The Pax Void Incident

 

The Pax Void Incident

By Amy Bisson

 

Captain James T. Kirk leaned forward in his chair, studying the viewscreen intently. He could see the pirate ship straight ahead, seeming to get smaller. “Increase speed to warp 8.1,” he ordered.

“Warp 8.1, aye,” acknowledged Sulu. “He is approaching the Pax Void. He will enter the void in eleven minutes at current speed. At warp 8.1 we will overtake him in fourteen minutes, if his speed remains constant.”

Kirk turned his head to look at the science station. “Spock, isn’t there some dispute about whose territory the Pax Void falls into?”

“Indeed, Captain,” Spock said. “Federation star charts show the Pax Void as being Federation territory. Romulan star maps show it within their borders. Neither side has felt it is worth fighting over because it is so empty. It is also close enough to Orion space that it is possible they also claim it.”

The pirate ship looked to be Orion in design, although it bore no official insignia. Kirk turned his attention back to Sulu. “Better make it warp 8.4.”

“Warp 8.4, aye,” Sulu acknowledged. “We should now overtake the pirate approximately one minute before we reach Pax Void.”

Kirk flipped a toggle on the arm of his chair. “Phaser crews stand ready. Arm photon torpedoes.”

“Security acknowledging phasers and photon torpedoes ready on your command,” said Lt. Uhura from her communications station.

Kirk leaned even further forward in his seat. He could see that the pirate vessel was getting closer. Then a sight far beyond the hostile ship caught his attention. “What is that?” he asked.

Spock was intently studying the readings on his science station. “Massive energy wave approaching at high warp speed. Type of energy not yet known. Cause of disturbance not yet known. It will hit us in forty-five seconds.”

Kirk toggled the intercom on his chair. “Attention all hands. Brace for impact.”

Kirk forced himself to sit further back in his seat. He gripped the armrests so tightly his knuckles turned white and his fingers began to cramp. He watched in horrified fascination as the energy wave hit the pirate ship. The ship was tossed violently and Kirk thought he saw it break apart. Before he could verify that, he was thrown out of his seat.

The deck beneath him rocked and buckled for several seconds. Kirk could feel his knees bruising and at one point he bumped his forehead. It was almost a minute after the impact had ended before he could stand, and even then his feet were not steady. He quickly sat back in his command seat.

He took a second to catch his breath and clear his head. Then he toggled the intercom switch. “Damage reports, all sections.”

Uhura listened to the responses for a minute before announcing, “All sections report minimal damage. Doctor McCoy reports numerous scrapes, bruises, and other minor injuries and several concussions.”

Kirk made a mental note to have McCoy check him for a concussion when he could spare the time. He suspected that might not be for a while. He turned his attention to Spock.

“Report.”

Spock was still busy looking over data as he spoke. “There is now a planet in the Pax Void. Its arrival seems to have triggered the rather powerful subspace shockwave which we just experienced. That shockwave appears to have destroyed the pirate ship completely.”

“Where did that planet come from?” Kirk asked. “I thought the Pax Void was one of the emptiest places in the entire galaxy.”

“You are correct, Captain,” Spock said. “The Pax Void has, until now, not only been devoid of stars and planets, but it even had less cosmic dust than any other place in our records. The very emptiness is the reason no wars have been fought over it, even though it is claimed by at least two, and probably three different governments.”

“Yet this previously empty space now has a planet,” Kirk said. “Where did it come from? How did it get there?”

“At this point, any answer would be pure conjecture,” Spock said.

“Then guess,” Kirk said.

“Most likely it came from another universe,” Spock said. “That is why its arrival triggered the subspace shockwave.”

“How can a planet jump from one universe to another?” Kirk asked.

“Again, this is primarily speculation,” Spock said. “However the planet is so rich in dilithium that our scanners can detect it from this distance. It is possible that mining by beings inexperienced with such a volatile element somehow triggered a catastrophe that brought the planet from one universe to another.”

It took several seconds for Captain Kirk to realize the full importance of Spock’s words. “You said earlier that only the emptiness of the Pax Void prevented wars from being fought over it?”

“Correct, Captain,’ said Spock.

“And now there is a planet in there so rich in dilithium that it registers on our scanners several parsecs away?” Kirk asked.

“That is indeed accurate, Captain,” Spock said.

“Chekov, set course for that planet,” Kirk ordered.

Chekov acknowledged from his navigator’s station.

“Sulu, engage at warp 8.5,” Kirk ordered. “Uhura, send a message to Starfleet with all pertinent data about the situation in the Pax Void. Include all of Spock’s sensor readings and theories about the planet’s origins.”

“Message sent, sir,” Uhura acknowledged. “At this distance, it will take approximately four hours for them to receive it.”

“Which means at least eight hours to get a reply,” Kirk said. “Of course they won’t rush their response. By the time we hear from Starfleet they will simply be telling us to do whatever we just did.”

“Are there any Romulan or Orion ships in the Pax Void right now?” Kirk asked.

“None that our sensors can detect, Captain,” Spock said. “However, there could be cloaked Romulan vessels.”

“Captain, the pirate ship did get at least a partial distress signal out in the seconds before it was destroyed,” Uhura added. “I’m not sure how much got through.”

