Starship Train: Buggy Whip

Kirkland: “The away team has returned with a delegation from Gamma Jakobi?”

Solu: “Yes, sir, they’re touring the Boobyprize now.”

Bones: “The horse-and-buggy planet sent a delegation?”

Srock: “Yes, Doctor, they did. Who is in it, Mr Solu?”

Solu: “There are two of them. The leader is Ammers, a man about 50 years old who belongs to the governing council of the community, Ammersville, with which we made contact. He’s very grim. With him is Ilsa, girl around 17, who is trying to conceal her wonder and amazement about the starship and everything – and everyone – on it, out of deference to Ammers, but isn’t doing a particularly good job of it.”

Kirkland: “I understand that Ilsa is, um, attractive?”

Chekors: “Until you get too close …”

Bones: “Hands off, Richard! What do you think we are, a streaming hologram pandering to the pornographic demands of a mob audience?”

Srock: “And what makes you think we aren’t, Doctor?”

Bones: “The fact that I get to stand here arguing with you about it?”

Srock: “Which you get to do because of inertial dampeners that are a physical impossibility. Made necessary to prevent us from becoming chunky salsa every time we accelerate to warp speed. Which is also a physical impossibility. And have you considered how much the Federation’s hegemony over our sector of the galaxy has been driven by the search for dilithium crystals, an invented substance with no chance of being able to occur in the real world? Driving processes like the transporter that might just take all the energy in the known universe to work as we use it? Doctor, we are a streaming hologram.”

Kirkland: “Which affects our mission to Gamma Jakobi how?

Srock: “Fundamentally, sir, even if we permit that we exist, and the mission is real. Ammers is grim because he knows his planet’s real history, how it attempted to use increasingly science-fiction approaches to try to sustain its human population explosion, only to find that whatever solution they came up with only exposed a vulnerability somewhere else. Finally, the planetary ecosystem collapsed under the population pressure, and only those groups of humans who had rejected all the technological stopgaps in the first place, and had long practice in how to apply non-tech solutions effectively, survived the disaster. Ammers is faced with the task of introducing Ilsa, and her generation, to the dream, and then showing convincingly that it is a dream. A dream that, if you chase it, puts you in deadly peril.”

Bones: “As if subjecting you and your loved ones to deadly diseases that technology has cured does not?!?”

Srock: “The deadly diseases typically took out about 50% of each new generation, resulting in a long-term sustainable population. On Gamma Jakobi, the curing of those diseases, in the absence of draconian measures to prevent massive population growth and the accumulation of deleterious genes in that population, requiring increasingly complex and expensive technological measures to correct, finally led to a catastrophic 99% loss in the total human planetary population, which remained unstable for many centuries, until their current cultural accommodations were achieved. Pick your poison, Doctor.”

Kirkland: “Well, it’s still possible that I can make part of Ilsa’s dream come true …”

Bones: “Aaaarggghh!”

Chekors: “Um, sir, that’s what I was trying to tell you about before I was [ahem] interrupted. Ilsa’s attractive until you get too close and realize that she smells more than a little bit of horse manure and human, um, sweat. She’d need a bath and new clothes for [ahem] you to take off her, and Ammers is permitting neither.”

Kirkland: “In other words, we have no chance of getting Gamma Jakobi to join the Federation, which means the mission’s a failure on every possible level.”

Srock: “Except for Gamma Jakobi.”

Kirkland: “Mr Srock, don’t tempt me into marooning you on the planet with a selfie camera so I can watch you try to drive a horse and buggy. If the negotiations are going to be pro forma, let’s get them over with so we can leave orbit and move on to a more fulfilling task.”

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