The campfire burned slowly, sparks rising up from the glowing embers.
They hung in the air for a moment before being picked up by the warm breeze that came down from the hills. They spun and twisted about as if they were doing a complex dance to the inaudible tune of the universe, while the people sitting around the fire followed their movements with their eyes. They were transfixed by the simple beauty of it all, before the sparks faded into nothingness.
The travellers sighed and inhaled the sweet smoke that came from the wood on the fire. It had an exotic aroma typical of the jamapar trees of the area. It relaxed them even further and they gazed at each other with smiles of satisfaction. Each of them joined their hands together, their fingers extended outwards forming an oval shape. They all nodded at each other with understanding.
“One,” Sevrin said.
“One,” his followers said in agreement.
“It has been said that the cornerstones of history are the defining moments of bold action,” Doctor Sevrin stated, his assertive voice echoing in the air. “Tomorrow we journey to Hakona, the capital city of this world. Yet another colony settled in the name of scientific pursuit by the paymasters of the Federation.
“The infection of science throughout this system – throughout this universe – is not for us. We’ve travelled far and long to reach our goal, journeying as fate carries us, very much like the sparks from this fire. But tomorrow, tomorrow we take a bold step into our future by seizing a vessel, a space cruiser called the Aurora. I’ve heard from traders that this ship is just the one we need.”
“Traders?” Adam asked, wind blowing through his curled hair. “Are you sure they could be trusted? Did they reach?”
“Yes,” Sevrin said with a slight smile. “They reached. It was nothing more than talk, information exchanged between two parties on their separate quests. They had no reason to lie, and we have no reason not to believe them.
“The plan is this. Tongo Rad,” he continued, and gestured to the purple-haired young man who had joined their group. “You, being the son of the Catullan ambassador, should be able to grant us access to see this ship. This colony is one with close ties to your world. As such, they dare not refuse you something so simple.”
Irina spoke up. “Do you really believe that they would just let us take it? A ship like that would have very tight security. Back at Starfleet Academy I learned that -”
“They’ll do what they’re told to do,” Doctor Sevrin cut her off. “It is the nature of a scientific, ordered society to obey the laws of bureaucracy. To offend the son of a diplomat is to offend a diplomat, and in turn that may create a diplomatic incident that they would prefer to avoid. They won’t refuse, because they’re rigid in their thinking.”
“They’re a bunch of stiff Herberts!” Adam said loudly, his tone mocking. “Herberts! Herberts! Herberts!”
The rest of the group joined in, all of them chanting “Herberts” in unison as Doctor Sevrin smiled at them with pride. After a few moments they quietened down.
“Tomorrow,” their leader said, “we begin the next step on our way to Eden.”
They all smiled at this piece of news. Adam got up from where he was sitting and retrieved his alien guitar from where it was resting against a small rock. He began to strum out some notes and the others began to sway to the rhythmic music. Tongo Rad stood and picked up his small drum, tapping it in time. Adam grinned and began to sing:
“We’re on our way to Eden, my friend
Soon we’ll be at our journey’s end
Making our home where the science is out
Healing within from the peace that’s without
Bringing to the stiffs an end to their borders
When all the dust has cleared
That’s when nobody gives those orders
No more Herberts being feared
Once we’re done it’s a new beginning
The circle of one is spin-spin-spinning
You know you reach us, as we reach you
Now we’re One, before just two
It’s time to bring some understanding
To those who all say “no”
That’s where they want to leave us hanging
But to Eden we –
“Will you please BE QUIET!” a booming voice shouted out from the darkness. “Some of us are trying to get some sleep here!”
Adam stopped playing and singing instantly, shocked by what he heard, while Tongo Rad put his drum to one side. Within seconds the rest of the group got to their feet and joined them, peering into the blackness that surrounded the area.
Doctor Sevrin stepped forward and held his hands apart in a gesture of peace. “Friend, come forward and show yourself. We will not harm you, and we apologise for disturbing your rest.”
Slowly the stranger approached, his figure gradually revealed by the light from the glowing fire. His long beard and unkempt hair was typical of the traders they had seen on this world, although he walked with a dignity that seemed to make him somehow alien in this landscape.
“You won’t harm me?” the stranger said, and there was a hint of playfulness in his tone. “That sounds a little strange, coming from someone who was talking about stealing a ship tomorrow.”