“So we can expect Orions,” Kirk said. “And we have no way of knowing if any Romulan ships are either already there or approaching the Pax Void.”

“That is an accurate summary, Captain,” Spock said.

“Yellow alert,” Kirk ordered.

Flashing lights showed that his orders had been carried out. He took a moment to try to think about his next move. He wondered who would be the first ship to orbit the new planet.

“Spock, can you think of any way to penetrate the Romulan cloaking device?” Kirk asked, after a minute.

“Sometimes there is visible distortion around a cloaked vessel,” Spock said. “Visual detection of that effect is currently the most effective means to detect such a ship.”

“Everyone watch the viewscreen very carefully,” Kirk ordered.

“Captain, while visual detection is the best current method, it is still very much what you would call a ‘long shot’,” Spock said. “Especially at this distance. Ultimately our best possible course of action is to attempt to reach the planet before any other ships arrive.”

“Mr. Sulu, increase speed to warp factor 9,” Kirk ordered.

“Warp 9, aye,” Sulu said.

Kirk imagined he could feel the Enterprise thrumming and pulsing beneath him, as if he could feel the jump in velocity. He knew it was his imagination, yet the feeling also gave him hope. Speed was of the essence, so imagining he could feel that speed comforted him.

The intercom panel on his chair chirped. “Kirk here,” he answered.

“Captain, we canna maintain warp 9 for long,” came the voice of Commander Scott.

Kirk looked at Spock before responding. “Can we maintain for…?”

“Seventeen minutes eleven seconds,” Spock said.

“Seventeen minutes?” Kirk finished.

“Aye. I could maybe even make it eighteen, but no longer than that,” Scotty said.

“Seventeen should be fine,” Kirk said.

“Captain, will we be meetin’ any Orions when we get out of warp?” Scotty asked.

“Probably,” Kirk said. “Also, Romulans. Can the Enterprise handle a little schoolyard scuffle?”

“She can handle Romulans, Orions, and Klingons with one nacelle tied behind her back.” Kirk could hear the pride in Scotty’s voice.

“Just Orions and Romulans with both nacelles in place should be perfectly fine,” Kirk said.

“Aye, Captain, she’ll be ready. Scotty out.”

Kirk couldn’t help smiling. He knew Scotty would make sure the Enterprise was ready for whatever happened.

“Captain,” said Spock, in a more serious tone of voice than even he normally used, “Another shockwave approaching in sixty-four seconds.”

Kirk toggled the intercom. “All hands, brace for another shockwave.”

This time Kirk maintained his seat, but barely. His hands cramped painfully from gripping the armrest too tightly. Yet when he looked around afterward, he noticed the rest of the bridge crew had also managed to stay at their stations.

“Status?” Kirk asked.

“Still maintaining warp 9, on course, Captain,” Sulu said.

“Damage reports,” Kirk ordered over the intercom.

After a minute, Uhura said, “No damage, very few injuries, Captain.”

“Okay, Spock,” Kirk said. “What was that? Another new planet?”

“Negative, Captain,” Spock said. “My preliminary analysis shows it originated at the same planet.”

“Does that mean there is some sort of problem with the planet?” Kirk asked. “Some instability?”

“Captain, it is too early to be completely sure, but it does appear that way,” Spock said. “I need more time to analyze the data to determine if this is a normal side effect of whatever brought that world into our universe or whether it indicates a dangerous instability originating at the planet.”

“In other words, you don’t know.” Kirk jumped at the words behind him. He hadn’t heard Doctor McCoy arrive on the bridge.

“That is what I said, Doctor,” said Spock.

“So this planet we are rushing towards could shake us to hades and back,” McCoy said. “Or it could stay nice and quiet and sit out there while the entire quadrant goes to war over it.”

“At this time, both of those possibilities are equally valid,” Spock said. “Along with any number of other possibilities.”

“Let’s hope we can prevent a war, gentlemen,” Kirk said.

“That’s up to the Romulans and Orions,” Chekov said.

“We do have some say in the matter,” McCoy said.

“That we do, Bones,” Kirk said. “That we do.”

Kirk forced himself to sit back, to give the illusion of relaxing. He realized it probably wasn’t fooling anyone, but he decided it was his duty to pretend.

It seemed like forever before Sulu announced, “Captain, we are approaching the planet.”

“Standard orbit, Mr. Sulu,” Kirk ordered. Then he turned to Spock. “Any sign of company?”

“No uncloaked Romulans, Captain,” Spock said. “An Orion ship did just enter the Pax Void, but it will take another twenty three point eight minutes to reach the planet.”

“Captain, I am receiving a signal from the surface of the planet,” Uhura said.

“Is it a Romulan signal?” Kirk asked.

“No, sir,” Uhura said. “It matches no known language or code. The universal translator is still working on it but preliminary analysis indicates it is a distress signal.”

“Someone was on the planet?” Kirk asked. “Could they have caused the planet to enter our universe?”

“A distinct possibility, Captain,” Spock said.

“What are the current conditions?” Kirk asked.

