Kirk picked up his PADD and stared blankly at the screen for what seemed like the hundredth time. The Enterprise had just completed a routine resupply mission to the mining colony on Sigma II-i, and he had finished his report hours ago. Probably somewhere in there he had mistaken boridium cells for borodian cells, but giving it a thorough read-through seemed rather tedious. He shifted in his chair, crossing his legs the other way, and drummed his fingers on the armrest. Maybe he could convince Spock to check the report; he would certainly notice any errors. Or Bones…
Kirk put his PADD down again and stared at the view screen. They were at warp, and would be for many hours to come. The hum of the bridge was starting to annoy him.
"How's that diagnostic coming, lieutenant?"
Chekov lazily spun his chair around and answered, "Eet finished a vhile back, ceptain. There vas a failing plasma coil on E deck."
Kirk sat up and punched the button on his armrest. "Scotty! We need to replace a plasma coil!"
Spock turned and raised an eyebrow at the captain's tone.
"Already done, sir." Came Scotty's cheerful reply.
Kirk sat back in his chair, defeated. He picked up his PADD and tried to get the fingerprints off with his shirt.
"Hey Spock, wanna read over my report?"
"I'm sure you are more than capable of composing a suitable document without my input."
Kirk glared at the back of the vulcan's head.
"Captain," said Uhura, re-arranging her earpiece. "I'm picking up a distress call."
With great effort, Kirk restrained his inward exclamation of "Yes!" and settled for a suitably grave "let's hear it."
Static resolved into garbled voices, and then into words. "ssysst- il soon lose power. If you can hear this message, we request assistance. Calling all ships in the area. We have sustained damage to our propulsive systems and will soon lose power. If-" Uhura shut off the recording. "It repeats."
"Sixty-four mark seven," said Sulu, his fingers already plotting a course.
"Take us there, Lieutenant," said Kirk, rising from his seat and pacing energetically.
"E.t.a. four minutes." Even Sulu's usually soothing baritone sounded more animated than usual.
"The signal is emanating from interstellar space," Spock mentioned, intent on the scanner, "which is consistent with the claims of malfunction."
"Anything interesting nearby?"
"A Class G star system, and an Class F star system. There's a class 17 nebula several parsecs away. Sigma II-i is the closest location of note."
"Type of ship?"
"Our scanners will be in range in," Spock glanced at a different screen, "eighty seconds."
Kirk frowned. The distress call was unusually light on specifics. The ship was not identified- the speaker was not identified… "Uhura, any other signals?"
"No sir." As she removed the earpiece her earrings shook, glittering in the light. "I also don't recognize the accent."
It was Kirk's turn to raise his eyebrows. "Couldn't it be a local dialect of something you're familiar with?"
"I don't think so. This is a species I haven't heard before."
"We have entered scanner range, Captain."
The starfield swiveled, coming to rest with a tiny object at its center, too dark and too far away to distinguish.
The object enlarged, and dark as it still was, there was no mistaking the wide wings and the sloping head of-
"A Bird of Prey," muttered Chekov, puzzled.
"It wasn't a Klingon in the message." Uhura said firmly.
Kirk slapped a hand against the arm of his chair. "Shields up. Spock?"
"Their shields are down. Weapons are uncharged. The ship is operating on minimal power. Biosigns… 17, humanoid. Heavy damage to the propulsive systems. It seems to have been some time since the battle occurred," Spock frowned. "Approximately twenty Earth days."
Kirk sat in his chair, pondering the ship that was growing ever clearer on the view screen. "Hail them."
"This is the Federation Starship Enterprise, responding to your distress call. Please respond."
The cackle of static was the only response. Kirk listened for a moment. "Keep trying. Chekov, how far are we?"
"Tventy million kilometers and closing, sir."
"Let's keep our distance lieutenant."
The Enterprise held at a thousand kilometers, following the listing Bird of Prey. The static continued. Then-
"Enterprise. Thank you for responding." Relief was evident in the low female voice.
"This is Captain James Kirk. With whom am I speaking."
"My name is Antara Scolash." She paused, and continued uncertainty. "I have no official position; this vessel is manned by refugees of an invasion of our home planet, Dronkolo, by the ones who call themselves the Klingons." Her distaste for the final word was apparent, even through the transmission.
"Can you activate your viewscreen?"
"Just a moment."
A minute passed before the screen switched to the incoming transmission. A dark-eyed, dark-haired woman, her sleeves rolled up to the elbow and her pants rather dusty, was fiddling with a command console. Behind her, crewmembers were trickling onto the bridge in ones and twos. She looked up and said, "my apologies captain. These systems are still unfamiliar to me."
