Chris nodded his head. It was almost exactly as he had expected it would be… "I see…"

"We've calculated that if we continue mining, in one year…we will be past the point of no return. Once there…our resources will never be able to recover, and if we do manage to liberate our planet after that time…we will never be able to sustain life on our planet alone. That would mean our only plan of attack would not work…"

Chris frowned curiously. "What is your primary plan of attack?"

Rendal looked at Chris again. "On our planet is one of the Vendoth's planetary shield generators. We figure it would take us an hour to reconfigure it and update it to permanently defend us from the Vendoth…but the problem is all of the Vendoth stationed on our planet as well as the single vessel in orbit. That's why we need help…"

"And that's where we would come in," Chris filled in the rest. "You need us…to help liberate your planet."

Rendal nodded. "Yes…that's correct."

Everyone around the briefing table looked at him, expecting him to come right out and say that they would help…

…But that wasn't going to happen. This entire situation produced a dilemma for Chris…

"Look…we would like to help you…but we have a prime directive that states that we can not interfere with either of your cultures."

Rendal's jaw dropped in surprise…as did everyone else's. "Captain!" Lieutenant Ada Marquet stated in surprise.

He glared at her a moment. "Ada, you and I both know that fact." He then hesitated…and let his hesitation show on his face. "However…my morals also dictate that we should help them…hence my dilemma…"

That silenced everyone. They couldn't understand this…Chris had always let himself be driven by his morals. Why the sudden change now? That's something he didn't want to discuss with them…

"So therefore…I'll make my decision in four hours," he said. "We'll reconvene then. Dismissed."

Everyone hesitated, wondering what was with the sudden change in heart…but then stood up and left. Rendal was once again escorted by security to his quarters…leaving Chris alone to contemplate…



The twinkling stars…so beautiful and bright…only they weren't twinkling. Chris had an unhindered view of them, with only a thick piece of transparent material between his ready room and the vacuum of space…

He searched those stars for an answer…but could not find one…for they did not help. He was alone…he no longer had Sarah to consult. Tom was a friend, yes…but not someone he had often confided in. He trusted him…but…

It wasn't the same. Chris had gotten over Sarah's death about a month ago, with a little help from someone… But he still missed her. She was usually the one who would help him realize what needed to be done…but she was not here to give that moral support…

He was alone now…stranded in the Kalium galaxy with a crew that looked up to him for guidance and support…yet how could he support them if he couldn't figure himself out either?

His thoughts were startled as his door chime sounded. He collected his nerves for a moment, then said, "Enter."

He heard the doors part and then close with a hiss, as well as the familiar sound of footsteps approaching his desk. He simply remained sitting there in his chair, staring out into the ocean of stars…

"Captain?" Vendar's voice asked.

He smiled when he heard her voice. "Hello, Vendar." He didn't turn to greet her.

"I came to inform you that its been nearly four hours…we're all waiting for you in the briefing room."

He frowned and turned to look at her. She hadn't sat down, she simply remained standing in a 'relaxed' position. "You could have told me that over the comm system."

She shrugged innocently. "Maybe…"

He smiled as he realized why she had come personally. She wanted to help her Captain…but more than that, she wanted to know why he suddenly changed his way of thinking.

"You want to know why I didn't immediately jump into this ordeal," he said…not asking, but stating. Vendar simply nodded and smiled. "Well, then, have a seat."

He was surprised himself that he was going to tell her… As she sat down, he wondered why he trusted her more than he trusted his own first officer…and friend since the Enterprise days and even before then…

"For the past two and a half…hell, nearly three years," he began, "I've given many orders…many orders that will get this crew in trouble, should we make it home. If I give the order to help this man's species…it will simply be getting us in deeper. We're already up to our necks as it is…"

She nodded her head in understanding. "I see…as Captain, you feel it is your duty to force the Federation's morals onto the rest of the crew?"

Chris shook his head, half expecting her to have said that. "No…if anything, when I make an order, I'm forcing my morals onto the crew. But they agreed to let that happen to them the moment they signed up at Starfleet academy. It's what comes with the job…following other's orders."

"So then what you're saying is…that you feel responsible for what happens to this crew," she amended.

"That's precisely what comes with being a Captain," Chris stated, talking more to himself than her. "Every order you give could either save them or kill them. I have control of their lives…I've had control of their lives for nearly three years now. In that time…I've condemned them to who knows how many court marshals. Why should I add to those charges? Would it not be selfish to order them to break the prime directive simply because my morals say that we must?"

Vendar leaned forward and put her hand on his desk, bringing his attention to her. "Look, sir…I know I speak for everyone when I say that we are behind what ever order you give. We have been so since we were first stranded here. We may not have always agreed…but in the end, it somehow or another worked out. You're not the only one here with morals, you know."

