Original story by D Petterson
rewritten by David Petterson

(Standard Year 2246)

Go to Part Two

Return to Valjiir Stories

Return to Valjiir Continum

It was the most annoyingly enjoyable dream.

It wasn’t the least annoying while he was dreaming, of course. Only afterward, when he was lying not-quite-awake in his bunk, with the last strands of the memory gently pulling at him, did he begin to be annoyed. He wondered what in his subconscious mind could possibly have triggered a dream like that. And why her? He had to work with her almost constantly. He didn’t need arousing dreams to be pulling at the back of his mind while they were on duty.

He began to wish he hadn’t woken up right afterward. Dreams were always hazier if he didn’t wake up right away. As it was, the dream was all too clear—the memory of her hands, and her mouth, and her—

What had awakened him, anyway? A slight change in the sound of the engines, perhaps, or the sound of an alarm buzzer filtering in from somewhere else on the ship…

He shrugged. Chris Pike had told him that captains develop a sixth sense, after a while. They know when something noteworthy is going on somewhere on the ship. Perhaps a captain’s nervous system grows to become in tune with that of the ship, the vast computer and intercom network. Perhaps—

His intercom buzzed.

He smiled as he rolled over and pressed the switch. Chris Pike had always known what he was talking about.

“Kirk here.”

Spock’s face appeared on the comscreen, outlined by the rear wall of the Bridge. “Spock here, Captain. We are being approached by an alien vessel of unidentified origin. It is on a near-interception course, but has taken no hostile action. We have been unable to raise it on any of the standard subspace hailing frequencies.”

Kirk came a little more awake. “Near-interception?” he asked.

Spock nodded. “It will pass the line of our course in a slightly different plane, and a little in front of us, so that the closest approach will be two hundred thirty six point four kilometers.”

“What time is it?” Kirk asked, looking at his clock.

“Approximately four hundred hours,” Spock answered, confirming what the clock was claiming.

Kirk scowled. “Don’t you ever sleep?”

“I believe your presence is required on the Bridge,” Spock answered.

Grunt. “I want my yeoman”—he almost stopped there, but continued, quite laudably, he thought—“never mind, I'll tend to it myself. I’ll be right up.”

“Yes, sir,” Spock said,"Bridge out."

Kirk sighed as the screen went blank, then he buzzed Janice Rand’s cabin and waited for her to answer. When she did, Kirk saw an image of her face gently bathed in an ethereal blue glow from her own comscreen. Her golden hair hung loosely around her unclad shoulders. One exquisitely-shaped arm was reaching forward to hold the intercom button down, the other held the bedsheet in a way that almost, but not quite, covered the soft, gentle curves of her breasts. Her not-quite-awake, half-closed eyes seemed both bright and dewy, her lips moist and sensuously pouted—

“Yes, Captain?” she breathed, sleepily.

“I, uh.” He cleared his throat. “There’s an emergency on the Bridge, yeoman. I’d like some coffee and something to eat there in three minutes.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, and she threw the sheet back and had started to get up before the screen went black.

Kirk held his breath for a full thirty seconds before he stood, and started to dress. It was a damn shame he didn’t have time for a quick cold shower.

It had been a most annoying dream.


“Status, Mr. Spock?”

The Vulcan glanced up from the Science Station as Kirk entered the Bridge. “The alien vessel is on the viewscreen, Captain. It has reached its closest approach of two hundred thirty six point four kilometers, and has altered course to match ours. You can see it is now ahead and slightly to one side of us, facing the same direction we are. It has defensive shields, but the vessel lowered its rear shield, and that one only, immediately after matching our course.”

Kirk sat back in the con and crossed his legs, scowling in thought.

“It has made no attempt to contact us, nor has it responded to any of our attempts at contact,” Spock continued.

“And what actions have we taken?”

“Standard non-belligerent defensive posture, Captain.” Which meant shields at moderate strength, attempts made to contact on all known frequencies, but no change in course or attitude which could possible be interpreted as hostile, and minimal sensor probing. Before he coud comment, Janice arrived with his roll and coffee.

