written by Travis Cannon

Captain Benjamin Kelsoe in the captains chair, staring at the view screen. The Pioneer was hovering near the Great Rift Barrier, observing the behavior of the Kai Imperium supply ships, as they made their way through the Rift and towards Alkanden Outpost - Five. Kelsoe’s eyes darted across the screen at the Alkanden Outpost. He say two Tealuian spheres hovering over the station and several Velosian cargo ships.

“Anything on how the supple ship can withstand the pressure of the Rift?” Kelsoe inquired. “They have limited shields, right?”

Craig looked down at his station.

“From what I can make out, they have very good shields,” Craig said. “I mean, we can’t even get any scans of the ship’s surface. The only thing I’ve seen like this is Borg shields.”

“Well, this thing dwarfs a Borg cube,” Kelsoe said. “It’s amazing they have enough energy to power it.”

“From my scans of the Rift, Captain,” Braxis said from his station. “It is a natural supplement of energy. According to the information we acquired from the Kobal, the Rift appears to have a energy field unlike anything yet encountered by the Federation.”

Great!” Burt muttered. “There is no way we could survive an armed conflict with the Kai Imperium.”

“That’s why we are going to try not to,” Kelsoe said. “Right now, we merely want to find out how their ships can survive the long trip through the Rift. 

“Is that so?” Burt said. “Mr. Zimmer, how long would it take us to get through the Rift at maximum warp?”

“At maximum warp,” Zimmer said, making the calculation on his console. “About three to four days.”

“Four days?” Burt questioned. “Are you sure?”

“Positive, sir,” Zimmer said. “Sorry.”

“Captain,” Tracy said, turning from her station. “We’re receiver a message from Deep Space Five.”

“Admiral Dutton?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Yes, sir,” Tracy said. “Do you want me to patch it through to your ready room?”

“No,” Kelsoe said, raising his hand. “On main viewer.”

Kelsoe stood up and straightened his uniform. The view screen flickered to the office of Admiral Jonathan Dutton, Chief of Operations in the Oralian Sector. Dutton looked down at Kelsoe.

“Captain,” Dutton said.

“Admiral,” Kelsoe said, nodding.

“Look, I know you feel that I was a bad choice for Chief of Operations in the Oralian Sec...”

“It’s not that, Admiral,” Kelsoe said, “I’m just used to Admiral Anton.”

“Yes,” Dutton nodded. “Well, I believe I have my first opportunity to send the Pioneer on a mission.”

“Diplomatic, no don’t,” Burt said.

“Sorry to disappoint you, Commander Burt,” Dutton said. “But what we’ve got is something of an emergency. According to Ambassador Rizex of the Nawlo there has been an accident.”

“An accident?” Kelsoe said. “What kind of accident?”

“On one of the Nawlo moons there has been an ongoing mining operation,” Dutton said. “The minerals that the Nawlo drill company has been mining are very critical to the continuation of Federation and Nawlo relations.”

“What exactly are these minerals?” Burt inquired.

Connor!” Kelsoe hissed under his breath.

Burt stepped back. “Sorry, sir.”

Dutton glanced from Kelsoe to Burt, sighed, and then looked back at Kelsoe.

“These minerals are critical to the design of a more stable quantum slip stream drive,” Dutton said. “The U.S.S. Guanine has begun repairs to Engineering, and Admiral Anton feels that a trans-warp drive was too risky. I feels that a quantum slip stream drive is a better option. It is a safer way to travel and we will still be able to tell the difference form Borg and Federation warp signatures.”

“Good point,” Kelsoe said. “So there has been a mining accident... And we are after rescuing the minerals.”

“Not entirely,” Dutton said. “Unfortunately I am unable to brief you on the rest of the information. All information that you will require will be handed over by the Nawlo authorities. I am going to order the Pioneer to Nawlo to assist the Nawlo authorities in this time of crisis. To be frank, personally I feel that showing an interesting in helping them will strengthen our relations.”

“You are correct there,” Kelsoe nodded in agreement.

“Oh, and Captain,” Dutton said. “Admiral Anton sends his best wishes.”

Kelsoe was hesitant to speak, he looked down and regained his composer, then he looked up.

“Thank you,” Kelsoe said.

“No problem, Captain,” Dutton said. “Dutton out.”

The main view screen flickered back to the Kai Imperium supply ship. Kelsoe turned around and sat down in his chair.

“Mr. Zimmer,” Kelsoe said. “Set a course for Nawnow... maximum warp.”

“Aye, sir,” Zimmer said, typing in the command.

Burt looked around, and smiled over at Braxis.

“Get to see your half-brothers again, Brax!” Burt said.

“The Nawlo and the Vulcans have nothing in common,” Braxis said. “They choice to have emotion.”

“Oh, and you don’t?” Burt said, sarcastically. “Well, wait! You both have pointy ears! And... wait! Don’t the Nawlo look similar to the... Andorians? Well, let me tell you something - now, that is a match made in heaven!”

“The Vulcans and Andorians would never mate, I can assure you of that,” Braxis said.

Burt stood up. Kelsoe watched Burt’s attempts at making Braxis laugh through the corner of his eyes. The rest of the bridge crew did their best to try and appear to be ignoring Commander Burt. But Burt spoke loudly.

“Why?” Burt inquired, throwing his arms out wide.

“Human curiosity is unusually strong,” Braxis said.

“Oh... come now, Brax, buddy old pal,” Burt said. “You can tell me.”

“The Vulcans and Andorian peoples have not always been on the best of terms,” Braxis said. “And I would appreciate if you stop calling me Brax.”

“It’s short for Braxis,” Burt explained.

“I am well aware of that,” Braxis said. “But it is both unprofessional and a bad use of shorts.”

“Ah, indeed,” Burt nodded, tapping his temple with his pointer finger. “Got it.”

