this one started as a dare…




Captain W’Lard S’tark stood at attention and waited for Admiral Karsh to notice him. The Admiral was staring off into space in the slightly glazed way a person had when he was interfacing. He also had a subtle gray cast to his normally blue skin. That wasn’t what he really looked like, it merely meant that while he was aware of S’tark’s presence, he was not yet fully interfaced.

The whole thing was going on inside S’tark’s head anyway.

The Admiral twitched, his color brightened and he smiled at his new Captain.

Congratulations Captain, I have the honor of introducing you to your new command.”

Thank you, Sir.”

The admiral gestured and they suddenly seemed to be standing in empty space. There, floating in front of them was the ship. S’tark had seen a lot of ships in the 90 years he’d served in Starfleet. This one, he could tell, was special. The long oval saucer tapered down fore and aft into a sharp rim which ran along both sides of the ship. Along the sides, the rim flattened out and then swept down forming a graceful roll that suggested the tubes of the old warp nacelles without actually being something quite that clunky. Along the bottom of the hull a section bulged downward along the back third of the hull in a way that once again merely suggested the secondary hull of the traditional Starfleet vessel without fully becoming so.

She’s beautiful, Sir.”

Yes, she is. But she’s more than that. She’s special. Walk with me.”

They walked along the side of the ship until they got to the front of the hull where it began its downward slope. The Admiral gestured upward in an ‘after you’ fashion. Captain S’tark turned and walked through space about ten meters above the hull. Looking down, he watched as the name and number of the ship came into view. His breath caught in his throat in a way his Human ancestors would have recognized, even as his Klingon ancestors recognized the fire coursing through his veins. She was a special ship all right.


A new Enterprise.” His voice was hushed.

That’s right. A new Enterprise, a new class of ships and a new mission.”


For the first time in 300 years, out there.” Karsh’s hand pointed out -beyond Federation Space.



S’tark sat on the bridge watching the countdown to the jump. The numbers flicking downward to zero floated in the middle of the room where anyone who wanted to could see them. And everyone wanted to see them. It was the one part of the voyage that never seemed to get old no matter how many times they’d done it. It had taken a couple of days to get out here far enough away from any stars to be able to use the new ‘Barclay Drive.’ Odd name that, Barclay Drive. Didn’t tell you a thing about the drive -only the inventor, except, so far as he knew, no one in the physics community had that name.




His first officer looked away from the countdown. “Yes, Sir?”


Why’s it called the Barclay Drive? Doesn’t make any sense.”


Well, Sir.” He paused. The numbers ran down to zero. For a second everything seemed to stretch and then snap back together. The crew went back to interfacing as the sensor data poured in. “Its named for the first brush we had with the technology. The Enterprise D encountered an advanced race, known as the Cytherians, who took over one of the engineering officers, Reginald Barclay. Under their control he rebuilt the warp nacelles to create a subspace inversion drive that brought the Enterprise across several thousand light years to their home system in about thirty seconds. Unfortunately they couldn’t duplicate the process later, no sensor logs were kept and it was beyond the science of the time. But Research has been plugging away at it ever since.”


I see. Thanks. What does our sensor data show?”


Sutok’s eyes closed for a second. “This sector has 17 star systems of interest. 15 of them are life bearing, 5 with civilizations that are on the brink of developing a workable FTL drive. One system has ruins that point to a previous civilization. And…” He trailed off.




One system holds a very powerful T-field. Its organically generated and points to the presence of a strongly telepathic hive mind.”


T-field? That could be bad. What kind of attitude does it have?”


Checking.” Sutok stared into space a second longer. “Highly organized and extremely aggressive. The evidence points to dangerously malevolent race. We will definitely want to log a warning to avoid that system.”


Done. Anything else?”


Yes…” Sutok paused again. S’tark hadn’t expected this. Sutok wasn’t pure Vulcan, nobody was pure anything in the Outer Colonies, but he was close and usually displayed the quiet efficiency they were known for. “There are two fresh warp trails leading into that system. And a third warp signature headed in that direction now.”


Can that ship handle what’s there?”


Doubtful. Here’s a picture.”


