Captain Kirk breathed deeply in the excess warmth of the Vulcan’s stateroom and resisted the urge to mop at his brow. It was strange seeing Spock at his father’s side rather than his own, and he wondered with a start if their days serving together were coming to an end. Surprisingly, Spock didn’t look uncomfortable serving as Sarek’s aid, and Kirk felt some regret at his recent anger toward his friend. He looked around but didn’t see the anti-grav chair and wondered how Spock had come to be here.
“There is indeed an outside influence on Derilia,” Sarek began. “A species known as Wramuth.” He activated an image provided by the regent on the computer screen. “They appear to be scavengers of sorts, taking what they wish from other species. Their weaponry is advanced enough to force the issue if they meet with resistance.”
“Every indication is that their sensor capabilities are limited,” Spock continued, “however, we must take every effort to prevent our detection and that of the colonies.”
“They didn’t abandon the colonies, they were trying to protect them! “ the captain deduced.
“Exactly,” Spock said.
“Then why did they invite us back into the system?” Kirk wondered. “Wasn’t there a chance we would be noticed?”
Spock considered the question a moment. “ I suspect they believed we could defend ourselves if need be, while their own spacecraft have no such defenses. Perhaps they had hoped that a confrontation with us might end the siege once and for all.”
“A logical deduction,” Sarek agreed. “In any case, it is vital that we are not detected now. The Wramuth hold hostages in ransom for trausium ore. It is unknown how they might treat those hostages if they learn of our presence.”
“Why not just give them the ore?” Kirk asked. “I assume this is not the first such demand?”
Spock shook his head. “They are unable to do so,” he said. “The disaster has slowed their production and the Wramuth are unwilling to wait for an increase. It has been suggested that perhaps we could make up the difference until the hostages are recovered.”
“That’s a good idea,” Kirk agreed. “We can send personnel and equipment down right away. But is there a chance of running into Wramuth raiding parties on the surface?”
“I believe the risk is minimal,” Spock answered. “I would deduce that the raids happen at night since the citizenry is yet unaware of them.”
Kirk nodded. “Do we know where they’re holding the hostages?”
Sarek shook his head. “The Wramuth have a ship somewhere in orbit, possibly on the other side of the planet or secluded near the moons. However, it is not known whether they hold the hostages there or at a location on the planet surface.”
Spock steepled his fingers in front of him as he considered the situation. “It would be much easier to remain anonymous if the hostages are detained on Derilia,” he said. “Disguising a few raiders would be easier than disguising an entire ship.”
Sarek raised an eyebrow and nodded. “Logical,” he said. “A rescue operation would be possible if that is the case. However, it would, as you humans say, tip our hand.”
“Well,” Kirk said, “we can at least monitor their positions if we find them.” He activated the viewer to call the bridge and ordered a continuous scan of the planet, concentrating on unidentified life forms. When the communication was ended, he addressed the Vulcans again.
“Do we know if these Wramuth are responsible for the collapse of the building?” he asked.
“We do not know for certain,” Spock said, “but I do not believe that to be the case. From what Regent Aiden has told us, the Wramuth have weapons that could destroy the building outright rather than collapse it. There is also the fact that the Wramuth general did not contact the regent until several days after the disaster. If they had wished to make a statement, one would have expected demands sooner rather than later.”
Kirk nodded. “We’ll keep working with Derilian officials on that particular mystery. Forensics should have something soon.” He turned to Sarek. “Do you have a secure communication with Regent Aiden?” he asked.
“Yes,” Sarek answered. “They assure us that their encrypted signal has yet to be discovered by the Wramuth.”
“Good,” Kirk said. “Keep them advised about our plans and anything we discover. Once the Wramuth are out of the way, we can figure out a permanent defense against them.”
He stood to end the meeting. “Thank you, gentlemen,” he said. “At least we have one mystery out of the way.”
Sarek rose to walk with him to the door while Spock had the aid bring his cane. When Sarek returned, Spock carefully stood.