“Surface temperature is twenty five degrees Celsius, but without a star in close proximity, it is falling rapidly,” Spock said. “Atmosphere is oxygen-nitrogen. Basically it is a class-M world at the moment, although that will change quickly.”

“Spock, McCoy, you’re with me. Uhura, have security send two guards for an away team,” Kirk said.

“Captain, I must object most strenuously,” Spock said. “With the possibility of combat with both Orions and Romulans, your place is on the Enterprise.”

“I hate to agree with Spock,” McCoy said, “but he is right.”

“Fine,” Kirk said. “Spock, you are in charge of the landing party.”

Kirk heard McCoy calling sickbay to request a nurse and two medics for the landing party. Then the turbolift doors closed. Kirk fought an almost overwhelming urge to sigh in frustration. He knew Spock and McCoy were right, but it didn’t make it any easier to be left behind.

A minute later Uhura said, “Transporter room reports landing party successfully beamed down.”

“Status of Orion ship?” Kirk asked Sulu.

Sulu checked his instruments. “Seventeen point four minutes, Captain.”

Just then on the monitor in front of him, a Romulan ship decloaked.

***

As soon as McCoy felt himself materialize, he pulled out his medical tricorder. Thankfully, as soon as he opened it, the device began to glow. It was the only light source in sight. He waved it around until he got the reading he was looking for. “This way,” he pointed.

The security guards drew their phasers and tried to take point, but McCoy and his medics ran ahead. “These people need medical help, not getting shot by phasers.”

McCoy struggled to grab his flashlight in one hand while still holding the tricorder in the other hand. Fortunately Spock had his flashlight out and was providing some illumination. One of the guards also holstered his phaser and replaced it with a light.

The tricorder showed that they were rapidly approaching what appeared to be life signs. The readings were faint but steady. McCoy wasn’t sure if that was a good indication or a bad one.

Just then, Spock’s communicator beeped. McCoy was so focused on getting to any injured survivors that he barely noticed the conversation, although he did hear something about Romulans. McCoy mentally shrugged and hoped that the Captain could avoid combat. It seemed to him a waste for people to die in battle.

McCoy almost didn’t see the first alien. Its leathery skin was almost the same shade of dark gray as the local rocks. It was muscular, but short, and when it opened its eyes, they had purple irises.

“I’m here to help,” McCoy said, hoping the universal translator was working.

He leaned over the being and began scanning with the probe of his tricorder. Looking over the readings, he tried to estimate what was normal for that alien. Based on some of what he saw, he began to think of his patient as “him”, although that was merely a guess as to what certain organs were supposed to be.

He noticed a bone in the alien’s leg appeared to be broken. “Is that supposed to look like that?” McCoy asked. He gently touched the appendage and noticed the alien react with obvious signs of pain.

He pulled out his medkit. “Would someone please shine a light this way?” he asked.

A security guard illuminated the medkit, allowing McCoy to choose what he hoped was the best painkiller for the alien’s biology. He loaded it into the hypospray and dosed the patient. Then he said, “That will help with the pain, but you’re probably going to still feel an incredible burst of agony in a few seconds. It should go away right after that.”

“Thank you,” the alien said. “I’m ready.”

McCoy said a silent prayer of gratitude that the universal translator was working. Then he set the bone. The patient gasped but did not scream. Then McCoy placed a bone-knitter over the leg.

“Based on what I can tell of your anatomy, this device should have that fracture healed in about five minutes,” McCoy said. “You need to keep your leg perfectly still until I remove it. By the way, I am Doctor Leonard McCoy.”

“I am Devoe. It is nice to meet you, Doctor Leonard McCoy.”

“The gentleman with the pointy ears is Commander Spock. The woman is Nurse Christine Chapel. The other men in blue are Medic Ramirez and Medic Jones. The woman in red is Ensign Sonja Hill and the man in red is Ensign Walter Kennedy.”

“It is nice to meet all of you,” Devoe said. “Do you know if any of the other miners survived?”

McCoy checked his tricorder. “I don’t show any other lifesigns.”

A tear began falling down Devoe’s cheek. “There were a dozen of us. How could I be the last one? How could I be the only survivor?”

McCoy patted Devoe gently on the shoulder, hoping that the gesture was not only universal but multiversal. He could think of nothing else to do. When Devoe seemed a little better, McCoy checked the readings on the bone-knitter. “Almost done,” he said. “Two more minutes and you’ll never even know it was broken.”

“Do you mind if I ask you some questions, Mister Devoe?” Spock asked.

“Not at all,” Devoe said. “If I know the answers, I will gladly tell you.”

“I assume you were mining dilithium,” Spock said. “Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Devoe said.

“Do you know what caused this planet to leave your universe and enter ours?” Spock asked.

“Is that what happened?” Devoe asked.

Spock nodded. “Yes. Until approximately one hour ago, this entire region of space was completely empty. We called it the Pax Void.”

“All I know for sure is that we had been getting strange vibrations for a couple of hours,” Devoe explained. “We figured it was some form of crystal resonance, but didn’t know anything else. My foreman sent me to the storage shed to get some instruments so that we could figure out what was happening.”

While Devoe paused his narrative, struggling not to weep, McCoy removed the bone-knitter from his leg. “It’s okay. Take your time.”