An image of the ship flicked into being above the center of the bridge. Once again the five crew on duty looked up. And gasped.



Sutok, there are no records of any Starfleet ships coming this far out, are there?”


Captain, considering that it would have taken a Constitution class vessel about 80 years to cover the 50,000 light years between the Old Federation and here, its almost impossible. Besides, Starfleet never built brown star ships.”


You’re right. Still…”


Still, it does look like a Constitution class star ship. However, sensor data shows some significant design differences. Obviously another race hit on this design independently. It uses antimatter and natural Dilithium crystals. Its maximum speed is about Warp 8. To answer your original question, Sir, they don’t have a chance.”


All right, then let’s warn them. Tirej, put us along side that ship.”


The navigator nodded. Once again, the ship seemed to stretch and snap. Distantly S’tark heard the warp engines come to life as the ship matched course and speed with the alien.


S’tark closed is eyes and reached out. He felt the computer interface snap into contact and, through it, he felt the communicator reach out to the alien ship.


This is Captain W’lard S’tark of the USS Enterprise. I would like to speak to your captain, please.”


He opened his eyes and saw the alien captain look back at him from above the projection table. He looked like a dog.


This is Captain Tirf of the Outhunter. What do you have to say?”


Captain, our sensors show that you are following a warp trail leading to this star.” He sent a command and the computer projected the trail and the system it ended at. “I want to warn you that if you enter that system you will be be destroyed.”


The alien’s lips pulled back to show some very sharp teeth. “Are you threatening me S’tark?”


No. But our sensors show a very powerful and dangerous race lives there. They are extremely aggressive and will not hesitate to attack and destroy you. Our sensors also show that your ship can’t withstand such an attack.”


The lips dropped back to cover the fangs. “Can you give me details?”


Yes, would you feel comfortable coming over to my ship where we can discuss this at length?”


I would. I will beam over with two of my officers in a few minutes.”


Thank you, I will be waiting.” He stood up. “I’m going to the Reception Deck.”


Captain, may I suggest you stop by Sickbay first? They may turn aggressive.”


I don’t think they will, Sutok.”


Regulations insist, Sir.”


S’tark sighed. “Of course, of course.”


He walked over to the wall. A section of it rippled slightly and he stepped thru. For a second he felt a slight stretch and snap and then he was stepping out of the wall and into Sickbay.


Doctor,” he said to the empty room, “I need a defense upgrade.”


A second later a human looking person flickered into being. “Defense? Do you need lethal ability or just stun?”


Stun and shield, Doctor. I am meeting our guests on the Reception Deck. Also, I want you to keep them under continuous scan and be ready to return them to their ship if necessary.”


Yes, Sir. Your nanites have been upgraded. Good luck, Sir.”


Thanks.” The Doctor flickered out and S’tark walk back over to the wall. A second later he was standing on the Reception Deck watching three golden pillars coalesce into recognizable shapes.


Reception had been designed to put visitors at ease. The short cut grass, the blue sky and the low trees and hedges gave one the feeling of being outside in a garden. It didn’t seem to help his current visitors.


He watched quietly as they conferred with each other and consulted the whirring boxes they waved around. He recognized them, of course even as the nanites gently guided their sensor beams around him. After waiting another minute to allow them to adjust, he shut off the cloak and stepped out from behind the hedge.


Good afternoon, Gentles.” He paused a minute as they played the sensor boxes over him. It was standard procedure, as far as possible let the other race feel they were in control, this would make them comfortable and prevent misunderstandings.


Would you care to sit down?” He sent a command to the computer and some benches appeared nearby.


The visitors jumped a bit and he cursed his lack of forethought, he should have provided the benches in advance.


After a minute, they gingerly sat down.


So? What are the details you want to discuss?” Tirf asked.


S’tark waited a second. “Do you have any experience with T-field races?”




Races that seem to be able to do things just by thinking about them.”


We’ve heard stories, we generally discount them.” Tirf replied. One of his companions glanced nervously at the bench they were sitting on.


