Kirk, McCoy, Spock,
Scott and an assortment of other members of the ships crew were crowding the
transporter room, awaiting the arrival of the ambassador. Despite the thirteen and a half
week delay engendered by eight missions, starting with the Kenederis incident, followed by
an assortment of other missions culminating with the urgent trip to Camus II to deal with
the criminally insane Janice Lester, no other ship had been found to handle the routine
effort of transporting an ambassador from Ylka to Falla. Obediently, but reluctantly, the Enterprise
captain had set course for Ylka. Now the starship was in orbit, ready to serve as the
"Coordinates logged in, Captain," Scott burred in his Gaelic brogue. "Ready to transport on your order."
"Well, let's not keep him waiting any longer than necessary. Beam the ambassador up, Scotty. After waiting for ninety-five days, he's probably not in the best of humor." Kirk nodded to Spock, who moved to the wall communicator to trigger the recorded bosuns Whistle to greet the arriving ambassador. The chief engineer triggered the transporter. Instead of seeing the Ylkan ambassador materialize, they saw the transporter fill with an odd looking assortment of metallic objects.
Spock turned to Kirk. "There must have been an error. The Ylkans are similar to the centaur of Terran mythology. They would be quite comfortable under the conditions on the Enterprise. Mister Scott, is there any possibility that the Ylkans may have given you incorrect coordinates?"
"Hardly likely, Mister Spock; I double checked them myself. Perhaps this is the Ylkan idea of a practical joke?"
From one of the items on the transporter, a rich baritone interrupted. "If so, Mister Scott, the joke is on me, and I find it far from amusing. After having to put up with me for an additional three months, they were probably getting as tired of me as I was of them. May I assume that the Ylkans failed to warn you that I am not Ylkan?"
Kirk stared at the ceiling in embarrassment for a second before speaking. "We were not told you were not Ylkan, Mister Ambassador. Im sure that the error was all on our part, and"
The baritone interrupted Kirk. "Oh, dont try to cover up for the Ylkans. They thought you were about a third of your actual height, too. Thats why my life support suit is horizontal. Is anyone here an engineer?"
"Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott at your service, Mister Ambassador!"
"Wonderful! Its been ten, maybe eleven of your years since I was last on my home planet where I could get this absurd metallic monstrosity serviced properly. Would you be so very kind as to use one of your appendages to apply a tangential force vector to the upper corner of this suit? The edge nearest you, I believe."
Scott looked puzzled.
"I believe, Mister Scott," Spock opined, "that the ambassador wishes you to kick the rounded cylinder on the corner of the rectangular metal box nearest us."
"Kick! Yes, I think thats the word I want," the baritone intoned. "Mister Scott, would you oblige?"
"Dont worry, Scotty." McCoy chuckled. "Ill fix your toes if you overdo it!"
The chief engineer moved toward the object in question, and gently tapped the corner of it with his toe. What were apparently arms attempted to move, unsuccessfully. "Mister Scott, could you try it again? Perhaps more forcefully? The mechanism allowing deployment of my limbs seems a trifle sticky, yet." Scott obliged, this time with a blow that would have bent a bulk-head. His efforts were rewarded by seeing a partial deployment of the appendages. "Most excellent blow, good engineer. I do believe one more like that, and I shall be able to assume a more comfortable posture. Could you again oblige?"
Scott used his other foot, planting a haymaker worthy of respect. Limbs from all eight corners of the metallic rectangle deployed, and the ambassador assumed an upright posture. Slowly, what were clearly the ambassadors lower limbs straightened, until the upper limbs bumped the top of the transporter. The ambassador lowered himself a little, finally assuming a pose that looked more like a squat willow tree than anything else. The ambassadors mellow baritone boomed again. "Well, it seems Im still a little too tall to stretch out in your ship, Captain."
"If I might be so bold, Ambassador, you are clearly neither Ylkan nor Fallan; perhaps you could correct the little oversight in our information?" Kirk asked.
"Oh, forego the title ambassador, Kirk. My names Hoorash, and Im a Suzran. Im most comfortable with an atmosphere about seven times as dense as you seem to have here, at a temperature of about 580º Celsius and gravity about eight times what you seem to have on this deck. If I understand the language correctly, I believe you would say I breathe superheated, high-pressure steam. Suzr is a class W planet; about twenty percent of its surface is what I believe you would call magma. Your Federation classification for me would be R-6, if I understand your system correctly."
McCoy let out a low whistle. "A silicon life form, no less, like the Excalbians or the Sheliak!"
"The Sheliak, Doctor, are R-3 lifeforms which subsist on hyperonic radiation," Spock corrected. "And the Excalbians are a high temperature, carbon chemistry life form."
"Precisely. I see youve met both of those arrogant little carbon-cycle warts, too. The Excalbians tried to involve me in some absurd experiment or other. Regrettably, I had to be a little undiplomatic with them. They wont try to play that sort of game with Suzrans again." Kirk almost thought the translator managed a harsh, if not threatening tone.
Spocks eyebrow arched. "We found them somewhat less than hospitable as hosts as well."
"And the Sheliak," Hoorash issued
what they could only assume was the Suzran equivalent of a sigh. "They've got lawyers
for everything. Talking with them was exhausting, and afterwards they insisted I sign some
sort of legal document saying that whatever was said might not have actually been said
and...well, they're obnoxiously litigious, and incredibly wordy."
Spock changed the subject. "Judging from your classification, I would assume that the metallic objects behind you are part of a portable environmental housing? Perhaps a life support unit that could be assembled for your comfort?"
One of the upper, tentacle-like appendages gestured, and the ambassadors suit bent toward Spock slightly. "A most excellent deduction, for a carbon-based life form, and an accurate one. If only you carbon life forms could get over a few modest, annoying problems, youd be wonderful beings to associate with."
Kirk looked puzzled. "What sort of problems?"
"Oh, like what they tell me would happen if I tried shaking hands with you. Thoroughly obnoxious."
Kirk had the feeling he was making a mistake by asking, but he went ahead anyhow. "What did they say?"
