- VII –
They spent the walk back to the settlement mostly in silence, both of them preoccupied with their own thoughts.
Deen was mostly mad which she had to admit was not a sensation she was too familiar with. Tenarians tended to be placid and harmonious people after all. There hadn’t been a war on her world in a thousand years and crime was virtually non-existent. Tenarians had overcome the need for violence to settle an argument or a conflict long before humans and even before Vulcans and they had achieved this without losing their sense of passion or otherwise hiding their emotions.
Of course serving in Starfleet had changed her perceptions somewhat and violence had become something she had come accustomed to. Since the war had broken out she had partaken in its viciousness herself, had been forced to in order to protect that what she cherished most. Her friends, her colleagues as well as all the citizens of the Federation who depended on Starfleet to keep them save from unwarranted aggression.
But she had never expected violence from a group of stranded Vulcans, no matter how isolated and disconnected they were from the outside world, here in the middle of a practically impassable nebula. She had never expected one of their own to become victim of such vial aggression and the fact that it had been Srena who had been attacked made matters even worse.
She had grown quite fond of the young Andorian and her bright-eyed, excitable nature which she had been able to maintain even in the face of fighting a nasty, painful war. Perhaps she saw in the woman a little bit of herself. An innocence she feared she was losing with every passing day.
Deen was mad. She wanted to find who was responsible, she wanted an explanation and most of all she wanted justice.
She glanced over at Xylion but predictably his thoughts were almost impossible to ascertain, judging by his masterfully maintained mien. She suspected that he still harbored doubts that anyone in the settlement had attacked the ensign. How could they? After all they were Vulcan, like he was. Dedicated to reason and logic. And where was the logic in attacking a defenseless young woman?
They reached the outskirts of the settlement and the few people they encountered reacted pretty much exactly the way they had the first time they had come here. That is to say, hardly at all. A few furtive glances wandered their way before they returned to their duties, be that working the fields, gathering wood or heading out for another hunt, the arrival of the two armed Starfleet officers was not noteworthy enough for them to interrupt their routine.
Deen was determined that she would get their attention anyway necessary.
They found Volik, the town elder in discussion with some of his fellow Vulcans close to the town square.
“Volik?” Deen called out as soon as she had spotted the man. It garnered her a sidelong glance from Xylion but she chose to ignore it.
The elder for his part turned towards the newcomers for only a moment before he returned to his discussions with his own people.
It made her only angrier and she picked up the pace. “Volik, we need to talk. Now.”
He turned his head once more. “I shall bet with you shortly,” he said.
She shook her head as she stepped up to him. “Not good enough. Whatever else you are doing will have to wait,” she said and un-holstered her weapon. The implication wasn’t subtle and she didn’t care.
He noticed the phaser in her hand, held close to her leg. So did the others who stood with him, a few of the younger men tensing noticeably. “This is most irregular.”
“I agree completely.”
He glanced at Xylion who had not made any move for his own sidearm. “You have returned, as I knew you would. However, I must question your motives. Members of our community do not threaten each other. It is not logical.”
“First of all, let’s get one thing straight right away,” she said. “We’re not members of your little community and we never will be. We’ve already made that clear to you previously.”
But Volik kept his eyes squarely on the other Vulcan. “I believe that remains to be determined. Don’t you agree, Commander?”
Xylion raised an eyebrow. “Our loyalty is to Starfleet. This has not changed.”
“I see,” he said and then looked back at the heated Tenarian and her weapon. “But something else has. There is a reason you have come back here and have taken such an aggressive stance.”
“The reason is you,” she said. “You and your people came out and attacked Ensign Srena last night. She was beaten viciously and is in a coma. She may not survive. What logical explanation do you have to offer for that, I wonder?”
Like Xylion, Volik was a master at schooling his features and he revealed nothing. “You’re colleague’s circumstances are unfortunate but our people are not to blame.”
“There is nobody else here,” she shot back angrily.
“Volik,” the science officer said. “It is logical to assume that the assailant is a member of your settlement. How can you be certain that you are not responsible?”
“It is not logical.”
“Most Vulcans would also say that it isn’t logical to refuse assistance when requested, as your people did when Srena tried to get your help with spare parts. Most Vulcans would agree it is not logical to slaughter animals and consume their meat,” Deen said.
“We had to adapt to the situation we have found here.”
“What about your idea to have us join your little commune here without so much as asking our opinion first? Is that logical? To simply assume we would want to set up camp here permanently? I’d say somebody in this settlement didn’t respond too well to rejection and decided to take matters into their own hands.”
