Sarek turned back to Regent Aiden where he sat in the cramped space serving as his secure office. He had been speaking to Spock via video link when the Enterprise had suddenly left orbit, but his son was unable to determine the reason for the departure.
“They would not have left without good cause,” he assured the Derilian. “I am certain we will be contacted soon.”
Aiden nodded as he looked up to see his aid appear in the doorway.
“Regent,” the man said, “reports coming in regarding a large armada of shuttles leaving Taini and Artemis.”
Aiden’s eyes grew wide as he stood. “Where are they going?” he asked
The man made a low sound in his throat as the hair on the sides of his neck began to rise. “To Elaanus,” he said softly.
Aiden sat back down slowly and wrapped his long fingers together. He was silent a long time.
“Regent,” Sarek said carefully, “perhaps it is time to speak of Elaanus.”
The Derilian nodded slowly. “Yes,” he said, “we will speak of Elaanus. And much more.”
The regent took a moment to compose himself before looking up at Sarek again. “I’m sure you’ve wondered why we have not settled Elaanus,” he said.
Sarek watched as the man rose to pace in the confining room.
“It was our first choice when we decided to form offworld colonies,” Aiden continued. “ Our reconnaissance of the moon was most encouraging and it seemed a natural place for settlement.”
He fell silent again and stopped his restless pacing, but the room had no windows to draw his attention away from his dark thoughts. He turned to Sarek again and sighed.
“It is a beautiful place,” he said, “with bioluminescence in most of the life forms and an atmosphere conducive to out race. However, we soon found that the plant life is toxic if eaten and anything grown there acquires this toxicity.”
“Is it a deadly toxin?” Sarek asked.
“No,” Aiden answered as he sat down again across from the Vulcan, “but anyone exposed to it is beset with a type of insanity to which we have found no cure. These unfortunate individuals have been condemned to permanent isolation in a secure facility.”
Sarek considered that. “Is it a dangerous insanity?” he asked.
Aiden nodded. “Yes,” he said, “the individuals rage almost continually, though their anger does not appear to be directed to one another. However it would be very dangerous if they had contact with the general population.”
Sarek looked at him pointedly as the same thought entered their minds. “Is it possible to contact this facility?” Sarek asked, “and ascertain if it is still secure?”
But Aiden had already turned to his computer and was rapidly typing in commands. His face blanched as he stared at the screen. “There is no answer to my communication,” he said haltingly.
Sarek nodded. “We must assume the facility has been breached,” he said. “Can you reveal its location?”
Aiden did his best to compose himself. “There is an island in the northern sea. Even if they escaped the facility, they would still be isolated there.”
“Unless they found assistance to leave the island,” Sarek pointed out. “The Wramuth perhaps?”
Aiden wrapped his fingers together again. “It is possible,” he said, shaking his head very slowly. “They would have the means to ferry them off the island in their shuttles, of course. But to what purpose?”
“I would surmise that their purpose is destruction and chaos,” Sarek said. “It would be much easier for native agents to move about in the population than for the Wramuth to do so.”
Aiden stared at him with his eyes wide. “The collapse of the Great Hall may have been caused by these people,” he said.
“Indeed,” Sarek said, “I believe that to be the case.” He studied the regent’s almost frantic expression. “How many individuals were contained at this facility?” he asked.
“Fifteen,” the man answered glumly. “Guards and doctors at the facility number ten to twelve, depending on staff rotations.”
Sarek folded his hands together as he watched the other man. “Regent,” he said, “we must assume that these individuals are in the populated areas and perhaps working with the Wramuth on the kidnappings. It is possible that they are holding the captured people at this facility.”
Aiden looked up with frightened interest. “Yes,” he said. “And if they left enough patients to act as guards, the Wramuth would never have to reveal themselves.”
“A logical plan,” Sarek agreed. “Is there any type of force field or other defense around the facility?”
Aiden shook his head. “No,” he said. “The island was considered remote enough to not require other security.” He closed his eyes as he considered his next action. “We must mount a rescue mission immediately.”
But Sarek shook his head. “I believe the Wramuth would destroy any shuttle you took there,” he said. “But the Enterprise has the means to beam the people to safety without physically being present. We must wait for their return.”
Aiden looked at him frantically. “My daughter is among the captives,” he reminded him.
“I understand your concern,” Sarek answered. “But a rescue mission could endanger the captives as well as the rescuers. Patience is imperative if we are to succeed in diffusing this situation.”
Aiden nodded slowly. “I will wait for the Enterprise to return,” he said. “But not for long. We have lost too many people in this disaster already.”
Sarek met his gaze. “And we must endeavor to prevent more disaster,” he said. “May I suggest an immediate planet-wide search for any individuals afflicted with this insanity.”
“Yes, of course,” Aiden agreed. “Their identities will be transmitted to law enforcement in all populated areas.”
“Regent,” Sarek said, “it is possible that if these individuals are in the city—and I believe it likely-- then they surely know of the presence of the Federation and have certainly transmitted that information to the Wramuth.”
“Then why haven’t they engaged you? Or even mentioned your existence?” Aiden wondered.
Sarek raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps they are assessing our abilities relative to their own,” he answered. “In any case, I believe the need for secrecy is unnecessary at this point.”
Aiden nodded. “Can you contact your people?”
“If they are still in the system, I can do so,” Sarek answered.
