written by Travis Cannon

Captain Benjamin Kelsoe sat in his ready room waiting for Admiral Hayes transmission. The communicator beeped and Kelsoe heard Commander Tuff voice.

“Admiral Hayes' transmission is coming through,” Tuff said.

“Patch it through to my ready room,” Kelsoe said.

“Aye, Captain,” Tuff said.

Kelsoe turned around in his chair to face the view screen. Presently the view screen showed the Federation seal. Then the screen switched to Admiral Hayes sitting at his desk with the Starfleet symbol behind him.

“What's the matter Kelsoe?” Admiral Hayes inquired.

“Sir,” Kelsoe explained, “it's about the planet which the So'ja left out of the interstellar maps they gave up.”

“What exactly?” Hayes probed.

“Well...,” Kelsoe said adjusting his weight on the chair. “I've got three crewmen down there and... These aliens called the Tealuian, who claim that the planet is theirs, are not letting us retrieve our people.”

Hayes looked worried.

“That's not good,” Hayes said. “What exactly did these Tealuian say.”

“They said that once something is on the surface it belongs to them,” Kelsoe said.

“Ben,” Hayes said leaning forward, “I'm going to send the Victory and Forester out there to help you. And I'll get in touch with the So'ja government, the President will speak with the So'ja Ambassador, we'll get our people back! Hayes out.”

The Pioneer hovered along side the Victory, a Galaxy class starship, and the Forester, an Excelsior class starship. The Pioneer was position in the middle of the two. Both the Victory and the Forester were bigger than the Pioneer.

Captain Thomas Reese of the Victory, a man with a thinning hair line and liquid blue eyes, stood in the transporter room of the Victory awaiting the arrival of Captain Benjamin Kelsoe of the Pioneer, and Captain Gerald Marks of the Forester, a man in his mid-forties who has grown gray prematurely. The humming sounds of the transporters filled the room and soon Kelsoe and Marks were in the room. Reese extended his hand.

“Captain Reese,” he said.

“Captain,” Kelsoe said shaking his hand.

“Tom,” Marks said shaking Reese's hand.

“Let's go to my ready room,” Reese said.

Captain Reese sat at behind his desk, while Kelsoe and Marks sat on the chairs in front of it. Behind them was a big window, in which the Pioneer could be seen in the foreground and the Forester behind it. Reese leaned back in his chair.

“Tell me what's the matter, Captain Kelsoe,” Reese said with contempt in his voice.

“We've lost three Starfleet personal on a planet a day away from this point,” Kelsoe said, leaning forward. “They are Commander Connor Burt, my first officer, Lieutenant Norman Craig and Ensign Tracy Carson.”

“Did you say Tracy Carson?” Marks inquired.

“Yes,” Kelsoe said.

“That's Roger's daughter,” Marks said turning to Reese. “Should we alert Captain Carson.”

“No,” Reese said. “Roger would order his ship to the planet to look for her, we don't want that.”

“Right now, Commander Tuff is acting as first officer,” Kelsoe said. “Now he believes that if we send a Starfleet rescue team down to the surface we can save them.”

“Please, let's think about diplomatic methods first,” Marks said.

“According to Starfleet,” Reese said, “the Tealuian government have not responded from the So'ja Ambassador's queries. Sorry, Gerald, I don't think there are any diplomatic ways out of this one.” Reese leaned forward. “I need your complete cooperation on this. I need...”

“What are you doing?” Kelsoe interrupted.

“Taking charge,” Reese said. “I am the Captain of the largest and most powerful ship here.”

“But they are my crewmen,” Kelsoe stated.

“I don't care,” Reese said.

“Starfleet has not placed you in charge,” Kelsoe said. “I was told that I would be receiving help. Why are you taking over!”

Kelsoe stood up in a fit of anger. Reese tapped his communicator.

“Security to my ready room,” Reese said, standing up.

