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

The Gravity of the Situation

Conference Room 3, USS Polaris
Mission Day 2 - 1230 Hours
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One moment, they were in the assembly hall. The next, they were somewhere else altogether. The panoramic window gave the first hint, offering views of a blue-green planet set against the night sky. Between that and the brushed metal table, the polished leather chairs, and the bright digital screens, it didn’t take long to put it together. They were now standing on one of those ships that Aurelius had spied through his telescope.

It was disorienting to be in such an alien space. Duval, the oldest among them, leaned back against a wall for support, while Aurelius, one of the group’s fire-breathers, stood there at a loss for words. The others were none the better, trying to process their new reality. It wasn’t that they’d never seen a starship before – as opposed to their youth, many of whom were born and raised planetside, the councilors were each themselves immigrants to Vespara Prime – but it had been many years for all, and multiple decades for some, since they’d had been surrounded by so much digital and industrial technology.

“Welcome to the USS Polaris,” Lieutenant Balan smiled. She looked over and helped the Bolian professor steady himself on his feet. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, it has,” Professor Imbalta nodded sheepishly. In a perfect world, he’d still be standing in his lecture hall, teaching horticulture or agroecology to the next generation of young Vesparans, but it wasn’t a perfect world, and so here he was, standing on a starship in high orbit over their planet. It was surreal, and all quite strange.

Next to him, Melkor, one of the most outspoken skeptics from the council, finally got his wits about him. “How dare you bring us here! You said nothing about abducting us when you…”

“Relax, my friend,” Duval, the elder statesman of the group, interrupted as he reached out and set an assuring hand on his colleague’s shoulder. “You knew as well as any of us what Miss… what did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t,” Dr. Hall replied. “But it’s Doctor Lisa Hall, if you must.”

“What Dr. Hall suggested when she offered us proof and pulled out her combadge,” Duval continued. Melkor looked like he was about to play clueless, but Duval wasn’t having it. “You were, after all, once a Starfleet officer.” It was after witnessing the dangers of synthetic life on Mars, Duval knew, that Melkor had renounced his commission and sought out a better life on Vespara Prime. “So since we’re here, let’s hear these two young women out.”

Melkor folded his arms across his chest but said nothing further.

“So tell us, Dr. Hall,” T’Ral insisted. “What proof do you have of this claim that Professor Imbalta, and now you as well, have made.”

Dr. Hall walked over to the large monitor against one wall. “This is your star system,” she explained as an astrometric model appeared on it, showing a K-type main sequence orange dwarf, a Class-M planet, and a couple other smaller planetoids in outlying orbits. “Or it was, until approximately 0900 yesterday. At 0900, this happened.” She advanced the time series forward, and a gravity well appeared directly adjacent to the star, followed by a new series of vectors calculating the shifts in trajectories of each of the celestial bodies in the Vesparan system.

Standing on a starship and seeing it on real displays, rather than just having it related to her by an aged Bolian, T’Ral suddenly understood. “What is that gravitational sink?”

“We’re not exactly sure,” Lieutenant Balan offered. “But that anomaly is the root of the problems in your system, and I assure you, we have a team of the best physicists, astronomers, and cosmologists in all of Starfleet studying it right now, trying to figure it out.”

The Vulcan looked like she wanted more. 

“I’m sure we can get Dr. Lockwood, our head of astrophysics and exotic sciences, up here at some point to walk you through it, if you’re interested,” Lieutenant Balan added. Neither she nor Dr. Hall had more than a cursory understanding of these things.

“That would be acceptable,” T’Ral nodded.

“But councilors, let me emphasize to you the nature of this anomaly is not particularly important to the problem at hand,” Dr. Hall jumped back in. “Because it is there, and unless we can stop it, which we currently don’t know how to do, there’s a more immediate situation we need to move on now.” There was an urgency in her tone. She understood the implications of every minute they delayed in getting Commander Lee’s equipment down to the surface.

“And what would that be?” Aurelius, the one who’d first identified the fleet overhead, asked skeptically. He knew the deception of Starfleet all too well.

“To evacuate your world,” Dr. Hall stated firmly.

“Somehow, I suspected you’d say that,” Aurelius frowned, his fears validated. “You see, I’ve seen this story unfold before.” As opposed to T’Ral and Melkor, both of whom had come from the Federation proper, he had not. “Fifty years ago, my people became warp capable, and soon thereafter, your people made first contact. Initially, we welcomed you with open arms, but then our youth became enamored with your gifts, and our elders turned our back on tradition in favor of your gadgets. I, and those who left with me, came to Vespara to see a return to that which made our society beautiful before you tainted it with your technology and destroyed it.”

