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Part of USS Polaris: Entropic Foliations of the Galactic Fabric and Bravo Fleet: Labyrinth

Ignorance Will Not Save You

Assembly Hall, Vespara Prime
Mission Day 2 - 1200 Hours
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The professor walked with labored breaths through the atrium of the grand assembly hall. His body still ached from the blunt force he’d been served after dinner the night before, but he wouldn’t let that stop him from trying one more time to deliver a message to save his people.

Lieutenant Balan and Dr. Hall flanked the professor on either side. They still wore the attire of the local populace, but they’d abandoned any attempt to blend in. Now, they moved as Starfleet officers, deliberate and focused, intent on delivering a man with a message to the chambers that didn’t want to hear him – but that absolutely needed to hear him.

“Hey!” came the voice of an elderly functionary approaching from behind them. “You can’t go in there right now. The council is in a closed session at the…”

As the Bolian turned, the functionary froze, and his voice trailed off. He recognized the man in front of him. It was Itziki Imbalta, the Bolian professor from the Academy of Agrarian Studies, the man at the center of the matter the council was presently discussing. But what had happened to his face? There were several deep contusions across his blue skin, and a swollen hematoma beneath his left eye.

“Professor… what… what happened?”

“They happened,” Professor Imbalta nodded towards the door of the chambers. “After I left the chambers last night, while I was finishing supper, they paid me a visit. Some of them, and some of their friends.” After that, he’d holed up at a friend’s farm until Malik and the Fleeters came to find him.

“They would never!” the functionary gasped. In all his years in service to the council, he’d never heard of such a thing. That simply wasn’t how matters were dealt with on Vespara Prime. The ban on corporal punishment was as deeply rooted in their society as their denouncement of modern technology and heavy industry. No one, especially the councilors, would violate that.

“The proof is right in front of you,” Dr. Hall stated bluntly as she eyed him over like a hunter eyes its prey. “What more do you need?” 

The functionary didn’t recognize her, or the professor’s other accomplice. There was something mechanical and otherworldly about them in the way they moved. 

“Now if you’ll excuse us,” Dr. Hall insisted pointedly. “The professor is going to have a word with your council.” And she hoped, maybe this time, they would listen. If not, then they’d have to get more direct. They couldn’t allow a small group of staid old buffoons, as Professor Imbalta had referred to them, from allowing the people of Vespara Prime to be saved from its impending apocalypse.

There was no room for debate in her tone, the functionary could tell, and without waiting for his assent, they simply turned and let themselves in. The chamber itself was a voluminous space, one with a central lectern up front, ringed by a series of bench seats, and then, on all sides, by towering pillars that held the domed roof overhead. The trio drew to a stop behind one of the pillars, listening to the debate that was taking place on the floor before them.

“They’ve brought a fleet into orbit,” an elderly man at the lectern was saying. “Through my telescope, I saw their ships with my own eyes, not like those that ferry immigrants along their pilgrimage to us, but like the titans of war and industry, ready to bring doom upon us.”

“I agree with Aurelius,” another man, seated in the front row, concurred firmly. “This is why we never should have kept that transceiver. It begs the attention of those who would desecrate our utopian society.”

Professor Imbalta began to open his mouth, as if to offer a retort, but Dr. Hall raised her finger to her lips. “Not yet,” she whispered quietly. For now, it was best to listen.

“Melkor, you know why we keep that transceiver,” a third voice boomed, this one stronger and more pronounced, clearly a man of stature within the council. “Because, as you are very well aware, there may come a time when we need it. Remember when the slavers from the Orion Syndicate came to our world?”

“Yes, but that was a decade ago now, Duval. A decade!”

“Sure, but while we ask our people to focus on the here and the now, we cannot pretend that there are not things beyond us with which we may need help,” Duval reminded them. He’d been a member of the council when they’d made the decision to call Starfleet for help all those years ago. That choice had saved many of their young from a life of servitude, and it had not brought doom to their way of life. Starfleet had helped, and then Starfleet had left. They had respected the Vesparan way of life, and all they had asked was that, if ever something like that befell the world again, to not hesitate to call them once more. “We did not have weapons to repel those who came then, nor do we have ships now for if… for if…” His thoughts drifted back to the warning that Professor Imbalta had given them just a day prior.

“For if nothing,” Aurelius snapped back aggressively. “Starfleet will enslave us, not in the same way as the Orions, but they will enslave us nonetheless… enslave us to their way of life.” He had come to Vespara Prime to escape that way of life.

