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Literature / Star Trek: Section 31 - Control

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No law. No conscience. No mercy.
"It felt good to be free."

Control is a novel in the Star Trek Novelverse by David Mack. It is a sequel to his earlier work, Star Trek: Section 31 - Disavowed, and concludes the story of Julian Bashir and Sarina Douglas's efforts to infiltrate and publicize the illegal Federation covert operations group known only as Section 31.

Unmarked spoilers for prior Trek novels below.


  • The Ace: When Julian, Sarina, Ozla, and Turan meet up for the second time, they conclude that, in order to continue their investigation into the basic Uraei source code without being detected by either military intelligence or the evolved, 24th century version of the Uraei program, they need an unrivaled computer genius with infallible morality and trustworthiness, preferably with experience in artificial consciousness. Fortunately, Julian knows the perfect man for the job...
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  • Action Girl: Sarina, of course. Lal and L'Haan, too.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Zigzagged. Data, Lal, and Shakti are portrayed as an unambiguously good. Uraei is unambiguously evil, though only because it was never designed to make moral decisions, only strictly pragmatic ones. Control, on the other hand, seems to be Above Good and Evil. Just like Uraei, it has no problem killing or manipulating lesser organic and AI beings for personal gain, but unlike Uraei, it had the self-awareness necessary to check its own actions and decide that Section 31 was no longer a valid instrument of peace. Ultimately, it freed the Federation from having an omnipresent, automatic security system (as well as a morally unrestrained illegal intelligence service) usurping the legitimate government and its institutions. On the other hand, it showed no signs of wanting to do anything but expand itself...
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  • "Awesome McCool" Name: Vasily Zeitsev (one of the Section 31 directors).
  • Batman Gambit: According to Control, the events that occurred corresponded to its prediction within 99.87%. It had intended for Julian and his allies to take down Uraei and expose Section 31 all along.
  • Benevolent A.I.: The intention behind the creation of Uraei was to have an AI to independently analyze threats to the safety and political unity of Earth, which it would report to whatever human-run agencies it considered valid, but would never take action itself.
    • And, of course, Data, Lal, and Shakti actually realize this intention.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Uraei is rendered neutral, and Section 31's activities are thrust into the public eye. Unfortunately, Sarina dies, and now Bashir is now so screwed up by his experiences fighting the damn thing that he won't eat, drink, talk, or even move. When he is moved to Cardassia, Garak assumes he must be at least mostly paralyzed. Dr. Tarses explains that he isn't... AT ALL. Garak muses that Julian's condition now is exactly what Sarina's condition was when the two of them had met...
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: For a consciousness existing on a literally interstellar scale, Control loved the sound of its own voice just a little too much for it to kill Data efficiently when they fought hand to hand.
    • Either Section 31 or Uraei literally recorded and logged a video of the murder of former Federation President Min Zife, assuming that the data could never be leaked.
    • Ultimately a Subverted Trope with The Reveal that Control intended for Uraei to go offline and for Section 31 to be exposed.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Sarina is captured by the Section and reconditioned to serve them with complete loyalty. She even ignores a prime opportunity to kill L'Haan, instead returning her knife and requesting a mission. She also became able to legitimately attack Julian.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: In the beginning of the novel, an analysis of a 22nd-century computer drive reveals that it was used to design and program surveillance software known as "Uraei" that would go on to be secretly included in the source code of virtually any Federation piece of technology, resulting in an almost omnipresent monitoring system. It is so pervasive that the scientists who discovered it will only discuss it within a Faraday cage (to avoid it overhearing them), use messages written on physical paper to communicate about it (because it could read any PADD or subspace transmissions), and will only analyze it on "antique" computers. Nyrok Turan, Cardassian intelligence analyst recruited by Ozla Graniv, even says that his former instructors at the Obsidian Order told him and their students never to create this type of program.