“Then quickly, Ambassador,” Aiden said. “This crisis has gone on long enough.”
Both men turned to their communication equipment, relieved at last to have a course of action.
Captain Kirk watched as the last of the small shuttles was tractored into the Enterprise’s shuttle bay. It was a tight fit, but with Mister Scott’s direction, they managed to fir them all in addition to the Enterprise’s own shuttles. As one by one, the shuttle doors began to lift open, Kirk went forward to meet the aliens. A security detail went with him though their weapons remained holstered.
The alien they had seen on the viewscreen approached the captain, offering his hand in a decidedly human gesture.
“I am Klauin,” he said, “currently in command of this mission. We travel under orders from Jaridan of Artemis.”
Kirk took the offered hand as he assessed the aliens gathering in front of him. “Your offer to talk is most welcome,” he said. “We don’t have a meeting room large enough to accommodate all of you, but the observation lounge should suffice.”
But Klauin shook his head. “There is no time,” he said. “We must speak here.”
Kirk inclined his head in acceptance of that as the aliens and Federation personnel gathered in the center of the shuttle bay. Uhura and Saavik were there with him as well as Spock who leaned on a cane next to two of Sarek’s aids.
“Please explain this journey,” Kirk began. “Why travel so far, knowing you would be stranded here?”
“It was a test,” Klauin said, shocking Kirk with that answer. “It was necessary to learn if your friendship was genuine.”
“You sacrificed your own safety to test if we would rescue you?” Spock asked
“Yes,” Kauin answered. “Forgive us our unorthodox method, but trust is difficult in these dark days.”
“And what required this trust?” Kirk asked. “Do you need our assistance in some other matter?”
Klauin looked as his comrades before replying. “There are rumors on Derilia that concern our leaders,” he said. “The disappearance of government officials and your own sudden interest in the trausium mines...”
The captain looked at the aliens who were watching him expectantly and decided that it was time for both sides to trust the other.
“Are you aware of a race of beings called Wramuth?” he asked. Their confused glances told him they were not. “The Wramuth have been terrorizing Derilia for some time,” he continued. “They extort trausium under threat of destruction. The current crisis has delayed the production of trausium, resulting in kidnappings of key officials and their families.”
“And you seek to speed production of this ore to aid in the return of the hostages,” Klauin deduced accurately.
“Taini has much ore already produced,” another man spoke up. “Why didn’t Derilia ask for our help?”
“The Wramuth appear to be unaware of your colonies,” Spock answered. “Regent Aiden wished to maintain your safety as long as possible.”
The colonists looked at one another again as their own personal mystery was answered. “Then we weren’t abandoned after all,” Klauin spoke the realization aloud. “Captain Kirk, surely the Wramuth if they are near, know of our presence now. Please take us to Taini. We will get the ore.”
Before the captain could answer, the intercom suddenly whistled for his attention. He went to the wall to activate the control.
“Captain Kirk,” came a voice from the bridge, “we are receiving an urgent message from Sarek on Derilia.”
Kirk’s eyes grew wide. What could have happened to force the ambassador to risk open communications?
“Put him through,” he ordered.
Almost instantly the voice was replaced by Sarek’s measured tones. “Captain Kirk, “ he began, “We have another crisis.”
Kirk repressed a frustrated sigh. How many crisises could one world afford?
As Sarek relayed information concerning the insane Derilians and a possible location of the hostages, the gathered aliens began to murmur amongst themselves in excited and fearful tones. An older man broke from the group to approach the Vulcans. Spock recognized him as a minor official whom he had met on his visit to Artemis.
“Master Jasai,” he greeted him.
“Captain Spock,” he replied, “we are aware of your interest in trausium. Would it be possible to test a theory that may explain the collapse of the Great Hall?”
Both of Spock’s eyebrows rose. “I would be most interested to test such a theory,” he said as he caught Saavik’s eye. She immediately approached to join the conversation.
“It is our belief that the individuals afflicted with this insanity may have caused the collapse of the Great Hall,” Jasai continued. “There were scientists and engineers among those who explored Elaanus. If there is a way to destroy the strength of trausium, they could have found it.”
“We found no explosive or incendiary devices,” Saavik informed them.
Jasai shook his head in that peculiar wagging motion of his race. “Perhaps the destruction was more from within than from without,” he said. “Perhaps a device or substance that could dissolve the mineral itself?”
Spock raised his eyebrows again. No one had yet raised that possibility and he was disturbed that he had not thought of it. He looked to the captain who had finished speaking with Sarek and was ordering the ship back to Derilia.
“Captain,” he said, “Master Jasai has a theory concerning the destruction on Derilia. May we have use of the science lab to test this theory?”
Kirk glanced at him in surprise. “Of course,” he answered, still unused to Spock’s current position as a diplomat and not an officer.
Spock hesitated a moment. “We will require Lieutenant Saavik’s assistance as well,” he said.
Kirk nodded his assent and watched the two Vulcans leave with the colonist. Spock still had a considerable limp but was using the cane now more than the chair. He seemed his normal self again as well and the captain wondered if it was time for him to resume his usual duties. It was unlike Spock not to ask. The Vulcan had once claimed not to have an ego to bruise, but being thrown off the bridge seemed to have done just that. Kirk sighed and hoped that he could patch up that relationship when this impossible mission was over.