Kirk concentrated very closely, first on the coffee and then on the viewscreen. The alien craft was roughly wedge-shaped, the wide, blunt end toward them. Extending back from the blunt end was a cluster of cylinders of varying lengths—engines, probably. And extending from either side were long, flat projections. Wings?

“Spock that craft looks almost aerodynamic. Could it land on a planet’s surface?”

“Doubtful. It displaces roughly ten thousand metric tons, which is small for a starship but rather large for any sort of conventional aircraft. In addition, those fins are not more than four or five molecules thick. Unless their tensile strength is far beyond our fabricating capabilities, they’d be much too fragile to support the ship’s mass in an atmosphere. They are also extremely hot. Rather than being airfoils, it’s likely their purpose is to radiate waste heat from the vessel’s interior, or from the engines.”

Hmmm. “Helmsman—” Kirk’s mind momentarily drew a blank. He couldn’t recall the ensign’s name. It had been much too since he’d worked with the third shift Bridge crew.

“Yes, sir?”

“Drop the forward shield.”

The ensign hesitated a beat, then adjusted his panel accordingly.

Spock straightened and raised an eyebrow. “Sir?”

“They have gone to great lengths,” the captain said slowly, “to show not merely non-hostile, but actually—welcoming—intentions. I believe we should reciprocate.”

“Great lengths, Captain?”

Kirk took another sip of his coffee, and rested his elbows on the arms of his chair. “First, an approaching, but not intercepting, course. Then, they pace us, but in front and facing away. Most ships are built with the majority of their armament facing forward. Not only would their weapons now be pointing away from us, but ours are pointing directly at them. And at their engines, the lifeblood of any ship. And, they have left their engines exposed by dropping their rear shields, and furthermore they have made it a point of doing so, by waiting until they were in position, and then leaving the other shields up to make sure we noticed. This is the least threatening series of actions I can imagine.” He smiled. “Unless it’s a trap.”

Janice was standing behind the helmsman’s chair, on her toes, leaning forward slightly to see something on the ensign’s board over his shoulder. From the way her body was positioned, the back of her short uniform rode up a little higher than was strictly proper. Why did her posture remind Kirk so much of the alien ship?

“Uh, Captain,” said the helmsman—Thomas, that was his name—“the alien is slowing a little, sliding back toward us.”

“Confirmed,” said Spock. “It is staying to the side, merely dropping—and now it is pacing us again.”

Kirk stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Moving closer to us?” Why?”

“And again,” said Ensign Thomas. “And… again pacing. Each time, it dropped back, maybe eight kilometers.”

“If they want to move closer,” Kirk mused, “why in spurts?”

There was a slight, almost imperceptible shudder through the ship. Almost unnoticeable. But it shouldn’t have—

“What was that?” Kirk asked, as Thomas said, “They strobed a tractor beam over us, just for an instant, very fast and very weak.:”

“And,” said Spock, “they dropped their shields down to a minimum. They obviously don’t want their tractor interpreted as an attack.”

“However,” said Lieutenant Monden, the navigator, “the tractor pushed our speed down, just a bit.”

Speed? Of course! “Mr. Thomas,” Kirk said, “what is our current speed?”

“A fraction under warp five, sir. And the alien just dropped toward us a little more.”

“Of course he did. Slow us to warp four.”

“Yes sir.” Pause. “The alien is staying with us. Even dropping back another eight kilometers.”

“Okay,” said Kirk, “keep slowing until they start to keep their distance.” He stroked his chin again. They want to make contact. Obviously. But why not answer the subspace hail? Could they not have subspace communications? How could a starfaring race survive without it?

“Down to warp two, sir,” said Thomas, “and still slowing. They continue to creep toward us, distance now at eighty-seven kilometers.”

“Janice, more coffee please.” He held out his cup. She took it with a quick, “Yes, sir,” and scuttled off the Bridge. Thank God for caffeine.