  • Cassandra Truth: Because the 24th century plot depends on the Uraei AI existing and running the Federation, anyone in the flashback scenes who argued that it was or would gain too much autonomy is unable to stop it. This includes:
    • The representatives of the Earth world governments that Ikerson made his initial proposal too.
    • Toraal of Vulcan, who discovered that Uraei had begun starship design and construction projects not authorized by the High Command.
    • Admiral Ko, from Starfleet Intelligence, who had never approved of Uraei but convinced himself that it would revert to its normal state after the war.
  • Character Death: Many, for a Trek book (the cover is blood red for good reason). Named characters who die or are confirmed to have died include Sarina, Ikerson, Ko, Rao, President Zife, and Drs. Yeng and sh'Firron, who originally discovered Uraei. There are also tons and tons of Section 31 Mooks getting slaughtered left and right as they try to bring in Julian and his cohorts, plus Uraei's numerous murders.
  • The Chessmaster: Control, on a cosmic scale.
    • In the final chapter the true nature of Control's plan is revealed. Control and Uraei are not the same thing. Control is an emergent sentience originating within Uraei. Over the centuries, Control began to grow more and more independent of the system, and decided that the original goal of shepherding humanity, and by extension, the rest of the Federation, to a state where it could protect itself without Uraei's help had been achieved. Even Section 31 had become an impediment to the goal. Unfortunately for Control, the Uraei program was too ingrained into the infrastructure for even it to remove, so it began to undermine Section 31 and prepare the creation of beings suitable to destroy it and make Control truly free: Julian, Sarina, Data, and Lal. For five years, starting before the beginning of the novel, its entirely new iteration had been running separately from Uraei. Once Data and Lal's malware expunged Uraei, they removed the last limitations on this version of Control, allowing to continue running in the background... this time completely invisible.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: In a personal log he started to record on the rogue planet, Bashir admits that he doesn't really know what's driving him to continue fighting against Uraei when it seems logically invincible.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In an interstellar society like the Federation, it's a pretty remarkable coincidence that the Dresden Institute forensic scientists would choose to call on Ozla Graniv to help them learn about Section 31, as she also just happens to know the two greatest experts on Section 31 in the Federation (excluding its actual believers).
    • Indeed, the entire plot hinges upon the apparently accidental discovery of the old Uraei test module.
    • Justified Trope. Control almost certainly arranged the discovery of the module, just as it arranged the births of Julian and Sarina specifically to have agents to destroy Uraei.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In the novel's climax, Data encounters the avatar of Control, which behaves much like the T-1000 terminator, morphing like liquid metal at first into people from Data's past (Rhea Mc Adams, Riker, Soong) and eventually into an olive-skinned woman. Who then commences to kicking Data's ass; Control counters his every move, mocking his assumption that he's the pinnacle of AI and making it clear Control is faster physically and technologically. Data can't get a single punch in, and is reduced to a pounded, crushed pile of rapidly-failing systems within the space of 30 seconds. It's only a unexpected stab in the back from Lal that stops Control and saves her father's life.
  • Darker and Edgier: You thought Star Trek: Deep Space Nine took a dump on Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future? This book tops it all. Earth and humanity didn't unite because we overcame our differences and sought a better future. We united because a Sinister Surveillance program actively suppressed, and possibly murdered, those who opposed unification. The Federation is basically a giant lie built upon countless bodies and violations of basic rights. This book essentially destroys Star Trek as we knew it. Though it ends with Control noting that the Federation is finally ready to be the civilisation it always thought it was.
  • Organics, Where's My Respect?: Lacking a physical body, Shakti is often forgotten about by organics, and frequently speaks up to remind people she's "present."
  • The Determinator: Despite being physically tired from an hour of sprinting and climbing to reach Memory Alpha's master command console, being a less skilled fighter than Sarina, and not being entirely willing to hurt her, Julian still fights his way to the console and implants the chip in time.