Braxis turned back to his station and blocked Burt’s further statements out.

The Pioneer floated in orbit around Nawnow, the home planet of the Nawlo. The three moons were in plan sight: Ophilu, Leguro, and Camiu. All with rich resources and one with a breathable atmosphere. Ophilu, the second moon, was capable of supporting life - thanks to Nawlo scientist. To many, Ophilu’s breathable atmosphere was thought to be a natural phenomena, when in actuality the introduction of organic bacteria, and moss onto the surface of Ophilu created the atmosphere. This technological achievement allow for the Nawlo to easily mine the minerals from Ophilu. But this was unknown to the crew of the Pioneer, who were left in the dark to the true way Ophilu achieved a breathable atmosphere.

Captain Benjamin Kelsoe, Commander Robert Tuff, and Commander Braxis all beamed down to the capital city of Nawnow to visit with Ambassador Rizex to learn what has happened that caused Starfleet to send the Pioneer here.

The planet was much like Earth, except it had become more desert like do to massive mining and digging by the great drilling companies of Nawnow. The Nawlo had almost exhausted their home planet of all its natural resources, thus mining on Ophilu was explainable.

The Nawlo Embassy was an oasis in a desolate barren wasteland. Surrounding the Embassy was the capital city. The total sum of the city was a wasteland, except for the State Ministry and Churches. There was also evidence of a gap between the rich and the poor, some of the houses had more vegetation, than others. On a desert-made planet vegetation symbolize the wealth of the property owner. Captain Kelsoe, Tuff, and Braxis could see this from their vantage point on the steps of the Embassy. Two Nawlo guards stood behind them, as they waited in the warm sun for Ambassador Rizex to come and greet them.

Within a couple minutes their wait was over, when they all turned to see Ambassador Rizex emerged from the engraved golden doors of the embassy. Ambassador Rizex was dress in a brilliant  dark blue and orange robe, the same colors as the Nawlo flag. As he walked over to them, the harsh wind blew the robe around giving him a graceful bird like quality, even though he looked far less like a bird then anything else. As he came closer the similarities between the Vulcan and Andorian peoples become more apart. Kelsoe had no doubt in his mind that the Nawlo did indeed look like a cross between to the two species. Braxis showed no hint that he was thinking anything about the similarities of the three species combined. Finally Ambassador Rizex reached them and extended his hand. He went down the line shaking all of their hands, starting with Captain Kelsoe, then Commander Braxis and finally Commander Tuff.

“Welcome to Nawnow,” Ambassador Rizex said. “On the behalf of Prime Minister Zoruc, I thank you for your speedy arrival.”

“It was no problem at all,” Kelsoe reassured the Ambassador.

“Ah, well, yes,” Ambassador Rizex said with a slight nod. “If it was no problem that is good to hear.” He paused for a beat. “Now, for the rest... we best get inside.”

And with that Ambassador Rizex spun in his toes and began speedily walking back the way he came, calling and gesturing for them to follow. Kelsoe looked quickly over at Braxis and Tuff and nodded. They quickly stepped into pace with the Ambassador. They quickly passed the big golden doors into the main entrance of the embassy. After their entrance the doors were closed. Ambassador Rizex lead them down the long marble hallway to a door, that Kelsoe assumed was the entrance to his office. Kelsoe looked down the hallways and noticed the banners or flags of the many other Oralian Sector nations, absence the So’ja Coalition. Outside the door to the Ambassador’s office was the brilliant blue and orange flag of the Nawlo. Orange with a blue circle in the center and within the blue circle were three smaller orange circles - no doubt to symbolize the three moons of Nawnow - positioned in a way that must be how they are seen from the surface of the planet.

Ambassador Rizex hurriedly rushed them into his office and then closed the door. The Ambassador’s office told a lot about how he lived. His office was full of luxurious items. The chair behind is desk was no exception. It look almost like a thrown. The entire room was painted in the colors of the flag, blue walls with orange sidings. Behind the Ambassador’s throne-like chair was another Nawlo flag, this one hanging from the wall like a tapestry. Ambassador Rizex gestured from them to seat down in the chair placed before his desk as he made his own way around his desk towards his throne-like chair. Within moments they were all seated.

“I apologize for the vibe I must be giving off,” Ambassador Rizex said, “but these are indeed troubling times. Times of great change in Nawnow, and on our moons.”

“I believe that’s why we’re here,” Kelsoe said. “From what I’ve been told there had been an accident on.... Ophilu, correct?”

“Yes, quite so,” Ambassador Rizex said. “Ophilu Mining, Inc. claims that they can handle the problem but Prime Minister Zoruc thinks not. This incident on Ophilu plagues Ophilu Mining, Inc. It brings into question whether or not the terraforming techniques used by Ophilu Mining, Inc. were safe or not. Leguro and Camiu have been scheduled to have the very same terraforming techniques used on them to make them habitable for mining and other needs were may require.”

“Why is this such a huge incident?” Kelsoe inquired.

“The greedy insurance companies are questioning Malzel’s claims on what caused the incident,” Ambassador Rizex explained.

“Malzel?” Braxis inquired.

“The Chief of Operations for Ophilu Mining, Inc.,” Ambassador Rizex clarified. “In a sense the head of the biggest mineral mining company in the history of the Nawlo people.”

“Sorry if this sounds rude,” Kelsoe said. “But why exactly is the government so interesting in an external conflict that does not involve the state?”

“It is more complicated than most would like to admit,” Ambassador Rizex said. “You see, the Ministry has invested a lot of time and money into this terraforming technique and Prime Minister Zoruc, as do I, do not wish to see it fail. Creating an atmosphere on Ophilu was the greatest thing to have ever happened to our race, our civilization.”

