– V –
Leva had not been dishonest when he had claimed that he had been interested in learning more about the settler’s hunting habits and in particular their weaponry.
It hadn’t been difficult to locate the hunters. While the Vulcans were not particular welcoming or inquisitive themselves, they were more than happy to answer questions or point him in the right direction. Or at least he thought they were more than happy to. In truth he couldn’t tell one way or the other. Of course he hadn’t come to expect much different from Vulcans.
He couldn’t exactly claim extensive knowledge with the pragmatic race. During his time at the Academy and early in his career he had made a point to avoid Vulcan Starfleet officers as much as possible. And first this had been a merely subconscious effort until he shamefully realized that he was in fact harboring a prejudice for them likely born from the fact that many people throughout his life had mistaken him for Vulcan due to his similarly shaped ears and his underdeveloped forehead ridges which were common Romulan characteristics. Conflicted with his own heritage already, he had found no solace in being mistaken as a Vulcan which only added to his confusion and anger.
He had long since weaned himself of those feelings and after working closely with Xylion on Eagle
for a few years, he could safely claim that he had no lingering issues with Vulcans at all.
“We are about to set out on a hunt,” said Stadik, a tall and muscular looking Vulcan who Leva had managed to locate among a group of other hunters. “You may join us if you so wish.”
“I’d like that.”
And so they set out, leaving the settlement behind and headed north where Stadik explained most of the larger animals roamed.
The small hunting party was armed with primitive weapons, mostly simple bows and steel-tipped arrows and spears.
It didn’t take them long to locate their first target. To Leva it looked like a slightly larger American bison with thick fur and a small, elephant-like tusks growing out of its upper jaw.
“We call it the veltek
,” Stadik whispered as he and Leva snuck up on the unsuspecting creature. “It is the largest mammal we have found on this continent. We use its fur for winter clothing and the tusk is ideal for tool making.”
Leva watched as the hunting party completely surrounded the beast. Then Stadik stood up suddenly and yelled.
The spooked animal immediately took off into the opposite direction only to run right into the hunter’s ambush, being pierced by spears and arrows which came flying from three concealed locations.
When the veltek
didn’t go down straight away and instead turned back towards Stadik and Leva in what appeared to be a mad, adrenaline infused rush, Leva reached for his phaser.
But before he could bring it to bear, Stadik was already running towards the creature in what looked to become terribly painful head-on collision with a five-hundred-pound animal.
Instead Stadik skillfully leaped on the injured creatures back, brought out his long knife and then rapidly stabbed the animal in the neck. The veltek
hauled in pain, then its legs gave out and it went crashing into the ground where he remained.
By the time Leva caught up with it, Stadik had already demounted the beast and the other hunters were making preparations to skin the animal.
The Romulan felt slightly ashamed when he realized that he found the entire process, including the skinning of the dead creature somewhat disgusting. A life with replicators had apparently sensitized him to ways of preparing real animals.
“A good hunt,” said Stadik, “This will feed a great many of our people tonight.”
Leva considered the hunter with surprise. “Wait a minute, I thought Vulcans were all vegetarian.”
The man grabbed hold of his dagger firmly and plunged it deep into the dead animal. “We adapt when needed.”
* * *
The mostly arid conditions on the surface had made Deen curious how it was that these settlers were able to grow such varied crops. She had found at least four different types in the various fields surrounding the settlement. A couple of Vulcan staples and one which she had been told was an apple-like fruit which the settlers had discovered on a trip to a nearby mountain-range and had been successful in growing here.
Always the scientist, she took samples of everything she found for later study but for the moment she was more intrigued with elaborate irrigation system the settlers had constructed to allow them to raise their crops.
The water, she had been told came from underground streams which they had been able to access by burrowing deep into the ground. An aqueduct system was crisscrossing the settlement and delivering fresh water not just to most homes but also to the many outlying fields with a sprinkler system ensuring that irrigation was delivered equally.
“We have identified two additional underground water sources and we hope to have two more wells in operation by next year,” said T’Par, a middle-aged woman who seemed to have been a horticulturist on Vulcan once. “Most of our equipment was destroyed when the ship broke up following impact but we were able to create new digging tools by utilizing surviving components.”
“Impressive,” said Deen as she looked over the expansive field on which dozens of Vulcans were busily laboring, shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight which she knew not to be sunlight. “I understand the water and obviously the soil here appears to be fertile. But how do you account for the sunshine. There’s no star within light-years of this planet.”
“We have determined that the unique atmosphere of this world amplifies the natural light emanations from the nebula. As the atmospheric density is not universally equal and reflects light in certain places, as the planet rotates on its own axis, it creates a day and light cycle on the surface.”
Deen considered that for a moment. “Where does the heat come from?”
She pointed at the nearby mountain ranges. “Vents and volcanoes spread across the mountains allow superheated gasses from the planet’s core to escape into the atmosphere and heating this continent.”
“That’s truly remarkable.”
“We were very fortunate to encounter this world.”
“No kidding,” she said. “What are the chances of crash landing on a rogue planet with its own natural ecosystem so similar to a class-M planet?”
“Would you like to taste one of the fruits we grow here?” said T’Par and handed the Tenarian the bluish fruit she had picked from a tree.
“Thanks,” Deen said, took it off her and bit into it, finding it soft, juicy and sweet. “This is very good. I bet the kids love this.”
T’Par considered the Starfleet officer with an empty look.
“You know, the little ones, the children,” she said, trying to clarify and unable to account for T’Par’s odd reaction. Deen turned to find examples only to realize that as far as she could see, neither in the fields nor in the settlement itself, she could find no children at all. And when she thought about it, she could not remember seeing any since she had arrived.