"They said that youd ignite, of all things! Flames all over, and the smoke would be most annoying. I mean, how do you get along with folks who would probably hiss, sizzle and burn when you put your extremities around their shoulders?"
McCoy was clearly fighting to control a snicker.
Spock intervened. "It is my observation, Ambassador Hoorash, that silicate beings of classification R-6 would possibly shatter, or at least risk their equivalent of frostbite, when they come in contact with carbon-based humanoid life forms like myself. Perhaps such annoying trivialities are best ignored, and our meetings kept on a more philosophical basis."
McCoy lost his composure, and started laughing. Kirk followed, as did Scott and the rest. Over the merriment of the Humans, the gravel-on-steel noise of the ambassadors laughter was even audible. Only Spock remained calm.
"Touché, Spock!" laughed the ambassador. "And those silly Ylkans told me Vulcans had no sense of humor! Either way, I have been in this life-support suit for several days, and am eager to get out of it so I can... can...."
"Scratch? Stretch your limbs?" McCoy offered helpfully.
"Stretch my limbs. Yes. I am eager to see my, ah..."
"Pup tent?" Kirk suggested with a smile.
"Close enough." Hoorash let out a sound akin to steam escaping from an overheated teapot. "This translator is just not handling the nuances of your language well, I fear, which is a dramatic pity. It appears that you have a most remarkably colorful language."
"Aye, that we have," Scott interjected. "An if yere fortunate, yell"
Spock interrupted Scott. "English has quite a number of remarkably colorful, if somewhat illogical, expressions, Ambassador Hoorash. Perhaps we could discuss them at your leisure."
"Without doubt, Spock. And I hope many other things, as well. But first, I should definitely like to make arrangements to bring up the rest of my little portable habitat, and see it assembled. Perhaps, good Engineer Scott, you would be so kind as to assist me in putting it together?"
"Aye, Ambassador. Id be delighted t do so, if for no other reason than to see what manner of technology can keep you comfortable on the inside without roastin everyone outside."
"I would be pleased to assist Mister Scott as well," Spock offered. "I am most curious to see your native environment, at least as it is reproduced in your life support habitat."
"Then you shall, Spock," the ambassador promised. "Once the habitat is assembled, and Ive had a chance to... stretch my limbs, I believe the phrase was, I shall extend my limited hospitality to you. There is a small, motorized pod that you should be able to use to join me in my abode."
"Pity there isnt a second one of them, Hoorash," McCoy quipped. "Id love to be there and see Spocks face when hes confronted with an environment hotter than Vulcan."
"As it happens, there are two, and I shall expect you to join Spock as my first official visitors."
McCoy pulled a wry face as Hoorash extended the invitation.
The ambassadors metallic suit turned slightly, appearing to face Scott. "Engineer Scott, I observe that I probably wont fit through your doorways. Do you think you could arrange to interface the transporters controls with the systems in my suit, so that I can make my way around the ship via transporter?"
"We dont usually do intraship beaming, Ambassador; its a bit tricky, but I think we can find a solution for ye. But first, lets be gettin your wee bit of a house together. Mister Spock, dye think that the shuttle bay would be th proper place?"
"Unquestionably, Mister Scott. There should be ample room for the habitat, and an adequate power supply is easily available. Mister Ambassador?"
"Hoorash, please, Spock. Ive been Mister Ambassador for several years, and Im getting quite tired of hearing it. Im ready to get to this shuttle bay as soon as possible, and out of this obnoxious suit. Mister Scott, could you oblige?"
Scott nodded silently, his fingers dancing across the controls of the transporter like a pianists fingers playing a piano. The ambassador disappeared. His fingers danced a few moments more. He turned to Spock. "Well, Mister Spock, that looks like the lot of it. Weve a wee bit of work to do in the shuttle bay. Shall we?"
The Vulcan and the Scotsman stepped into the turbolift. McCoy turned to Kirk. "Well, Im not quite sure what to make of this Suzran Ambassador as a whole, but one things sure: I like his sense of humor."
Kirk shook his head. "It figures. I suppose we might as well cancel the reception for the ambassador; I doubt that Hoorash is going to be interested in our finest wines and cheeses."
"I agree that Hoorash wont want to bother with the reception other than perhaps a token appearance in the suit, Jim, but Id hold it anyhow. Its been too long since our last shore leave, and frankly youre showing the signs of wear. Sos the rest of the crew. A nice, gala reception is just what the crew needs."
"Ill consider that Doctors Orders, Bones. Starfleet Command made it clear were to take our own sweet time getting to Falla; I suppose they wanted us to impress the Ylkan Ambassador or something. I guess the same orders hold for our Suzran. See you at the reception."
It was long after the reception when McCoy and Spock arrived in the shuttle bay to take Hoorash up on his invitation. As they rode to the bay in the turbolift, Spock turned to McCoy. "It would appear, Doctor, that the Suzrans are not yet part of the Federation. From what I have been able to find in the memory banks, Suzr is in an area that is in dispute between the Federation and the Klingons. I presume that Hoorash has been sent to find out as much as possible, with the intent of helping the Suzrans decide whether to join the Federation, try to stay neutral, or become part of the Klingon Empire. It might be prudent if you took that into consideration during our visit."
"Thanks for the briefing, Spock. Did you happen to notice that the entry on Suzr also pointed out that the Suzrans are blessed with a remarkably Human sense of humor, and are often offended when people fail to laugh at their jokes? Or did you only read the sociopolitical information?"
Spock was rescued from answering by the opening of the turbolift door. The two men walked into the shuttle bay, each to one of the two pods waiting for them. The pods looked like an egg with treads and a pair of manipulators. Other than a small seam that McCoy assumed was the entry, the surface was almost featureless. "Wonder how were supposed to see, Spock?" McCoy wondered out loud. "Dont see a window anywhere."
"I would presume, Doctor McCoy, that there are sensors concealed below the surface. Will you need assistance with your pod?"
McCoy walked up to the closest one, and waved his hand in front of where he assumed the entry would be. A door opened in response. "Dont think so, Spock. But I think Im going to practice a little before I try moving around in the ambassadors quarters. His quarters are roomy enough, but a mistake could cause a crash. I expect hed be annoyed if I ran this thing into the walls."