“What?!” Kelsoe said. “We're on the same team, here!”

The door opened and two security guards walked in with phasers drawn.

“That doesn't sound like it to me,” Reese said, and waved his hand.

The security guards quickly walked up at grabbed Kelsoe by his arms.

“What are you doing?!” Kelsoe demanded.

“Take him to the transporter room, and see that he is transported safely back to the Pioneer,” Reese said.

“Yes, Captain,” one of the security guards said and escorted Kelsoe out of the room.

Captain Reese sat down and looked over at a confused Marks.

“Something tells me that the So'ja Ambassador never returned from his visit with the Tealuian,” Marks said.

Kelsoe stepped off the transporter dais and walked over to Commander Tuff. Tuff looked into Kelsoe's eyes and new something was wrong.

“What's wrong, Captain?” Tuff inquired.

“We're out of the loop,” Kelsoe said.

Kelsoe and Tuff walked through the hallways towards the nearest turbo lift.

“Has Braxis finished in analyst of the planet's caverns?” Kelsoe asked.

“Not yet, Captain,” Tuff said.

They reached the turbo lift and the doors opened. They stepped in and the doors closed with a hiss.

“Bridge,” Kelsoe said and the turbo lift hummed to life. Kelsoe rubbed temples with his hands.

“Captain?” Tuff said, worried.

“Something is not right here,” Kelsoe said.

The turbo lift stopped and the door hissed opened onto the bridge. Kelsoe stepped out onto the bridge and down to his chair.

“Braxis, report,” Kelsoe said as he slide down into his chair.

Tuff went to his station.

“Captain,” Braxis said. “Analyst of the caverns are not yet complete, they shame be down in approximately five hours.”

Kelsoe shook his head, “To long. Can you try and speed it up?”

“That is impossible, Captain,” Braxis said.

“Well, just try,” Kelsoe said.

“Yes, Captain,” Braxis nodded.

“Captain?” Zimmer said.

“What is it, Mr. Zimmer?” Kelsoe inquired.

“We're receiving a message from the Victory,” Zimmer said.

“On screen.”

Captain Reese appeared on the screen. Kelsoe stood up quickly.

“Captain Kelsoe,” Reese said. “Your ship is not longer required. I have gotten orders from Starfleet Intelligence to lead this rescue, and I have no need for your ship. You are to report to Deep Space Five.”

“But that's out of So'ja space,” Kelsoe said. “If I'm correct Admiral Hayes orders were to explore So'ja space.”

“I've been given authorization to over ride Admiral Hayes orders by Starfleet Commander,” Reese said. “And my orders are for you to report to Deep Space Five. Reese out.”

The view screen switched back to the stars, and a view of the Victory's and Forester's rears. Kelsoe say them slowly thrust away and go into warp.

“Your orders, Captain?” Zimmer inquired.

“Set course for the planet, Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe.

“Aye, Captain,” Zimmer said with a smile and type in the coordinates.

“Maximum warp,” Kelsoe said.

Kelsoe turned around, towards Tuff.

“Get Admiral Hayes for me,” Kelsoe said. “I want an explanation.”

Kelsoe stormed into his ready room and sat in his chair. A few seconds later his communicator beeped.

“Admiral Hayes on a Federation secure line,” Tuff said.

“In my ready room, Rob,” Kelsoe said and glared at the little view screen in his ready room.

The screen flashed on and Hayes sat at his desk. He raised his hands.

“Ben,” Hayes said. “Calm down.”

“What the hell is going on here!?” Kelsoe demanded through clenched teeth. “I was told that I would be receiving help. Help!”

“Ben,” Hayes said. “I have no control over this, Captain Reese has fool authority over this.”

“You wouldn't have given up you control over this unless something terrible is happening,” Kelsoe said. “And I demand to know what it is.”

