“Mister Spock, lower your weapon!”
“I am afraid I cannot do that, Number One.”
Lieutenant Commander Robbins took a step backwards until her back was pressed against the wall. From her position she had a good view on both Spock and LeBeau, both having their laser pistols trained at each other.
It was becoming hot in the cramped room and Robbins wiped the sweat off her brow.
“Commander,” LeBeau started. “I know you lost family in the war. So did I. This is the man who betrayed us all. He’ll pay for that. Right here, right now.”
Robbins looked at Spock but he didn’t speak, didn’t even attempt to defend himself against the accusations. She pointed her weapon at the science officer. “This might all be a misunderstanding,” she began. “But I’d rather be safe than sorry. Stand down, Mister Spock.”
The Vulcan’s eyes remained focused on LeBeau. “The Lieutenant’s laser pistol is set to kill. I cannot risk lowering my weapon.”
Robbins shot LeBeau a glare.
“We don’t know if the stun setting works on him,” he replied dryly.
“That is it!” Robbins had enough. “Everybody lower their weapons now!”
And then the deck erupted violently.
One Hour Earlier
Captain Christopher Pike leaned forward in his command chair on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. “Call to general quarters. Ready all weapons.”
“Batteries one through four charged and ready.”
“Deflectors raised and ready.”
“Photon Torpedo launcher one and two loaded and ready.”
“All stations confirm general quarters. All hands at full battle stations.”
Pike swiveled in his chair to turn to the science station at the back of the bridge. “Mister Spock, what do the sensors say?”
The Vulcan science officer looked through the sensor hood, a blue glow shimmering on his face. “The contact originates from this system. Fourth planet.”
The captain gently stroked his chin. “What do we know about it?”
Spock turned away from his station to face Pike. “This system is completely uninhabited. The fourth planet possesses a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere but it is too thin to sustain human-like life forms. It is also prone to seismic activities and strong surface storms. The average temperature is fifty seven point seven degrees Celsius.”
“The perfect vacation spot then,” Pike said with a smirk.
“What would the Romulans want in this system this far from the Neutral Zone?” The question was put forth by Lieutenant Commander Eunice Robbins, Enterprise’s first officer. She sat at her station in front of the captain, overseeing helm and navigation.
“Good question, Number One,” Pike replied. “I intend to find out. Get us to that planet, half impulse, nice and easy.”
“Yes, sir,” Robbins replied and began to manipulate the controls. On the screen their destination, a green hued planet was steadily increasing in size.
Tensions on the bridge ran high. Nobody had heard much of the Romulans since the end of the Earth-Romulan War almost a century ago. Earth had ultimately prevailed against their mysterious foe but at a heavy price. Thousands had given their lives and nearly half of the fledging Earth fleet had been wiped out. And yet nobody had ever laid eyes upon a Romulan.
“Spock, any signs of other ships?”
The Vulcan barely shook his head. “Negative.”
“Then where is the signal coming from?” asked Robbins, her eyes piercing the view screen.
“The most logical conclusion is that the signal is originating from the surface of the planet.”
“A base?” Pike speculated.
Science officer Spock stepped away from his station to join the captain in the command pit. “The signal we are receiving is analogous to the signatures of Romulan ships during the war.”
Pike turned to look at Spock. “So we’re dealing with a ship here? On the surface?”
The science officer nodded.
“We are now entering orbit,” the first officer announced.
Pike stood up. “This could be a one in a lifetime opportunity to learn more about the Romulans,” he said and headed for the turbolift.
Robbins quickly jumped out of her seat. “Sir.”
Pike stopped and turned around.
“Am I right in assuming that you plan on beaming to the surface yourself?”
“You have a problem with that, Number One?”
Robbins took a few steps towards the captain. “I need to point out that this could be a trap. As the most senior officer on this ship you should not leave the bridge.”
Pike smiled. Robbins probably knew Starfleet policies better than most admirals. This one was utterly new to him though. “I wasn’t aware of that regulation.”
Eunice Robbins looked slightly dumbfounded. “Well it’s not really in the books … but it should be.”
“Captain, I must agree with Lieutenant Commander Robbins. This might be a potentially dangerous situation and an unnecessary risk for you to take,” Spock added.
“This feels like the outset of a full fledged mutiny,” Pike replied.