Silently, Spock climbed into his own pod. After a few moments to master their use, first McCoy then Spock cycled through the lock and into Hoorashs quarters. The room they entered had little in the way of furniture, and seemed far larger inside than it had looked from outside. Scattered on the floor were three or four squat, bullet shaped objects that McCoy deduced were probably the Suzran version of chairs. Off to one side, one of the squat bullets sat near what was apparently a writing surface. McCoy trundled his pod over to inspect it. On the surface, there was a framed picture that, were it of Humans, would have looked at home in any of the crews quarters. Using the pods manipulators, he picked it up. Portrayed were three large, tree-like beings with perhaps a dozen smaller ones clustered around. He grinned; some things, he decided, were probably universal, and family portraits must be one. McCoys reverie was broken by the ambassadors arrival.
"I see youve found my family picture. Id guess youd be McCoy. Correct?"
McCoy turned his vehicle until he saw Hoorash. The being looked more treelike with his suit off, if that was possible. The eightfold greater gravity had apparently shortened and thickened not only his trunk, but his limbs as well. In Hoorashs skin, there was what appeared to be a delicate, almost lace-like tracery of subdued silvery lines.
"Sure am. Nice family youve got there, Hoorash; which one are you?" McCoy returned.
"The one behind the camera, where you cant see me. The larger three are my life mates; the rest are our young."
"I thought you were all the same gender; male for a while then female. How come three spouses?"
Hoorash laughed. "I forget; your species has separate males and females, doesnt it? And yours, too, am I correct, Spock?"
"Precisely, Hoorash. I take it you form stable familial groups for reasons other than reproduction?"
"Depends on how you look at it, Spock. When we...we..."
"Flower? Pollinate? Fruit?" McCoy suggested.
"Ive been browsing your literature on Terran trees, and come into flower is the closest term, I guess. The male portion matures before the female; we... I think you would say pollinate copiously. The air is rarely free of pollen, frankly, probably never. When our female portion matures, we produce three or four, hmm.... fruit, I suppose, that we nurture into youngsters. The time of reproduction happens to us about every sixty-five or seventy of your years, on the whole. We share the task of nurturing the fruit and the young, and by having individuals of several ages, we are able to provide considerable stability and able to conserve material assets as well. The familial group Im part of has been continuously active for five, perhaps six thousand of your years; there are ones that are nearly ten thousand years old, or at least thats what they claim. When one individual dies, another one marries in, so to speak. It works well."
"Sounds pretty good to me, Hoorash," McCoy said. "Not to my tastes personally, of course, but..."
Spock interrupted, changing the subject. "If I may be so bold, Hoorash, what is your field of specialty?"
Hoorash was silent for a moment, presumably thinking. "Difficult to say; I guess youd say I was a linguist, a teacher, and a historian. With a three hundred year lifespan, we have time to master several disciplines, you understand. It was the general consensus that Id be as likely as anyone to know what to look for, and to recognize it when I saw it. That, and I have to admit that I find studying your assorted languages fascinating. I never realized how heavily the language of our species was shaped by our environment until I realized that most sentient species name for their planet was a synonym of soil. The few marine organisms Ive visited have named their planet a synonym for ocean, or for water."
"Id noticed that too, Hoorash," McCoy agreed. "Correct me if Im wrong, Spock, but isnt the Vulcan name for Vulcan an old synonym for shelter?"
"Not exactly, Doctor. Shade might be more accurate, but there are overtones of the presence of a supply of water; oasis might fit best. I would be interested in the meaning of Suzr, if you cared to share it."
"Its an old word that once meant hardness or solidity."
"For a planet with a rocky crust floating in lava seas, that seems logical."
"Thank you, Spock. What do you think of my environment?"
"I assume that the sensors of the pods Doctor McCoy and I inhabit have been as carefully adjusted to our sensory apparatus as the internal environment has been, Hoorash; I really do not have a great deal of data to comment on."
"Dont mind ol logic-happy, Hoorash," McCoy interjected. "The Ylkans were right, you know; Vulcans are pretty nearly devoid of a sense of humor. Youve got a nice place, here, as long as you dont mind me staying in my little buggy. How long did you say its been since youve been back on Suzr?"
McCoy noticed that Hoorashs upper limbs drooped a bit as he spoke. "I checked the trip record Ive made, McCoy. Its been just short of eleven of your Federation years." Hoorash reached for the picture McCoys machine was holding. McCoy released it to him, and Hoorash stared at it, silently for a moment before speaking again. "Wharrash, Surress and Hoorerhy, my three most recent offspring, will be almost as tall as I am now, and on the verge of adulthood. Hrashass, the eldest of my life-mates, is in decline, they tell me; if I am delayed more than a few months more, Hrashass may not survive to welcome me home." Hoorash let out a sound like a teakettle hissing. "I sincerely hope that your hospitality extends to ferrying me home, gentlemen. I am informed that the ship that was waiting at Falla to carry me home has been forced to move on without me."
"It would have to be cleared through Starfleet Command, Hoorash," said Spock, "but I am sure that Fleet Command will be more than happy to have us extend that courtesy to you."
McCoy winced as Spock spoke, knowing that the Vulcan was unquestionably right, and dreading the time in parking orbit around Falla while waiting for approval from Admiral Komack.
"Tell me, Hoorash, how did your people get into contact with the rest of the folk out here? Seems to me that you having to hitch rides from place to place hints that youve still not developed warp drive," McCoy asked.
"An excellent deduction, McCoy, and an accurate one. As it turns out, we didnt discover you; you discovered us. What with the atmosphere on Suzr being steam, and the temperature and pressure drop in the higher reaches of the atmosphere, our planet is shrouded with an immensely thick cloud layer. It has only been in recent decades, as we sent probes into the upper reaches of the cloud layer, that we realized that there was anything in the universe other than Suzr. Some of our philosophers and scientists had speculated on the possibility, but without first hand observations, it was considered to border on science fiction, if not fantasy. The thought that there might be other intelligent life forms than our own had not crossed our minds at all.