“I'm sorry, Ben, it's classified,” Hayes said. “Starfleet Intelligence is in charge of this operation. The entire Board of Chiefs of Starfleet Intelligence have given control of this operation to Captain Reese, I cannot charge it. You are to report to Deep Space Five has you were order to by Captain Reese.”

“But, Admiral Hayes!” Kelsoe said. “They are my crewmen!”

“This has become more than just three Starfleet officers being held on a strange alien planet,” Hayes said, close to a yell. “It's now a matter of national security. Hayes out.”

Hayes punched a button in front of him and the view screen showed the Federation seal with the words “Transmission Ended” underneath it. Kelsoe turned around in his chair and glared out at the stars zipping past. He clenched his hand into a fist and raised it above his head.


He slammed his fist against his desk.

Lieutenant Norman Craig sat leaned up against the rock staring at Tracy, who was still leaning against the rock wall, in shock. Burt rolled over and began to regain conscience. Burt sat up slowly rubbing his side, where the phaser had it.

“What... where...,” Burt muttered.

He was cut off by a loud war cry from Craig. Burt turned and saw Craig dash for him. Burt stumbled to his feet and dodged Craig's first punch. Burt clenched his fist and rammed it into Craig's stomach.

“Don't mess with me, Craig!” Burt said. “I'm in charge here!”

Burt grabbed Craig's uniform and threw Craig across the cavern. Tracy screamed as Craig hit the wall next to her. She got up and ran away. She did not realize it, but she was running straight for Burt. Burt grabbed her and pulled her close to him, hugging her.

“It's alright, Eve,” Burt said. “Adam is here.”

“What are you talking about?” Tracy said. “I am Tracy Carson, and you're Commander Burt.”

“No!” he shouted, shaking her violently.

Tracy's eyes widened has she saw Burt's eyes roll back into his skull so that only white was visible. Burt released her and fell to the floor jerking sporadically. There was a suddenly hiss and per from behind her. She could her the soft patter of feet walking. She turned around and saw a tall skinny blue alien with four legs standing in front of her. This alien was accompanied by two others. They looked at her with there big black eyes. She noticed that all the aliens were taking deep breaths through their mouths.

“It appears not be of the males' race,” one of the followers said.

Her jaw dropped and she stepped back.

“It response,” the second follower said.

“Silence,” the lead alien said.

It took one step and was a foot away from Tracy. It looked down at her. She turned her head away. Soon she felt the cool flesh of the alien's hand against her check. The alien raised her head to look at it.

“Strange creature, indeed,” the lead alien said.

“Is it not different from the rest,” the second said.

“Very different,” the first said.

“Yes, different, indeed,” the lead alien said. “Different.”

The alien looked into her down at her and for a moment their eyes locked. She felt a sudden burst of knowledge. They are the Tealuian. The world above is a pseudo. The really life is beneath the surface. They lurer others down to the surface by using telepathic abilities to make the planet look as the others would like and then they make a storm to drive the other into the caves where they... the link was severed and the tall lead Tealuian back away from her, rejoining its comrades.

“Separate the males,” the lead Tealuian said. “See if we have male that matches this female's race.”

The Tealuian stepped into the shadows and disappeared. Tracy turn around in time to see Burt's legs disappear into the shadows. She turned and looked at Craig. She saw three Tealuians gather around him. One turned and saw her staring. It lifted some device in its hand and Tracy suddenly collapsed.

The Pioneer came out of warp a ways from the planet, so that the Victory and Forester would not detect them. Kelsoe stood in the center of the bridge, behind Zimmer. He patted Zimmer on the back.

“Good job, Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said.

Kelsoe turned towards Braxis.

“Can you scan the planet from this distance?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Negative, Captain,” Braxis said. “It would require us to move closer, however any change in our certain position would allow the Victory to pick us up on its sensors.”

Kelsoe turned to Commander Tuff.

“Rob?” Kelsoe said. “I need a first officer's suggestion.”

Tuff glanced around the bridge, at Braxis and Zimmer, and then looked back at Kelsoe.

