20-Page Treatment 2 - Edge of the Universe
I don't like consistently denigrating myself here, but I'm not crazy about this treatment. However, I'm willing to give myself a pass because it's at least as good as the last outline, and whereas the last one took me, what, six or seven weeks? This one I did in two, to kind of adjust the schedule I'm pumping these out in. So for two weeks, I think it's pretty good. Hopefully, the next one is twice as good!
Here's a link to the 3-page treatment this is based on, and here's the logline:
A manned mission sent to explore the edges of the observable universe finds a primitive human colony, farther away than it should be possible for them to be. When their ship breaks down in orbit, they're forced to solve the mystery in order to return home.
Edge of the Universe
Ruth is the captain of the Archimedes, a research/exploratory vessel, one of a small fleet sent to a few planets throughout the galaxy that probes have determined are potentially suitable for human life. The Archimedes is equipped with a top-of-the-line FTL drive, allowing it to travel dozens of light years in only a year. A year is still a long time to be trapped in a spaceship, though, and her crew of about two dozen is excited to be so close to reaching their destination.
As they get closer to their destination, though, they’re not detecting any signs of the probe that had indicated their planet was capable of sustaining human life. That’s a little bit of a problem, because FTL travel isn’t terribly accurate - stopping a minute too early or too late will put you a few AU off from your target destination. Using the probe as a beacon lets them emerge from FTL travel practically in orbit; without it, they have to sublight travel for a couple weeks after dropping out of FTL travel.
So it takes them longer than they expected, but they do finally reach their destination. Unfortunately, their destination is a barren wasteland. It’s less like Mars, which at least may have been capable of supporting life at one point, and more like Venus: a scorched, gaseous desert that couldn’t possibly support human life. They just traveled for more than a year for nothing, and now have nothing to look forward to but another year-long journey back to earth.
The crew is upset and pissed and Ruth can’t blame them. She tells the engineer, Burak, to scan the entire planet thoroughly for the probe. When they don’t find it, they check the entire solar system for it, scanning each plant for a week or so each. There’s no indication that the drone is there. In fact, when they check for the distinctive gravity ripples that the probe’s FTL drive should’ve left, they find no indication that the probe was ever even here. It’s a complete bust.
Ruth pores through the logs, looks for where their coordinates might have been wrong, or even fiddled with. She does see some small errors in the probe’s telemetry, but nothing that should’ve led to it missing the entire solar system.
She’s forced to accept that there was just some catastrophic failure that they won’t be able to decipher on their own, and gives the order to head back home. She does tell the navigator to head home along a slightly different route - one that will take a couple weeks longer, but will take them past a deep-space scientific outpost in a month or two, which should give the crew a chance to stretch their legs and get a change of scenery.
Ruth talks to the Burak about what could’ve gone wrong. He explains that really, it could’ve been any of a wide number of things. He talks a little about FTL travel and how little they understand it - it’s sort of like electroshock therapy and depression: we don’t know why it helps, we just know it does. In the same way, we’re not entirely sure how FTL travel works. We understand the basic theory, but that should really only get us up to 1.5 light speed; we’re somehow going twenty times that.
As they’re discussing how weird FTL travel is, and how the FTL drive is an example of a machine that shouldn’t really work, it stops working. They drop out of FTL travel in the middle of nowhere, galactically speaking. A quick navigational check shows them as being a dozen light years off course.
Not only that, but their FTL drive is just fried. It doesn’t work. After a quick checkup, Burak tells Ruth that it would be repairable on earth - but not in the middle of space. They try to send a distress message to the deep-space outpost, but the messenger probe drops out of FTL travel only a few miles from them.
Burak warns Ruth that their sublight drive is solar-powered, and in deep space they’re only running on reserves. They won’t be able to just drift indefinitely.
Ruth tells the crew their situation, knowing that they’re all professionals and can handle it - and that getting their input might be the only thing that saves them. They are professionals, and they mostly handle it, but there is a little bit of panic as the idea that they’re all going to slowly suffocate to death in deep space settles in.