Sevrin studied him carefully. After a slight pause he answered, “You have good hearing, friend.”
“It’s hard not to. On a quiet night like this, your voice travels far. I should know, I speak to many people myself out here. That doesn’t alter what I heard though. You plan to steal a ship. That’s very serious business, you know…”
“Are you a spy?” Sevrin asked bluntly. “Do you plan to report us to your Federation overlords, the masters who rule by science and order?”
“Herbert! Herbert!” Tongo Rad cried out, pointing an accusing finger at the stranger. After a moment the rest of the group joined in.
The man with the beard sighed and scratched his forehead. Their insults didn’t bother him, he’d heard worse. He was just a little annoyed at how childish it all seemed. Slowly the noise died down and he took the opportunity to speak.
“I am not Herbert, and I am certainly no spy. As you would say, I am One. I am an outcast, although while you may have chosen to be such I had little choice. I won’t tell the authorities, your business is your business and whatever you do is up to you.”
“If you’re One and you reach,” the young woman called Mavig said, “then you can tell us the truth. Who are you?”
“I’m just a traveller, like yourselves in many ways. But your plan to steal a ship, that’s troubling. It’s against the law. Do you really think it’ll be so easy?”
“I’m the son of an ambassador!” Tongo Rad yelled out, his long purple hair fluttering in the breeze. “They won’t stop us.”
“The son of an ambassador!” laughed the stranger. “My, that must be quite stressful on you! I can understand that it must be hard having a father who holds… differing… opinions to you. For that father to be an ambassador… well, you have my sympathies. You’re a young man with a great deal of resentment, and the emotional pain must be hard to deal with sometimes.”
“There won’t be any pain where we’re going,” Irina said.
The stranger looked at her curiously, waiting for her to say more. When she didn’t, he smiled broadly. “Well, that all sounds fascinating. Although I have to give you some advice, let’s just call it the benefit of experience. I’ve been on my own path for many years, probably far more than you. The first thing I should tell you is that you should dress warmer. Those flimsy rags that you have, they don’t protect you from the harsh elements. Look at me, I wear these robes like all of the traders on this world. They’re cool enough in the day and they keep you warm at night…”
The youngsters looked at each other, and then down at their bright clothes. They were loose, made of light cloth, but left them mostly exposed.
“We have the fire to keep us warm,” Irina countered.
“Yeah, and we don’t like tight-fitting clothes,” Adam agreed. “We want our bodies to be as free as our minds, brother.”
Doctor Sevrin held up a hand to quieten them down. “We appreciate your help, friend, but we dress how we choose. Society may dictate to us, but we refuse to be slaves.”
“That’s true, you shouldn’t be. I have to say that you should at least consider wearing some kind of footwear though. I know that the sand and ground out here isn’t too harsh, but I find that sandals are appropriate for the climate. Some of the streets in the capital city are still a little rough, and it can be best to not walk barefoot.”
“As I said,” Sevrin reiterated, “we dress how we choose.”
The bearded man nodded thoughtfully, considering this, and conceded. “As you wish. I can see that you’re happy to do what you choose. I was wondering…”
His words trailed off and the group wondered what he was going to say next. Adam’s head swayed back and forth, a tune going around in his head that nobody else could hear. Finally Doctor Sevrin spoke up.
“What is it that’s raised your curiosity, friend? I know that we may seem strange to you, our way of life seems to make many seem uneasy even if we just hope to show them the truth – that our so-called society has robbed them of their independent thought. Do you fear the truth?”
The bearded man laughed again, a deep booming noise. “No, the truth is something that I definitely don’t fear. I live with it every day. Actually, I was just wondering about those badges, the emblems that you all wear.”
“The symbol on them is that of infinity.” Doctor Sevrin explained. “Every ending is a beginning, and we are all One.”
“They look like fried eggs.”
“The symbols -”
“No,” the bearded man pointed out, “the badges themselves. I know the symbol. But the badges look like fried eggs. I’m thinking it’s probably got something to do with the chicken and the egg idea of the planet Earth.”
“I… suppose so…” Sevrin said hesitantly. He was beginning to become very annoyed at the stranger’s presence.
