It was a warm evening, and the sun had set some time ago. The celebrations for the Festival of Honesty had come to a gradual close, and people were starting to call it a night. Walking among the quiet paths of the Village of Kys, Captain McCallister was enjoying a conversation with their host, Chief Mayor Adale. She was the leader of the Brenari and held the dual role of Chairperson and Chief Mayor for the colony. A tallish woman, who appeared to be middle-aged, had short blonde hair cut into a loose bob. Her green eyes were mesmerising, and McCallister had found himself struggling not to appreciate spending time with her. She was an extremely smart and versatile woman who led her people with deep care and affection. Every word she spoke was said with a tone of elegance and calmness.
Moving away from the centre of the festivities, the two leaders made their way through the village. The Brenari settlement was tranquil and showed how much the people who lived there cared for their community. Though they were technologically able, after settling on this planet in the middle of a dangerous region of space, the Brenari had chosen not to build large cities. Instead, they had opted for a more basic, rural approach to their lives. Becoming more of an agrarian society, they used what the land offered them, and their homes were no bigger than two or three storeys high. Technology was barely used by the inhabitants. They had opted for a more basic way of living.
“I still cannot get over how your people have developed this planet in the past twenty-five years,” McCallister said as they stepped into a courtyard with a water fountain in the centre. “What you have here, Adale is close to paradise itself.”
Smiling in appreciation for his flattering words, Adale thanked him. “I appreciate that James; I really do. My people have worked extremely hard to turn this world into a haven for those fleeing oppression from the Devore.”
“The fact you found this gem of a world in the middle of the most dangerous backdrop was highly fortunate,” McCallister added as they stopped by the water fountain and sat on a nearby bench together.
“Our luck was only gained from the hard work of those who sacrificed so much. It’s one of the reasons why we celebrate Honesty every month. It is a time for us as a community to come together and remember who we are as a people and that honesty is important among us. Still, it is also a time to be truthful to ourselves and show appreciation for what we have. Your arrival is only another cause for celebration,” Adale said as she took hold of McCallister’s hand into hers. “If you hadn’t saved our recent convoy, those souls would have perished and not know what awaits them here.”
“We were lucky to be around to pick up their distress call,” McCallister said after adjusting himself to be a bit more comfortable with her move to hold his hand.
“Your ship bravely transversed Chaotic Space and rescued four vessels with over a thousand of our people. We are in your debt, James,” Adale said softly before smiling at him.
Realising just how close they were to each other, McCallister changed the subject of their conversation. “Tell me, Adale, do all of the villages on New Brenar celebrate the Festival of Honesty?”
Sensing he was feeling a bit uncomfortable, Adale leaned back slowly to give him a bit of space before she answered. “They do; it’s a custom we’ve brought from where we fled. The Devore never believed that we were genuine in our intentions, but honesty among our people is important.”
“Because you could read each other’s minds?” McCallister asked.
She chuckled lightly, “It has something to do with that. We believe honesty builds trust, which builds strong relationships and strong relationships build communities.”
“Have those refugees we saved all settled into their new homes?” McCallister asked, still feeling uneasy about how close they were to one another.
“We allowed them to pick from the villages we have built so far, and already they are starting a new chapter in their lives by settling into their new homes and communities. A few have even offered to help us build the next settlement,” Adale shared.
“Already?” McCallister said, sounding impressed. “I do want to know why your people only build villages. Why not expand the village you have here? Before you get to any other settlement, there’s so much countryside around you.”
“This planet may sit in a region of space that prevents outsiders from seeing us, and as you know, captain, there are many more natural resources that prevent routine scans from determining what we have built down here. The high deposits of kelbonite are a natural defence for us, and the random ionic interference in the atmosphere makes detecting us even more of a struggle. However, if we keep our people in one place, and the Devore ever turn up, they could wipe us out in one motion. We can ensure we can survive by splitting ourselves up across the planet into smaller settlements,” Adale explained. “This world has so much to offer my people; why not use what it offers? Plus, it’s so beautiful; why spoil paradise?”
“There’s no argument from me about using what this planet can offer your people,” McCallister said in agreement with her. “I’m impressed that your people rarely use technology in their everyday lives.”
