– IV –
There was something off about the nebula, she just couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Sensors weren’t a big help while the runabout was sitting crashed on the surface of the unlikely planet.
Srena had been going through whatever sensor data had not been destroyed by the damage to the small vessel’s computer core after the rough landing and run a number of automated algorithms which she hoped would give her a clearer understanding of the make-up of the Aphrodite cloud.
“I’m not sure what you want me to say, Dee?”
The Andorian turned around startled from the workstation in the ship’s cockpit when she heard Commander Leva and Lieutenant Deen enter and then quickly changed the display mode to hide her scientific investigation and instead focused once more on the level one diagnostic she had been told to run instead. She felt a little guilty for having had her concentration wander but diagnostics tended to be very mundane affairs.
“I don’t want you to say anything,” said the Tenarian as she followed the tactical officer. She had discarded both her jacket and her mustard uniform shirt and wore only a gray tank top with her black slacks. “I want you to do something.”
He turned around to face her. “Like what? He’s the ranking officer on the away mission. He’s in charge.”
“How can he be in charge if he isn’t even around? Our priority has to be to get off this planet and find a way to report back to Eagle
. As much as I’m intrigued by this world and these stranded Vulcans, we can’t let ourselves get distracted.”
Leva raised an eyebrow in a very good approximation of the way Xylion would have done. “And that’s coming from you?”
She nodded. “That’s coming from me.”
“So you want me to go find him in that Vulcan colony and drag him back here? Do you suggest I use a phaser?”
“Whatever it takes.”
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” said Srena when she spotted Commander Xylion through the bulkhead windows approaching the Nebuchadrezzar
“About time,” said Deen and then headed for the exit, apparently determined to give the science officer a piece of her mind.
Leva and Srena followed her outside.
“How very nice of you to deign us with your presence,” said Deen the moment she had exited the ship. “We weren’t quite sure you’d find your way back to us.”
Xylion didn’t react to the sarcastic tone in her voice and instead continued to approach and only spoke once he was just a few meters out. “Your concern was not justified, I was perfectly aware of the location of the runabout at all times.”
She crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Could have fooled me.”
“Judging by the tone in your voice I assume that you are displeased for some reason.”
Deen turned to look at Leva, aiming him an incredulous look. “He thinks I’m displeased.”
“We were assuming that you would assist with repairs to the ship, Commander,” said Leva, who in an odd reversal of usual roles actually sounded a great deal more diplomatic than Deen had.
The Tenarian however clearly wasn’t in the mood to mince words. “I am as fascinated by these people as you are, Commander,” she said. “But their notion that we would join their little community here, or that you marry that woman is simply ludicrous. Our priority is clear, get the ship repaired and return to Eagle
as soon as possible.”
There was a momentary, almost uncomfortable silence between them. Srena stayed well out of the argument, feeling especially awkward, as if she had walked into a fight between her parents.
“Wait a minute,” said Deen. “You can’t tell me you’re actually considering this.”
Leva couldn’t help but smirk, garnering him a less than pleased look from the lieutenant. “Oh come on, the idea that Xylion, of all people, is going off the reservation for a girl is priceless.”
Deen apparently didn’t see the humor.
“Your line of reasoning is flawed,” said Xylion. “I am a Starfleet officer and my curiosity for the settlement and its residents is purely scientific in nature. I have no intention of being betrothed with any of the Vulcans on this world nor do I have designs of joining them.”
Deen looked skeptical.
“You have to admit you’ve been spending a lot of time with these people, Commander and with this Tela women especially,” said the half-Romulan.
“As I have said,” he said and then began to walk towards the ship again. “Studying the society these people have built for themselves here opens up fascinating research possibilities and Tela has proven to be an excellent case study. Now I suggest we discontinue this line of discussion and focus on repairs. Our priority should be to ensure full structural integrity across the superstructure.”
“We’ve done that already,” said Deen looking after the Vulcan.
Xylion stopped and turned around to consider her.
“You think we’ve just been sitting here twiddling our thumbs while you’ve been on your little field study trip?”
“I see. Very well, in that case, engines and drive components are our next focus. I’ll review your progress as we continue our efforts. Ensign, I will require your assistance with the navigational systems,” he said, apparently considered the discussion concluded and boarded the runabout.
Srena looked at him and then back at Deen and Leva as if unsure of herself. “Yes, sir,” she said quickly and then followed him inside.
“I don’t like this,” said Deen.
“He’s back and he’s helping with repairs,” he said, “that’s what you’ve asked for,” he added and then headed back for Nebuchadrezzar
But before he could take more than one step, she stopped him by holding on to his upper arm, causing him to look back at her. “You don’t find all this a little bit concerning? And why exactly are these Vulcans so eager for us to join them? The ones Srena met were not even willing to assist us in any way, not even allowing us to take any spare parts we may require.”
“Since when are you the suspicious type?”
She shrugged her shoulder. “I suppose war does that to people.”
“Well, relax,” he said. “There are no Jem’Hadar around. Let’s just get these repairs done and report back to the ship.”
She nodded slowly but she couldn’t help herself and look over her shoulder and towards the direction of the Vulcan settlement, unable to shake the feeling that they were being watched. When she spotted nothing but the canyon, she shook it off and followed the others.