Gul de Marl watched as the Dalantian kneeled next to JD. He was impressed by the actions of Caliban. The Dalantian was a formidable looking specimen and a true warrior. Caliban's coloring was all black which gave him a sinister air. Gul de Marl saw Caliban lift one of the human's arms.
"These humans are so frail," he said as he dropped JD's arm. "What shall we do with them?"
"We'll keep them as hostages incase Captain Larabee begins to stick his nose in our business," de Marl answered.
"And what species is this one?" Caliban asked when he saw VIn.
The wound on Vin's side was bleeding and de Marl was surprised at the color. He kneeled down and pushed Vin's hair away from his ears.
"A Vulcan!" de Marl said surprised. "I never would have guessed."
"Why?" Caliban asked.
"He doesn't look like any Vulcan I've ever seen," he answered. "For one thing I've never seen males with long hair."
"He looks as frail as the human," Caliban sneered.
"Actually he's much stronger than the human," de Marl disagreed.
"Won't make a difference in a few days," Caliban said pointing to the wound.
"I suppose not," he said. "It's unfortunate. I would have liked to get to know him."
Caliban called over a few of his followers and instructed them to pick up the two intruders. Gul de Marl searched their clothing first looking for their Combadges. When they were found he destroyed them. Gul de marl watched as they were carried away.
+ + + + + + +
Chris walked along the corridor to the turbo lift. Vin and JD would be back from shore leave and Chris was anxious to talk with them. He still wished he could go down and climb himself but talking with his two youngest officers would have to do. As the turbo lift doors opened on the bridge he noticed Vin and JD weren't at their posts. He walked to his chair and looked at Buck. Buck shrugged and Chris turned to Ezra.
"Contact them and find out what's up," Chris instructed.
Chris listened as Ezra tried to contact them. After a few attempts Ezra looked at the Captain.
"My attempts to contact them have met with failure," Ezra informed him.
"Could wherever they're climbing be interfering with communications?" Buck asked.
"No," Ezra said. "I could reach then anywhere. I believe their combadges have malfunctioned."
"Both of them?" Chris questioned. "At the same time?"
"It is highly improbable," Ezra admitted. "But not impossible."
"Ezra, I want a search team down there in five minutes," Chris commanded.
"Aye Captain," Ezra said and got to work.
"You think that's necessary?" Buck asked
"I just have a feeling," Chris said.
"Damn!" Buck cursed. "Ezra, I'm going on this away team."
"As you wish Commander," Ezra said. "Security detail is waiting in the transporter room. I've fed the coordinates into the computer where they were climbing. We'll beam down directly to the site."
"Contact me as soon as you find anything," Chris said.
"Aye sir," Ezra saluted as he left the bridge
Buck followed Ezra and they headed for the transporter room. When they entered Buck saw three security personnel. They all got on the pad and the Chief set them down. They materialized next to the hot spring and they were immediately soaked since it was raining. A storm had blown in bringing torrential rains and high winds. Buck pushed his wet hair out of his eyes and looked around.
"We'll never find them in this," Buck shouted. "We better get back to the ship."
Ezra nodded and contacted the ship. Once they were on board Buck hit his combadge and called Chris.
"This is the Captain."
"Captain, a really bad storm is over the area," Buck reported. "I think they're probably holed up somewhere waiting it out."
"Alright," Chris said. "You and Ezra get changed and meet me in my ready room."
"Aye Captain," Buck said and followed Ezra out.
Fifteen minutes later Buck walked into the ready room to find Josiah, Nathan and Ezra sitting at the table. Chris was pacing beside it.
"So what you're saying is if they are waiting out the storm we should still be able to contact them," Nathan said.
"Correct," Ezra agreed.
Josiah sighed. "So that leaves us with a few options." He held up his hand to tick them off on his fingers. "One, their combadges have malfunctioned. Two, they turned them off, or three, they are hurt and can't answer."
"Or four, someone took their combadges and they can't answer," Chris added.
"Which would still lead to number three," Nathan said.
"What are you getting at Chris?" Buck asked.
"I'm not sure," he admitted. "It's just a feeling."
"Feeling of what?" Josiah asked.
"That something happened to them," Chris answered.
"You mean to Vin," Nathan said.
"I can't explain," Chris said frustrated. "Ezra how long will the storm last?"
"Another two hours."
"Damn!" Chris cursed. "There won't be anything left to track."
"We don't have much of a choice Captain," Nathan pointed out. "What else can we do?"
"I'm going to talk to the Viceroy," Chris said. "Ezra, get me the Ambassador."
"Aye Captain," Ezra said and left the ready room.
"I'm going down to sick bay," Nathan said. "If your intuition is right and they're in trouble that means they're hurt. I'm going to make sure everything's ready."
"I'll give you a hand," Josiah said and they left.
