When there is no place like home, your rules and principles cannot help, and it feels like the entire quadrant is against you, how far would you go to get back? The journey aboard the U.S.S. Equinox put the limits of Federation ideology to the test.
The U.S.S. Equinox NCC-72381 was a top-of-the-line Nova-class science vessel. The Nova-class replaced the aging Oberth-class starship used for the past century. At a length of around 222 meters long, 8 decks, and a crew of 78, the ship was relatively small compared to other ships of the time.
It had a top speed of warp 8, which was efficient for general scientific missions. Two shuttlecraft and an optional “wave rider” shuttle, located on the bottom of the “saucer” section, made for a decent auxiliary craft complement. Armaments included 11 Type X phaser arrays and 3 photon torpedo launchers, giving the ship the ability to defend itself decently during its voyages.
The Journey Begins
The Equinox was launched in the early 2370’s under the command of Captain Rudolph “Rudy” Ransom. Ransom was more of a scientist than a command officer. Promoted to captain after making contact with the previously thought-to-be-extinct Yridians, Ransom was an accomplished exobiologist. He preferred to elude any adversaries he came across, rather than face them in direct combat.
The Journey Takes a Wrong Turn
In early 2371, one of the most-unsettling things that could happen to a starship crew befell the Equinox. A non-humanoid entity called the “Caretaker” was abducting ships from throughout the galaxy to attempt to find a compatible mate. He was responsible for destroying the environment of a planet called Ocampa, deep in the Delta Quadrant, and nearly killing all life there. He managed to save some of the humanoid population and placed them in underground caverns. The Caretaker was nearing the end of his life when he pulled the Equinox 70,000 light years across the galaxy.
After finding none of the Equinox crew were compatible, the Caretaker let the ship go, but did not return them to the Alpha Quadrant. Instead, the ship had to find its own way back. In the first week of their exile, the ship encountered the Krowtonan Guard. This hostile species, claiming the Equinox had violated their territory, killed nearly half of the crew. Ransom decided continue on.
The Equinox crew trekked on with a once state-of-the-art vessel, never having the chance to repair it to its full effectiveness. They encountered many more belligerent species, losing even more crew and morale. The hope of seeking out new life and new civilizations probably seemed more like a good epitaph than a mission. On occasion, the ship encountered a few friendly species and even a wormhole, which took a leg off their journey. One such species, called the Ankari, would turn them on to a dubious hope they desperately needed.
Equinox made it to the Ankari home world after a bout of prolonged suffering for the crew. They had not eaten in 16 days and the ship was severely damaged. The Ankari assisted with food and medical supplies, and upon the conclusion of the visit, the Ankari offered a blessing from their “Spirits of Good Fortune.” Captain Ransom and his officers scanned the “spirits,” only to discover they were a type of nucleogenic lifeform. Through trade, they were able to acquire one of the spirit summoning devices and opened the portal to the aliens' realm.
Unfortunately, in the attempt to study one of the lifeforms, the crew accidentally killed one of the creatures. Further scanning revealed that the compounds the creature consisted of could enhance the ship’s warp drive significantly. They traveled 10,000 light years in two weeks. The Federation principles now stood on the fence. With half the crew dead, a broken ship, and barely enough food to survive, Captain Ransom, representing the morals and ideals so highly regarded, had to make a decision: Their lives or those of an unknown alien species. Ransom chose in favor of his crew.
The Equinox crew would continue to abduct and utilize the nucleogenic lifeforms for their enhanced warp drive. The aliens did not take too kindly to this. They began to attack the Equinox repeatedly. Their effects on human tissue were devastating. Fortuitously for the Equinox, during one of these attacks, their distress call was received by the U.S.S. Voyager, also stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Voyager rescued the ship by extending its fully operational shields around the Equinox, protecting them from further alien portal attacks.
The Equinox Sunset
The two crews were excited at first to reunite. However, Ransom was concerned that were Captain Janeway to discover the truth about their modified engines, she would interfere. He attempted to hide the evidence, but through the investigation of the Voyager crew and the relative invincibility of the Voyager’s EMH doctor, all was revealed.
Janeway detained the Equinox crew but, they were able to escape with the help of the Equinox's EMH doctor, who had been corrupted by the removal of its ethical subroutines. Ransom and his crew escaped, stealing the vital new shielding device used to protect both ships from the portal aliens.
Voyager would eventually catch up to the Equinox and end its long journey with torpedoes. Ransom died onboard, attempting to save Voyager and the remaining crew from the Equinox’s warp core breach. He regretted some of his methods, but he still cared about getting his crew home.
The Next Nova
In a possible future, the Nova-class would eventually receive a refit in the late 24th or early 25th century. The U.S.S. Rhode Island, under the command of the finally-promoted Captain Harry Kim, caught up with Admiral Janeway in 2404 to prevent her from going back in time 26 years to assist her earlier self and U.S.S. Voyager in returning to the Alpha Quadrant much earlier than the Admiral’s history had unfolded.
Ian Kisluk is an avid Star Trek fan and collector. Trek model and prop building as well as stage acting are his most prolific passions. Follow him @Starchwreck on Twitter and check out Starchwreck Props and Models on Facebook.