"That was when the mining expedition arrived from the Caldonians, one of the neutral planetary governments in our sector of the galaxy. Their probes landed near the edge of one of our larger crustal plates, and were immediately seized and studied. Other than a near total ignorance of astrophysics and astronomy, our sciences were almost as advanced as your own, and it took only a short period of time to deduce the nature of the machinery. Establishing contact with the mining expedition took a week or two, but once we did, apologies were exchanged and we began our odyssey into interstellar civilization. We set up a trading agreement, not only for some of the metals they wanted, but for some of our electronic circuits as well--mainly because of their durability in what you would consider extreme temperatures and pressures. Were looking at some agreements concerning large scale chemical manufacturing, too, working in reactions that exploit our naturally higher temperatures and pressures.
"I must admit that I find this all quite remarkable. As I mentioned a moment or two ago, Im a language specialist. Seeing how the different environments have shaped the languages of different intelligent species will profoundly alter our concepts of communication at home on Suzr. And seeing how your different peoples interact, despite their immense physical differences and the barriers of their languages is simply marvelous. Im already working on a small monograph on the language issue, actually, for my own people."
Spock nodded. "I would enjoy reading your observations. I do not doubt that your perspective as a silicate life form will add some interesting and useful thoughts to the field."
Hoorash bent his trunk toward Spock slightly. "I would be most pleased if you would read it, Spock. Perhaps you would also be willing to direct me to useful references concerning the languages of your Federation members."
McCoys head leaned to one side. "Im sure that we can download the lexicons of all the major Terran languages across time, and the current languages of the Federation members. Spock probably could get you grammars for em too. Think we could download what we have on Klingon and Romulan as well?"
"Of course, Doctor. Would you also like a couple of texts on comparative linguistics, Hoorash?"
Hoorashs limbs moved in what McCoy assumed was a gesture of appreciation. "If you would be so kind, I would be most grateful."
"Why not see if Scotty can whip up a couple of sets of blueprints for translators, Spock? That may be the most interesting and useful thing of all. Id bet the translator in that suit of yours is of non-Suzran make."
"Excellent deduction, McCoy. We certainly would appreciate being able to manufacture translators using our own circuitry. Do you think that would be permissible under your Prime Directive?"
McCoy noticed the image of Spocks face on the monitor in the pod showed the raised eyebrow that usually signified Spock being surprised, if not puzzled. McCoy smiled as he answered Hoorash. "Dont think it would be a problem, Hoorash. Mostly, that directive is aimed at not interfering with the development of cultures that are technologically widely distant from the Federation. Seems to me that youre about on a par with us, outside of the warp drive technologies. Ill bet that within a few years, youll be manufacturing your own starships anyhow."
"Unquestionably, Doctor," Spock observed. "One of the valuable mineral resources comparatively abundant on Suzr is dilithium."
"Which," Hoorash added, "is one of the critical metals in the construction of warp drives. However, we are wise enough to know that it would be better to draw upon the wisdom of other star-traveling species as we develop our own warp drive capability. No sense in running down blind alleys others have already been in. But enough of politics, gentle beings. In your computer library, I have discovered something called poker. A most fascinating game, to all appearances. Do you think I could induce you to indoctrinate me into the intricacies of the game? I have prepared a deck of cards suited to this environment," Hoorash produced a stack of thin, metallic-appearing plates from what was obviously his writing table, "And Im sure that the manipulators on the pods can handle the cards without too much difficulty."
McCoy grinned. "Pity you didnt warn me in advance, Hoorash; Id have had Scotty make us a couple of decks." He maneuvered his pod toward a table, took the cards Hoorash was offering and began to clumsily shuffle them with his pods manipulators. "Do I deal you in or not, Spock?"
Spocks face on the monitor registered a look of resignation. "Deal me in, Doctor. I assume well be playing one of the stud poker variants? That would be easier in these pods."
"How about five card stud, low hole card wild, gentle beings?" Hoorash drew one of the bullet shaped objects up to the table and draped himself over it, confirming McCoys assumption of their function. He produced a stack of differently colored metallic disks and divided among the three of them. "Ante up, fellows."
Hoorash took the cards from McCoy and began dealing them out, considerably more familiar with the procedure than hed expected. McCoy wondered how hed be able to read Hoorashs body language well enough to guess when he was bluffing, and whether Hoorash would be able to read a Human or Vulcan face.
The trip to Falla took nearly three standard days, several times longer than it should have, but as per orders, the Enterprise took the trip slowly, allowing the ambassador to tour the Enterprise, and to interact with the crew as much as was feasible. The transporter control that Scott had cobbled together and installed in Hoorashs life support suit was working marvelously, and the ambassador had clearly mastered its intricacies easily. Hoorashs business on Falla had been conducted without any major problems, and the crew had been able to enjoy a degree of shore leave.
Kirk was asleep when the communicator in his cabin went off. He actuated it sleepily. "Kirk here. Whats the problem?"
Hoorashs baritone came from the speaker. "Hrashass, Captain. I have received word that Hrashass condition is deteriorating rapidly."
Kirk sat up on the side of his bed, his head clearing rapidly. "Hoorash! Forgive my rather informal greeting. How severe is Hrashass situation?"
"Grave, I fear, or I should not have awakened you. How quickly can you get me to my home world? Hrashass is especially dear to me, having been the one that asked me to marry into my family. Weve been companions for most of my life, and..." The speaker shifted to a noise that reminded Kirk of a steel beam giving away under its load. He didnt need a translator to recognize it as a wail of grief.
"I understand, Hoorash; we will make every effort to get you home as swiftly as we can."
"Thank you, Captain, for your help with my problems."
"It should be no trouble, Hoorash. Kirk out." Hopefully, no problem, anyway, he thought to himself, feeling a dire certainty that it wouldnt be as easy as it looked. "Bridge!"
"Bridge here." It was Sulus voice. "Whats the matter, Captain?"
"We need to get to Suzr as fast as we can. The ambassadors oldest and dearest spouse is apparently dying, and he wants to be home before it happens."
"Understood, Captain." There was a brief silence. "How urgent is it, Captain? There seems to be a minor problem with the direct route."
"Id guess pretty urgent, Sulu. Whats the problem?"
