This week, the Library Computer resumes its look at the six ‘what if?’ tales of alternate history featured in the two new ‘Myriad Universes’ anthologies. Meet Thelin; Andorian, friend of James Kirk, and skipper of the Enterprise as the events of the Star Trek films plays out in an alternate form in Geoff Trowbridge’s The Chimes at Midnight We have a review, author interview and excerpt.
REVIEW – STAR TREK MYRIAD UNIVERSES: ECHOES AND REFRACTIONS
Part 1: The Chimes at Midnight
Props to Geoff Trowbridge. This guy’s got a lot of… well, lets call it chutzpah. It takes a lot of chutzpah to revisit Star Trek II, III, and IV and try to put your own spin on it, but Trowbridge indeed makes a go of it in The Chimes at Midnight, and the storyline, eventually, turns downright scary.
Trowbridge elected to place his events in a previously glimpsed alternate reality, originally seen in The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear". In that episode, penned by D. C. Fontana, Thelin filled the first officer slot aboard Enterprise because Spock had not survived a trip into the desert for the Kas-Wan ritual in his youth.
The Chimes at Midnight pick up with Thelin’s return to Starfleet after several years of work and personal trials on Andoria. Little does he know that his return to the fleet will propel him into the midst of a showdown with Khan, the after-effects of the Genesis debacle, and right into and through the hands of the Whalesong Probe into the deepest crisis the Federation has ever faced.
Trowbridge’s story is fun, thought provoking, and ambitious, and it is ultimately the ambitious nature of the story that weakens its overall impact. Where Christopher L. Bennett’s Places of Exile was able to cover a lengthy period of time in a fluid and fulfilling fashion, Trowbridge’s ambitious story pushes him to fill a short novel with content that, to be properly treated, would need to take on a much lengthier form. There are too many jumps and gaps in the story, things too easily resolved, life and death decisions far too quickly made.
Each movie from Star Trek II to IV is represented, to varying degrees; II’s closing gets some significant play, III is recast to a moderate extent, while the events from IV and VI get wildly altered. (For completeness’ sake, Star Trek V gets a few, a very few nods.)
While the storytelling suffers from it, the storyline does not. Trowbridge does an outstanding job of looking into the psyche of the Federation, and answering the question: are we really all that different than those we fear? Many of the thematic elements that made Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country successful are found in The Chimes at Midnight, and while I might wish that the story was a bit meatier, what I did get tasted really good.
with – Geoff Trowbridge
TrekMovie: You really bit off a massive chunk of Trek lore with The Chimes at Midnight. Any regrets?
Geoff Trowbridge: No regrets… although in retrospect, I recognize the limitations I imposed upon myself by attempting to chronicle nearly twenty years of Trek lore in less than 60,000 words. However, at its core the story is really a study of two characters–specifically, David Marcus and Thelin the Andorian. The years of the "movie era" simply provide a familiar framework through which to explore their motivations, and the consequences of their choices.
TM: Where did you start your considerations for your story? Thelin or the Movie-era?
GT: As I recall, when I first pitched the idea to Marco [Palmieri, Pocket Books editor], my intent was simply to take the alternate timeline pre-established in the Animated Series episode "Yesteryear" and carry it forward into the timeframe of the movie era. This choice of setting was quite deliberate, as I believe the Original Series movies are the constituent parts of the Trek franchise by far the most familiar and accessible to the fan base as a whole. However, initially my focus was more upon Spock’s absence than Thelin’s presence. Marco pointed out the opportunity to create a rich history for a character that had obviously been a figure of some importance in this timeline, and I fully embraced that challenge.
TM: How do you feel Thelin affected your storytelling?
GT: Given that he was nearly a blank slate, save for a few lines of dialogue in "Yesteryear" about the importance of family, Thelin presented me with a golden opportunity to develop specific contrasts with the character of David Marcus. Each of them look to Jim Kirk as a source of guidance, and seek to win his approval; yet each of them see Kirk from a radically different point of view, and draw lessons from him in very different ways.