Devoe took a deep breath. “When I reached the mine entrance, the ground began to quake like nothing I had ever felt before. On my homeworld, I was born just a mile from the largest and most active fault line on our entire planet, so I was used to tremblors. This was more powerful than any quake I had ever experienced. I fell, and then a beam fell on my leg. Fortunately it was not very heavy, so I was able to move it. I tried to stand but discovered I couldn’t.”

It was only then that Devoe seemed to realize that his leg was healed. He began to move it slowly. McCoy saw that he wanted to stand, so he helped him up. Devoe took a few tentative steps, then leaned against a nearby boulder.

“When I looked outside,” Devoe continued, “I saw that the sky had gone completely dark. It was noon when the earthquake hit. I did not seem to have lost consciousness, and even if I had, two of this world’s moons were going to be full tonight. I found the darkness puzzling.”

“Did you send a distress signal?” Spock asked.

“Yes,” Devoe answered. “I have a small, handheld two-way radio. It has a distress signal programmed into it. I activated it, in case anyone else had survived.”

Just then, the ground beneath them began to shake and pulse. McCoy struggled to stay on his feet. Nurse Chapel stumbled and fell against Spock. As she regained her footing, McCoy couldn’t help but notice that her face turned bright red.

Spock studied his tricorder. “We have a problem.”

“Do you mean besides the earthquake, the Orions, and the Romulans?” McCoy asked.

“Yes, Doctor,” Spock said. “The earthquake we just experienced released another subspace shockwave. This planet is incompatible with our universe.”

“What do you mean incompatible?” McCoy asked.

“This planet is slightly out-of-sync with our universe,” Spock said. “If it remains in our universe, the subspace shockwaves will not only tear it apart but will grow violent enough to threaten other planets. This last shockwave was twelve point seven eight percent more powerful than the previous one, which in turn was eleven point seven nine percent more powerful than the shockwave that occurred when this planet first arrived in our universe.”

“How long?” McCoy asked.

“At the rate the shockwaves are growing, this planet will survive for less than twenty-four hours,” Spock said.

“What can be done to fix this problem?” asked Devoe.

“I will have to confer with our ship’s chief engineer, but I believe we will have to recreate the exact vibration that you felt just prior to this planet jumping universes,” Spock said. Then he grabbed his communicator and opened it.

McCoy heard him explaining the situation to Captain Kirk and found himself wondering how bad things with the Romulans had gotten. He knew that by then the Orion ship had probably also arrived.

***

Captain Kirk took a deep breath. “Go to yellow alert. Shields up. Uhura, advise Spock of our situation. Make sure he knows it might be a while before he and the rest of the landing party can beam up.”

“Aye, Captain,” Uhura said. A few seconds later she added, “Spock acknowledges.”

That done, Kirk turned his attention to the Romulans. He knew he couldn’t waste time wondering what was happening on the planet. His duty was to the Enterprise, and to the Federation.

“Hail the Romulans,” Kirk said.

“Romulans acknowledge,” Uhura said.

“On screen,” Kirk ordered.

Even after a few years, Kirk still found it difficult to look at Romulans. They looked so much like Vulcans, yet also so different. Vulcans were hard-edged yet serene. Romulans looked stern, stiff.

“Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise,” Kirk advised the Romulan on the viewscreen.

“Commander Virnha of the Romulan ship Kirjhe. What is your purpose here?”

“Exploring a new planet that has appeared in Federation territory,” Kirk said.

“We both know this is Romulan territory,” Virnha said.

“Federation star charts have always shown this area as within our borders,” Kirk said. “A fact that Romulans are aware of.”

“Romulans have claimed this area since before the Federation even existed,” Virnha said. “Therefore, the planet below us, and all of the dilithium on it, belongs to the Romulan Empire. Leave Romulan space or face the consequences.”

“You might have noticed that an Orion ship is also approaching the planet,” Captain Kirk said. “It will be here in minutes. The Enterprise could easily defeat you. The Orions could probably defeat you. Do you really want to make this a question of firepower?”

“We will deal with the Orions after we destroy you,” Commander Virnha said.

“Good luck with that,” Kirk said. Then he turned to Uhura and made a slashing motion with his hand. The image on the viewscreen changed to show the planet and the Romulan ship.

“Arm phasers and photon torpedoes, but do not fire,” Captain Kirk ordered. “Status or the Orions?”

“Orion vessel arriving in three minutes, Captain,” Sulu said.

Just then, the Enterprise began tossing like a sailboat caught in a hurricane. Kirk barely stayed in his chair and noticed his crew were tossed around the bridge. Chekov slid so hard that Kirk winced in sympathetic pain.

As soon as the shaking stopped, Kirk ordered, “Medic to the bridge.”

“Sickbay acknowledges, Captain,’ Uhura said.

“Damage report,” Kirk ordered.

“Minor damage only, but sickbay reports numerous minor injuries and a few serious injuries,” Uhura said.

“Status of the Romulans and Orions?” Kirk asked.

“Both ships survived, Captain,” Sulu said. “They were damaged but I am unable to determine how seriously.”

Uhura looked up from her board.   “Orions have transmitted a message, Captain.”

