Captain Athena Eastwood stared out at the small, borderline Class M
planet the Lexington was currently orbiting. They had arrived in the
Larein System nearly twenty minutes ago and were still awaiting a
response to their original hail. Perhaps because it was Eastwood's
first mission since her return to active duty, she was just a little
impatient for things to get underway.
"You'd think they'd be a little more courteous to the
Federations' negotiating team," Athena muttered.
"Perhaps they are still laying out the good china and
polishing the silver," Commander Bay said with a smile. She walked across the
smallish Ready Room and joined her at the window.
"If they're trying to make a good first impression the
opportunity has passed."
"It is a bit puzzling that the Aziat have ignored our
arrival," K'Yra Bay said with a frown.
"More than a bit," Athena agreed. "Marcot Trillian
seemed quite eager to cater to our every whim when we spoke yesterday. In fact,
I found his willingness to please us rather embarrassing."
"You mean his offer of sexual companions for you and
our Diplomatic Relations Officer during your stay on Cepha V?" Her barely
contained laughter threatened to bubble over any second.
"The offer was bad enough," Athena said, "but when he
began lining up prospective candidates for us to choose from I nearly died."
"You must admit, the third creature from the left was
"He had webbed hands and feet plus gills, commander,
and I've never been much of a swimmer."
Bay looked back at the planet, "I wish we could have
met Captain Sulu. I've heard so much about him."
"If we hadn't been tied up waiting for the Marines to
come aboard, we would have met him. As it is, we were one week late. I bet Spock
and him had a lot to talk over while he transported the ambassador to Cepha V.
Did I tell you that I met Admiral Kirk at a dinner party thrown for his
"No! What was he like?"
Whatever remark Eastwood was about to make was cut off
at the sound of Jena Skye's voice coming from the Communications station on the
Bridge. "Captain, I have an incoming message from Marcot Tillian."
"Put it through, Skye."
"Captain Eastwood, I hope you will forgive my
tardiness in acknowledging your arrival."
Athena was momentarily thrown by Tillian's almost
ethereal beauty when his image appeared on the screen on her desk. His face was
smooth and devoid of any facial hair. Her eyes were immediately drawn to his
somewhat strange, but beautiful eyes. Aquamarine in color, they appeared to be
multi-faceted. Slightly larger than her own human eyes, they appeared at once
warm and watchful. It was disconcerting. She discreetly broke eye contact.
"We were beginning to wonder if you were having some
sort of difficulties," Athena said.
"Difficulties? Why would you think that?" Tillian
asked just a tad too quickly. His high pitched voice grew shriller.
Eastwood quickly looked over to Bay and saw that she
had also picked up on Tillian's odd behavior.
"I was only suggesting that perhaps our early arrival
had interfered with your scheduling of events," Athena replied in her most
soothing voice. She didn't want things to start off on the wrong foot.
"Nothing of the kind," Tillian said with a laugh that
sounded forced. "We're pleased to find that you're so eager to join us. We're
experiencing some communication problems but everything's been taken care of
now. I'd like to invite you and your crew to join us at your earliest
Eastwood couldn't quite get rid of the nagging
suspicion that Trillian was hiding something. However, since they were here to
meet with the Aziat and, along with Ambassador Spock, help negotiate a peace
treaty with their neighbors the Wobika, she arranged for their landing party to
beam down within the hour.
Athena had spent numerous hours pouring over computer
records with Kathryn O'Conner on Cepha V and the two vastly different people and
cultures that existed on the small planet. She had spoken to both Marcot
Trillian of the Aziat and Kosta Landigon of the Wobika concerning the problems
that had the two factions at each others throats. It was a complicated situation
in which both sides had equally compelling arguments. Hopefully, Spock would be
able to get both sides to lay down their weapons and begin talking. She looked
forward to meeting the Ambassador herself and watching him in action. She was
deeply disappointed to see that Spock was nowhere in sight when she and O'Conner
arrived in the interior city of Avihus.