That’s not surprising. They are pretty rare. T-fields are funny things. They are generated organically by some races and can be very powerful and dangerous to races that don’t have adequate defenses. The system you are approaching has such a race.”


And you are convinced they are aggressive?”


T-fields also show the basic attitude of the generator. The organ that creates them is closely linked to brain, so that’s not surprising. We can detect those fields and the basic mind-set of the generators at long distances. Also, the two warp trails you are following enter that system, but nothing leaves it.”


So, what do you want us to do?”


Avoid the system. There’s nothing else you can do. Log the warning, if you contact other races, pass on the warning. If you do that, you should be safe. Races like this don’t develop space travel. You stay out of range, and they can’t hurt you.”


And that’s all? What about our other ships? What happens to them?”


Its already happened. They are most likely destroyed. You can’t help them, I can’t help them. I’m sorry.”


And what are you going to do?”


Me? I’ve done it. I’ve warned you. What else should I do?”


You can face them, right? You’re not going to stop them?”


To stop them, we would have to stay here. Our worlds lie about 50,000 light years away. We’re just passing through on a survey mission. The only thing we could do would be to destroy them. And we won’t do that.”


Why not? If they are that terrible…”


Hundreds of years ago, we faced a terrible race. And they didn’t stay in their home system. They had assimilated or destroyed thousands of races. They called themselves the Borg. Eventually we had to destroy them. But the races they assimilated died out. They couldn’t function on their own anymore. We’ve never forgiven ourselves for that. We’re not going to do that again.”


He looked up at Tirf. “Take my advice. Stay away from that star system. Warn everyone else off. Its all you can do.”


Tirf stared at him a second with his ears pricked up. Then he half lowered them and shook his head. “I believe you. But we were sent out to find our pack mates. We can’t go back with the news that a strange ship we had never seen before told us what you have told us. It won’t work. Our duty is to know what happened to them, not to guess, not to be told. I’m sorry.” He stood up.


S’tark rose too. “So am I. You’re very brave Captain. But bravery isn’t going to be enough. I wish you the best.”


Thank you.” Tirf opened a box and spoke into it. “Outhunter, three to transport.” There was a loud humming noise and they dissolved into shinning pillars that faded away.


S’tark stared after them for a minute and then walked back to the wall and snapped to the bridge.



Sutok looked up as he walked in. “I take it they are going ahead with their mission?”


Yes, he started throwing around words like ‘duty.’” S’tark made it sound like a swear word.


Well, that is true-”


I KNOW ITS- ” He stopped and raised his hand for a minute. “True. I’m sorry Sutok. Its just… They’re gonna die out there. And their people won’t know. And they’ll send somebody else and they will die. All because of ‘duty.’”


So, what are you planning to do?”


Me? Nothing, I’m going to sit right here and- hold on. B’Nai, focus our scanners on them. I want to see what happens.”


He closed his eyes and interfaced. “Chaq’d, Tirej?”


Yes, Sir?” The Navigator replied.


Yes, Sir?” The Engineer replied.


I want to be ready to jump on a moments’ notice. And I want to come out of that jump with full shields at maximum extension. I want that to include T-Shields.”


Will we be surrounding a second ship, Sir?”


Yes.”He paused. “Oh and I want a tractor beam on that ship.”


You’ll have it, Sir. Those Dogs are too good to let die like that.”


S’tark opened his eyes wondering how the news, complete with a nickname, had managed to work its way all the way to Engineering. It wasn’t surprising, of course, rumors were the only known things capable of Warp 10.


The ship floated above the projection table, and he noticed all five of the bridge crew had their eyes open and were watching it. He looked around at them, Sutok in the First Officer/Science Officer chair. Tirej on Navigation/Helm/Weapons, Shea on Enhanced Matter/Computers and B’Nai on Sensors/Security. They and he all sat in ordinary looking chairs surrounding a low table, he remembered his mother once seeing a picture of the Bridge and asking him what he was doing sitting in a lounge.


Ah, they’re not foolish.” Sutok’s satisfied voice grabbed his attention.




They’ve dropped a message buoy about 2 light years away from the system. Whatever happens, the next ship will be warned.”


Goody for ‘the next ship.’” He muttered sourly.


