Captain’s log, Stardate 6397.3. We have established orbit around the frontier colony Vesbius, a settlement just outside Federation jurisdiction in the Omega sector. On the planet below is a colony of nearly 20,000 people, including many families. The conjugated orbits of the planet’s moons have unexpectedly perturbed an asteroid and the huge rock is now on a path to strike the planet—and destroy the colony. Although the colony is outside the Federation, the colonists are human and have strong trade and cultural ties to the Federation. Our mission is to offer assistance and support in the evacuation of Vesbius.
The ship’s intercom whistled and a look of resignation passed over the face of Captain James T. Kirk. He was on a treadmill in the Enterprise workout facility and was near the end of a simulated twelve-mile run to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado. The treadmill was tilted to its steepest incline, and Kirk was sweating up a storm. He’d done this run before, but now he was working on a personal best.
It would have to wait. Kirk mashed the stop button and hopped off the treadmill as it was slowing down. He picked up a towel from a nearby rack and mopped his brow while pressing the button on the workout room intercom that connected him to the bridge.
“Kirk here,” he said.
“We are preparing to enter orbit around the planet Vesbius, Captain,” said Commander Spock, who had the conn on the bridge while Kirk was away.
“Correct me if I’m mistaken,” Kirk replied, “but I thought we weren’t due to arrive for another twenty minutes.”
“It seems that what Mister Scott described as his ‘wee bit of tinkering and tweaking’ on the antimatter recombination unit of the warp drive has had a beneficial effect,” Spock responded acerbically.
“All right,” said Kirk. “I’ll be right there.”
The captain continued to dry himself with the microbial refresher towel. He reflected that while this was not quite as good as a full bath, it would have to do for now. He pulled on his tawny gold command shirt and made his way to the turbolift.
As soon as Kirk arrived at the bridge, Mister Spock arose from the command chair and took a position at his science station. Chekov and Sulu manned the navigator and helmsman posts, respectively, and Uhura was at the communications station.
It was a source of great pride for Kirk to be among his crew. Three and a half years together had formed them into a well-oiled unit. But it was their individual strengths that most pleased Kirk, and humbled him. True, he’d picked his crew carefully, but he’d also been extraordinarily lucky to have such officers from which to choose. Now that the Enterprise’s five-year mission was well past the halfway mark, Kirk could not help but feel a bit of nostalgia for the times he’d shared with these people.
Yet, as always, he had to stop himself from indulging in too much warmth and fuzziness. The mission wasn’t over, not by a long shot, and today he and the Enterprise crew had a very important job to do.
“Lieutenant Uhura, open a channel to the chancellor of the Vesbius colony, please. What was his name? Vader?”
“Faber, sir,” Uhura replied. “He’s standing by.”
“On-screen,” said Kirk.
Uhura pressed a button. The planet, which had previously occupied the main viewscreen, was replaced by a stocky, older man. He looked to be of European stock and possessed a shock of gray in the middle of his combed-back hair. He did not have a happy expression on his face.
“Mister Chancellor, I’m Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise. My ship and my crew are in orbit around your planet and are ready and able to assist you in any way.”
“Assist us?” said the chancellor. “I’m not sure how you could do that. Furthermore, I have to object to the Federation sending a scientific mission our way during such a time as this. Normally we welcome Federation contact, of course. Maybe if you come back in a few months, we’ll be better able to deal with you.”
“Deal?” Kirk replied. “Mister Chancellor, are you aware that there is a very large asteroid on a collision course with your planet?”
“We are quite aware of that fact, Captain,” the chancellor said. “Which is why I am surprised that the Federation chose to send someone to look in on us at a time like this.”
While the chancellor was speaking, another man came into the viewscreen field. He was shorter than Faber and was dressed in what looked like the uniform of a planetary militia. His features were a blend of Asian and European. This man leaned down and whispered something into the chancellor’s ear, and Faber nodded. The other man exited the way he had come.