“We go in, Captain,” Tuff said. “To hell with our bloody orders. Those our shipmates down there.”

“Good thinking, Commander Tuff,” Kelsoe said with a smile, and turned towards the front of the bridge.

“You heard him, Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said. “Take us in.”

Captain Thomas Reese sat in his chair with a data pad in his hand. A crewman turned around from her station.

“Captain,” she said. “I'm picking up the Pioneer on our sensors.”

“What?!” Reese said. “On screen!”

He turned to his view screen and saw the Pioneer easing in between the two ships.

“You stubborn bastard Kelsoe,” Reese said through clenched teeth.

A Lieutenant turned around from his station.

“Captain,” the Lieutenant said. “The Pioneer is hailing us.”

“On screen!” Reese said standing up.

Kelsoe appeared on the screen.

“Captain Reese,” Kelsoe said calmly.

“Damn it, Kelsoe!” Reese growled. “I ordered you to Deep Space Five!”

“I'm not leaving my crewmen behind,” Kelsoe said.

“This is not your mission!” Reese said. “Starfleet Intelligence has full control over this. Leave or suffer the consequences.”

“I will never leave any of my crewmen,” Kelsoe said. “Kelsoe out.”

The view screen went back to showing the Pioneer in between the two ships. Reese clenched his hand into a fist and turned around.

“Lieutenant, target the Pioneer's engines,” Reese ordered.

“Captain?” the Lieutenant asked confused.

Reese walked up to the Lieutenant's stations.

“Fire!” Reese said pressing the phaser button.

A red phaser beam came from the Victory and hit the Pioneer's back side.

“Report!” Kelsoe said.

“Shields are holding,” Tuff said.

“Alright, Mr. Zimmer, let's show these guys that we're still pretty fast,” Kelsoe said.

“Right, sir,” Zimmer said turning around to the helm and moving the ship.

The Pioneer moved left, right underneath the Victory almost touching. Kelsoe leaned back and forth in his chair as he watched the young pilot steer the ship around the two other ships.

“Almost past them, sir,” Zimmer said.

“Let's see,” Kelsoe said turning to Braxis' station. “Sensors?”

“The Victory is not pursuing us,” Braxis informed Captain Kelsoe. “Neither is the Forester.”

Kelsoe nodded in satisfaction, and turned back around to face the front.

“Nice driving, Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said.

“Thank you, sir,” Zimmer said.

“Let's just hope that they don't follow us,” Kelsoe muttered to himself.

Zimmer steered the ship towards the planet.

“The Tealuians are not going to be pleased to see us,” Braxis said.

“I don't care,” Kelsoe said.

“Captain?!” the Lieutenant said from his station.

“What!?” Captain Reese screamed.

“They're getting away,” the Lieutenant said.

“I know that!” Reese said. “Tactical, aim for the engines, and fire.”

“Aye, sir,” said the tactical officer.”

“Captain,” Tuff said from his station. “Picking up two torpedoes, launched from the Victory.”

“And the Forester?” Kelsoe inquired, looking towards Braxis.

“No, sir,” Braxis said. “The Victory is the only one firing.”

“The torpedoes are gaining on us,” Tuff said.

“Increase to full impulse more, Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe ordered.

“Aye, Captain,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer steered the Pioneer in a way in which the torpedoes launched by the Victory.

“Captain Reese is insane!” Kelsoe said.

“Torpedoes still have a lock on us and are still gaining,” Tuff said. “Impact in twenty seconds.”

“The Victory is charging its phasers,” Braxis said.

The Lieutenant turned and looked at Captain Reese.

“But, sir?” the Lieutenant said.

“Don't 'but, sir' me!” Reese snapped. “We have our orders directly from Starfleet Intelligence! So, fire!”

The Lieutenant looked around at the rest of the confused crew on the bridge. The helmsman turned around to see what the Lieutenant would do. He looked back at the Captain and shook his head.

