Captain T.E. Lawrence stood staring out at the small
Class M planet the PHOENIX was currently orbiting. They had arrived in the Zarta
Sector nearly twenty minutes ago and were still awaiting a response to their
"You'd think they'd be a little more courteous to the
Federation's designated negotiating team," T.E. muttered.
"Perhaps they're still laying out the good china and
polishing the silver," LCDR Kora Natevera said with a smile. She walked across
the smallish Ready Room and joined T.E. at the window.
"If they're trying to make a good first impression the
opportunity has passed."
"It is a bit puzzling that the Avogajians have ignored
our arrival," Kora said with a frown.
"More than a bit," T.E. agreed. "Lonpos Sau seemed
quite eager to cater to our every whim when we spoke yesterday. In fact, I found
his willingness to please us rather embarrassing."
"You mean his offer of sexual companions for you and
Kassidy during your stay on Avogaj?" Kora’s twitched as she struggled to keep
her laughter in.
"The offer was bad enough," T.E. said, "but when he
began lining up prospective candidates for us to choose from I nearly died."
°You must admit, the third creature from the left was
"Kora, if I want to be seen with feathers on my arm,
I'd just as soon replicate a boa."
Whatever remark Kora was about to make was cut off at
the sound of LT Walker’s voice coming from the Communications station on the
"Captain, I have an incoming message from Lonpos Sau."
"Put it through, Lieutenant."
"Captain Lawrence, I hope you will forgive my
tardiness in acknowledging your arrival."
The Lonpos's somewhat formidable visage stared up at
T.E. from the screen on her desk.
"We were wondering if you were having some
difficulties," she replied.
"Difficulties? Why would you think that," Sau said
just a tad too quickly.
T.E. quickly looked over to LCDR Spahn and saw that
the Romulan Security Chief had also picked up on Sau's odd behavior.
"I was only suggesting that perhaps our early arrival
had interfered with your scheduling of events," T.E. answered in her most
soothing voice. She did not want things to start off on the wrong foot.
"Nothing of the kind," Sau practically blustered. "We
are pleased to find that you are so eager to join us. We were experiencing some
communication problems but everything has been taken care of now. I would like
to invite you and your crew to join us at your earliest convenience."
T.E. couldn't quite get rid of the nagging suspicion
that Sau was hiding something. However, since they were here to meet with the
Avogajians and to ascertain their readiness to become part of the Federation,
she arranged for their landing party to beam down within the hour.
T.E. had spent numerous hours pouring over computer
records with CDR Kassidy Malone on Avogaj and her people. She had spoken to
Lonpos Sau on several occasions via the PHOENIX’s main view screen. However,
nothing could have prepared T.E. for their fierce beauty when she finally met
them in person.
"Captain Lawrence, welcome to Avogaj."
Lonpos Sau, his crimson head feathers shimmering in
the brilliant sunshine, bowed neatly from the waist. T.E. found herself looking
upward when he resumed his stiff-backed posture. The avian creature appeared to
be at least 195cm in height. The four Avogajians who stood with him were of a
similar height. Obviously, the Lonpos had taken T.E. at her word. The creature
Kora had deemed attractive was nowhere in sight
"We look forward to meeting your people, Lonpos Sau,
and touring your lovely cities."
Sau quickly introduced his companions and T.E. did
"CDR Kassidy Malone is the Diplomatic Relations
Officer onboard the Phoenix," T.E. began. "She will be assisting the Ambassador
during our meetings. LCDR Spahn is my Security Chief and has already been in
contact with your people regarding protective measures during all negotiation
meetings. And last, but certainly not least, LCDR Seabrook, our Intelligence
After an exchange of greetings between the two groups,
Sau led the way to the Grand Hall. Again, T.E. was overwhelmed by the sheer
beauty of her surroundings. The courtyard they had beamed down into was
overflowing with flowers and plants of every shade in a rainbow. Sweet and tangy
odors mingled to form a pleasant scent on the warm breeze that buffeted her
skin. Once inside, the prevailing thought was one of spacious elegance. Wood
beamed ceiling soared above her head and brightly colored tiles covered the
walls on either side of the wide corridor Sau led them down. And still, amongst
all this beauty, the Avogajians commanded one's attention.
