Celebrate the Earth and Sky
Celebrate the Earth and Sky
Soar with the Wind
Let Your Spirit Fly
Earth Year: 2225
Total systems failure had been a long time in coming. And at 4.6 astronomical units away from Earth, orbiting Jupiter like a brand new moon, there was no help in sight.
We didn’t even make it to Europa, she thought, shaking her head. The lights flickered, and she leaned back in the uncomfortable thing they had taken to calling the “command chair” as a joke at the beginning of their mission – more than eight months ago, now.
Eight months, three days, twenty-one hours since liftoff. One month, two days since the mainframe computer overloaded and exploded, killing Captain Apalla and Commander Hix. One month, two days since communications were lost. Fifteen days since Lieutenant Macy, third in command – and only engineer remaining – was badly burned attempting repairs. Fourteen days since she—
The woman stopped, grimacing. She took a sip of water from the water bottle to her left and tapped a few commands into the small personal computer she held in front of her like a blank sheet of paper. It blinked on, all bright colors and friendly boxes. Pointedly ignoring the red battery symbol in the upper right hand corner, she tapped on a box. Cards began to lay themselves across the screen.
Two weeks since I’ve been here alone.
The game of solitaire was not enough to keep her attention for long. She swiveled in the chair and punched a button on its arm. Nothing happened. Scowling, she punched it again. This time, it beeped twice at her before a mechanized voice said, “Recording.” She cleared her throat.
“This is— well, I guess it’s obvious, since I’ve been making these things for two weeks now. It’s, um.” Her voice caught, “Two weeks since Macy died. I’m guessing it’s not going be another two before I’m dead too. Um.” She took a deep breath, her nose wrinkling. “It stinks in here,” she said, with something between a laugh and a sob. “Only the oxygen and water and light’s still working. Everything else—” she rubbed at her eyes. “Macy and Hix and the Captain they’re all in— the back room, I guess. Well, their bodies, at any rate. Shit.” She punched the button again. Nothing happened. She hit it harder, but no response.
“Stop it! Stop recording, damn you! You stupid, broken thing! Stop!” She jabbed at it, then grabbed at her hand, swearing. “Fuck,” she groaned. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” She scrubbed her face with her hands, then looked out at the view screen. Jupiter and a dozen of its moons hung placidly in space like a living painting. She stood.
“Fuck you!” she screamed at the planet. “And fuck all your moons and fuck, fuck this ship! This stupid, worthless, tin can!” She punctuated each word with a kick to the broken control panel. The lights flickered again. “And fuck the stupid government for sending us here on a useless, stupid, fucking, mission!” She stopped for a second, breathing hard, then slid back into her seat.
“Who cares if there’s alien microbes on Europa?” she said softly, almost snickering. “I sure as hell don’t. At least—” she looked back towards the door, behind which the bodies of the rest of the crew had been piled on one of the bunk beds. Thanks to the ventilation system, the smell permeated even through the thick sealed walls. She kept her gaze scrupulously away from the charred disaster of the main operating computer. “Not anymore.”
The lights flickered for a final time, and then went out. The low, barely noticeable buzz of the oxygen circulator halted. The silence was deafening.
The woman hugged her knees to her chest. “Well,” she said to the darkness. “I guess this is it.”
They deliberated for some time before approaching the craft. It was primitive, barely capable of the meanest level of space flight, nothing near achieving warp speed.
“Your curiosity is unbecoming of one of your status,” the first officer observed.
“Your unwillingness to assist one in need is unbecoming of yours,” the ambassador shot back.
“Enough,” said the captain. He eyed his crew speculatively. “Here we have a ship of primitive, alien design, not much larger than one of our four crew shuttles. It no longer appears functional to our sensors and even if it were, it certainly would be incapable of harming us. There is one life sign within.” He turned to his first officer. “Commander Elkat,” he said, “I would have your thoughts on the matter.”
Elkat stepped forward. “This ship is no business of ours,” he said coolly. “Its rescue does not fall within the parameters of our mission. Additionally,” he looked over at the ambassador. “Additionally,” he repeated, “revealing our presence would break two of the High Command’s key tenets: one, that we do not interfere in the affairs of primitive civilizations; and two, that we do not reveal our existence to those civilizations who have yet to achieve true space flight capabilities.”
The captain nodded slowly. He raised an eyebrow at the diplomat. “Ambassador Sarek,” he said. “It is clear that your opinion on the matter differs from the commander’s. Please explain.”
Sarek drew himself up. At sixty-three years of age, he was young for his position. An anomaly. What’s more, every individual on the ship was aware that it was so.
“Commander Elkat is correct regarding the council’s laws, of course,” he said. “However, I do not believe that this falls outside our mission. Indeed, it may be the best way to accomplish it.”
The captain cocked his head. He had heard that despite his relative youth, the ambassador had a tongue of water, capable of coaxing even the most stone-headed into changing their shape. The captain had even heard, through sources unnamed, that Sarek had been somewhat instrumental in the cessation of hostilities with the Romulan Empire. His argument might prove interesting. He nodded.