“Sorry, sir,” the Lieutenant said. “I cannot do that.”

“You are violating a director order from you superior officer,” Reese said. “Commander?!”

“I'm sorry, sir,” the Commander said. “The Lieutenant is correct. As far has I know, from what you've told me, our orders don't include destroying another Federation ship.”

“This is mutiny!” Captain Reese bellowed.

“Rob?” Kelsoe said. “The phasers?”

“They're lowering their phasers,” Tuff said.

“Captain,” Braxis said. “The Victory is hailing us.”

“On screen,” Kelsoe said, standing up and facing the view screen.

The screen switched from a shot of the planet to the face of the commander of the Victory. The commander nodded.

“I apologize for Captain Reese,” the commander said.

Reese could be seen in the background, siting in his chair with his hands covering his face. Kelsoe looked back at the commander.

“Starfleet has lot of explaining to do,” Kelsoe said.

“That they do,” the commander said. “The Victory is at your disposal.”

“You have better sensor than we do,” Kelsoe said. “Can you scan the coordinates of the caves on the planet?”

“I think we can,” the commander said. “Lieutenant?”

“Yes, sir,” the lieutenant said. “Scanning the caverns beneath the surface of the rocks.”

There was a pause. The commander looked back from the lieutenant's station, smiled and then looked back at the lieutenant.

“Sir,” the lieutenant said. “Picking up one life form at those coordinates.”

“Can you tell the species?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Hold on,” the lieutenant said. “Checking... yes! It's Half-Human and Half-Barojan.”

“That's our communication officers, Ensign Tracy Carson,” Kelsoe said. “Can you pick up to human life forms?”

“No,” the lieutenant said. “Not at those coordinates. I'm increasing my scans.”

“This might take a while, Captain Kelsoe,” the commander said.

“Captain,” Tuff said. “My I take a security team down there and retrieve our people?”

Kelsoe turned around and looked at Tuff.

“Yes,” Kelsoe nodded. “Do that. But be careful, I don't want the Tealuians thinking that we are declaring war on them.”

“Yes, sir,” Tuff said with a grin.

He got up and walked over to the turbolift.

“Braxis, go with him,” Kelsoe said.

“As you wish, Captain,” Braxis said, getting up and joining Tuff in the turbolift.

Ensign Tracy Carson sat in the center of sometime of chamber that had been carved out of the rock. She had been position on top of a limestone type material that was shaped in the form of a chair. She did not remember coming into the chamber, only that she had fallen asleep after she felt a soft prick on her left side. A dim yellow light was centered on her, leaving the rest of the chamber dark. But somehow the rest of the chamber did not seem dark. Someone was there, in the room.

After that strange sensation with the one Tealuian she had been able to detect their presences. She could feel them right now. They were hiding in the dark, studying her. They found her very, very interesting. She had guessed that the Tealuians were a race of scientist, or what they seemed to call observers. She wanted to lash out at them, but that dim light kept her in the chair.

A couple minutes after she awoke she saw the Tealuian who had locked eyes with her step out. Although all Tealuians look that same, she could tell that it was the one. The telepathic link that the Tealuian had made with her she was able to tell it was him. His names was Xojo. He had communicated with her after the Tealuians had left her in the cavern. She had learned that the Tealuians did not like communicate through the power of speech, rather to use their telepathic abilities to communicate. Xojo opened his mouth.

“How feel you, Tracy?” he asked slowly. He had found english a rather hard language to enunciate.

“Fine,” Tracy said. “But why have you brought me here?”

“We were unable to fine another of your species,” Xojo said. “You are a complicated... you are more than one species. You are human and bajoran. Yet not one of the them.”

“Thanks for reminding me,” Tracy said softly to herself.

“You are not happy with yourself?” Xojo inquired, becoming a little better at english. As he spoke he was extracting the knowledge of the spoken word from Tracy's mind. She had no knowledge of this.