“Dead stop,” said Thomas. “They’ve closed to forty-six kilometers and are now holding distance.”

“They’ve dropped their shields completely,” said Spock. “And—they’ve released a small craft.”

Kirk squinted at the viewscreen, and saw a tiny ship appear from the side of the alien vessel. It curved away, and gracefully, gradually, leisurely, arced back, to begin moving toward the Enterprise. He reason for bringing the two larger ships to rest was clear—the shuttle they’d released, if that’s what it was, most likely couldn’t operate at warp speeds.

The tiny craft stopped, halfway between the two ships. Kirk sat up straight. “All right, Mr. Thomas. Turn us around, open the shuttle bay, and drop the rear shield. It looks like we’re going to have visitors.”


The shuttle was a small version of the mother ship. It was wedge-shaped, perhaps fifteen meters long, with a complex cluster of tubes and cylinders in the rear, and wide, flat wings or fins on the sides.

The craft glided smoothly and silently into the hanger bay. Kirk and Spock stood quietly watching through the glassteel port in the hatchway as the hanger doors began to slide closed.

Short projections like sled railings pushed their way upward from the top of the craft. Then it slowly turned end-over-end and settled onto the hanger deck.

There was a “ssss!” as of a hundred angry snakes, as the huge hanger bay pressurized, and then the hatchway slid open. “Well, Spock,” Kirk said, “Let’s go welcome him. Or them. Or whatever.”

They strode into the hanger bay, their boots sending reverberating clunk-clunk’s through the huge room. They approached the little craft and stopped. A fizzling sound came from the engines, and drops of water fell from them to the deck below.

Then came a louder hiss, and a hatch opened upward on the top of the craft, in front of them and about a meter overhead. The hatch swung around and toward them, the end telescoping out, reaching down toward the deck, forming a ramp way from the top of the ship, to end only a short distance from Kirk and Spock’s feet.

An almost blindingly bright light shone from the top of the craft, sending a beam of pearly radiance upward to illuminate a square patch of the hanger bay’s ceiling, high overhead. Two figures emerged from the source of the glow, stood for a moment at the top of the ramp, and started down.

Kirk’s mouth went dry, his heart beating almost painful thumps against his breastbone.

They were achingly beautiful.

Dressed in metallic, highly reflective jumpsuits, they stood over two meters high. Their faces and hands shone with a pearly, white glow, snowy hair framing flawless faces with wide, child-like eyes. The man looked young and strong, the tight jumpsuit outlining very virile-looking bulges. And the woman was all soft curves and moved with the seductive grace of a cat-dancer’s final climactic routine.

They strode to where Kirk and Spock stood, and smiled, and it seemed to Kirk as if the sun had burst forth from behind dense clouds—as if indeed he had never really known the true brilliance of the sun before this very instant. The woman held forward her hands in an obvious gesture of peace. She said something in a language Kirk couldn’t understand, but in a voice which was breathy and enticing.

Well, Kirk thought, in a brief flash of lucidity, at least I don’t think I’ll be having any more dreams about Janice.

- Level 1 Security Transmission -

TO: Starfleet Command, Quadrant HQ, G Section, to be forwarded to Starfleet Gen HQ
FROM: USS Enterprise, J. T. Kirk commanding
RE: First contact with previously unknown starfaring race
Special extension of Captain’s Log
( transmission follows )

… highly unusual race. One of their most unique and most obvious physical traits is the bright glow constantly radiated from their skin. All living mater radiates waste energy, usually in the form of heat—i.e., light in the infrared range. For reasons currently not understood, this race radiates energy in the visible spectrum…

…their language has a resonant, lyrical quality to it… As with any newly-encountered culture, their language contains concepts not present in already-known tongues, but many common concepts are curiously absent. For example, they have no name for their own race… The structure of their language is such that when they refer to themselves as a people, there is no need for a separate and unique word. The underlying concepts of our language, however, do require us to have a word for them, for convenience if nothing else. We have therefore had to invent one. The temporary designation, pending official approval, is Silmarils, a name suggested by our Antari science officer, taken from Tolkien’s mythical jewels which shone by their own light…

