Life in the Neutral Zone
Stardate 2258.114.The starship Enterprise, recently returned from a successful mission to neutralize the Romulan war criminal Nero, departs from Earth under the command of its new Captain, James T. Kirk. At the request of the Federation, the Enterprise is dispatched to Earth Station 8, located at the edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone. It is suspected that recent distress calls in the area are due to Romulan attacks, and the Enterprise is tasked with defending the colonies and space stations in the area. This is the story of all that happens on that fateful journey.
Captain Kirk jerked awake, a siren blaring over his bed. A red light swirled ominously around his room as he jumped out of bed, swearing loudly. Hauling on a boot, he jabbed the com pad near the door with his elbow and shouted over the blaring wail, "Kirk to bridge, what the hell is going on?!"
"It would appear we are being attacked, Captain," Spock sounded infuriatingly cool, even as an explosion rocked the ship.
"No kidding!" Jim growled, ripping his uniform over his head and hurtling out of his quarters. As he barreled up the hallway towards the stairs he passed Scotty, his Starfleet badge pinned haphazardly to a red nightshirt, rushing to engineering. Taking the stairs two at a time, he burst through the doors to the bridge as another round attack made the panels above his head spark and fizz.
"Spock, report," he said, striding onto the bridge. "Where are we?"
"We passed Earth Station 7 a few minutes ago Captain. Shortly thereafter Ensign Chekov picked up several approaching spacecraft in the nearby Neutral Zone, traveling at Warp 9. We attempted to hail the ships, but they would not respond. Evidently," Spock waved a hand at the window, where Jim could see two Romulan Warbirds streaking alongside them, "they do not wish to communicate with us."
"Romulans!" Jim cursed, flinging himself into the Captains chair. "We aren't even in their space! Sulu, can't we outrun them?"
Sulu opened his mouth to reply, but Spock beat him to it, "Captain, as I am sure you are aware, this vessel can only travel up to Warp 8. The Romulan ships are, regrettably, faster than the Enterprise."
Another blast shook the hull. If possible, the sirens blared louder as Chekov reported, "Shields at 56% Ceptain!"
"Jim, we've got to attack back!" Bones had appeared on the bridge.
"The Doctor is right Captain, returning fire would be the logical course of action."
"No! The last thing we need is an excuse for the Romulan Empire to attack the Federation," Uhura protested from behind, "Starfleet is already on bad terms with them over Nero."
"Ensign Uhura, forgive me," Spock said, and his voice was surprisingly cool toward her, "Forgive me, but it would appear that the Romulan Empire is already attacking the Federation."
"Alright," Jim broke over them, as Uhura looked ready to retort, "This isn't the time for lover's spats. Sulu, arm phasers."
Spock flushed slightly and sent both Uhura and Jim a furious look before striding to his post and turning his back on them both. "Aye aye, Captain," Sulu replied.
"Fire at will."
A hail of red jets flew across the window at the Warbirds, which returned fire, making the ship shake more violently than ever.
"Their shields are holding, sir," Sulu reported.
"Damages to deck four, sewen and ten Ceptain," Chekov relayed, his fingers flying over the control pad.
"Hit them again Sulu."
Once again the phasers had no effect. "Their shields are still holding at 90%, sir – they're too strong!" Sulu said, a note of panic creeping into his voice as his consol began to smoke and spark.
Jim drummed his fingers against the arm of the chair anxiously.
"Jim?" Bones prodded him irritatingly.
"Arm phaser cannons," the Captain decided.
"Sir, those weapons have not yet been tested - " Spock started to protest.
"Arm phaser cannons!" Jim ignored him as the sirens around him blared.
"Armed, sir," came Sulu's reply.
"Fire them then!" Jim yelled.
There was a deafening explosion that shook the ship, and Jim just had time to see the rockets connect with the nearest Warbird before he was lurching forward in his seat as the Enterprise dropped suddenly out of warp. Only managing to keep his seat with difficulty, he swore as beside him Bones was thrown off his feet and slid into Chekov's chair.
"Jesus Sulu!" Jim swore, wrenching himself to a sitting position as the Russian Ensign helped Bones to his feet. "What the hell are you doing!"
"That wasn't me Captain," Sulu said, punching furiously at the schematic buttons on his damaged consol.
"Bridge to engineering, what's going on?!" Jim said urgently, and the computer responded with a multi-tonal chirp, followed by Scotty's beleaguered voice.
"We've damage to the nacelles Captain! Warp capability is virtually nil at the moment!"
"Dammit!" Jim cursed again. "Chekov, where are the Romulans?"
"It would appear we disabled one of them Ceptain, but the other is doubling back."
"Shields at 34% Captain," Bones was standing over an abandoned terminal as Sulu tried futilely to return his to full function.
"Captain, with our shields at such a low level, another attack by the Romulan ship - "
"Yeah, thank you Spock, I know," Jim growled with more hostility than he intended.
"Captain, we are being hailed!" Uhura announced.
"Open a channel," Jim said, resuming his chair warily. The view screen crackled and then a face swam into view, but it was not Romulan.
It was Reman. The angry alien in front of him furrowed his blue brow at the crew of the Enterprise.
"Intruders," the Reman said, his voice powerful. "You have attacked us. It is our intent to destroy your vessel, but first we wish to know your identity."
"It was you who attacked us!" Jim remarked indignantly.
"We were merely defending ourselves," the Reman said coolly.
"From what?" Jim retorted.
"You have invaded our territory, and we have used force we deemed nessessary to remove you."
Jim let out an involuntary derisive laugh and was about to reply when he felt a hot hand clench his shoulder painfully. Spock was standing behind him and Jim knew the contact was a warning.
"I was not aware that Remans had a territory in space," Spock said diplomatically, silencing his captain. "Except, of course, the territory it shares with the Romulan Empire."
