She is joined by her former lover, Candir, who is both a calming presence and a distraction. Knowing that they may not have much time left, Candir seeks to rekindle his romance with Kaleh before the end comes.
Janus brings a gruff and arrogant personality to the unit. Perhaps a military man, he has little patience for the others, but performs with efficient competence out of a sense of duty and obligation. Still, on occasion his temperament gets the better of him, causing him to lose control.
Karnis is young, a quick thinker and the group’s resident genius. He is the one who comes up with a plan for alerting the Vulcans about Nero.
Sargash, the youngest Romulan, rounds out the team. Though intelligent, he is jittery, and prone to panic under pressure.
"Little Green Men"
From the beginning, nothing goes right for our heroes. On arrival in the present day, their craft smashes into the English countryside, and they are unable to cloak and relocate their vessel before being spotted by Geoff Greatbatch, an ultralight aviation enthusiast who happens to fly over the crash site.
With a critically-damaged ship and Nero’s people not far behind, Karnis comes up with a plan to improve their odds. He splits up the myriad steps in setting up a transmission among the team members, and sends them far and wide across Earth: Sargash to Tokyo, himself to Paris, Janus to Berlin, Candir to Madrid, and Kaleh to Los Angeles. Knowing full well that all could be lost if any member of the team is compromised, Karnis obfuscates all of their data by using ancient Earth-based astronomy terminology, betting that Nero’s Romulan thugs are less-than-familiar with Renaissance-era human astronomer Johann Bayer.
In spite of Karnis’ precautions, Kaleh knows full well that they might fail. The team decides to leave the correct frequency for the transmission at the crash site in large Romulan letters that would be easily recognized by a rescue team from the future, but merely a curiousity to locals. Less obviously, they write the coordinates for the locations of Karnis, Janus, Candir, and Kaleh on a board from a shed their craft hit on its way down.
Geographically-separated, the team uses the web to keep in touch. Knowing full well that Nero’s henchmen can trawl the Internet to find them, they take on code names based on chemical elements: Sargash becomes "Si," Karnis "Ca," Janus "Al," Candir "Fe," and Kaleh "O." Coincidentally, a party promoter named Mark "Cobra Snake" is holding events in each of the cities they are located in, in anticipation of the release of a film called Star Trek. Our heroes decide to attend these parties and discretely leave each other updates in the post-party pictures, including the results of their first attempt at contacting Vulcan. Karnis also sets up a chat site (2387-42.com), and the team agrees to rendezvous there and report their results after the first attempt.
Janus sets up a web-based interface to a star map with the correct coordinates of Vulcan’s High Command. The site uses two separate layers of security, and each team member only has one part, or access point, of the necessary keys to view the map, buying them time even if members of their team are compromised by Nero’s men. This also means that should one of their number be captured or killed, the rest of the team must deduce his part of the keys. Kaleh also begins working on a web-based interface to actually send the transmission.
Unfortunately, Nero’s thugs move much more quickly than anticipated, tracking down Karnis in Paris. Being chased on foot, Karnis falls near a cafe at the intersection of Rue de la Fédération and Rue de Presles, dropping his comm unit — perhaps, intentionally. Knowing that his teammates need the waveform on the comm unit and that he can’t evade Nero’s men for long, Karnis quickly logs into the chat site and posts the location of the cafe. He also manages to send a package to Janus before Nero’s men ultimately catch up and kill him.
Then, two wholly unexpected things happen.
First, a young Frenchman who happens to be at the cafe retrieves Karnis’ comm unit and posts a "lost and found" ad under the name "Malak0."
Second, sharp-eyed Star Trek fans notice the messages in the Cobra Snake pictures and begin asking questions about them. Mistaking them as an alternative reality game for the upcoming Star Trek film, the Players begin forming a community to decipher the messages, most notably at TrekMovie, Unfiction, and in a chatroom set up for the ARG. The Players are able to locate the chat site, and are able to watch as the Romulans rendezvous online as planned.
The Chat Gang, as they come to be known, are disappointed to discover their first attempt at alerting Vulcan failed. They are also alarmed when Karnis doesn’t check-in. With Sargash jittery and Janus frustrated, Kaleh orders the team to focus on the mission, identify what went wrong with the first attempt and reporting back in two days. Privately, she expresses worry about Sargash to Candir.
The follow-up meeting is no more encouraging. Kaleh reports that Karnis is dead, and that his comm unit is indeed in the hands of "one of them," referring to Malak0. Already paranoid about being discovered, this revelation throws Sargash into a full-blown panic attack. In turn, Janus takes out his frustration on Sargash, verbally lashing out at him. Kaleh barely restores order, telling her team they must move forward:
There is NO going back! There is NO Federation to stop him, we MUST move on without “Ca”!! Their ONLY fighting chance is if we get this thing sent!!