"Captain Eastwood, welcome to Cepha V."
Athena couldn't help but stare at the tall gentleman
who greeted her so warmly. To say that Marcot Trillian was attractive was a
gross understatement. Although she had spoken to the man less than an hour
before via her view screen, she was still not prepared for the beauty of the man
upon meeting him face to face. She found herself having to look up at him
although she herself was quite tall. The Aziat's skin shimmered with a warm
iridescence that belied the coolness of his touch. His hands were indeed webbed,
but the skin that stretched between each finger from knuckle to joint was
translucent and barely visible.
Marcot smiled and Athena suddenly realized she had
been staring. "I apologize for my rudeness," she said quietly.
"I'm flattered, dear captain. The Aziat are a rather
vain people and enjoy the effect we have on off-worlders."
"We look forward to meeting with your people, Marcot
and touring your lovely cities," Athena said, quickly recovering.
She introduced O'Conner and they both followed behind
Marcot as he led them toward a large building to their left. He'd called it the
Grand Hall and once again Athena found herself overwhelmed by the sheer beauty
of her surroundings.
"My people originally came from the sea," Marcot
explained when he noticed her staring at the large aquariums that ringed the
entryway. "Those of us who can live near the water find comfort in surrounding
ourselves with it."
It was true. The huge tanks stood nearly as tall as
the building they were entering. She felt as if she were walking deep beneath
"They're beautiful, Marcot," Athena said. Each was
filled with sparkling clear water and contained abundant samples of plant life,
coral and a wide variety of colorful fish.
Once they moved inside the Grand Hall the effect was
even more riveting. The interior walls seemed to be lit from within and as the
light shifted, it gave the impression of being underwater. The hall itself was
cool and a moist, swirling breeze buffeted their skin.
There were numerous aquariums inside too of various
lengths and sizes. Some soared to the ceiling; some were barely a meter high.
And still, amongst all this beauty, the Aziats commanded one's attention.
"Quite breathtaking, aren't they," Kathryn whispered
to Athena as if reading her thoughts.
"And then some," Athena agreed in a similarly low
"We have prepared a small meal for you and your crew,"
Marcot said, drawing Athena's attention back to the Aziat official. "And then I
would hope that you would avail yourselves of our hospitality and let my
brother, Tamlo show you a bit of our city before we begin the first meeting."
"We would like to meet with both Ambassador Spock and
Kosta Landigon as soon as possible," Eastwood told him.
"And you shall," Marcot said with a warm smile. "But
first, please sample some of the best Cepah V has to offer. I, unfortunately,
have some business to attend to but I will join you shortly." With that, he
turned and swiftly moved out of sight.
"Rather odd behavior for someone who was so interested
in our coming to his planet isn't it," Athena murmured just loud enough for
O'Conner to hear.
"Yes, he did seem sort of anxious to get out of here.
I feel like we're being kept in the dark about something."
"My sentiments exactly," Athena took her place on the
long bench Tamlo indicated. As she munched on a tender morsel of what looked
like a Terran scallop, the captain of the Lexington pondered their current
situation. It was obvious Marcot was distracted and somewhat ill at ease by
their presence although he fought to hide it. Why? What had they interrupted by
their early arrival? And where was Ambassador Spock?
"This delay is unacceptable, Home!"
Marcot Trillian glared at the view screen on his desk.
His anger seemed to have little effect on the handsome man who silently listened
to Marcot's tantrum.
'Marcot, you're upsetting yourself for no good reason.
Spock will be at the meeting. I'm certain that he is simply off meditating
somewhere to prepare himself for this afternoon's session."
"Are you sure, Horne? What if he's been taken by the
"They wouldn't be that stupid," Horne said with a
sharp laugh. "They need Spock's intervention as much as you do."
It was true, but that didn't much settle his nerves.