“Let’s see it,” Kirk said.

“Audio only,” Uhura said.

“Let’s hear it,” Kirk corrected himself.

A scratch, gravelly voice came over the speakers. “You have destroyed an Orion vessel. This is an act of war. You are also orbiting a planet within Orion space without permission, another act of war. Surrender or be destroyed.”

“Uhura, send the following,” Kirk ordered. “Orion ship, we did not destroy any of your vessels. The ship you referred to had just committed an act of piracy within Federation space. We were pursuing it with the intention of capturing it so that the crew might stand trial for their crimes, however before we could capture it, it was destroyed by a shockwave as this planet entered Federation space from another universe.”

“Message sent, Captain,” Uhura said.

“Let me know if there is any reply,” Kirk said.

“Captain, Spock is calling,” Uhura said.

“On audio,” Kirk ordered. “Spock, what is your status?”

“The landing party is fine, Captain,” Spock said, “As is the sole survivor of the dilithium mine here on the planet. However, we do have a problem.”

“Another one?” Kirk asked.

“Yes, Captain,” Spock said. Then he explained the instability of the planet.

“What can we do?” Kirk asked.

“I need to speak to Commander Scott to work out the details, but I have the beginning of a hypothetical solution,” Spock said.

“Uhura, patch Spock’s signal to engineering,” Kirk ordered.

Just then a medic arrived on the bridge. Captain Kirk pointed him towards Chekov. The medic immediately began working.

Even as the medic was working, Kirk heard Spock and Scotty exchange technical terms that he did not come close to understanding. There was talk of resonance and vibration and harmonics as well as various geophysical technical terms and words Kirk had never even heard before.

Captain Kirk turned to Uhura. “Open a channel to both the Romulans and the Orions. Send a complete copy of Spock’s report, patch in some of that conversation between Spock and Scotty, and any data Spock has sent.”

“Aye, Captain,” Uhura said. “Sending it now.”

Meanwhile, Captain Kirk tried to listen to the conversation between Spock and Scotty. It had grown so technical that he couldn’t actually understand most of it. He was tempted to interrupt to ask them to explain in simpler terms what they were talking about, but he decided it was better to let them finish and then explain it.

By then, the medic was leading Chekov off the bridge. Kirk was tempted to follow to see how badly his injuries were, but he didn’t dare with two hostile vessels and a planet in danger of destroying the entire quadrant. He asked Uhura to keep Spock and Scotty’s conversation muted on the bridge.

Once the sound of complex jargon was gone, Kirk felt a little more relaxed. “Uhura, have either the Romulans or Orions replied to the information you sent them?”

“Not yet, Captain,” she said.

“Any update on how badly damaged they were when that last wave hit?” Kirk asked.

“Both vessels seem to have received moderate damage, Captain,” Sulu said. “No key systems seem to have been affected. They are both still fully capable of combat.”

“Any way to predict when the next shockwave will hit?” Kirk asked.

Sulu studied his instruments. “No, Captain. Spock would have the best data on that.”

Kirk was about to ask Uhura to patch him into the conversation between Spock and Scotty when it became a moot point. The next wave hit, and hit hard. Kirk was tossed out of his seat. His knees took most of the impact, causing floor burns and tearing his pants slightly.

He climbed back into the captain’s chair, making a mental note to see about having some sort of safety system installed the next time they visited a Starbase. “Damage reports,” he ordered.

Uhura sounded almost bored as she said, “No significant damage, only minor injuries.”

Sulu didn’t wait to be prompted. “The Romulans and Orions also suffered very minor damage. No firm estimate of any systems impacted, but they don’t seem to be experiencing any major malfunctions.”

Kirk wondered if either of his counterparts had scraped knees or torn pants. He decided that if there was any justice in the universe, they must have received some sort of bumps or bruises. Of course, Kirk had long ago concluded there was no justice in the universe.

Kirk’s karmic thoughts were interrupted by Uhura. “Captain, the Romulans wish to speak to you. They also want Spock to be part of the conversation.”

“Then go ahead and let Spock know,” Kirk said. “Scotty can work without him for a couple of minutes.”

“Spock is listening, Captain,” Uhura said.

“Put Commander Virnha on viewer,” Kirk ordered.

The viewscreen once again showed the bridge of the Romulan ship. Virnha had thin streaks of green running down his face. Kirk recalled his earlier thoughts with a bit of guilt.

“How can I help you, commander Virnha?” Kirk asked.

“Is your science officer listening?” Virnha asked.

“I am,” Spock’s voice said.

“My science officer concedes that the planet below must be sent back to its own universe,” Virnha said. “However, would it pose any danger to use one dilithium crystal from that world?”

“Even the most minute quantity of dilithium from this planet would be unstable and would cause a catastrophic engine imbalance,” Spock said.

“When you enact your plan to return the world to its own universe, what will be the minimum safe distance that my ship will have to be to survive?” Virnha asked.

“At least three point five parsecs if you want to have a seventy percent chance to survive,” Spock said. “If possible, all ships should be more than five parsecs in order to minimize damage.”

“Captain Kirk, that last shockwave cracked my last dilithium crystal,” Virnha said. “Do you have an extra?”