“I come from a civilization in which interstellar... well... interstellar relationship are common. One of the commanders on the space station in which I grew up was married to a member of the opposite species. Nothing about it is considered wrong or bad.”

“Interesting, this civilization of yours,” Xojo said. “However this does not solve our problem. The only thing that we have found in your mind about the creation of a new life is this Garden of Eden.”

“This is more like the Caverns of Eden,” Tracy said.

“Caverns of Eden?” Xojo inquired cocking his head. “I do not sense those in your mind. Explain?”

“Nothing,” Tracy said. “I was calling this place the caverns of Eden. Nevermind. It was nothing.”

“Understood,” Xojo said. He moved a bit to be closer to Tracy. “We must have a new life form. We have collected a large collection of families here in the observatory.”

“It sounds more like a zoo to me,” Tracy interrupted.

“Zoo, a place in which a group of animals are stored in cages for viewing,” Xojo said. “If you like, you may call the observatory this. But the observatory is not a zoo, but your definition. The observatory is a place of study, in which we learn about our own species by watching the habits of others. Parentally habits are very interesting. We, how would you say, ah yes... like them. We find them very entertaining and knowledgeable.”

“There!” Tracy said. “By your own definition of what you do in this place you have made it a zoo.”

“Restrain yourself,” Xojo said. “You should consider yourself lucky. Unlike our other specimens you have two mates to choose from. Seen we are unable to locate another kind of your species, we have decided that you shall mate with one of the males you arrived with.”

“What?” Tracy said.

“We will allow you to spend an hour with each,” Xojo said. “Farewell, I'll see you in time.”

And with that the Tealuian was gone, returning to the shadows of the dark chamber.

Commander Robert Tuff stood beside the entrance to the transporter room on deck three. Braxis stood next to Tuff. With Tuff and Braxis was a team of five security personal, all donning combat uniforms. Tuff zipped up his jacket and nodded to Braxis.

“Once we arrive inside the cavern start the scanning with your tricorder for our people,” Braxis said. “We will separate into three groups of two, Commander Tuff and myself will look for Ensign Tracy Carson. Ensign Luke, you and your partner look for Commander Burt, and Ensign Stevens, you and your partner looked for Lieutenant Craig.”

“You all got that?” Tuff inquired.

They nodded.

“Alright,” Tuff said. “Let's do this.”

There was a sudden glow of blue light and the six Federation Starfleet officers appeared. Tuff stood at the head of the group. He looked around. The cavern was empty, except for the equipment that Burt, Craig and Tracy had brought in. He tapped his communicator.

“Transportation complete, Pioneer,” Tuff said.

“Acknowledge away team,” Kelsoe said. “Begin you search. Kelsoe out.”

Tuff looked over at Braxis and the others, and nodded his head.

“Let's go,” Tuff said.

The group broke off into three groups. Tuff held the phaser rifle close to his chest, and Braxis held a tricorder in his hand, extended out in front of him. The beeps and hums coming from the tricorder gave a bearing to the position of Tracy's lifesign. Braxis pointed to the left.

“According to these readings,” Braxis said. “Ensign Carson is in this direction.”

“Okay,” Tuff said as he lowered his weapon to his side, but still in easy attack position.

Tuff and Braxis proceeded in the direction that Braxis had indicated.

Captain Thomas Reese sat in his ready room behind his desk. He sat there with anger on his face. Outside his ready room, two security officers stood guard. Two of his own crewmen, were stood outside to kept him, their captain, inside his ready room. His own first officer, the man he had trusted for years, turned on him. He felt betrayed. He turned to his counsel, which had been restricted from. He leaned forward and typed on the counsel, overriding the restriction. He then patched a transmission to Starfleet Intelligence.

Tuff and Braxis had entered a dark tunnel of rock and were know proceeding down the it. Tuff flashed his wrist flashlight down the hall, to reveal nothing but more darkness.