Professor Imbalta had heard enough. He couldn’t stand idle any longer. They were being fools. He stepped out from behind the pillar and advanced into the room. “No,” he said firmly. “No, they won’t.” 

The room grew silent, and all eyes turned towards the Bolian as he approached the center of the chamber. Some looked shocked to see him. Why was he back again? Others appeared disturbed by the wounds clearly covering his face. What had happened to him?

“Those ships in orbit, they’re here to help,” Professor Imbalta continued. “To save us from, to use your word Aurelius, certain doom.” There was no other way to describe what was about to befall Vespara Prime as it continued its fall towards the sun.

“Why Professor, it’s so good to see you again,” Aurelius said sarcastically as he rolled his eyes from the podium. “Come to enlighten us once more with your diatribes about how technology and machines will save us?” There was a deep-setted disdain in his words. This was a man who believed in the Vesparan way of life to his core.

“Look around you, Aurelius,” Professor Imbalta responded as he turned to address the broader council. “Our planet, it’s falling apart. I love fall, as do you, I suspect Duval, and you too, right Melkor?” He was trying to make his appeal personal. “It’s a time when the warblers sing and the air has just that light dewy taste. That’s what it should have been this morning, but was it?” He could see some of them debating his words. Yesterday might have been a day too soon, but today, the effects were in full bloom. “No! It was the hottest morning I’ll bet any of us can remember! It’s just as I told you…”

“Yes, yes, planetary tilts and orbital ellipses,” Melkor interrupted from his seat in the front, unswayed by the old Bolian who, through his unilateral choices, had spat on their way of life. “All computed by that machine of yours, that artifact you swore you’d given up when you first came here.” At least that little machine wouldn’t cause them any more problems. He and his friends had visited the professor’s office to make sure of that. “Did you ever stop and think for a moment that this might have been caused by such machines?” They could do incorrigible damage, as he’d seen in 2385 before he fled to Vespara Prime for a better life.

“That’s preposterous!” Professor Imbalta insisted. It had been a little tricorder he’d used, not some great weapon of mass destruction.

“Is it though?” asked a female voice pointedly.

Lieutenant Balan was surprised, when she peaked out from behind the colonnade and laid eyes on the speaker, to see the question had come from a Vulcan. Vespara Prime really was a diverse colony of people drawn together from all over the Federation.

“You are not the only among us who came from the stars, Professor,” the Vulcan reminded the Bolian. “So explain to me, as a graduate of the Vulcan Science Academy, what in the great body of works that is modern astrophysics would you point to in order to explain what is happening?” 

Lieutenant Balan wasn’t sure, but it almost sounded like there was a hint of sarcasm in the Vulcan’s voice.

“I… I… I don’t know,” Professor Imbalta admitted.

“Then it is only logical to posit that, if there is no natural explanation,” the Vulcan observed. “The most likely explanation must thus be non-natural in origin.” The logic made sense to those who wanted it to. “This is why we chose to live as we do, free from such technology, less it do to us what it has done to the rest of the galaxy.”

“But it’s happening, T’Ral,” Professor Imbalta countered, addressing his colleague from the Academy for Agrarian Studies directly. “It’s happening whether or not we embrace technology.”

“We cannot give up our way of life when things get hard,” Aurelius insisted as he slammed his fist down on the lectern. “We didn’t when the great drought of ’94 came, nor did we in ’99 when that blight befell our crops, and, in time, both of those passed. If we turned to technology when life got hard, we would be as much slaves to it as those who live beyond. Is that really what we want?”

There were nods around the room. 

The councilors were dug in, and the professor looked at a loss for words. Lieutenant Balan couldn’t leave him alone up there any longer. It was time for them to reveal themselves. She stepped forward from behind the pillar. “Your way of life, it is beautiful,” Lieutenant Balan opened, her tone gentle and understanding as she and Dr. Hall drew up alongside Professor Imbalta. “It truly is. But if you want to protect it, to see it survive to the next generation, you’re going to need to trust the professor here. This crisis will not pass on its own.”

The entire room stared at the new arrivals with confusion.

“And who, my dear, are you?” asked Aurelius from the lectern as he eyed her over. He didn’t recognize her. That didn’t mean she wasn’t from Vespara, he knew, but there was something about the way she spoke and the way they carried themselves. It reminded him of the insufferable people he’d had to deal with in the before-times.

“I am Lieutenant Emilia Balan of the Federation starship USS Polaris.”

“Starfleet,” Aurelius scoffed. Just as he’d sensed from the moment he saw her.

“Yes, Starfleet,” Lieutenant Balan nodded.