Lieutenant Balan recognized the pickle they were in. “Our only goal, councilor, is to see your society thrive,” she tried to assure him, but he didn’t look sold.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” Aurelius replied flatly.

Dr. Hall took a more direct tact. Standing at the monitor, she simply advanced the display forward a week. “You see this?” she asked aggressively as she shoved her index finger at their planet’s decaying position. “This is where your planet will be in a week.”

“For those of us that cannot read your fancy star charts,” Duval replied, glancing over at the Bolian and the Vulcan, both of whom seemed to be following better than him or the rest of his colleagues. “Can you explain what you’re showing us here?” The radial vector showing a measurement of 0.93 AU meant nothing to him.

“She’s showing us when the planet will no longer be within the habitable zone of our system,” T’Ral volunteered.

“When our world will be too hot to support life,” Professor Imbalta added.

Dr. Hall nodded.

“And we’re just supposed to take this at face value?!” Melkor snapped again. “You beam us up here, you show us a fancy display with a bunch of lines and numbers, and you think it means anything more than all that jibber jabber the professor blessed us with yesterday.”

Dr. Hall was done playing nice. “Your world, it’s going to burn,” she said as her eyes became cold and dark. “You can bury your head in the sand, but in mere days, your crops will wilt away, and a week from now, you will all be dead.”

“Unless you let us help you,” Lieutenant Balan added.

For a moment, there was silence, a battle of wills between the informed and the ignorant. But then, before anything further could be said, the door to the conference room slid open, and a new figure stepped into the room. As opposed to her colleagues, the new was dressed in her duty uniform with a full bar and five pips adorning her collar, and she moved with an aura of leadership unlike the other two.

“Lisa, Emilia, you didn’t tell me we were going to have guests,” Admiral Reyes smiled as she approached the group. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all.” None of the locals looked particularly excited to see her. “I am Fleet Admiral Allison Reyes, Commanding Officer of Polaris Squadron, a unit of Starfleet’s Fourth Fleet that responded to a distress call from Professor Imbalta regarding the grave situation currently unfolding in your system.”

“Yes, yes, we are well acquainted with your stated purpose,” Aurelius quipped. “Your colleagues have painted pretty diagrams to say as much.” He gestured back at that disgusting display. “But tell me, Admiral, what assurances do we have that you will not do to us what you’ve done to a thousand other worlds you’ve destroyed?”

Admiral Reyes tilted her head in confusion. What was the man talking about?

“Councilor Aurelius and the others here,” Lieutenant Balan explained. “They fear that through our involvement in their affairs, we will corrupt the beautiful society they have built.”

Aurelius nodded, content with the young woman’s explanation. He liked her, more than the others at least. She at least seemed to have some appreciation of their utopia.

“Sir,” Admiral Reyes offered deferentially, finally understanding the hangup. “I assure you that we have no intention of destroying or corrupting or anything of the sort… Our hope, and our only hope, is to see to it that you and your people can continue to prosper and thrive.”

“What if we don’t want your help?” Melkor interjected.

“The Federation honors and respects the right of each individual to self determination,” Admiral Reyes replied gently. “And if that is your choice, then we will respect it.”

“Then, with all due respect,” Melkor countered with no respect whatsoever in his voice. “Go away and leave us be.”

“Does this man speak for you all?” Admiral Reyes asked, directing her question at the others. She could see the lack of certainty on their faces, especially the Bolian and the Vulcan, but even a couple of the others. “Then with all due respect, councilor,” Admiral Reyes insisted. “I cannot, in good conscience, do that. If you’d like to die in a great conflagration, be my guest, but I cannot allow your people and your culture to perish because of your personal unwillingness to accept the gravity of the situation.”

Suddenly, off their bow, there was a flash of light. And then another, and another, as a series of projectiles tore away from the forward launchers of the USS Diligent.

“What are those?” asked Duval as he moved towards the window to watch.

“Those are climate control satellites we’re launching into high orbit around Vespara Prime,” Admiral Reyes explained. “They will momentarily calm the weather and restore a degree of temperance to your world.” She glanced over at the monitor, which showed the T+7 day projection when the planet’s orbit would have decayed out of the habitable zone. “They will also buy you three, maybe four more days, beyond the seven you see in that projection before your world becomes unlivable.”

“We didn’t consent…” Melkor grumbled.

“And I didn’t ask you to,” Admiral Reyes replied. “They will in no way impact your ability to continue to live as you do today, if that’s what you wish, but for those on Vespara Prime who would like a life longer than the next two weeks, they will buy us precious time.”

Melkor was silent. He felt powerless, realizing Starfleet was doing here what it had done so many times before. And there was nothing he could do to stop them. Not from here, at least.

The grand display had however managed to sway a few of the others, Duval and T’Ral among them. Duval spoke first. “And what, Admiral, will you do with this precious time?”

