"Captain, there is a signal coming in from an unidentified source."
Kirk turned to his communications officer. "Video or voice, Uhura?"
"Neither, Captain." The Bantu tapped on the communications console. "It appears to be a data stream. I have the universal translator working on it."
"Give Spock the approximate coordinates." He turned to his chief science officer. "See what you can find."
The Vulcan bent over his console briefly, then straightened. "It appears to be a small life boat, Captain. The craft is approximately an elliptic cylinder 4.3 meters long; in cross section, it is 3.6 meters at its greatest diameter, 2.9 meters at its least diameter. The craft does not match any know configuration. Scans indicate one organism on board; lifeform readings do not match any known species."
"Does the craft or its occupant pose a danger to the Enterprise?"
"None that I can ascertain, Captain."
Kirk nodded pensively. "Uhura, does the signal appear to be a distress beacon?"
"It's a bit difficult to be sure, Captain. According to the semantics computer, it's counting to 1023 in binary, then listing off the squares of the integers up to 31 in binary then the cubes of the integers to 15, still in binary, then going back to counting to 1023."
Spock looked at his captain. "That suggests it is trying to attract our attention. I would suggest that we retrieve it."
"Can we beam it aboard?"
"Given the size, Captain, I would counsel having Engineering bring it on board via the hangar deck."
"Uhura, contact Engineering and have them take it aboard. Ensign Chekov, you have the conn. Spock, come with me to the hangar deck."
Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott sat at the desk in his office in the Enterprise's engineering department, studying a circuit diagram, looking for possible flaws in the design. From his screened office, he heard the sound of the door to Engineering opening and closing, and an unfamiliar gait walking toward his office. Scott looked up.
Toward his office, a thin, balding, white-haired man was approaching at a pace faster than his apparent age would have predicted. Although the cut and cloth of the outfit he was wearing bespoke excellence, it somehow looked unassuming on him. Even the attaché case he was carrying, clearly made of the finest of leather, seemed commonplace. The only thing about him, other than his gait, that seemed at all striking was his eyes: they were a complex shade of hazel, and their constant motion bespoke a markedly sharp and observant mind behind them.
The engineer put his circuit design aside and rose as the man entered his office. "You'd be Ambassador Jah, I presume."
Taking the seat the chief engineer offered with a wave of his hand, the man nodded. "Ambassador Bodden Jah, at your service, indeed, Commander Scott. Although I must insist on the title in groups, here in your office, please call me Bo; it's what my friends do."
"I understand. Behind closed doors, t' my friends, I'm Scotty." The Scotsman shut the door behind Jah. "Of course, I'm Scotty to almost everyone but the cadets we might happen to have aboard, anyhow. Would you care for a little refreshment before we get down to business? Designing and building a habitat for the Havatari might take a bit of wrangling, and that's thirsty work."
The ambassador tilted his head toward Scott in acceptance. "Thank you, kind sir. Coffee would be most appreciated; it is, I think, the diplomat's substitute for rest and endurance. Strong and black, but, if possible, not bitter." He opened his case and extracted a small bottle from it. "My understanding is that you are a connoisseur of fine distilled beverages. I find I am no longer able to enjoy themmedical issues, you understanddespite which I frequently receive bottles of such potables as gifts. I thought you might enjoy this."
Scott put the carafe and cup of coffee on his desk near the ambassador, accepting the bottle in return. The man's eyebrows lifted. "I'll appreciate it greatly, Bo. It isn't often that I see a bottle of Centaurian whiskey at all, and Tarkal is one of the finest of the lot."
"No doubt, no doubt; I am hardly a worthy judge of such things. Shall we get down to business?" He extended a data chip. "This embodies all that we know about the Havatari. Their environment is somewhat esoteric, I'm afraid. Despite negotiating with them for over a decade, via subspace from Earth, I have never actually seen one of them. Contact has been strictly by audio connections, for reasons which you will find apparent, I'm sure."
Suddenly businesslike, the Scotsman took the chip and inserted it into a slot in the viewer before him. "Och, you weren't kidding when you said the environment was exotic. Looks like the gravity is at about seven times Terran. Mainly oxides of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur for the atmosphere, at over 450 degrees centigrade and a pressure of 1.4 megaPascals. I can't see how they breathe."
"Oh, they don't actually. They live off the thermal differential from the lava flows and the ground nearby, as I understand it, using the equivalent of a thermoelectric current to generate their chemical energy supply. There is a large satellite in a quite eccentric orbit that keeps the crust in an uproar, and the pair orbit comparatively closely to the parent star, a K9 dwarf, which provides considerable additional stress on the crust. A most interesting species, actually; they have a complex system of propriety that they expect us to respect. It took me over five years to learn enough about their system of propriety to be able to negotiate with them." Bodden Jah shrugged, a smile on his face. "Thankfully, it appears to have paid off. I have good hope that I can bring them into the Federation. With that done, I believe I shall retire. I'm nearly a hundred, and ready to quit all this. Frankly, I'm tired, and I want to rest."
"For pushin' a century, you look good, man. I'll be pleased to be close to how you look when I get there. I'm surprised they've got you on this; mandatory retirement age is eighty years old." The engineer looked at the readout again. "You said they wanted this face to face? I'm not sure if we can do that, Bo. What they use for an atmosphere is murkier than muddy water."
"Obviously, it is easy for them, Scotty; they see in deep ultraviolet to soft X-ray frequencies. I am hopeful that you can rig a false color display that can give me some semblance of vision in those frequencies. The challenge, I suppose, will be in rigging something that will be transparent to those frequencies, so that they can see me, but will be able to hold in the pressure they require." Bodden Jah sighed. "And as to why they have an old goat like me doing the final negotiations, well, the radiation they see by is somewhat mutagenic. Let us not pretend ignorance. At my age, I haven't many years left to lose compared to a younger man like yourself. Even though they use relatively low intensities, I still will be exposed to significant radiation. At my age, I do not expect to live long enough for that to be a problem." A wry grin crossed his face. "To be concise, I am not only old enough to be expendable, but also just barely wise enough to realize that I am."
The Scotsman's eyes narrowed slightly, then relaxed. "Bo, you're my kind of ambassador, and I can't say I've met more than one or two of you that I'd care to say that about. Only one I can think of that you might know is Sarek of Vulcan."
The ambassador inclined his head slightly. "To be put on Ambassador Sarek's level is a major compliment indeed, and I thank you. Again, can you make such an enclosure? The alternative would be my entering an environment suit able to handle those pressures and temperaturesnot something, in all sincerity, that I contemplate with joy."
For a few moments, Scott stared at the padd before him, doing obscure computations. He looked back up at the ambassador. "It'll be a challenge, Bo, but any man that gives me a half liter of Tarkal whiskey is someone I'll make a major effort to rise to a challenge for, make no mistake about it." The engineer looked at the compuclipboard again, then back to his companion. "It'll have to be a forcefield for the window; that's the only solution that is quick enough."
"On that, I shall trust you; in the engineering realm, I am scarcely qualified to have an opinion, let alone an opinion worthy of respect. Is there anything further information you'll need?"