“What exactly are Malzel’s claims to the cause of the accident?” Braxis inquired.

“Mr. Malzel claims that it is a flaw in the terraforming technique that has caused the collapse of the mining tunnels,” Ambassador Rizex said.

“Do you believe him?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Myself?” Ambassador Rizex said. “I don’t know what to believe. However, I will say one thing, if this was caused by a flaw in the terraforming technique many Nawlo will die.”

Captain Kelsoe, Braxis and Tuff stepped off of the transporter pad. Kelsoe looked up at Kavoc, who was standing behind the transporter control console.

“Ensign Kavoc,” Kelsoe said. “Have Lt. Commander Withrome met us in the conference room, and you can come as well.”

“Yes, sir,” Kavoc nodded.

Braxis and Tuff followed Kelsoe out of transporter room one. Kelsoe walked briskly down the hall, with Braxis and Tuff right behind him.

“This is more complicated than Admiral Dutton lead us to believe,” Tuff said.

“Yes,” Kelsoe agreed. “Much more complicated. This is not just to save some miners lives, but to help ensure the survival of the Nawlo way of life.”

“Indeed,” Braxis said, nodding. “It is most important that we succeed.”

“Yes, it is,” Kelsoe nodded.

They entered the turbo-lift.

“Bridge,” Kelsoe said.

The conference room was not as full as it normally would be, but Kelsoe had already decided on who was going to be in charge of this task. Lt. Commander Joanna Withrome, the Chief Engineer would be in charge of getting through the fallen rocks to the trapped miners. Beside Joanna, Commander Burt, Dr. Chase Braga and Ensign Kavoc were there as well. Kelsoe stood at the head of the table and looked at all of them.

“This is important that we succeed,” Kelsoe said. “Joanna, I want you and Ensign Kavoc to take a group of engineers to the surface to try and remove the fallen debris to get those miners out.”

Joanna nodded. “Yes, sir.”

“Chase,” Kelsoe continued. “I expect there to be some injuries and, even though the Nawlo have doctors, I want you to be on hand incase any unseen medical emergencies emerges - whether it be one of ours or a Nawlo miner.”

Braga nodded. “I’ll be ready, sir. Of course I’ll need some records on Nawlo physiology before we beam over to Ophilu.”

“Of course,” Kelsoe said. “Connor, will you take care of that?”

“No problem, Captain,” Burt said.

“Very good,” Kelsoe said. “I want your teams ready by thirteen hundred hours. Any questions?”

“Uh, yes, Captain,” Craig said. “Why can’t we just beam the miners out?”

“Good question,” Kelsoe responded. “Apparently there is some sort of transport interference on Ophilu, Ambassador Rizex assured me that they had considered that option, but it did not succeed.”

“Oh,” Craig nodded.

“Any other questions?” Kelsoe asked. There were none. “Okay. Dismiss!”

They all got up and left the room, except for Joanna. Kelsoe noticed that she was waiting by the door. He nodded.

“Yes, Joanna?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Captain... I was just wondering...,” she hesitated.

“Go on...,” Kelsoe encouraged.

“What if the mining tunnel collapses were not an accident?” Joanna asked.

Kelsoe paused for a while, puzzling that question. He looked back up at Joanna, and their eyes locked.

“Then do what is necessary to secure those who are responsible,” Kelsoe said. “We’ll then turn them over to Nawlo authorities.”

“Aye, sir,” Joanna said, and then left. 

Joanna stood in the main section of Engineering, watching the team she had selected to help her and Kavoc with rescuing the Nawlo miners assembling the equipment that they would need. Joanna turned to face the doors as Dr. Chase Braga entered, followed by another doctor. Braga smiled as he entered.

“Joanna,” Braga said. “How are you?”

“Fine,” Joanna nodded, holding the inventory data pad close to her. “And you?”

“Prepped and ready,” Braga said, gesturing with his arms. “Dr. Karen Shelby will be handling sickbay while I’m away.”

Joanna turned and looked at Shelby, and nodded. Shelby nodded in response. Joanna looked back over at Braga.

“Have you had time to analyze Nawlo biology?” Joanna inquired.

“Yes,” Braga said, “Dr. Shelby and I went over the information together, so that we won’t miss anything important. You know the Nawlo have two hearts! Quite amazing!”

“I’m sure it is,” Joanna said. “But all I care about is saving the lives of those people, not what how they are made.”

“Of course,” Braga smiled. “Uh, Dr. Shelby, please return to sickbay and met me at the transporter room with a med-kit.”

“Yes, doctor,” Shelby nodded, turned on her heals and left. Braga watched her leave.

“Any reason that you are leaving her in charge of sickbay?” Joanna inquired.

“She is quite intelligent, you know,” Braga said grinning. “She is also the only other person in sickbay that has an MD in Xenology. I’m quite sure that she can handle any Nawlo that need to be transported her for medical assistance.”

“Sure,” Joanna nodded, glancing over at the engineering team. “We’re almost ready. See you in the transporter room in fifteen minutes.”

“Yeah,” Braga nodded, as he started to leave. “Fifteen minutes.”

Fifteen minutes later they stood in the transporter room, equipment and personnel on the transporter pad. Captain Kelsoe and Commander Burt stood in front of the transporter control console, behind which Craig stood. Kelsoe looked up at Joanna, and gave her a slight smile.

“Remember,” Kelsoe said, “we are here to help the Nawlo.”

Burt nodded. “God speed.”

“Transport,” Kelsoe commanded.

Craig nodded and typed in the appropriate commands on the console. Within moments the rescue team had dematerialized in an array of bright blue light.