They’ve been hit!” B’Nai had her eyes closed, monitoring her sensors directly.


A second later he could see it. The Outhunter seemed to shudder and suddenly turn and plunge straight into the system. As it did, an energy beam shot out from the aft end and vaporized the buoy.


S’tark closed his eyes. “Now!”


He felt the ship stretch and snap. And suddenly he could feel the pressure of the alien T-field clamp down on the ship’s shields. A second later the ship shuddered again.


The Outhunter is firing on us!”


Tirej, engage inner shields. B’Nai, pick up two security people and meet me in Sickbay for full upgrades.”


We’re going over there?”


Yes, we will have to take the Outhunter before we can get it out of here. They must still be working under the last compulsions that were implanted. If we let them go now, they’d just turn around and plunge back in.”


Yes Sir.” She stood up calling off a couple names.


Minutes later they were standing in front of the Sickbay wall listening while he gave them their instructions.


I am going directly to the Bridge. I am going to try to stun the Bridge crew before they can do anything drastic like start the self-destruct sequence. B’Nai, I want you to go to the engine room and take it for the same reason. Talor, you will drop into the secondary hull at the opposite end from B’Nai and work your way toward her, knocking out any resistance. K’Vork, you will start at the back end of the saucer and and work toward me. If at any point you hit resistance that looks like it will slow you down, do not hesitate to snap back here and return to ship behind the resistance point. Do not waste time on individual crewman, our objective is to pacify the ship so that it can be pulled out of range of this system.”


What happens then, Sir?” B’Nai asked.


That depends on what happens when they wake up. Let’s go.”


S’tark faced his section of the wall and watched it ripple. A second later, he saw the bridge crew at battle stations attempting to fire on the Enterprise As he stepped through onto the bridge, Tirf turned and looked at him, his teeth pulled well back over his fangs. S’tark hoped for a second that his appearance would freeze them, but it didn’t. In a single move, everyone of them pulled out their weapons and fired.


S’tark threw up his hands as the light from the beams temporarily blinded him, then his shields opaqued and he could see again. Already the crew had stopped firing and were charging. Raising his hand, he triggered his stun array. A wall of blue fire shot away from his body across the bridge. Every single crewman it touched collapsed. Keying his sensors, he glanced around long enough to confirm they were still alive and raced for the doors at the back of the bridge. He barely had time to notice the color as he fired an anti barrier beam and vaporized a hole he could dive through. They had been red.


The rest of the ship was pacified in just a few minutes. Most of the crewman not needed for flying the ship into the system had already collapsed. Apparently the creatures weren’t interested in controlling any more victims than they needed to.



Thank you again, Captain S’tark, for coming to our rescue.” Tirf was sitting in his own Sickbay being examined by his own doctor. S’tark had already had a quiet medical scan done of the ship and knew everyone was OK, but it seemed better for them psychologically if he didn’t interfere with their procedure.


Don’t mention it. I had hoped you wouldn’t go there, but I couldn’t just run off and leave you. I know what it means to have to do your duty.”


Yes, and I think we can consider our duty done. We have first-hand knowledge of what happened to our pack mates. And we will definitely log this system. I believe a two light year buffer zone will be enough?”


Yes, I think so. Most T-Field species have a hard time reaching beyond there.”


Are you going to do anything about them now?”


S’tark shook his head. “Just because we have a technological edge and have been around the block a few times doesn’t make us gods. We don’t have the right to go around passing judgment on races or imposing our will on them. Mistakes have been made before-”


Just then he felt a crushing, burning sensation in his head. For just an instant, he had an overwhelming urge to order the Enterprise straight into the system. Then, with an almost audible clang, the T-Shields went up. He blinked tears out of his eyes and turned to see Tirf collapsed to the floor. After a second, he got up and leaned on the bed.


What was that?”


That was our friends reaching over twice the distance we thought they could. Come on Tirf, I think we need to rethink our strategy.” He walked toward the wall watching as the jump point began to ripple.