Kirk craned forward in his chair.
Interesting, the captain thought. Was some sort of intrigue going on below on the planet surface? Had the chancellor’s power been somehow usurped? His response to the Enterprise offer of help would be curious behavior at any time, and it was especially so now.
“We are not here to look in on you, Mister Chancellor,” said Kirk emphatically. “We are here to get you and your people off this planet.”
The chancellor did his best to look puzzled, but to Kirk it had the distinct appearance of a put-on expression. “I’m afraid there’s been a mix-up,” he replied. “We requested no such assistance.”
“On the contrary, sir, three months ago a direct request for assistance was delivered to Starbase Twelve via a drone messenger capsule,” put in Spock from his science station. Kirk knew that the feed to the chancellor would automatically pull back to include the Vulcan in the visual.
“That drone was not authorized by the Planetary Council, however. It was sent by a group of our merchants who overreacted to the crisis before the situation was adequately understood. And be that as it may,” said the chancellor in an officious tone, “we no longer require any aid, and your presence is a distraction, I’m afraid.”
Kirk touched his fingers to his chin and leaned back in his chair. After considering a moment, he spoke again. “Mister Chancellor, we’ve come a long way. I understand that Vesbius is outside Federation territory, but we are concerned for your safety nonetheless. I do have my orders. I’d like to beam down and discuss the situation with you in person.”
“Captain, I really must insist—”
Kirk cut the man off. “Chancellor, Vesbius has a reputation for its hospitality, among other things. I hope that these reports have not been mistaken.”
The chancellor sighed. “Very well, Captain Kirk,” he said. “I will provide coordinates for you to beam down.” The previous hard expression on Faber’s face softened, and he attempted a smile. “We really do cherish our reputation for a generous welcome here on Vesbius, Captain. We will do our best to see that it is upheld when you arrive, despite our trying circumstances. Please understand that while we are not a Federation colony, we have strong cultural and, of course, genetic ties to the Federation and to humanity. I look forward to meeting you. Faber out.”
The viewscreen went blank momentarily and then was replaced by the view of the planet below. Kirk shook his head. “What was that about?” he said.
“Curious,” said Mister Spock. “While he refused our assistance, he did take pains to emphasize the colony’s relationship to the Federation.”
“They have strong trade ties, do they not?” said Kirk. “They are master biologists. Vesbian pharmaceuticals have been an enormous boon to the Federation. The lives that have been saved by that Rigelian fever vaccine alone must number in the billions. Plus, everyone in the Omega sector has heard of Vesbian ale.”
“I am not familiar with the substance,” replied Mister Spock.
“Spock, where’s your scientific curiosity?” Kirk said. “It’s some of the best beer in the galaxy, in my opinion.”
Sulu turned partway away from his home station and addressed them. “If I may, Mister Spock, one taste of Vesbian ale and even a Vulcan might become a beer drinker.” He added, “It’s that good.”
Mister Spock arched an eyebrow. “Indeed?” he replied.
“You may get your chance, Spock,” said Kirk. “I’m taking you and McCoy down to Vesbius in the landing party.” He turned to Lieutenant Uhura. “Lieutenant, ask the doctor to join us in the transporter room.”
“Doctor McCoy to the transporter room,” said Uhura into her station intercom.
Spock cocked his head. “Doctor McCoy is famously averse to having his atoms spread across the universe. May I inquire as to the purpose of including him in the landing party?”
“You may,” Kirk replied with a sly smile. “It’s because of something Faber said just now—that statement about strong cultural and genetic ties to humanity. We may need the doctor.”
“Sir,” Spock replied.
“Besides,” said Kirk, “I had an image of the three of us raising tankards of ale and getting pleasantly sloshed together in a Vesbian beer garden.”
“Unlikely, Captain,” said Spock. “Alcohol does not have the same effect on Vulcans as it does upon humans, where it loosens the inhibitions and serves as a social lubricant. For Vulcans, it merely quiets the mind and heightens ...