Peace on Cepha V was something he yearned for. The months of fighting had taken
more than a physical toll on his people, it threatened to destroy their very way
of life. The sooner the Federation's ambassador could settle this dispute the
better. But, it couldn't begin until Spock arrived at the Grand Hall to meet
with the Aziat and the Wobika representatives. And, at the moment, the Vulcan
was nowhere to be found.
"Find him, Home. Find him and bring him here!"
Marcot ended the transmission and started back in
search of Captain Eastwood and the young officer she'd chosen to accompany her.
"Where is Spock?"
Eastwood swiveled around on her seat to see who was
The deep, booming voice echoed throughout the
"It's Kosta Landigon," Kathryn whispered. "My Lord,
but he's big!"
"Seems as though everyone on this planet is," Athena
laughed. "Must be something in the air. Landigon, how good to see you," she
added, raising her voice. She stood and moved over to where the leader of the
"Captain Eastwood," he said with a nod as he held out
his huge hand.
She fought not to wince as he captured her hand and
squeezed it in welcome.
"We expected to meet with your Ambassador."
So did we, Athena mused. Just where was the Ambassador
and why hadn't he met them when they transported down?
"You shall, you shall," Marcot announced as he breezed
back into the large Hall. "I'm afraid Ambassador Spock has been a bit delayed,
but his aide assured me they will both be here shortly. In the meantime, would
you care for something to eat, Landigon?"
As the Wopaki leader made his way along the food-laden
table picking up and rejecting various dishes, Athena studied him a bit more
closely. Contact over the view screen had not hinted at the air of barely
restrained violence that rolled off Landigon in waves. His ancestors had
descended from wolves and the savage still touched his dark good looks. Thick
black hair grew from the widow's peak centered above his forehead to cascade in
waves to touch the top of his wide shoulders. His skin was dark and ruddy,
stretched thin over his high, prominent cheekbones. His eyes were a pale brown,
almost yellow and tilted up at the outer edges. He turned and smiled at her and
Athena's blood chilled. His eye teeth were long and fang like while the rest of
his teeth ended in sharp points. Landigon was intimidating and he obviously knew
it. Athena forced herself to return his smile.
Far away from the Grand Hall, two men covered from
head to toe in dark cloaks moved silently through the deepening night. The path
they followed would lead them deep into the thick forest that marked the
beginning of Wopaki territory. Their progress halted momentarily when the
shorter of the two men stumbled. The shimmering light from the twin moons of
Cepha V reflected on his pale skin, illuminating the nasty gash above the man's
left eye. Thick, green blood flowed unchecked down his cheek.
"You're disappearance should start to garner attention
any moment now, old man."
"What do you hope to achieve by this action, Horne?"
"Time will tell, Spock," Lewis said with a cold smile.
"Time will tell."
"We have to talk, Marcot, and talk now."
Athena had not wasted any time in making her
displeasure known as soon as the Aziat leader had reappeared.
"Captain, I must apologize for not explaining the
current situation on Cepha V as soon as you arrived."
"Where is Spock," Kosta growled. His temper had
steadily increased each minute Spock failed to appear.
"Yes, Marcot, I was wondering that myself," Eastwood
said as she attempted to rein in her own rising temper. "We have been here for
hours now and have yet to see the Ambassador."
Marcot Trillian cleared his throat as if preparing to
speak. Suddenly, there was a disturbance behind him and then a man dressed in a
black sweater and slacks burst into the room. To say he was handsome was simply
an understatement. Athena found herself mesmerized as the tall blonde strode
purposefully into the room. It took her a moment to realize that his clothing
was in disarray and that his face was bruised and bleeding.
"Horne, what's happened to you?" Marcot asked looking
He turned to Eastwood, "Captain, Lewis Horne is
Ambassador Spock's aide."
"Itís the Ambassador," the distraught looking human
cried. "We were attacked by a group of masked men. They've taken Spock!"
Eastwood grabbed the communicator from the belt of her
uniform. "Excalibur, this is the Captain. Commander Bay, I want a security team
assembled and the "Shadows" ready to beam down in ten minutes!"