Captain’s log. Stardate 8514.6
The Enterprise has embarked on a peacekeeping mission to the Savinia system, where two warring planets, Pavak and Oyolo, are attempting to end years of bitter hostility. Although neither planet is a member of the Federation, we have been invited by both parties to act as an impartial mediator. The Enterprise will serve as neutral territory for the upcoming peace negotiations, while also patrolling the space between the two worlds in order to deter any attacks. Given the atrocities and bloodshed on both sides of the conflict, there are bound to be hard feelings among the delegates. I don’t envy the Federation ambassador assigned to this mission.
Who just happens to have a familiar face . . .
“Well, they’re not shooting at each other yet,” Ambassador Kevin Riley said. “That’s a positive sign, I suppose.”
The Enterprise approached the rendezvous point. On the bridge’s main viewer, two small diplomatic courier crafts from Pavak and Oyolo faced off against each other in the demilitarized zone between the planets. The couriers were essentially streamlined shuttlecrafts, designed for interplanetary travel within the solar system. Kirk recalled that both races possessed rudimentary warp technology, but had scarcely ventured beyond their own system. He briefly considered raising the Enterprise’s shields, but he decided against it. The shuttles posed little threat to the starship, and arriving with shields up, as though expecting trouble, hardly sent the right message.
“I admire your optimism, Ambassador,” Kirk said from the captain’s chair. He was wearing his dress uniform in anticipation of the delegates’ imminent arrival. Medals adorned the front of his double-breasted maroon jacket. “From what I gather, you have your work cut out for you.”
“You can say that again.” Riley stood beside Kirk’s chair in the sunken command circle at the center of the bridge. His conservative gray suit was a good deal less colorful than the then-regulation gold tunic he’d worn when he’d first served aboard the original Enterprise, some two decades ago. Years in the diplomatic corps had added some seasoning to his face and a neatly trimmed brown beard made him look more mature as well. “I have to say I’ve enjoyed the trip here, though. It’s good to be back on the Enterprise again . . . well, an Enterprise at least.”
“I know what you mean,” Kirk said. This new vessel wasn’t quite the same as his old ship, which had gone down in flames above the Genesis Planet a few years back, but he was getting used to it. And certainly it had proven itself during some tight situations, beginning with that business on Nimbus III. “And it’s been a pleasure to have you back aboard, if only for this mission.”
“We’re being hailed by both delegations,” Uhura reported from the communications station. “They’re ready to be beamed aboard.”
“Thank you, Commander.” Kirk rose from his seat and marched briskly toward the starboard turbolift. He nodded at Spock and Chekov. “Let’s not keep our distinguished guests waiting.”
The first officer and security chief fell in behind Kirk and Riley, leaving the bridge in the capable hands of Commander Sulu. Heela, a young Saurian lieutenant, took the helm as Sulu occupied the captain’s chair. Like Kirk, Spock and Chekov had donned their dress uniforms for the occasion. A short turbolift ride brought the reception party to the main transporter room on G Deck, where they found Doctor McCoy and Commander Scott waiting for them, along with a pair of discreetly positioned security guards. Kirk wasn’t necessarily expecting any trouble, but he was pleased Chekov wasn’t taking any chances with the safety of the delegates or the crew. In the captain’s experience, peacekeeping could sometimes be anything but peaceful.
“The Federation’s only interest is promoting peace in this sector,” Riley stressed. “It’s vital that we remain impartial and avoid even the appearance of taking sides.”
“You don’t need to remind us, Mister Ambassador,” Kirk said lightly. “This is hardly our first rodeo.”
“Of course, Captain,” Riley said, sounding slightly abashed. “I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.”
“At ease,” Kirk teased him. “You can count on us to be thoroughly even-handed where our guests are concerned.”
He had to admit that Riley’s respectful manner was a pleasant change from the sometimes overbearing attitude of many high-ranking Federation officials. Still, Kirk made a mental note to remember that Riley was indeed an experienced ambassador now, not the enthusiastic young lieutenant who had once served under Kirk’s command—and who had later been his chief of staff at Starfleet HQ, back when Kirk was an admiral flying a desk. All joking aside, the captain had no desire to undercut Riley’s authority by continuing to treat him as a subordinate. Ambassador Riley had come a long way.
“Who gets beamed aboard first?” Scott asked, occupying the transporter control booth. Transparent partitions divided the control console from the transporter platform. “If ye don’t mind me asking?”
“The order was determined randomly,” Riley explained. “The Pavakians go first.”
“You heard the man, Mister Scott,” Kirk said. “Proceed.”
As Scott operated the controls, Kirk looked forward to meeting his first Pavakians. He had never encountered either species before and, despite the weighty nature of his mission, felt the same thrill he always experienced when visiting a new planet or civilization. The joy of discovery was a big part of why he had joined Starfleet. He hoped he never got so jaded that he lost his natural curiosity about alien races and cultures.