Sarek continued. “We were charged to determine the status of the sentient beings dwelling on the third planet of this system,” he said. He looked around the bridge. “Why so?” he queried gently. “Out of all the primitive planets within Vulcan’s sphere of influence, why this particular one?”
No one answered. In truth, their orders had seemed rather illogical – ferry a young ambassador across the quadrant to a small blue planet full of volatile emotional beings who likely would not recognize a warp core if it landed right in front of them. Do not engage the natives. Observe only. Report any unusual activity back to the High Command.
Odd, but not their place to question.
“I will tell you why,” Sarek said. “According to our projections, these people were scientifically advanced enough to discover true space flight more than two hundred years ago. And yet,” he spread his hands, “they have not.”
There was quiet as Sarek’s gaze passed around the room. Elkat’s lips thinned.
One of the navigators spoke hesitantly into the silence. “Is there a conjecture as to the reason for this anomaly?”
For the briefest of seconds, the captain thought he could literally hear the sounds of a trap clanging shut. He cleared his mind and focused instead on Sarek who, as it appeared, had been waiting for that particular question. Much like a le-matya lies in wait for its prey, he mused, and maybe should have been more alarmed at the thought than he was.
“Indeed,” Sarek said simply. “Outside interference.”
There were numerous doubtful looks exchanged at this pronouncement. The blue planet was well within Vulcan’s influence. It would be highly unlikely for anything to occur in that sector without their knowledge.
“Of course, that is conjecture only,” Sarek added. “Perhaps our earlier calculations regarding the rate at which their civilization advanced, were incorrect. We simply do not know.”
Elkat spoke. “Two wrongs do not make a right, Ambassador,” he said. “Even if others have done so, we still have no right to interfere in these peoples’ affairs.”
Sarek turned to the captain. “Am I correct in assuming that there are no more ships in the vicinity?” he said.
“You are correct,” the captain affirmed, sensing what was coming like an impending doom.
“Then the timing is such that the individual aboard the alien craft cannot hope for a recue from their own people,” Sarek said, and his voice was sharper this time. “If we assist the alien, we shall not only be sparing a life – another of Surak’s decrees, if my memory serves correctly – we shall also be gaining a direct, and valuable, source of information as to what, if anything, has occurred on the blue planet to stall the advancement of their civilization.” He looked directly at the captain, eyes locking. “If there are none on this ship willing to go and collect the alien, then I will do so myself.”
The captain was hard pressed not to do something so illogical as sigh. “The alien must be quarantined,” he ordered, resisting the urge to rub at his temples. Most unbecoming. “I will have no mysterious diseases on this ship.”
The ambassador bowed. “Understood, Captain,” he said.
“The alien ship is no larger than one of our shuttles,” the captain continued. “We will bring it in and quarantine it in shuttle bay four.” He fixed Sarek with a look that could have cut glass. “Until the High Command can be reached, the alien is your responsibility,” he said.
Sarek bowed again, “Understood,” he repeated. Then he turned and, signaling to his aide, swept out of the room.
The tractor beam on the Vulcan ship was more than up to securing the alien vessel. When it had been brought safely aboard and the shuttle bay re-oxygenated, Sarek entered the bay. At the Captain’s insistence, he wore a suit designed to minimize the potential for biological hazards.
Sarek stepped down towards the primitive craft, and touched it, somewhat hesitantly. He could feel the coolness of ceramic tiles beneath the thin material stretched over his fingers. He cocked his head, eyeing what appeared to be a door on the craft’s side, and turned to the security force that had followed him.
“It may be necessary to cut into the alien ship,” he said. He slid his hand along the side until it came to rest on what, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be a handle. He tugged at it. The door did not budge. “It must be locked from the inside,” he murmured to himself.
An engineer moved to stand next to him. “We can cut into the material with minimum difficulty, Ambassador,” she said, waving a tricorder over the side of the craft. “We will need forty-five minutes, maximum.”
“Take as much time as you need,” said Sarek. “I will wait here.” He removed the mask from his bio-suit, and sat down cross-legged, not too far away.
“Very well,” said the engineer. She began to call out orders to the other crewmembers in the shuttle bay. Less than an hour later, just as the engineer had predicted, the door had been neatly severed from the side of the craft.
“We have implemented a small shield at the entrance,” the engineer said. “It should contain any hazardous materials or life-forms, until we are able to do a more thorough study.
Sarek nodded. “I wish to enter the alien craft. Will that be possible?”
She frowned minutely. “Possible? Yes. It is not safe.”
Sarek tapped the chest of his bio-suite. “I have taken precautions,” he said. “Our scanners have detected nothing anomalous, correct?”
“Correct,” the engineer said, somewhat reluctantly.
“Then there is no use in waiting,” Sarek said. “From idleness to inaction.”