They used a collimated T-Energy beam. Considering the strength of the beam at this point, and the length of time they were able to maintain it against our shields, I estimate their effective range against unprotected ships on the order of ten to fifteen light years. Their continued activity will render interstellar travel in this sector virtually impossible. Also, there are two inhabited worlds within their range. Those worlds could be, and probably are, attacked at will.” Sutok sat down.




Sutok stood back up. “Sir, we have to do something about them. This isn’t a matter of the Prime Directive, that doesn’t apply to races with interstellar capability and these creatures do have that in a way. As do our friends…” He trailed off.


Tirf looked up from where he’d been staring at the table. “We are called the Dire.” He turned back to staring at the table.


Thank you. The Dire also have interstellar capability. Sir.” He sat back down.


Anyone else?”


Why are you asking?” Tirf was standing. “You are the Captain. You make the decisions. You take the responsibility. Their job is to follow orders.”


S’tark nodded. “Yes, you are right. But these are also my senior officers, I respect their experience and opinions. So I listen to them before I make my decision.”


He looked around the room. No one else stood up. “And I have. We can’t leave something this powerful and this malignant alone. And no one else can handle it. We are going in.”


What about us?”


We will escort your ship out beyond their effective range first, of course.” Tirf’s ears drooped. “I would appreciate it, Captain, if you would accompany us on this mission, once your ship is safely on its way. Your people will need a first-hand report on what happened.”


Tirf’s ears rose. “I would be honored.”



You are not all just one race on this ship.” Tirf was standing quietly behind him on the bridge watching the Outhunter accelerate toward home.


S’tark smiled. “I’m not even all one race myself.”


I don’t understand.”


Where I live, about a hundred and fifty races have been living together for centuries. And in the Outer Colonies, most of us are mixed blood. I’m about half Klingon and about one third Human. The rest of me is a mix of Vulcan, Cardassian and who knows what else. B’Nai is mostly Bajoran and Cardassian, but has a little Jem-Hadar thrown in. Sutok looks Vulcan, but also as a bit of Andorian in him. The only one that’s actually pure blooded is Shea, he’s full Human, but he was born on Earth and spent almost twenty years working his way out to the Colonies.” He got up and motioned Tirf ahead of him toward the wall. “There’s no sense sitting here. We’re taking our time going back to that system. We want a better read on just how strong they are. I thought I’d show you our living quarters.”


A few minutes later, they were sitting on another bench beneath a tree looking at a cluster of small domes.


These are you living quarters?”


Yes, we’ve learned that this is easier on everyone psychologically, and we can afford the room, this ship doesn’t require much of a crew.”


I guess not.” Tirf fell silent again.


Something on your mind?”


I’m remembering your explanation of T-Field races. You said they seemed to be able to do things just by thinking of them.”




When we first beamed aboard your ship, we couldn’t see you, and then you just appeared. And when you invited us to sit down, the benches just appeared. Are YOU a T-Field race?”


S’tark grinned and shook his head. “No, we’re not. We’ve just developed a way of interfacing with the ship that is less obvious to the outsider. And we use a lot of enhanced matter.” Tirf looked blank. “That’s a mix of matter and force fields. Except for the hull, the main deck and the engine room, most of the ship is enhanced matter. We pretty much change it to suit our needs.” He saw Tirf’s ears starting to droop again. “Think of it this way. You have replicators on your ship, I saw them.”




Think of the entire Enterprise interior as a combination replicator and holodeck, with a few extra bells and whistles thrown in.”


What’s a holodeck?”


They started registering the T Beam (as everyone was calling it) about ten light years out. From then on, the strength steadily increased as they neared and then entered the system. And then suddenly, it stopped. From then on, nothing happened til they reached to second planet out and dropped into low orbit.


Well, they’ve been certainly busy.” Shea had knack for understatement, especially under stress, but S’tark felt he’d out done himself. All around them were ships. They were all dark and cold.




Definitely, Sir. They were all parked in a stable orbit and then left.”


Are the- “ he paused, “-bodies still aboard?”


Sutok blinked for a second. “No, Sir. We detect only traces of biological matter and it is highly degraded. It looks as though they all landed.”


What does the planet look like?”