“According to the tricorder, Ensign Carson is much further from this present location,” Braxis said.

“You don't need to tell me that every minute, Commander Braxis,” Tuff said.

“I understand Commander Tuff,” Braxis said. “But these caverns are like a labyrinth, we could get lost.”

“Just try and avoid telling me every minute that we are no close to Ensign Carson,” Tuff said. “How do you think the others are doing?”

“Judging from our progress,” Braxis explained, “they aren't not doing very well.”

Tuff rolled his eyes and continued down the cavern.

“Captain Kelsoe?” the commander of the Victory said.

“Yes, what is it?” Kelsoe inquired.

The commander of the Victory was on the main view screen on the bridge talking with Captain Kelsoe. The commander looked confused.

“We are picking up a Federation transmission, that we are not sending,” the commander said. “Are you sending a transmission to Starfleet?”

“No, not at this time,” Kelsoe said. “Have you checked with the Forester?”

“I've inquired about it to Captain Marks,” the commander said. “He has no knowledge of it.”

Kelsoe turned and looked at Lt. Commander Withrome.

“Check on it,” Kelsoe said. “Will you, Joanna?”

“Sure, Captain,” Withrome said. “Scanning all frequencies.”

There was a pause as Withrome worked at the counsel.

“Yes,” Withrome said. “I'm picking up a high frequency transmission.”

“Where's it coming from?” Kelsoe inquired.

“The Victory,” Withrome said confused.

Kelsoe turned back to the commander.

“Well Commander,” Kelsoe said. “It appears that you are sending out a transmission.”

“That can't be,” the commander said, “unless..., I'm get back to you. Victory out.”

The view screen returned to showing the stars and planet below. Kelsoe turned to Withrome.

“You think that Reese could be sending that transmission?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Could be,” Withrome said. “There's something wrong with that man.”

Tracy sat in the dim light of the rocky chamber. Suddenly she heard, what sounded like a door opening and sounds of many footsteps. From the shadows of the chamber Xojo appeared with two of his friends, each holding the two humans, as Xojo had called them. Craig was on the left and Burt was on the right.

“Tracy!” Craig shouted.

The Tealuian holding Craig silenced him. Commander Burt struggled in the arms of his holder. Xojo kept his eyes fixated on Tracy. Xojo extended his long fingers towards Craig.

“Lieutenant Norman Craig,” Xojo said, and then moved his other arm up and extended his long fingers towards Burt. “Commander Connor Burt.”

Xojo dropped his arms back along his side and stepped towards Tracy.

“You must pick one,” Xojo said.

Craig and Burt looked at each other and then back at Tracy. Tracy's mouth was stuck opening. She sat there gapping, unable to speak. Then she noticed the expressions on Craig's and Burt's face. From out of the darkness, behind her, two figures emerged holding phaser rifles. One of them was human and the other was vulcan. Commander Tuff came up alongside Tracy.

“Are you alright ensign?” Tuff inquired.

“Yes,” Tracy finally said.

Xojo stared at the two new visitors to their caverns. Xojo looked at Braxis, confused.

“A new species,” he said. “Interesting...!”

“Shut-up!” Tuff said, aiming his phaser rifle at Xojo. “You thin blue twig!”

“Twig?” Braxis said softly shaking his head.

“Perhaps you may want to choose this human male,” Xojo said to Tracy, pointing at Tuff.

Tuff turned and looked at Tracy. She noticed his confusion.

“Choose?” Tuff mumbled.

Tuff quickly took back control of himself and, again, aimed the rifle at Xojo.

“Release Commander Burt, and Lieutenant Craig,” Tuff said. “We've come to get our people back.”

Braxis tapped his communicator.

“Captain,” Braxis said. “We have found them.”

“Good, I'll notify the other parties,” Kelsoe said. “We'll beam them up.”

“Release them,” Tuff said stepping forward.

Xojo took a step back.