“It’s not as if we’re against technology, captain; we know it has its benefits, but when this planet is so enriched with resources that can sustain us, can you blame us for choosing to enjoy it with our own hands? The buildings we assemble use resources from the ground, and our food is grown naturally. Our people are well fed, and we can enjoy our lives by working together.”
“And rightly so, after what you have endured after years of tyranny from the Devore,” McCallister showed he understood where Adale’s people were coming from. “Why can’t you enjoy a bit of paradise?”
“Absolutely,” She smiled before standing up and holding her hand out to him. “Come with me; I want to show you something.”
Agreeing to her offer, McCallister stood up and naturally took her hand before she pulled him in close by linking her arm into his. “Do you think your people will ever properly return to the stars?”
“I can’t see us being as large as your Federation anytime soon,” She answered as they walked along a pebble-made path. Each footstep crunched on top of the small rocks. “For now, we plan to only use our ships to rescue refugees fleeing from the Devore. That in itself has to be precisely planned and done with as much secrecy as possible. They cannot know where we are or how we save those they pursue. Our underground movement is only known to a few people.”
“Talking of which,” McCallister remarked as they started to walk alongside a path near a slowly moving riverbank, “you never told me how you got your hands on so many Devore transports?”
“Once again, luck,” She answered, “I was a teenager with my mother when we were on a transport being sent to a Devore labour camp along with many others of our kind. The Devore would keep us all locked away in one large holding cell in their vessels. They were well shielded to prevent anyone from transporting us out and stopping us from having any telepathic contact with those outside the ship. Days before we reached the labour camp, our transport was part of a convoy hit by a neutronic wavefront. The Devore never saw it coming; every ship was engulfed by it. The sudden increase in radiation killed every Devore on those ships, but we were protected because our holding cells were well-shielded. Days later, we were able to bypass the security systems as they were damaged and found ourselves with four transports without any Devore guards. Furthermore, we were under the escort of a Devore warship. Once the wavefront had gone, we boarded it and were able to take control of it too. Eventually, we were able to free every Brenari and every other species that had been imprisoned by the Devore.”
“Wow, talk about being lucky,” McCallister said, sounding even more impressed.
Adale flashed him another grin. “Our luck didn’t stop there. My mother was made the leader of our group, and after consulting everyone, she gave the order for us to head to the labour camp the Devore were planning to send us to.”
“I’m guessing it wasn’t to hand those ships back to the Devore?” McCallister asked with a wry smile.
Laughing, Adale shook her head. “Far from it, she had devised this grand plan of rescuing those in the camp. After reaching orbit, we discovered that the wavefront had hit the planet too. It had affected the camp, and again, we found the Devore soldiers all dead, but the Brenari and others were all alive due to the shielding built into their holding areas. There were over ten thousand souls now, all free from the Devore. Using the other vessels we found at the camp, we fled from the Devore. Using their own refractive shielding technology against them, we were able to evade their patrols and inspection teams.”
“Wow, that’s an impressive story,” McCallister said as they reached the side of a small stone bridge. “Your people must have been travelling for some time before they found this place.”
“No, luck continued to be on our side when we found an intermittent cyclical vortex, thanks to a scientist who sympathised with our cause,” Adale said. “The vortex brought us close to the Markonian Outpost. They were extremely generous in taking us for a bit, but we soon understood that we needed to find somewhere to settle down and away from anyone who could harm us. We took some of our ships to a nearby merchantman who owned a vast junkyard of vessels and traded them for other vessels and supplies. He was accommodating to our plight and suggested we meet with the Kadi for further supplies,”
“The Kadi?” McCallister repeated. “We’ve met with them, and we enjoyed our time learning about their culture.”
“Again, more lovely people who gave us the charity we needed. Their Supreme Abbott was generous and suggested we explore a region near them that they believed their Holy Goddess Mother had created to protect them from the Borg. Several months later, we found this place.”
“And the rest, as they say, is history,” McCallister said with a smile, appreciating hearing the tale of how Adale’s people had got to where they were now.
“Indeed,” She said, stopping in the middle of the bridge and pointing to the valley in front of them. The several moons in orbit of the planet were all present in the nightline. “I come here most mornings to see the sunrise, but it is more magical at night.”
“It’s beautiful,” McCallister complimented the view. “It reminds me of my home.”