When they had materialized inside the Mining Operations main structure, they were greeted by a Nawlo female, who said she was Mr. Malzel’s secretary. She lead them down some short tube shaped hallways to Malzel’s office. The hallways were made of a plastic glass material, similar to Plexiglas. Through the walls the vegetated surface of Ophilu could be seen. However in certain spots gray rocks still showed. Lt. Commander Joanna Withrome, Dr. Chase Braga, and Ensign Kavoc were the only ones who followed the secretary to the the office, the others had stayed behind to begin unpacking their equipment.

The office was furnished in grays and greens, the desk was a silver metal that was warn and dull. The chair behind the desk was likewise as such. Behind the desk was a large window, in which the rocky plans of Ophilu could be seen. Everything in the room was dull and unimaginative, except for a picture of a grassy green pasture which they could only assume did not exist anymore. From a side door a tall Nawlo, with deep blue skin entered. He was wearing a greenish brown jumpsuit, with the insignia of Ophilu Mining, Inc. - a gray “O” with a green “M” inside it - on the right breast pocket.

Malzel stepped over to them, after placing some folders down on the desk. He shook all their hands, and paused when at Kavoc.

“Tell me, is your raise related to the Nawlo?” Malzel inquired.

“No,” Kavoc said in a quick and cold way.

“Ah,” Malzel said. “Just a coincidence.”

“Logically,” Kavoc said, nodding.

Malzel stepped around his desk, keeping a sharp eye on Kavoc.

“I see...,” Malzel said, and then sat down. “So you are Starfleet?”

“Yes,” Joanna said, confidently. “I am Lt. Commander Joanna Withrome. I will be the supervising officer on the rescue operation.”

“Supervising, eh?” Malzel said. “Look, I think my boys have got it all under control. Nothing we can handle. Tragic happenings, yes, but it happened suddenly... without warning.”

“Indeed,” Kavoc said. “But it appears you are doing nothing to save your men.”

“Look,” Malzel said. “Sorry if we don’t have the same technology as you do, but we are trying our best.”

“Perhaps that is not good enough, sir,” Braga spoke up.

“And who are you?” Malzel inquired, giving Braga a piercing glare.

“I am Dr. Chase Braga,” Braga said.

“Oh, a doctor,” Malzel said. “I hate doctors.”

“Is that so?” Braga inquired.

“Yes,” Malzel said. “It is!”

Malzel stood up very quickly, clenching his fist. His eyes were very shifty. Joanna raised her hands into the air.

“Calm down everyone,” she demanded. “Let’s stop this at once. The important thing is to get started so that we might have some people to rescue.”

Malzel stared at her for a moment and then slowly nodded.

“You are right, Lt. Commander,” Malzel said. “We should begin. Follow me, I will lead you to the site of the accident.”

Malzel started for the door. They began to follow him. Joanna stopped and pulled Braga aside.

“Chase,” Joanna said, “I think it would be better if you help the Nawlo medical teams prepare for the causalities.”

“Yes,” Braga nodded, glancing over at Malzel. “That would be a good idea.”

Joanna and Braga then exited the room.

Lt. Commander Joanna Withrome and Ensign Kavoc stood in front of a caved in cliffside. Joanna turned to Kavoc and nodded. Kavoc took out his tricorder and did a sweeping scan of the surrounding area. When his scan was complete he turned back to Joanna.

“The surface of the cliff wall is composed of iron, limestone, and traces of a Noridian ore,” Kavoc reported.

“Noridian ore?” Joanna inquired.

“Yes,” Malzel nodded. “Noridian ore is very valuable, you see.”

“According to my scans, the ore appears to be highly unstable,” Kavoc reported.

“It may be, yes, at times,” Malzel said. “When...?”

“When what?” Joanna inquired.

“Nothing..., nothing important to the investi... uh, er... rescue operation,” Malzel said. His eyes shifted away from Joanna’s as he spoke. He stepped forward towards the cliff. Narrowing his eyes a bit, like looking for something, and then turned back to face Joanna and Kavoc.

“Your scanning device should tell you that the miners are trapped beyond that rubble,” Malzel said, his eyes still narrow.

Kavoc held his tricorder up to the cliffside again, waiting for the standard beeps and buzzes before looking down.

“He is correct, sir,” Kavoc said. “I am picking up approximately eleven life signs.”

“Eleven!?” Malzel said, stepping forward, his eyes becoming wide with terror. “There should be fifteen! Fifteen miners per site!”

“Eleven there are, where the others are, I do not know,” Kavoc said. “It is logical to assume that they might have died in the cave-in.”

Joanna nodded.

“Impossible!!” Malzel ragged. “Absolutely impossible!”

“Please calm yourself,” Joanna said. “Let us help and save the people still alive in there.”

“Very well,” Malzel bellowed waving a hand in the air, before storming off back the way they had came.

Joanna turned back to the rescue team.

“All right, let’s get to work,” Joanna said.

The team began to bring the equipment up to the walls.

“Winowski, your team take charge of the right side of the wall,” Joanna said to a pale crewman with short cut hair. “Janns,” she said to a short red head. “The left.”

“Yes, sir,” Janns said, and lead her team over to the left side of the cliff, while Winowski lead his to the right.

Joanna stood there and supervised the rescue team. Beside her, Kavoc was stepping up a portable sensor console so that they could monitor the stability of the cliff face, and the life signs of the miners trapped inside. Kavoc initialized the console and the monitor lit up. Immediately sensor scans began to appear on the console. Kavoc type rapidly, and viewed each diagram carefully.

“Stability is best on the sides,” Kavoc said. “It was a wise decision to begin at the sides.”

“Just a benefit of being an engineer,” Joanna said. “The first thing I learned at the Academy was to noticed instabilities in things, and how to go about working on them.”

“Of course all of those were theories, Lt. Commander,” Kavoc said. “The real thing is quite different.”

“Yes, it is, Kavoc,” Joanna said, watching the rescue team at work. “Yes it is.”