One of the crew does some calculations, and figures that if they’re exact with their power usage, and if they can survive without power for a few hours, they should be able to sublight to a nearby star - and there at least have power, and thus more time to figure out what they’re going to do.
The crew unanimously decides to go for it.
Burak warns Ruth that even once they’re there, they’re never getting home. With no FTL travel or communication, the soonest a distress call could reach help would be fifty or sixty years - short enough that they could potentially survive, but long enough that it’s not terribly likely, given that they’ll be in space for all of that. Ruth refuses to give up hope.
It takes a while, but they do make it inside the heliosphere of the star, which lets them recharge their power stores. The crew celebrates their minor victory, even as Ruth tries to figure out how to forestall death a little longer.
They scan the planets within the solar system, and surprisingly, find three - three! - that could theoretically support human life. In fact, two of the three are giving off methane signatures implying that they’re currently hosting some life.
That’s enough to give everyone encouragement - they have the supplies on the ship to set up a small colony. They might still be dying alone, but they could do it on a planet rather than on a spaceship. They go to the planets to decide which one to colonize.
As they’re examining the planets, they find something incredible on one of them. It’s true, they’re both supporting lots of plant and animal life - but one of them has human life. That freaks everyone out. Humans are living on one of the planets already. That shouldn’t be possible.
The planet is small, about the size of Mercury, with only two real continents neither of which is much bigger than Australia. There aren’t loads of humans on the planet, all on one continent, and they’re all smallish and don’t seem terribly healthy. They almost all live in cities ranging from small to huge - there are very few rural areas. There’s a stark contrast between the wilderness and civilization.
The cities are all fairly developed - Burak gives a rough guess, placing their technology at around the 18th century, with some variation.
Burak tells Ruth that that level of development actually gives them some hope. The FTL drive requires complicated understanding of things, but it’s not actually terribly complicated to make - sort of like the Wright brothers’ plane. That thing could’ve theoretically been made a hundred years earlier, maybe earlier than that, if people had understood the science. And it could’ve been made thousands of years earlier if they magically had the engine - the rest was just sheets and wood.
In the same way, the FTL drive could’ve been made a century ago if we’d understood the science. And if they already have the core and the fuel - which they do! - then they might be able to patch it with 18th century technology.
They spy on the planet from space, examining the technologies they use, the fights they have, and the general attitude of the people. There seems to be really only one country, although it is very fractionalized. Things are peaceful, generally, but they still have a large military that seems to double as a brutal police force.
After doing a second check of what’s broken and what technology the planet has access to, Burak confirms that, by combining their knowledge and tools with the planet’s resources, he should be able to fix the FTL drive enough to get them home.
Ruth holds a shipwide meeting to discuss what’s happening, and what they know. The crew occupies a spectrum between “ecstatic for the implications of what’s happening, regardless of what happens to us” and “terrified that something is horribly wrong, we’re all going crazy and going to die.” She tries to calm everyone down, assuring them that in the worst case scenario, they can ignore these humans completely, set up a colony on the humanless continent, and live out their days in peace. In fact, most of them would probably still be alive after the forty to fifty years it’ll take help to arrive. Nobody is going to die stranded in space.
She has Burak discuss the situation concerning the FTL drive. He explains to them all how it’s busted, and they can’t fix it alone, and how, while they may be able to fix it with help from the new humans, even then, they would need to figure out why it and the distress probe’s FTL drive fried themselves before they could do anything. He says that they have hope, but no promises.
Ruth tells them that the first thing they need to decide is whether they should interact with the humans. Everyone says yes. Then, she says the second thing to decide is how. They could either arrive in a shuttle in the middle of a city, proclaiming who and what they are; or, they could try to learn the language, do things slowly, and infiltrate the society without ever letting them know they’re from another planet.