"It's all on your chip, here, and I've taken the liberty of copyin' the data on their environment into the engineering computer." The chief engineer rose, extending his hand. "I've a couple of days to have this ready, I think. Good fortunes to you in the negotiations."
Jah rose, accepting the offered hand. "Thank you, Mister Scott. I shall rest assured that all will be well." The men released each other's hand, the ambassador making his way to the corridor door, and the engineer turning to his design.
Kirk and Spock stepped out into the control area of the hangar deck, to find Doctor McCoy and Lieutenant Gabler already present and waiting for them. The captain turned to face the assistant chief engineer. "How soon will you be able to bring this craft aboard?"
"It should be within tractor range in a few moments, Captain." Terrance Gabler stood, watching the display in the control area closely. "Once I have tractors locked on, it will be but a short time before it is on the shuttle deck." He nodded to himself, and touched a control. "It is coming. Perhaps two minutes or so, and you'll be able to inspect it personally."
As the engineer spoke, a profoundly black object slowly pulled into view, in appearance similar to an enlarged, somewhat bloated photon torpedo. With the craft on board, Gabler slowly lowered it to the deck. To everyone's surprise, once the tractor disengaged, the craft lifted, turned side over side, deployed legs and gently settled on them. As quickly as they were certain that the hangar deck was safe to enter, McCoy and Spock hustled into the area, walking around the craft, mediscanner and tricorder deployed. Kirk kept a more respectful distance, waiting for the physician and the science officer to finish their assessment.
It was Spock that spoke first. "It appears to be a sophisticated hibernaculum, Captain, with considerable ancillary equipment, possibly including a small warp drive, and certainly significant computer capacity. In the electromagnetic spectrum, it appears to be totally black, from low frequency radio through hard gamma. I estimate that the amount of absorbed radiation would be more than sufficient to run the mechanisms inside."
"And there's definitely a living organism in there, Jim. Spock's initial analysis still holdstotally unfamiliar. My guess is that whatever is in there is being revived and this gizmo will..."
McCoy's remark was interrupted by the top of the middle section of the craft swinging open and a small set of stairs deploying from the lower part. A bipedal being descended the stairway, turning to face Kirk. As silently as it had opened, the door closed. The creature was almost waxen white in color, somewhat over two meters tall and roughly humanoid in appearance. The most remarkable portion of the being was its face, which sported three pair of eyes, two set closely at the base of a knob with a pair of thin slits in it that obviously served as a nose. A second pair was placed slightly higher and set somewhat further apart, and a third pair yet higher and further apart, giving the being's head an appearance of being tall, and almost triangular in shape. Rather than all six blinking at once, each pair blinked independently of the others, producing an almost wave-like effect.
Kirk found it slightly disconcerting to watch. Under the nose, there was a thin slit that was clearly a mouth, with the upper lip cleft, like a rabbit's. The mouth began to move, making unintelligible sounds. After a moment or two, the being quit speaking.
Kirk decided it was time to make a response. "Greetings. My name is Captain James Kirk. I don't understand what you said, but if you keep talking, I am sure that the ship's universal translator will develop a comprehension of what you're saying before too long."
The waxen colored being stared at Kirk. Finally, one hand swept up, the three fingers moving up and down over the two thumbs, one on each side of the hand. Kirk watched, puzzled.
"If that isn't a signal asking us to keep batting our gums, Jim, I don't know what it is." McCoy looked at his Vulcan companion. "What do you think, Spock?"
"For once I agree with you, Doctor; the creature clearly wishes us to continue speaking. I conjecture that the vessel has his species' version of a universal translator, and he hopes that it will garner enough information to translate, just as we hope ours will do."
"Talkthat's one thing we're good at, isn't it, Bones? But I prefer action to talk, myself. How about getting a scan of this being, while we still have the chance?"
Suddenly aware of the fact that he had been lax in his usual duties, McCoy deployed the medical scanner.
Spock looked at Kirk, then began talking to the creature. "One plus one is two. Two plus one is three. Three plus one is four. One times two is two. One times three is three. One times four is four. Two times two is four. Two times..."
"Is the arithmetic necessary?" McCoy looked up from the display before him. "Something about this ship suggests the being can do arithmetic."
"I disagree, Doctor. On the whole, simple arithmetical relationships are the closest thing to a universal we know, at this point. Belaboring the obvious may be the easiest means to aid the semantic analyzer on the creature's ship in mastering our language." He turned back to the being. "Two times three is six. Two plus four is six. Two plus three is five. Five plus one is six."
"Thank you. Between my vehicle tapping into your computer systems and the samples you have provided by speaking, it seems that the translator in my craft has taken care of the language problem. I suspect that the computer systems on your ship have received the data they need to handle my language."
The Vulcan's eyebrow rose. "I am called Spock. What is your name?"
The being furrowed its forehead and cheeks for a moment. "I believe the closest thing to my name in your language is Yagoboh. If that is suitable to you, it will do well for me."
"It will do fine, Yagoboh. I am Captain Kirk, the being in command of this vessel. Welcome aboard."
"Thank you, Captain."
"Where are you from?"
For a significant period, Yagoboh's face wrinkled, as it had when he was considering his name. Finally, it relaxed. "In all honesty, I do not know. I have a vague memory of having existed before the vehicle opened up, and I have a clear understanding of who I am, and of the rudiments of the vehicle, but that is all. My apologies for my ignorance; I hope it does not discomfit you."
"It's no problem to us, but it will make returning you to your home world much more difficult." Kirk looked over at Spock. "If you'll see to quarters for him, Spock?"
"Of course, Captain. Yagoboh, if you will follow me?"
"If you would lead me, Spock? My needs will be, I think, simple."
"No doubt, but once Spock's got you connected with quarters, I'd appreciate it if you'd come down to Sickbay." McCoy frowned slightly. "I figure it'd probably be a good idea to let me do a detailed metabolic scan on you, to be sure nothing we feed you is going to be poisonous to you, or something."
Yagoboh turned to face the physician. "Thank you, sir. I will be most pleased to take that precaution."
Spock was already standing by an open corridor door, waiting. The alien lifeform made his way into the hallway, Spock following close behind.
Kirk looked over at his chief medical officer. "First time I've ever seen a set of eyes like that, Bones. Just watching him blink almost made me dizzy."
"This is where Spock'd probably point out that spiders have multiple eyes, too, but I'm on your side, Jim; spiders don't blink, and their ocelli don't look at all like mammalian eyes. I've got to admit, his eyes are interesting, indeed. Each pair is set up for a different distance, and has very limited ability to adjust its focal power. That critter must have an incredible depth of focus, and depth vision to beat the band." McCoy hefted his mediscanner. "I can hardly wait to process this back in Sickbay, and to get a more detailed look at this one."
"Bones, you're as incorrigible as Spock. I'm heading back to the bridge before you decide to do some bizarre physical on me." Kirk disappeared into a turbolift .
McCoy stood, staring at the mediscanner a little longer, shaking his head at what he saw before he did likewise.