"Chekov says the most direct route cuts across a wall of unclaimed territory where there has been significant Klingon activity lately. Diverting around would be saferbut significantly slower, perhaps two or three times longer."
Kirk stared at his feet for a moment, lost in thought, remembering racing home as his grandfather Samuel was dying, trying to imagine what it must feel like for Hoorash. He wondered, briefly, how long Hoorash had been married to Hrashass. Ultimately, he decided, it didnt matter: what mattered was that they were married. "Well just have to take our chances, Sulu. Have Chekov plot the direct course. Get us there with the fastest warp Scotty will give you."
"Aye, Captain. Bridge out."
Kirk turned to the readout on his desk. A few moments checking told him that there would be a couple of hours before they entered Klingon territory, and there would only be three or four hours in it. Time enough for a shower and a decent breakfast, at least. He turned to the wall communicator. "Hoorashs quarters."
Hoorashs baritone sounded off key as he spoke. "Yes, Captain?"
Before Kirk could reply, he felt and heard the warp drives kick in, hurling the starship toward Suzr. "We are on the way to Suzr, Ambassador, as fast as the Enterprise can move. Unfortunately, we will have to take the chance of cutting through unclaimed territory where Klingons have been sighted; if they intercept us, there may be combat. Youd better get into your life support suit in the next hour or sojust in case."
"You would take such a risk on my behalf?"
"Some things transcend species, Hoorash, and I think that family bonds are one of them. If it was someone in my family dying, Im sure youd do the same for me. Anyway, well only be at risk for a few hours. The risk isnt all that great." Kirks reassurances felt empty as he spoke them.
"Thank you again, Captain. Hoorash out."
Kirk wondered what kind of tears a Suzran produced when it cried, if any. He shook his head, and moved to the shower. That question could wait until later; getting the ambassador home was his first priority.
Kirk reached the bridge shortly before the estimated time of arrival in the supposedly neutral space. "Yellow alert, Mister Sulu. Spock, keep watch for Klingons. Uhura, watch the communications bands the Klingons use, especially for traffic locally. Chekov, up shields and be ready for battle. Im in no mood to be caught unaware or unprepared, ladies and gentlemen."
There was a chorus of acknowledgments, followed by a tense silence, broken only by Sulu announcing, "We are now entering the disputed sector."
The time seemed to pass more and more slowly as they moved through the thin wall of space outside the Federation. On the bridge, indeed the ship as a whole, the tension was mounting with each passing moment. The half-way mark passed uneventfully, as did the three-quarters point. The closer the Enterprise came to exiting the unclaimed wall of space, the more the hopes of making it through without being detected rose, and with them, the tension escalated even more rapidly. They were almost to safe territory when a Klingon D-7 battlecruiser uncloaked in front of them.
Kirks reaction was rapid and almost instinctive. "Red alert, Sulu. All hands to battle stations! Uhura, open a channel to the Klingon vessel; lets see if we can reason with them."
Uhuras fingers moved rapidly across the communications console, searching for an available channel. After a few moments effort, the forward screen was filled with the face of a Klingon Commander.
"This is Commander Garg of the Klingon Imperial Fleet. Do you wish to surrender now, or die in battle?"
"This is Captain James T. Kirk of the United Starship Enterprise. Commander, we are ferrying the ambassador from Suzr home to be with a dying spouse. We mean no harm, and intend no threat to the Klingon Star Empire. Out of respect for the Suzran ambassador, we request diplomatic immunity."
"Spare me the lies, Kirk, or at least have the courtesy to come up with a better lie than that. The Federation wouldnt bother sending a starship to ferry a single ambassador, and we both know it."
Kirks hands clenched in restrained anger. "If you would prefer to confirm the truth of my claim by talking to the ambassador, I"
"Dont treat me like a fool, Kirk. Any of my junior officers could produce a convincing fake ambassador. Either prepare to be boarded or prepare for combat."
Kirk debated only briefly. "Garg, there isnt time to trade words or potshots with you. Get out of our way."
The front viewscreen blanked, and the Klingon battlecruiser answered with a photon torpedo.
"Evasive action, Sulu. Chekov, lock on the Klingon and fire at will. Try to disable it as quickly as you can, so we can get out of here."
Sulu and Chekov began working together almost as a single organism. Despite the Enterprise shuddering from the onslaught of the Klingon battlecruiser, Sulu maintained a steady stream of evasive tactics, shifting position rapidly and almost randomly, ever pressing forward towards the goal of neutral space. Chekov poured the Enterprises formidable firepower at the battlecruiser, seemingly anticipating Sulus evasive tactics as he fired.
Suddenly, the Enterprise shuddered again, sparks flying from several consoles on the bridge. Scotts voice came across the communicator. "Captain, well not be able to handle another hit like that. The engines are overheatin already. Well..."
There was a flash on the forward screen, as Chekov scored on the Klingon vessel, followed by the Enterprise lurching again. The lights on the bridge died, to be replaced by emergency lights.
Spock looked up from his station. "The Klingon vessel seems to be disabled, Captain. Mister Chekovs last effort has severely damaged their S-2 graf units and power supply."
"Aye," Scotts brogue interrupted, "But tis cold comfort, Mister Spock; our warp drives out, and so are forward shields."
"Then its a race between you and their engineering crew, Scotty. If you cant get the Enterprise running first..." Kirks voice trailed off; no one needed reminded of the alternatives.
Suddenly, Hoorashs voice entered the conversation from the communications. "Forgive me for overriding Lieutenant Uhuras communications protocols, Captain, but what is the matter?"
"Im sorry, Hoorash. The Klingons, unfortunately, didnt see fit to let us through unmolested. We seem to be having some mechanical difficulty with the warp drive, but Engineering assures me that"
"The Enterprise seems to be dead in space, Captain, and time is running out with Hrashass. How long?"
Kirk stared at his clenched hands. "I dont know, Hoorash."
"And if the Klingons are operational before you are?"
"Id rather not think about that. It wouldnt be exactly pleasant, Im afraid."
"This is intolerable, Captain. I shall have to take action." The communication channel with Hoorashs quarters closed abruptly.