Kirk flipped a toggle on his command chair. “Engineering, do we have any extra dilithium?”

One of Scotty’s assistants answered. “Aye, Captain. We have one extra crystal.”

“Please have someone bring that crystal to the transporter room,” Kirk ordered. “As a gesture of peace and goodwill, we will give it to the Romulans.”

“You have my gratitude, Captain Kirk,” Virnha said. “One of my colleagues said you were a man of honor. I see she was correct.”

“Captain, the Orion ship is arming its weapons,” Sulu said.

“Hail them,” Kirk ordered.

“No response, Captain,” Uhura said.

“Arm phasers and photon torpedoes. Target the Orion ship,” Kirk ordered.

“Aye, Captain,” Sulu said. “Phasers and photon torpedoes armed and ready.”

“Hail the Orions again,” Kirk said.

“They sent a message, Captain,” Uhura said.

“Play it,” Kirk said.

The message turned out to be audio only. The voice was the same gravelly and slightly scratchy being who sent the earlier threat. “The Orion Government does not recognize the so-called science purporting to show this world is dangerous. We see this as a ploy to steal a dilithium-rich planet which is inside Orion territory. We have heard the plotting between you and the Romulans, Federation vessel Enterprise. You have managed to sneak some of the dilithium away from our planet and are giving it to the Romulans to pay for their support of your unscientific and inaccurate claims about this world. We demand you give us all minerals you have mined from this planet and leave Orion space immediately.”

Kirk was initially shocked by the absurd message. He decided to take a moment to collect his thoughts before responding. Finally he took a deep breath. “Uhura transmit the following to the Orion vessel: Your denial of scientific truth as a way to prop up a bogus claim to the world below is endangering the entire sector. Many planets could be destroyed by the resulting shockwaves if the planet is not returned to its own universe, including planets that indisputably are in Orion territory.”

“No response, Captain,” Uhura said.

“The Orions are now aiming weapons at the Romulans instead of us, Captain,” Sulu said.

“Keep weapons aimed at the Orions,” Kirk said.

“Weapons still ready, Captain,” Sulu said.

“New message, Captain,” Uhura said.

“On audio,” Kirk ordered.

“Unless you and your pointy-eared allies leave this sector immediately, we will destroy the Romulan ship,” the same harsh voice said.

“Uhura, transmit the following: Any attack on the Romulan ship Kirjhe will be seen as an act of war against both the Romulan Star Empire and the United Federation of Planets. Stand down your weapons immediately or face the consequences.”

“Orion weapons still armed,” Sulu said.

“Fire a warning shot,” Kirk ordered. “Phasers at fifty percent power, don’t aim for anything sensitive.”

The space on the viewscreen was bisected by a bright crimson ray of light that struck the Orion ship. For five seconds, the beam was absorbed by the shields on the Orion ship, causing a visible distortion. Then the attack ended.

“Hail them,” Kirk ordered.

“They are on audio, Captain,” Uhura said.

“Orion vessel, that was a warning,” Kirk said.

“Enterprise, we offer a compromise. Allow us to take one dilithium crystal from the planet and we will leave you to do as you must.”

“Standby,” Kirk said. “Uhura, is Spock listening to this?”

“Aye, Captain.”

“Spock, if we did as they asked would anyone other than the Orions be damaged?” Kirk asked.

“Captain, the resulting explosion would be dangerous to a radius of fifty kilometers. As long as no ships or planets are that close there will be no secondary damage,” Spock said.

“Then Spock, prepare to receive visitors,” Kirk said. “Uhura, put the Orions on again.”

“On audio, sir,” Uhura said.

“Orion Captain, you have a deal,” Kirk said. “You may beam down to the planet and get one dilithium crystal. Then you must leave the area for your own safety. However, I do want to urge you once again to reconsider. The crystal will destroy your ship.”

“We will not fall prey to your absurd claims of faulty science,” the Orion answered. “We will beam down to the surface. Make no attempt to harm our ship or to attack our landing party. Any such action would be considered an act of war.”

“Understood,” Kirk said. “Enterprise out.”

“Distance from the Orion ship?” Kirk asked.

“One hundred kilometers,” Sulu answered.

“How far are the Romulans from the Orions?” Kirk asked.

“One hundred seventy-five kilometers,” Sulu answered. “Also, the Orions are orbiting more than five hundred kilometers above the planet. The explosion should hurt no one.”

“Still, just to be safe, move another hundred kilometers away,” Kirk ordered.

“Aye, Captain,” Sulu said.

“Captain, Spock is calling from the surface,” Uhura said.

“On audio,” Kirk ordered.

“Captain, the Orions have taken a crystal and beamed back to their ship,” Spock said.

“Have you and Scotty worked out the details of how you will get the planet back to its proper universe?” Kirk asked.

“Yes, Captain,” Spock said.

Just then an explosion filled the viewscreen. The Orion ship was gone. The Enterprise did not even feel a shockwave.

“Was that the Orions?” Spock asked.

“It was,” Kirk said. “How is McCoy’s patient doing?”

“As well as I can get him without sickbay,” McCoy said.

