In the transporter room, Wesley found his Zulu chief of security already waiting with two of his red-shirted officers. They both held type-II phaser pistols which they kept trained on the as yet empty transporter platform while awaiting the Xenarth representative to beam on board.
“Quite the friendly welcoming committee we’ve put together here,” said Doctor Vincent who had joined the commodore and Alexei Kuznetsov.
“These creatures have already demonstrated their hostile attitude twice,” Lieutenant Nealo Mtolo pointed out. “I’d rather be prepared for any other such displays.”
“Armed guards is a wise precaution, Lieutenant,” said Wesley. “But have your men holster their weapons until they may be needed. And let’s try to refrain from calling them creatures.”
“Yes, sir,” said Mtolo and gestured to his men who quickly attached the phasers to their hips before standing at attention.
“Ensign,” said the commodore, looking towards the officer manning the transporter console. “Do you have the coordinates?”
He nodded. “Just come through, sir.”
Wesley faced the platform while his first officer and chief surgeon flanked him on either side.
“Do they really look like bugs?” asked Doctor Vincent.
“Da. Imagine an ant, walking upright and with a particularly nasty disposition,” said the Russian first officer.
“That be all of that, gentlemen,” said Wesley. “These are our guests and we will treat them us such. Ensign, energize.”
Vincent couldn’t help himself but subconsciously start scratching himself.
The beam effect lasted only a few seconds and promptly revealed a tall insectoid. As already expected she stood on two legs and was as much upright as an average human. Thanks to her long feelers protruding from the front of her face, she stood quite a little taller than anyone else in the transporter room. Now that Wesley got to see a Xenarth up close, he realized that they were perhaps not so different after all. That was of course besides the clearly hardened exoskeleton, the antennae, the mandibles, the disturbingly large and round black eyes and the four arms.
He also thought he could see a few, what he believed to be, female characteristics. Her torso was slim and bulged out slightly around her hips. She had slender legs and appeared to wear hints of facial painting around those large eyes which could be considered make-up. She wore a form-fitting, simple green dress with golden, crescent-shaped marking across the chest.
“Welcome aboard the Lexington
. I’m Commodore Robert Wesley. This is my first officer Commander Alexei Kuznetsov and ship’s physician Doctor Charles Vincent.”
But the Xenarth was paying little attention to the Starfleet officers and instead kept studying the transporter with great curiosity.
When Kuznetsov cleared his throat, she whipped her head towards the officers as if seeing them there for the first time. They didn’t hold her interest for long. She looked passed them and towards the transporter console. When she stepped off the platform and towards it, Wesley quickly stepped aside to let her pass.
Mtolo and his security detail tensed up noticeably, all three reaching for their phasers but Wesley raised his hand to let them know to hold their positions.
Their curious guest looked over the red and black console and the colorful control panel.
The ensign behind it had taken a step away but apparently couldn’t help himself but stare wide-eyed at this alien creature as her head twitched back and forth. Then she stopped moving suddenly and looked up and right into the surprised ensign’s face. “You appear startled. Is this because of my appearance?” she asked, the universal translator now working perfectly to re-modulated and translate her language.
The ensign was completely stone-faced, apparently unable to speak.
Wesley stepped up. “I apologize for the behavior of my crew. We don’t meet non-humanoid life-forms like yourself very often.”
The Xenarth turned around to study the commodore, her head once again twitching back and forth slightly. “No apologies necessary.”
“You are not Queen Quelphi, I presume,” said Wesley. In truth he wasn’t able to tell by her appearance but her mannerisms appeared very different to the Xenarth he had dealt with earlier.
She uttered a series of quick clicks which the UT was unable to decipher and Wesley interpreted as a laugh. Either that or a sign of great offense. He hoped it wasn’t the latter.
“All-Mother, no,” she said. “I feel I am the one who should offer apologies. I was so distracted and intrigued by your matter-conversion technology that I have failed to behave like a guest is expected to,” she said and lowered her head in a universal gesture of apology. “I am Artisan Queen Selphi and I most humbly ask your forgiveness.”
Wesley took a step forward and smiled. “Not necessary,” he said, repeating her earlier words. “First contact situations like these are fraught with misunderstandings and misconceptions as we try to learn each other’s mannerisms and behaviors,” he said. Making it quite obvious, at least to his fellow officers, that this wasn’t his first encounter with a new species he’d had in his illustrious Starfleet career. “I appreciate that going through our transporter can be disturbing when you experience it for the first time.”
Quelphi looked up and then passed him to look back at the platform. “It is a most curious machine. Tell me, does it allow you to move matter over any distance?”
If Wesley appeared surprised by the question, he did not show this. “It has a limited range. We can easily and safely transport persons and objects from a planet’s orbit to the surface. Just as we have you just now.”
The Artisan Queen appeared almost disappointed by this revelation. Of course Wesley couldn’t be entirely certain. It was too early to be able to fully interpret the Xenarth’s complex facial expression.
“Perhaps you would like to join us in our briefing room. We could continue our conversation there in greater comfort.”
“I would be delighted to,” she said.
Wesley nodded and pointed towards the doors. The Xenarth required only a couple of seconds to correctly interpret the gesture and then headed out of the transporter room.