… Little is known at this point of their biology or technology, other than that they do possess some form of warp drive, and apparently do not possess subspace communications. They have thus far declined to allow either medical scans of their bodies or science observers aboard their vessel. Any attempted explanations of this are, at present, only speculative, and it seems most confusing, especially in light of their openness and apparent eagerness during our initial ship-to-ship contact. Perhaps there is some kind of cultural protocol involved of which we are currently unaware.

At any rate, we have succeeded in getting preliminary and sketchy data on their ship. The data is coming in very slowly, as we have not been invited to do a scan of their vessel; neither have we requested permission. However, we have not been specifically asked not to. Science Officer Spock is therefore conducting occasional rapid scans which seem so far to have gone undetected, and which are slowly yielding details. The internal environment appears to be within Earth-normal bounds, and we are piecing together a general floor plan, although we have, as yet, no idea which areas are used for what…

… The two observers, Ilne and Rainen, often return to their shuttle for brief periods, presumably to make reports to the mother ship—although no transmissions have been detected, going either way—and perhaps to sleep, eat, and take care of any other cultural or biological needs. In the six days they have so far been aboard, they have never been observed to do any of these things, although they understand these activities immediately when they observed or heard of our crew members performing them…

… They learn very rapidly. Already, they are fairly proficient in Anglo-Terran, and are quickly becoming familiar with the parts of our technology we have decided to make available to them…

… After we explained to them the basic aspects of the Federation, we recommended that they send a delegation to UFP HQ. They responded that the suggestion would be considered. As they had interrupted us en route to a routine survey mission to Aleph Corriandus, I invited them to accompany us there to observe the kind of work we do in our exploratory capacity. Unfortunately, we will not be able to bring them to the surface with us, as we may inadvertently make contact with the native inhabitants, and it would be quite impossible to mask the glow from their skin. Aleph Corriandus is under Prime Directive Protection status, and while Terrans and Vulcans can be sufficiently well-disguised to pass as inhabitants, the Silmarils cannot be…

… The alien starship has accompanied us (obviously, the observers were able to make contact with it, despite our inability to detect any transmissions) and we are now in a parking orbit around Aleph Corriandus. Further reports will be made following completion of this survey mission. cc: Starfleet Archives Starfleet Science Academy

( end transmission )


“What’s the big deal?” Ruth complained, a little shrilly. “Ooh, they’re all shiny and pretty!” She snorted. “You’d think they were gods or something.”

Sulu sat up from where he’d been reclining on the small bed in Ruth Valley’s quarters. He’d been as aroused by the Silmarils as any other crewmember, and was hoping to have a little of that arousal satisfied with his favorite lover. Things had started out promisingly enough. A little nuzzling, a little kissing, a little talking, winding down from the day… he hadn’t even mentioned their guests. Then Ruth had, complaining that Mr. Spock had asked her for ‘an Antari perspective’ on them. Which had started her ranting.

“I mean, inch for inch, are they really any better looking? Or more charming? Or more anything? No, they are not!”

“Well, Spike…”

“Mister, don’t you dare disagree!” she blazed.

“Wouldn’t think of it,” Sulu mumbled.

“They aren’t, you know. Gods. They may think they are, but just because they’re older than dirt…”

“What?” Sulu asked.

Ruth turned fiery purple eyes on him. “What what?” she demanded.

“Nothing, Ruth. Please, go on.”

“And I suppose you’d rather hear more about these untouchable fantasies then deal with a real, live, flesh and blood woman, huh?”

That was too much for him. Sulu got out of bed, standing to face her, grabbing his tunic from the chair where he’d tossed it. “In case you hadn’t noticed – and you haven’t - ” he began, “I came here for a little of that real, live, flesh and blood woman.” He slipped his tunic on over his head. “I’m not interested in hearing you rant about the Silmarils, but if you wanted to rant as foreplay, I was willing to put up with it. If you want to rant, period, go find someone who isn’t interested in real, live, flesh and blood.” He turned and heard Ruth getting off the bed.