“Good,” Kirk said. “After we beam the dilithium to the Romulans, we will beam up you, your medical team, and the security guards back to the Enterprise. After you are safely up here, we’ll beam Scotty and any other engineers that Spock needs down there.”

“We’ll be ready, Jim,” McCoy said.

“Dilithium sent, Captain,” Scotty’s voice said over the intercom.

“Captain, Mr. Spock is hailing us,” Uhura said.

“On audio, Lieutenant,” Kirk said.

“Captain, before you beam the others up, you should raise shields. Another shockwave will be due in forty-five seconds and it will be the most powerful yet.”

“Shields up,” Kirk ordered Sulu. He toggled the intercom. “All hands brace for impact.” Then he returned his attention to Spock. “Thanks for the warning.”

He had barely finished speaking when the shockwave slammed into the Enterprise.

***

Doctor McCoy sat down on the ground, in an open spot. He saw that everyone else was doing so as well, including Devoe, who had been testing his healed leg. Then the ground began shaking. After thirty seconds McCoy wondered if it would ever stop shaking.

Just then, McCoy noticed that a boulder had broken loose from the mountain above the mine.   It was rolling straight at them at an alarming rate of speed. He tried to shout a warning, but it was lost over the sounds of the earthquake. He noticed the boulder was aimed directly at Spock, who was busily studying tricorder readings in another direction.

McCoy stood and sprinted towards Spock. He noticed one of the security guards had the same idea. McCoy grabbed Spock and began dragging him. The guard arrived a second later, pushing McCoy and Spock out of the way. Unfortunately, his push knocked McCoy to the ground.

McCoy could feel the boulder crushing his foot and leg. He screamed in pain. By then the ground had stopped shaking so everyone heard him clearly.

Chapel was the first to reach them. McCoy saw her opening her tricorder and expected her to scan him. Only when she didn’t did McCoy see that Ensign Kennedy had taken the full brunt of the impact with the boulder.

Chapel studied the tricorder readings and frowned. McCoy could see from the look on her face what she saw.

“He’s dead, Doctor,” Chapel confirmed. Only then did she begin scanning McCoy.

“You have multiple breaks in your foot, ankle, and leg,” Chapel said. “I can’t set this many fractures under these conditions. We need to get you to sickbay.”

By then, McCoy heard Spock reporting to the Captain. “McCoy’s injuries require him to get to sickbay,” Spock finished his report.

“That will be a problem,” Kirk said. “The last shockwave damaged the transporter. It will be a little while before we can beam anyone up.”

“Understood, Captain,” Spock said. “Please keep us appraised.”

“I will, Spock,” Kirk said. “Stay safe.”

“Is that an order, Captain?” McCoy asked.

“Absolutely,” Kirk said. “Just be glad I can’t make it retroactive, or you’d be in real trouble.”

“A leg broken in multiple places, stuck on a planet that is a danger to our entire universe,” McCoy said, “how am I not already in real trouble?”

***

Kirk found himself chuckling in spite of himself. Then he realized how right McCoy was and frowned. He toggled the intercom to the transporter room.

“Scotty, how is the transporter coming along?” Kirk asked.

“Some of these circuits are pretty badly damaged, sir,” Scott answered. “Might be two or three hours before the wee beastie is working.”

“I don’t know if we have that long,” Kirk said.

“I’ll do my best, sir,” Scotty said.

Kirk thought about McCoy injured and in pain. He made an impulsive decision. “Uhura, hail the Romulans.”

“Aye, sir,” Uhura said.

Captain Virnha’s face filled the viewscreen. “Greetings Captain Kirk. Thank you again for the dilithium crystal.”

“You’re welcome,” Kirk said. “Now it’s my turn to ask a favor.”

“Let me guess,” Virnha said. “Your transporter difficulties? Your injured officer?”

“Exactly,” Kirk said.

“We would be glad to beam your men to our vessel and heal your doctor,” Virnha said.

“Thank you,” Kirk said.

“You are welcome,” Virnha said. “One good deed deserves another.”

***

Doctor McCoy heard Spock’s communicator beep. He hoped it was news that the transporter was working again. As much as he hated the unholy device, he hated the pain from his leg even more.

When he heard the Captain’s plan, he had mixed emotions. He was thankful that The Enterprise and Romulans were exchanging gestures of peace and goodwill, and he was thankful that he would get his leg tended to. However, he wasn’t sure how far to trust Romulan technology, either in terms of transporters or in terms of medical technology.

Several seconds later he felt the familiar tingling sensation. He felt comfort in realizing Romulan transporters felt no different from their Starfleet counterparts. When he was sure he had arrived safely, he looked around.

His first thought was that clearly he was not in a transporter room. His second thought was thankfulness that the Romulans beamed him directly to their sickbay. The equipment wasn’t identical, but it was recognizable.

He had materialized on a bed. A Romulan medic was placing a large scanner about a foot above his leg.   The scanner was similar to the ones on the biobeds on the Enterprise. The medic studied the readings carefully.

“Although I am not familiar with your species biology,” the Romulan said, “I do concur with your colleague that your foot and leg are broken in multiple places. Fortunately there doesn’t seem to be any significant difference in legs of humans and Romulans.”