“Surak also approved of caution,” said the engineer.
“Nevertheless,” said Sarek. “I am an ambassador. It is my duty to speak with new peoples.”
“Indeed,” the engineer deadpanned. She handed him a scanner. “Very well. Let us hope that the people you intend to speak with are just as intent to speak with you.”
“Hope is illogical,” said Sarek.
She raised an eyebrow. “That is one school of thought.”
Sarek stared at her for a moment, and then swiftly headed towards the opening in the side of the alien craft. “Remove the shielding,” he commanded, replacing his mask.
“Yes, Ambassador,” said the technician. He touched something on the nearby panel.
Sarek took a deep breath, centering himself, and entered the alien ship.
Inside was dark and cramped. There was a door almost immediately to his right. After a momentary hesitation, he pulled on it. It did not move. Sarek’s eyes swept around, taking in the doorway. He noticed a small button near midway between the floor and the ceiling. He pressed it and the door slid open.
Sarek stepped inside, his gaze alighting on the structures bolted to the side of the wall. He raised an eyebrow. From the scans of the blue planet, he knew that the dominant sentient aliens were physiologically similar to Vulcans. They were mammalian. Bipedal. Their society appeared to include both complicated social structure and extensive ritual. If he had been on Vulcan, the room would definitely have resembled some form of military barracks, or a sleep chamber. He thought for a moment before determining that it was likely this room formed a similar function.
He stepped closer to the structures, and then froze, his eyes widening.
Bodies. There were three bodies, stacked next to each other. A rounded piece of metal (Currency? Sarek wondered. He had encountered such practices before) had been placed on each of their eyelids, keeping them closed. Their five fingered hands had been clasped in front of their chests. They were in varying stages of decay. One of the bodies appeared badly burnt on one side.
Sarek swallowed, suddenly immeasurably grateful that his bio-suite had its own oxygen system and that he had been spared the, no-doubt awful, smell.
He backed out of the room. The ship’s scanners had detected a life sign. Someone had to have placed the bodies in that room. He headed towards the front of the craft, bypassing what looked like a laboratory, as well as a food preparation area. He pressed the button on the door leading to what must serve as the bridge and it slid open with a hydraulic hiss.
There was indeed an alien in the room. It was slumped in a chair near the front view screen. Its eyes were shut. Sarek moved closer, stepping over the mangled hardware spread chaotically across the floor.
The alien superficially resembled a Vulcan female. It wore a one-piece suit of a rough, brown material, with alien script scrawled across the left side. The hair was a dark brown and gathered at the back, the skin somewhat pale. Unlike a Vulcan, the ears were smaller and rounded. The eyebrows were less severe. The arteries beneath the pale skin leant the reddish hue of oxygenated iron-based blood to the being’s face.
Sarek inched forward, his hand outstretched, almost as an afterthought. Should he perform a meld? The alien appeared unconscious. Perhaps—
Sarek jumped back, startled, as the closed eyes began to flutter open. The alien blinked once, twice. It sat up with a gasp, clearly frightened brown eyes meeting his behind the mask.
They stared at each other.
Slowly, ever so slowly, and definitely not thinking about the illogic of his actions, Sarek’s fumbling fingers removed his mask. The alien cringed back into the chair as he did so, and it swallowed as Sarek’s features became apparent. Sarek tilted his head.
“I am Ambassador Sarek,” he said. “I represent the Vulcan High Command. Who are you?” He spread his fingers in the ta’al, and bowed.
The alien’s eyebrows drew together, clearly not understanding a word he was saying, but managing to convey the sentiment of complete bewilderment in a most succinct expression.
Straightening, Sarek took a moment to appreciate the fact that although he and this being had evolved on very different worlds, they were still so miraculously similar. On Vulcan, he had never placed much store in the Preservers Theory or the Theory of Parallel Evolutions but now, face to face with this alien being, he could see the merits of such ideas.
He tried again. “Do you understand me?”
The alien raised an eyebrow at him. Sarek was startled, both by the illogic of his own question, and the disturbingly familiar response. He huffed out a breath and tapped his chest. “Sa-rek.” he said slowly. “Sarek.”
The alien blinked. Then, its eyes lit up. It pointed a shaky finger at him. “Sarek,” it repeated quietly, not quite getting the accent correct.
Sarek nodded. He hoped – no, hope was illogical – it would be fortunate if the alien understood the gesture. “Sarek,” he said again, hand on his chest. He extended his other hand, index finger pointed, mirroring the alien’s action. “And you?”
The alien’s gaze followed Sarek’s movement. It pointed to Sarek again. “Sarek,” it said. Then it tapped its own chest. “Amanda.”
“Amanda,” Sarek echoed. The rhythm of the alien syllables were not displeasing nor, to be completely truthful, entirely alien to the tongue.
The alien nodded. “Amanda,” it said again, and smiled.
And for some reason, Sarek felt the strangest urge to smile back.