“So tell me, captain, how does a handsome man end up commanding such a powerful vessel so far from his home?” Adale inquired as she pulled the shawl she had on further above her shoulders and got close to him again.
Realising she was flirting with him, McCallister leant against the bridge. She remained close to him. “Starfleet is hugely appealing to many in the Federation to see the galaxy. I’ve been fortunate to have a career where I’ve been able to do just that and get to meet and help some amazing people in return.”
“Well, we appreciate your generosity, not only saving our ships but the medical supplies that Doctor Slyvexs has provided us are welcomed too,” Adale replied. “How much longer will you be with us?”
“If we can explore the Sanctum a bit more, as it is an unusual collection of spatial anomalies that is worthy of investigating,” McCallister stated, “I’d imagine another few more days if that’s okay with you?”
“Go ahead; we will not stand in your way.” Adale told him, “just avoid attracting too much attention from any outsiders.”
“We will do our best to do that,” McCallister assured her.
“Good, because I would hate to end my term as Chief Mayor having to tell my people to evacuate our homes,” She mentioned before placing her arm back around his and continuing their walk over the bridge.
McCallister chuckled, “When does your tenure come to an end?”
Sighing heavily, Adale answered him. “In a few days. I am looking forward to resting and returning to what I was doing before.”
“And what was that?” McCallister asked.
“Hopefully, a bit of teaching,” She answered, sounding hopeful, “when my mother retired as the de facto leader, she returned to her roots of teaching the next generation about the universe. She was a scientist initially and felt it was important that our young are given an education that makes them more wholesome. Knowledge is the key to unlocking so many avenues.”
“Sounds perfect,” McCallister said. “I did a stint of teaching myself; in fact, I trained several of my crew before I became captain of the Odyssey.”
“Well, I have to wait to see if there’s a place for me at our college. If not, I suppose it will be either returning to the fields to help with the latest harvest,” She remarked. “Otherwise, I may go travel this world.”
“I could always pull in a few favours and get you a teaching position within Starfleet Academy!” McCallister joked.
“If I’m not needed here, I may take you up on that offer!” Adale said with a wink. “You mentioned to me before that one of your sons is training to become an officer.”
“Alfie,” McCallister confirmed with a nod, “He’s very eager.”
“The young normally are eager,” She replied. “Your sons are a beautiful reflection on you, James; you must be very proud of them.”
“I am,” McCallister admitted. “They’ve had a tough year, but they’ve not let it stop them from becoming the amazing people they are.”
“I hope you don’t mind me saying, but I did sense within them that they carry the sadness of losing their mother close to their hearts,” Adale said, carefully picking the words she used.
McCallister knew what she meant by that. “No surprise there; Karyn was a major part of our lives. They miss her incredibly.”
“As much as you do,” Adale said, comforting McCallister with a stroke of his arm with her free hand. “I know loss can be a burden we carry for the rest of our lives. My mother died last year, and she was the only family I knew, but I took much comfort that in her last days with us, she saw her daughter take on the role she had founded years ago. I am sure your wife was proud of your sons, just as much as I can sense you are.”
“Oh, she was incredibly proud of them,” McCallister answered as they stopped before coming to the end of the bridge. “Adale, I have to say I have really enjoyed spending-”
McCallister was interrupted by his combadge going off. “Odyssey to Captain McCallister,” spoke Lieutenant Commander Jen.
Sighing heavily at the interruption, McCallister apologised to Adale before replying to his ops officer. “Go ahead, Lukiz.”
“Sorry for the interruption, sir, but the Telemachus has failed to return, and our link with the communication relay we left at the edge of the Sanctum has picked up a distress beacon approaching it. Its ID signal shows it’s from the Telemachus.”
Alarmed to hear that, McCallister looked away at Adale, “Start to recall the crew on the surface at once, then, Lukiz and begin preparations to break orbit.”
“Aye, sir,” Jen replied. r
Tapping his badge to speak to Adale privately, McCallister turned to the Brenari leader. “Adale, we need to check this out, just in case.”
“No, I understand; please keep us informed of what you discover,” She replied before closing the distance between them and placing both hands on either side of his cheeks. “Thank you for this evening,” She then leant in and kissed him on the cheek. “Just come back to us.”
Surprised by her affectionate gesture, McCallister just nodded with a small smile before calling up to his ship to beam him up.