“I think you can relax,” said Vincent in a hushed town to Mtolo as he passed him by. “Looks like we beamed up the agreeable one.”
Of course the security chief showed no intentions of doing so and promptly followed Selphi and the senior officers.
The short trip to the briefing room unexpectedly took longer than usual. Most crewmembers stopped upon seeing the alien creature walking passed them and did a poor job at avoiding staring at the insectoid. Thankfully the Xenarth didn’t seem to mind and instead simply stared back. Overall she seemed more interested in Lexington
and her technology then in her crew, leaving Wesley to think that she had a greater familiarity with humanoid life than he and his officers had with insectoids.
Once they had arrived at their destination, Wesley had the two security officers positioned outside while he, Kuznetsov, Vincent and Mtolo joined Selphi at the briefing room table.
As it turned out the Artisan Queen was not at all shy about speaking of herself and her people and quite curious to learn about Lexington
and the Federation. Within moments the conversation was in full swing.
“You are saying that you Federation encompasses dozens of planets and different species? This is very interesting.”
Wesley nodded. “We have only explored a very small percentage of our galaxy. And as you can tell we haven’t come across very many species which are as different to us as you are.”
“We have made similar discoveries,” she said.
“Forgive me if I’m too forward,” Vincent said. “But we have never heard of your species before and we know for a fact that this planet used to be uninhabited just a few years ago. Naturally this makes me wonder –“
“Where we come from?” she completed for him.
The doctor nodded.
“I suppose that is a valid question, considering that we have appeared within your territory uninvited.”
“As I have tried to explain to Queen Quelphi. While you may have come here uninvited, you are certainly not unwelcome,” Wesley said.
The Xenarth queen lowered her head again slightly before continuing. “Having a rational conversation with the Warrior Queen is a great challenge, I have to admit. If she’d had her way we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all and you’d be fighting off our swarm ships instead.”
“She is not your leader then?” Kuznetsov asked.
“No. However she wishes she were and the way things are progressing in the Aggregate, perhaps she will be soon. It is not a prospect I am looking forward to and I fear what it may mean for the good of the Colony.”
When neither of the Starfleet officers could think of a response, she continued. “I understand that you have offered to help us and it is solely because of that reason that I have been allowed to come and meet with you. But before we continue any further it is imperative that you understand the complexities of the Xenarth Aggregate and the difficulties we face,” she said, making an effort to look at each of the four men she was sharing the table with. “We have come here from a place we assume to be very far away. Please do not ask me where our now lost home world is located as I am not well-versed in such matters and I fear not even the Scholar Queen and her scientists would be able to explain it adequately. What I know for certain is that the stars in this place are very different to what they used to look like.
Driven by our ancient texts and promises, our entire Colony has been obsessed over the last one hundred sun-cycles to find Xendaru, the realm of our God-Queen. A new and powerful force we discovered not so long ago convinced our Supreme, Queen Semunstra, that it would allow the entire Colony entry into Xendaru. In hindsight however Queen Quelphi remained right and it has only attracted elements which have nearly let to our total destruction. And as we stood at the very cusp of the downfall of our once great civilization, we placed all our trust into this powerful force, hoping against hope that it would take us to Xendaru and to our salvation.”
The room was quite for a moment after Selphi had told the tale of her people as Wesley and his officers took in this tragic and yet fascinating story.
“So instead of reaching Xendaru you and your people landed here?” said Vincent.
“That is correct,” she said. “But not everybody survived this journey. Millions of our sisters and brothers perished, including Supreme Semunstra.”
“That would certainly explain how your and your Colony appeared out of seemingly nowhere. This force you speak of? It must be immensely powerful,” said Kuznetsov and shot a quick glance towards Wesley at his side. Both men realizing that whatever Ketteract had discovered was clearly linked to the forces that had moved an entire civilization over presumably many hundreds of light-years of space.
“We have named it the Xendaru particle for the promises it was supposed to fulfill. And I have long since come to see it as a great curse on our people. Thousands of fellow colonists were killed in the sun-cycles wasted to attempt to create it and now millions more have been lost. Sadly our leaders have not learned from those mistakes and our new Supreme, the Cleric Queen Ergia, is determined to make use of this hellish force yet again to try and reach Xendaru once more.”
“I take it from your earlier talk about complexities in your ruling faction that there is opposition to this plan,” said Wesley.
She jerked her head in what could only be interpreted as a nod. “Yes. The Warrior Queen has made no secret of the fact that she is staunchly opposed to try for Xendaru once more. Sadly she lacks the subtleties for reason and negotiation while Ergia is far too obsessed with reaching the All-Mother to listen to anyone but her own best advice. I fear that the Aggregate will tear itself apart and the Colony along with it.”
“I sympathize for your situation, Queen Selphi,” Vincent said and then glanced towards Wesley. “But we usually don’t involve ourselves in the affairs of other races.”
The commodore considered this for a moment, fully aware the doctor was right. If the framers of the Prime Directive ever had a situation in mind to which their rules needed to be applied to, than this was it.
“I certainly don’t fault you for not wishing to become entangled in the power plays of my people,” Selphi said before Wesley could render some form of verdict. “But I fear that if Ergia and Quelphi are not stopped, the next time the Xendaru particle is employed, the disaster that will follow will wipe out the entire Colony.”