That's when it hit Chris… She was right! Why did he think he was the only one with morals?

"I'm willing to bet that if you put it up for a vote…everyone would agree that helping this man's species is the right thing to do, the thing that we must do."

Chris nodded his head for a moment, deep in thought… She was right…he knew his crew enough to realize that they would follow him to the ends of the universe if need be…and they would support him in the process…

He stood up without speaking and headed for the exit. Vendar stood and followed him out onto the bridge, across the command area, and to the doors to the briefing room. He hesitated for a moment…then moved forward a centimeter, forcing the doors opened. He walked in…and found everyone looking at him.

He stood there, Vendar next to him now, and looked at his crew. He was going to say something…then stopped. Instead of trying to justify his decision, he said, "I want battle readiness reports with in the next hour. Rendal, is there any way we can contact your people and tell them to be ready to strike?"

A huge smile came across Rendal's face. "Do you have cloaking technology?" he asked.

Chris nodded his head.

"Good. If we take a small craft in on the opposite side of the planet from where the Vendoth ship is…and if we provide a little momentary distraction, we should be able to get in past their sensors…hopefully. I can direct you to the location where you can beam down, as well as a time."

Chris smiled. He was a little uneasy with Rendal saying 'hopefully'…but it was good enough. "Then we're set. James, prepare the Captain's Yacht. I'll accompany you and Rendal to their planet." He then looked to Tom. "Tom, you'll be our distraction. While we approach the planet from the opposite side of the ship, you'll be entering orbit and…well, doing what ever it is you need to do, short of starting a conflict."

He nodded and replied, "Aye, sir."

"All right, people…let's get to work!"

With that, everyone smiled and stood up, moving around Chris and Vendar and out onto the bridge. Everyone looked curiously at Chris as they passed…but they weren't doing so because of his decision…and knowing that fact helped him feel like he made the right decision.

Finally, he looked at Vendar, who simply smiled at him and left the lounge, leaving him alone once again…



"We've dropped out of warp," the ensign at the helm reported.

"Standard orbit," Tom simply replied.

Right one cue, Vendar's console sounded an alert. "We're being hailed by the vessel in orbit…"

Tom smiled and stood up, hoping they were getting their full attention. "On screen."

A moment later, an…odd humanoid appeared on screen. It was…well, a lizard, by all accounts. Its skin texture was clearly leathery in the stark lighting on the command center of its ship. It had deep-set eyes with only slits for noses…and this one had two strings of hair leading from the top of it's mouth. It reminded Tom of an old Japanese mustache.

"I am VenQa' Po'Telch of the Vendoth," the alien said in a gruff, clearly male and dominating voice.

Tom nodded in acknowledgment. "I'm Lieutenant Commander Thomas Halkrat of the Federation starship Dragon."

"Why are you approaching our planet?" Po'Telch asked, clearly agitated.

Tom shrugged innocently as he moved closer to the view screen by a couple of steps. "We are explorers. When our sensors detected an M-class planet with a highly advanced ship in orbit, we became curious and wanted to investigate."

"We do not take kindly to lesser species," Po'Telch stated bluntly, clearly looking at Tom with discontent. "You have a choice…you can either leave our system or surrender your selves to us for rehabilitation into our society."

Tom frowned in what he hoped looked like sincere concern. In part…he really was concerned. "We mean you no harm or disrespect. We simply wish to make contact with new species."

"You have done so already!" Po'Telch stated at almost a shout. "Now move on!"

"Our sensors detect another species on the planet below," Tom countered, never showing any form of dominance. He had been warned not to do that by Rendal… "We would like to contact them and learn about them, as well as the Vendoth, if that is acceptable."

"It is not acceptable!" Po'Telch then took a moment to look at Tom…and Tom swore he smiled an evil smile! "You are human…what would happen if we were to send a message to the Kiklar and tell them that a starship of humans was near our space?"

That's when Tom's back became rigid. That truly did frighten him. The Kiklar were not to be messed with… "Look," he said, trying to contain his defiance and fear at the same time. "We simply wish to make any exchange if possible. An exchange of information, technology, what ever…anything that would show that we can coexist peacefully."

"The Vendoth do not coexist with inferiors!" Po'Telch stated, angered. "You now have twenty minutes to leave this planet. If you do not leave, we will not require the Kiklar to destroy you…for my ship alone will be adequate."

Star Trek Dragon graphics and written material copyright Jon Wasik. Star Trek is a registered trademark
of Paramount Pictures, a Viacom company. No copyright infringement intended.