As time passed the surface of the cliff face started to become less dense, the had almost cleared away all the aftermath of the cave-in. Joanna has helped Winowski’s team with some unstable elements, but so far everything was going just fine. Joanna was currently standing next to Janns team, watching - approvingly - at Janns’ orders. In the Joanna of her right ear she heard her name being called. She turned around to see that Ensign Kavoc was waving her over to the portable sensor console.

She nodded and gave some last orders to Janns, and then turned.

“Lt. Commander,” Kavoc said, usually anxious for a vulcan. “I believe that I have found something unusual.”

“Unusual?” Joanna inquired, squinted down at the console.

“Yes,” Kavoc nodded. “Here.”

Kavoc typed on the console, which hummed. The center of the diagram of the lit up and increased in size to fell the screen. On the console the cliff was highlighted in a blue coloring, within the cliff cave-in appeared to be a square like object.

Joanna’s eyes narrowed.

“What the hell is that?” she inquired.

“That is the similar question I asked,” Kavoc said. “Of course void of the colorful metaphor.”

Joanna raised an eyebrow in a semi-mocking way and said, “Indeed.” She then quickly became serious. “So what do you think it is?”

“I am unsure,” Kavoc said. “But it is clear that Mr. Malzel has not been entirely honest with us.”

“How do you mean?” Joanna inquired.

“Malzel gave us a database of all the equipment used in Nawlo mining, this object,” Kavoc pointed to the display console, “does not appear in that database.”

Joanna nodded. “Can you scan it with our sensors?”

“I believe so, Lt. Commander,” Kavoc said, typing on the console. With a quick beeps and buzzes, a readout appeared on the display console. Kavoc blinked in disbelief. “Sir..., it appears to be some sort of magnetic charge.”

“Magnetic charge?!” Joanna said, blinking. “What would that cause?”

“Well,” Kavoc said, staring at the screen. “It appears that this magnetic charge creates a magnetic shock wave....” Kavoc paused in deep thought. “Lt. Commander?”


“We need to find out more about Noridian ore.”

Joanna nodded, Joanna tapped her commbadge. “Lt. Commander Withrome to Pioneer.”

“Kelsoe, here,” Kelsoe said. “Go ahead, Joanna.”

“Captain,” Joanna said. “We’ve found something that appears to be a magnetic charge.”

“Magnetic?” Kelsoe questioned.

“Yes, sir, magnetic,” Joanna said. “And this device was not on the list that Malzel had given us of the mining equipment. Malzel said they were mining something called Noridian ore, we were wondering if you can find out what that is exactly. We need to learn more about it.”

“Sure thing,” Kelsoe said. “Proceed with the rescue, but be careful.”

“Don’t worry, sir,” Joanna said. “We will. Joanna out.”

Joanna tapped her commbadge again and ended the conversation. Joanna looked down at Kavoc.

“I hope they can find out what the hell Noridian ore is,” Joanna said.

Kavoc nodded in agreement. “However, in the meantime we should do as the Captain said and continue the rescue.”

Captain Kelsoe stood on the bridge with his back to the view screen, which showed Ophilu and in the distance Leguro, the other moon. Kelsoe was facing Ensign Tracy Carson.

“What the hell do you mean?” Kelsoe inquired. “Busy!”

“Sorry, sir,” Tracy said, “but that’s what they’re saying.”

“I don’t care what he’s doing,” Kelsoe said. “Force the channel open.”

“Aye, sir,” Tracy said. She pressed to buttons simultaneously.

The view screen blinked to Ambassador Rizex’s office. Rizex raised his head and saw that his communication screen was on. His expression became one of having been violated.

“What do you want?!” Ambassador Rizex inquired. “I am quite busy at the moment.”

“Sorry for the intrusion,” Kelsoe said, not really meaning it. “But I have a question for you.”

“Can this wait?”

“No,” Kelsoe said.

Rizex rolled his eyes in irritation. Kelsoe wondered what happen to the friendly Rizex who he met with earlier.

“Fine,” Rizex said, glaring at Kelsoe. “What is it?”

“We need all data that contains any information on Noridian ore,” Kelsoe said.

Rizex said, “That shouldn’t be that difficult.” He looked down and typed something on his console. “I’m sending all relevant information to you now.”

Kelsoe looked over at Tracy, who nodded.

“Noridian ore,” Rizex said. “If you don’t mind me asking, why?”

“This has something to do with out rescue,” Kelsoe said, however he was unsure whether now was the time to reveal their findings. “I will update in time. Kelsoe out.”

Tracy ended the transmission with a press of one button. She looked up to Kelsoe for orders.

“Transmit the information to the rescue team,” Kelsoe said, the frustration showing itself in his voice.

Ensign Kavoc leaned over the console going over the new information they had just received from Pioneer on Noridian ore. With his vulcan senses he was able to go through all the relevant data quickly. Within twenty-five minutes he was complete. While Kavoc was going over the information, Joanna had made considerable advancements on the rescue with the assistance of Winowski and Janns. According to her last sensor scan with a tricorder they were getting there, but there was still a great deal of more work to be done.

“So what do you have?” Joanna asked, wiping the sweat from her forehead with the sleeve of her uniform.

“It appears my initial assumptions were accurate,” Kavoc said. “Noridian ore becomes highly unstable when subjected to high levels of magnetic energy, which that magnetic charge would create.”

“So are you saying that someone sabotaged this mining operation?” Joanna inquired.

“I believe so, sir,” Kavoc nodded. “Shall I inform the Captain?”

Joanna nodded, “Yes.” She then thought to herself, Malzel maybe a candidate for the saboteur.

Kelsoe listened Ensign Kavoc out.

“... Lt. Commander Withrome believes that someone may have sabotaged the mining operation,” Kavoc was saying.

