Going back to the dawn of the 22nd Fleet, one will excavate a living fossil known as the Messier 4 Group. This was an affiliation of sims who joined the fleet in its second month of existence. These sims were not connected by fleet or hosting or any other Out-of-Character consideration except for the love of a shared story. And so it was begun: the 22nd Fleet which was founded on preserving the individual sovereignty of every GM over their sim had itself a shared canon group.
The creator of Messier 4 is none other than JakeSjet, the current Chairperson for the fleet. Before his administrative days, Sjet was a slave to the muses. And those demanding muses provoked within Sjet a desire to do something different than the norm.
“We were using the same props and plots from the shows and movies of Trek,” Sjet of his original inspiration circa 2016. “It was always the Klingons! The Romulans! The Borg! And that just wasn’t exciting to me. At the time the group I was a part of was developing the Delta and Gamma Quadrants, and had been doing for years. So I looked outwards and hitched onto Messier 4.”
For those who are not astronomical wunderkinds like Sjet, it should be noted that Messier 4 is a real place — what astronomers call a globular cluster that is set within the constellation of Scorpius. But like Gene Roddenberry’s original Star Trek fame, it’s not the location of M4 that matters so much as the imaginative new life and civilizations which populate it. And to create all of that, Sjet needed help.
“It was all well and good the GM being the powerhouse of the game, but simmers getting invested in their game because the bad guy of the plot or the story arc was something they helped make from the ground up is exciting,” Sjet said of his original strategy. “It’s how we got one of my first great plots on Canopus Station, where we went to Sleepers Bazaar and met the cadaverous Harbour Master.”
With respect to the great lore of Star Trek, it took a blank slate for Sjet to deliver on his promise to players. “I felt that the idea of Messier 4, a cluster of stars orbiting our galaxy out beyond the Galactic Barrier, could be the Federation’s next great adventure,” he said. “They’d explored the galaxy, and had begun to tame the frontiers of the Delta and Gamma Quadrants. What new frontier could we explore that hadn’t been explored yet?”
In the spirit of trailblazing, M4 does more than explore the final frontier. Modern Trek series from NuTrek to DIS feature modern technology in favor of the old analogue submarine motif with a futuristic twist from the Roddenberry-Berman eras.
“Set in 2390 M4 has pushed Treknology forward by a few increments,” Sjet said. “Not a great deal, but given TNG was nearly 30 years ago I think some technological advances are warranted. Slipstream Drives are more common on new hulls, holographic interfaces instead of LCARS screens. I’ve often had people say that the M4-Verse shared a parking spot with Mass Effect. It looks modern, it feels modern, and because I messed up the ranks on the Nova site for Traveller and Canopus we unintentionally decided on shipboard duty uniforms.”
One would be hard pressed to find a better extra-Trek franchise for comparison, to be sure. But this isn’t reimagining the franchise for reimagination’s sake (many Trekkies have voiced displeasure over that approach in the Reign of Kurtzman). In fact, Sjet revealed that his favorite Trek series was none other than the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise.
“Come and fight me,” he said in a challenge issued to all naysayers.
Rather than cast a hackneyed distortion of Trek over a divergent setting, Sjet is aiming for an inclusive sandbox for all storytellers.
“My goal, ideally, is to tell a good story. But to have that story told by all members of the shared canon group,” Sjent went on to explain. “I want people to desire solving a mystery, or seeking out a plot thread I’ve left dangling. I want them to feel able to come to me and say ‘I want to bring this to Messier 4, and I have an idea of how we can write it into a plot’. I’ll probably say yes.”
The outcome of this grand experiment has given Sjet much cause for rejoicing. “We often joke that we all seem to be sharing one brain, or are perhaps all figments of one person’s imagination,” Sjet shared fondly. “Those moments are great because everyone is invested, they want to see it work, and they are supporting and cheering on other writers without pulling them down.”
A number of sims have passed through the M4 Group, whether as affiliated sims that were not in the globular cluster itself but nonetheless shared in canon story developments or as immersive sims whose operations are entirely within Messier 4. There are two other sims currently within M4 proper besides Canopus Station — Star Trek: M.A.S.H. which follows the adventures of the USS Sherman Potter, a Starfleet hospital ship, and the USS Traveller which is the exploratory vessel that started it all. Current associated sims are Memory Theta and the USS Odyssey, both of which do not have operations within M4 but nonetheless share canon story developments. One example is how the nefarious Clock Makers which originated on the Traveller’s mission “Rubicon” branched out into the Memory Theta mission “Half Past Dead”.
The newest GM to the M4 fold is TheDoctor who created the appropriately named Star Trek: M.A.S.H. While the name is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, the callback is also very intentional.
“The inspiration was actually the TV show M*A*S*H,” said TheDoctor. “I’d recently become a fan and a random thought popped into my head of making a MASH inspired Star Trek sim.”
“It was sort of a joke at first,” she continued. “The USS Sherman Potter, KOR-4077, captained by Pierce Hunnicutt.”
With a bit of workshopping with Sjet and other M4 GMs, it became a reality.
“It went farther, of course, with all the characters being represented, but with a Star Trek twist. In my head, I even had a Clinger, but he was a Vulcan pressed into service by his father, so he was trying to get a mental health discharge by allowing himself to express emotions. Anyway, I pitched it to a few people as a sort of joke and they actually liked the idea.”
Prospective GMs and players alike are welcome to check out the Messier 4 Group, as Sjet has placed no numerical cap or limits on his open world.
“In truth there are as many sim slots in the Messier 4 Shared Canon Group as there are simmers and GM’s to play them,” Sjet explained. “So far we’ve only just scraped the surface of Messier 4, and in doing so we’ve uncovered the mysterious Myriad, the marauding Reka, and the zealot Concordance. Not to mention The Reciprocity of Carcosia, who oddly enough are a thought experiment on where the Federation might have gone had the Earth/Romulan War gone differently.”
More than anything, the shared canon group of Messier 4 is more than just a collection of sims. It’s the realization of a bold dreamer’s dream of an optimal simming environment.
“When we’re among our own kind, our own community, we get to be ourselves and express what we cannot say in normal society,” Sjet said as a message to the community at large. “Support your fellow simmers.”