“Of course,” the man corrected himself, “even on Earth, which is where that phrase originated, it’s highly inaccurate. Logically speaking, the egg came first. Their ancient creatures known as dinosaurs existed long before chickens – as humans know them – and the dinosaurs laid eggs. Therefore the egg existed many years before the chicken.”
“Get a load of this far-gone stiff, Doctor Sevrin!” Adam said with a grin. “He may not be totally reaching but he’s really teaching!”
At this the bearded man stared at Sevrin. “Doctor Sevrin? You’re Doctor Sevrin, the research engineer from Tiburan?”
“I am,” Sevrin acknowledged. “I’m surprised that a traveller such as yourself would have heard of me.”
“I hear all sorts of things, as you’ve realised. Perhaps I was wrong to judge you by your appearance, as I’m sure you’ve wrongly judged me. I’m a simple man, but not that simple. I find it odd though that a man who has rejected science and authority still keeps the title of doctor.”
Sevrin looked about with impatience. He turned to face his followers, and noticed them all looking at him with a puzzled expression.
“I was kind of wondering…” said Mavig.
“So was I,” agreed Tongo Rad. “Say, why do you keep the name doctor, Doctor?”
“I denounce science!” stated Sevrin commandingly. “The title is now merely symbolic of what I was, the ending that created the beginning of my journey – our journey – to Eden.”
“Ah. I see. Eden…. There are some who believe that it’s a myth, you know…” the man said.
Sevrin shook his head. “Those people are wrong. It may be a myth to many, but like most myths it’s based on truth. This is what we seek, and we believe that we’ve found it within the Neutral Zone. It may be too much for you to understand, but for us it represents out future.”
“No, I understand your quest completely,” the man said, “although personally I think you’re going to the wrong place. But we must all follow our paths, even if I think that yours is somewhat misguided.”
“I ain’t got no jelly in my belly, brother,” Adam said enthusiastically. “I’m going to eat an apple when I get there!”
“Ah,” the man replied. It was such a ridiculous statement that he didn’t know how to respond. Finally he just said, “And with that I shall leave you. My own camp is just over the rise there. It would be greatly appreciated if you tried to keep the noise down. However, I wish you luck in finding what you’re looking for. Goodnight, Doctor Sevrin and goodnight all. Think about what I said about the sandals.”
With that the man turned and left, heading back into the darkness. Quiet descended upon Sevrin and his followers. Adam looked at his guitar and was about to start playing when Sevrin stepped in front of him.
“No, Adam.” he said. “No more music for tonight. We need to get some rest, we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”
Slowly they all settled in to sleep around the campfire. The last thought that grudgingly went through Doctor Sevrin’s mind as he fell asleep was that he would have been warmer if he’d been wearing more clothes.
On the other side of the rise, the bearded man lay back to rest and raised up the hood on his robes to cover up his head from the cold.
He quite liked the people he’d just been talking to, although he couldn’t help but grin at how foolish they were. Their clothes, their language – even their philosophy – it made little sense. To reject technology but use a spaceship was hypocritical, and they clearly hadn’t put any thought into how it was the same technology they rejected that had given them their knowledge.
The man leading them, Sevrin, was clearly a zealot, or insane, or both. It was obvious that he’d kept the title doctor as a way to show leadership, which technically meant that he was the ruling authority. Technically, that made him a symbol of everything he hated. Not only that but there also seemed to be some kind of ego involved.
He sympathised with the young man who had purple hair though, the ambassador’s son. In many ways the youngster had reminded him of himself. He regretted that someone with so much promise would embark on such a fool’s errand.
He chuckled to himself again as he thought about everything they’d said.
Eden. In the Neutral Zone. It was completely ridiculous, with no proof or logic involved whatsoever. They were all so foolish, a group of starry-eyed dreamers and nothing more. Still, he considered, if a person wanted to get there then maybe stealing a ship at some point would make sense if they were desperate enough.
He let out a little laugh to himself at the sheer silliness of it. He could have told them that they were going in the completely wrong direction, but thought that they would figure it out for themselves soon enough.
Eden wasn’t in the Neutral Zone and it wasn’t even being given the proper name.
It was beyond the great barrier, the bearded Vulcan smiled, and it’s correct name was Sha Ka Ree.
Stupid space hippies, Sybok thought to himself as he curled up to sleep, you’ll never catch me acting like that.