No signs of material civilization, of course, but we are picking up a lot of activity in the oceans. Some kind of cephalopod, I believe.”


The Kraken.”


S’tark turned toward Shea. “What?”


Kraken. A mythical sea monster, probably based on the giant squid, it was supposed to be able to pull entire ships down under the sea.” He shrugged. “It seems appropriate.”


Could be. Let’s try to contact them.”


The ship rocked suddenly.


Or maybe they are contacting us. Show us what’s going on.”


A second later, the area above the table came to life. The ships weren’t floating dead anymore. They were all alive and moving. Right toward the Enterprise.



Shields! Shields!” Tirf cried, forgetting he wasn’t on the Outhunter.


Don’t worry, we have something a little better than that. Tirej, engage the graviton matrix.”


Yes Sir.”


Now, watch.”


The ships started firing, but as they watched; the beams, bolts, torpedoes and other varieties of weapons seemed to veer off into empty space.


What’s happening?”


We’ve projected a set of gravity wells around the ship. Everything that enters them gets diverted. A truly good operator can divert a phaser beam right back to the ship that fired it.” Just then a beam whipped around them and crashed into an oncoming vessel. “Tirej considers himself a truly good operator.”


Oh, so there’s no danger?” Tirf seemed almost disappointed.


Oh yes, there’s danger. Our defenses can get overloaded, in fact I think that’s what they’re trying to do. Tirej!”


Yes, Sir?”


Fire a resonant pulse and then pull us out to synchronous orbit.”




Wait, hold that. They’re hailing us, voice only.”




The voice sounded like something you heard in nightmares.


Your ‘prey’ is an intelligent life form. You have no right to attack it.”






What came through next was best described as an incoherent hysterical scream.


Sir,we’re getting that T-Beam again. Maximum concentration.”


That’s fine. That won’t do them any good.”


Why not?” Tirf asked.


Energy levels. Organic T-field generators are powered by metabolism. They can be subtle, but all the creatures on that planet can’t match the output of an anti-matter generator.”


Oh, of course.” His ears seemed to droop again.


S’tark turned back to the display. “OK Tirej, fire that pulse. Sutok, is there anything on either of this planet’s moons worth worrying about?”


No Sir. Both are completely airless.”


OK, Tirej as soon as we’ve moved to synchronous orbit, I want you target the outer moon and be ready to fire on my command.”


Yes Sir. How much power?”


Enough to vaporize it.”


Yes Sir. Moon targeted. Also firing resonance pulse now.”


On display.”


Looking up, they saw the crowd of ships dropping away from them. Suddenly the lights flickered and a wave seemed to pass through the fleet. It was as if space it self rippled. Behind it, the ships were nothing but clouds of debris. As they watched the wave spread out across the planet and then disappeared around it. Seconds later, it reappeared moving the opposite way and collided with itself. The cloud of debris fountained upward, spreading out into a vast mushroom of steel shards before gradually dissipating.


OK, lets talk to them now.”


That might be hard to do. They were communicating through one of the ships.”


Hmm. OK, hook the communications to the our T-Shield. We’ll modulate that.”


Will they hear it?”


Hear it? It’ll sound like a voice out of heaven.”


Kraken! Your toys have been taken away from you. You don’t get to take any more prey. As long as you stay in your system and leave everyone alone, you can live. If we ever hear of you taking ships, this is what will happen to your world.” He turned to Tirej and nodded.


A second later, the outer moon blew apart.


Anytime you think of seizing ships, look up in the sky and remember.”


He waited. At first there was silence and then they heard what sounded like an hysterical sob.


He took a deep breath and sat down. “OK, get us out of here.”


You think that’ll work?”


Yeah, at least, I hope it will. Here,” he focused for a second and a small black box appeared in his hand. He handed it to Tirf. “Keep this. If they do try anything, push that button. We’ll come back.”


Tirf stared at him, his ears flattened, “What ARE you?” he ask in a hushed whisper. After staring at them for a second longer, he turned and bolted for the wall. S’tark barely had time to energize a jump point before he reached it.


S’tark looked around at the crew in confusion. They looked back helplessly. Shaking his head, he took off after him.