“Yes,” Kelsoe nodded. “So this magnetic charge, has the magnetic charge been cleared of the rubble yet?”

“No yet, sir,” Kavoc replied.

“When you uncover it, keep it,” Kelsoe ordered. “We may need it later... as evidence.”

“Yes, sir,” Kavoc said.

“Good work, keep us informed,” Kelsoe said. “Kelsoe out.”

Kelsoe turned to Braxis.

“It is possible,” Braxis said. “Faking ‘labor lose’ is a common trait among Nawlo business.”

“So they can get insurance, eh?” Burt said.

“Affirmative, Commander,” Braxis said.

“What else have you learned about the Nawlo way of business.

“Business is still performed on Nawlo for profit,” Braxis said, with slight nod, “in fact a lot of Nawlo ‘accidents’ have occurred for profits. It has been known that several people have died in the pursuit of better profits.”

“Sounds almost light the Ferengi,” Burt said.

“Possibly,” Braxis said, “however Freeing entrepreneurs find it difficult to kill productive employees.”

“So you agree with Joanna,” Kelsoe inquired.

“Yes,” Braxis nodded. “The question is, who will benefit from a loss of profit.”

“What about Malzel?” Burt inquired.

Kelsoe looked at Burt.


“Commander Burt has a logical point,” Braxis said. “Amazing as it is that the Commander has any logic, he is correct.”

“If I didn’t know you any better, I’d say you were making fun of me,” Burt said.

Braxis ignored Burt. Kelsoe nodded.

“I see, it makes sense,” Kelsoe said. “After all, Malzel is the head of the mining operation, and if his mining operation suffers any loss, he is the one who will profit from it, whether it be the loss of life, or money.”

“Precisely, sir,” Braxis said.

Kelsoe nodded slowly, thinking over what they had just unraveled. And then he looked up at Braxis.

“Contact Ensign Kavoc and tell him what we have come up with,” Kelsoe said. “Meanwhile, I’ll try to get a conversation with the Prime Minister.”

Kelsoe turned and walked over to Tracy’s station.

“Tracy,” Kelsoe said. “I want you to open a channel with Ambassador Rizex, and patch it through to my ready room.”

“Aye, sir,” Tracy said.

The rescue has almost reached their target. Joanna was standing in-between the two groups, Winowski’s and Janns’ team. Overall she was pleased with how far they had gotten. They were almost there! She could not help but smile. According to Kavoc’s latest scan all the eleven miners, who were alive when they had started their rescue operation, were still alive. And for that reason, she just had to smile, because from what she had learned from speaking with both Winowski and Janns, they would reach the miners in twenty minutes.

She turned and saw Kavoc approaching her with a data pad in his hand. She had two thoughts at that time, either it was good or bad news. She hoped to God that it was good news. As Kavoc approached her, he seemed to be reading her mind.

“A message from Captain Kelsoe,” Kavoc said, holding the data pad up. “It appears that the Captain, Commander Burt and Commander Braxis, believe they know who might be our saboteur.”

“Good news!” Joanna said, smiling, as she took the data pad from Kavoc. She gave it a cursory glance and was rather pleased with what she saw. “Just as I suspect.”

“Malzel,” Kavoc nodded. “A logical conclusion. He is after all the only one with the authorization from his company to create what the Nawlo call a “loss in profit”.”

“So this is all just for insurance?” Joanna said, glancing down at the data pad.

“Apparently so,” Kavoc said.

“So he was just going to kill those people in there for money!” Joanna exclaimed. “And correct me if am wrong, but doesn’t that seem unethical?”

“From what we know about the Nawlo culture it is common practice,” Kavoc said.

“And is this ‘common practice’ support by the government?” Joanna inquired.

“I do not know,” Kavoc said. “Perhaps we should question Mr. Malzel, himself, and find out.”

Joanna nodded, “Good idea.” She turned back to the rescue crew. “Winowski, you’re in charge until I get back.”

“Aye, sir,” Winowski said with a nod.

They stood in Malzel’s office. This time, as Joanna looked out of the window, she noticed that the rocky plans were more barren than she had previously remembered. Was Ophilu really a failure as the Ambassador had claimed. Was the system used to grow an oxygen atmosphere so bad that it would lead to the destruction of that system, giving in to what the status quo of the current technology of the Nawlo? Joanna began to wonder what spawned this thought of the oxygen system used on Ophilu. Staring out at the barren land of rocks was probably was sparked her mind, and lead to the thoughts of Nawlo technology. It is sad on how dependent on technology we are, Joanna thought. She turned away from the window, and looked over at Kavoc, slightly raising an eyebrow.

“Lt. Commander?” Kavoc inquired.

“Huh? Yes?” Joanna replied.

“Is there something you wish to ask me?” Kavoc asked.

“Uh, no,” Joanna said. “I was just deep in thought.”

Kavoc nodded.

The back door opened, and a very agitated and nervous Malzel entered the room. His eyes being shifty the moment he saw the two Starfleet officers. He slide down into his chair and rummaged through the papers on his desk, pretending that they were not there.

“Mr. Malzel,” Kavoc inquired. “We wish to speak to you.”

Malzel jumped when Kavoc spoke. Kavoc cocked his head slightly.

“Is there a problem? Should I send for Dr. Braga?” Kavoc inquired.

“Huh? No. No!” Malzel replied. “I’m just a little jumpy, that’s all.”

“Indeed,” Kavoc said, with a slight frustrated sigh, if you could call is frustrated with a vulcan.

Malzel turned his attention to Joanna.

“I assume you are the one who wishes to question me,” Malzel said.

“Naturally,” Joanna said, folding her arms in front of her chest.

Malzel shifted his weight in the chair. His eyes darted in different directions, giving him the look of a very nervous individual. Joanna waited until his eyes settled back on her.