Kaleh orders them to keep working and to share their access points for the star map using Twitter. Janus leaves grudgingly to do his part out of respect for the deceased Karnis, while a calmer but still-panicked Sargash decides to "rethink everything." Left alone with Kaleh, Candir again begins making romantic advances, but Kaleh brushes him off, keeping her attention on the mission. Undeterred, he professes his love before sending his access point information.
A few days later, Malak0, in response to dozens of inquiries from the Players, posts a video on YouTube of Karnis’ device:
Meanwhile, our heroes the Chat Gang rendezvous again. They are very much aware of the Players‘ efforts, and Sargash proposes a radical idea: take advantage of the Players’ belief that this is just a game, and enlist their help in alerting Vulcan. Janus is ambivalent, Candir is skeptical, and Kaleh sharply denounces the idea. Sargash ignores her, however, and makes contact with the Players through Facebook, giving them his access point.
"Tomorrow is Yesterday"
Discussing the matter three days later, Janus agrees that Sargash is out of control. Kaleh insists on completing the mission, ordering the others to await further orders while ominously promising to "handle" Sargash in Tokyo.
Janus also reports more bad news: Geoff Greatbatch returned to the crash site with a camera. Although they had cloaked and relocated their ship, Greatbatch still snapped pictures of the symbols and the crash site and posted them on CNN’s iReport "citizen-journalist" website.
Kaleh concedes that, between Sargash and Greatbatch, the Chat Gang may need to reveal themselves to the Players. Nonetheless, she travels to Tokyo to "handle" Sargash, and later attends a Cobra Snake party to give Janus and Candir locations for transmitting their parts of the second key for the star map. Candir also reveals the location of the star map, johannbayer.eu.
Tragedy again strikes as Nero’s thugs track down Janus in Berlin. While transmitting his part of the key, he leaves a farewell message of sorts:
Kaleh, i’m sick and tired of having to live outside. I’m sleeping in the vivcinity of the position, where you received this message at. People are spraying graffiti and throwing away their old furniture here, it’s digusting. I won’t hide anymore. They’re onto me anyway. I might as well enjoy the time I have left to live.
Members of the Players from Unfiction, later found a sleeping bag stained with green Romulan blood:
The Players in Berlin also encounter Nero’s henchmen, operating under the name Contain The Threat. Unlike Kaleh, Contain The Threat apparently has no qualms with directly interacting with the Players. Having apprehended or killed Janus, Contain The Threat focus their efforts on finding Kaleh and Candir, demanding assistance from the Players and warning that "failure to do so will result in every horror being inflicted upon you and your kind, and your planet will be destroyed."
"Eye of the Needle"
Only one Player is able to make it out to Madrid, but what he finds is invaluable: the key to cracking the first security layer for johannbayer.eu, after several days’ worth of fruitless effort. Cracking the second layer — an 11-character password — goes much more quickly, and the Players are rewarded with an interactive star map:
Malak0 also manages to activate Karnis’ comm unit, sharing a video of his success:
While the Players mull over these developments, Contain The Threat is a step ahead. Motivated by their own sinister ends, and realizing that the star map must contain the location of Vulcan High Command, they provide the Players with valuable stellar cartography data, both to reveal the location of Vulcan High Command and to entrust the Players to Kaleh. Their plan works: the Players identify Vulcan High Command, and Kaleh decides to trust them.
She reveals the transmission generator, AlertVulcan.com, and recruits the Players’ help in finding the correct settings, which they do using the frequency from the Curbridge crash site:
the waveform from Malak0:
And the interstellar frequency code for Vulcan High Command from johannbayer.eu:
Interstellar Frequency Code
Armed with the correct settings, Kaleh implores the Players to "amplify" the signal by clicking on it and sharing it with others.
After transmitting the signal for two days, the Players are surprised by a response from the Vulcan High Command:
S transcript of the few distinct parts of the message:
“…our scanners have yet to locate the… …working together will increase our chance of survival… …our gratitude to those [distorted]…”
The transmission clearly shows a silhouette of Nero’s Narada. Also note the date 5 12 09: clearly, this ARG still ain’t over, even after the release of the movie!
At first jubilant and grateful, Kaleh’s cautious side begins to wonder:
I can’t believe it worked!! I can’t believe so many of them helped!!!
But we can’t celebrate yet – why can’t the Vulcans locate the Narada???
How could he be hiding from their scanners!?!?!
Contain The Threat‘s deviousness soon starts to surface. First, several of the Players receive emails that announce the murder of our friend "Malak0" and retrieval of Karnis’ comm unit:
Some of your co-conspirators gave us information about the human in Paris, France known as Malak0. We have easily eliminated this threat, as we might crush a beetle, and the device is in our possession.