“I assure you,” Spock countered with a raised eyebrow, “that my interest is limited to your personal safety.”
“I’m touched,” Pike said and returned to his chair and let himself fall into it.
“Considering the hostile surface conditions on the planet I suggest that I beam down and conduct the reconnaissance,” Spock said. “My physiology is less susceptible to the environment.”
Robbins quickly shook her head. “I don’t care how superior you think you are, Spock, you’re not going down there by yourself.”
“I agree. Number One, you will accompany Mister Spock and Lieutenant LeBeau to the planet.”
“Captain,” Spock began but was quickly cut off.
“Go before I change my mind,” he said and turned in his chair to face away from his officers. “Some people just can’t be pleased,” he added eliciting a chuckle from blonde haired José Tyler at navigation
Lieutenant Jeffrey LeBeau was one of Enterprise’s most experienced security officers and had been chosen by Pike for exactly that reason. However Robbins wasn’t so sure if he had been the right choice. He might have been experienced but he was also a hot-head. Somebody who liked to shoot first and ask questions later.
LeBeau gripped his laser pistol firmly after he, Robbins and Spock had materialized on the surface of the planet. “What a hell hole.”
It wasn’t an understatement. The surface of the planet was shrouded in near permanent darkness. The landscape was dotted by large craters and massive chasms. There was no vegetation to speak of and the only rivers were filled with burning hot lava. They had beamed straight into a valley surrounded by volcanoes, each angrily shooting smoke and dust into the air, ready to erupt at a moment’s notice.
Both Robbins and Atkins found it difficult to even stand their ground. Strong hot winds blew up against their faces and the little air that reached their lungs had a repugnant copper taste to it.
Spock however showed no signs of discomfort. His complete attention was focused on what clearly were the remains of a starship, dangerously perched over one of the deep fissures. The ship’s hull had faded to a dark gray and one of the warp nacelles was missing entirely, probably torn off on impact.
Robbins reached for her communicator and flipped it open. “Robbins to Enterprise.”
“This is Pike,” the captain’s voice was heavily distorted and difficult to read.
Spock checked his tricorder. “Atmospheric disruptions are interfering with the com-signal.”
Robbins nodded. “Captain, we have located the vessel. It looks like a Romulan Bird-of-Prey and it has been here for a while.”
“Very well. Attempt to investigate but be careful. No … ‘unnecessary risks’.”
“Understood, Robbins out.”
The inside of the Romulan ship was unremarkable. The design was simple and cramped with very little room given to corridors and quarters. There were no signs of the crew or anything else salvageable for that matter.
“I wouldn’t mind meeting one of those damn Romulans,” LeBeau said, spearheading the team. “I’d have a few things to say to them.”
“It seems extremely doubtful that we will find survivors. According to my scans this vessel has been here for nearly eighty years,” Spock replied.
Robbins didn’t admit it but she too wished they could take some prisoners. She had lost both her grandparents in a Romulan raid during the war and she had never been able to completely let go of her urge for satisfaction. “Let’s see if we can find the bridge.”
The ship shuddered, almost slinging the landing party off their feet. The first officer shot a glance towards the Vulcan.
“This continent is experiencing severe seismic activity. I recommend we do not remain here for too long. We are also cut off from the Enterprisewhile we remain inside this vessel.”
The bird-shaped starship was much smaller inside than its large size would have indicated. It didn’t take the away team long to locate what seemed to be the command center. The room was as confined as the rest of the ship, perhaps half the size of the bridge of the Enterprise. There were no chairs here or view screens. The walls were lined with computer stations and a triangle shaped column with small monitors on each side formed the center.
The deck plates creaked noticeably when they entered.
Spock immediately tended to the controls. Most were burned out but after a minute he managed to activate emergency power. Dim green lights flickered to life, giving the bridge and eerie appearance.
“I would love to see what these bastards look like,” LeBeau said.
“Agreed. Mister Spock, see if you can access the ship’s logs.”
Spock hesitated for a moment as he turned to look at Robbins. An empty expression on his face. Then he turned back to the instruments. “Most of the data has suffered immense corrosion over the years. The logs might not be readable anymore.”
“Just try one.”
A moment later the screens in the middle column activated, showing nothing but static. Without warning an utterly alien voice began booming through the speakers of the bridge.