The Reman captain turned to Spock with interest, his voice losing some of its malice "We are a rogue faction of the Remans, a rebel group who overthrew our Romulan oppressors, stole their Starships and have begun to forge an Empire of our own outside of Romulan space. But what is a Vulcan doing aboard a vessel full of humans?"
"This is a Federation Starship," Jim retorted, "All Federation races are represented in our crew."
"I would rather converse with the Vulcan – we share a common ancestry….and a sense of diplomacy that humans appear to lack," the Reman said smugly. "Please identify yourself, brother."
It was only Spock's fingernails biting into his shoulder that stopped Jim from shouting out the alien. Instead, Spock's cool voice was the one that replied.
"I am Starfleet Commander Spock, son of Sarek of the Vulcan High Council," Spock said calmly. "This is the Federation Starship Enterprise, on route to Earth Station 8 to combat possible Romulan attacks on Federation holdings in the region."
The Reman eyed them with renewed interest. "Romulan attacks, you say?"
The Reman went silent, extended his index and ring fingers on each hand and pressed them to his temples. Spock's hand eased its painful pressure on Jim's shoulder until it merely rested there – apparently Spock trusted him to keep his mouth shut for now.
The bridge doors slide open, admitting a severely harassed looking Montgomery Scott.
"The nacelles are shot sir," he said in defeat. "We think it was the phaser missiles that did it – those babies aren't meant to be fired at warp. They destabilized everything, and when you're running the nacelles at maximum…" he made an explosion hand gesture.
Jim put his head in his hands, massaging his brow. "How long to fix them Scotty?"
"Weeks, sir, weeks if we're lucky."
Jim turned, about to exclaim incredulously, but Spock hand was suddenly vice-like on his arm again as the Reman captain cleared his throat.
"I have conferred with my superiors, and they have confirmed what you say about yourselves. You do well to speak truthfully, brother," he addressed Spock. "The Reman Empire has decided to allow you to live."
Jim managed to hold himself in with difficulty as Spock replied, "That is most considerate of you. Your kindness to the Federation will not go unrewarded."
"However," the Reman continued as if Spock had not spoken. "If we are to allow you to pass safely through our area of space, we feel it only prudent to take some….precautions."
Spock raised an eyebrow, "Such as?"
"Our scanners indicate that your ship can be operated in a subsistence manner by two crew members. As such, we will require that the majority of your crew is transferred to our vessel for the duration of your travel through our space. The Earth Station you seek is on the borders of our territory, and we will escort your crew to that location. Should you comply fully with out terms, you will reach the edge of our space safely and will be able to rendezvous with your crew there."
"Bu - " Jim began.
"Our ship has sustained damage from our recent…misunderstanding." Spock spoke loudly over the captain. "Our warp drive is damaged."
"We Remans are patient, so long as we have progress. Your ship will simply have to go as quickly as it can."
"Which is how fast?" Jim directed the question at Scotty.
"Warp 3, sir," the engineer said with distaste.
"Three?" Jim could not help the note of disbelief in his voice. He turned to Chekov, "At that speed, how far to Station 8?"
"About ten days sir," the Ensign replied.
Jim settled for looking at Spock beseechingly. Spock looked down at him sternly before looking back up at the Reman captain again. "I suppose that there is no chance that we can negotiate terms?"
"I apologize brother, but it is you who has trespassed, and therefore us who will decide the terms of our engagement."
Spock closed his eyes for a moment before looking down at Jim again. "Captain, I think it would be best to accept the proposed plan of action."
"You can't be serious Spock."
"I agree Jim," Bones said, looking surprised at himself. He rarely if ever saw eye to eye with Spock since Jim had been marooned on Delta Vega. "There's not much else we can do, damaged as we are."
"Spock," the Reman said commandingly. Spock turned to face the alien again. "You and your captain will remain on the ship, and the rest of the crew will evacuate within ten minutes or we will consider your inaction to be hostile."
Spock turned to Jim, raising a questioning eyebrow. Jim scanned the faces on the bridge.
"Just say the word Jim," Bones advised, and the assembled officers nodded in agreement.
"Fine," Jim said, punching the com on his chair to activate the ship-wide message screens. "This is the captain speaking. Report to evacuation pods immediately, for immediate transport to the nearby Reman ship. Everything will be explained there. Kirk out."
"Excellent, Captain," the Reman said, smiling without warmth. "We will see you in ten days."
The transmission ended, revealing the empty black space all around them. Jim stood and Spock finally released his shoulder. It felt cold at the loss of the Vulan's unusual heat.
"Scotty, Chekov," Jim said quickly. "I want you to run quick assessments on the ships main systems. Make sure they can be in operating condition for at least days, then get to the pods."
"I will oversee the evacuations, Captain," Spock said. Jim nodded, and the Vulcan swept from the room, followed by all but Chekov, whose fingers were already whipping over the controls at his station, running diagnostics.
"I haf reset the nawigator systems and fuel gauges for trawel to Earth Station 8 at Warp 3 Ceptain," the young Russian informed him less that four minutes later.
"Excellent work," Jim said, meaning it. "Now get to the shuttles."
"Aye aye sir!" he rushed out the bridge doors just as Spock reentered. Jim gave him a questioning look.
"Mr. Sulu and Dr. McCoy are in control of the situation. The pods should launch within two minutes."
Jim nodded as the Vulcan came to stand beside him, both staring out of the wide window at the Reman ship. Moments later, the escape shuttles powered into view from alongside the Enterprise, docking with the other ship as the two men watched in silence. Soon the last pod had docked. The Reman ship flicked its insignia lights at the Enterprise once before going to warp. In an instant the ship and crew were gone, leaving Spock and Jim alone on the bridge of the Enterprise.
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