“Allow me to show you another crop we were able to successfully harvest,” said the Vulcan and began to set out to the next field.
* * *
Srena was relieved to be able to escape the stifling heat by slipping into the settlement’s main building which clearly had been build upon the main hull of the freighter which had brought the Vulcans to this world.
They had added and expanded to the structure over the years but its origins were still very much discernable. From the outside she had noticed the large thruster ports as well as the remnants of the engine module. She hoped that she’d be able to locate spare parts which could assist them in carrying out repairs to the runabout and with any luck they’d be able to take off again and rescue not just themselves but also these stranded colonists.
She found the inside refreshingly cool but also surprisingly dark and empty. Considering this appeared to be the largest structure in the settlement, positioned centrally, she had expected the building to see a lot of use. The opposite appeared to be true.
“Hello? Anyone in here?”
She shivered slightly hearing her own echo respond. The building opened up into a large, seemingly mostly empty hall with the ceiling a good ten to fifteen meters high. No doubt this had functioned as the main cargo hold of the freighter once but had apparently now been converted into some sort of meeting hall.
She took a few steps, looking for the light switch. When she couldn’t find anything she regretted not bringing a beacon.
Srena walked slowly across the hall and headed towards the aft part of what had once been a starship and where she expected to find the engine room. All she could hear were her own footsteps reverberating across the large room.
She found a heavy, metal door and pushed it open. She found a corridor beyond it and it was just as dark as the main hall.
Once again she heard nothing but her own voice.
For a moment she considered turning around and maybe returning with Deen or Leva. Then she decided that she was being silly. There was nothing here to be afraid of. What could be safer than a colony of Vulcans?
She stepped into the corridor with newfound determination. But after just a few steps she heard the loudest bang and nearly jumped out of her skin in shock.
When she turned around she realized that the metal door she had stepped through had shut unexpectedly.
“Well done, Srena, be scared of a closing door. What a fearless Starfleet explorer you are,” she mumbled to herself before taking a deep breath and moving on down the dark corridor. “And for Uzaveh’s sake, stop talking to yourself.”
The only illumination came from dim lightning strips inserted into the floor. The light they gave off was rather insufficient but at least it proved that some sort of power generator was in operation. And where there was power, they may have been other parts they may be able to use.
She continued on slowly until she reached another heavy door. This time she made sure to close it behind her to avoid another heart-attack inducing incident.
“Jackpot,” she said when she realized that she had stepped into what obviously was the engineering section. Albeit smaller than the main hall, this room was cramped with machinery, most noticeably six huge fusion reactors which reached all the way to the ceiling. Only one was humming away slowly, operating at a very low level. There were a few more lights in here but mostly all they did was throw large shadows which made this room look even more ominous then the rest of the building.
“Get a grip,” she told herself. “There are no monsters in the dark.”
She stepped up to the operational reactor first and began to inspect it. As a pilot she had a basic familiarity regarding power systems and drive components but not enough to fully understand how this particular device operated.
She though she caught a flicker of light from the corner of her eye and turned around. But the lights appeared to be working fine.
Then she realized that it hadn’t been the light to flicker but the shadow. It had moved. “Hello?”
It did so again, this time on the far side of the room.
She began to step backwards. “Is anyone here?”
There, she was certain she had seen something or someone move.
“I’m just here to find some spare parts,” she said, her voice sounding very small to her ears now and she had the desperate urge to run away.
Then all was quite again. For a moment she heard nothing but her breathing and she was absolutely certain there was nobody else there.
“Damn you, imagination,” she said but kept her voice low as a whisper just in case.
She turned back around to study the reactor some more and shrieked.
There was a man right in front of her.
“You shouldn’t be here.”
“Uzaveh be damned,” she cried out, absolutely mortified at finding the Vulcan directly in front of her, the dim light casting half his face in shadow. “Are you trying to scare me to death?”
He raised an eyebrow as if he didn’t understand.
Srena was mostly angry now. “Why are you skulking around in here like an animal? Why didn’t you respond when I called out?”
“I was not aware of your presence until just now.”
She considered him closely and wondered about that saying about Vulcans not being able to lie. “Is there anyone else in here with you?”
“This is a sensitive area,” the Vulcan said. “You should not be here.”
“Sorry,” she said. “We weren’t told that this place is off limits.”
“I will show you back outside,” he said and headed towards the door leading back to the corridor.
“I was hoping to find any components here which could help us with repairs to our ship.”
“You will not find any here,” he said after he reached the door and held it open for her.
Srena looked around. “Are you sure? There are a lot of parts in here.”
“These are required to maintain power for the settlement.”
“You have one generator in operation. What about the others? What about the drive components, the impulse engines, the thruster assembly? You don’t need those to maintain power.”
“We have previously explored all possible options to utilize any parts and components available to us to facilitate leaving this world and have come to the conclusion that it is not possible.”
Srena took a single step towards him and the door he was still holding for her. “Okay, I get that,” she said. “But things have changed now. We’ve got a ship which is a lot more spaceworthy than your stranded freighter here. Surely if we combine our resources we may find a way to get off this rock.”
She took another step, struggling to keep her temper in check. She was fully aware how stubborn Vulcans could be, in fact her own people had been at war with Vulcan before they both founded the Federation together but this man was taking the cake as far as his people’s obstinacy was concerned. “It would not hurt to try.”
“It would be a wasted effort,” he said sharply. “Now I must insist that you leave this area.”
She stared at the man for a moment longer before realizing that there wasn’t really anything else she could do and then trotted out of the room. She heard the door being slammed shut behind her and sealed.
“Thanks for your help.”