“Yes,” McCoy agreed, “most bipeds, especially intelligent bipeds, seem to have very similar skeletal structures.”

“Indeed,” The Romulan said. “This should make repairs much easier. Have any of your colleagues given you any pain medication?”

“Yes, my nurse gave me something down on the planet,” McCoy said.

“Good,” the Romulan said. “I am not sure which of our pain medications your species can use safely. As you are no doubt aware, there will be some pain involved in setting these fractures.”

“I can handle it,” McCoy said.

McCoy quickly realized he had overestimated his own tolerance. When the second fracture was set, he found blackness at the edge of his vision before all became black and he fell thankfully into unconsciousness.

***

“Captain, the Romulans our hailing us,” Uhura said.

“On screen,” Kirk said.

Virnha’s image again filled the viewscreen. “Greetings, Captain Kirk,” he said.

“Greetings, Captain Virnha,” Kirk replied.

“You will be pleased to learn that your physician’s injuries have been tended to,” Virnha said. “The bones have been set and are healing now. The rest of your landing party are also safe aboard my ship. Except of course for Commander Spock, who has remained on the surface to begin working on restoring it to its own universe.”

“Thank you,” Kirk said.

“How is your transporter coming along?” Virnha asked.

“Slowly,” Kirk said. “My chief engineer thinks it may be another hour, maybe two.”

“My science officer informs me that another shockwave will occur in approximately twenty minutes,” Virnha said. “He also tells me that wave will be the ideal time to act on Commander Spock’s plan. That if we wait until the next shockwave, it might do damage to worlds outside the Pax Void, including some in Romulan territory.”

“There is a belief among my people that important things come in threes,” Kirk said. “We have already had two exchanges of peace and goodwill. Perhaps this would be a good time for a third.”

“Agreed,” Virnha said. “In fact, my science officer is conferring with Commander Spock even as we are speaking.”

“Good,” Kirk said.

“We will beam your officers directly back to your ship, bypassing your transporter,” Virnha said. “They can transport as soon as your Doctor’s leg has finished healing.”

“Thank you again,” Kirk said. “I have found that whatever differences may exist between the Federation and the Romulan Empire, Romulan starship commanders are honorable, decent beings.”

“You are the first Federation captain I have met,” Virnha said. “You also seem honorable and decent.”

With that, the image on the viewscreen reverted back to the planet and the Romulan ship. A minute later, Uhura said, “Captain, Mister Spock is calling.”

“On audio,” Captain Kirk said.

“Captain, the Romulan science officer has arrived on the planet,” Spock said. “We are preparing to initiate a resonance vibration in the dilithium identical to that which brought the planet into our universe. We should have everything completed shortly. Once everything is set up and we have beamed off the planet, we will need to immediately go to warp eight to escape the resulting subspace distortions.”

“Understood, Spock,” Kirk said.

Two minutes later, Uhura announced “The Romulans are ready to beam our landing party aboard.”

“Very good,” Kirk said.

On impulse, he decided to go to the transporter room. He arrived just as the landing party did.

“Welcome back,” Kirk said. “I trust that the Romulans were gracious hosts.”

“They were,” McCoy said. He had a barely detectable limp as he stepped off the platform.

“I see their medical people were able to heal you,” Kirk said.

“Indeed,” McCoy answered. “Almost as well as our own people could have. I see yo kept the ship in one piece.”

“Yes,” Kirk said. “Despite some very belligerent Orions.”

“Aren’t all Orions belligerent?” McCoy asked.

Everyone got a good laugh at that. In truth, Kirk realized, they laughed harder than such a weak joke deserved. But after everything they had been through, any joke was good.

Just then the intercom beeped. “Transporter room,” Kirk said.

“The Romulans are ready to beam Mister Spock aboard,” Uhura said.

“Very good,” Kirk said.

Just then, Spock appeared amidst a field of sparkles. As soon as he was aboard, Kirk turned back to the intercom. “Mister Sulu, warp eight directly for Federation space.”

Kirk, Spock and McCoy all headed for the bridge. Kirk returned to his command chair and Spock checked his instruments.

“The final shockwave should hit in thirty-four seconds,” Spock said. “Much of its energy will have dissipated, and the fact that we are also traveling away from it at a high warp speed should also reduce its impact.”

Then it hit. As Spock indicated, it was not as severe as the prior waves had been, although it still packed quite a jolt. Kirk stayed in his seat, and when he turned around he saw that McCoy’s knuckles had turned white from gripping the handrail so tightly.

As soon as the wave had passed them completely, Kirk turned to Sulu. “Reduce speed to warp three,” he ordered.

“Warp three, aye,” Sulu said.

Just then the turbolift doors opened and Chekov stepped onto the bridge. “Permission to return to duty, Captain?” he asked.

“Permission granted,” Kirk said.

As Chekov sat down, Uhura spoke. “Captain, message from Starfleet.”

“Let’s hear it,” Kirk said.

“Request you establish claim to Pax Void planet,” Uhura read. “Make a reasonable effort to avoid battle with either Orions or Romulans. You have final authority in Pax Void. Starfleet will honor your decisions.”

“We obeyed some of that,” Kirk said with a smile. “Too bad about the planet.”

The End

 

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