“Do I have your complete attention now?” Joanna inquired.

“Um, yes,” Malzel nodded. “Go ahead, Lt. Commander.”

“Well,” Joanna said, lowering her hands to her sides. “We’ve found some disturbing evidence at the cave-in site.”

“Disturbing? How so?” Malzel said, squinting his eyes.

Joanna squinted back at him. “It was some sort of magnetic charge.”

“Uh huh...,” Malzel nodded.

Joanna placed her hands on her hips. “You do know what a magnetic charge does right?”

Malzel shifted, unsure if he wanted to answer, but when he looked at Kavoc, he figured out that if he did not answer he would have to listen to the vulcan’s precise definition of the what it does.

“Yes,” Malzel retorted, quickly. “The Noridian ore becomes completely unstable if it subjected to magnetic wave - pitched in the correct way, of course.”

“Yes,” Joanna nodded. “The magnetic wave makes the ore unstable. Now, tell me this, why would we find a magnetic charge on the site that you told us collapsed for no reason?”

“All right,” Malzel said, raising his hands in defense. “So maybe I haven’t been entirely honest with you. But let me make it up to you and tell you why that charge was there.”

“Go ahead,” Joanna said, gesturing with his hands for him to continue.

“There are certain factions on Nawnow that want to see our Ophilu project fail,” Malzel explained.

“Who are these other factions?” Kavoc inquired.

Joanna nodded, and glared down at Malzel.

“Competing companies,” Malzel said. “Jealous of Ophilu Mining, Inc. profitable enterprise here. They want to make our process look flawed so that they can get the government contract to process Leguro and Camiu in breathable - habitable space bodies. They sabotaged our mining operation here, and then said it was because of the flaw in our atmosphere system.”

“What if was an internal job?” Joanna said, eyeing Malzel.

“What would I have to gain from sabotaging my own mining operation?” Malzel objected, trying to look hurt.

“Why, indeed?” Kavoc said.

“Look, I’m a busy man,” Malzel said.

“I don’t think you understand the gravity of the implications,” Joanna stated.

Malzel stood up with several folders in his hands. He gave a slight sigh.

“Believe what you wish,” Malzel said. “But right now I am late for a meeting with the board of directors. Now I must excuse myself.”

Malzel gave both of the Starfleet officers a slight bow and left the room from the door in which he had entered from. Joanna turned and looked over at Kavoc. She crossed her arms in front of her chest again.

“Do you think he’s telling us the truth?” Joanna inquired.

“I do not believe so,” Kavoc said. “He lies as well as a vulcan can, that much is clear.”

Joanna chuckled slightly at Kavoc’s response.

“Was my statement funny, Lt. Commander?” Kavoc inquired.

“No..., well...,” Joanna hesitated. “You told the straight facts.”

“That I did, indeed.”

Captain Kelsoe leaned forward, looking up at the view screen in the ready room. A very agitated Ambassador Rizex was staring back at him. Kelsoe has just finished a long and rather heated argument with the Ambassador on why the Prime Minister should be contacted. Ambassador Rizex demanded that the conversation with the Prime Minister included him. Kelsoe had reluctantly agreed. If he had learned anything about dealing with other worlds it was to be diplomatic. The screen blinked into two, and he could now saw Ambassador Rizex on the right and an older Nawlo appeared on the left - who was, with no doubt - Prime Minister Zoruc.

“Prime Minister Zoruc,” Kelsoe greeted the Prime Minister. “Thank you for speaking with me.”

“From what Ambassador Rizex told me,” Zoruc said in a raspy voice. “This is important.”

“It is,” Kelsoe said. “Our rescue teams on Ophilu have found what appears to be a magnetic charge.”

“A magnetic charge!” Zoruc said, his eyes widening with concern. “The ore on the Ophilu moon does not respond well to magnetic energy.”

“Correct,” Kelsoe said. “It makes it unstable, which will cause a cave-in.”

“How did a magnetic charge it up on Ophilu?” Zoruc inquired. “Rizex?”

“I... I don’t know,” Rizex said.

“Captain Kelsoe?” Zoruc asked. “What is your thought on this?”

“Now this is just speculation,” Kelsoe said, “but we are thinking Malzel.”

“Malzel!” Rizex said. “Nonsense!”

“No!” Zoruc said. “I can see that. It’s obvious. Malzel would be after the insurance.”

“That’s what we think,” Kelsoe said.

“We would need evidence,” Zoruc said.

“I think my team on Ophilu will be able to get some, Prime Minister Zoruc,” Kelsoe said. “Once we rescue the miners, Malzel will show his true colors.”

Zoruc nodded in agreement.

“Good thinking, Captain Kelsoe,” Zoruc nodded. “We will send our Chief Magistrate to the Ophilu station, advise your team.”

“I will,” Kelsoe nodded. “Kelsoe out.”

Lt. Commander Joanna Withrome stood next to Kavoc as they watched the team finish up the rescue attempt. They had just a couple more inches to go until they reached the miners. From the distance Joanna could see Malzel slowly approach them. His face looked grim, somehow that seemed right - even though it should be a happy occasion considering that they would soon reach the miners, and no miners since they started have died. Malzel stepped up along side Joanna, and heaved a long sigh of frustration.

“Almost there?” Malzel inquired.

“Yes,” Joanna said staring at Malzel. She could tell that he really was not happy that they had succeeded. Perhaps Kavoc is correct, Joanna said to herself as she stared at the Nawlo.

“Sir,” Janns said, “We’re ready to place the last charge.”

“All right,” Joanna said, turning to look down at the sensor console. “Is everything all right here?”

“Yes, Lt. Commander,” Kavoc nodded. “All of the miners are in a sufficient distance from the wall. I do no think that any of them shall receive any critical injuries from the final charge.”

