Episode Number: 2×05
Written by: Aaron Pollyea
Directed by: Jon Crew
Transmission: 14th January 2023
- Lieutenant Edward Smith: Xenoanthropologist on Lexington.
We are approaching the HIP 73513 system after detecting an unusual arrangement of planets: a pair of Class‑M worlds orbiting each other as a double planet. The only other system resembling this holds the Romulan homeworld, and is therefore out of bounds, so a chance to study such a system cannot be missed.
The astrophysics team has proposed that with the ship located at a gravitationally stable point between the worlds, we should be able to deploy survey teams to both bodies, allowing us to halve the time required to survey them. The xenobiologists are speculating wildly about what kind of ecosystems would develop in such a system.
What will we find down there? This is what Starfleet was made for.Captain’s Log: Stardate, 48321.4
Plot: Lexington uncovers the tragic story of neighbouring worlds that appear to have been obliterated by simultaneous asteroid impacts.
The ‘A’ Plot: Lexington is proceeding at warp towards a star system where they have detected two Class‑M worlds orbiting each other, a very unusual arrangement. As they approach, Zepht carries out a scan for signs of civilisation, detecting indications of spacecraft in orbit, but no energy sources in space or on the ground. Furthermore, the atmospheres of both planets are showing as both very cold and rich in heavy metal particles.
The captain orders the ship into orbit, as they realise both worlds are undergoing a deep ice age, and showing lots of craters in clusters across the surface. The heavy metals in the thick clouds blanketing their surfaces are primarily iridium and osmium, common products of asteroid impacts. The orbital craft are derelict, and analysis shows that they have suffered from numerous debris collisions. Surface scans through the clouds are difficult, but it looks like the craters are clustered around former population centres. It seems the planets were deliberately bombarded.
Zepht leads an away team, including Selvek and MCPO Boone, to investigate a large station in orbit around the larger world, a metal cylinder 500m long, apparently generating gravity by spin. Scans have shown that it is airless, so they wear environment suits as they explore the structure. Zepht locates a computer system, and while attempting to connect a tricorder to its databank, is surprised by a tap on his shoulder. He turns around to find the frozen body of a long-nosed humanoid. Elsewhere, one of the crewmen reports hearing whispering voices; Boone tells him this is normal and tries to coach Selvek to employ his Vulcan telepathy to register them. Selvek refuses as the presence of such voices would be “illogical”. Zepht and Selvek are able to recover data from the computer, but have to crack a password login screen to view crew logs; Boone’s security experience is instrumental in this process. As the universal translator decodes the logs, they learn that the station was a transit point for travellers to and from the surface; there are lots of references to teachers and technical supplies. The last log ends with an alert about a meteoroid on a collision course, prompting a final entry: “We gave them everything: why have they turned on us?”
With this information in hand, the captain orders away missions to surface locations on both worlds, looking for records and other data. The heavy metals in the atmospheres prevent the use of transporters, enforcing the use of shuttlecraft.
Konin leads a mission to the larger world, landing near a ruined village largely shielded by mountains from the asteroid impacts. Everything is covered by layers of ice and snow, but detailed tricorder scans indicate that the structures are very primitive, with no evidence of advanced materials. The community consists of stone huts, although there are plenty of intricate carvings, mostly depicting hunting by beings that look like upright barrels, each with 6 legs and 6 tentacles.
They cross the mountain range and find more organised areas, with the remains of irrigated fields, straight roads, orderly communities composed of rectangular huts, and what appear to be defensive compounds. Investigating one of the compounds, they find the remains of electronic devices and manufactured furniture within prefabricated buildings, all enclosed in a fortifed outer wall. They find evidence of bodies, but these seem to show that these structures belonged to the humanoid beings, not the more primitive natives.
Lexington relays a report from Lt Smith, leading the teams on the other planet. He says they’ve found much more advanced technology, larger cities and a widespread urban culture, specifically of the smaller humanoids found in the space station. They have uncovered transport networks, power stations and spaceports, and, most intriguingly, a large tractor beam projector, far more powerful than that on Lexington.
The crew remains puzzled as to what exactly happened here. Zepht feels that there was a third party, perhaps some kind of invader, involved, and that the tractor beams were intended to protect against their attacks. Konin is not so sure.
They move on to explore other areas closer to the crater marking the local city, eventually locating an intact projector like the one found on the other planet. They also find a blockhouse containing its control mechanisms, and this finally begins to offer some clues. Decoding logs and video records within an intact computer, they witness the final scenes as angry locals blow up the door, gaining entry to the building. The reports of the commander of the facility indicate that he is at a loss as to why this is happening: after all, they’d done so much to help. Nearby, an open stone-paved plaza bears more intricately-carved graffiti showing the locals uniting in anger to bring down the humanoids.
Returning to the ship in silent thought, they find that Lt Smith has returned, having located and translated a cultural history found in a deep storage bunker on the smaller planet. Once in the conference room, he relates the tragic tale of the Us and the Rl’lowo Shal. The humanoids, the Rl’lowo Shal, had developed a technological civilisation much earlier than their neighbours, and, driven by the desire to meet them, had pushed their technology until they had the capacity to reach space. Knowing that the Us were primitive, they set out to teach them the benefits of civilisation and raise them to be their equals. The Us appeared to accept the help, but then, driven by a deep-seated resistance to the external influence, revolted, using the Rl’lowo Shal’s technology against them, hurling asteroids at the other planet with the tractor beams intended to deflect them. The Rl’lowo Shal had retaliated in kind and each side bombarded the other into an impact-induced global cooling, resulting in the extinction of both species.
Although Smith reports that the science teams believe there is still much to be uncovered, Konin decides that they’ve done their bit and that Admiral Hebert can bring in specialists to carry out what is likely to be a lengthy excavation. Lexington prepares to leave orbit, but is almost immediately struck simultaneously by two powerful tractor beams, causing severe damage…
Observations: Master Chief Petty Officer Richard Boone makes his first appearance. He’s the assistant head of the Security Department, and, as the most senior NCO aboard, holds the position of Chief of the Boat, advising the Captain on the opinions and interests of the enlisted portion of the crew.
HIP 73513 is a yellow dwarf system with 11 worlds, two of which are Class‑M bodies locked in a double-planet configuration. The larger of the two was called Five Turns by its inhabitants, the Us, and the smaller was Rl’lowo. Both worlds were heavily bombarded by asteroids more than a century ago, and are still smothered by dust-induced winters, slowly destroying their remaining ecosystems. Both of the sentient cultures are extinct.
The Rl’lowo Shal were 1.5m tall humanoids with pronounced snouts, similar to that of a Terran dog, and digitigrade feet. They had reached a level of technology equivalent to 22nd century Earth, with computers, fusion reactors and reaction drives, but were especially advanced in tractor beam technology, which they used to defend their world from asteroids. Their compassion for their primitive neighbours led to their downfall, as their misguided attempts to uplift the Us to their level of civilisation and technology offended the other species’ sense of religious propriety.
The Us were 2.5m tall beings shaped like upright barrels, and possessing a radial symmetry. They had six legs and six tentacles, which were capable of remarkably fine manipulation. While their technology was primitive before the Rl’lowo Shal intervened, they had a strong sense of religious humility and felt that the wishes of their gods were being ignored by their visitors. This reaction ultimately resulted in their using the weapons of the Rl’lowo Shal against them and igniting the war that destroyed both cultures.
Dialogue: The unnamed Rl’lowo Shal historian: “If only we’d had some kind of Paramount Principle that could have prevented this disaster…”
Questions: Lexington appears to be under attack, but by whom?