When repairs are stymied by a shortage of deuterium, the crew of the Odyssey discover a source on a cold planet with some strange inhabitants and what appears to be Federation technology.
The new senior officers apprehend a trio of streakers running through the corridor, naked as the day they were born. They confess it was an initiation to join a new “gang” called the Losties, who take care of each other in these uncertain times. A little later, a fight breaks out in NGage, the ship’s lounge, over a gambling dispute about who will end up as captain. Apparently, the crew have grown uneasy about those in command – the old captain is dead and the new candidate, a scaly white Cardassian by the name of Dakra, is not exactly everyone’s favorite choice. In response, Dakra and the others draw up a new roster of senior officers, and implement a firm program of leadership.
Meanwhile, it is discovered that the ship’s Bussard collectors are clogged, and cannot be repaired without some concentrated deuterium. A source is found on a cold Class M planet ten lightyears away. When they attempt to travel to this planet, however, it shifts, disappears, and reappears randomly, causing them to chase it around. They arrive at the planet just before their deuterium runs out completely. What’s more, the ship’s chronometer inexplicably reads it is seventy years earlier than it should be.
The planet is home to a small population of agricultural humanoids, comparable in technology level to Earth’s medieval Russia. They grow nothing but beets. Strangely, their capital city is giving off inordinately high energy readings consistent with Federation technology.
When an away mission visits the city, called Stochastia, they discover a highly-structured society where everything, even profession, is determined randomly, just like the stars above (which in this region of space dance and flicker at random). Investigation reveals the influence of Federation Captain Maximilian M. Maximilian, who has managed to install himself as Lord Stochast, leader of the city. Stealing into his palace, the away mission ends up inside a holo-projected madhouse, apparently reflecting Maximilian’s twisted conscience.
In the end, it is revealed that Maximilian came here aboard the U.S.S. Baba Yaga, a Constitution-class starship which disappeared one-hundred years ago. Apparently it was sucked through a vortex just like the Odyssey. The bizarre time-space properties of the region drove Maximilian to become increasingly controlling and paranoid, till his crew finally mutinied and attempted to strand him on the planet. In retribution, he gassed the entire crew to death and used the ship’s holodeck technology to frighten the native inhabitants into making him their lord.
The away mission manages to stun Maximilian, and takes him back to the brig of their ship. Meanwhile, they also recover the data logs of the Baba Yaga, and remove all Federation technology from the planet, thus setting the local culture back on its own course of development.
- In this region of space, objects more than a lightyear away shift, disappear, and reappear randomly as a function of relative movement between them and the observer. This occurs both when moving toward an object and when moving away from it.
- Distortions occur not only in space but also in time. Traveling to the planet somehow carried the Odyssey seventy years backward in time.