That sparks a firestorm of arguments. Half the room things secrecy is necessary to preserve the culture, so that Earth can eventually learn from this planet about human development. The other, larger half claims that their argument is that if you put yourself in their shoes, they’d want to get access to future knowledge and technology, and it’s wrong to withhold that from them - but mostly, they know that’d take longer, and be less likely to succeed.
Eventually, they all agree on one main thing: more information is necessary. They agree to send some scouts to examine the people close-up, get some recordings of their speech, analyze the plant life and what-have-you.
Ruth picks her scouts carefully, sending down a botanist, a zoologist, a meteorologist, and a psychiatrist - someone with knowledge of plants, animals, the atmosphere, and the people, respectively. She then warns her crew that the scouts will be taking their time in their study - they’re going to play things safe, and take it slow. So everyone needs to settle in for the long haul.
One of her crew - Ming, Burak’s assistant engineer - freaks out. She doesn’t panic, per se, but she talks more and more morbidly, yearns desperately to get down onto the planet, and is constantly positing the theory that the scouts are all dead and they should go look for them. Burak tries to chastise her, but she’s clearly losing it.
Ruth radios the psychiatrist, but he can’t do much from where he’s at. He tells Ruth to give Ming some drugs, but warns that there isn’t a large supply, so it should be considered a last resort. Ruth tries to calm Ming down, assuring her that they’ll be fine, but she keeps getting worse until Ruth finally approves drugging her.
Burak is the next one to start freaking out, though. He tells Ruth that there’s evidence of past human civilization on one of the other planets. And that it never progressed beyond the iron age - at least a hundred thousand years ago. Meaning these two planets had human civilizations that grew up too far apart for them to be related. So now there’s a new mystery: not only is there the question of how humans evolved on some completely separate planet, but how did they evolve on three separate planets? And what is the deal with this solar system?
The scouts finally return after two weeks that feel like months. They give some astonishing, but, at this point not surprising information on the plants and animals - all related to ones on earth. They even found a living dodo bird, of all things. Once they hear about Burak finding evidence of human life on another planet, they all agree that something deliberate caused all of this. The only question is whether Earth is somehow the source - or just another result.
As for the civilization, everyone seems to speak dialects of the same language, and while it appears to sort of have one major government, individual cities function pretty autonomously, with only the occasional messenger from other cities. It seems possible that most cities don’t even know where all of the other cities are.
Each city maintains a surprisingly large standing army, stemming from a fairly low level of trust between each other. No city trusts any other city. The main unifying feature seems to be that any of the cities can unilaterally declare war on any other city, sending all of the other cities after it. Therefore, everyone tries hard not to piss anyone else off. It’s a ridiculously unstable system that’s prone to abuse.
Ruth asks how they were able to glean so much, and that’s when they drop the bombshell - they came across a lone traveler, knocked him out, and got a full brain dump from him. The computer was able to piece together a translator. Ruth wants to be furious at such reckless, unapproved action - but she’s too excited by the knowledge to be really mad.
They quickly design and implement a translator that everyone can activate with their personal computers, allowing two-way communication with the natives. There’s visual mismatch, though - everyone will look like their voices are being dubbed. Ruth starts investigating the structure of the language, finding it linguistically similar to Sanskrit - which she speaks. She has the computer put together a basic language course for her, and encourages everyone else to do the same.
The conflict on whether to be secretive or not resurfaces. Those in favor say now they can learn the language, which gets rid of the last barrier to infiltrating the cities; those opposed point out that it would take years to achieve what may amount to fluency, but if the translation is off on tiny details, or if they don’t pick up on idioms, they’ll give themselves away immediately. Burak and Ming are both opposed to secrecy. When Ruth agrees that secrecy is unlikely to work, she sways the opinion in favor of being blatant. Ruth does agree, though, that just landing in the middle of the city is a bad plan; they should reveal themselves to some outsiders somewhere first, to gauge their opinion.
Ruth picks a small group to make first contact with her: the Psychiatrist, Johann; the lead physician, Kendrick; and Ming, both because she clearly needs to get out, and as Burak’s point of contact. Burak will stay back on the ship, monitoring the situation from above and running things in Ruth’s absence.