STAR TREK MYRIAD UNIVERSES: ECHOES AND REFRACTIONS
The Chimes at Midnight by Geoff Trowbridge
“Ladies, gentlemen, and honored guests . . .with heavy hearts we assemble today for this, the first meeting of the Federation Council since the inexplicable attack by an unknown probe nearly one month ago.”
Federation President Hiram Roth delivered his opening remarks from the podium at the head of the council chambers, on the first floor of the Palais de la Concorde in Paris, France. Outside the recently reinforced windows along the length of the side walls, behind the rows of council members and other dignitaries in attendance, the gale-force winds and driving rain continued to beat interminably against the glass, testing the resolve of the men and women within, who defied the wrath of nature as it struck out at them like a wounded animal.
The president had been quite adamant that, despite the wanton destruction leveled upon the Earth by the probe a month earlier and the dangerous weather patterns that had persisted in the time since, the Council would nonetheless meet on Earth as a symbol of their perseverance and fortitude. Being an Earth native, Roth had received a fair amount of resistance to the idea, many believing that his judgment was compromised by his grief over his homeworld, and indeed the pain in his normally staid bearded face was apparent as he addressed the assembly. But no one could doubt his inspiring determination to overcome this tragedy.
“Before we begin,” Roth continued, “I should like us all to observe a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in the devastation wrought that fateful day, as well as for those enduring souls who remain, many of whom still await assistance, suffering and starving without any access to the basic services needed for survival. I should like us to remember all of the fine men and women in San Francisco, who perished in the destruction of Starfleet Headquarters, including many of our most respected leaders: Admiral Lance Cartwright, Admiral William Smillie, and the Vulcan representative to the Federation, Ambassador Sarek.”
Seated near the furthest end of the uppermost row on the right side of the hall, Thelin bowed his head with reverence. He knew these men well—even a dignitary like Sarek, whose death seemed a tragically fitting conclusion of a lifetime filled with private sorrow.
Having allowed sufficient time for the attendees to silently pay their respect, President Roth raised his head. “Thank you. I should explain, for those who are unaware, that Admiral Morrow is not with us here today. He remains on Vulcan, working to establish a temporary base of operations for Starfleet Command, and he shall be in our thoughts during this very difficult time. Many ships of the fleet have been dispatched to Vulcan, while others, specifically the Saratoga, the Shepard and the Yorktown, remain in Earth spacedock until the full effects of the damage from the probe’s electromagnetic energy have been resolved.”
For the first time, Thelin became keenly aware of just how dim the lights were being kept in the chamber for these proceedings. The probe’s energy had damaged power sources around the planet, and given the inability to use solar power under the impenetrable global cloud cover, much of the planet remained in complete darkness during the night.
“We may never understand the reasons behind the probe’s attack. Our own automated probes, launched from Alpha Centauri, have trailed the alien device these last few weeks, and it shows no sign of returning or deviating from its new course out of the Alpha Quadrant. Some of our greatest minds have even speculated that this was little more than a dreadfully misguided attempt at communication from an unknown but overwhelmingly powerful distant race. But we cannot dwell upon our past failures, or upon our fears of a future attack. Instead we must look to the future, beyond this tragedy, toward rebuilding and healing, and becoming stronger as a result.”
The chamber responded with a smattering of polite applause.
“So without further ado,” Roth continued, “I would like to yield the floor to Doctor Carol Marcus, scientist and environmental engineer, who has done extraordinary work over the past month evaluating the damage to Earth’s ecosystem and our plan for corrective action. Doctor Marcus.”
A more enthusiastic response rippled through the chamber as Carol rose from one of the seats on the stage and approached the podium.