Chris and Buck went out to the bridge where Chris waited impatiently for the Ambassador to answer.
"Captain," Ezra called. "Ambassador Calter for you."
Chris stood as the Ambassador's image came on the view screen.
"Greeting Captain," she smiled. "What can I do for you?"
"I need to speak with the Viceroy," Chris said.
"I'm entertaining Tulara and the other concubines. I can meet you after," she said and turned away from the screen to talk to someone. "Actually Captain, Tulara would be delighted to see you and Vin again."
"Actually Lieutenant Tanner is who I need to discuss with the Viceroy," Chris said. "Would she be pleased with Lieutenant Standish?"
"Hold on," Calter said.
They could hear some whispering off screen then a small yelp. Buck looked at Chris in confusion. In a short time a pale blue Dalantian female appeared on the screen. Chris watched as Tulara reached out to touch his image.
"Greetings!" she shouted.
They could hear Calter's hushed voice off to the side. Tulara turned to listen then they heard giggling and Tulara turned back with a smile.
"Forgive me," she said in a normal voice. "This is all new and exciting. I would be delighted to see you and Ezra again."
"We'd be honored, Tulara," Chris bowed. "We'll be down in a few minutes."
Chris ended the conversation and turned to Ezra.
"The ambassador has sent the coordinates," he said.
"Commander the ship is yours."
Chris and Ezra materialized inside Ambassador Calter's residence. They were met by one of her aids that led them to where she was. When Tulara saw them she came over and escorted them into the room. They took seats and a servant brought them drinks.
"Where is Vin?" Tulara asked.
"That's what we came to ask help for," Chris said. "Lieutenant Tanner and Ensign Dunne didn't return from shore leave."
"Could they be late because of the storm?" she asked.
"That's possible," Chris agreed. "But their combadges have stopped working or have been destroyed."
"Are you suggesting that they were attacked here?" Calter asked.
"I'm just telling you what might have happened," Chris said. "Vin would never stay past the time allotted."
"I can have the Viceroy begin a search," Tulara suggested.
"That's what we came down to ask," Chris said. "I would like to send out search parties also."
"I'm afraid that wouldn't be possible," Tulara said. "We have Dalantians who's job it is to find lost visitors. If you send your people down to look they wouldn't be doing their job and would be considered a drain on the community."
"I understand that Tulara," Chris said. "But I need to find my men. They could be hurt."
"Of course you do," she said, patting his hand. "I'll have the patrols go out as soon as the storm ends."
Ezra was sure he could hear the Captain's teeth grinding from where he was. Chris wasn't happy about this decision. This had been a mistake to come here asking for help. Now their hands were tied. The Ambassador said they would have to let the Dalantians handle it in their own way since it was their planet. Tulara kept the two of them at the party until the storm cleared and the sun came back out. After that she excused herself to inform the Viceroy to send out the patrols. Chris said good-bye to the Ambassador and stormed out. Ezra followed on his heels.
"I don't believe this!!!!" Chris shouted. "I know Tulara is trying to be nice but she has tied our hands and now we can't search."
"I might have a way around that Captain," Ezra smiled. "I believe I would like to request shore leave."
"Of course," Chris smiled. "By all means."
"I think I'll do some hiking," Ezra returned the smile. "I'll just return to the ship and get my gear. I want to make it look good."
"This is the Captain to the Maverick. Two to beam up."
Once back on the ship Ezra went to his cabin and gathered his gear. When he was finished he headed to sick bay so Nathan could put a homing beacon under his skin, just in case he had trouble with his combadge. While he was letting Nathan implant the tiny beacon he got an idea. After he left sick bay he went to Vin's cabin. Being security chief he over-rode Vin's lock command and entered. He gathered one of Vin's T-shirts and placed it in his pack. He informed the Captain he was ready and he would be in touch. Chris wished him luck and he went back down to the planet.
+ + + + + + +
JD slowly came awake with a pounding headache. He opened his eyes, sat up, then looked around. JD was in a cave that was covered with phosphorescent rocks. The rocks cast and eerie green glow around the cave. JD couldn't remember how he got there and tried to stand. When he moved, the cuts on his chest pulled and he hissed. JD carefully pulled the fabric away from the lacerations.
"Damn!" JD cursed. "That hurt."
He had researched the Dalantians and knew they could fight, but he had never expected this. The talons had left four parallel cuts along his chest. One he could see was pretty deep. He ripped his shredded T-shirt off and placed it against the wound. His mind was a little fuzzy about what had happened, but then he remembered Vin saving his life.
"Vin!" he called.
