Tug of War, Part I

Epis­ode Num­ber: 2×05

Writ­ten by: Aaron Pollyea

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 14th Janu­ary 2023

Guest Stars:

  • 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?