"Transporter energizing, Captain," Spock announced calmly. "It would appear that Hoorash is hoping to find sanctuary with the Klingons."
Kirks jaw clenched. "I guess I cant blame him, Spock. Hes probably safer there than here. If we repair our systems first, we wont be inclined to destroy the Klingon ship. However, the reverse situation would be less than pleasant. Besides, he doesnt really owe us anything, after all; theres no treaty, no agreement of any kind. I wish him luck; hes going to need it."
On the Klingon vessel, activity was furious. As Hoorash materialized in the engine room of the battlecruiser, the feverish effort to repair the warp drive was so intense that none of the Klingons appeared to notice his arrival. After a moment or two of waiting, Hoorash hailed them. "Greetings, Klingon Warriors! I am Hoorash, Ambassador from Suzr. I come claiming sanctuary, asking you to transport me to my home world."
Almost to a man, the Klingon engineers turned to face Hoorash. The ambassador extended one of his upper extremities in what he hoped would be interpreted as a friendly gesture. The Klingons turned their disruptors on it. To their surprise, the disruptors only melted the metallic sheath around Hoorashs limb, exposing it. They moved to fire a second time, but before they did, Hoorashs arm whipped forward, grasping the nearest Klingon. As he lifted the warrior, the heat of Hoorashs arm ignited the Klingons uniform, and before his companions could react, Hoorash had hurled him against them. With surprising speed, Hoorash moved forward, brushing them out of his way. Another Klingon appeared, to be sent flying backwards into a bulkhead. Hoorash turned one way and the other for a minute, finally spotting the main bank of dilithium crystals. A few strides, and Hoorash was at the panel, tearing the crystals out of their housings, shattering some of them, stacking some at his feet. Klingons began appearing from everywhere. Hoorashs harvest of intact crystals disappeared in the sparkling of the transporter. Several disruptor bolts struck Hoorash, then he, too, disappeared into the transporter as well.
On the Engineering deck of the U.S.S. Enterprise, the crew was running furiously, trying to get the starship functional. In between shouting orders at the engineering crew, Scott removed the cover from the dilithium crystals. As he looked at the array of crystals, his shoulders slumped. Every one of them was either shattered or burned out. Given time, he could replace enough of them to get the Enterprise back to a starbase for repairs, but there wasnt enough time in the midst of a battle. He leaned his head against the housing, fighting the urge to break into tears. Assistant Chief Engineer Gabler noticed Scotts sudden lack of activity.
"Is there a problem, Mister Scott?
Scott backed away from the opening and pointed. "Theyre gone, Gabler. Not a single dilithium crystal left intact. Itll take hours to replace all of them, a miracle to get us out of this dish of haggis, an I dinnae believe I can manufacture a miracle here."
Unseen, behind Scott, the sparkle of a transporter burst into life, leaving behind a stack of charged dilithium crystals. "With all due respect, Mister Scott, it looks like someone else has provided us with a miracle this time." Gabler pointed at the crystals.
"How in the name of..."
"Does it matter, sir?" Gabler asked, rushing toward the crystals. "Theyre here, and we have hope."
A smile split Scotts face. "Aye, Gabler, yere right. Put em in place, lad, while I clean out the shattered ones." Scotts hands began to move almost too fast for the eye to follow. Gabler scooped the crystals up, gently, almost reverently, and began putting them in the sockets Scott was emptying.
Back on the bridge of the Enterprise, the crew was scurrying, hoping to repair the ship before the Klingons repaired theirs.
"Captain," said Spock from the hooded viewer of his library-computer station, "I believe that the ambassador has returned. I would suggest that Doctor McCoy report to the ambassadors quarters immediately; it appears that Hoorash has sustained severe injury during his brief visit with the Klingons."
Suddenly, the bridge lights flickered back on, and Scotts brogue announced, "Warp drives are functional, Captain!"
"Scotty, youre a miracle worker," Kirk enthused. "Sulu, get us out of here!"
"With pleasure, Captain!" Sulu tapped rapidly on the navigational console, and the reassuring sounds of the warp drives hurling the Enterprise into the comparative safety of neutral space filled the bridge.
McCoy hurried into the environmental support pod outside of the ambassadors life support unit, fretting about what would be inside it. Once inside, McCoys fears were confirmed. Hoorash lay on the floor of the enclosure, his environmental support suit half melted from him. The delicate tracery of silvery lines on his skin were nearly invisible, and from the stump of what had once been an upper limb, Hoorash was leaking a silvery fluid. Several areas of Hoorashs skin looked wrong to McCoy, thought he couldnt quite say why. Without a seconds pause, he moved his pod to where he could reach the injured Suzran.
As he began stripping the suit off him, McCoy called Engineering. "Scotty, McCoy here. Need some help up here."
"Aye, Doctor. Something broken in Sickbay?"
"Not that simple. Do you happen to have anyone that can whip up a batch of an alloy for me? Looks like about twenty-five percent lead and bismuth, fifty percent tin, give or take a little."
"No need to, Doctor. Weve kilos of it around here; its one of the low temperature solders we use on occasion. What on Earth do you"
McCoy interrupted the Scotsman. "Good. Get up here with about ten or fifteen kilos of it. And if you have anything that I could use to pump it while its molten, particularly if its got a small orifice, bring that too. Just get up here as fast as you can."
"Doctor, the engine rooms still a shambles; I canna get loose at the moment. In case yeve forgotten, weve just had a rather nasty scrape wi the Klingons. The Enterprise needs a good deal of fixin. Ill send someone up to Sickbay with the solder, but"
"Forget Sickbay, Scotty. Im in the shuttle deck. Hoorash is badly injured, and as far as I can tell, your solder is as close to a transfusion as I can get. Now get your kilted behind up here before I"
"Ill be there as quickly as I can, Doctor McCoy. Scott out."
If it was possible, Hoorash looked even worse with his life support suit off, and McCoy was beginning to fear that the ambassador was already dead. One of the remaining upper limbs moved feebly. The doctor turned the pod to face Hoorashs upper end. Through the translator in the pod, McCoy heard Hoorashs voice.