"Of course," said Kirk, sympathetically glancing at the Klingon characters on the command console. "Do any of your people require medical attention?"
"Not anymore," Scolash said harshly. Another crewmember caught her eye and gave her a sharp look. She recovered herself. "We've made use of the medical supplies on board to treat minor injuries."
"Alright," said Kirk. "I'll send a team over to see if we can help repair your engines and give you any supplies you need." He was about to punch the button for Scotty when Scolash interrupted him.
"It's not quite that simple, captain. As I mentioned, the Klingons invaded our homeworld- the fourth planet in the nearby nine-planet system. They lay waste to it, hunting creatures to extinction. This ship is in disrepair, yes, and we thank you for helping us repair it. But if we cannot repair the harm the Klingons have done to our planet then our efforts will be for nothing." The bridge of the Bird of Prey had filled with the refugees. Seventeen pairs of eyes stared at Kirk. "We have some specific ideas for restoring our planet that perhaps you can help us with," Scolash finished.
Kirk looked at Spock, about to volunteer his services, but Spock quietly said, "Captain, a word."
With a polite nod, Kirk said "just a moment Miss Scolash," and Uhura ended the transmission. He turned to Spock.
"Captain, these people are from Iota Geminorum IV, a planet orbiting the nearby Class G star. Almost two centuries ago, a Vulcan survey ship cataloged the planet as having intelligent life and projected them to reach warp capability sometime in the twenty-fifth century."
Kirk's stomach suddenly sank. The Prime Directive. It was perhaps the regulation that was the most difficult to follow.
"It is incredibly unlikely that this society has reached warp capability in so short a time. In fact, it is unusual that they would have developed enough to even pilot the Bird of Prey."
Kirk swore under his breath. "The Klingons have already violated the prime directive. We can't just sit back and watch their planet be destroyed- that would certainly interfere with this society's development. We have to help them correct what the Klingons have done."
"The invasion was a disaster, certainly, but not one that we caused or have any reason to correct," Spock reasoned. "The Prime Directive states that the Federation will not interfere with pre-warp societies in the case of a disaster."
"In the case of natural disasters, Spock, natural disasters!"
Spock considered. "This requires further discussion."
Kirk closed his eyes for a moment. "Yes it does." He would call a meeting with the senior staff. "First we need more information. Spock, lead an away team to inspect their ship and learn what you can about the Klingon invasion." Spock raised an eyebrow. "I know what you're going to say," Kirk raised a hand to stop the incoming protest, "but these are refugees who have managed to steal and pilot a Klingon ship. They're dead in the water, and interacting with them cannot contaminate their homeworld."
Spock reflected. "Very well. However, I would prefer to go alone. It is still imperative that we minimize contamination, and I can attend to that necessity with more ease than the rest of the crew."
Kirk smiled. Spock could certainly be tight-lipped when he got the notion. "Alright. Uhura?"
The connection flickered back to life. "Miss Scolash. I have just a few questions for you."
"Go ahead Captain Kirk."
"What is the state of your culture's space technology?"
Surprise flitted across her face. "We've sent spacecraft to all the planets and moons in our solar system. We have a permanent settlement on the fifth planet as well as the largest moon of the seventh." She stopped hesitantly, "is that the type of information you're looking for?"
"Yes it is," said Kirk, heart sinking. They clearly had not developed warp technology. "How does the technology you're familiar with compare to the systems aboard the Klingon vessel?"
"Well we've had some trouble," she began. "The main power generator was a puzzle at first. We've pretty much figured out how it works and concluded that it's beyond our ability to repair without replacement parts. The propulsion system is similar to one we use on our homeworld, although it's more efficient than designs I'm familiar with. There's another much faster propulsive system that I've never seen the likes of. We used it briefly, before the Klingons took it out."
"I see. The thing is, Miss Scolash, that our society tries not to interfere with planets that have not yet developed certain space technologies independently. As refugees on an advanced space vessel, we can perhaps help you, but there may be a limit to what we can do."
A frown darkened Scolash's face. "We appreciate your assistance, Captain. But I hope to discuss this further."
"As do I. My science officer, Mr. Spock, will beam over to your ship for an inspection."
The swish of the turbolift doors told Kirk that Spock was already on his way. Kirk caught the vulcan's eye. Spock gave almost imperceptible nod before the doors swished shut.
Kirk wearily settled into his chair, picking up his PADD. He pressed submit on the report. Typos seemed rather unimportant at the moment.
A/N: This just a little piece I did for pure fun of it and then re-purposed slightly for posting here. There are four chapters, this one's the longest. I'll post them over the next week as I get the last of the typos out.
I feel like this story in general is heavy on the dialogue, and I'm not sure if I like how it works. I'd be interested to hear what you think.