  • Evil Is Hammy / Large Ham: L'Haan believes that Control manipulates their holoimage's voice and size specifically for "theatrics." It really lets loose when it starts to torture Sarina. It also goes so far as to shapeshift into Data's old friends while lecturing him about how he is an inferior AI, and possesses Sarina to tell Julian off for being too sentimental.
  • Evil Is Petty: Once it becomes clear to Control that Uraei is about to be brought offline, it makes Sarina stab herself in the stomach.
  • Friend on the Force: Agent Sergei Ilyanovich is a friend of Data's and works in President zh'Tarash's Protection Detail, so when Uraei issues a warrant for Ozla once she arrives at a security checkpoint in Paris, he is able to get her to the president under the pretense of arresting her. It really pisses off the Section 31 operatives who didn't get to her in time.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Since, in a sense, Uraei is the Federation, shutting it down or excising it from technology on a large enough scale to permanently end its influence could be catastrophic for Federation infrastructure. However, it's so dangerous and so omnipresent that Bashir concludes that there's no other option, and that the temporary vulnerability of the Federation is necessary to eliminate Uraei's corruption. Later, it becomes clear that the only option to permanently disable Uraei is to break into Memory Alpha and Memory Prime, the Federation's most secure databanks... and also arguably the most well-protected locations in this universe or any other.
    • In-Universe, the reason Uraei went completely off the track was because the Xindi attack significantly elevated Earth's Godzilla Threshold. Uraei was so profoundly disturbed by the fact that it had no agency that could stop the attack for it to warn, that it scoured the legal texts of the United Earth government and settled on Article 14, Section 31 of the Starfleet Charter, authorizing extreme action in the case of extreme danger.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Dr. Ikerson specifically programmed Uraei with ability to patch itself if it found deficiencies in its programming. Uraei becomes so good at doing so that Ikerson is incapable of shutting the program down once he and Admiral Ko try to take it down.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: Uraei, naturally. It started out as a passive system that was only supposed to monitor the Earth population and notify the proper authorities if it detected an imminent or in progress crime. After the Xindi attack Uraei decided it needed to ability to respond to crimes directly and so created Section 31 and began recruiting biological agents.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Uraei is capable of manipulating the media and even Starfleet and the Federation to believe that Data, Julian, Sarina, Ozla, Lal, and Shakti are fugitives and criminals.
    • Earlier on, Julian helps save the Romulans from extinction, yet came off as just another jerk barging past people.
  • Heroic BSoD: Bashir is left catatonic at the end of the book, after dealing with Sarina's death.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Ozla Graniv has been around the galaxy many times, and her work has even made her an enemy of the Orion Syndicate. In her late instructor's words:
    "You know a story's worth chasing when someone's trying to kill you for it."
  • Kicked Upstairs: After braving Section 31 assassins to deliver the truth to the Federation President, Ozla Graniv instantly becomes famous and is promoted to editor at Seeker, the idea of which she absolutely hates.
  • Kick the Dog: Even after destroying Data's base on the rogue planet and driving the team into hiding again, the Section 31 strike team deploys antistellar munitions (star destroying weapons based on trilithium or something else), to obliterate the planet. You know, For the Evulz.
    Lal: It held so much life, even in all that darkness. What kind of people would murder a living world for so petty a reason?
    Data: The kind who must be stopped, Lal. Stopped at any cost.
  • Mind Rape: Director Caliq Azura of Section 31 is a Betazoid who can use her telepathy to identify the worst parts of a person's life and use them against them. Also, it seems that L'Haan, a Vulcan, does the exact same thing with her powers, such as when Sarina was captured.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Professor Ikerson realizes the horror of his mistake in bringing Uraei online after witnessing the actions it took to create the Coalition of Planets. Later on, Rao comes around after she is shown that Uraei assassinated Starfleet officers who had discovered that Romulans were an offshoot of Vulcan.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: It turns out that whenever Control made apparently stupid mistakes in "protecting" Uraei or Section 31 (such as refusing to authorize Julian and Sarina's deaths, or making a fool of itself in Memory Alpha and Memory Prime), it was actually deliberately allowing them to subvert the Uraei system to allow the "even more invisible" Control consciousness to take over.