Twin pillars of coruscating energy shimmered above the transporter platform before coalescing into two humanoid figures, who were clearly Pavakian. Their most distinguishing characteristic, which had been noted in Kirk’s briefings on the species, was a velvety layer of fine fur that lay flat against the elegant contours of their otherwise very human-looking faces. The rest of their bodies were covered by crisp white military uniforms with black piping. Matching white gloves protected their hands, while polished black boots rested squarely on the transporter pads. The Pavakian delegation consisted of an older male and younger female of basic mammalian design. It had been arranged in advance that each senior delegate would be accompanied by a single aide.
“Welcome aboard the Enterprise,” Kirk said, and greeted the new arrivals. “I’m Captain James Kirk, one of your hosts for this summit.” He gestured toward Riley. “And this is Ambassador Riley.”
Riley stepped forward. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. On behalf of the United Federation of Planets, let me extend my own welcome . . . and our sincere hopes for a productive conference.”
“Thank you, gentlemen.” The senior Pavakian, accompanied by his aide, stepped down from the platform. He was lean and grizzled, with a stiff military bearing. His fine brown fur had been infiltrated by streaks of silver at his temples and chin, but his pale green eyes were sharp and alert beneath bushy black brows. Medals and ribbons festooned his double-breasted white tunic. His voice was slow and sonorous, as though weighing each word carefully. “General Vapar Tem of the Pavakian Civil Defense Force,” he introduced himself. “And this is my aide-de-camp, the indispensable Colonel Gast.”
“Captain, Ambassador.” Gast’s tawny golden fur was sleeker and more lustrous than Tem’s, no doubt because of the difference in their ages. She appeared young and fit and self-assured. Tiger stripes streaked the top of her scalp, meeting in a widow’s peak atop her brow. Cool brown eyes, darting briefly to note the presence of the security guards, regarded Kirk and his crew. Kirk got the impression that she missed very little.
“A pleasure.” He took a moment to introduce the other officers present. “Captain Spock, my first officer and science officer. Doctor Leonard McCoy, ship’s surgeon. Commander Montgomery Scott, head of engineering, and Commander Pavel Chekov, navigator and chief of security.”
“Officers.” Tem nodded at the reception committee before calling their attention to his aide. “Colonel Gast is an accomplished engineer and space traveler in her own right. She was originally assigned to our fledgling star exploration program before the war intervened.”
“The general is too kind,” she protested. “I merely saw my duty, like any other loyal Pavakian. Defending our world and interests took precedence over a purely scientific expedition.”
Kirk suspected that the war’s gain had been their space program’s loss. “Perhaps peace will open up new possibilities for all Pavakians—and for the Oyolu as well.”
She shrugged. “We shall see.”
Kirk found her remark worryingly noncommittal, but let it pass. As he understood it, the cease-fire had been in place for just a few months. It was only natural that soldiers on both sides might be skeptical of the chances for a lasting peace.
“The Oyolu delegation is ready to board,” Riley remarked. “We should not abuse their patience.”
“Heaven forbid,” Gast said drily.
Tem shot her a warning look. “Colonel.” He turned apologetically toward the Enterprise officers. “You must understand, gentlemen, that there remains little love lost between my people and the Oyolu. Much blood has been spilled, many friends and family maimed or buried, cities and homes reduced to rubble. Such wounds are not easily healed, and old grievances die hard.”
Kirk recalled his briefings on the painful history of the system. Oyolo, the inner world, was a lush green planet whose abundant resources and biodiversity had inevitably attracted the interest of rapacious traders and merchants from the neighboring world of Pavak. Although Pavak had never officially conquered or colonized Oyolo, its military government had vigorously defended the traders’ interests against those of the native Oyolu, eventually provoking a violent insurgency devoted to driving the Pavakians from the planet. The result had been an escalating cycle of violence, of vicious attacks and brutal retaliation, which had spilled oceans of blood over the past several generations.
“I understand,” Riley said. “My own homeland, back on Earth, was torn apart by bitter, often bloody Troubles only a few centuries ago, but in time peace and forgiveness came. You know what they say: Shaking hands with your friends is easy, but with your enemies? That’s a challenge that calls on the best we can be.”
Tem nodded solemnly. “Let us hope we are up to the task, then, for the sake of both our worlds.”
“Mister Chekov will escort you and Colonel Gast to your quarters,” Kirk said. It occurred to him that it might be better to postpone any meeting between the delegations until both were comfortably settled aboard the Enterprise. “We’ve prepared guest accommodations for both of you.”
Tem shook his head. He appeared to see through Kirk’s tactics. “I appreciate your prudence, Captain, but there is no point in delaying this encounter. Let us greet the Oyolu.”
Very well, Kirk thought. He nodded at Scotty. “Energize.”
Within minutes, two new figures materialized upon the transporter platform. The Oyolu were larger and stockier than the Pavakians, with broad chests and faces. Curling horns jutting from their brows indicated that both of the Oyolu delegates were male. Flowing manes of hair framed leathery yellow complexions the color of fresh lemons. In contrast to the stark white uniforms of their enemies, the Oyolu sported much more colorful and elaborate attire. A fur-lined burgundy cape hung from the wide shoulders of the senior delegate. A belted silk tunic, intricately embroidered, bared his muscular arms and legs. Beaded wristbands and greaves adorned their limbs. Cloven hooves rendered footwear superfluous.
