On board the SS Eleos XII, the haunting tune of “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” fills the air. Suddenly, the ship’s computer alerts Dr. Beverly Crusher to a security breach and unauthorized boarding, causing her to spring into action. With a sense of urgency, she orders the ship to charge its warp drive and locks a door, despite a crew member’s pleas for help.
As the invaders complete their unauthorized docking, Crusher grabs a phaser and engages in a heated firefight with the masked attackers in the airlock corridor. Though victorious, Crusher sustains two injuries during the intense altercation. With time running out and the Eleos under threat from other approaching ships, she uses her expertise to instruct the computer to prepare a coded transmission to Admiral Jean-Luc Picard before the ship goes to warp. Looking down at the wound on her stomach, she knows that every second counts.
Reunited and It Feels So Good
Sitting in his office, Jean-Luc Picard is writing out cards at his desk when he’s suddenly interrupted by the chirp of a combadge. Picard discovers the source of the sound to be his old uniform from Enterprise-D, buried away in one of his packed boxes. The message is from Beverly Crusher, and it includes a set of encrypted coordinates and a foreboding name: “Hellbird.” “And Jean-Luc… no Starfleet,” she warns. “Trust no one.”
Picard meets with Captain William T. Riker at a bar in Guinan, expressing gratitude since Riker is taking time away from his family. However, Riker’s demeanor is serious as he responds, “Deanna and Kestra would appreciate some time away from me. How can I help?” Picard proceeds to inform Riker of a message transmitted with the Myriad codec — reminding Riker of the “old days” when they used it for fear of compromised communication. The message contained coordinates and the enigmatic word “Hellbird.” Riker recalls how during Picard’s assimilation by the Borg, they introduced a computer virus to alter their navigation system. The virus added the digit “3” to every coordinate, which had been their covert means of communication. The “3” in Crusher’s coordinates leads to a location outside Federation space, in the Ryton system. It’s an ideal place to hide, but from what?
As they finish their drinks and prepared to depart, a man at the bar holding a small Enterprise-D toy observed them with keen interest. As they made their way out, the man dropped the toy into his drink.
In a shuttlecraft, Picard voices his anxiety about the risk of facing court martial, and the possibility of Riker losing all he has built in his career. Riker used his influence as the former captain of the Titan’s predecessor to get them on board, but warns Picard that their current captain, Liam Shaw, would be less than accommodating if they asked him to deviate from his current mission to make a detour to the Federation border.
As they make their entrance, Seven of Nine, now a Starfleet commander, greets them and grants them access to come aboard. Picard introduces her to Riker as “Seven,” but she quietly corrects him by revealing that Captain Shaw prefers she use her birth name, Annika Hansen.
Seven informs them that Captain Shaw is known for being blunt but hopes that they can get through to him. Riker tells her not to worry – he’s used to dealing with difficult captains. They are met at the door by a formal-looking officer, who announces them to Captain Shaw. The captain, a no-nonsense man with a curt demeanor, greets them with a simple “gentleman” and invites them to sit.
Shaw tells them that their inspection tour will likely be boring since they won’t be “blowing things up” or taking fire, but rather they will find the engines pristine, the hull intact, and every surface on the ship dust-free. Riker appeals to the captain’s ego, suggesting that it would give the new Titan “bragging rights” for Frontier Day.
To Picard and Riker’s dismay, Shaw refused their request. He had been keeping the Titan running for the past five years, completing 36 successful missions. In his opinion, they couldn’t simply alter the course of the ship. When Picard tried to pull rank as an admiral, Shaw reminded him that he was retired. As for Riker, while he was an active captain, he was currently without a command. In Shaw’s eyes, the Titan was his ship, and he had orders from “actual officers” to follow. Seven suggested they could make up the time, but Shaw was unyielding. He reminded her that her loyalty was to the ship, not to “old friends” or ex-Borgs.
Shaw left for his quarters, assigning Seven the conn and insincerely hoping that the accommodations he had arranged for his “guests” would suffice. As they headed to their quarters, Picard expressed his concern to Riker. Every moment they were moving further away from Ryton, he grew more worried about Crusher’s safety.
Seven of Nine is a Boss!
Picard and Riker are summoned to the observation deck. Seven apologizes for disturbing their rest and requests permission to speak candidly, which Picard grants. She then threatens to throw them both out of an airlock and never look back if they don’t explain why they’re there. Riker is outraged and reminds her that she’s talking to an admiral. Seven, however, explains that she’s talking to a friend. Picard then discloses the message he received from Crusher and tells Seven that even Starfleet cannot be trusted. He kept the information from her because he didn’t want her career to be compromised.
Seven reveals that life was easier when she was with the Fenris Rangers and could rely on her instincts. However, Picard and Admiral Kathryn Janeway had persuaded her to join Starfleet instead. She believed it was the right path. However, now she wonders how she can motivate anyone when she’s under the command of someone like Shaw. She asks, “How can I ignore my intuition and follow orders?” Picard requests that she tell him when she finds the answer to that question since he never did.
