A/N: Hey guys. So I've recently gone through a rough break-up and haven't really been writing. Thank you for being patient. I apologize if this chapter isn't quite up to par with the last one.
The Enterprise was on a mission to Lhan XI, a small planet that had been vying for a position in the Federation for some time. The mission was to contact the government ruler of the planet and decide whether or not the culture was mature enough for consideration. After the rendezvous, Kirk would write and submit a report to which ever official was in charge of memberships to the Federation.
It was standard procedure. Any culture that developed Warp Drive technology would be approached by the Federation. Earth had been approached by Vulcan when it had finally developed and now the process was being continued on Lhan XI.
Though Kirk had found that Warp Drive technology was not always the defining aspect of what made a culture advanced enough to be considered mature. He remembered once stumbling across a planet that had Warp Drive but still endorsed slavery and saw no wrong in it. The King of the country they had landed in also wished to have Kirk and his crew help him fight a war against the neighbouring country. The general consensus amongst the Starfleet officers was that particular planet was not ready to join the Federation.
The landing party due for Lhan XI consisted of the usual. It was Kirk, McCoy, Spock as well as one redshirted personnel who joined them in the Transporter Room. The four of them were equipped with phasers and communicators. There wasn't a foreseeable problem with security, the people on Lhan XI seemed peaceful. They were more scientific and curious than war-like. It was a relief to Kirk that they were going to be visiting a more-or-less hospitable planet. They had visited too many hostile planets in his opinion.
They took a shuttle down to the planet's surface. It was the easiest way to approach without causing distress. The people of Lhan XI were aware of Starfleet's existence but research showed that they had not produced teleportation technology yet. Therefore, they took the shuttle.
Once on the planet surface, the landing party was greeted by a high ranking Lhanian diplomat. The Lhanians were a humanoid race but besides their basic body structure there was no similarities between them and humans. The first discerning quality was that Lhanians had no mouths. They communicated via strong telepathic thoughts that could be broadcasted in a way that mimicked perceivable speech. Their eyes were large and black. Their skin had a purple tinge to it with dark blue markings on their faces. Every set of face markings was different which identified individuals. Overall, the Lhanians were a bit unnerving but friendly.
'Greetings,' the Lhanian diplomat spread his arms open wide. 'Welcome, Federation, to our home.'
Kirk gave a broad smile and spread his arms as well. "On behalf of the Federation, we thank you."
'My name is Karn,' the diplomat's thoughts came across with a mental smile. 'I'm pleased to make your acquaintance.'
"My name is Captain Kirk," he jabbed his thumb over his shoulder, "These are my officers, First Officer Spock, Chief Medical Officer Doctor McCoy and Ensign Drew."
'Welcome,' Karn inclined his head, his large black eyes blinking at them.
The diplomat led them to a large official building. As they walked, Karn told them about the government system in more detail. The king of their planet was elected in a democratic vote that spanned the whole planet. Their current king was a female by the name of Kane. When asked, Karn explained that 'king' was a rough translation into Earth English. The gender of the individual was not a factor when voting for a leader. This launched Karn into explaining that there were four main genders on their planet: the standard male and female; and then bi-gendered which were both and non-gendered which was neither. Spock was immediately fascinated and soon he and Karn were in a deep discussion about it.
"Which pronouns are acceptable?" Spock asked, "Since gender identity is separate from the physical sex?"
'Because you are Off-Worlders, singular "they" is acceptable,' Karn said with some amusement. 'My gender identity is bi-gender, but you all may refer to me as 'he' for simplicity.'
"Interesting," murmured Spock as they walked through a large set of doors. They came into a brightly lit room. A long table with many Lhanians seated around it was the centerpiece of the room. Many pairs of black eyes turned and focused on them. There was a small buzz of conversation that echoed in their ears and in their minds. It was a surreal feeling for the three humans. It was much more alarming with plenty of voices than with only Karn. Spock was slightly more accustomed to it, being part of a telepathic race. Kirk had it a bit easier than McCoy and Drew. He had some practise with someone else being in his head.
A female bodied Lhanian who was sitting at the head of the table stood up. Kirk assumed she was Kane. 'Welcome,' she broadcasted to them, 'and thank you for coming to meet with us today. I am Kane, elected king of this planet. These are my advisors and representatives of each province,' she motioned with one hand at the Lhanians seated around the table.
"Thank you for the kind welcome," Kirk bowed slightly at the waist. He then presented the rest of the landing party. A spark seemed to leap into Kane's eyes during the introductions.
'I hope that you enjoy your stay here,' she told them warmly, 'Karn will be your guide for the duration of your visit. If you have any questions, they will help you in any way they can. I will also be at your disposal for anything you may require.'