The elder Vulcan took his time to speak. “You are making assumptions without a basis on fact, Lieutenant.”
“Volik is correct.”
Deen aimed Xylion a venomous look. The last things she wanted now was for him to take his side.
“We cannot be certain of the attacker’s motives. However, it stands to reason that whoever is responsible is part of this settlement.”
She nodded to accede to his point, trying to calm herself in the process, before focusing on Volik again. “Whoever is responsible needs to face justice. They must be found and incarcerated until they can face a Federation court.”
“I understand this to mean that you are still seeking to leave this planet.”
Deen looked at him as if he had just grown another head. “Yes, we very much intend to do just that, as soon as repairs are completed. But first we need to find who attacked Ensign Srena and retrieve the thruster control module they removed.”
“I will not be able to spare any persons to help you in that endeavor. The harvest season has begun and we must prepare for the impending cold season. Every person in the settlement will have a specific task to complete and little time to do so. However, I am willing to offer our hospitality and care to your wounded crewmember. We have been able to successfully produce a number of remedies from naturally growing ingredients which may help in her recovery.”
The operations officer uttered a frustrated sigh and then turned away to look over the settlement. Her eyes settled on the large central building which still resembled the cargo hold and engineering section of the freighter which had brought the Vulcans to this place. “Allow us to salvage what remains of your ship for parts then,” she said. “I’m sure we’ll find something that we can use to control the runabout’s thrusters. After that it’ll be a matter of hours until we can get out of here, take you with us and avoid this cold season altogether.”
“That will not be possible.”
“Why the hells not?” she barked, surprising herself with the fire in her tone.
“Is it not obvious, Lieutenant,” said Xylion in the other man’s stead. “Volik and his people have no intention on leaving this world.”
She gaped at him and then at the town elder.
“Xylion is correct. This is our home now and we do not intend to leave it behind.”
The Tenarian reached for her forehead, rubbing her temples in the hopes of staving off a headache. “Fine, I don’t care if you stay or go. But we’re not staying. Let us have those parts you clearly do not require, find who attacked Srena so we can take him or her back with us and we’ll go our separate ways.”
“We shall treat any such person in a manner befitting our own ways. And we will not be able to spare any parts from our former vessel.”
Deen glanced back at Xylion, unable to believe that she was being rebuffed at every point, pleading with him wordlessly to take charge and get this stubborn Vulcan to relent.
But Xylion refused to do any of that.
For a moment nobody spoke.
Volik remained rooted to the spot, his eyes focused on the tall science officer who stared right back without saying so much as a word. Deen was unable to stand by calmly and took a few steps away only to come right back, the phaser in her hand tapping against her leg. Then she turned to Xylion. “Commander?”
He didn’t respond straight away. “Mister Volik has made his intentions clear. He will not assist us any further.”
“I have offered any assistance I can,” said Volik, “but I cannot put the needs of the many over the needs of the few.”
“One of your people attacked and nearly killed another person,” Deen nearly shouted at the man. When he showed no visible sign that he had acknowledged her outburst she decided to give up. She holstered her phaser again. “What’s the point?” she said, mostly to herself. “Commander, I suggest we return to the runabout and try to find some way to get off this rock without the thruster module, seeing that we will not get any help from these people.”
“One more thing,” said Deen and looked Volik square in the eye. “Tell your fellow settlers to stay well clear of the runabout. If I see any of your people within five hundred meters of our vessel, I will have no scruples of opening fire.”
“If that is what you wish, it shall be so,” he said but looked at Xylion instead.
The commander offered a small nod in response.
“Let’s get out of here,” she said and turned on her heels to head back towards the runabout.
Xylion lingered for just a moment longer.
“If you reconsider your decision,” Volik said, “we will gladly accept you and the rest of your people as part of our community. I know that Tela would very much appreciate if you were to decide to stay,” he added and indicated to his daughter who had appeared close to one of the buildings, looking at Xylion from a good two hundred yards away.
“Commander?” Deen called out, clearly growing impatient at having to wait for him to join her.
“That will not possible,” he said to Volik.
The older Vulcan raised his hands and offered the Vulcan salute. “Unfortunate but regardless, life long and prosper, Xylion.”
Xylion returned the gesture. “You as well, although I wish we had been able to arrive at a more mutually beneficial outcome,” he said, shot the young Vulcan woman one last glance and then followed Deen out of the settlement.