Joanna nodded and turned back to Janns.

“Place the pulse charge,” Joanna said. “And detonate in on my command.”

Janns nodded and went back over to the side of the cliff wall. Winowski turned around and gave a thumbs of to show that his team was ready. Joanna gave one last look at the sensors before giving the order.

“All right people,” Joanna said. “Detonate.”

There were to simultaneous blasts. The sides of the cliff wall that they had been working on had become weak enough to break through with a pulse charge, which sends tiny vibration into the rock - similar to the magnetic charge, but not all dangerous. As the rubble feel and the dust cleared, Joanna had lost sight of Malzel. She ignored this and began to step forward, towards the opening into the mine. It was difficult to see in the dust, but it was clearing fast. The entire world looked gray. To her right she could hear Winowski coughing. The rubble clattered around, and then someone brushed past her, knocking her over. As she looked up, she recognized the uniform of the person who had knocked her over. It was Malzel.

She reached down towards her waist to grab her tricorder and noticed that her phaser was missing. Malzel! When he had brushed against her, he must have took her phaser. She stood up, wiping the dust off her uniform. Around her the gray dust faded as a gush of wind swept by. Then she saw a flash of reddish orange light and head a faint cry. Malzel was murdering the miners! The dust blew completely away, and through the opening she could see Malzel raising the phaser.

“Stop him!” Joanna shouted.

Malzel turned and looked at her with wild eyes. He pointed the phaser at her and fired. She jumped to her right, nearly missing the beam. As she looked up she saw Winowski reach for his phaser as Malzel pointed his at him. But Winowski was too slow and Malzel fired, hitting Winowski on the left shoulder blade. Winowski fell. Joanna stood up.

“Kavoc!” she shouted. “Get...!”

Before she could finish her command Kavoc had already took his phaser out and fired, hitting Malzel on the chest. Malzel fell with a pathetic yelp. Joanna sighed with relief and turned to look at Kavoc, who still had his phaser raised. He cocked his head towards her and she could almost detect a show of emotion on the vulcan’s face.

As the rescue team moved into the opening and began helping the ten miner that were still alive, Joanna saw Dr. Braga and the Nawlo authorities approach in the distance. She gave a weak smile of fulfillment, but it faded quick. Eleven miners could have been saved, but her slow actions allowed them to minus one.

Malzel had only been stunned. Winowski, on the other hand had a more serious injury on his left shoulder blade. Braga had treated Winowski on the scene, but recommended that he be transported back to the Pioneer for further treatment and recovery.

Currently Lt. Commander Joanna Withrome stood on the main deck platform of the Ophilu Mining building that they had transported to earlier before they began their rescue. The Nawlo authorities had taken the pleading Malzel into a separate room to interrogate him. Captain Kelsoe was leaning against one of the pillars in the room, looking out at the barren terrain that was Ophilu. Ambassador Rizex sat quietly in the corner of the room in a bubble shaped light blue chair.

A door on the opposite wall opened and Gondel, the Chief Magistrate of Nawnow stepped through. He, like many of the Nawlo officials was a much older man. He had a long grayish beard that made his face look long and narrow. He wore the traditional blue orange robe of the Nawlo, which moved back and forth as he stepped over to them.

The Ambassador stood up and bowed in greeting. Gondel did the same.

“Ambassador Rizex,” Gondel said, with a smooth voice. “Malzel has broken the law of the Nawlo. He has killed five Nawlo miners. And after further questioning, I have found out the the past five “accidents” that have occurred here had been planned by Malzel.”

Joanna and Kelsoe exchanged looks. Joanna turned to Gondel.

“How many people has he killed, exactly?” Joanna inquired.

“Over sixty,” Gondel said. “At least that is what we no at the moment.”

“Why would he kill the people that do the mining?” Kelsoe inquired.

“Our business is much different than that of other worlds,” Gondel said. “In Nawlo business, insurance companies get involved with the company. And they have found it much more profitable to cheat and lie to get their money.”

“But does that not mean that the insurance company losses money?” Joanna asked.

“Not on Nawnow,” Gondel said. “Here insurance money comes from the government. Insurance companies build up a client list and verifies the claims for us. Then we give the appropriate amount of money to the insurance company, who then hands it over to the business company who is requesting the insurance.”

“Sounds like a bad system to me,” Joanna remarked.

Gondel shrugged.

“It’s our way,” Gondel said. “Now you must excuse me, I have paper work to fill out on this matter.”

They nodded and shook hands with him, and then he left the room back through the door he had entered. Ambassador Rizex turned towards the two Starfleet officers.

“I cannot thank you enough for helping us,” Rizex said, shaking Kelsoe’s hand.

“It was nothing,” Kelsoe said. “Anything to help further relations between the Nawlo people and the Federation.”

“And to you, Lt. Commander Withrome,” Rizex said. “To you we owe a great deal of thanks. Without your leadership those ten miners would surely have died.”

“You’re welcome, Ambassador,” Joanna said. “But I couldn’t have done it without my team. The thanks goes to them.”

Ambassador Rizex nodded and stepped back.

“You have made a friend with the Nawlo people,” Rizex said. “My our two peoples live in peace until the end of times.”

Kelsoe and Joanna gave a last farewell to Ambassador Rizex before they transported back aboard the Pioneer. Joanna stopped by sickbay to checkup on  Winowski before she returned to her quarters. Braga informed her that he would make a full recovery. Now Joanna sat in her chair, sipping a cup of hot cacao looking out of the window at the stars zooming past. The Pioneer was on a new mission now, but she felt that she would find it hard to forget about those terrifying seconds when she couldn’t see through the dust and was unable save that one miner who had died. The dust was like the morning fog, Joanna thought, thick and cold, unkind like the night from which it came.