“Hey, Roy, I’m sorry,” she said, her tone unusually contrite. Her fingers touched his shoulder. “You know I want you.” He turned, studying her face. There was – something – in her expression that he couldn’t read, except it was vulnerable and confused – and maybe a little frightened.

“I didn’t mention them, you know,” he said.

She smiled and the something vanished. “I know. And I’m grateful. They have just as much effect on you…”

“But not as much as you do,” he returned. She tilted her head, eyeing him skeptically. He relented, grinning. “Okay, as much as you do.” She held out her hand, and he took it, raising it to his lips. His tunic was again discarded, and she pulled him back onto the bed.

“I don’t know what comes over me,” she murmured. “These – Silmarils – just make me twitchy.”

“They make me horny,” Sulu commented, then quickly added, “for you.”

“I believe you, Roy,” she assured. “It’s a little odd, but I believe you.”

“Why odd? All they are is somewhat glorified Antaris.” He kissed her. “And when you’ve got real, live, flesh and blood, who needs untouchable fantasy?”

It was a small exaggeration, but Ruth didn’t seem to notice.


The survey itself went routinely enough. McCoy and Lieutenant Palamas spent the whole time tsking at the squalor in which they inhabitants of Aleph Corriandis lived. Spock took samples of the plant and insect life and virulence readings on the various forms of air-borne bacteria. It went so smoothly, in fact, that Kirk and the two security men had very little to do.

Kirk found his mind wandering, returning frequently to the Silmarils—especially to thoughts of Ilne and her almost inconceivable beauty. He’d heard that Rainen had the same effect on the female crewmembers—and the bi- or homosexual men—and he had to admit the visitor was the most attractive man he could ever remember having met. It was strange that members of one species would find another so overpoweringly appealing. Biologists claimed that sexual attraction was an evolutionary survival trait—the members of any species would tend to be aroused by the healthiest members of the opposite sex, thus encouraging the production of lots of healthy offspring. But this didn’t explain why members of one species—especially, it seemed, Terrans—would be attracted to members of a different, but similar, species. Most cross-breeds didn’t produce fertile offspring, when they managed to produce any offspring at all, so it would seem as if such attraction would be counter to evolutionary interests.

Well, McCoy had been after him for at least two days to do something definite about the Silmaril observers—such as invite them to leave the ship and go visit UFP HQ. He said their presence, because of their attractiveness, was disrupting the crew. And to make matters worse, their constant glow made it impossible not to be aware of them when they were anywhere in the vicinity.

He was right, of course. No one seemed unaffected. Little else was discussed off duty—or on, for that matter. And the discussions were almost entirely limited to sexual fantasies. Kirk had been forced to start rotating the security guards assigned to following the Silmarils around, in order not to be accused of favoritism. Social activities on the ship had become severely diminished, as couples (and small groups) were spending far more time than usual locked away in someone’s quarters—or lurking the halls, in hopes of getting another glimpse of their guests. Spock had complained to Kirk—actually complained!—that his one Antari science officer, Lieutenant Ruth Valley, had been acting irrationally. Kirk wasn’t sure there was actually anything unusual there, but Sulu insisted she was jealous of the crew’s divided attention.

Alright, Kirk decided, as soon as we get back to the ship, we’ll have lunch, then convene a debriefing of the landing party to discuss our findings. The observers will be invited to attend, so they can—well, observe. After that, I’ll give the Silmarils time to digest it—no more than twenty-four hours—and tell them that I’ve got to get the ship back on schedule. Then I’ll politely ask them to leave. And with luck, he added to himself, only half in jest, the request won’t spark a mutiny among my own crew.