"Quite breathtaking, aren't they," Kassidy whispered
to T.E. as if reading her thoughts.
"And then some," T.E. agreed in a similarly low voice.
It was true. Where their bold colors of scarlet,
green, black and blue should have appeared garish, they were striking.
"We have prepared a small meal for you and your crew,"
Sau said drawing T.E.'s attention back to the Avogajian official. "Then I would
hope that you would avail yourselves of our hospitality and let Lonpos Tam show
you a bit of our city before we begin the first meeting."
Moments later, Sau pushed open a wide door and ushered
them into a large dining room. The mouth-watering scents that greeted them had
everyone proceeding to the food-laden tables.
"You're not staying," T.E. asked with surprise as Sau
and his companions moved toward the door.
"We realize that you and your people would like to
discuss the upcoming meeting, Captain. Tam will return after an appropriate
passing of time to conduct your tour. Enjoy your meal."
"Well, they are nothing if not polite," Kassidy
observed after Sau and the others departed.
"Or eager to get back to whatever it was that delayed
their contacting us," Spahn said.
"My thoughts exactly," T.E. said in agreement. "I
still feel like we are somehow being kept in the dark about something."
"Sau did seem rather too eager to get us settled,
didn't he," Seabrook added. The Intelligence Officer had kept his own council up
until this point, but T.E. had seen him watching Sau and the others quite
"I, for one, am eager to meet with the Ambassador and
get his slant on things," T.E. said. "After all, Spock has been here for over a
week now and has had ample time to observe any problems."
"This delay is unacceptable!"
Lonpos Sau paced the area in front of his desk. His
body language conveyed barely restrained fury.
"These things take time, honorable one."
The voice coming over the Lonpos's communication panel
sounded quite frightened.
"We don't have time, Paumo. Lawrence and her people
are here now. They are expecting to meet with the Ambassador."
"I will take care of everything, honorable one."
"See that you do!"
Sau ended the conversation by slamming his fisted hand
down on the panel. Why was he surrounded by such incompetent sycophants?
Days were short on Avogaj and the sun was beginning to
drift toward the horizon when T.E. and the others completed their tour of Woati,
Avogaj's largest city.
"Lonpos Tam, I must thank you for personally taking
the time to show us around your lovely city," T.E. said with a smile.
°Captain, it was my pleasure," the dignitary said. "As
you can see, we have a lot to offer the Federation. Our shipbuilding facilities
alone would be a stellar addition to the ones at Utopia Planatia."
"Most certainly," T.E. replied. "However, you must be
aware of the fact that we are quite anxious to get things underway. I would like
to return to the Grand Hall now and meet with Lonpos Sau and Ambassador Spock."
There it was again, T.E. thought. At the mention of
Spock, Tam's whole demeanor had changed. The kindly official who had spent the
last hour proudly displaying his lovely city suddenly grew tense. Just what the
hell was going on here?
"Of course, Captain," he said, recovering quickly. "We
will be heading there as soon as we make our last stop. The children have
prepared a little welcoming ceremony for you and I'd hate to disappoint them."
Good move, T.E. thought but she smiled and beckoned
for Spahn, Kassidy and Seabrook to come along as she followed Tam into a
As they were shown to their seats, T.E. observed Spahn
and Kassidy talking quietly among themselves. When Tam went to check on the
proceedings, she quickly asked them if there was a problem.
"Nothing too serious, T.E," Spahn assured her.
"Kassidy and I were just commenting on the workers at the ship building
"Wasn't it strange how much they differed from Sau and
the others," T.E. asked. "Not that the workers weren't quite handsome looking in
their own right."
After the brilliant plumage Sau and his counterparts
displayed, the muted gold, tan, brown and yellow feathers of the workers, while
beautiful, were somehow diminished by comparison.
"Yes," Kassidy replied. "But I was talking more about
their personalities. They didn't seem nearly as forthright as Sau and the
others. In fact, when I asked one of them a simple question regarding the work
he was doing his response was quite antagonistic."
"I had a similar experience, Captain," Seabrook was
quick to add. "It was almost as if these creatures despised us."
"Perhaps we should ask Tam about it when he returns,"
T.E. suggested. "We may be making much out of a situation that has little or
nothing to do with our presence here. It could be something as simple as a labor
`Hopefully that's all it is," Spahn said. "We wouldn't
want to find out that there's some kind of internal conflict raging on Avogaj.