JD looked around frantically searching for the Vulcan. He saw a boot sticking out from behind a rock and he crawled over. When he got closer he could see they had placed Vin next to a small spring. Obviously they weren't going to kill them if they gave them water. It was hard to tell how bad Vin looked because of the light. He was unconscious and JD reached for his neck with a shaking hand. He was afraid he would find that Vin had no pulse. JD sighed in relief when he found one but, it was weak. He gently pulled the jumpsuit away from Vin's side and cringed. The wound was still bleeding and JD ripped off Vin's shirt to try to stop it. He sat at Vin's side and placed pressure on the wound. JD was surprised that Vin didn't even stir when he touched him and he became worried. He had seen a few phaser blasts but none that looked like this. There was a black ring around the wound that was hard to the touch. JD leaned back against the wall and sighed. He hoped the others were looking for them because he was getting a bad feeling about this.
After Ezra rented the hovercraft he wandered around the plaza. He was looking for any of Tulara's servants. He had an idea but needed to ask a few questions first. Ezra figured that Lila could track Vin anywhere. He was getting frustrated when he felt a weight push against the back of his legs. Lila had found him.
"Forgive please," a female Dalantian said.
"It's alright," Ezra replied.
"You S'ra?" she asked. "Vin and JD brother?"
"JD and Vin's friend," he smiled. He decided he liked her description better.
"Sorry, please," she laughed. "I get words wrong. I is Skala."
"I'm pleased to meet you Skala," Ezra said with a bow.
"No bow," she said and began to whistle.
Ezra guessed she was laughing from the smile on her face. The whistling had a pleasing sound.
"And why shouldn't I bow to someone so pretty?" he asked.
"I server that's why," she stated.
"I see," Ezra said petting Lila. "Can I ask you something?"
"Is Lila good at finding people if she knows them?" he asked
"Very good," Skala said eagerly. "She can find Tulara anywhere."
"Do you think she could find Vin?"
"Oh yes," she whistled. "Lila likes he very much."
"Do you think I might borrow Lila?"
"You take Lila find Vin and JD?" Skala asked. "Is very good."
Skala took Lila's head and looked into her eyes. She began to whistle and Lila purred. When she was finished she stood up and looked at Ezra. "No tell I," Skala smiled. "Lila go with you."
Before Ezra could thank her she left, disappearing around a building. Ezra looked down at the cat and was caught by her intelligent eyes. The cat blinked and released Ezra from her gaze. Ezra got the impression she was eager to look for Vin.
+ + + + + + +
JD woke up shivering. He opened his eyes to the eerie light and realized he was curled on his side next to Vin. He didn't remember falling asleep. As he tried to sit up, the cave began to spin and he closed his eyes. He jumped when he felt something touch his arm.
"S'okay," Vin said weakly.
"Vin!" JD cried. "How ya feeling?"
"Not sure," he admitted. "Can't feel my side."
JD removed the T-shirt and saw the black was spreading. He was relieved to see that the bleeding had stopped. JD put the T-shirt back over the wound. He felt Vin touch his arm again.
"You're hot," Vin said in concern. "You hurt?"
"Well you're cold," JD smiled. "I got scratched by one of the Dalantians. I didn't know they had talons for fingernails."
"Makes sense," Vin said. "Let me see."
JD faced Vin and he saw the four angry slashes across his chest. Vin shook his head.
"My fault," Vin sighed. "Buck's going to kill me."
"What are you talking about?" JD asked confused.
"I wanted to see what was going on," Vin explained. "I shouldn't have let you come with me."
"That's crazy Vin," JD protested. "We're both Starfleet officers. It was our duty to find out what was going on."
Suddenly JD realized Vin had his eyes closed and was shaking violently. He grabbed onto the Vulcan and panicked when Vin started convulsing. Vin's back arched off the floor then crashed back down. JD grabbed Vin's head so he wouldn't crack it against the rock floor. As suddenly as the convulsions started they stopped and Vin lay quiet. JD reached out and felt for his pulse he was rewarded with a weak one. JD went to straighten Vin's legs when a wave of dizziness hit. He decided to just lie down next to Vin. JD moved closer to Vin to try to warm him. He grasped Vin's hand and hoped Buck and the others would come soon.
+ + + + + + +
Buck watched as Chris paced across the bridge. They had been waiting an hour for Ezra to call. "This is Lieutenant Standish, calling Maverick"
"This is the Captain. Go ahead Lieutenant."
"I'm ready to proceed out of the city," Ezra informed them.
"What the heck were you doing?" Buck asked annoyed.
"I needed to borrow something," Ezra replied. "I am heading out to their camp now. I should be there in an hour."
"No," Chris said. "We'll beam you there."
"Another premonition Captain?" Josiah asked.
"Just a feeling we don't have any time to waste," Chris said.
"As you wish Captain," Ezra said. "I will be accompanied by Lila."
"Lila!" Nathan exclaimed. "You can't take a civilian into what might be a dangerous situation."