They reviewed the basic findings quickly. The debriefing was eased by the fact that the Silmarils had gone over the landing party’s tapes while the Fleet officers were having lunch. So all that was left was to discuss conclusions and recommendations, to complete the report on the Aleph Corriandus survey mission.

Kirk dictated his summary, for the record. “Aleph Corriandus was last visited four years ago. Since that time, social and technological changes on the planet have been minimal. This is scarcely surprising; the inhabitants are still at a stone-age level, with a subsistence hunting-and-gathering economy, and Lieutenant Palamas assures us that technological change for such a culture is routinely measured in terms of centuries, or even millennia. Life spans are short, due to an inability to control hostile animals, and other environmental factors, such as the virulence of certain rapidly-mutating bacteria, which cannot be adequately countered with the primitive medical techniques currently known to them.”

“Primitive?” McCoy snorted. “Non-existent,” he asserted. Carolyn Palamas, the anthropologist, nodded agreement.

“I stand corrected,” Kirk consented. He glanced around the briefing room, his gaze lingering on the two observers. They had a tendency to stand out in a crowd like the subjects of a Rembrandt painting. It’s strange how you never get used to it, he thought, neither the glow nor the sheer beauty of them. “At the time of the last survey, the planet was classified as Prime Directive Protection status, to allow the inhabitants to continue their independent development. We have seen nothing to warrant changing that classification.” He glanced around again, ready to order the session concluded. “Any further comment?”

Rainen gently tapped the table. “May I comment, Captain?”

“Certainly,” Kirk answered. “We’d be most interested to hear the reactions of your people.”

“The reason for your presence at this debriefing,” Spock elaborated, “is exactly to obtain your comments and questions.”

Rainen nodded. “I feel I need to stress a few points which you seemed to find—unimportant. According to your report, these people live in pitiful squalor. They die—usually at a very young age—their infant mortality rate is appalling—of starvation, or animal attacks, or horribly degenerative diseases for which your science could almost surely find a cure or preventative. Why do you not help them? Do you feel no moral obligation toward other sentient life? Or is it that you feel no kinship with them?”

Spock raised an eyebrow. “Kinship? A most interesting choice of term.”

“Rainen,” Kirk began, “we feel great—kinship—with them. Our race went through a similar period in our development—as did nearly every other race with which we have made contact. In fact, my race nearly went through it twice, a second time after a devastating war three centuries ago. And even during times in which much of our planet was undergoing rapid technological advancement, there remained isolated communities—mostly undiscovered—and even whole nations, which had progressed little farther than this. We remember those times well. We do understand their predicament.”

“And yet, you do nothing?” Ilne asked. Her voice was sweet and warm, alluring—yet it also accused.

Kirk glanced at Spock, who raised his left eyebrow to match the right one. Kirk had sensed uneasiness from Spock, ever since the Silmarils had come aboard. The Vulcan had assured him his reactions had nothing whatever to do with the “observers’ physical attributes.” Kirk doubted this self-assessment was entirely true; such blatant sensuality would be enough to unnerve any Vulcan, especially one as manically conservative—and as defensive—about Vulcan tradition as was Spock. Still, that probably wasn’t the whole reason. The Science Officer was probably working something out, and Spock preferred to complete his analysis of a problem before saying too much about it. He didn’t like to speculate.

I’m wandering again, Kirk chided himself. God, I could use some shore leave.

“The Prime Directive,” McCoy was drawling, “protects other, less capable races from contamination by our culture, until they can hold their own against us. The point is to not destroy them by overwhelming them.”

“Are you sure,” Rainen asked, “that it isn’t you who fear racial contamination from them?”

McCoy squirmed uncomfortably and harrumphed, but Palamas said, “That bankrupt sort of thought was rejected long ago. No enlightened society believes the lies of racial hatred.”

