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JD and Ezra had been watching from their position on the hilltop. Ezra felt something was wrong as he observed his associates join forces. It had been too easy, all of it. Every old document or book he had ever read told of sentries on the outskirts of any hideout or fort. Why not here where modern technology didn’t work? Or did it? Had anyone ever tried non-Federation tech in the valley?

Ezra began looking over the vicinity between them and the others. A movement caught his eye. Then another as he watched armed men move into position to surround his associates. Unfortunately JD saw them too. Before Ezra could stop him he was gone, sliding down the hillside to try and warn the others. Ezra already knew it was too late as he watched JD being stopped by a fist to his jaw from one of the outlaws. He ducked out of sight to avoid detection. Working his way back to the horses, he grabbed his own mount and than ran off the other horses to keep the outlaws from knowing how many there were of them.

Ezra needed to find a place to hide his horse and himself while he made plans to assist his comrades. He made his way deeper into the rocky area finding two large boulders big enough to hide his horse between. As he was leaving the safety of the shelter he was knocked off his feet by a large humanoid ramming in to him. One of the outlaws had found him and was trying to trample the life out of him. Something large and heavy was crushing his chest forcing the air out of him. A large hand circled his neck and shoulder, keeping him from regaining his breath. He fought to free himself as his world grew darker. Suddenly he could breathe. Through the gray mist he thought he saw a Vulcan before he lost consciousness.

+ + + + + + +

Chris screened the hillside looking for Standish but didn’t see him. Where the hell was the man and why in the hell hadn’t he stopped the kid. Chris watched as the outlaw picked up JD and carried him down the hill into the center of the settlement. He was dumped at the Andorians feet. As if that had been the signal they had been waiting for the six hostages filed out of the hut behind the tables. Each wore a device hanging around their necks. One of the Andorians walked over to the villagers and picked up one of the devices. Speaking loudly he said.

"This is a bomb with a dilithium crystal fastened to it." In his other hand he held a small box up in the air for Chris and the others to see. "This is the detonator. On touch by me and all of them die." The Andorian looked right at Chris as he added. "No matter how good your sharp shooter is I will still be able to press the button before I die." With a dramatic sweep of his arm he turned around so they could have a good look at him. "I also have forty pounds of dilithium crystals stored here, with bombs fixed on them as well. If they blow up so will a good part of the surrounding territory. Are you willing to risk that Marshal? I have nothing to lose, can you say the same?"

Chris cursed his bad luck and his arrogance. He hadn’t considered outside interlopers on this large a scale. None of the reports on this planet spoke of large deposits of dilithium crystals. With the crystals channeling and intensifying the force of the bombs there would be nothing left of the village or the surrounding area. Even if the mountains kept most of the blast contained, no one would get out of here alive. Playing for time was their only option for now. He hoped that Standish hadn’t run out on them. If he had Chris would hunt him down and show no mercy.

Chris laid his weapons down on the ground and stood up placing his hands on his head, the others did the same. The outlaws came up and picked up their guns and marched them to the stable yard where they were made to sit on the ground and were tied to posts used to hold animals till they were readied to be worked on. After making sure their arms were tied behind the posts and their feet were tied, the leader of the group walked up and introduced himself.

"Gentlemen, my name is Anfar and I am the leader of this little group of enterprising individuals. We’ve been expecting you since one of our newest members joined us." He waved for a man to join him; it was the ex-sheriff.

Burt Tate walked up and kicked Buck in the side. "Don’t think I forgotten that little scene in town. If I want to call Mary Travis a bitch I will. After I get paid for this job, I’m going to be able to buy her, her paper and her father-in-law." Laughing, he walked away from the groaning man.

Anfar started to gloat. "You have been under surveillance ever since you made your way into the village. Andorian technology is far superior to the Federation’s. I’ve had no trouble keeping tabs on you." Anfar walked around the men tied to the poles. "You have cost me time and I will be paid for it."

He looked down at Nathan. "You’re a healer, that will bring me a fair price on the slave market." Nathan just stared angrily back at him. Anfar moved on to JD who was beginning to come around. He reached out and grabbed JD’s hair, pulling his head up. "This young one will fetch a good price." He discarded the young blond as being too wild to ever take to a slaver’s collar. The other too old and the Star Fleet officers were too much trouble.

"Get away from him, you bastard!" Buck struggled against his ropes to get to JD.