“Thank you,” she began. “Ladies and gentlemen of the Council, I cannot begin to express in words the magnitude of the losses that we have suffered. Most of the finer details regarding the destruction will be found in the report on your screens, and the file is freely downloadable into your personal databases. Suffice it to say that the coastal regions across the planet have been irrevocably altered by the actions of the probe, and while a complete assessment of the damage is still ongoing, the total number of casualties in these areas is in excess of thirteen million.”
The figures came as a surprise to no one; nonetheless, simply hearing the statement aloud triggered a murmur of dismay throughout the assembly.
“The canopy of water vapor that still shrouds the planet will remain in place as long as the atmosphere remains so heavily ionized. Unfortunately, water vapor is a rather effective greenhouse gas, and as a result, global temperatures will continue to increase dramatically. Coastal areas that survived the initial devastation from the tidal storms will soon be inundated by rising sea levels.
“Additionally, the ability of the Earth’s agricultural operations to produce a crop yield is practically nonexistent. Even once the storms subside, climate zones will be irrevocably altered, and the lack of direct sunlight will make farming impossible. Global famine is inevitable.
“The global health crisis is exacerbated by the lack of usable power sources in many communities, either due to electromagnetic damage or the lack of solar energy. Furthermore, the saline content of the saturated atmosphere has nearly destroyed the ozone layer; therefore, in a tragic irony, the only energy we are receiving from the sun is in the form of ultraviolet radiation that is harmful to biological life.”
Another round of muffled and whispered voices spread through the chamber, as the delegates wondered just how much worse the news could become. Indeed, Thelin himself would have been utterly demoralized had he not been aware of what Carol Marcus had planned.
Carol’s serious expression brightened with anticipation of what she would next be sharing. “As hopeless as things may seem, rest assured that we believe we have the technology to reverse much, if not all, of the damage to Earth’s ecosystem.”
She hesitated. Her eyes drifted over the crowd assembled before her and settled upon the Klingon ambassador, standing at the rear of the room beneath the windows of the spectator gallery with his arms folded. Nearly everyone in the room knew the reason for his appearance, and the subject at hand would not do much make him more agreeable.
“By this time,” she continued, “you all are well aware of the controversial research project formerly known as ‘Genesis.’ This was the culmination of years of research in climate modification. Unfortunately, the project’s ultimate goal—the terraforming of lifeless worlds for potential colonization—has experienced some . . . setbacks.”
Thelin silently laughed at the understatement. He was amazed that Carol was able to discuss the matter with such composure, given the events that had transpired between her son and the Klingons as a direct result of the unscheduled detonation of the prototype in the Mutara sector.
“However, the failures notwithstanding, we still believe that on a smaller scale the technology is still viable. Our plan is to deploy a low-power Genesis wave with a modified matrix into the upper atmosphere to reduce the ionization and restore the proper balance to the atmospheric layers. The risks are minimal, and with the Council’s permission, and assistance from Starfleet, we can begin immediately.”
Carol yielded the podium to Roth but remained standing beside him. The president maintained the optimistic tone of the discussion as he asked the Council whether they had any questions. An elderly human man with olive skin held up his hand, and Roth pointed to him. “Yes, the representative from Earth’s Indian subcontinent, er . . . Doctor Patel, is it?”
“Thank you, Mr. President,” the man responded. “Doctor Marcus, what risks to the Earth’s population are posed by this deployment of the Genesis effect?”
Roth retreated and Carol confidently stepped back up to the podium. “An excellent question, Doctor. Our modified Genesis matrix will contain no metastatic effects—nothing that will alter biological lifeforms, and most important, no protomatter. Furthermore, the range of the effect will not extend beyond the upper atmosphere. The risk to the ground-based population is negligible.”
Her questioner seemingly satisfied, Carol once again yielded to Roth. When no further questions were forthcoming, the president immediately asked for a motion to take a verbal vote. The motion was made and seconded, and when the hall erupted in calls of “aye” the resolution was passed without debate.
“And now, the discussion of Genesis brings us to the second order of business,” President Roth said. “The honorable Ambassador Kamarag of the Klingon Empire has asked for permission to address the council today. I yield the floor.”