Both Robbins and LeBeau covered their ears in pain.
“At least now we know what they sound like!” LeBeau yelled.
“Spock!” Number One cried, “Try to adjust the volume,” she said and hurried over to the panel. She pressed a few of the unfamiliar controls and by accident found the right ones. The voice became slightly more bearable and the screens cleared up, showing an unmistakably humanoid man speaking.
“Oh my God,” LeBeau whispered as he noticed the man on the screen.
Robbins turned towards the column and took two steps towards the screen. And then she noticed it as well. The Romulan man on the screen looked just like they did except for one very distinct feature. His pointed ears.
LeBeau stared at the screen for a few moments longer and then slowly turned to the only other member of the landing party who exhibited the exact same physical characteristics as the Romulan.
Another quake forced everybody to regain their footing as the ship shuddered slightly. Spock had been momentarily distracted but by the time he looked up again he noticed that LeBeau had drawn his weapon and it was now squarely pointed at him.
“Mister Atkins!” Robbins shouted.
The distraction was enough for Spock to draw his own laser pistol and aiming it at the other man.
The security officer quickly trained his focus back on the Vulcan.
“This is insane,” Robbins said and reached for her own weapon even though not entirely sure whom to target.
“Open your eyes, Commander,” LeBeau said, never taking his glance off Spock. “The enemy is right in our midst.”
The voice of the Romulan officer continued to boom through the ship but it seemed to be increasing in intensity as if the speaker was becoming more agitated by the second.
“There might be a simple explanation for this,” Robbins said, her voice without any conviction. Her eyes wandered back and forth between the visual log and Spock. The similarities were undeniable. He was a Romulan. The first she had ever seen and he had been amongst them all along. But he claimed to be Vulcan. Did that mean Vulcans were the real enemy? It couldn’t be. Her head was beginning to spin. The insistent Romulan voice grinding her concentration.
The walls surrounding them felt as if they were beginning to move in on them. Robbins suddenly found it difficult to breathe.
“That is it!” Robbins had enough. “Everybody lower your weapons now!”
And then the deck erupted violently.
This time the quake was much stronger than anything that had come before. The Romulan ship was lifted off the ground only to harshly smash back into the earth.
In the small control room nobody managed to stay on their feet. Robbins fell backwards her head impacting hard against the bulkhead behind her.
Spock’s laser beam found its target and LeBeau was stunned before he hit the ground.
However LeBeau’ weapon discharge had come a second too late and swooshed past the science officer’s head by inches as he himself was forced to the deck.
When Spock realized that he was the only one left conscious he quickly made it back to his feet. The ship was beginning to fall apart however, years of being exposed to a hostile environment finally paying its toll. Loud creaking noises hinted towards a complete structural collapse within minutes. The entire wreck was moving and the deck plates were beginning to pitch upwards. The dead ship was sliding towards the chasm.
Spock hurried towards LeBeau and found him still alive but in deep unconsciousness.
He rushed over to Robbins. She was bleeding from a wound at the back of her head. Her eyes fluttered open as he hovered over her. “Spock? What … what just happened. Where are we?” she whispered but didn’t find the strength to remain conscious.
It took Spock less than a second to make his decision.
He made it outside of the doomed vessel in the nick of time. He watched the Bird-of-Prey go over the edge and spiral towards utter destruction as he and the only other survivor were beamed off the planet.
“Mister Spock, what the hell happened down there, what did you discover?” asked Captain Pike as soon as he had rematerialized in the transporter room.
Spock however turned to Doctor Boyce who stood next to the captain instead. “Doctor,” he said as he stepped off the platform, carrying the body of Commander Robbins in his arms. “Number One appears to have suffered a concussion and likely damage to her short-term memory. She required immediate attention.”
Boyce nodded and instructed his medics to take her and then quickly followed them to sickbay.
Spock turned to the captain. “I regret to report that Lieutenant LeBeau perished when the Romulan vessel was destroyed,” he said and started out towards the doors.
“Mister Spock,” Pike said.
The Vulcan froze and turned towards the captain.
“You didn’t answer my question. What did you learn about the Romulans?”
“Sir, I believe there are certain discoveries which mankind is not yet ready to understand,” he said and left the transporter room.