“First, we have a team working to understand the cause of the anomaly in the center of your system,” Admiral Reyes explained. “It is our hope that we can find a way to stop it, in which case, this just gives them more time to find a solution.”

“I’d like to speak with that team,” T’Ral interjected. “In the before-times, I held a degree in cosmology from the Vulcan Science Academy, so this is not all completely foreign to me.”

“Most certainly,” Admiral Reyes nodded. Dr. Lockwood might not like it, but he didn’t even like his hand-selected lab rats, and it was a small concession to allow the Vulcan to observe the team if that would make this group more amenable to their intervention.

Duval jumped back in with the obvious next question: “And what if you cannot figure out how to stop it?” If what they were saying was true, and now he was beginning to think it might be, the outcome would be catastrophic.

“That’s where things get complicated,” Admiral Reyes explained. “If we cannot stop the singularity that is causing your planet’s orbit to decay, it will eventually fall into the sun.” Or more accurately, the singularity, but the sun sounded more sensational. “The only solution, then, is a planet-wide evacuation and relocation.” She saw a couple of the councilors open their mouths to object, but she cut them off. “For those who are willing, of course.” She wouldn’t stop ignorant idiots from killing themselves.

“There are a little over six million on Vespara Prime,” Duval warned. The responsibility endowed upon him as a senior member of the council weighed heavily on him, and he’d quickly shifted away from clinging to the past towards looking for solutions. “How do you plan to accomplish that in eleven days?”

“We don’t,” Admiral Reyes admitted. Especially in light of the news from Archanis Station, she knew there was no way they’d get the support to accomplish such a massive evacuation in such a short time. “We are organizing to evacuate your entire populace, but until we can effect the complete relocation of your population, we’re looking to deploy stadium sized, environmentally sealed facilities into your villages where we can shelter your people.” She neglected to mention that current projections, based on the squadron’s industrial replicator capacity, suggested they’d only be able to build enough shelters for a million or so in the limited time they had. That would be a bridge they’d cross if they got there. For now, she just needed them to agree.

“In the event that your scientists find a way to stop this anomaly, we do not want your infrastructure blemishing the beauty of our world,” Duval offered practically. “Will you afford us a say in where these shelters are built?”

“Of course,” Admiral Reyes nodded.

“And this world you plan to relocate us to, do we get to choose?”

“Yes, as long as it is not inhabited by another,” Admiral Reyes agreed. “Our astrometrics team can work with whomever your council anoints to select the appropriate place.”

“And when you’re done, will you leave?”

Admiral Reyes nodded, but Lieutenant Balan saw the skepticism on their faces, particularly from Aurelius. “Just as we did after Starfleet Security interceded, at your council’s request, in the Orion Syndicate matter back in 2391,” she offered. She’d done her research.

“Then, my friends,” Duval concluded, turning to his colleagues. “It seems we have no choice. If we do not accept the Admiral’s offer, the utopian society we have built comes to an end. But if we do, we have a chance to begin again on another world out there somewhere.” 

His colleagues did not all look in complete agreement, but Duval didn’t care. The fate of his people could rest with this decision, and as he looked out at the stars beyond his world, he just hoped that, when all of this was over,  they could get back to living a life of simplicity and sustainability. But first, they needed to survive.

Comments

  • I enjoyed everything in this post! I especially loved the science in it. I never knew much about the galaxy or how worlds can leave the habitable zone till I was in Astronomy not long ago it really makes me respect this piece even more and the urgency of trying to save the planet. I think its interesting the way you pain the distrust of some of the council or the thought that Starfleet will destroy them in the end. It paints a good picture on the dynamics between other species and how they feel about the Federation, as well as Starfleet. Great work!

    June 21, 2024
  • You see a growing two camps in this story, one side is willing to do whatever is need to be done to survive and protect the society they worked so hard on to build. The other is skeptical and rather wish Starfleet to leave with their graceful offer that surpresses their way of life and dangers their society. Reyes paints the situation very clearly and I love how she does that, direct and without any detail left behind. Great post!

    June 21, 2024
  • Melkor and Aurelius seem like they're going to be the troublemakers in this little band. T'Ral seems interested in the science and Duval seems pragmatic to me - agree for now, survive the crisis, bitch about it later. Which means I can support his position. How much trouble our troublemakers will be - that'll be telling. These councillors all have character and I like that.

    July 6, 2024
  • Allison Reyes

    Squadron Commander
    ASTRA Director

  • Lisa Hall, Ph.D.

    ASTRA Lead, Cultural & Psychological Research
    Chief Counseling Officer

  • Emilia Balan

    ASTRA Staff Researcher, Cultural Affairs
    Diplomatic and Cultural Affairs Officer