Kamarag slowly marched out onto the speaker’s floor in the center of the hall, his confident stride exuding conviction and purpose. He stopped directly in front of the raised platform at the front of the hall and raised his head high, his eyes drifting over the rows of delegates on each side of the chamber.
“Members of the Federation,” he began, “on behalf of the High Council, and the citizens of the Klingon Empire, we should like to express our deepest sympathies for the tragedy that has befallen the Federation and Starfleet, and give our assurances that we are willing to assist in any way possible.”
He paused as some muted clapping was heard from the delegates, but the light applause was nearly drowned out by a wave of skeptical grumbling.
“However,” he continued, his tone becoming a bit firmer and less sympathetic, “the High Council remains quite concerned about the development of this new ‘Genesis’ super-weapon, which initial tests have shown is capable of destroying an entire planet in just a few days’ time.”
The grumbling grew louder. President Roth rose from his seat and hastened back to the podium, where he firmly pounded a gavel to restore order. “Please be silent,” he admonished the chamber before returning to his seat.
“Thus far, the Federation’s new policy of unwarranted aggression has gone unchallenged,” Kamarag continued, “but we can no longer remain silent. As you are aware, just one month ago a Klingon commander, who earlier had chosen to independently investigate this threat in the interest of our imperial defense, found himself under attack in neutral territory by a Federation starship. He and at least one of his officers were murdered, his ship captured, and now we understand that both our vessel and its surviving crewmen are being held on Vulcan. Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty, which expressly forbids these acts, we demand the return of our ship and crew, and in lieu of a formal apology, we request the sharing of the Genesis technology, so that we might formulate a defense for the preservation of our race.”
Throughout Kamarag’s speech, the chamber slowly became more unsettled, and the sounds of angry disagreement and outrage gradually crossed the threshold from a subtle background noise to an all-out revolt. Roth once again approached the podium and banged its top with the gavel.
“Please come to order,” Roth politely demanded, the lines of stress creasing his face more deeply with each passing second. “Ambassador, your demands are heard and will be considered in due time, as our investigation is ongoing. Your request is tabled until the next meeting of the council, but as long as the Klingon government continues to cooperate, I am confident that the return of your vessel can be arranged.”
The ambassador approached the edge of the stage and stared up at the Federation president, challenging him despite the difference in elevation, and he spoke evenly and resolutely, “And what about your secrets of the Genesis torpedo?”
Roth returned the firm stare, refusing to back down. “I give you my word, as the leader of the United Federation of Planets, that the Genesis technology is peaceful and benign. But it is also a highly classified technology and a matter of Federation security and intelligence. This is not subject to debate.”
The staredown continued for several seconds until finally Kamarag forced a polite grin. “Very well,” he said. “The Chancellor shall be in touch. I look forward to our next meeting.” And he turned and marched quickly out of the chamber.
Thelin watched as Kamarag passed him by and disappeared through the doors at the far end of the chamber. “That seemed easy,” the Andorian said out loud.
A Tellarite seated next to him turned and snorted loudly. “Too easy.”
Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions
is available for preorder at Amazon
(ships in August)
About Myriad Universe
Over the years, several alternate universe tales have been told in various forms of Trek media, but Myraid Universes, the new anthology series from Pocket Books goes beyond the well-known ‘Mirror Universe’ and instead farms other potential historical aberrations. The two new large sized trade paperback anthologies ("Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Infinity’s Prism" out now and "Star Trek: Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions" due in August) contain three novella-length stories a piece. Each story is set in a different Trek era (and different Trek universe).
COMING NEXT WEEK
Who ever thought that Kira Nerys, freedom fighter from Bajor, was all that important? Well, she may have been. Next week we’ll see if we should feel that way too as we review Keith R.A. DeCandido’s contribution to the Myraid Universes anthology, A Gutted World. Warning: there will be blood.