It would put a real spanner in the works at this point."
T.E. nodded in agreement. Lonpos Sau had presented
Avogaj as an almost Utopian colony. If he was hiding domestic problems, what
else might he be keeping from them? Suddenly, she was quite anxious for Lonpos
Tam to return.
Far away from the bright lights of Woati, a small band
of men covered head to toe in dark cloaks, moved silently through the deepening
night. The path they followed would lead them deep into the thick forest that
bordered Woati on its northern side. In their midst, a solitary figure bound and
blindfolded, struggled to keep up with his captors. The shimmering light from
Avogaj's twin moons reflected on his pale skin, illuminating the nasty gash
above the man’s left eye. Thick green blood flowed unchecked down his cheek
before he disappeared into the thick blackness of the forest.
T.E. quickly turned toward Seabrook and the others
only to see that they were as startled as she was by Tam's revelation.
"Yes, Captain. These creatures have declared their
intent to be known simply as Gajians."
"But how is it that we have no information on this
split in your population, Tam?"
"Because this situation has just surfaced in the past
month or so, Captain," Tam replied. "There has always been a division in our
cultures. The Avogajians, like myself and those people you've met today have
always been the ruling class of Avogaj. The so-called Gajians have traditionally
been the workforce. This system has worked since my father's father was a
"But yet there is no mention of the duel cultures in
any of our records concerning your planet," T.E. pointed out.
"Because we never saw the need," Tam told her. "This
is the way it has always been until Majj saw fit to try and improve his station
"Majj," Kassidy asked.
"An unreasonable man who believes him and fellow
'Gajians' should have a say in the governing of Avogaj."
T.E. didn't like the sound of this one bit. Internal
disputes were never a good thing and the fact that Sau and his fellow officials
had seen fit to hide it did not bode well for the finalization of their petition
of admittance to the Federation. She needed to see Spock immediately.
Deep inside the cliffs of Lohar, Majj held court.
Nearly a dozen Gajians huddled around the fire in the middle of the cavern he
called his meeting room.
"The Federation's representatives arrived in Woati
today," he announced. "If we are to be taken seriously by them we must make our
presence known. Gajians must have a voice in any future plans for Avogaj."
"The Lonpos will never allow it," Nafi said. "They
will never allow us to rise above the conditions of slavery they have held our
people in for centuries."
"We will be heard," Majj said. His voice, deep and
majestic, filled the cavern. "The Federation will know the will of the Gajians."
Cheers rose up and reverberated off the walls.
"Plans have already been set into motion," he
continued once they quieted down. "Before the end of the day, the Gajians will
begin to claim their rightful claim of equality on Avogaj."
Once again they erupted in cheers that floated though
the interlinking series of caverns that were carved into the cliffs by their
ancestors. The heady euphoria of freedom nearly in their grasp was coursing
through their tired souls.
"We have to talk, Lonpos Sau, and talk now."
T.E. had not wasted any time in making her displeasure
known as soon as she and the other arrived back at the Grand Hall.
'Captain, I must ask your forgiveness in not fully
explaining the current situation on Avogaj."
"Your explanations can wait until Ambassador Spock
arrives. I assume you have asked him to join us?"
The silence that greeted her statement was deafening.
"Sau, is Spock on his way here," T.E. asked again.
"Captain, I had hoped to have the situation resolved
before you returned. But, unfortunately, that has been impossible."
T.E. anger rose up quickly and full-blown.
"I demand to see Ambassador this instant, Lonpos Sau.
Any delay and I personally will contact Starfleet Headquarters and tell them to
pull back your paperwork."
"Sir, I think we can . . ." Kassidy began.
"I think I have made our position perfectly clear,
Commander Malone," T.E. said cutting her Diplomatic Relations Officer off. "Sau,
where is Ambassador Spock?"
"The Ambassador is no longer in Woati, Captain
Lawrence," Sau said in a barely discernible voice. "Ambassador Spock is
Lawrence grabbed the communicator from the belt of her
uniform. "Phoenix, this is Firebird Actual, Walker I want teams assembled in all
divisions including the Marines. Beam down in twenty minutes.
She turned to Lonpos Sau, "You better pray that Spock