Anfar ignored him. "The rest of you will have to hope someone cares enough to ransom you from my care. If not then…" Anfar didn’t finish. He’d let their imaginations do it for him. He started walking away only to stop and add. "It’s getting late, you must excuse me. I want to speak to my cook about which wine I want served with dinner. You of course will forgive me if I don’t invite you to join us. Oh and gentlemen there are guards on the tops of those houses over there keeping watch. They will sound the alarm if you try to escape." Smiling, he left them alone.

Vin had been watching men going in and out of a house across from the yard. They were taking weapons, boxes, and what looked like tricorders into one of the houses that lined that side of the street.

"Chris ya suppose that’s where they’re keeping their guns and tracking devices?" asked Vin.

Chris stopped trying to get his ropes untied and looked where the Texan was indicating. He could make out the weapons the men were carrying and the boxes, but couldn’t see the Andorians’ tricorders. Good eyesight must be another one of Tanner’s abilities.

"Yeah, I see them. If they’re packing up their surveillance equipment they must be planing to leave soon. We’ve got to get lose and get out of here."

"Be a little patient, Ezra’s still out there, I’ll bet he’s already planning a way to get us out of here."

Chris didn’t answer Vin, he didn’t want to discourage him or JD. But he had little faith in a college professor being able to get them out of this situation by himself.

"JD are you all right?" questioned Buck. The kid was awake and taking note of what was going on around him. Unfortunately that included Anfar’s remarks about the slave market.

"Yeah, Buck I’m ok… Buck are there really slave markets out there? I mean… hasn’t the Federation put a stop to that kind of thing?"

Buck didn’t want to answer that question. There was a lot of ugly out there especially on wild border worlds of charted space and beyond. Buck hated ugly, he prayed JD wouldn’t find out how ugly it really was out there first hand.

"The Federation isn’t everywhere JD. Federation laws are only upheld in Federation space."

"Oh," JD answered softy.

Buck had been staring at it a large bruise on the side of JD’s jaw where the thug hit him. "What the hell were you thinking tearing in here like that? Hell what was Ezra thinking letting you?"

"Uh…well I didn’t give him a chance to stop me. When I saw the outlaws getting behind you, all I could think about was warning you. I guess I didn’t stop to think it all the way through did I?"

"No you didn’t," sighing Buck added. "We’ll talk about it later." Buck kept trying to untie his ropes. He hoped there’d be a later. He looked over at Chris who met his eyes.

Chris told his men. "We’ll wait till it gets dark when the guards won’t be paying as much attention. Work on your ropes all of you, when we move it’s got to be fast." It wasn’t much but it would keep their mind busy and off of Anfar’s threats.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra woke to pain, his chest hurt. He tried to move and was told to sit still. That voice, he knew that voice.

"Mr. Spock what are you doing on O’tam?"

It was Captain Kirk that answered him. "We thought we’d come see the sights, Professor. How were the others taken?"

"Technology isn’t suppose to work in this valley, but Ah believe technology other than Federation’s must work. The outlaws out flanked our friends too easily and young Mr. Dunne went to warn them." Ezra wasn’t concerned with what they thought about him not being with the others. They were here and would help to get his friends out of this dilemma.

"Yes we saw that much. We were on our way to join forces with you when we saw you get jumped on your way back towards the village." Kirk told him. "It’s a good thing we came along when we did. That Kalar had almost finished crushing the life out of you." Turning his attention to Spock he asked. "How is he?"

"What is a Kalar?" interrupted Ezra.

"An aggressive yellow skinned warrior race from Rigel VIII, also known as Orion. It would be interesting to know how he got from Rigel VIII to O’tam." answered Spock.

While he had been answering Ezra’s question Spock had been finishing wrapping Standish’s chest. He had treated the broken ribs with supplies from the first-aid kit to start them healing. But it would be several days before they would be completely repaired. The bruises around his neck were not serious. Fortunately this Kalar was not familiar with human physiology and had missed crushing the trachea.

"Professor Standish should limit his movements for the next few days and allow his ribs time to heal completely. The bruises around his neck will be painful but will not restrict his breathing or speaking ability."

"Gentlemen, while Ah’m thankful for your timely intervention, Ah’m curious how you got here and why?" Ezra asked, it could play a part in how they regained the others freedom.

So Jim told him, "I decided to use this solar system to run tests on the new sensor systems that were installed on Earth. The tests discovered an emission trail in the asteroid belt. It was heading back toward O’tam. Following it we found a base on the far side of the second moon. After informing the O’tam government we offered to take care of it for them. With their complete agreement I landed forces and took over the base, disarming and shutting down the illegal operation."

"While there we discovered a shuttle which was specially designed to defeat the O’tam’s detection systems. Spock found a flight program on the ship’s computer that lead us near here complete with a warning not to land in the valley, but to walk in. We came down not far from here, over the next rise."