Following hints from Kaleh and Candir that the long-separated lovers would reunite, more Players receive ominous emails from ContainTheThreat, pointing to the chat site. The chat transcript is gone, replaced by this video (the transcript has since been restored):
There is no doubt that the man and woman we see first are Candir and Kaleh. The assailants must be members of Contain The Threat, Nero’s henchmen. Also notice that Candir does not step in to help Kaleh fight off the assailants. In fact, he subdues her with a quick move to the neck with a hypospray, or perhaps, a neck pinch. In any case, it’s clear: Candir is a traitor in league with Nero, and Kaleh is now missing.
And that is where we are right now with the ARG. Phew.
How does this all fit in with Star Trek? [SPOILERS]
Clearly, The Chat Gang‘s mission is to warn Vulcan of Nero’s attack, hoping to prompt more evacuations before the planet’s destruction. Their tattoos also indicate that they’re from the post-Romulus 24th century, like Nero. One possibility is that this transmission is actually being sent to the future, arriving during the events of the movie.
But I’ve considered another possibility, and was surprised to see other players also have come to the same conclusion.
I noticed that we didn’t actually see a definitive shot of the Narada being destroyed at the end of the movie. What we do see is the Narada slipping into a "lightning storm" black hole, similar to the one the Narada intially came through, encountering the Kelvin. What if Nero and the Narada were not destroyed, but were instead pulled even further back in time — to the present? What if Nero, having failed in the 23rd century, hopes to exact his vengeance on both Earth and Vulcan during a pre-Federation era, when both planets are in no position to defend themselves? This ties in nicely with Kaleh’s comment that there’s no Starfleet to stop Nero. However, it doesn’t fit with part of Nero’s initial motivation: to have Spock witness the destruction of Vulcan since Spock has not gone back to the 21st century (as far as we know).
Likely "Fringe" tie-in
"thecapn" notes something interesting from this week’s episode of JJ Abram’s Fringe, "The Road Not Taken":
The main characters visited a conspiracy theorist who claimed that the “upcoming war” that the characters have been investigating would be with the Romulans, that they’ve come back in time to attack Earth. He also claimed to be Spock.
An apology and a thanks
In the comments of my previous post, I expressed some frustration toward the Puppet Masters, or PMs, of this ARG. In putting together this "Story So Far" update, I’ve been reminded of how much fun this game has been, and I owe the PMs an apology for lashing out. Given the complexity of the puzzles, the elaborate physical clues in at least six countries, and some particularly interesting characters (especially Geoff Greatbatch and Malak0), it’s clear a tremendous amount of thought, passion, and effort went into this ARG. And in the process, they have brought together a community from across the globe who have shared moments of excitement, frustration, and lots of silly humor.
Thank you, PMs.
Star Trek ARG – previous reports
The Star Trek Alternative Reality Game began a couple of weeks ago after some fans spotted URLs on the walls of ‘Star Trek Dance Party’ photos up at thecobrasnake.com, these clues led to more sites, which in turn led to more clues. Here are the previous TrekMovie articles on the Star Trek ARG:
- April 10th – first article identifying ‘binary’ sites
- April 15th Update, identifying ‘Malak0’
- April 17th Update: more ‘PHP chat’
- April 20th Update: Twitter conversation leads to "APUS:01-05"
- April 21st Update: Malak0 posts video of dropped device, leading to "CHAMAELEON:13-23"
- April 23rd Update: More Chatter + Romulans in UK
- April 24th Report: Live drop location, new site identified, crash site photos
- April 27th Report: Romulans in Tokyo, Berlin, and Madrid…
- April 30th Report: Uranometria, Augmented Reality, and another video from ‘Malak0’
- May 5th Report: Alert Vulcan!
Also, all TrekMovie articles regarding this are now in a single Star Trek ARG Category.
What do you think? — and A NOTE before you comment
Before you post clues or speculation in the comments below, check the previous TrekMovie articles (including comments) to be sure they haven’t already been covered.
Star Trek ARG Forum
TM community member "Tom" hosts the very active ARG chat where much of the problem-solving is taking place. He has set up a forum for posting clues and speculation. It also includes links to the chat.
- ARG site Unfiction also has a thread dedicated to the game
- Thread at startrekmovie.com
- This Star Trek ARG wiki is a great place to get caught up on the chats and their translations
Any new clues or theories? Let us know!
but again, be sure to check previous posts to make sure they haven’t been covered. If you really think you are on to something, send in a clue to tips [at]trekmovie[dot]com. However, please keep tips to new (at least semi) verified clues, and not just speculation, that is what the comments are for.