They find a hunting party, and land in a clearing within their view. Ruth puts on a little bit of a light show as she lands, but not too much of one; she wants to cow them, not scare them away. Neither of those happens; instead, she winds up spooking them to violence. They attack almost as soon as she steps out of the shuttle. Their guns pose no danger to Ruth, whose computer has basic hard-light shield programs built-in that are more than enough to stop bullets.
Once the hunters realize they can’t hurt them, they run away. Ming chases after them, but Ruth stops her. She tells her that they need to take this slowly. Ming’s kind of pissed that they attacked, and seems to want revenge, but she controls herself quickly.
As they stand around discussing what they should do next, a group of soldiers arrive, led by the hunters. The warriors line up and demand surrender. Ruth tells them that they come entirely in peace, and wish them no harm, but the soldiers repeat their warning and aim their weapons. Ming and Johann arm weapons programs, but Ruth tells them they’re in no danger, and to wait.
The soldiers open fire, and again, the bullets have no effect. Ruth tells them that their weapons are useless, and repeats that they mean them no harm. The soldiers are clearly scared, but don’t back down. When their commander tells them to reload and fire again, Ruth gives Ming and Johann the go-ahead to demonstrate their superiority - without hurting anyone.
The pair calls down fire from the sky and fires lightning bolts from their fingertips, spooking animals and stunning most of the men. To the soldiers, it looks like the magic of the gods. They immediately bow in submission.
Ruth demands that they be taken back to the city; they want to meet with their rulers. She says yet again that they come in peace and mean no harm, and as long as they’re met with no aggression, they won’t hurt anyone. To emphasize that point, Kendrick patches up the few wounds they sustained from the fire and lightning.
The soldiers recover, and agree to take them back to the city. They send two of the soldiers ahead, ostensibly to get the ruling council ready. Ruth doesn’t entirely trust them, though, so as soon as they’re out of sight, she tells him to cloak and fly above them, making sure they’re playing nice. The remaining soldiers are startled as Johann lifts into the air and disappears, but they take it in stride - after all, these are gods.
Once they reach the city, they’re met by a group of older men and women in ornate robes, already talking with Johann. Johann introduces them as the council of the city of Payya, and then introduces Ruth, Ming, and Kendrick. The council is much friendlier off the bat than the soldiers were, and they immediately send the soldiers away while they speak with the gods.
Ruth embraces the “god” aspect when she offers their trade. She tells council that their… sky chariot was damaged, and they need resources and some assistance to fix it. In exchange, she’s prepared to offer them “magical relics” and the “knowledge of the gods.” The council eagerly agrees, overjoyed to help.
Once the trading is established, Ruth brings the rest of the crew down to the planet, leaving their ship in orbit. They’re able to construct dwellings for themselves almost instantaneously with the colonizing equipment they had, and the natives quickly decorate their homes like temples.
Ruth and her crew live among the natives and interact with them as a regular part of their day. Ruth in particular makes a point of interacting with everyone on as even a footing as possible, and ramps up her efforts at learning the language. She befriends a few of the natives, but especially a young girl named Yoot.
Cults quickly begin forming around the individual crew members, worshipping them in different ways depending on how they help. The botanist is honored as a god of agriculture, and is given the best of all of the crops. He’s honored by the gifts; the veterinarian is a little disgusted by the sacrifices of young animals that are offered to her. Ming fits in the best with the soldiers, as weaponry is some of the most advanced technology the natives have. She’s enshrined as the goddess of warfare and battle.
Eventually, the worship of the crew starts to supplant the previous (admittedly weak and largely ignored) religion of ancestor worship. A few of the shamans are upset by this, but nobody is too broken up about it - least of all the crew.
Ruth notices how being worshipped is not just affecting the culture of the planet, but affecting her crew. They’re taking a little too well to being deities, ordering people around, accepting sacrifices, even making judgments in some criminal cases that fall under their “powers.”