“I will take my leave also,” he said. “I would like to monitor the sensor sweep, and Saavik has promised to update me on her mission to Elaanus.”
Sarek nodded. “Until tomorrow,” he acknowledged.
Spock inclined his head to him as he began his slow progression toward the door. The limp was very pronounced but he was stable enough with the cane. Sarek assessed his efforts closely but didn’t comment on them.
Spock waited until he was in the turbolift to call sickbay for the chair. Perhaps soon he wouldn’t need it. He leaned against the wall to rest as he rode the lift to deck seven. Despite the intense exercise program it was still a considerable effort to remain upright for long. Even the Vulcan healing techniques were having little effect on the speed of his recovery. He sighed in frustration but quickly rejected the fleeting emotion. What would be, would be, and it was illogical to dwell on it.
He stood up straight again and composed his features. By the time the lift doors opened to reveal McCoy with the chair, he was once again in control of body and mind.
Elliat Jaridan sat down heavily in the padded chair and gazed at the garden beyond the window. After the death of Minister Khrelav, he had assumed leadership of Artemis. Since then it had been a flurry of almost panicked activity as everyone adjusted to a disaster greater than any in their history.
Jaridan was of the first generation born on Artemis. His appearance was still Derilian without the changes seen in later generations. He realized with some sadness that the Derilian influence would soon be lost to his race as their malleable genome adjusted to the moon environment. Already the youth preferred a look far removed from their forebearers, even changing their appearance with paints and other accessories to increases the differences. He wondered if it was the natural inheritance of the young to always be dissatisfied with the past.
He glanced up at the newsfeed playing on the wall screen. So many dead of all their races. There were even reports of serious injuries among the Enterprise crew. The strange aliens had been most helpful following the disaster and even now still worked on Derilia to save the wounded and discover the reason for the attack. He wondered, not for the first time, why Derilia had been been reticent to accept their offer to join their Federation.
Something on the screen caught his attention and he stood up to get a better view. The video feed showed the destruction where the Great Hall had stood, but the Derilian who spoke did not report on that devastation. Instead the story he relayed sounded suspiciously like the conspiratorial imaginings of a frightened people, and yet had a certain ring of truth. Why were so many government officials now impossible to find? Even considering the need for added security, it did not make sense that they and their families had vanished without notice to their friends and colleagues. Even Regent Aiden had only spoken on video feed in recent days, making no public appearances as he had in the first days following the disaster. For that matter, why were more Enterprise personnel now going to the mines rather than assisting their comrades with humanitarian efforts in the city? Jaridan narrowed his eyes at the screen as the fur on his neck began to rise.
He crossed to his computer terminal and sat down while still keeping an eye on the newsfeed. He had not sensed any guile from the Federation members he had met, and the Vulcan who had visited Artemis had seemed particularly trustworthy. Perhaps something in the mines could help with the relief efforts, but he had no idea what it might be. He knew very little about mining in any case, and trausium in particular. The Enterprise crew had seemed intrigued with that mineral during their first meeting and the hair on his neck rose higher as he considered that interest often proceeded greed.
He quickly typed a command into the computer and scanned the results of his search. The trausium that powered their worlds and built their cities could also be used as a source for weapons. From what he had seen on the Enterprise, they had power enough already, but his blood ran cold at the thought that they could be helping Derilia to make its own weapons. Had they aligned themselves with the homeworld to subdue its colonial neighbors? He pushed the thought away as ridiculous. Why engage in the charade of peace talks when they themselves could devastate the colonies in an instant? He turned off the newsfeed and sat back in his chair tiredly. He was convinced that the disappearance of key officials and the Enterprise’s new priority were somehow connected. He considered simply asking their supposed friends in orbit around the homeworld, but decided that it would be prudent to first prove that friendship. With renewed purpose he sat up and typed a series of commands into the computer. The hair on his neck fluttered again as he awaited the answer.