"Doctor McCoy, I presume?"
"Thats right, Hoorash. Just lie still, will you? Youre wounded, and Im waiting for one of the crew to bring a few things that were going to need here."
"McCoy, when you get to Suzr, remind my family that I loved them. There are a few trinkets that you can give them for me...."
"Deliver them yourself, Hoorash. I have no intention of letting you die on me. I havent lost an ambassador yet this year, and youre not going to be the first one." McCoy wished his confidence matched his bravado; the leakage of the silver fluid was continuing despite the pressure on the wounded limb, and several large areas of skin were oozing it, whether from burns or frostbite, McCoy was unsure.
"Brave words, Doctor, and I thank you for them. But I doubt that..." Hoorashs voice trailed off into silence.
The door behind McCoy cycled, and the other pod entered, carrying containers. "Heres the solder ye were wantin, Doctor. And..." Scott choked for a second. "Is yon mess the ambassador?"
"Yes, Scotty. And the puddle of silver thats rapidly growing on the floor by him is his life blood. Im hoping that that bucket of solder youre swinging around will help me keep him from dying until we can get him back to Suzr, where they can do the job properly. Now give me that stuff, and whatever youve rigged for a pump."
Scotts pod inched forward, and the manipulators selected a box with a pair of hoses coming from it. Scott dipped one into the now molten solder, and gave McCoy the other. "Find a way o puttin the business end o this tube somewhere itll do some good, and then trip this switch."
McCoy studied the end of the severed limb, looking for a likely place to start an IV line for molten metal. He wished that the pod had magnification available. One of the manipulators on Scotts pod reached into another container, and began dusting Hoorashs oozing skin with a dark colored powder.
"What do you think youre doing, Scotty?"
"Tryin to stop the beastie from losin all the solder yell be pumpin into him. Just a wee bit of a couple of metallic powders that should raise the meltin point of what he uses for blood; Im hopin itll get it up enough to solidify and stop the leak. An Ive brought a wee bit of silicon cement. It worked well enough with the Horta."
"Youre a genius, Scotty. Just give me a daub or two of that to hold this fool thing in Hoorashs vein or whatever it is." Scott complied, and McCoy applied the slurry to the stump of Hoorashs missing limb. McCoy started the pump. Slowly, the web work of silvery lines on Hoorashs skin began to become visible again, and the loss of fluids slowed to a trickle. McCoy adjusted the pump speed a little bit.
Hoorash stirred. "McCoy?"
"Right here, Hoorash. I told you I wasnt about to let you die, and I meant it."
"The other pod. Spock?"
"Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott at your service, Mister Ambassador. Th good doctor here isnae as comfortable working wi silicon and molten metal as we are down in Engineering. Id guess the dilithium crystals that appeared out o nowhere in Engineering were a wee gift from you and the Klingons."
One of Hoorashs upper limbs gestured. "Indeed. Klingons werent willing donors, but..."
"Ye bailed us out, right enough. Yere all right in my books, Hoorash."
"Thank you, Mister Scott." The ambassadors limb fell back limply.
"Hoorash, youd better rest. This lash-up that Scotty and I have put together isnt exactly Sickbay quality material; you still need to get into a hospital on Suzr."
"We have no such, Doctor McCoy. We normally regenerate lost parts without trouble, and have never developed any medical skills. It is.. It is..."
"It is time, Hoorash, for you to sleep, or whatever you Suzrans do. Doctors Orders--and they outrank Captains Orders around here."
"Yes, Doctor." Hoorash began to produce a noise reminiscent of a gentle wind blowing through pine trees. McCoy assumed it was the Suzran equivalent of a snore.
"Good work, Scotty; well make a doctor out of you yet." McCoy looked at the bucket of molten solder. "Can you get eight or ten more kilos of that stuff, Scotty? And that marvelous powdered metal you used as a coagulant?"
"Aye, Doctor; and if you dont mind, Ill be takin a sample of yon puddle on the floor, to see if we can make an alloy thats a closer match. No doubt yell be stayin with th ambassador?"
"Of course. Until we can get him to Suzr, anyhow."
McCoy spent most of the next day and night at Hoorashs side, hovering over the Suzran until they went into orbit around Suzr, giving the injured ambassador the molten alloy Scott had made to match the one on the floor. While Hoorash had been resting, McCoy had tried to clean up some of the mess, with only modest success. Hoorashs skin had begun to regrow, but McCoy was concerned about it; it looked wrong, almost as if it was rolled up at the healing edge. As for the missing limb, all there was at the stump was a large ball forming. Hoorash spent most of the time sleeping.
"Doctor," Spocks voice came across the communications link, "we have arrived at Suzr. We have discussed the situation with the Suzrans, and have reached the conclusion that you should beam down with Hoorash, if youre willing. Mister Scott is ready to transport, at your command."
"Great, Spock; Ill be glad to get Hoorash turned over to whatever they use for handling the injured." McCoy edged the pod closer to Hoorash. "Have you established whether Hrashass is still alive? It was pretty important to Hoorash."
"Hrashass lives, Doctor, but is not expected to last much longer. You will be transported to a spot close by. The pod you are in should be able to help Hoorash to his life-mate."
"Good enough, Spock. Just let me make sure the power cells on this thing are at full charge before we go; Id hate to have it fail on me in that steam-bath Hoorash calls home." There was a brief pause. "Okay, Scotty. Ready to transport."
"Aye, Doctor." The Suzran and the doctor disappeared.
Once on the surface of Suzr, Hoorash seemed to rally, standing and turning to the pod. "McCoy?"
"Yep, still me, Hoorash. Youve slept a lot lately; I hope youre feeling better."
"This looks like my home area on Suzr. Do you know if Hrashass lives?"
"As of last check, yes. If Ive got my bearings straight, youll find Hrashass over that way. Dont overdo it, now; youve had a nasty..."