Ruth talks to the crew about it, trying to encourage them to ease up on the godliness, but the general consensus is that this is how the natives want to treat them - it’s not their choice. Most of them even fought it at first, trying to stop it from happening, but eventually just accepted that they had a job to do and started doing it. Ruth says, “Okay, then nobody will mind if I tell them to cut it out.” Some of them seem like they’d mind, but nobody is willing to openly oppose Ruth.
Ruth talks to the natives, and tries to convince them that they aren’t gods - not really. She explains that they’re really just humans, just like them, it’s just that they have complicated technology that gives them apparently godlike powers.
Rather than getting the point, though, the natives enshrine Ruth as the goddess of intercession, and start preaching “her message,” that everybody can ascend to godhood. That’s a pretty popular idea, so she gets a lot of worshippers overnight. Half the crew is amused at the turn of events, the other half feels like she did that deliberately.
Ming is one of those displeased by this. Taking the events as Ruth’s implicit permission to accept the mantle of godhood, she actively proselytizes for herself, and encourages her worshippers to gather others to follow her.
A few other crewmembers - Kendrick, the botanist, and the meteorologist - follow Ming’s example. They all four band together in their own sort of mini-pantheon, bolstering each other’s ranks.
Ruth is not pleased with that. She orders them to stop, but Ming, speaking as the head of their group, refuses. She accuses Ruth of doing the same thing, and says she’s only trying to get them to stop so that she can poach their followers. Ruth insists that that’s not the case, and orders them to return to the ship. Ming says no.
Ruth tries to force her back to the ship, but Ming and the others fight back, and Ruth leaves to get backup. She gathers her crew and explains what’s happening, and tells them they all need to forcibly restrain Ming and the others, at least for a time. Most of the crew agrees, but a few of them actually thing Ming has the right idea.
They argue that they could have nice lives, here, if they just all accepted their places as gods. They could even all branch out into different cities, ruling the entire planet. Ruth shuts that idea down as fast as she can, but some of the crew is definitely not on her side of things - and may be on Ming’s.
Ruth tries to convince the natives to stop worshipping Ming and the others - and really, everybody - telling them that they don’t want to be worshipped. The natives know that’s not true, but they don’t assume Ruth is lying; mostly, they just get really confused, and figure they’re worshipping wrong. Ruth gives up trying to explain, and instead just goes to get Ming.
She and the rest of the crew arrive at Ming’s temple. Ruth offers her one last chance to return peaceably. Ming counters by petitioning the crew to come to her side. A couple of them do. Ruth is furious, but the odds are still in her favor, so she attacks.
The battle quickly escalates. Ruth only wants to restrain everyone, but Ming immediately goes for the kill, forcing Ruth to up her game as well. It’s still technically small-scale - only the crew is involved - but the technology they’re using makes it massive and impressive. They fly around the sky at insane speeds, firing bolts of lighting and hurling entire buildings at each other.
Ruth has the advantage of numbers, but Ming has the advantage of having figured this would come to blows. She has a variety of combat programs loaded and ready to go, and Ruth and those loyal to her have to adapt quickly to beams of ice and swarms of attack drones.
Just when Ruth thinks she’s going to win, a number of natives start attacking with weapons that are capable of penetrating their defenses. The attacks are a complete surprise, and they turn the tide of the battle, forcing Ruth to surrender.
Ming offers Ruth and everyone else a simple choice: join her and live on the planet as a god, or have their godhood stripped from them. Either way, she assures them they will never be going home - or telling anyone about this - again.
The entire crew, minus Ruth, accepts Ming’s offer of godhood. Ruth is dismayed that none of them stand up to Ming, but also understands where they’re coming from. Burak tries to convince her to join them, but she still refuses. She’ll live as a normal person. Ming strips her of her computer, leaving her effectively powerless, and dismantles her home, forcing her to live among the people.
Luckily, Ruth knows enough of the language now that she can communicate without the translation program. She discovers the planet is pretty stiflingly hot and humid - something she’d been able to ignore before with her atmospheric programs.
