By Carol Sandford


Chapter 08

  The six members of the away team were stunned as they materialized on the edge of the 'strangers' camp. Various people of all ages were around a large campfire; two children were steadily turning a spit that held a variety of vegetables that Will recognized from the colonists' camp. The away team approached cautiously, but although they carried their phasers, they were aimed at the ground. Feeling the necessity to be armed, but not threatening unless threatened, they noticed that nobody reacted to the sudden appearance of the away team.

A youngish man stood as Will came within ten feet of the camp. His questioning eyes fell to the phaser in Will's hand and back up to Will's face. Will's face reddened. These people obviously unarmed and he turned enough to indicate to the others to disarm themselves. Will felt the tension leave the away team, their relief evident.

Will took a step forward and introduced himself, and his team. "Hello, I'm Commander William Riker of the Starship Enterprise, and this is Lieutenant Commander Deanna Troi, our Counselor. Lieutenant Worf, Ensign Howard, Jones and Pierelli"

Never taking his eyes of the man that curiously looked to each of the team, Will noted that he took a little longer looking at Deanna. She caught Will's gaze, and the laughter in his eyes, so taking the bull by the horns, she stepped forward to encourage the conversation. "Hello, I hope you don't mind us intruding, but we were curious." Several others gradually made their way to the gathering. Will was surprised at how similar they were to the colonists considering that these people were the true natives here, the only difference that Will could see was that they were not very tall. Most of the adults seemed to be about five feet, but all were quite sturdily built. Finally the leader spoke, but it was a strange language that no one recognized. After several minutes of failed communication, Will summoned the Enterprise and requested Data's presence. If anyone could decipher the language, it was him.

Data materialized beside the group and a hushed sense of awe swept through the strangers as Data stepped forward to introduce himself.

Will quickly told him of the situation and they attempted once more to communicate. Within a few moments Data had established a repartee as Will and the others looked on in amazement.

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