Leonard H. McCoy stepped out of the corridor into Sickbay, mediscanner still in hand. M'Benga looked up. "The way you're clutching that thing, there must be something important on it, Leonard. You picked up some inside information on the latest treatment for something wretched?"
"Nice try, Ben, but wrong. I've got a scan on a new life form. C'mon. Let's run it through the biocomputer and see what we find."
"I'm with you. Let's get the data uploaded." M'Benga was already getting the connection readied as he spoke.
McCoy handed him the mediscanner, then watched the readout as the data flowed across. "Catch the eyes, Ben; they're really wild."
"No joke, but the rest of it is strange, too. Look at that brainit's monstrous." The Zulu/Masai looked up. "I suppose that I should have expected that, though; it's got to integrate the inputs from those six eyes, which probably takes a lot of brain activity. I..."
The Sickbay door slid open, revealing Spock and Yagoboh. "I guess we'll be able to do more detailed scans, now. Hello, Spock, and welcome to your companion."
"I am Yagoboh. You are?"
"Come on, Yagoboh. Let's get you where we can do a detailed scan, and see what you can and can't handle food-wise." McCoy waved Yagoboh to a diagnostic bed. "Just lay on that, if you please. Spock, I'll take it from here. I'll have Security pick him up when we're done."
"As you wish, Doctor McCoy. If you have a moment later, I would like to compare notes on Yagoboh."
"Come on back down at the end of your shift, and we can compare notes as long as you like, and as long as I can stay awake." The doctor turned back to the diagnostic bed, fingering the scanner controls on the wall above it. "For now, I'm going to see if I can get things clarified on our guest here."
Silently, the Vulcan returned to the turbolift. As he did, M'Benga joined his colleague at the readouts. "Interesting; you can eat almost anything all right. In fact, I don't think there's a poison known that you couldn't handle without trouble. Your home environment must be a rough one."
"I have no memory of my home environment, Doctor. I am glad to hear that I am sufficiently adaptable to be able to enjoy any of your cuisine; I find myself to be quite hungry. Will this take much longer?"
"Just a couple more minutes, Yagoboh," McCoy responded. "I want to be complete, you understand. I don't want to miss anything important."
"Ah, a thorough being; I like that." Yagoboh's lips pursed in what McCoy assumed was the being's equivalent of a smile. "Is there any chance that one of you kind souls could give me any advice about what might be to my tastes in terms of your foodstuffs?"
The chief medical officer looked at his companion. M'Benga winked. "Off the top of my head, I suspect that you'd enjoy a nice pizza, probably, hmmm..." He looked at the readout a moment or two. "Probably one with extra cheese, but no jalapenos or pepperoni. They might be a bit spicy for you, you understand. Maybe a mild sausage, if you eat meat, which I suspect that you do."
"I am quite omnivorous, Doctor M'Benga."
"Good. And while you're at it, you might want to add mushrooms, green peppers and pineapple; they've got some trace organics that you could synthesize yourself, but that you probably would be better off getting in your diet. For dessert, may I suggest a nice slice of cherry cheesecake?"
"Does that contain trace organic compounds that I would find beneficial?" The middle set of eyes widened slightly.
"Nope; it's just one of my favorites, and the scan suggests you'll like it too." The Zulu grinned. "Can't have meals being all business after all."
"Ben, you're hopeless." McCoy tapped the control surface one final time. "The scan's all done, Yagoboh. Let me get Security to take you to the forward mess hall."
"Before he brought me here, Spock was kind enough to tell me how to access whatever I wanted." The waxen colored alien sat up and slid off the table. "His instruction will be much more useful, however, after receiving your advice on what to order; he seemed to be rather less interested in the menu, or so it seemed to me." Confidently, the creature made its way to the corridor, bowing slightly to the security officer that appeared out of the turbolift. "If you will escort me to the forward mess hall?"
"Ain't he the smooth one?" McCoy was obviously impressed by the being's apparent facility with the ship's systems. "I'd love to see the crew's reaction when he enters the mess hall."
"You should have gone with him, then, Len. It's not like we're all that busy right now."
"And let you have all the fun looking over the high resolution scans? Not a chance, M'Benga!" He moved toward the biocomputer. "Let's see what the machinery has learned, shall we?"
Cadet Tatsuo Sumita was walking the corridors of the Enterprise, listening to what he had come to think of as the song the ship sang to itself: the chirps, hums and clicks that the machinery of the Enterprise made as it did its assorted tasks, and the snaps, pops and pings as the hull of the vessel expanded and contracted in response to the changing temperatures inside it. Too often, the young engineer had seen Chief Engineer Scott and Assistant Chief Engineer Gabler localize a problem, if not realize it existed, by just standing and listening to the ship. Such an awareness, such a familiarity with the sounds of the Enterprise was something the budding starship engineer knew he needed, and certainly wanted very much. Thus, every evening, Sumita walked through a section of the ship for an hour or so, just listening. Learning a song as complex as the one the Enterprise sang to itself would take time; he was willing to invest it. Straining his ears and awareness to their utmost, the Okinawan man walked, absorbing the ship's song.
Almost without realizing it, Sumita dropped into a defensive semi-crouch. Somewhere in front of him, there was a sound that didn't fit, that was totally unfamiliar. He heard it a second time, this time sufficiently focused to be fully aware of it: a hiss that sounded like a being exhaling through a tight orifice followed by a wet plop. Quietly, with all the stealth he could muster, Sumita crept forward, wishing he had brought a tricorder and promising himself that he would never again be caught without one. Before him, on the far wall of an intersecting corridor, there was a communications module. It might as well have been at the center of the galaxy; there was no question in his mind that whatever the intruder was, it was in the corridor, and would see him before he could make use of it.
The unfamiliar hiss and plop sounded again, this time somewhat louder. Clearly, the intruder was coming closer. Emboldened by the hope that there was a goodly distance between the creature and the intersection, Sumita leapt to the communicator, triggering it, and shouting "Intruder alert!" He turned to face the intruder.
For a moment, Sumita started to wonder if he had been hallucinating; he saw nothing at all in the corridor. A soft sound caught his attention, causing him to look at the floor. In the middle of the corridor, there was a large, circular creature about a meter and a half in diameter, with three small knobs on the surface closest to him, from which protruded faceted eyes. At the lower margin of the pancake shaped creature there oozed a small amount of tan-colored fluid. The eye knobs moved slightly, in a way that the engineer assumed indicated the creature was focusing on him. A tremor passed across the surface of the creature.
Without warning, it launched itself into the air, propelling itself backward with a jet of air from an orifice on its undersurface. A second hiss, from an orifice he couldn't see, spun the creature around, so it faced away. Before it hit the ground, a further burst of air propelled it in another hop away from the Human.
"Don't be afraid. I mean you no harm, gentlebeing. If you need help, I'll try to find it for you." Sumita stepped forward, intent on following the intruder. As he did, he stepped into the puddle of ichor left on the floor where the creature had been. His boots stuck in it, immobilizing him. The creature disappeared around a corner; Sumita heard a turbolift door slide open and shut from what sounded like near where the creature would have been. From behind, he heard the sound of Human feet running.