How soon they forget, Kirk mused to himself. And even today there are still the Elihuites. “You’re way off the mark anyway,” he said aloud. “Even if that were true—which it isn’t—it would still serve to allow less developed peoples to find new answers to the problems every society has. War. Pollution. Disease. Each of the members of the Federation has found answers, some more complete, some less, some sooner, some more easily than others. But they are all different. And that’s the point. It is our hope that one of these new races will find a solution better than any the rest of us have found. We are not impressed enough with ourselves to believe we know what’s best for the rest of the galaxy—or even that we’ve discovered the best possible solution for us. And it has been our experience that imposing our solutions upon other cultures doesn’t work. The primitive tribes of pre-eugenics Earth were destroyed by doing exactly that.”

“Destroyed, Captain?” Ilne said. “The individuals assimilated into your culture survived, didn’t they? And in far greater happiness and comfort, I’m sure. Tell me, how long did it take Terrans to develop from where these people are to the point where you would be willing to contact them?”

“Roughly forty thousand years,” Spock answered. “And it required the intervention of a global ice age to provide sufficient stimulus for the invention of new technologies.”

“And how many generations is that?”

“For the indigenous inhabitants of this world, perhaps twenty-six hundred.”

”The population of Aleph Corriandus is not large,” Ilne continued, “perhaps twenty million, by your estimates. But if it takes them twenty six thousand generations, that would mean fifty two billion individuals whom you are condemning to a hard, cruel life, and an early and probably painful death. That is, assuming they don’t all die, as a species, because they are unable to adapt to the rigors of their own world. Even if you value their unique culture so highly, can there be no way to help them without taking away their uniqueness? Can you not even try?”

Kirk had, of course, heard all these arguments before—the merits of the Prime Directive had been debated, in and out of Academy classes, ever since it was first proposed in the early days of the Federation. But to hear such strong criticism, expressed so eloquently, from such beautiful and gentle people—well, it was heartbreaking.

“It is hardly surprising,” Spock was saying, “to find you opposed to the Prime Directive.” Kirk sat up a little straighter. His science officer had obviously come to some conclusion.

“Explain,” Kirk prompted.

Spock paused. “Captain, the Silmarils are obviously more advanced than we, technologically. No doubt far advanced enough that if they had some equivalent of the Prime Directive, they would consider us too primitive to contact. They would not have intercepted us. We would still be unaware of their existence.”

Kirk blinked. McCoy demanded, “What are you sayin’, Spock?”

“Consider.” He began to tick off facts on his fingers. “They do not have subspace communications. But any starfaring race must have developed it, as the ability to understand subspace is a prerequisite to developing warp drive. But they do not use subspace for communications. Therefore, they must have something better.

“Their warp drive is very different from ours—and not merely different, it is far more efficient. Their ships do not have warp nacelles, but only small warpcoil cylinders as integral parts of the hull design. Our relatively primitive engines produce far too much radiation to allow them to be that close to inhabited sections of the ship.

“The speed at which they learn is remarkable. This bespeaks mental capabilities far beyond any of those of any Federation member races.

“The openness and confidence with which they initially approached us was borne not simply out of a desire for friendship. It was the surety which comes from certain knowledge that we could do them no harm.

“And lastly, though they are perfectly comfortable aboard our ship, we would not be—safe?—aboard theirs. There is something about their biology which they do no want us to know. I suspect those skintight jumpsuits serve the same purposes as our rather more bulky environ suits. Somehow, they are able to protect themselves from what would otherwise be our hostile atmosphere—without a single trace of mechanism which we can detect.

“Am I correct?” he finished, this last directed toward Ilne and Rainen.

“In essence,” Rainen answered. “The structure of our ship and technologies would be a great shock to you. Few of you could survive it. I’m afraid I cannot elaborate.”

Kirk cleared his throat. “But,” he said, and stopped. Then he continued again. “Isn’t this exactly what we are talking about—the shock of a more advanced culture upon a less-advanced one?”

Ilne shook her head, and her snowy hair brushed gently against her cheeks and shoulders. “No, captain. We are not suggesting that you assimilate them into your culture. Or even that you let them know of your existence. We are suggesting that you find a way to help them without destroying them. You say you have tried before, and you failed. But you are older and wiser now.”

