Investigating a Romulan installation in the Neutral Zone, the captain of the U.S.S. Odyssey gets himself and his entire senior staff killed in an explosion on a foolish away mission. A new staff of lowly lieutenants must rise to the fill their shoes. Meanwhile, the explosion hurtles the ship into a mysterious vortex. On the other side, the stars dance strangely, and something odd is happening to the crew.
The ship is severely damaged from its passage through the vortex, with multiple systems down, including sensors and weapons targeting.
Reports come in of crew members doubled-over in laughter.
This turns out to be nitrous oxide released by an intruder, who appears to be headed toward the shuttle bay. The new makeshift bridge officers race to the bay, where they manage to subdue to the intruder.
The intruder turns out to be a scientist from the Romulan installation, going by the name of Subcommander R’Kal. After discovering the Federation presence, she knew her Romulan superiors would destroy the installation rather than allow it to become an intergalactic “incident.” She beamed aboard the Odyssey just before a Romulan warbird decloaked and fired, causing the explosion that killed the Odyssey senior staff and pushed their ship into the vortex.
R’Kal, realizing that her people may now view her as a traitor, begs to be granted asylum by the Federation, despite the many rumors she’s heard of the Federation’s “merciless cruelty and barbarism.” The Cardassian Lt. Dakra deceives her into believing he is on a mission to take over the ship, and she need only play along. She is placed in the brig for the time being.
When sensors come back online, a Romulan probe and shuttlecraft are discovered amidst the other debris in the area, all likely dropped here by the vortex. R’Kal reveals both were experimental voyages through the vortex. An away mission finds no survivors on the shuttlecraft, but recovers valuable data logs.
Suddenly, two strange ships appear and close on the vulnerable, heavily-damaged Odyssey. A strange message of growls and bubbles, which the universal translator struggles to decipher, does not appear promising. Soon, a boarding party of the aliens materializes inside the Odyssey and begins attacking.
Thinking fast, the away mission ties the targeting systems of the shuttlecraft into that of the Odyssey, enabling it to fire. The Odyssey makes short work of the attacking vessels, and the boarding party is subdued. Only four of the attackers remain. They are a species of shark-like humanoids who apparently prey on vessels coming through the vortex. They call themselves the Rrr-grr-alah!, and speak through a system of bubbles and growls. They are summarily relocated to the brig.
- The stars on this side of the vortex are shifting, disappearing, and reappearing at random.
- R’Kal believes the vortex has something to do with what she calls the “Shatarr” – the great flaring forth at the origin of the universe. She is carrying a canister with some of the vortex material suspended in nitrous oxide.
- The shark-people reveal that something strange happens when you try to travel between star systems in this region: “When you get there, you are not there!” It remains to be seen what this means exactly.