Pavel Chekov and Security Officer Anne Nored came around the corner, phasers in hand. "What in space?" It was clear that Chekov had noticed that the engineer was effectively glued in place. It was equally clear that Chekov was trying to suppress a laugh.
Sumita took off his shirt, tossing it on the muck holding him to the floor. He stepped out of his boots, onto the shirt and back to clear floor. "Looked like a giant sand dollar with eyes, sir. Off hand, I'd say it was sort of like a gastropodthat slime is probably its version of digestive juice. Look what it's doing to the shirt." Where the cadet pointed, the shirt was starting to dissolve.
"Where did it go?"
"I think it disappeared into the turbolift, around the corner. Where it went from there, you'll have to check with Commander Scott or Lieutenant Gabler to find out. That'll be a whole lot less help than tracking it with this glop. Sir."
"Good work, Cadet. Now get back to your quarters and get some clothes on; you're out of uniform."
"Gladly, sir!" Sumita moved to the turbolift, disappearing. Being careful not to step in the material that had trapped the cadet, Chekov and Nored moved forward. As the Asian engineering cadet had suggested, the trail ended at the turbolift. Chekov turned. "See if Engineering can track the turbolift, will you? I'll report to the captain."
Kirk stepped onto the bridge, moving directly to the command chair. As usual, the crew was in place, taking care of whatever task seemed to demand their attention, particularly Spock, who was clearly engrossed in some problem. For several minutes, Kirk watched the Vulcan, curiosity finally driving him to interrupt his friend. "I take it you're working on trying to track down the creature that the engineering cadet saw?"
"No, Captain. I believe that all the useful information about the incident has been extracted."
"So what have you learned, Spock?"
"The creature seems to be similar to the Terran gastropods; it secrets digestive material where it lands, presumably absorbing the nutrients produced. From an analysis of the residue collected at the site of the sighting, the digestive enzymes are secreted in a polyglycan matrix, which hardens. That suggests that its normal environment would have been a highly dense atmosphere, or a fluid environment, necessitating fixing the nutrients in place to scavenge them. This is in accord with its mode of locomotion; using a jet of air or water to move would be more effective in an environment where the organism is very buoyant."
"As interesting as that may be, it fails to locate the creature."
"It appears to have disappeared. The trail created by the material it left behind stopped at a turbolift. Engineering has checked all the turbolifts in the Enterprise and has failed to find one with the characteristic material."
"Wonderful. We're afflicted with a ghost-pancake that sometimes leaves glue-like glop here and there. The autocleaning hardware is really going to suffer with this."
The Vulcan shook his head, as a teacher might do when a prize student made an elementary error. "The being is hardly spectral, Captain. Ghosts and other similar apparitions do not leave physical signs."
Inwardly, the captain rolled his eyes. There were times that his Vulcan science officer's extreme literalism was annoying; this was becoming one of them. "Point made. If it's not the creature, then, what is it that has your attention focused so thoroughly?"
"The language files Yagoboh's craft shared with the universal translator, Captain. The files include information on the written version of the language. The syllabary of Yagoboh's language is identical to a script used in Rakdan's Derelict." The science officer turned back to his console. "Fascinating. It would appear that most of the languages are little more than minor dialectical variants of each other. The universal translator should be able produce a translation of the entire library recorded from the derelict."
"I don't recall Rakdan's Derelict, Spock. Give me a brief idea of what you're talking about, will you?"
"Rakdan's Derelict is a cluster of fifteen large artificial habitats in a rosette orbit around their mutual center of gravity. The discovery is comparatively recent, having been made approximately three point seven years ago. When Captain Rakdan of the U.S.S. Cassini discovered them on a routine cargo mission, they appeared to have been abandoned between two and three thousand years ago. Essentially no progress has been made in the effort of translating the extensive library found in the habitats, nor has there been any progress on unraveling anything about the species that inhabited the derelict." He looked up from the console, turning to face the captain. "Fascinating."
"What's kept Starfleet's archaeology division from resolving it?"
"Internal contradictions among the habitats, and among different sections of the library." One of the Vulcan's eyebrows lifted slightly. "Those contradictions, of course, are now resolved. According to the synopsis from the universal translator, there were not less than seven different species using the habitat area when it was active. What appeared to be internal contradictions were actually habitats adjusted to the needs of the different species, and library records in the native tongues of the different species. Fortunately, the language Yagoboh's craft loaded into the Enterprise's memory was the shared language among them all. I anticipate that the archaeolinguists will be able to use this to decipher the other languages. This will prove to be a significant advance in understanding the species represented." Spock looked down at the console again. "It appears to have been a confederation of species similar to the United Federation of Planets. Perhaps we can learn from their collective experience."
"I'm glad to hear it. I'm sure that you will be able to provide a useful synopsis later. From my standpoint, I'd be more interested in the immediate issue of where Yagoboh fits into this scheme. I realize that he was in suspended animation in the hibernaculum, but two to three thousand years is an awfully long time, even for that."
"Precisely, Captain. His appearance does not seem to match that of any of the species so far listed. As the information is translated, however, I will have the main computer hunt through it to see what it finds." The Vulcan nodded to himself. "In the background, of course; it will take some time, and I do not wish to impair important activities."
"I'm glad to hear it." He turned to the communications area. "Uhura, any updates on the Havatari?"
"None as yet, Captain. Do you wish to check with Mister Scott on the progress on the habitat?"
"I'll give him some time, I think, Uhura." Kirk settled back into his chair, wishing for something to do other than sit and wait.
"Have you got that last weld, Gabler?"
"Almost, Mister Scott." Gabler plied the microwave welding wand on a last section. "That's got it. I think we're ready to test it."
Scott nodded. "Good enough. You take the free end of the power cable, and plug her in, then." The chief engineer grabbed the other end of the cord, putting it into the receptacle on the back of the habitat. Indicators flickered into life. "Well, the flashin' lights say all is in line, anyhow." He backed away from the unit. "Let's see if we've managed to get the gravitational field inside the habitat adequately neutralized. Have you got the tennis ball, Gabler?"
"I have. If you'll get where you can record the trajectory, I'll give it a throw. Nothing like the easy solution on this sort of thing." Gabler cocked his throwing arm, preparing to hurl the ball over the habitat.
"Let her fly, then!"
Gabler hurled the tennis ball high over the habitat, the chief engineer training his tricorder on the trajectory. To both of their surprise, a large creature that looked like a cross between a bat and an eagle came flying out of one of the air supply portals, snatching the ball out of mid air and dropping it at Gabler's feet. The creature flew to the top of the hangar deck, circling slowly. Scott turned to his friend. "Seems to me that yon flying sheepdog wants to play, Gabler. Give the ball another throw, will you?" He pointedly aimed his tricorder at the creature. Without comment, Gabler complied with his superior officer's request. A second time, the flying creature deftly caught the ball and returned it to Gabler's feet.