He found Tirf back on the Reception Deck, sitting on a bench looking at the wall. Walking up behind him, he paused. “Mind if I sit down.”


No. Its your ship. What can I say?”


Something’s bothering you. Tirf, have we offended you?”


Have you offended me? Do I have the right to be offended by anything you do?”


I don’t understand.”


Tirf took a deep breath. “I had been planning on taking you to my home world. It was going to be glorious. The first contact with an advanced star faring race. I was going to show you to my world and show my world to you. My career would have been guaranteed. Now…”


Now? Tirf, we would be honored to visit your world.”


And what would happen? I’m not sure if my people would run screaming from you or fall down and start worshiping you! I’m not sure if I should run screaming from you or fall down and start worshiping you! What ARE you?”


I’m just another star ship captain. I’m not anything to run from and I’m certainly not anything to worship.”


Are you so sure? I remember when you boarded my ship. I saw blaster fire just splash off of you. And then I saw a wave of energy come flying out of your hand and stun my crew. From what I’m told, you took my ship with only four people. Then you flew straight into a system that’s been sucking in and destroying ships for centuries. You destroyed an entire fleet-”


A fleet that was being badly handled.” S’tark broke in.


Tirf waved that away. “Without a single shot even touching your hull. Then you blew up a moon and threatened to blow up the planet!” He paused for breath. “Tell me. Were you bluffing?”


No, I wasn’t bluffing.”


And you laid down the law. What about what you said earlier about not having the authority to impose your will on other species?”


S’tark sighed. “You’re right. I did ‘lay down the law’ as you put it. But what else could I do?”


Tirf looked at the ground. “I don’t know. Probably nothing, I guess.” He looked up at S’tark. “I just don’t feel comfortable around your people, frankly I don’t feel comfortable with the idea of your people being near my home world, or even knowing where that is. I suppose its too late for that though, isn’t it?”


Yes.” S’tark replied quietly, “Its too late, we do know where your home world is.”


You won’t go there without an invitation though, will you?”


No, we won’t.” S’tark looked at the sky and chuckled softly. “Its ironic, I’ve been reading the logs of the previous captains and every once in a while they would run into some alien that was really overwhelming. Sometimes they helped, sometimes they just irritated the heck out the captain and his crew. But there was always a sense of relief when they moved on. I don’t think we ever thought we’d be the overwhelming aliens. We just wanted to be friends.”


I know. That’s why we do this, isn’t it? We want to make new friends. But friends need to have things in common. What do we have in common? I fly from star to star. You fly from sector to sector. You blithely talk about crossing 50,000 light years in the blink of an eye. My ship would take more than a life time to make the same trip. Its as if I were to try to find a common ground with a man who paddled around a lake in a dugout canoe.”


Interestingly, we don’t do that.”




The Prime Directive. You heard us refer to it before. It states that if an alien race has not yet developed interstellar travel, we are to leave it strictly alone. We can’t interfere even to save lives.” He grinned ruefully. “Of course, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but usually the results proved that it shouldn’t have been broken -not even for the best of intentions.”


He took a deep breath. “You see, we figured out a long time ago that while we might be smart and we might be strong, we’re not wise. If we were wise, we would be able to find that common ground. We would be able to sit on a bench like this with you and the man in the dugout canoe and talk without being overwhelming. Without scaring people, or giving them advice that seems like a good idea, only to have it blow up later.” He shook his head.


Maybe that Prime Directive of yours needs to be updated.” Tirf said quietly. “I can see where that would make things a lot easier on the rest of us.”


You may be right. I’m sorry. I hope we’ve done more good than harm here.” He stood up. “We’ve rendezvoused with the Outhunter.” He held out his hand.


Tirf looked at it for a moment and then extended his own. “Interesting, here’s what we do.” He extended his nose, after a second S’tark extended his as well and they touched noses.


Goodbye Captain S’tark, and thank you again, for saving my ship and my crew.” Tirf turned and walked toward the wall, as he approached, he tapped his communicator and dissolved into a pillar of light.