The natives take her in, quickly giving her a place to stay and starting to build a new temple for her. She insists that she doesn’t need a temple; just a home, like any of them. Yoot’s family builds her a house on their property, and she lives and works with them - while also moonlighting as a demigod, giving people advice on how to interact with the gods.
Soon, she’s ushered into a massive temple built for her, in the style of their old religious buildings. She finds out that her losing her powers only solidified her role as intercessor; she’s viewed as a god who set aside her powers so that she could better help the humans, and she’s adored for it.
She realizes that resisting is pointless, and decides to embrace the role, if only a little. She informs her worshippers that she is fully human, and there’s not a trace of divinity left in her - at least, no more than there is in everyone. She says she did this so that she could petition the gods in place of the humans, and that she is the official go-between between the gods and mankind. She warns them that the gods are dangerous and prone to flights of whimsy, and that they’ll never be entirely safe going to the gods themselves.
When Ming hears about it, she’s furious. She wants to kill Ruth, but Johann warns her that Ruth already has a significant amount of goodwill, and she could start riots. Ming says she doesn’t care about the people rioting, but Johann says he wasn’t talking about the people; he was talking about the other crewmembers.
Ruth starts taking petitions, questions and requests to take to the gods. Once she’s gathered a list, she goes to see Ming, in a very private affair - intended on her part to hopefully protect the people from Ming’s wrath. She goes before Ming and reads the list, asking for each thing individually. Ming spitefully refuses every item on the list, and says that she will continue to refuse every request that Ruth brings before her.
Ruth ignores her, finishes reading the list, and then leaves, saying she’ll be back the next day. The next day, she returns, and rereads the entire list. Ming gets kinda pissed, and has her beaten. Ruth returns the next day to repeat the list. Ming has her beaten again.
After Ruth leaves, Johann counsels Ming that the people see Ruth going in on their behalf, and then returning beaten; they’re getting the idea that Ruth is taking the beatings for them. To counter this, on the fourth day, Ming refuses Ruth’s entry, and instead invites everyone with an item on Ruth’s list, to grant their request or answer their question.
The people attribute this to Ruth’s work in the previous three days, giving her all of the credit rather than Ming. That pisses Ming off even more, and she takes it out on the people - and on the crew.
There’s more and more dissatisfaction with the way Ming runs things, and Ruth encourages this. She tells the people that the gods may have power, and they may have knowledge, but they have no more wisdom or right to rule than anyone else.
She manages to form a small rebellion against the gods. It’s not big, it doesn’t do much, and it’s certainly quiet, but it is there: a group of people who are willing to overthrow the gods. Ruth’s teachings grow the rebellion bit by bit, as the people grow more and more dissatisfied with the gods’ rule.
As the rebellion grows, Ruth prepares it for warring against the gods. She’s aware of the shortcomings of their computers, and trains the people in fighting them. She helps them design weapons that could affect a god. She also preaches mercy; she doesn’t want them to kill the gods, only stop them from ruling over the people like they’re peasants. She encourages a return to their original, mutually beneficial relationship, and beyond that, to trading as equals.
Ruth doesn’t have complete control over the rebellion, though, and a small cell attacks a god on its own accord. It isn’t able to defeat him, but it gets close enough to scare him and Ming. Ming retaliates by publicly executing them.
Burak speaks out against it, but Ming warns that she’s willing to execute him as well. And she’s capable of it; she’s been developing new weapons and defensive programs her entire tenure as a god. She has stuff that even Burak isn’t sure how to counter now, and she hoards it all for herself.
Ming’s public executions only serve to bring the rebellion to public attention while simultaneously demonstrating why it’s necessary. The rebellion grows rapidly. Ruth preaches openly about a return to the old religion, and overthrowing these false gods. Finally, the idea that the “gods” are actually just humans starts to catch on.
Ming launches an attack on Ruth, sending Johann to kill her - quietly, in a way that isn’t traceable back to her. But Ruth knew an attack would be coming, and she’s prepared for it. She ambushes Johann, and takes his computer - his “godhood” - for herself.