"I assure you Mr. Jackson, she will be just fine," Ezra laughed.
"Damn, Ezra, I didn't even think of her," Chris said. "Do you think she can find them?"
"I have been told they are exceptional trackers," Ezra answered. "I will contact you as soon as I find anything."
Chris ended the conversation and looked at the others.
"Who's Lila?" Buck asked with smile.
"She's a very large cat that took a liking to Vin," Chris explained. "Nathan you still reading the beacon?"
"Yes sir," Nathan replied. "He just arrived at the rock formation and is heading west. According to the topomap there's another set of small hills in that direction."
"Now we wait," Chris said.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra was glad the transporter hadn't bothered Lila. If she had he wasn't sure what they could have done with a panicked 90-pound cat. Ezra pulled Vin's shirt out of his pack and gave it to Lila. She took it in her mouth and shook it. When she was done she dropped it and began rolling on it and rubbing it with her face.
"Can you find him my Lady?" Ezra asked.
Lila stood and gave Ezra a loud trill then walked away. Ezra followed her and hoped this wasn't a wild goose chase. He followed the cat for almost an hour when he noticed the hills were dotted with caves. Lila seemed to be heading straight for one and Ezra pulled out his phaser. When they got closer Ezra called Lila to his side and cautiously entered. He found footprints that might belong to Vin and JD. There was no other sign of anyone in the cave and Ezra went back out. Lila sniffed the air and headed east along the rock face. Ezra was getting a bad feeling as he followed her. Lila went around a turn and Ezra cautiously looked. When he did he saw some Dalantians loading boxes on a hovercraft. He was about to move closer when Lila growled and leaped towards him. Ezra instinctively ducked. When he looked Lila was sitting on the chest of a male Dalantian. He was paying attention to Lila and failed to see the other one attack. He caught movement out of the corner of his eye and felt a sharp pain behind his ear just before he passed out.
+ + + + + + +
JD came awake when he heard a strange noise. He sat up slowly and checked Vin. JD bit his lower lip when he felt his face. Vin was no longer cold but was burning up. He, on the other hand, was freezing. JD laughed when he realized they had traded. He stopped abruptly when the cuts on his chest pulled. The odd sound was getting louder and JD crawled to where he thought it was coming from. As he got closer to the sound, a piece of the ceiling was removed and sunlight flooded the cave. JD shielded his eyes as something was dropped. The ceiling was replaced and the sunlight was cut off. After JD eyes readjusted to the light in the cave he went over to the object that had been dropped. As he got closer, he realized it was Ezra.
"Ezra!" he called as he shook his shoulder.
"Uh..." was the response he got.
JD stood up quickly and fell to his knees retching. When the spasms stopped he crawled over to the spring. He ripped off a piece of his T-shirt and wet it, then crawled back to Ezra. He sat at the Lieutenant's side and placed the cloth on his neck.
"Please, Ezra," JD begged. "Wake up."
JD kept talking to Ezra. After a few minutes Ezra began to stir and opened his eyes.
"Oh my head," he complained as he sat up.
"You have a huge lump by your right ear," JD said.
"Thank you, Ensign, I know," Ezra smiled taking the harshness from his words. "Are you alright?"
"I don't feel so good," JD answered.
"You don't look so good either," Ezra said placing his palm on his forehead. "You're warm."
"But I feel cold," JD said miserably.
"Where's Vin?" Ezra inquired.
"He's over there," JD pointed. "He's bad Ezra."
Ezra helped JD over to where Vin was lying. The Ensign was right, Vin was bad. He sat JD next to Vin. Once JD was comfortable Ezra checked on Vin. He pulled the makeshift bandage off his side and cringed when he saw the wound.
"It's spreading," JD commented.
"What?" Ezra asked looking up.
"The black is spreading," JD answered. "It was close to the wound at first."
Ezra looked back at the wound on Vin's side. He saw the blackened area was now six inches from the wound. Ezra touched the area and Vin screamed and began thrashing.
"Easy Vin," Ezra said as he grabbed his shoulders.
"Make them stop, Chris, PLEASE!" the Vulcan cried.
Ezra was shaken. For the Vulcan to be crying out in pain the wound really had to hurt. Most Vulcan's could endure an incredible amount of pain before they admitted it. Ezra didn't want to know what kind of weapon could cause a Vulcan this kind of pain.
"Ezra," JD said. "he couldn't even feel his side awhile ago. We have to get him to Nathan."
"We will," Ezra assured him. "Why don't you lay down and I'll call the others."
"OK," JD agreed. He was glad Ezra was here to make the decisions now.
Ezra watched as JD lay close to Vin and closed his eyes. Ezra didn't even bother to look for his combadge. He tapped his forearm where the transmitter was. Now all they had to do was wait. He just hoped the cavalry arrived quickly.
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