Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 47188.4
Captain Matsumoto Sulu
Excelsior has been tested for real for the first time. By that, I also mean I and my crew have been tested for real for the first time. It was a close-run thing, but I’m delighted to say that she, and we, came through well.
A few days before, there was a tingle of anxious anticipation running down my spine, as I stood on Excelsior’s bridge and gave the command to depart Narendra station. I hope I hid it from the crew.
Behind us we left the power of a Federation starbase, and the comforting company of three impressive vessels – the Galaxy-class Venture, the Intrepid-class Bellerophon and the Akira-class Thunderchild: three powerful ships with experienced crews, assigned to protect Narendra and patrol the edge of the Shackleton Expanse, the very edge of Federation space, the edge of the known universe.
But, Narendra is not an outpost in the middle of nowhere. The Romulan neutral zone is barely 30 light years away (less than a week for Excelsior at maximum warp), and tensions with the Romulans are as high as ever. The station itself was built at the site of an incident between the Romulans and Klingons, one in which the USS Enterprise C, under the command of Captain Rachel Garrett, intervened to defend the helpless Klingon colony. Enterprise was lost, but the sacrifice eventually led to the Federation’s alliance with the Klingon Empire.
So, we are literally both on the final frontier with all its unknown dangers, while at one and the same time close to potential flashpoints with the Romulans…
But this is what I’ve trained for, what I have yearned for, what I am here for: to explore; to seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go. Exciting, so exciting. But still it’s a damn daunting prospect too.
So there we were, with the freedom to press ahead as far as we can into the Expanse, heading into the unknown at Warp 8, an easy and comfortable cruising speed for my Excelsior.
[As an aside, I learned something new from Chief Engineer Del Gato (although engineering never was my strong point): Excelsior still has the extended warp nascelles she once needed for the Trans-Warp drive, and these have been fitted with extra warp coils, hence our outstanding top speeds. She is a most wonderful starship…]
The Shackleton Expanse is a dense patch of space, and we were soon well past any systems that had been previously sniffed at by the local detachment of vessels. My XO, Rekan, as Science Officer, picked one and we went in to explore. An otherwise run of the mill system amazed us when we found two class M planets, in a habitable orbit but also orbiting one another! Careful scans soon revealed that both planets were dead, in the grip of fierce nuclear winters caused by multiple asteroid strikes in their recent history. But we also found that both planets had once been home to vital, technological, intelligent civilisations, but no one seemed to have survived the tragedies that befell them.
We ruled out a natural cause for this: there was no obvious source for a sudden asteroid shower, and although it’s not impossible that this might have been a chance happening the odds against this are – literally – astronomical. There was nothing to suggest a Romulan or a Borg hand behind the destruction, so we closed in and beamed to one of the seemingly abandoned orbital stations around the smaller of the twins, in search of clues to unwind this mystery. Our investigations revealed a sad story:
The inhabitants of the smaller of the two planets, which they called Rl’lowo, advanced more quickly than the inhabitants of the twin. Their technology soon led them to realise that their twin planet was inhabited too. They called this planet Five Turns, although we could find no reason for this name. The Rl’lowons were – it seems (although we only have their account to go on) – generous souls: they made contact with their neighbours and offered their technology to them, despite some on their Rl’lowo cautioning against it.
It was a bad idea. The Five Turns inhabitants were very different to the Rl’lowons, primitive and suspicious. They immediately used the technology to attack their benefactors, grappling asteroids in near orbit and bombarding Rl’lowo. The Rl’lowons responded in kind, and the possibilities, the potential of these two intelligent civilisations, were wiped out overnight.
What a disaster.
What a waste.
And there was nothing we could do but document this terrible tale of generous interference, suspicion and violence. We can only speculate about what would have happened if the Rl’lowons had followed the Prime Directive. But now, there is nothing to remember these intelligent creatures by, other than Excelsior’s logs…
Or so we thought. On return to Excelsior we were suddenly barraged by powerful tractor beams from both planets. Excelsior was crushed between them, and her structural integrity fields collapsed. Excelsior, despite her rugged design, was close to total destruction. Chief Engineer Del Gato, aided by Lieutenant Tokhtakhounov, restored the fields just in time, although I heard that young Tokhtakhounov was more responsible for saving Excelsior than my chief: this situation needs close attention.
Torgh fired upon the source of the beam on the nearest planet, Quantum torpedoes flying from their tubes for the first time in anger. We only succeeded in disrupting the beam, but this was enough for Lieutenant Banks, on the Helm, to engage the warp drive and get us from the danger. It was a close run thing, but Excelsior had only suffered minor damage and no one was injured. A good outcome, very good.
My one concern: the response from my XO and Medical Officer when under fire. Although we had no reason to believe there were people on the planet behind the tractor beam attacks, my first instinct – and my command – was to open hailing frequencies to try to communicate and avoid violence. The action was delayed by Rekan’s cry of “what’s the point of doing that?” It may be a pertinent question, but I didn’t want to bombard the planet with quantum torpedoes if there were survivors still alive on the surface, and the tractor beam attack was just a mistake. I also didn’t have time to explain this to my XO if he didn’t understand this himself: in future, I need Rekan to follow my commands in combat without protest, at least until after the conflict is concluded.
We were eventually able to return, managing the energy of the tractor beams now we’d had time to analyse them, and we de-activated both tractor beams, not without a pang of regret for the civilisations that were no more.
The last dice of both these civilisations had been thrown. We have drawn a line under their influence for ever, and this system is safe for deeper examination.