Spock perked up at the use of singular 'they'. It was interesting to hear it used in English. It sounded a bit off but was acceptable. Spock supposed that they had plenty of different pronouns in their native language but English was too primitive to translate into.
Karn ushered them out. 'I will show you around our city and teach you a few necessary customs,' his voice had a shy smile on it, 'and then tonight there will be a banquet and socializing afterwards. You will get a better chance to meet Kane then.'
"A banquet," Kirk mused, "Uh, Karn, will there be... human food?"
'Do not worry,' Karn assured him, 'we will prepare some food fit for your consumption. We do not have mouths like yours but there are still things you will be able to eat.'
"Excellent. Thank you."
The city was quite beautiful. Everything had a sleek look about it. The buildings were mostly white with hints of purples and greens. Karn told them that everything was built from a strong type of rock that was mined from an inhabitable part of the planet. All the walls were warm to the touch. Apparently the type of rock used gave off its own heat, which provided free heating to everyone.
Outside was lovely. There were tall trees with red coloured leaves that towered above. Sunlight streamed through the canopies, giving the air a dreamlike quality. Lhanians they passed on the street gave them inquiring looks but no one stopped them. There seemed to be little to no traffic. People walked everywhere. When asked, Karn told them that the only vehicles used were for transport of goods and public transit. No one had a personal vehicle. They walked everywhere, unless it was very far. If that was the case they caught a bus. Karn had struggled to explain it but Spock confirmed that the English word was "bus".
In fact, Lhan XI was very idyllic. It was perfect. There seemed to be no crime or violence.
"What's the secret?" Kirk asked. "How do you keep such a perfect society?"
'We can all sense what the others are feeling,' Karn said, 'every living thing is connected by, how do you say,' he paused and struggled to find the word, 'les liens?'
"Lay lee-ain?" Kirk sounded it out, puzzled.
"He means links," Spock replied. "Link is "lien" in Earth French."
Karn nodded enthusiastically. 'Yes, yes. Link is what I mean. I apologize. I studied Earth languages as soon as we discovered the Federation years ago. I have a gift for language but sometimes I get them confused.'
"Can you explain "links"?" McCoy asked. He seemed as curious as Spock.
'There are these coloured lines that run from person to person. Every colour represents something different, but no colour is set in stone. A pink line representing romance could turn to purple which represents marriage once the couple is married. Blue lines represent family, whether that is a sibling, a parent or a distant cousin. With everyone connected this way, it is much harder to harm others. You see how your actions affect others much more.'
McCoy cast a sideways look at Kirk. "Are these figurative lines?"
Karn shook his head. 'No. For some reason, our race has evolved with the ability to see these links.' He cocked his head to the side, 'For instance, the lines between you and Spock,' he indicated to Kirk, 'are purple and very thick! Your connection is very strong. And from both of you, there is a p—'
"—what colour is the line for friendship?" McCoy suddenly interrupted, face flushed slightly. Kirk glanced awkwardly back at Ensign Drew. Spock bumped him mentally, reminding him to keep composure.
Karn looked at them unblinkingly for a moment. 'The friendship line is yellow,' he answered. Then he turned to Spock. 'If I remember correctly, Vulcans are telepathic.'
"That is correct," Spock nodded.
'May I?' Karn held up a hand. Spock raised an eyebrow but nodded again. Karn reached out and laid his palm on Spock's neck. There was a sharp intake of breath from the Vulcan as something hot-cold entered his mind. His eyes widened alarmingly. Spock was suddenly barraged by an explosion of colour as soon as Karn removed his hand.
He could see the lines. They were everywhere, like spider webs strung hastily about. A whole rainbow crisscrossed the streets connecting Lhanians together. He looked down to see a thick deep purple line flowing out of his chest and into Kirk's. A second pink line, not as thick but just as vibrant also came from his chest and was connected to McCoy. At one point it branched off and was connected to Jim as well. It was the perfect visual summary of their relationship. It was no wonder why Kane seemed very interested during the introductions at the official building.
"Spock?" Kirk asked timidly, briefly touching his shoulder. "What happened?"
"I see the lines, Captain. Karn was quite accurate in their description."
Karn beamed at the use of the singular "they".
"What does the green line stand for?" Spock asked.
'Acquaintanceship or professional relationship. Like the lines connecting myself to the four of you.'
"How can Spock see these lines?" McCoy asked with a hint of worry in his voice. Doctor-mode was kicking in, Kirk thought with amusement.
'Do not be alarmed, Doctor. I just, ah, how do you say, "rubbed off" some of this ability on his mind telepathically. He is the only one I can do it to because of his strong telepathic powers. It will go away eventually.'