Hoorash ignored McCoys advice and began moving as rapidly as possible in the direction McCoy had indicated. Fearful for his patient, McCoy followed as fast as the pod would go. After a short trek, the pod crested a small knoll. In the valley on the other side, it looked as if there were a silicate forest centered around one, large tree. McCoy guessed, from the appearance, that the central tree was Hrashass. The bright silver lines visible on the other Suzrans were a duller color, and instead of the almost golden color the other Suzrans' skin appeared, Hrashass skin appeared more of an ivory. Hoorash was moving as rapidly as possible, calling Hrashass name. As the pod came to the edge of the crowd, the Suzrans parted, allowing McCoy to follow behind. He pulled the pod up beside Hoorash, ready to intervene at the first sign of trouble. A quick look at the readout of his tricorder reassured him: being back home was doing Hoorash a world of good. McCoy scanned the other Suzrans in the crowd; as scant as the data the Federation had on the Suzrans, he knew that the scans results would be invaluable.
McCoy returned his attention to Hrashass. The limbs were clearly drooping further. McCoy shook his head. There was no mistaking the signs of death nearing. He brought the tricorder around to scan Hrashass. Something about standing idly watching the impending death of another sentient being offended McCoys soul. He moved near Hoorash. "Uh, excuse me, Hoorash. I know this is a tough time for you and all, but would it be all right if I, ah, tried to do what I could for Hrashass?"
Hoorash seemed to turn and stare at the life support pod. His voice was filled with grief. "Hrashass suffers direly, McCoy. If all you do is reduce that, I will be grateful. Let me ask my other life-mates." Hoorashs voice boomed without translation for a moment or two; two other Suzrans boomed in response. "We are agreed, McCoy. Please, do what you can."
McCoy studied the tricorder a moment, then flipped his communicator open. "Scotty, do you have any of that stuff you whipped up for Hoorash left?"
"Aye, Doctor. Kilos of it."
"Could you rig a pump to pull the stuff out of a vessel and pump in fresh?"
"Nae problem at all. Im guessing yell be wanting it as soon as possible?"
"Yesterday would be nice, Scotty. And thirty or forty kilos of that alloy."
Within a moment or two, the mechanism appeared near McCoys pod, along with a large vat of the alloy. Gingerly, McCoy found the largest leaden colored line on Hrashass skin, pushing the tips of the two pumps in, pointing away from each other. He muttered an almost silent prayer as he triggered them both. Hoorash moved closer to McCoy, watching eagerly. As the fluid in the vat began to run nearly out, McCoy had Scott transport another batch into it. A second and third new batch were transported. Slowly, Hrashass limbs began to raise, and the lines on Hrashass skin began to be a brighter hue. Hoorash grasped McCoys pod in excitement. Even McCoy could tell Hrashass was recovering. As the last of Scotts alloy was pumped into Hrashass' vessels, McCoy disconnected both pumps.
"Thats as much as I can do, Hoorash. I hope itll be enough."
Hoorashs trunk bent deeply. "It is more than we could have hoped, McCoy. I and my family thank you."
McCoy blushed inside the pod. "All in a days work, Hoorash. Look, the power cells are running out on this little machine. Ive got to get back to the ship." A wave of tiredness washed over McCoy as he spoke. "I think Im running my own power cells down, too. Ill check back with you when Ive had a nap, okay?"
"Of course, McCoy. And again, our thanks." The Suzrans moved away from the pod, and it disappeared as Scott transported it to the Enterprise.
Much refreshed after a long nap, McCoy returned to the bridge. Kirk turned as he entered. "About time, Bones! Hoorash has been calling every fifteen minutes for the last three hours. Seems to be in a hurry to talk to you. What did you do? Manage to convince one of those cute trees to fall in love with you?"
McCoy tried to look innocent, with a total lack of success. "Well, not exactly, Jim. I just couldnt stand there and watch his life-mate die without trying to help..."
Before McCoy could finish his sentence the forward viewscreen burst into life.
Kirk turned to Uhura who just raised her hands in helplessness. "I dont know how they do it, Captain. Im sorry."
"Its all right, Lieutenant," he chuckled. "Their communications technology is just better than ours."
A Suzran, obviously not Hoorash, was in the middle of the viewscreen. "Captain Kirk, is McCoy available? Hoorash wishes to speak to him, if possible."
"At your service, sir!" McCoy said.
The Suzran bent slightly, and gestured to someone off screen. Hoorash and another Suzran walked slowly into the screen.
"Hello, Hoorash. Howre you doing? Didnt like the looks of that burn of yours last time I saw it."
"It is healing well, Doctor. A week or two, and my... my... either my skin or my bark, Im not sure which... either way, it will be back to normal. The lost limb will take a month or so, but it should be as good as new. I have someone here I want you to meet."
"Id guessed as much. Whos your friend, there?"
"Hrashass. What you did has restored Hrashass to very nearly normal health."
Hrashass' voice joined the conversation; it was a booming basso. "I owe you my life, McCoy. I offer my thanks for that, and for your restoring Hoorash to me. I look forward to our people learning a great deal from your Federation, if you will welcome us into it."
To Kirks amusement, McCoy blushed. "Dont mention it, and Im sure youll be more than welcome. Anyhow, we owed Hoorash one, after he got us out of the scrape we were in with the Klingons. Hoorash, why did you do it? You were risking your life for us all; you didnt owe us anything."
"Perhaps, perhaps not. I had a good reason that had nothing to do my being in your debt."
"Getting home to Hrashass?"
"That, too, I suppose. But there was an even greater force that drove me, McCoy. Do Humans ever get homesick?"
McCoys jaw dropped open. Kirk entered the conversation, rescuing his speechless companion. "We sure do, Hoorash, we sure do. Id probably have done the same thing if the roles were reversed."
Hrashass spoke again. "I am sure that your crew must also be homesick, then, Kirk. Yours is a short-lived species, and you are no doubt eager to see your loved ones, too. We shall look forward to your return."
"Thanks, Hrashass. Well make arrangements with the Federation Council. An ambassador will be dispatched immediately, Im sure, to work out the terms with your people." Kirk stood and looked at the ambassador with fondness. "I hope well meet again. End transmission." Kirk turned to Sulu. "Mister Sulu, take us somewhere we can get some shore leave. Im feeling homesick already."
"Aye, Captain!" Sulu engaged the warp drive, and the Enterprise left Suzr behind.
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