Last time, the crew of the Odyssey survived the battle with the Hirogen, but failed to escape from the mysterious entanglement with the psionic creature. Every emotion it experiences, they experience too, causing epidemics of hysteria across the ship. They must find some means of making it let go of them.
The ship was heavily damaged, hanging together by a thread, and most of the crew lied asleep. The anesthezine gas should have worn off by now, but for some reason the emotional stress was keeping the majority of them in fitful slumber. Meanwhile, Dr. Gleek was called away to deliver Ensign Lhasa’s baby, while Captain Dakra got trapped in a jammed turbolift all alone save for his comely first officer, Lieutenant Jennifer Lawrence.
That left precious few awake and able to act. It was up to Nal’Khoras and Danasharr to save the day.
Meanwhile, in the brig, Maximilian began to descend into a psychotic episode, screaming “It’s touching my brain! It’s inside me!” After that, whatever Maximilian felt, the psionic creature appeared to feel too, and then so did the crew. It seemed the creature had attempted to bond with Maximilian, but was overwhelmed by his madness. Maximilian’s insanity actually spread to the creature. Now the entire ship was at the mercy of Maximilian’s ravings.
In order to save the ship, the path lay clear: they had to help Maximilian overcome his issues as quickly as possible. Fortunately, Danasharr knew of a highly experimental therapy based originally on a procedure used by 20th-century psychologist Stanislav Graf, who used LSD to induce a therapeutic journey. The updated procedure used transporter technology to separate mind and body, inducing an experience of the psionic plane. The patient’s unconscious, unable to interpret pure psionic energy, then projects a hallucinatory environment symbolically masking repressed psychic contents. Therapy is complete when the patient is able to face the repressed contents in their literal, unmasked form.
Danasharr and Nal’Khoras opted to accompany Maximilian to the psionic plane as guides to help him through. Ensign Mark Wood, with a bead of sweat rolling down his forehead, pressed forward the transporter slides to begin the procedure…
The swirling colors of the transporter beam gradually coalesced into a scene projected by Maximilian’s mind. It was likely to be some kind of hero journey, but what kind would it be?
They found themselves on a road made of gold-pressed latinum strips, with talking mushrooms on either side singing:
“Follow the gold-pressed road! Follow the gold-pressed road! Find the Emerald City of Zo! Follow the gold-pressed road!”
Meanwhile, their appearances were not what they were used to. Nal was a humanoid version of a cute, fuzzy lemuroala (like lemur crossed with a koala), while Danasharr was a chameleon-like reptile called a zumpa. And they were missing whatever aspect of themselves they treasured most: Nal’s intelligence and Danasharr’s psionic potential.
Nal distantly heard a disembodied voice singing, “…if I only had a brain!”
Meanwhile, Maximilian had regressed to childhood. He was his normal old man self, but in a little girl’s dress with brunette pigtails.
What ensued was a psychedelic escapade through a land of lethal terrors. From giant munchkin redshirts with man-smashing lollypops to a flying house-starship, they fought their way to the Emerald City. There, they found themselves in a maze of mecha-cornstalks filled with horrors: a riddlebot (answer the riddle or die!), a slotsbot (get three cherries or die!), and a Vulcan in ponfarr (mate with me… or die!).
Finally, they made it out of the deadly maze, thanks in no small part to Danasharr, who tempted the Vulcan with her feminine wiles only to lead him into a trap, and Nal, who saved Maximilian (quite attractive dressed as a little girl) from his illogically-horny clutches!
When they finally made it inside the Emerald Tower and found a twenty-foot rendering of Maximilian’s own face, which was thundering and blustering, “I am the Great and Terrible Zo!”
They persuaded Maximilian to pull back the curtain. There he finally confronted the sight of his awful sin: the crew of the U.S.S. Baba Yaga, gassed to death.
“It was me!” Maximilian sobbed. “It was me, I killed them!”
After the therapy, Maximilian fell to tears, feeling unrepressed emotion for the first time in decades.
Then, in a moment of clarity, he knew what he had to do.
“Give me a shuttlecraft,” he said. “The creature has bonded with me. I can lead it away, and it will follow. It will let you go.”
He knew it would mean his own demise, but it’s what he had to do.
“The whole crew is in danger because of me. This creature has shown me emotion for the first time in so long. I would like to spend my final moments with it… out there.”
Nal and Danasharr agreed, and watched Maximilian’s shuttle fly off into empty space, the creature following.
At last, the crew was freed from the hysterical epidemics of the psionic creature.
Then Captain Dakra’s voice came over the intercom, “Dakra to bridge officers! You can get Lawrence and I out of this jammed turbolift any time now!”
Nal responded, “I don’t know, captain. The ship is falling apart, and the turbolift is pretty low on the repair list. We’ll get back to you!”
The psionic creature is able to entangle and disentangle with other objects in space. Sensor readings on this process may prove most enlightening…