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Holy space hell, this starts with a bang. A woman is in distress and running for her life on a spaceship. She runs to a lab and leaves a recording: Identifying herself as Dr. Agatha Matheson, she says there have been fatalities and structural damage on board. She makes clear that she is leaving a warning and not a distress call, bloodied and terrified she is telling people to stay away from the Nightflyer. She sends the message in a container out into space while being attacked by a seemingly possessed fellow passenger on the ship. As her attacker comes toward her, Matheson looks out of a window into deep space and commits a brutal, gory suicide.
Back on Earth – and presumably back in time – a scientist named Karl D’Branin is cleared as healthy as he heads through a checkpoint and then goes home and talks with his wife about how his innovative research is being supported and he has a chance to board the Nightflyer. He believes his work may be able to save the Earth and he reassures his wife that he will only be gone for two years. He wants to try and talk with a ship that he believes he has found far away in space, and needs to board the Nightflyer to do it. His wife is concerned and his daughter wakes up. As he comforts his daughter, the memory pauses. D’Branin is in a machine on a ship, and it’s 2093.
On the ship, Matheson arrives and talks with D’Branin, meeting some of the crew. He introduces Lommie, who has a neural port to the ship and works on programming, along with Melantha Jhirl, an individual genetically enhanced and trained for space travel. Matheson and D’Branin are scientists, and Matheson is a psychologist brought on board and onto the project because of her ability to talk to the telepath they have brought on board – someone named Thale that everyone appears very nervous about. During the tour he also introduces Rowan, a biologist on board. (And a familiar face – he was the one attacking Matheson in what must be the future.)
At lunch in the cafeteria, D’Branin explains to the nervous crew and colonists gathered around that they have brought the telepath on board to help communicate with the alien Volcryns that they need to make contact with. Many are scared of the telepath, and they are told that they can leave the ship before it breaks orbit if they want to. A shuttle leaves, and the mission begins. On the ship’s bridge, the captain appears as a hologram and makes a moving speech about their groundbreaking mission and the chance to make first contact with other lifeforms. (Turns out, captain Roy Eris only ever appears as a hologram, choosing to stay in his private quarters at all times.) Then it’s time for liftoff.
Well that doesn’t go great. There is a misfire and a crew member is badly injured as they leave orbit. Crew members suspect the telepath of messing with the launch, and go to confront him in his isolation room. He is incredibly powerful with his mind games, and Thale easily defends himself against the pair. And D’Branin asks Matheson to talk to Thale and make sure he wasn’t responsible for the damaging launch. How could he create a mechanical misfire? The scientists know that he can’t, and also know that the crew is scared and suspicious of the telepath’s powers.
D’Branin talks to Lommie who says that she can’t find any cause for the rocky takeoff, but will continue to investigate the ship’s systems. And bad news: The Volcryn ship has altered course and it will now be five extra months in the void before they reach it. He calls his wife, and says how much he misses their daughter, Skye and how sad he is that his wife is now alone. Then he sees his daughter (who died on Earth) running around the ship. He confronts Matheson – he thinks that Thale is messing with his mind.
Jhirl is in her quarters and knows she is being watched. She confronts the camera in her room – and Captain Eris – and his hologram appears. He says he finds her fascinating as she has been genetically created for space travel, and after a few more words he quickly leaves. At the same time, D’Branin talks to Rowan, the biologist. He shares his pessimistic view of this mission: Rowan does not think the Volcryn will help humans as they have ignored every attempt at communication to date.
Jhirl spends some time in a water tank on oxygen, when the system malfunctions. Lommie sees what is happening through her connection to the ship’s system, but can’t stop it. As Jhirl begins to drown, Lommie saves her. A bit later they reunite and become more than friends…
Matheson takes Thale for a walk in the ship’s garden – he gets to leave his isolation cell. The peaceful moment quickly ends when others arrive and insist that Captain Hologram wants to see him. They sedate Thale.
D’Branin goes back into the memory pod, and sees his daughter. But the visions are corrupted and change and go awry – turning into a hideous nightmare. He has to escape the pod as a phantom of his daughter emerges within it. Suspicious of Thale, he runs to Matheson to confront her. She says he is sedated still and they go to his cell to confirm it. Thale is missing. The crew wants to capture him, and Matheson is afraid of what he might do to defend himself. D’Branin’s group begin their own search for Thale. Lommie seems to be possessed by the ship’s systems and pulls out her port. While a crew member looking around the ship finds and confronts Thale. Emergency sirens, flashing lights, chaos on board. What’s next?