"Commander, get this garbage out of my sight!" ordered
"Yes, Sir," MoníTeith replied. She pulled the prisoner
none to gently from the chair and proceeded to shove him out of the
Captain Steele took a few deep breaths to calm down before hitting
the comm. button on her desk. "Lieutenant Travis, please come to my
Within a few minutes the small statured Diplomatic Relations Officer
entered the Captainís office.
"You wanted to see me, Sir?"
"Have a seat, Kate." Unknowingly, Travis proceeded to take
the chair the prisoner recently vacated. Before proceeding, Steele hit
the comm. button once again.
"Commander TíPrel, I need the file on Thoragravis VI on my
"Doing it as we speak, Sir."
Steele leaned back in her chair. "Neither Spahn nor MoníTeith
were able to get anything out of our trouble-maker, Kate. It looks like
weíre going to have to go down to Thoragravis VI ourselves and make
contact in person. Thereís still no communication coming from the
"When would you be liking to go, Sir?"
"Within the next hour if possible."
"Aye, Sir, Ďtis starting to look like another complicated
Steele rolled her eyes. "Are there any other kind?"
Five Days Earlier . . .
Captain Talon Steele smiled as Fleet Admiral Daniel Evanís face
appeared on the screen in front of her.
"Good afternoon, Admiral," she said.
"Good to see you again, Talon, although you might not think so
when I fill you in on our latest problem."
"Fire away, Admiral. After our last mission, weíre ready to
take on anything."
"Be careful what you wish for," he laughed. "Weíve
lost communications with Thoragravis VI. We first made contact with the
planet in hopes they would become a member of UFP. As you know, itís
the closest planet in the Third Quadrant where Outpost 3145 is located.
Since youíre already on patrol in the area . . ."
"Youíd like us to take a run by and find out whatís going
The Admiral laughed. "As usual, you read my mind, Talon."
Now, after orbiting the planet continuously for several days, there
was still no communication from the domed city although they did pick up
a space pod with one human male inside on the fifth day. Since he
appeared to be wearing prisoner style clothing, he was immediately sent
to Commander Spahn for interrogation. Although a lot of threats and
cussing were exchanged, nothing of value came from the meeting. After
both she and her new Chief Security Officer Lieutenant Commander Soen
MoníTeith tried their hands, they still had no usable information.
Kate jumped as the computer beeped and Captain Steele leaned forward
in her chair.
"Here we go," she said. "Hopefully this information
will give us a starting point once we transport down."
Steele quickly explained that Thoragravis VI was a thriving planet
some thirty years ago until the planetís sun turned sour, shifting
from one spectrum to another. Due to the change in radiation, the only
way to survive was to construct a domed city. Unfortunately, a meteorite
shower - not an uncommon occurrence on their planet - destroyed the
original dome. Many of the Thoragravians were killed but the survivors
pulled together and built a second dome city, which still stands today.
"The inhabitants are a proud people," Steele continued.
"According to our First Contact observers, theyíre friendly and
well educated. They are short according to human standards, with a
full-grown adult standing only four foot tall on average. This makes
them appear quite childlike. Their skin is reddish in coloring and they
appear to constantly be squinting, perhaps a leftover from their sun
being too bright outside the dome. Each Thoragravian has a circular
shaped disk implanted in their forehead. This small disk seems to serve
as a warning system. It turns a dark green color if radiation is
Kate spoke up. "Will we need to use our EV suits, Sir?" She
hated those damn suits!
"No, although we will carry the necessary equipment in
case there should be a radiation breakthrough. Now, to continue, the
planet is rich in minerals and those wearing EV suits could mine areas
outside the dome. There havenít been any off-worlders whoíve visited
Thoragravis VI to our knowledge, but once news of the planets riches
gets out, I imagine there are many who will be very interested in the
"Even though itís this unstable?"
"The Federation realized that the inhabitants will have to be
moved eventually but there are still many years before the sun will go
nova. Because of this, those in charge feel that investing in the planet
now is worthwhile. Thus, our need to find out what the devil is going on
down there now with our First Contact observers."
"ĎOur needí?" Commander Strykerís voice sounded none
to pleased as he entered Captain Steeleís office. "Am I correct
in assuming you plan to accompany Travis down to Thoragravis VI?"
"Yes, you are Commander," Steele said. Kate had to hide a
grin when she saw both the captain and her First Officerís bodies
stiffen. Here we go again!
"Will it do any good for me to point out that itís completely
unnecessary such an undertaking by the Captain of this vessel?"
Steele stood and met him eye to eye. "Iím going down there,
Stryker let out a frustrated breath. "Why the hell do I
even try talking to you? You realize, of course, that youíre once
again putting yourself into a situation where we have no way of knowing
what the devil youíre walking into?"
"If I may interrupt, Sir?"
Kate moved back in her seat just a bit as the commander turned his
fury in her direction.
"Only if you plan on backing me up on this, Travis," he
spit out. "Otherwise, Iíd rather you stay out of it."
"That being said, Sir, Iím very much in this situation
and I have to say that I agree with Captain Steele. No, wait," she
said when he appeared about to burst a blood vessel. "We only
lessen our ability to convince the Thoragravians of our intense interest
in their situation if we, excuse me, but send in the second
Kate thought she heard a muffled laugh coming from Steeleís
directions but she didnít dare let her eyes stray away from Strykerís
since he appeared ready to strangle her at any moment.
"Second string?" he roared. "Lieutenant, you are
skating on very thin ice at the moment. In fact, Iíd say you were
about to sink beneath the surface if you say one more word on this
"Then itís a good thing Iím quite good at getting meself in
and out of troublesome situations. Iíll stand by me words. Captain
Steele needs to go on this mission, with or without your blessing.
Sir," she added when she noticed his hands clenching and
unclenching into fists at his sides.
"If I may interrupt?" Captain Steeleís
humor-filled voice thankfully broke the tension that flared in the room.
"I understand your concern, Commander. As always, I know that your
fears are well placed but, in this case, I have to agree with Travis. I
need to make the Thoragravians understand our concern and our
willingness to help them out of whatever situation they find themselves
Stryker stood down. He visibly relaxed. "You know I have to
try," he said, his voice sounding amused now. "And I like the
fact that our DO here is so quick to jump to your defense. I just hope
you plan on doing the same down on the planet, Travis."
"ĎTis a most important part of me job, Sir," Kate said.
"And using that silver tongue of yours to get our point across
as quickly and concisely as possible," Steele added.
"To be sure, Sir. Now, if I can be excused, Iíd like to head
back to my office to get prepared for our departure."
"Dismissed," Steele said and Kate quickly left the room.
Of course, no amount of preparation can prepare one for everything.
Although each Department Head had their staff at full readiness, the
first part of this particular mission was in the hands of Captain Steele
and Lieutenant Kate Travis. It was their job to transport down to the
city under glass on Thoragravis VI and find out exactly what was going
No one could have been prepared for the greeting party that met them
there. No one could have foreseen the fact that a shipload of Orions
would have to savvy to hide behind the unstable sun and then swoop down
at the exact moment Steele and Travis arrived at their landing site. No
one could ever have imagined their captain and her young crewmember
would end up in the hands of a band of Orion slave traders set on taking
their own shot at convincing the inhabitants of Thoragravis VI that it
would be in their best interest to side with the Orion nation. No one,
except for the man sitting in the Brig. Had anyone seen his smirk when
the voice of Ensign Taryn Reede announced their people on the planet
were missing, they would have immediately re-interrogated him. As it
was, he enjoyed his minor triumph alone.