“We have no intention on releasing our newest specimens,” Xojo said.

Tuff glanced at Burt and Craig.

“You understand that you maybe starting a war?” Braxis said. “That is the logical outcome with your attitude towards the Federation.”

“Our ships warned you to go away,” Xojo said. “I suggest you leave. Now!”

“You underestimate us,” Tuff said.

“No,” Xojo said. “We understand stand you perfectly. Captain Reese as been good enough to tell us of your arrival.”

“Captain Reese?” Tuff muttered as he turned around to see Captain Reese step out of the darkness, with four more Tealuians.

“Step down Commander Tuff,” Reese said. “You may be jeopardizing the Federation's relationship with the Tealuians.”

“What relationship?” Tuff said.

“We had started a negotiation before you and your captain showed up,” Reese said. “Starfleet Intelligence has decide to allow the Tealuians to keep Ensign Carson, and either Commander Burt or Lieutenant Craig, depending on which one she chooses.”

Xojo nodded and turned back to Tracy.

“Choose,” he demanded.

Tracy shook her head and said, “I can't. I want to go back to my ship.”

Xojo dropped his hands and his face seemed to lower. She could feel the emotion in Xojo. The sadness and disappointment.

“We have been looking for a specimen like you for millions and millions of years,” Xojo said. “You cannot leave us.”

“I can and I will,” Tracy said, hopping down and standing next to Braxis.

Xojo lowered his head and made a gesture towards his comrades who released Burt and Craig, who stepped over to the group of Federation officers. Tuff tapped his communicator.

“Commander Tuff to Pioneer five to beam up,” Tuff said.

Blue-white light filled the chamber, and when it disappeared they were gone.

Xojo turned back towards Reese.

“You promised a specimen,” Xojo said.

“I... I can bring you one,” Reese said. “You just have to give me sometime.”

“Time something we understand,” Xojo said. He paused as one of his comrades walked up and appeared to whisper something into this ear. He then continued, “However,  after these recent events, the collective has decided not to peruse your species. Go back to your ship, we hope never to see your species again.”

The senior staff of the Pioneer sat around the conference table, while Kelsoe debriefed them. Behind Kelsoe, through the windows, was the planet and the starship Forester.

“Admiral Hayes has informed me that Captain Reese was acting against orders when he negotiated with the Tealuians on matters of getting them a specimen from Earth. Right now the commander of the Victory has been placed in command of the vessel, while they escort Captain Reese back to Earth for a full investigation,” Kelsoe said. “We are happy to have our crewmen back, and the Tealuians have agreed to leave any Federation personal alone, in exhange for no Federation presence on their planet. Our orders on exploring the So'ja space have been reconfirmed by Admiral Hayes himself. We can get back on our way. Mr. Zimmer set course for a small asteroid belt about five days away, we finally get to do some exploring.” Kelsoe smiled. “Demised.”

The senior staff got up and walked out of the room. Commander Burt remained and stepped over to Kelsoe.

“Too bad,” Burt said. “The planet was beautiful, you should have come.”

“Actually,” Kelsoe said. “I'm glade I didn't. You guys did could.”

“Yeah,” Burt shrugged. “Look, his it just my imagination or has everything bad happened to me, I mean first I get my head hit on the bulk head, then those quantum things, and now this...!”

“Bad luck,” Kelsoe said.

“Yeah?” Burt said. “Well, where's yours?”

“Don't got any,” Kelsoe said, walking out. “I'll see you on the bridge.”

Burt stood there.

“Hey, wait!” Burt said as he ran after Kelsoe. “That makes no sense!”

Tracy and Craig stepped into the turbolift. Craig held his hands behind his back and took a deep breath. He glanced at Tracy. Tracy looked away. Craig took another deep breath.

“Turbolift stop,” he commanded.

The turbolift hummed to stopped.

“Look,” Craig said. “I've got to know. Who would you have choose?”

Tracy smiled and laughed.