"Hiking in we came up on the other side of the village at the time Buck and the others were joining Chris. We stopped when we saw what was taking place. I figured out the direction that Chris had to have come from and I hoped he had left someone to watch his back; someone that we could talk to and find out what was going on. By that time Dunne had taken off and we saw them get caught. It took us a while to make our way around to join up with you. The outlaws were on the peripheral of town. They seemed to be packing up their surveillance devices."

"That’s all very interesting," Ezra said almost to himself, then addressed the two Star Fleet officers. He said in his normal voice. "You say they were packing up their equipment as if perhaps they were expecting a pick up of their ill gotten gains. Making ready to leave the area." At the nod he got in return from Kirk, Ezra said. "Then gentlemen Ah might have a iota of an idea."

+ + + + + + +

"What the hell is he up to?" asked Nathan as he and the others watched in disbelief as Standish rode into the village as if he owned it. Vin smiled and looked over at Chris with an ‘I told you so" look on his face. Chris just kept staring at Ezra and Anfar, wishing he knew what the Southerner was up to.

Ezra rode into the outlaw’s camp with the attitude of a man who had nothing to fear. His gun belt was hung over the saddle horn. The outlaws stepped forward with their guns trained on Standish, watching his every move. The blue skinned Andorian, Anfar stepped forward and stood in front of Standish when he stopped.

"Your either the dumbest human I’ve ever seen or you’ve got something you think I want. Which is it?"

"The latter of course, you have a nice little business going here, but I can make it a much better one." Ezra slowly got off his horse making the gunmen watching him nervous. Each took a step back from him. "Come now gentlemen. Ah’m unarmed. How can Ah possibly be a threat to you here?" Ezra stood with his arms out showing he was hiding nothing under his coat. "There’s only one of me and nearly two dozen of you." He turned to face the Andorian. "Ah have information to share as well as a way to make us all much richer."

"How’s that?" asked Anfar.

"Ah have contacts on the black market that will top any offer your getting from the half wits that allowed their base on the moon to be taken."


"The base on the second moon was taken over by Starfleet. You have no one coming to pick up you or your crystals. But as Ah was saying before, Ah have contacts and a freighter at my beck and call. Ah can also make your business here much more profitable." Ezra had Anfar’s full attention when he spoke of money. "There’ll be less of an overhead for one thing." Ezra’s gaze travel over the number of men holding guns at him.

Anfar laughed, "I can see your point. You can start by telling me how you know about the base and continue on about how you’re going to make me a richer Andorian." Pointing to a door. "Shall we go inside and talk?"

"If you don’t mind Ah think Ah’d like to stay outside for a while, till you and Ah come to an understanding. Closed in places make me claustrophobic when filled with strangers. Ah’m sure you understand."

"Of course, shall we take a walk?" Turning to his men he said. "One of you take his horse."

The pair started walking off with the armed guards following them. They appeared to be heading for an open area in the center of the village that had tables for eating. The men tied to the stakes had heard every word spoken between Ezra and the Andorians. All but Vin watched the men walk off. He had been watching the guards on the tops of the roofs disappear. The sound of laughter came from the direction Ezra and Anfar had gone. More of his men were joining them and listening to the Southerner speak.

+ + + + + + +

"That bastard, I knew we couldn’t trust him. I’m sorry Josiah I know you were fond of him." Nathan said in a low growl. "But he just joined up with those killers."

JD turned to Buck and asked him. "Is he right Buck? Did Ezra just switch sides for money?"

"What do you think?" asked Buck grimly.

Just before JD was about to answer he saw a man in a Starfleet uniform working his way toward them. "I think there’s more going on than the obvious."

Vin whispered JD. "Stay quiet and don’t move around too much."

Buck and Chris looked over at Vin, who in turn glanced up at the roofs. Chris and Buck did the same and saw that they were now empty. Josiah whispered to Nathan.

"Nathan don’t react, were about to be rescued. Ezra is acting as a decoy."

Chris, who had been thinking up new ways to kill the man he thought had run out on him silently cursed to himself. He had been wrong about the Southerner. Jim Kirk was suddenly behind him working on his ropes.

"Hey kid, can’t you and Buck keep out of trouble without someone watching you?" Jim asked Chris, getting his death glare in return. Vin looked over at the pair but didn’t say anything about the kid’s comment. He salted that away for another time. Once Jim had the ropes loosened he went on to the next man, letting Chris finish getting himself untied. All the time he kept an eye and an ear open on what was going on down the street from their position.