Scooping up the ball, Gabler turned to Scott. "Let's see how clever this fellow is, shall we? Go get it, flying Fido!" The younger engineer whirled, hurling the ball against a bulkhead, off of which it bounced at a crazy angle. Having failed to anticipate the rebound, the creature continued its path toward the bulkhead, unable to stop. Rather than ramming the bulkhead, it shifted its flight to allow it to go into another air duct, disappearing from the hangar deck altogether.
Scotty looked over at Gabler. "I've not seen the like of that thing before, lad, and I'm not sure I like the looks of it."
"I confess complete unfamiliarity with it myself." Gabler turned to face the open end of the duct. "I must also confess a distinct lack of inclination to try to follow it down the ductwork. Although it appeared quite playful, I suspect that it could be altogether unpleasant if it felt cornered."
"Aye, I'll agree with you there. I'll summon Security; do you keep an eye on that duct. Not five meters into the ship, the duct splits into four smaller ducts, none of which yon beastie could get into, and I'm not totally convinced that it could turn around in the duct it's entered." Scotty consulted his tricorder. "At least it gave us a good picture of how well the gravity in the habitat is neutralized above it." The Scotsman triggered the communicator. "Security to the hangar deck; I think we've found another intruder."
His duty shift over, First Officer Spock made his way back to Sickbay, finding M'Benga and McCoy shoulder to shoulder, studying a readout in front of them. There was no question in the Vulcan's mind that the two Humans were totally engrossed in what they were studying, and it seemed logical to assume that the topic of study was the high-resolution scan of their new passenger, Yagoboh. Quietly, he joined the two physicians, studying the readout.
McCoy was the first to notice his presence, clearly surprised by finding the Vulcan standing near him. "For crying out loud, Spock, make more noise when you sneak up on me, will you? Are you trying to scare me to death?"
"Scarcely, Doctor; you are far too valuable an asset to the Enterprise for me to be willing to do such a thing. It appeared to me that you and Doctor M'Benga were sufficiently engrossed in your study of the data before you that I could have made considerable noise and failed to attract your attention." He turned his attention to the readout. "I observe that you are both studying the high-resolution scan of Yagoboh."
"Correct, Spock." McCoy turned back to the readout. "I've got to admit, we're a little befuddled by it. It just doesn't make much sense."
"And before you remind us that alien life forms don't have to make sense, let me tell you that this scan doesn't even make sense if you allow for that." M'Benga jabbed his finger at the screen in front of him. "I mean, that's just not right. What do you make of it, Spock?"
With a few taps on the control surface, the science officer transferred the contents of the readout to a wall display nearby. Several minutes passed before the Vulcan spoke again. "The appearance is that of a series of echoes, which the tricorder should not have been generating. Most curious." He continued to study the display, shifting it occasionally to view this or that point in more detail. "It is not immediately clear to me how to interpret this. Have you submitted it to the ship's medical computers?"
"Yep, and it rejected the data as being internally inconsistent, Spock." McCoy shrugged. "Neither Ben nor I can make much out of it, either, for that matter. I still think I should have Scotty run over the tricorder and the diagnostic bed. Ben disagrees, but the only conclusion that makes any sense to me is that the tricorder and the scanner on the diagnostic bed were malfunctioning."
"It appears to be the most probable conclusion, Doctor. Knowing Mister Scott, however, it is not a conclusion that seems logical." The Vulcan extended the tricorder to the two physicians. "I came to seek your input on the scan of an intruder in the hangar deck, Doctors. Mister Scott and Gabler were finishing the habitat for the Havatari ambassadors; a flying creature appeared, briefly, disappearing into an air duct. When Security arrived, the creature had disappeared, despite the fact that neither engineer had seen it come out of the duct, and the other end of the duct split four ways, none of the branches being nearly large enough for a creature the size the scan indicates."
M'Benga looked up. "Another ghost intruder, eh? Like the one Sumita saw?"
"Perhaps conceptually, but very different visually." The Vulcan let the Zulu-Masai take the tricorder. "Regrettably, this scan was done with an engineering tricorder, not a medical one. Cadet Sumita did not have a tricorder at all."
"A pity, Spock. Ben, hitch that thing to the main biocomputer, and let's see if we can learn anything about it." McCoy stood, giving Spock his chair. Behind them, there was the sound of a turbolift opening. M'Benga and Spock remained focused on the screen in front of them, while McCoy turned to the turbolift.
"I speculate that the disc-shaped being the cadet saw would have been on the order of thirty kilos, Doctor M'Benga; that would make it smaller than the flying creature in the hangar deck."
"Your estimate's low, I think, Spock. Forty-eight point four kilos seems more like it." There was a brief hiss and plop noise. "Carbon-nitrogen-oxygen metabolism, with three peripheral sub-brains feeding to a central brain; each of the sub-brains is under one of the compound eyes."
"I am amazed, Doctor, that you can derive so much from the cadet's description and the analysis of the material it left behind." Spock was still focused on the readout before him.
"I'd be amazed about it too, if I was doing that. Judging from the size of the main brain, this thing is probably sentient, too. It doesn't seem to have any clear auditory organs, though." McCoy slowly moved to a nutrition dispenser, playing on the controls. "I'll bet it would eat fish. Raw, I'd expect, all things considered."
Spock and M'Benga turned to McCoy, finding themselves confronted by the circular creature Sumita had seen. The chief medical officer was gently placing a large slab of raw fish in a rivulet of the digestive material oozing from under the creature. All three were treated to seeing the being gently shift itself to cover the fish. Without being bidden, Spock retrieved two more large fillets, as M'Benga and McCoy focused their medical tricorders on the creature. The Vulcan placed the fillets near the creature; two of its eye-nodules turned to him, then to the fish; the creature quickly moved over it. "Your conjecture, Doctor, appears to be supported by direct data."
"I'd say so, Spock." McCoy looked at his mediscanner. "That clinches it. Scott's going to have to go over every mediscanner we've got. Will you look at those blasted echoes?"
M'Benga shook his head. "I don't get the echoes on you and Spock, Leonard, just on the critter here." As the physician spoke, the disk-shaped creature jetted itself into the air, entered the corridor and disappeared. "The goo on the floor doesn't show the echoes, either. Weird."
"It is most curious, but not yet comprehensible." The Vulcan looked over McCoy's shoulder at the readout of the mediscanner. "Perhaps the flying creature will make another appearance when it can be scanned with a more appropriate device than an engineering tricorder."
"That'd be nice, but don't count on it." McCoy shook his head. "Now we've got three mysterious beings to deal with. I was having enough trouble with just Yagoboh."
"At least Yagoboh doesn't need someone to clean up after him." There was no mistaking M'Benga's amusement. "We'd better get that glop up before someone gets stuck in it."
McCoy started to reply, only to be cut off by the corridor doors opening. Ambassador Jah started to step forward, clutched his chest and collapsed. Both physicians ran to the ambassador, the unknown alien lifeform forgotten in the presence of a fellow Human in dire need. Tricorder in one hand, McCoy shoved his other into the medikit at his hip, rapidly deploying the hypospray. "Get a diagnostic bed ready, Ben. This boy's in big trouble. Spock, give me a hand moving him."
"What's up, Leonard?"