She reestablishes communication with Burak, the only person she fully trusts. He tells her that the rest of the crew is about as happy with Ming as the natives are, and says they’re planning a coup of their own. He invites her and her rebellion to get in on it.
Burak manages to sneak Ruth back up to their ship in orbit, which has so far been completely locked down - he managed to set it up so only Ruth’s admin codes could get them in, so nobody’s been there or had access to anything there was up there.
Burak explains some things he’s been researching. He tells her that the FTL drive is almost - almost - operational, and with a week or so of repairing it, it should be able to get them home. When Ruth asks about it cutting out again, though, he explains that that’s the most exciting part. He thinks he figured it out.
He says there’s an FTL distortion a little ways out from the solar system, about where they broke down. It’s in between the star they were originally sent to and the scientific outpost they were going to. Because the probe was launched from the outpost, its FTL drive cut out right near this star instead, and its functioning didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to drop out there. It flew to this star instead, and reported back that the planet it landed on was good. He shows her about where it landed on one of the other planets.
Burak even goes so far as to theorize that the nearby distortion is the reason that there’s human life here. He explains that genetic seeding is a theorized way to spread human life throughout the galaxy; taking bacteria, filling it with genetic instructions to create human, and any other kind of life, and then filling pods with it and sending them all over the galaxy to evolve new humans from the ground up.
He further theorizes that Earth isn’t the original home of humanity; what if they were a seed colony, too? And so what if this planet was just hit by other seed pods? The FTL distortion would make it more likely that they would end up here, and so it’s even possible two separate pods landed there - explaining the two planets with human life.
So anyway, he says, he’s figured out the rough location and flow of the distortion, and should be able to avoid it this time around. He says they should wait here for a week for him to finish repairs, and then go get help.
But Ruth refuses. She knows they’ll be gone for years - maybe decades, if the FTL drive isn’t at full capacity. She knows anything could happen to the natives while she’s gone, and can’t leave in good conscience as long as Ming is in command.
She leaves Burak up in the ship to finish the repairs while she goes to take down Ming, once and for all.
Ruth gathers a bunch of equipment from the ship, including a lot of minicomputers - the smartwatches to her smartphone. She gathers her resistance and equips the most capable of them. Or in their parlance, “bestows demigodhood” upon them.
They design some weapon programs that even Ming doesn’t have, and some defenses for the weapons Ming has used.
They siege Ming’s temple, taking out all the temple guards with nonlethal means. When the crew loyal to Ming fights back, they hold their ground viciously, and seem to be unbreakable until the crew loyal to Ruth turns on them, and suddenly the fight is in Ruth’s favor. Ming’s men have to give up more and more ground, until they’re trapped in Ming’s throne room.
At least, until Ming joins the fight. She unleashes power that stretches the limits of the computers, destroying the entire building as she pushes the rebels out. The fight turns against Ruth and her team.
Until Burak starts using the orbital lasers. He’s able to cover Ruth and her people as they regroup, though Ruth won’t let him use them to actually kill anyone - she doesn’t want blood on her hands.
Ming has no such compunctions, and is killing people left and right. Ruth realizes she’s going to need to kill Ming. She tells Burak to fire.
Ming’s ready for it this time, though, and is able to counter the attacks and fire back, disabling the orbital lasers and potentially damaging the ship. Burak radios Ruth that if Ming maintains her assault, she’ll blow him out of the sky. Ruth tells him to stop firing, even though it means they’ll lose the battle.
Ruth tries to figure out how to cover her crew as the retreat back to the ship to leave with Burak, but they refuse; if they leave her, she’ll die. They tell Burak to go alone; they’ll stay behind. Burak gives them one last orbital attack that creates enough of a smokescreen that they can escape, then leaves.
Ruth and her crew retreat, but they aren’t giving up. They agree to split up and build the rebellion separately as they wait for Burak to return with the cavalry. They’ve lost the battle, but the war isn’t over.