Nec Locus Ubi Vulcan Fuit – Nothing in the Place Where Vulcan Lay
My thanks to Nerys Ghemor for all her help and edits. Hopefully, I learnt something again
The story was writte for AdAstra Challenge “Meanwhile, in the JJverse...”
The story takes place in the year 2395, 137 years after the destruction of Vulcan by the Romulan ship Narada
Captain th’Arshar looked at his executive officer. “Kapoor, what do we know about them?”
Commander Kapoor consulted the database. “Not much, sir. Their empire is vast, but they keep mostly to themselves and expand away from the Federation. They expand slowly, though, slower than us, so our borders have never come close enough to each other to cause any serious conflict. We’ve never established any diplomatic relations, either. All we know is based on a limited number of encounters with them. They are reptilians and allegedly follow some kind of strict hierarchical instinct. They are militaristic and more interested in expanding their empire than exploring.”
“Any idea why they are so secluded?”
“Well, it’s not a hard fact, but it’s probably the result of their war with the Romulans.”
“Romulans,” the Andorian captain muttered, while his first officer continued.
“The war was long, lasting for almost forty years and allegedly disastrous for them. The treaty with the Romulans—and this is a hard fact—said that they cannot expand toward the Romulan Star Empire.”
“That would explain why we see so little of them. They steer clear of this part of the quadrant. All right.” Th’Arshar acknowledged her report, nodding. He looked at Lieutenant Commander Farr. “Open hailing frequencies,” he ordered.
The viewer flickered to life and a dark room was displayed. The dominant colour was brown, the lights were dimmed and the only bright element of the décor—in comparison with its surroundings—was a symbol of...something. Kapoor thought that it looked like a strange flower: narrow on the bottom and widening toward the top.
In the middle of the viewer was a chair, in which a man sat. His skin was grey and his face was covered by some kind of hooked protrusions. He wore something that looked more like armour than a uniform and the first thought Kapoor had was that this thing had to be awfully uncomfortable. She found his features fascinating; she had seen a holographic portrayal of a male representative of his race, but looking at a living, breathing individual was something entirely else.
Th’Arshar rose from his chair, took two steps toward the screen and introduced himself. “I am Captain th’Arshar of USS Karamazov
. How can I help you?”
The man on the viewer studied the Andorian for a moment and then said, “Gul Zamarran in command of Cardassian Military Ship
Roumar.” He had a raspy voice with deep tones. He shifted slightly while speaking and his dark grey armour squeaked quietly. “I took the liberty of contacting you, because you are the closest Federation ship available.
Th’Arshar nodded with understanding. “So, how can I help?” he repeated.
“We have just started the process of annexation for a new planet to add to our mighty Cardassian Union, but it turns out that the planet is not uninhabited.
” Kapoor wondered what it had to do with the Federation, while the Cardassian captain—or as they called the position, gul—continued, “We require you to take the inhabitants back to the Federation.
That was ridiculous! Kapoor looked at th’Arshar, but couldn’t see his face. However, she was certain he was as surprised by the strange request as she was.
“And why would we do that?” the Andorian asked.
“Because they are your citizens. We have no information regarding the Federation claiming this planet, so we assume the inhabitants settled there illegally. They shall be removed.
“Which planet are we talking about?” Kapoor knew this tone of voice: th’Arshar was being polite but he didn’t have any intention of granting the request. She understood why—this was no business of the Federation. If some of its citizens had chosen to settle on some uninhabited and unclaimed planet, then it was theirs now and the Cardassians had no right to remove them. Nor did the Federation.
“The planet in question is Setlik III, an M-class planet right outside the Cardassian border. We require the planet for its rich resources, but we cannot annex it as long as it is inhabited. We request you—
” He did not finish, as a woman approached him and whispered something into his ear. He shot a glance at her and then back at the Andorian captain. “We would like to ask you to take your people from the surface.
“And how can you tell they are Federation citizens?” th’Arshar asked. Kapoor knew he wanted to find a way to politely refuse the request and not to start a conflict or an interstellar diplomatic incident at the same time.
“Vulcans are Federation citizens, are they not?
Kapoor smiled bitterly, already knowing what th’Arshar’s answer would be. She was not mistaken. “Gul Zamarran,” the Andorian said with a sigh, “the Vulcans are extinct.”
“Apparently, they are not.
” The words were said in a calm manner, like it was not big information, but Kapoor felt as if someone had hit her with a heavy hammer. She looked at th’Arshar, who turned to her and she saw a reflection of her own facial expression in his. The commander had been a teenager when the news came that the last living Vulcan had died in the line of duty—saving his ship and his crew, no less—but she still remembered how shaken she had been after hearing about it. And now this Cardassian had claimed that there were Vulcans living on some planet he wanted for his empire?
The captain looked back at the Cardassian. “Are you absolutely positive about this?” he asked.
A hooked protrusion around Cardassian gul’s eye raised slightly, not unlike an eyebrow. “We do not make mistakes of that kind, Captain th’Arshar.
“Of course not; I meant no offence.” How diplomatic of him
, Kapoor thought. How could anyone aboard the Karamazov
know what kind of mistakes the Cardassians made or did not make? “How do you propose we proceed?”
“I suggest we go to Setlik III, you call for some colony ship and you beam your citizens aboard.
” Did Kapoor detect annoyance in the gul’s voice?
“Let’s take one step at a time. Helm, set course for Setlik III and engage. Warp...” He looked at the Cardassian. “Seven?”
“Warp seven, then.”
