It was a dead world.
It had never supported life of its own. The planet known in Federation records as Polluxara IV had no intelligent life that might interfere with the Prime Directive. It sported not so much as a microbe, but within its lifeless, rocky exterior had once flowed a rich vein of what was then one of the most precious substances in the universe -- dilithium.
It was this deposit that had led Earth, almost a hundred and fifty years ago, to establish a colony in order to mine the mineral. But now, once again, Polluxara IV was lifeless, save for the twenty-seven souls that stood safely encased in...