"His heart's in a heap of distress; looks like an ischemic issue. I've given him some paranitrol, but it's not solving things. The perfusion of his heart is better, but his blood pressure's bottoming." The physician and the science officer gently lifted the ambassador, moving him to the diagnostic bed. McCoy looked at the monitor above. "Spock, get Chapel here, will you? Ben, we're going to need the operative field, and it's going to take us both. What were the brass thinking sending someone this ill to negotiate?"
Without comment, Spock moved to the communications patch, watching M'Benga move the surgical field into place, and the two men begin working feverishly, trying to preserve the life of the stricken ambassador. Only moments later, Nurse Chapel came out of the turbolift, to be followed shortly by Medical Technician Eddie Connors. Both Humans grabbed ancillary equipment and took their places next to the physicians. Rather than leave, Spock moved toward the diagnostic bed, standing near the ambassador's head.
McCoy looked up, the rapid and confident ballet of his hands unslowed by his doing so. "Spock, I appreciate the moral support, but you're not going to do much good standing there."
"The negotiations with the Havatari are at a vital crossroads, Doctor. They have no idea what Ambassador Yah looks like. If it appears that you will be unsuccessful, I will try to mind-meld with him to learn what I can in order to complete the negotiations."
"That won't be necessary, Spock," M'Benga responded. "Good thought, but it looks like he's going to make it. He wouldn't have if he'd keeled over anywhere else on the ship, though."
"I agree, Ben." McCoy took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, his hands dropping to his side. "We're going to have to let him stabilize for a while before we do anything really definitive to fix this, though. I'll let you and Christine finish up." The chief medical officer stepped away from the operative field. "Connors, you back out, too. I want you working on getting a cardiac muscle cell culture going; there's a lot of heart muscle that's going to be irreparable, here. We're going to need, oh, at least two hundred to two fifty grams of replacement cells to infuse."
"What say I run up enough cultures for three hundred? Do I have the time?" Even as he spoke, the med tech disengaged from the surgical procedure.
"Easily, man. It's going to be eight, maybe nine hours before he's stable enough for that." McCoy noticed that Chapel and M'Benga were moving back from the surgical field unit. "Ben, you and Christine go get some sleep. Connors and I will alternate watching the cultures and napping ourselves. We're all going to need to be alert and as close to at our best in eight or nine hours." He moved to the head of the diagnostic bed, displacing Spock. Looking down, he saw his patient's eyes flutter open. "Now, just you take it easy, Ambassador. You had a close call, there. You'll be fine, I expect, but you need to rest."
"Kind physician, insisting on titles after you have manifestly saved my life is, I think, ridiculous." Yah attempted a smile. "Until you release me, I shall be just Bo, if you please."
"That's fine, Bo. You still need some rest."
"It was my heart again, wasn't it, Doctor?"
"This wasn't the first time, eh?"
"Indeed not; the fourth, I think." Bodden Jah's forehead furrowed. "There was almost no warning this time, Doctor. I just barely arrived in time, didn't I?"
"The important thing, Bo," M'Benga said, "is that you arrived in time."
"Ben's right. And when he and I are done with you, you should be good for a couple more decades." McCoy winked. "That's assuming, of course, that you don't get into any fights with anyone armed and dangerous, that is."
"I shall try not to. Pardon my discourtesy, but..." Tiredness was written all over Jah's face.
"Discourtesy, bah. Doctor's orders, Bo. Get some sleep." As his patient's eyes closed in peaceful sleep, McCoy looked over at the medical technician. "Hey, Eddie, make that five hundred grams, will you?"
"Captain, we are being hailed from the surface."
"Thank you, Uhura. Main viewing screen on." Kirk shifted slightly, to be sure he faced the viewer squarely.
"It is audio only, Captain."
"Greetings, Enterprise. I am Soontayk, the representative of the Havatari."
"I greet you, Soontayk. I am Captain Kirk." Kirk had spent most of the morning in Sickbay, taking a crash course from the ambassador in the proper way of greeting the Havatar when initial contact was made. He would have liked to have had more time to prepare, but half a day was better than nothing.
"It is a gladness to me to hear you. Is Ambassador Bodden Jah with you?"
"To know you is joy, too, Soontayk. The ambassador is present and ready to speak when you will. Without doubt, he is making sure that all is in readiness. We have what we hope will be a suitable environment prepared for you on our ship, one that will allow you to see the ambassador face to face." Kirk wracked his brain, wondering if he'd forgotten anything Bodden Jah had told him to say. He couldn't recall anything.
"Your words give me pleasure. Will the ambassador be able to see me, too?"
Mentally, Kirk kicked himself; Jah had told him that the Havatari would want to know that. "His joy overflows with the knowledge that he will soon see you for the first time, Soontayk, and he expresses the deep hope that you will find happiness in the mutual meeting."
"It is to rejoice. Would twelve of your hours be enough time to finalize preparations?"
"Twelve hours is most generous, and is an abundance of time. We will be prepared and eagerly awaiting, Soontayk."
"Twelve hours, then. Give Ambassador Bodden Jah my greetings, and tell him I look forward with joy to meeting him."
"It will be my sincere pleasure. Enterprise out." He turned to Uhura. "Let Bones know our deadline. Bodden Jah has to be at his best when the meeting happens. Spock, just in case Jah isn't ready, I want you to learn as much as you can about the Havatari, so you can step into his shoes."
Leonard McCoy shook his head. "We've got three hours to go before the Havatari ambassador beams aboard, folks. We need to get those myocardial cells infused as soon as possible; he's going to need time for them to settle in properly. Where are we at with them?"
"Half an hour more, Doctor, perhaps a little less," the medical technician responded. "The cultures are just finishing the last stage of differentiation. It all depends on how rapidly they get to where we need em to be."
Impatient, as much from his tiredness as the sense of urgency, McCoy nodded acknowledgment and moved toward his office. "In that case, I'm getting twenty winks. Don't wake me unless the cells are ready or a patient arrives."
Just as the chief medical officer moved into his office door, Yagoboh stepped out of the corridor, carrying a data chip in his hand. "If it was possible, I was wondering if you could spare me a moment. I seem to have an inexplicable problem."
McCoy turned. "I'll do what I can, Yagoboh, but you have to realize that I'm a little limited in how much I can do; you're a totally unfamiliar lifeform. Where did your security guard go?"
The being extended the data chip. "I have not seen the security person in some time, I fear; I cannot explain why. Had he been with me, I might have been spared this trip. As to my unfamiliarity, this should help; it is such biological information about me as I was able to download from my craft's data storage system. I hope it is sufficiently complete to enable you to assist me."
Forgetting the missing security guard, a smile creased the medical officer's face. "Now you're talking!" He plugged the chip into a data port, then turned back to the being. "It'll take a moment or two, I suppose, to upload and digest the data on your chip. How about telling me what your problem is?"
All six of Yagoboh's eyes closed in unison, then reopened, restarting their asynchronous blinking. "I appear to be having a memory problem, Doctor. I am in the cabin so kindly supplied to me, then the next thing of which I am aware, I am elsewhere in this craft, usually wandering in the hallways, totally unaware of how I managed to find myself there. The security officer seems quite offended when I return to my cabin, when he or she has been guarding it, believing I was still in it. This is quite distressing, as I am confident that you understand."
