In which everyone’s high principles lead to a global environmental catastrophe, and blue balls.
Tom Paris has been demoted to ensign and confined to solitary in the Brig for 30 days. Since the UN today considers long-term solitary confinement to be torture, he either must have done something really bad or else the word doesn’t mean the same thing in the Federation. Tom doesn’t seem to be fighting it much, either. He knows what he did, evidently. Going into the SHU also means leaving his commbadge behind. Remember that this is the only way the computer can track people. Also, unless it slides out of the wall, there’s no toilet in there.
Not much to do in the brig but lie about push-ups when Neelix comes to bring him food. He’s on ‘basic nutrition only’ but at least the guard doesn’t mind Tom getting a little conversation with his meal. He also gets reading material, but no holodeck privileges. I spoke too soon about the conversation 0 the guard’s not shushing them but Neelix is under orders to keep it brief. Tom really must’ve pissed off Janeway. And he’s dictating a letter to Dad to explain exactly how.
It all started… in a Captain Proton game, when Tom’s spaceship and trusty sidekick have been taken over by Evil Busty Twins. I really hope Harry chose this adventure himself, because it would be nice to know he’s not embarassed about something in his life. Also, if these are holodeck characters there’s some fun characterization going on, and if these are the Delaney Sisters then one of them thinks Harry is cute. Indeed, Harry tells Tom to get lost so he can finish being… probed. It reads like the ‘terrible peril’ scene from Monty Python. Sadly, it’s about now that the plot kicks in and Harry and Tom are called to a staff meeting. Hilariously, Jenny Delaney likes Harry, but Harry likes Megan Delaney. Harry has Principles.
Voyager has located a ‘concentrated mass of hydrogen and oxygen’ with life signs, but not a planet. A moonlet at best, made of just ocean, more massive than Earth’s two major oceans, and contained in a force field. They are greeted by a trio of hostile ships and forced to open fire defensively to get them talking. Burkus, of the Monean Maritime Sovereignty, is territorial and blustery, but once they start talking the tensions defuse, and Janeway offers a tour.
The Sovereignty was nomadic, and found the waterball 300 years ago. Over time, they’ve built up a stationary infrastructure, but most of them live on ships. The Sovereignty have two beliefs about the ocean – a theistic belief that they were created for the Moneans, and a ‘scientific’ belief that the oceans formed naturally, like a gas giant, and leaving out the containment field or the fact that it should be frozen solid. There appears to be some form of contention over this, and they’ve also found that the ocean is starting to lose containment. They don’t know why and nobody has been able to explore the center of the ocean, 600km deep. They can’t brave the pressure below 100km, but Voyager apparently can.
This has always been a dream of Tom’s – his love of history started with sailing ships before Dad forced him to abandon his naval patrol dreams and join Starfleet. Tom’s going to refit the Delta Flier into a submersible. He’s taking Harry as first mate and Seven as the bosun. They’re also taking one of the Moneans.
Janeway has bad news to deliver to the Moneans. Their predictions show that the ocean is going to totally lose containment within 5 years, and Burkus indicates that this news will not be well-received by the regional sovereigns. Because it’s bad news, he wants to wait for the Flier to return and give them something to go on. Something something 99% of scientists not being consensus.
The Flier has gone deep enough to start buckling under pressure, but they’ve found the gravity generator holding the ball together. It’s ancient and malfunctioning, at least 100,000 years old. The Moneans have no information about any precursors, so the first thing they do is try to download its contents. They’re also interrupted by a leviathan with ‘biothermal’ electricity because words don’t mean anything I guess. They manage to fend it off with phasers, but it’s damanged the Flier.
We’re briefly back to the frame story now, where Tom is interrupted in his storytelling by the ship coming under attack. Obviously he did something to piss off the Moneans, although we’re not confirming it’s them yet. He gets a head wound and some conversation while being treated. However, he gets left alone again, with the doctor indicating that Janeway is trying to drive him insane. Back to the story-within-a-story.
Tom’s gotten the Flier patched back up, but they’ve lost propulsion and may have to throw ballast to ascend. Tom prefers to take this chance to repair the reactor, alone in an environmental suit if need be. However, his crew will not abandon him. Meanwhile, above-surface, the containment field is failing visibly. During this failure, the Flier crew finds that the reactor is diverting power from the confinement field to structural integrity, because over the past years the water has been getting denser. Probably because of all the industrial processes the Moneans have been performing.
Having temporarily patched the field, the Flier ascends to study their findings. Back in the day, the world-ocean used to be part of a planet, but way back in antiquity, the Precursor species lauched the reactor to suck all the water off the planet over the course of 200 years. And Tom confirms that the Monean mining operations are breaking the Ocean.
Tom’s breaking down in the brig, but at least Janeway has given Harry permission to visit. Tom’s starting to develop some sharp edges, though, and drives his buddy away.
Burkus appears to have taken the news fairly well, and the council has asked for the Flier schematics. Torres has also given them enough of a headstart on Replicator technology that the Moneans will be able to use it to create oxygen without extracting it from the water and ruining the ocean. The Monean scientist is concerned that this won’t be enough, but Burkus glosses over this. It becomes extremely clear that the scientists and the politicians are not on the same page. Paris objects, strongly, and gets told off. He wants to step in, but of course the Prime Directive prevents Janeway from stepping in forcefully to protect the ocean. Having offered all the help they were requested, they’re going to continue home.
Paris has gone to sulk in his Captain Proton program, and Torres joins him to gloat about having actually found a Cause. Ad to goad him into action. He grabs the scientist on his way back to the council chamber, and talks through the consequences of blowing up the oxygen refineries and manipulates the scientist into directly asking for assistance. The two of them launch for the ocean. Paris disobeys a direct order, forcing Janeway to send down a photon torpedo as a depth charge and try to kill him to protect Principles. And boy-howdy, Janeway getting ready to kill a crewmember in order to save a government that, though negligence, is going to kill its population has not aged well.
Somehow Voyager managed to precisely target Tom’s missile and prevent him from saving the Ocean, bringing us to his demotion. And once the letter is done, he finds himself having served his sentence and barely in need of a shave. His first notable communication with outside civilization is a booty call from Torres, but first he adds an addendum to the letter. A bit of a personal note, saved for delivery… someday.