S’tark sat there staring at place where Tirf had beamed out. He wondered what Kirk or Picard or even Jai would have done. It had felt good to go in and clean up the Kraken, but somehow he got the feeling that thing’s weren’t going to be the same.


Sutok’s call broke into his thoughts. “Sir, the Outhunter has left.”


All right, start planning our next jump, I’ll be right there.”


We have another ship approaching. Its hailing us.”


He sighed. “Oh boy. What’s their technological level?”


A little closer to ours, Sir. Or maybe, I should say, we’re a little closer to theirs. This one looks ahead of us.”


I see. All right, I’m opening hailing frequencies.”


He concentrated for a second and interfaced with the com system.


This Captain W’lard S’tark of the USS Enterprise, we come in peace.”


This is Janya, I also come in peace. I have a passenger who would like to come aboard your ship and speak to you. Would you be so good as to lower your shields?”


Is that necessary?”


There was a chuckle. “Yes, Captain, its necessary.”


Very well, lowering shields.” He carefully raised the shields around the Reception Deck and then lowered the outer shields. A second later an older human looking man appeared. S’tark gestured to the bench and he sat down where Tirf had just been.


Good day, Gentle. May I ask who you are and what brings you here?”


The man smiled. “I am a representative of one of those ‘overwhelming aliens’ your captains dealt with in the past.”


Oh? Have you been listening in on my conversations?”


No, I can hardly do that. However, Captain Tirf has just finished writing up his log entries. He quotes you extensively.”


S’tark grimaced. “I’m sure.”


Don’t worry. He puts you in a very positive light.”


I hope that isn’t what you came here for.”


Oh no, I actually came to see if I could get a ride with you back to your Federation. I need to present my ‘credentials,’ I believe you call them that, to your ruling Council.”


Your are an ambassador?”


Yes. We’ve been observing your ships and believe the time has come to open diplomatic relations.”


Really. Don’t tell me all of this was some kind of test. I won’t appreciate it.”


No. We don’t do that. Though some explorers got a little ahead of themselves in the past. They were reprimanded.”


Like Q?”


The man snorted. “No, not like Q. The best thing that ever happened to the galaxy was when that psychopath and his gang finally got what was coming to them.”




Come now, you don’t believe he was able to pull off those swindles of his without help, do you?”


Oh. So… he wasn’t…?”’


No. He ‘wasn’t.’ What he was, was a prime example of what happens when someone like us.” He gestured to include both of them. “Takes his bag of tricks out into the galaxy at large and uses them to bully innocent people who don’t have the technological wherewithal to stand up for themselves. Stopping the less scrupulous members of your own Greater Federation from doing something like that is going to be one of your Star Fleet’s prime jobs going forward.”




What do you mean, ‘why’? Its the right thing to do.”


Oh, I agree with you, but why should we worry about what happens to races that can’t stand up for themselves?”


The Ambassador stared at him in shock. S’tark held his eyes and, after a minute, the Ambassador shook his head and grinned. “I admit it, you got me. That’s a good question. The simple fact is that all of us, including you, only hold about ten percent of the inhabited galaxy. If we go around irritating and bullying the rest of the galaxy, eventually they will rise up and give us what we have coming. And all the technology in the universe won’t stop them. It never does.”


That’s why we took our time before we contacted you. When you started launching your new ships, we detected it all over the Galaxy. So we knew we had a new neighbor. The question was, what kind of neighbor did we have? Would we get to send a diplomat, or would we have to send a fleet? We needed to know now, while you were still relatively weak. Once your technology got to be common, it would be too late.”


And they decided they could send you.”

Yes, much to their relief.”


And do we have things in common?”


Yes, we do. For one, we have the whole galaxy to run around in. There are some places out in the globular clusters I could show you…” He smiled for a second. “We also have a Prime Directive. What it says is that we leave races alone until they have the ability to navigate unaided across the whole galaxy and have near complete environmental control. At that point, we can talk. Before that, it just doesn’t work, as you have found out. At any rate.” He stood up and held out his hand. “Welcome to the club.”



if you enjoyed this, look for “Karlos Allen” on Amazon for my original Science Fiction.


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