Treatment 5

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.

Ruth is the captain of the UESS Archimedes, a manned scientific vessel of eighteen, one of several manned missions sent to examine planets that unmanned missions deemed suitable for human life. Their mission has been a complete failure; the planet they went to examine was a barren wasteland, and they couldn’t find any evidence of the drone to find out what went wrong.

When they try to go home, though, something goes wrong with their FTL drive, stranding them in deep space, hundreds of AU from the nearest star. Because their ship is solar powered, getting to the star is their only chance of ever getting home - though the ship’s primary engineer, Burak, tells Ruth it’s unlikely they’re getting home anyway; the FTL drive is shot.

Months later, they manage to make it inside the star’s heliosphere, giving them enough energy that they can at least scan and explore this solar system. They find not one, but three planets theoretically capable of supporting human life - but even more mind-boggling, they actually find human life on one of them, a small planet with only one major continent, and a civilization about as advanced as earth in the early 18th century.

Burak tells Ruth that this gives them some hope. The manufacturing processes they have available might, after being combined with the technology and knowledge they have on the ship, allow them to fix their FTL drive and get home.

Ruth, however, panics a little. This planet doesn’t make any sense - the whole solar system is pretty damn unlikely - and she’s worried that she’s just legitimately snapped. Even if it is real, they’re just an exploratory expedition; they’re not qualified to make the first extraterrestrial contact.

Ruth holds a shipwide meeting to inform the crew of everything that she knows, and to decide as a group how to proceed. She makes sure they understand everything that she and Burak do about their situation, and about the new planet. She makes it clear that even with the planet’s resources, they should all be prepared to never go home, because if it doesn’t work out, they’re lost in the infinite cosmos, and nobody is coming for them.

The crew unanimously decides to visit the planet - not that Ruth was really trying to convince them not to. The real decision is how to interact with them. They decide to send scouts first, keeping in mind that they probably won’t be able to communicate with these people for years.

The scouts come back with some preliminary reports, telling them that the society might be even more advanced than they initially thought. They also got some recordings of the speech, which one of the crew - Tal - recognizes as actually kind of similar to Cantonese. Not terribly close - they’re about as similar as English and German - but close enough that he’s able to guess what they’re talking about, maybe half the time.

With that as an insanely unlikely framework - something else that bothers Ruth - they manage to piece together a translator over the course of a couple months. Once they have a translator running, Ruth takes down a team to introduce themselves to the natives.

The citizens of the planet are initially pretty hostile, when a small group stumbles upon their camp and immediately runs for military aid. When the (literal) cavalry arrives, Ruth tells them that they mean them no harm, and gives them a peace offering of a hologram recorder and projector.

When the natives attack anyway, Ruth and her crew defend themselves with futuristic guns and shields approaching the level of magic. That really gets the natives’ attention, and they settle down long enough for Ruth to establish communication. They agree to trade advanced information and technology in exchange for the materials and equipment they need to fix their ship, as well as some labor.

The crew are revered as gods, and the natives develop a basic theology revolving around each crewmember’s area of expertise. For example, the primary doctor of the ship is revered as a deity of healing and childbirth, and the agriculture expert as a deity of farming and, well, agriculture.

Ruth, seeing the effect the worship is having on her crew, tries to establish to the people that they aren’t gods; they’re humans, just like them. For this, she gets enshrined as the deity of intercession, the one who petitions the gods on behalf of the people.

Just as Ruth feared, some of the crew takes to being gods a little too well. Jamal, the ship’s meteorologist and deity of of the weather; Eileen, the assistant physician and deity of cattle and wildlife; and Ming, Burak’s assistant engineer and deity of weapons and combat, all leave the crew, take their place among the natives, and tell Ruth that they won’t be leaving with her. They assure her that they’ll keep helping with the repairs and do whatever is necessary to get the rest of them home. But they won’t be leaving with them.

Ruth tries to order them back to the ship, to stay until repairs are completed, but they refuse. She tries to force them back to the ship, but underestimates the support they have. Not only have they equipped the natives with tools capable of fighting back against her, but some other members of the crew, after seeing how good Ming and her companions have it, revolt as well.

Actual combat erupts, a small-scale battle made large-scale by the level of weaponry brought to the table. To the natives of the planet, it absolutely looks like a war of the gods.

The odds - and surprises - against Ruth prove too much, though, and she surrenders after losing half of her loyal crew. She and her band are all offered the choice to either join the pantheon of gods, or be stripped of their “godhood” - their equipment. Ruth is the only one who refuses to join them. Burak tries to convince her that joining them is the only chance they have to get back home, but she refuses to set herself up as a god.

Ironically, though, her decision only solidifies her in her role as intercessor of the gods, and she ascends to a sort of living martyr status. The support of the people is too great for Ming to ignore, and she’s forced to allow Ruth to maintain some of her status.

Ruth - though still unhappy about it - accepts her role as one who fights the oppression of the gods, and petitions regularly on behalf of the people. Ming takes great pleasure in refusing Ruth’s requests, hoping to reduce her status in the eyes of the people, but Ruth’s tireless tenacity in pursuing requests that have been repeatedly denied actually improves her status.

Slowly, in secret, she starts to raise a resistance against the false gods, educating people as to the actual source of their powers. She tells them that if they can fix her ship, she can leave and get people to come take the false gods away.

Ruth and her rebellion ambush one of the “gods” and take his “godhood.” With her equipment restored, Ruth is able to communicate in secret with Burak, who tells her that she’s not alone; some of the crew is still loyal to her, and they were actually planning a coup soon, to try to escape and get help.

Burak is able to sneak her onto the ship, and tells her that with the repairs where they’re at, they might be able to get home. Ruth tries, but just can’t abandon all of the people who look to her for protection from oppression. She knows that in the time she’s gone, anything could happen, and refuses to leave while Ming and her companions are in control.

She leads the coup, and another battle, this one even bigger than the last, ensues. However, again, she’s overwhelmed by the natives who follow Ming and the pantheon. She won’t use lethal force against the natives, viewing them as misguided, rather than enemies. This proves to be her downfall, and she and her companions are beaten back.

Burak manages to get Ruth, the loyal crew, and a few notable natives up to the ship in orbit, to use as a temporary fortress. They discuss their options, and Burak warns that while the ship is capable of using the FTL drive, it’s not in peak shape, and will be slow going. The journey home will be at least six or seven years, rather than one or two.

Ruth decides to send Burak back, with one of the other crewmembers and two of the natives for assistance and company. She and the others will stay there, continue to fight the pantheon, and hold out for help.

She returns to the planet and starts planning the next coup.