The younger delegate, who had a shorter cape and less ornate tunic, as well as a rich, slightly accented voice, stepped forward to introduce his superior.
“May I present to you our revered leader, A’Barra the Defender!”
“More like A’Barra the bloody-handed rabble-rouser,” Gast murmured under her breath, earning her another cautionary look from General Tem. Kirk hoped her remark had gone unheard by the Oyolu.
“Welcome aboard the Enterprise,” Kirk said, before introducing himself and his crew. “And this is Ambassador Riley.”
“Greetings, Minister A’Barra,” Riley added. “I hope we did not keep you waiting.”
“Not at all,” A’Barra said in a deep baritone. “Peace has been a long time coming. A few stray moments here or there will make little difference.” His right horn had been broken off or severed so that only a truncated stub remained, while a pronounced limp was noticeable as he stepped down from the platform to address Kirk and the others. Flowing white hair fell past his shoulders. “Is that not so, Ifusi?” he asked his aide.
The other Oyolu had long black hair and a youthful intensity that reminded Kirk of Chekov back during their first five-year mission. Kirk noted an empty holster upon Ifusi’s belt. Both delegations had been instructed to leave any weapons behind.
“As you say, sir,” the aide replied.
So far, so good, Kirk thought as the two delegations regarded each other warily. Now for the tricky part, introducing the recent enemies to each other.
Riley came forward to do the honors. He gestured toward the Pavakians. “You know General Tem, of course.”
“Only by reputation,” A’Barra said in a tone that made it unclear if this was a compliment. His eyes narrowed as he contemplated the enemy commander. His hand absently fingered his broken horn. Beside him, Ifusi openly glared at Tem, not even trying to conceal his hostility. Kirk found himself grateful for that empty holster.
“Likewise,” Tem said drily.
A tense, awkward silence ensued. “Well, I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to get to know each other better in the days to come,” Riley said. “That you’re both here in the same place, ready to talk, is a historic first step that can only lead to—”
Chekov sneezed loudly, interrupting the ambassador.
“Commander?” Kirk asked.
“Excuse me, Captain.” Chekov sniffled. “My apologies.”
McCoy gave Chekov a look of professional concern, but Kirk took advantage of the distraction to try to move things along. A crowded transporter room was not the ideal place to bring the wary adversaries together; if nothing else, it was far too easy for one delegation to beam away in a huff.
“Now that we’ve completed the introductions,” he said, “why don’t we get you settled into your respective quarters. No doubt you’ll want to relax and freshen up before we get down to business.”
“Thank you, Captain,” A’Barra said. “Your hospitality is most welcome. I confess, the hedonist in me is looking forward to enjoying the creature comforts of your fine starship.” He patted a prominent belly. “Particularly some of your exotic Federation cuisine.”
“We’re honored to have both delegations aboard.” Kirk turned to the security officers at hand. “Mister Hernandez, please escort the Oyolu to their quarters. Mister Yost, please do the same for our Pavakian guests.”
The ship’s VIP staterooms were all located on D Deck, one level above the senior officers’ quarters. Kirk wondered if he should have arranged matters so that the rival delegations were on different decks, but he saw no way to do so without possibly slighting one faction. Better that they receive equal accommodations, even if that meant putting them in uncomfortably close proximity to each other. At least they were at opposite ends of a curving corridor, he reflected, with a few empty staterooms in between. One more buffer zone couldn’t hurt.
Colonel Gast paused on her way to the exit. “What of our personal effects and baggage?”
“They’re being beamed aboard via the cargo transporters as we speak,” Scotty assured her. “Ye can count on them to be delivered to your quarters in no time at all.”
“Understood.” She let Yost lead her toward the exit, giving the Oyolu a wide berth on her way out. A look of mutual contempt passed between her and Ifusi. Her nose wrinkled in distaste. “Until later, gentlemen.”
Ifusi snorted in disdain.
Yes, Kirk decided. Kevin Riley definitely had his hands full. You could practically smell the bad blood between the old enemies. They could be sitting on top of a powder keg.
Here’s hoping nobody lights a match.
Star Trek: The Original Series: Foul Deeds Will Rise
2288. The U.S.S Enterprise-A is on a vital peacekeeping mission in a remote solar system beyond the boundaries of the Federation, where two warring planets—Pavak and Oyolo—are attempting to end years of bitter conflict. Crucial peace talks are being conducted aboard the Enterprise, even as Starfleet weapons inspectors oversee the disarmament process. Losses and atrocities on both sides have left plenty of hard feelings behind, so Captain James T. Kirk has his work cut out for him, even as he unexpectedly runs into a disturbing figure from his past: Lenore Karidian.
Twenty years ago, the deadly daughter of Kodos the Executioner tried to kill Kirk, but she has since been declared sane and rehabilitated. Kirk wants to give her the benefit of the doubt and a second chance at life, but when a mysterious assassination threatens the already fragile peace process, all clues point toward Lenore–and the future of two worlds hangs in the balance.
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- Pocket Books/Star Trek |
- 384 pages |
- ISBN 9781476783246 |
- November 2014