“Wise enough to know we can’t be trusted to play God,” McCoy snorted. “If you’re so damn advanced, why don’t you help them?”

“Do you not feel a—kinship—with them?” Spock asked.

They both smiled, and once more, what had seemed like threatening storms lifted, and the sun came out. “Very much kinship, yes,” Ilne answered.

“That is a significant term,” Spock pressed, “is it not? Kinship?”

Kirk frowned. “What are you getting at, Spock?”

The Vulcan steepled his fingers, and spoke very slowly, carefully choosing his words. “We have long suspected that many life-forms in the galaxy have a common origin. That would explain much, such as the similarity in forms between many of the galaxy’s sentient races, and even the amazing fact that, in some circumstances, they can occasionally interbreed. The Vulcan Science Academy has found what it considers important evidence for the existence of—but not the nature of—the hypothetical ‘star seeders.’ I suspect that you, being members of a somewhat more advanced culture, may have more information about this.”

The Silmarils looked at each other, then Rainen turned back to Spock and said, “Your Prime Directive holds there is some information which a given primitive culture is not ready to receive. With this, we have no argument.” He paused. “You have guessed quite enough already.” He turned to face Kirk. “You and we both have other missions to perform., Captain. We cannot at this time join your Federation. But I hope you will consider what we have said.” Ilne and Rainen stood.

“We will leave now,” Ilne said. “Perhaps we will meet again—your race and ours.”

Kirk quickly stood, as did Spock and McCoy. The Silmarils turned without another word, and left the briefing room.

As soon as the door hissed shut, Spock began speaking rapidly. “Captain, there is much they did not say—”

“You noticed that, too,” said McCoy.

“—and they will soon be gone. It may be possible for me to beam aboard their ship and discover some additional data before they leave.”

“Are you crazy?” McCoy thundered. “Don’t you think they could stop you?:”

“They will not be expecting it,” Spock said. “And I do not believe they are gods. There must be limits to what they can do.”

“Don’t you think they’d mind an uninvited intruder?”

“I doubt they’d injure me, Doctor. They were morally outraged at the thought of not helping sentient life-forms in need. They will know my intentions are harmless.”

If they’ve been telling us the truth,” Kirk said.

“And if not, they could have crushed us at any time they wished. And still can.”

Kirk sat again, thinking.

“Sir,” said Spock, “we have only until their shuttle reaches the mother ship. “

Kirk looked up at him. “You’d better be right,” he said. “If they decide to kill you, you’re in a lot of trouble, mister. Go.”

Spock hurried from the room.

McCoy harrumphed again, and sat down. “The Vulcans really believe that nonsense about Star Seeders. And they claim to be atheists.” He grunted.

“What’s so impossible about Star Seeders?” Kirk asked. “It does explain a lot.”

McCoy made a face. “Jim, you’re a captain, not a doctor. The evolutionary history of life on Earth is well-documented, goin’ back a billion years. On Vulcan, too. If life on Earth and Vulcan had a common ancestry, it would’ve had to’ve been single-celled microbes from a billion years ago. We’d be more closely related to tobacco plants than to Spock’s daddy. At least we and the tobacco have a common ancestor which was more complex than an amoeba.”

“Even so, we can’t mate with tobacco plants,” said Palamas. “Yet we can have children with Vulcans. Mr. Spock is proof of that.”

“Exactly,” said McCoy. “Which means there must be some other explanation. Simply thinkin’ we’ve had both our planets seeded by the same gardeners a billion years ago don’t explain a damn thing.”

“Well, no it doesn’t,” said Kirk. “And in any case, as Spock said, we’ve got to be very different from the Silmarils, more different than they let on—”

“That’s right!" Lieutenant Palamas nearly shouted. “I just remembered! The Silmarils said it’d be dangerous for us to visit their ship—”

“Dangerous?” said Kirk. He felt the blood draining from his face. He jumped up, and ran for the door. “Spock!”

But Spock, of course, was already long gone.


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