New Vahar, Part II

Epis­ode Num­ber: 2×10

Writ­ten by: Jon Crew

Dir­ec­ted by: Jon Crew

Trans­mis­sion: 19th Feb­ru­ary 2023

Guest Stars:

  • Coun­cil Pres­id­ent Tre­leac: Head of Vahari government
  • Ser­geant Morto: Vahari seni­or secur­ity officer
  • Byraal: Nat­ive elder
  • Naguut: Nat­ive guide

New Vahar does­n’t appear to be quite the para­dise it was made out to be.

Hav­ing arrived in sys­tem and been treated to a wel­come ban­quet, we dis­covered that the world already has an indi­gen­ous sen­tient spe­cies, and that the newly-arrived Vahari appear to employ them as ser­vants and manu­al labour­ers. It is still some­what unclear as to exactly what the rela­tion­ship is: are they slaves, exploited, or vol­un­tary employees?

We’re con­tinu­ing to explore the situation…

Cap­tain’s Log: Stard­ate, 9899.1

Plot: Sus­pi­cious of the nature of the rela­tion­ship between the Vahari and the nat­ive peoples of New Vahar, Cap­tain Mas­uda and her land­ing party take a tour of the Vahari city. When Dr Vale, Lt Astan and Spe­cial­ist Ara request an exped­i­tion out­side the walls, they dis­cov­er a side of nat­ive life they had­n’t expected.

The ‘A’ Plot: The land­ing party dis­cuss the situ­ation, includ­ing the Vahari refus­al to bend on their demands, the nature of their rela­tion­ship with the nat­ives and the ship’s des­per­ate need for food. The last prompts a con­sid­er­a­tion of wheth­er they should talk to the nat­ives dir­ectly, or even take what they need from wil­der­ness areas without approv­al? Dr Vale wants to see what the situ­ation is bey­ond the city walls, so they decide to request a tour.

The next day, they are taken on an aer­i­al tour of the city itself, escor­ted by a secur­ity del­eg­a­tion in a sep­ar­ate skim­mer. They are shown the cent­ral plaza, includ­ing a giant statue of the first Vahari to set foot on the plan­et, accom­mod­a­tion blocks, fact­ory areas, farm­ing dis­tricts, wild­life reserves, and plant­a­tions of Vahari veget­a­tion from the Grif Val­ata. They also get a glimpse of the bust­ling mil­it­ary and nav­al con­struc­tion fields, but are refused dir­ect access for secur­ity reas­ons. It’s all very artist­ic and well-ordered, although they note that most of the manu­al labour is done by nat­ives, des­pite the pres­ence of robots.

The walls them­selves are big and sol­id, more so than would be needed for defence against anim­als. There are reg­u­lar watchtowers, for­ti­fied gates at ground level, and a mono­rail sys­tem circ­ling the inside of the wall. Three high-speed maglev rail lines con­nect the city to the oth­er Vahari cit­ies and to a loc­a­tion in the moun­tains. There are cleared zones out­side the wall and either side of the maglev lines – Vale does not like this. The wall itself extends out to sea, in the form of sur­face watchtowers and an under­wa­ter force­field enclos­ing the city’s territory.

At din­ner with their hosts that even­ing, the cap­tain brings up the idea of a tour bey­ond the walls to see the nat­ur­al side of the world and do some basic research. After some dis­cus­sion, Tre­leac agrees to arrange a trip for the next day.

The next morn­ing, while Mas­uda returns to the ship to super­vise detailed sensor scans of the plan­et’s bio­me, Vale, Ara and Astan are flown out over the forest, escor­ted by two skim­mers full of secur­ity guards. Land­ing at a rather neat-look­ing vil­lage near a river in a clear­ing, they are intro­duced to a nat­ive eld­er named Byraal, who gives them the tour. Oddly, they see no chil­dren and the houses them­selves seem very clean and neat.

They are then handed over to a hunter named Naguut, who takes them, escor­ted by four Vahari guards, into the forest itself. Vale and Ara are soon col­lect­ing lots of data, includ­ing inform­a­tion on what plants and creatures are con­sidered food, while Astan keeps a weath­er eye out for trouble. Over­head, the air­borne escort skim­mers can occa­sion­ally be heard. Sud­denly, a tree falls across the trail in front of them, then spears and arrows fly out of the trees. Three of the four guards are down in seconds, and the fourth sur­renders at the first oppor­tun­ity. Both skim­mers are shot out of the sky by more advanced weaponry. Vale is warned off attempt­ing to use a com­mu­nic­at­or to call Lyo­n­esse for help by a nat­ive war­ri­or point­ing a Vahari laser pis­tol at her.

The group are quickly bundled off deep­er into the forest, where they are taken to anoth­er vil­lage, this one look­ing much more lived-in and blen­ded into the forest. With their captors unwill­ing to talk to them, they are barred inside a hut, unable to fig­ure out a way to escape. The one remain­ing guard begins pray­ing for aid from the “shad­ows”, while draw­ing elab­or­ate sym­bols on the dirt floor.

In orbit, Mas­uda is aler­ted that the land­ing party have dis­ap­peared and that the Vahari are look­ing for them. She orders scans of the region, but all they can determ­ine is that the miss­ing crew appear to be in an area that blocks sensors: it looks like the only way to find them is by aer­i­al search.

On the sur­face, as the sun sets, the pris­on­ers are taken to a large clear­ing marked out by a stone circle, where they are tied to mono­liths. A large group of nat­ives gath­ers in front of them and begins a fren­zied ritu­al of chant­ing and dan­cing, all around a large fire. While the guard faints and Astan tests his bonds, Vale begins utter­ing a counter-chant from her own cul­ture, although this does­n’t seem to impress the nat­ives. Even­tu­ally, the ritu­al reaches a peak and everything stops. The nat­ive lead­er calls on the “spir­its of the forest” to accept their sac­ri­fice and bring them free­dom, then every­one van­ishs back towards the village…

Tendrils of black smoke begin to emerge from the forest and slowly creep across the ground towards them, fol­lowed by a thick cloud. Detect­ing the sen­sa­tion of extreme hun­ger from its vicin­ity, Astan decides it’s worth try­ing to climb the pil­lar to which he’s chained. He’s suc­cess­ful and man­ages to break the rope in the pro­cess, but then real­ises that it will be dif­fi­cult to des­cend again without the rope being securely tied to some­thing. Leap­ing across to the next mono­lith, he helps Ara up and frees her from her own rope, then sets out to lib­er­ate Vale as well. Using the ropes to return to the ground, they plan to run, but Vale refuses to leave the guard.

Then one of Lyo­n­esse’s shuttles appears over­head, using phaser fire to keep the cloud creature at bay. Com­mand­er Shran leans out of the door and shouts at them to get aboard, although they do stop to res­cue the guard.

The Arc: Dr Vale spec­u­lates that the Vahari’s ances­tral “shad­ows” may have been the K’si.

Obser­va­tions: The nat­ives show a dark­er side to their cul­ture and seem happy to use Vahari weapons against their oppress­ors. It is unclear wheth­er the ritu­al is part of a wide­spread reli­gion or a loc­al­ised cult.

Dr Vale-of-Wind­s’s people have a sham­an­ist­ic spir­itu­al reli­gion, and des­pite being Human in ances­try, are more open to genet­ic modi­fic­a­tion than the inhab­it­ants of Earth.

Ques­tions: What exactly is that smoke creature?