Episode Number: 2×10
Written by: Jon Crew
Directed by: Jon Crew
Transmission: 19th February 2023
- 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?