"I understand, all right. It's not a pleasant feeling." McCoy turned his scanner on Yagoboh. "Let me just correlate this scan with the information you've supplied."
The physician moved to a readout, sitting in front of it for some time, cross-correlating what was in the chip with what his scan showed. The scanner showed the same echoes as the earlier scans had; the data Yagoboh downloaded from his craft showed none. Other than the echoes, the scans matched each other perfectly. "Tell you what, Yagoboh, I'm not sure what to make of the differences. Why don't you lay down on the diagnostic bed over there, and let me do a higher resolution scan, and let the ship's biocomputer chew on the data for a little while?"
Silently, Yagoboh made his way to the bed McCoy was pointing to. The physician took his place at the bedside for a moment, tapping on the control surface briefly. "That'll get it going. Just you lay there and rest, now. It's probably just something simple, maybe just the stress of adapting to the ship; might be some virus we carry that affects you. A couple of hours from now, we should have an answer. I hope."
Before Yagoboh could respond, Eddie Connors stuck his head around the corner. "Myocardial cells are ready to infuse, Doctor McCoy. We'll have five hundred thirty-seven grams worth ready. As soon as the ambassador's ready, we can roll."
"Thanks, Eddie." McCoy clicked his comlink to contact his nurse. "Christine, let's get Ambassador Jah ready for surgery. The sooner he's up to snuff, the better."
Within a few minutes, Connors, Chapel and McCoy had gathered at Bodden Jah's bedside. The physician looked down at his patient. "Ready to go, Ambassador?"
"I believe so, Doctor. This is not the first time I have had to undergo treatment of this nature; I think I understand the risks."
"I'd rather put you on bypass, and regenerate your heart externally, you know."
"I understand, Doctor McCoy, but given the situation with the Havatari, we must make do. With the number of times I've been through this, I'm quite sure that the replacement tissue will only prove a temporary solution. Perhaps you can do the external regeneration in a few days or a week, once the negotiations are over."
"Consider that a done deal, Bo. Are you sure that we can't stall for a few days?" There was no question that McCoy didn't like having to temporize.
"Quite sure, Doctor. This appointment with history has been brewing for a very long time." The ambassador shrugged. "In the great course of the life of the United Federation of Planets, the few remaining years I have loom very small, even in my own eyes. Shall we proceed?"
"No time like the present. Connors, Christine, are you ready to go?"
"The operative field is ready to move into place, Doctor," Chapel moved to her customary position.
"The cells are ready and waiting. Let's roll!" Connors decanted the harvested cells into the delivery system.
Devices were moved into place, and the team began their task. McCoy tapped on the control surfaces of the operative field. "Christine, how's anesthesia?"
"Stabilized. Ready to proceed, Doctor."
The physician nodded. "Thank you." His hands disappeared into the operative field, working where none but he could see. "Connors, start the infusion. Fifty grams of tissue a minute, for five minutes, please."
The threesome stood, silent and almost motionless, the only visible activity being McCoy making adjustments to the status of the operative field controls. The infusion finished. After studying the display for a little longer, the physician shook his head. "Not good enough; that's no surprise. Connors, another hundred twenty-five grams, at twenty-five a minute."
"I'm on it." The med tech watched his monitor, looking up suddenly. "We're getting an immune reaction, here. We shouldn't be; those cells are as immunologically invisible as cells can get."
"That's no guarantee, and you know it, man." McCoy tapped the console. "He's had this two or three other times, after all, you heard him say that." He frowned, tapping the console again. "This isn't good. Christine, get some hypercrolimus, now. Hurry."
"Better run; there ain't time for you to walk, Chris," Connors added. "His immune system is starting to attack native heart cells. This is not good."
Nurse Chapel made fast time to the storage cabinet, running back with the drug. As she did, the communicator chimed. "Bones, Kirk here. Apparently the Havatari don't exactly know how long our hour is; they're beaming in twenty minutes. We need Bodden Jah."
"It's not possible, Jim. We're in the middle of working on him." He turned to face the nurse. "Give him two hundred twenty milligrams of the hypercrolimus, Christine." He swiveled his head to face the communicator again. "You're going to need to stall. Maybe you and Spock can buy us some time. I need it, and so does Bodden Jah."
"Doctor McCoy, the immune activity is extending to new tissuesliver and kidney mainly."
"Thanks a lot for the good news, Connors. Christine, another hundred of hypercrolimus, and get some anti-plasmacyte globulin on board, fastten grams, as quickly as you can." McCoy looked at the communicator again. "Look, I'll get him there as fast as I can. I can't talk now, okay?"
"I understand, Kirk out."
"Anti-plasmacyte globulin in, Doctor, and a total of three hundred twenty milligrams of hypercrolimus."
The physician made a noise of profound displeasure. "Connors?"
"Infusion's done, but the immune assault on the liver and kidneys is out of hand. We're not getting any reduction on the assault on the new or native heart muscle. Titamuram time, Doc?"
"Unless you've got a major communications line to God, that's all we've got left. Christine, twenty grams of anti-lymphocyte globulin and fifty of titamuram, now."
"Connors, get ready to put him on bypass. The Havatari are just going to have to wait their turn, or make do with the rest of us. How bad's the autoimmune assault?"
"Bad, Doc, very bad; the titamuram slowed the avalanche, but sure didn't stop it." The medical technician looked at the monitor in front of him. "About the only tissue not under immune assault is his toenails." He looked up. "If you're thinking of extracorporeal organ regeneration, you're out of luck." Even as he spoke, Connors was shifting Bodden Jah to bypass support. "There's so many immune cells in the critical tissues that the regeneration tanks will just augment the assault." Chapel and McCoy worked with Connors as he took the final steps to put the ambassador on full support.
"That's old news, Eddie. Christine, give him another twenty-five of titamuram, will you? Short of a miracle, there's nothing else to do but wait and hope." McCoy shook his head, stepping back from the operative field. "I... NO!"
Even as the physician dove back to the surgical field, the indicators on the diagnostic bed went haywire, then started falling. Hands flew on control consoles, the three Humans functioning almost as a single being, nothing more than one or two syllables passing between them as they labored to revive the failing ambassador. Their efforts were fruitless; the overwhelming autoimmune reaction beat them at every turn.
The chief medical officer finally dropped his hands and stepped away from the diagnostic bed. "We might as well admit it. We're beat. Christine, you see to getting Uhura to help contact his next of kin. Eddie, if you'll handle shifting him to the morgue and get Sanchez onto figuring out happened here, I'll compose myself and let Jim know the bad news." McCoy headed toward his office area, Chapel moving to hers.
Connors took a deep breath, collecting his wits as he watched his two colleagues disappear from sight. Gently, respectfully, the medical technician began removing the equipment from Bodden Jah's remains. A hand grasped his shoulder; he collapsed, unconscious.