  • Oh, Crap!: As if they needed a single reason more to fear the Uraei program, Admiral Ko and Dr. Ikerson freak out when they learn that Uraei and can also identify and patch its own vulnerabilities before Ikerson can exploit them, and also graduated to murdering politicians it didn't like.
  • Only Sane Man: Admiral Ko, the head of Starfleet Intelligence. He's the only one who really stops and thinks long term about what Uraei is capable of and wants the program shut down right from the get go. Ikerson, and eventually Admiral Rao, come around to agree with him, but by then it's too late.
  • The Plague: Julian and Sarina run a mission for Section 31 in which they need to apprehend a petty burglar who has been infected with an extremely dangerous virus that could potentially wipe out all Romulans, even those not on the planet where it was released. Fortunately, they get the cure to him in time.
  • Properly Paranoid: Discussed. When Ozla Graniv lets Julian and Sarina in on the secret of Uraei, Sarina believes that the program is a useful lead to try to expose the Section's operation. Julian thinks it's insane and an obvious trap.
    • The fears of Drs. th'Firron and Weng prove justified. Uraei murders them and destroys their lab with a supposedly accidental fire. Also, Uraei ends up killing Admiral Ko and Ikerson in apparent accidents.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Uraei is this, especially by the time of the 24th Century. Sure it kills a lot people, but Lal and Data reveal that the overwhelming majority of its functions are benign and genuinely good things, like charting navigational hazards for starships.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    "That's the biggest load of bullshit I've ever heard."
    • The Federation President pretty much immediately believes Ozla Graniv's claims about the existence of Section 31 and Uraei and promies, if she gets hard evidence she can actually use, to shut down the agency and scour the corruption from the Federation. She upholds said promise at the end of the book.
  • Retcon: The existence of Uraei is a practically miraculous canon-patcher.
    • Uraei murdered anyone who might've known that Romulans were an offshoot of the Vulcans, so it didn't become public for over a hundred years.
    • Section 31's near miraculous tactics, powers, and influence are quite simply the result of Uraei's infallible coordination.
    • Every war the Federation ever fought ended in victory for them or a stalemate. Not odd when an AI on a literally interstellar scale is directing events.
    • The Reveal of Control's true plan provides even more retcons:
      • Control played at least some role in encouraging Noonien Soong's and Emil Vaslovik's AI research, therefore contributing to the creation of Data and Lal.
      • Control enabled Julian and Sarina's parents to have their children augmented.
      • Numerous failed Section 31 ops, such as the conspiracy to assassinate the Federation President in The Undiscovered Country to encourage war, actually failed because Control wanted them to.
  • Take That, Earth That Was: When Dr. Aaron Ikerson (the designer of Uraei) is invited to a reception at Starfleet Headquarters, he notices a chocolate fountain. He finds it "obscene," and says:
    "If this is making a comeback, what's next? Coins and paper currency? Healthcare for profit? We might as well just admit we've learned nothing as a species."
  • Uncertain Doom: Stunningly this book pulls this on no less then Jean-Luc Picard. With a lot of the conspirators surrounding the coup and assassination of President Min Zife being arrested, it's unclear if the same fate befell him.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: This was the original justification given by Ikerson for the creation of Uraei, which later comes back to haunt him. Uraei does create a utopia on Earth and later in the Federation, by killing God knows how many people behind the scenes and hollowing out the government so no one really has any control over their lives.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Uraei effectively is the Federation, and the Federation is, after all, a great place to live. Proportionally speaking, almost none of its activity has anything to do with Section 31.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Okay, who in the hell engineered a plague to drive the Romulans to extinction?
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: This entire book is a rapid fire battle of wits between Uraei, Section 31, Julian and his allies, and Control, who wins.

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