As they make their way to the bridge, Riker notices that Seven has defied Shaw’s orders by taking them to the Ryton system. The sensors have picked up a faint power signal from a vessel at the edge of the nebula, but the nebula’s interference is making it difficult to scan for life forms. Riker confronts Seven about the potential consequences of her actions, but she calmly informs them that in four minutes, the ensign guarding shuttle bay 3 will be called away. Picard expresses his gratitude, and they hurry off to the shuttle bay.
Meanwhile, the storm activity in the nebula wakes Shaw up from his sleep, and he rushes to the bridge. He orders Ensign Esmar to secure the ship and demands to know the whereabouts of Picard and Riker. La Forge reports an unauthorized shuttle launch from shuttle bay 3, causing Shaw to accuse Seven of “using loyalty to weasel out of a career” and demand a detailed report.
Beverly Has a Secret
As they enter the Eleos’ sensor range, they detect two human life signs on board, one of which matches Crusher’s medical profile and is in critical condition. Picard is filled with both excitement and fear at the thought of seeing her again and the potential danger ahead. Riker says, “Your hands are stiff, my knees are killing me. So long as we don’t have to move or shoot, we should be fine.”
Riker notices the scorch mark from one of the vaporized attackers and notes the precision of the kill shot. It was out of character for Crusher. Riker moves closer to the mark, examining it with a critical eye. He suddenly realizes that there were no remains left behind, just ashes. This was no ordinary weapon. As he searches the ship’s bridge, a man points a phaser at Riker’s back.
Picard discovers Crusher inside a medical pod and hails Riker to let him know he’s found her. But their reunion is short-lived as an unknown man takes Riker hostage at phaser-point and brings him onto the bridge. Picard quickly identifies himself and Riker, assuring the man that they’re there to help. He commands the man to lower his weapon, and as he does, Riker seizes the moment to elbow him in the face and disarm him.
Picard is convinced that Crusher would never send out a distress call just for herself. Riker demands to know who the man is, and he claims to be Crusher’s son. However, their conversation is interrupted by an alarm blaring, warning them of an incoming vessel. The man accuses Picard and Riker of leading “them” there, claiming that they had previously escaped from their pursuers on Sarnia, Exo-Port, and Kaphar. Riker demands to know who their attackers are, and the man lowers the blast shield to reveal a colossal ship coming from the nearby nebula.
On M’Talas Prime, a figure draped in a hood navigates through the bustling crowds of District Six’s bazaar, concealed from prying eyes. The hooded figure, none other than Raffaela Musiker (Raffi), seems to have relapsed into the clutches of addiction. Feeling forsaken after being discharged from Starfleet and her lesbian relationship with Seven in shambles, Raffi seeks a way back in. Word on the street is that an experimental quantum tunneling device has been stolen from the Daystrom Institute and is potentially being weaponized. The Orion has a treasure trove of intelligence, and Raffi offers up her meager funds in the hopes of obtaining it. Grudgingly, the Orion provides her with a tip about the “Red Lady,” but cautions her that delving too deeply could prove fatal to them both. He then sends her off with a warning to not come back.
As she departs, Raffi retrieves a secure communicator, revealing that she is in fact working for Starfleet Intelligence, and requests a debriefing – and a pay raise. While conversing, she glances at the container of narcotics she just acquired, pauses for a moment, then hurls it to the ground in a defiant display against her addiction.
You Can’t Save Them All
Raffi sat alone on the SS La Sirena on M’Talas Prime, frustrated by the lack of progress in her mission. Suddenly, a transmission came through the ship’s computer, but her Intelligence handler refused to show their face. As they spoke, Raffi learned that they had not found any information on the elusive “Red Lady” and could not offer her any further assistance. Raffi couldn’t contain her frustration any longer and demanded to know why they were bothering her if they couldn’t help.
Her handler asked her to speak freely, and Raffi revealed the intense pressure she had been under for months. Feeling as though her handler didn’t understand the difficulty of her job, Raffi’s anger grew. However, the handler’s attention was still focused on the task at hand. They pointed out that the stolen weapons were an act of war, and as a warrior herself, Raffi knew the gravity of the situation. Her handler urged her to find the “Red Lady” as they suspected an imminent attack.
Raffi soon realizes that the “Red Lady” was not a person or a ship, but rather some kind of target. After requesting information on upcoming events, Raffi discovers a dedication ceremony for a statue of Rachel Garrett, the captain of the USS Enterprise-C. The statue is made of red stone and is located at the Starfleet recruiting center in District Seven. Raffi promptly orders the ship to take off.
Raffi is determined to warn the facility of the impending danger. She places the ship on autopilot and starts to establish a channel to send the warning. But instead of a clear transmission, all she receives is garbled static. Before she can try again, a sudden rip in the fabric of space-time opens beneath the recruiting center. The energy from the tunnel tears the building apart in a deafening roar, hurling body remains in all directions, including towards the city below. Raffi’s heart sinks as she watches in disbelief, feeling helpless in the face of such destruction.