“And what would you have with us, Miss Emilia?” Aurelius pressed. “Are you here to offer us salvation with your technology and your machines?”

“We are here to see that your vibrant culture, all that you have built here, that it survives,” Lieutenant Balan replied compassionately. “A supermassive singularity has formed in the corona of your sun. It is causing all of this to happen, and it’s only going to get worse.” 

The councilors looked at each other nervously. 

“I will not lie to you, councilors,” Lieutenant Balan pleaded with them. “It is unlikely that your world, this world, survives, but you and your society, they can. But we need you to trust us.”

“To trust you? To trust you?” Melkor spat from the front row. “I trust Aurelius and T’Ral, and, believe it or not, I even trust Duval.” That remark drew laughs from the chamber as the two were notorious for disagreeing on practically everything. “But you? I don’t know you. You’ve never worked the fields with me, never helped me repair my roof, never shared a meal with me, and never come over to check on me when I was sick. Why would I trust you?”

“Because if you don’t,” Dr. Hall interjected from next to the Lieutenant, her tone no-nonsense and her words straight to the point. “Then you, and all those who trust in you, you will all be dead within two weeks time.”

The chamber was silent.

“Ignorance will not save you,” Dr. Hall drove the point home.

“But you will?” Aurelius asked skeptically.

“We will try,” Lieutenant Balan nodded.

“Lies!” Melkor shouted. “It’s just more lies!”

“You want proof?!” Dr. Hall countered heatedly as she pulled a combadge out from beneath her blouse. It was time to shove reality in their face. “Then gather round, and I’ll give you proof.” 

She stood there, pointing at the floor in front of her, daring them to step forward.

At first, the councilors just glanced nervously at each other, uncertain what Starfleet woman was asking, but then T’Ral stepped forward. She understood, and guided by her logic, it was only logical to validate, or invalidate, the proof. Duval, feeling the onus of his position, followed T’Ral, as did two others. Begrudgingly, Aurelius then stepped away from the podium and Melkor rose from his seat, and the pair approached her as well. They were coming along more out of distrust than anything else.

Lieutenant Balan looked over at Dr. Hall. Was she really about to do what it looked like?

Dr. Hall flashed the Lieutenant a devious smile and then tapped the combadge. “Polaris, lock onto my combadge,” she ordered as she counted them out. “Nine to beam to Conference Room 3.” She chose it because it was one of the larger diplomatic receiving rooms with a good view amidship, and it was far enough from any critical systems to allow them to contain the situation if anyone got unruly.

T’Ral looked stoic, but the other five glanced at each other nervously.

“Energize.”

And then the two Starfleet officers, the professor, and six members of the Vesparan assembly vanished from the chambers in a shimmer of light, leaving the rest of the councilors sitting there in shock.

Comments

  • Love the dynamic of the diversity of thought from all corners - and how there's clearly a rich culture here that has elements we're getting hints of as we barrel through this story. It is interesting how the lack of trust drives a further wedge between the group and pushes the crew to go to the best and worst option - take 'em to the ship to see the proof. The pacing keeps us guessing - will we have a fight here, or will we finish with a war of wards and a throwing of folks out the door? Kept me guessing. More, as always, is waited for.

    June 20, 2024
  • I really love the way you do these pieces you have such a rich story in the works and it shows from every piece of the story I read. I enjoy the way you showed the culture in this post and the distrust that they have making the tension add to the issues that the crew is already trying to navigate. I love the option you chose of taking them to the ship. I am really interested to see how this is going to pan out because I feel like something big is coming.

    June 21, 2024
  • The build up of this post hits so deep, you keep the nature of the Vesparan so true to its skeptical views and ways of life. Starfleet being the noisy organization as it is, has left a bad mark and yet here they are to "save" the day. A wonderful insight in the cultural insight of these people and their way of life. Hall being the woman she is, direct and confronting with her no-nonesense attitude will put them back on track. Great job looking forward to the next!

    June 21, 2024
  • This whole mission is proving a challenge, and this piece clearly shows why. The council or at least some of them appear unwilling to accept they may be wrong, that the danger the professor warned them about isn't real. Would the rest of the population be in agreement with their views as the planet falls apart? I like the way the Vulcan has shaped logic to fit their views and not the other way around. Will the next part convince them to trust Starfleet, at least this time? I look forward to finding out.

    June 22, 2024
  • Lisa Hall, Ph.D.

    ASTRA Lead, Cultural & Psychological Research
    Chief Counseling Officer

  • Emilia Balan

    ASTRA Staff Researcher, Cultural Affairs
    Diplomatic and Cultural Affairs Officer