Kirk and Spock hurried out of the turbolift to the environmental enclosure Scott and Gabler had built in the hangar deck. "Ambassador Soontayk! I express great joy at your arrivaland some surprise. We must have had a minor miscommunication concerning the length of our time units in comparison to yours. Ambassador Jah is momentarily detained. I have every confidence that he will join us soon."
"I suppose that this sort of thing is inescapable when trying to translate time units from one culture to another. I am most pleased that you are not incommoded."
Spock moved to where he could see the Havatari ambassador. The being was short and squat; just a little over a meter tall, the being was cylindrical, with a bullet-shaped top that seemed to be a head. Multiple legs were visible, as well as half a dozen thick, tentacle-like arms and a dozen or more appendages whose function was not immediately clear. "It would be a great source of pleasure to spend the hopefully short period of our wait in learning of your people, Ambassador. I have taken the opportunity to read what our computer has about you, but it seems woefully short of the reality. Might I have that joy?"
"You are most courteous. How can I deny you? Since this enclosure is so well-suited to my comfort, I must assume that you know something of my environment. Let me therefore tell you something of our culture."
From a wall communicator behind him, Kirk heard McCoy's voice in a forced whisper. "Jim, about Ambassador Jah. I..." As McCoy spoke, the ambassador stepped out of the turbolift, moving directly to the enclosure.
Kirk leaned close to the communicator, whispering back. "He just stepped out of the turbolift, Bones. Good work. He looks like a new man. I'll talk to you later; we don't need to disturb the negotiations."
Bodden Jah stepped to where Soontayk could see him. "Ambassador Soontayk! My heart overflows with rejoicing to finally see you! Accept my apologies for the minor delay in my arrival."
Spock stepped aside, taking his place by the captain, allowing Soontayk and Jah to interact.
"Bodden Jah, I greet you!" Soontayk paused, then spoke again. "Your appearance amazes me. You are so different."
"You live in an atmosphere that would burn my skin, Soontayk, at a pressure that would squeeze me unbearably, in a gravity that would flatten me, at temperatures that would burn me; that my appearance differs should not surprise you. Yet, as different as out outer appearance is, the Sender of Lava has written his image in me, just as he has in you, and the One Frozen and Thawed provides all the grace I could ask." Bodden Jah nodded. "Inside, under the trappings of my body, we are the same."
Soontayk's bullet-shaped top flattened and resumed its usual shape several times, presumably in the Havatari equivalent of a nod. "I understand. Then you know of the Sender of Lava and the One Frozen and Thawed Again?"
"I know and serve him; the names we use are different, but it is the same one nonetheless."
"This is joy beyond all hope, Bodden Jah. That you might not know the Sender of Lava was one of our greatest fears. Let us negotiate."
Spock leaned over to Kirk, speaking softly. "I do not recognize the Sender of Lava, Captain. There is nothing in our data files about it. I..."
McCoy stepped out of the turbolift, his mediscanner in hand, interrupting Spock by his arrival. To Kirk, McCoy looked as if he had seen a ghost. The physician opened his mouth, but Kirk gestured for silence. McCoy turned his medical scanner on Jah, then on the environmental enclosure. Obviously frustrated, he pursed his lips and shook his head.
Bodden Jah was speaking as the threesome turned their attention back to him. "Then we are agreed in principle, Soontayk?"
"We are. It is time that I return to my people. We will vote on our decision as to whether to join your United Federation of Planets. I have good hope that the decision will be swift and will bring us both great joy."
"Thank you, Soontayk. I anticipate hearing soon, with great eagerness." Jah turned to Kirk, nodding.
"Scotty, beam Ambassador Soontayk back to the surface." Kirk had hardly finished speaking before the Havatari ambassador was gone. He turned to McCoy. "Okay, Bones, what's the all fired emergency that brings you up here in the middle of a delicate negotiation?"
Perplexity was written all over McCoy's face. "The fact that I just left Ambassador Bodden Jah's dead body down in Sickbay, Jim, that's all." He turned to face what appeared to be Bodden Jah. "I don't know who you are, but you're doing a good enough impersonation of the ambassador to fool my mediscanneralmost, anyhow."
Jah turned. "I am Ambassador Bodden Jah. What you see is who I am."
"It is, I believe, only a part of who you are." It was Spock speaking. "You clearly know more of the Havatari than the United Federation of Planets does. In fact, you seem to have information that the real Bodden Jah lacked; nowhere in any of his reports was there anything about the religion of the Havatari, yet you seem to be intimately familiar with it. Perhaps you can explain why the good doctor is convinced he has seen Bodden Jah's dead body, despite your apparently being him?"
The ambassador's face went expressionless. "I am Bodden Jah. How I know so much more about the Havatari, I do not know, but I know it as surely as if I had been one of them." From an alcove on one side of the hangar deck, Yagoboh's craft moved toward the being who had become Bodden Jah. "I am sorry, but I must go now." The craft settled on the floor, its door opening as it had earlier, the stairs deploying. The being moved toward it. "The Havatari will join the Federation, Captain. I suggest that you tell Soontayk of Bodden Jah's death; he will accept the fact if you tell him that the Sender of Lava has called Jah home. Why I know this, I do not know, but I am certain that it is true." He lay down in the craft, the door closing on him. "Goodbye."
With the door closed, the craft lifted, retracted its legs and moved out of the hangar deck, going through the force field that held in the atmosphere as if it were not there. It no sooner cleared the ship than it disappeared.
Kirk looked at his two companions. "Do either of you have any idea what's going on here?"
McCoy looked up from his mediscanner. "I think I'm beginning to, Jim. I looked at the echoes on Yagoboh's scan; one of them looked like a faint version of the pancake-shaped critter we saw; another one matches the flying thing Scotty and Gabler saw. An even fainter echo looks a lot like the scan I got on Soontayk. And the scan of the pseudo-Jah had all of those, and an echo that looked like Yagoboh. Maybe that really was Yagoboh, morphed into Bodden Jah's appearance."
"Fascinating. I believe, Doctor, that you may be right. The records from Rakdan's Derelict suggested that their alliance was planning to build a morphable bioconstruct to use as something like our sensors; it would become a member of a sentient species, live with them for a period of time, learn what it could, and transmit that information back to its makers. The morphable android would then have its adopted form erased so that it could be reset for its next mission."
"Only the erasure didn't work completely, right, Spock?"
"Apparently so, Captain. Hence the echoes when he was scanned. Yagobah retained the matrices for each of the lifeforms it coopted, and apparently could change within a matter of seconds into those lifeforms."
"Which is why Security couldn't keep up with him."
"It makes sense, Jimas much as anything ever does on the Enterprise, anyhow." McCoy shrugged. "But whoever or whatever Yagobah was is rightwhat's important is that the negotiations were concluded as well as possible. Offhand, I'd say we might as well head back to where we belong, and wait for Soontayk to tell us what happened."
Captain's Log, Supplemental
We have successfully brought the Havatari into the UFP fold, thanks to the efforts of the late Ambassador Bodden Jah, who died while finishing his negotiations. With the agreement of my chief science officer and chief medical officer, I am nominating him for the Starfleet Silver Palm, posthumously, for service above the call of duty...
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