The image flickered and the Cardassian bridge—Kapoor was certain it was the bridge of their military ship—was replaced by stars.
She stood up and approached her captain. “Sir, if they really are Vulcans...”
“I hope they are. But I’m not sure we have any right to remove them from that planet, if they don’t want to go.”
She nodded, understanding him perfectly.
Glinn Jarol turned to the sound of opening door and did all in her power not to flinch at the sight of the person that entered.
“Have you talked to the Federation yet?” the newcomer asked.
“Indeed, I have, Nadar,” Gul Zamarran answered.
Nadar approached the gul’s chair with furious steps. “I told you not to talk to them without me present!” he hissed.
Zamarran shot him an annoyed glance. “You did.”
Nadar fumed and Jarol, not for the first time, worried about her gul. Zamarran had never made it a secret that he was not fond of the Obsidian Order, but going against an agent’s clear instructions was one of the most foolish things one could do.
“So why did you talk to him before calling me to the bridge to witness the conversation?”
Zamarran turned to look at Nadar. “Because the Federation ship could move beyond our hailing range and we would lose the chance to contact them. You can always watch the recording of my conversation, if it fascinates you so much, but establishing contact was much more important than you lurking in the corner.”
Jarol studied the agent’s face to see if the gul had gone too far this time, but Nadar didn’t seem moved by Zamarran’s attack any more than on any other previous occasion. She thought that the agent had to be used to that hostility...if there were other people reckless enough to show him hostility.
“Sir, do you want me to scan their ship?”
The question couldn’t have been asked at a better moment. Jarol looked at the chief engineer and sent him a small smile, because she knew that he had asked that question solely to draw Zamarran’s attention away from Nadar.
The gul looked at the long-haired officer. “Yes, Glinn Brenok, please scan them, but nothing invasive. If they can detect it, I want them to think that we’re just curious and not spying.”
Zamarran looked at the screen, on which they could see the small Federation craft at warp right in front of them. Jarol was relieved to see that the gul didn’t intend to continue his dangerous conversation with the agent. Nadar moved away to his seat in the corner of the bridge. Hiding in the shadows like a venomous serpent
, Jarol thought with contempt. She glanced again at Brenok, whose right hand operated the console as the other played with the tip of his long braid. Brenok had grown his hair long in defiance of the system and the system’s fashion and Jarol suspected that it had been the main reason why Zamarran had approved the glinn’s candidature as the chief engineer—anyone in defiance of the system was Zamarran’s best friend. The engineer must have felt her gaze on him, since he raised his eyes to look at her. They smiled at each other and then returned to work.
Jarol’s thoughts returned to what she had seen on the screen a dozen of minutes earlier: the blue person with feelers on his head. She had heard that the Federation consisted of many different species, but she didn’t know how they could co-exist peacefully. So many cultures, so many languages, too many differences. She found it fascinating, though, and wished she could learn more about them, about their cultures and their art. Who knew, maybe this mission would give her such an opportunity.
Or not. Why was Nadar staring at her like that?
“What are they doing?” th’Arshar asked.
“Not much. Following us and scanning,” Kapoor replied. “However, passive scans only.”
“Return the favour.”
Av’Roo, the Skorr science officer, nodded. “Yes, sir.”
The Andorian turned to his first officer. “Impressions?”
She smiled slightly. “I’m not sure any of my impressions are reliable. That gul was stiff and a bit intimidating. I have no idea if he’d take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Th’Arshar sighed. “I think he wouldn’t. I don’t need scans to tell that their ship is stronger than ours.”
“Sir, we have a tiny Steamrunner
; what they have is a warship. No surprise we’re outgunned.”
“I can’t help but wonder if they chose to contact us due to our size.”
“I am not sure, Captain. We were the only ship in range.” She paused and then said in a much lower voice than before, “Sir, do you really think there is a possibility that some Vulcans are still living?”
Th’Arshar gently shrugged. “I have no idea, Amrita. We know what happened to them: their planet was destroyed and out of billions a handful were saved. Great minds, great knowledge and great dedication, but those few people were not enough to secure their race’s survival, not in the face of the disease.” He shook his head. “Like they hadn’t suffered enough; even that had to hit them.”
Kapoor nodded. She remembered when the last living Vulcan had died. It had been a sad day for the Federation and all member races: they’d lost one of their founding members and everyone had known that the Federation wouldn’t be the same without them. All attempts at recreating the species from DNA had failed, as what made a Vulcan was his or her logic, not mere genetics. Many people honoured the lost species by following their customs and culture, but the real Vulcans—there were none.
She wondered how the Cardassians knew that the people on the planet were Vulcans and not some other Vulcanoid race: Rigelians or Romulans. Granted, there was little chance that Romulans would just populate a planet without claiming it in the name of their vast empire, but maybe this was some rogue element. Gul Zamarran had seemed to be absolutely certain that the people in question were of the allegedly extinct race, but how could Kapoor be sure that he was right? He had presented no proof, so all they had was his word and the commander had no idea how much the word of a Cardassian, or of this man in particular, meant. She knew those people were not friends with the Romulans—surely not after forty years of a crippling war—but it didn’t have to mean that they weren’t as treacherous.
What kind of thinking is that, Amrita?
she chastised herself. She was supposed to be an explorer, open to new opportunities and not some suspicious agent of the intelligence service.
She made the decision not to assume anything about the Cardassians and to give them a chance to show what they were like. Guessing would get her nowhere, or worse—it could take her to some unpleasant world of prejudice and as the gods were her witnesses, she didn’t want that.