"How long can Standish keep them distracted?" Jim asked.

"Ezra was the debating team captain for three years running, never lost a match." Josiah told them with pride. "He can hold a class of freshmen spellbound for hours. That’s a teacher for you."

"Sounds like he likes to talk," said Buck keeping his voice low.

"That he does, he kept it up for over nineteen hours once to win a bet with one of his professors. Aced the class in public speaking," Josiah remembered fondly.

"As long as he keeps them distracted till we get in place. Spock is here too, he’s disabling the bombs." Everyone was untied and ready to move. "This is your show Chris, what do you want us to do?" asked Jim.

Chris looked at his men and smiled. "We take them down. Vin, Jim and I will go after anyone on the outer circle of that crowd and work inward. Buck and Josiah follow us, take out any one we miss and tie them up. Nathan, JD" Chris pointed to the houses across the street, one of them held the criminal’s arsenal and surveillance equipment. "Find that arm’s locker, I don’t want them to be able to get to it and use it against us. And be quiet about it."

+ + + + + + +

Anfar was enjoying his dinner. Not only was this human Standish amusing, he had excellent ideas on how to improve the transportation of the crystals using fewer people and that meant less payroll. Anfar hadn’t had an intelligent conversation like this since he had came to this planet. This human seems to know something about everything. It was a shame he was going to have to kill him once he took over the human’s freighter, but that was business."

Anfar hadn’t notice that the group of men around the dining area was growing smaller. Lights had been lit when it started getting dark. Now they only glowed around the tables Ezra, Anfar and his men were sitting at.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan and JD had found the building that held the weapons and equipment. Unfortunately it also held a man keeping watch. Nathan and JD looked at each other. Nathan held his finger across his lips and indicated they separate and come at him from both sides. The guard was watching the street through a window with his back to the room. Nathan picked up an empty bottle to break over the man’s head. They were almost at him when he turned and saw JD.

Before he could yell out JD swung, hitting the man on his jaw. The guard was dazed but not out. Nathan finished the job with a crash as he brought the bottle down on the guard’s head. JD was shaking his hand and doing a little dance, his hand hurt. Nothing he ever read said it hurt like this when you hit a man for real with your fist. Through it all they had made little noise, nothing that could be heard outside the room.

Nathan and JD made swift work of tying and gagging the man. They dragged him none too gently into a back room. Armed again, they would keep anyone from getting the weapons here.

+ + + + + + +

Vin, Chris and Jim made their way slowly up to the center of the village. Keeping out of sight of the outlaws. It took time to go through each dwelling making sure it was empty. They knocked out and disarmed anyone they came across, leaving them for Josiah and Buck to tie and gag. Jim was impressed by the young man Chris called Vin. He observed the pair as they worked in silence, taking out the Andorian’s men. What one missed the other covered; handling the take down as if they had been working together for years. Jim knew Spock was out there making sure of the crystals and attending to the safety of the hostages. But he couldn’t help but wish that Spock were here beside him.

The five men met up in the shadows around the eating area. Each was now armed with guns taken from the fallen sentries. There were only nine of the Andorian’s personal guards left. They were sitting with him and Ezra at the center table; Tate was there too, listening to the Southerner spin tall tales.

"How are we going to do this?" asked Josiah. He was worried about Ezra’s safety.

Four faces turn to Chris who smiled. "The Starfleet Captain here is going to walk in and tell them all to surrender. And while they are laughing themselves senseless the rest of us get the drop on them."

+ + + + + + +

The four of them each took a side, their guns at ready. Kirk checked the time everyone should be in place. He straightened up and walked into the light.

"Good evening gentlemen," Jim addressed them. The men straightened and went for their guns only to freeze at the sound of guns being cocked behind them. "Place your guns on the tables in front of you and don’t try anything." A hard voice sounded from the darkness.

Anfar sat quietly, slowly he reach for the pocket were he kept the detonator for the bombs only to stop when the barrel of a derringer filled his ear.

"Ah wouldn’t do that," a quiet voice told him. "Not only would it be ineffective, it also be pathetic. Killing the old folks because you didn’t succeed." Ezra took the detonator away from him anyway, even as Spock laid the bombs on the table in front of Anfar.

Tate, who had been watching, saw all his dream shatter as the Marshal and his deputies disarmed the rest of Anfar’s men. Tate wasn’t about to go peacefully. He wasn’t planning to go at all. With a roar he grabbed the table and flipped it over. The rest of the outlaws did the same and the fight was on. Only Ezra and Anfar, seated at the head table, were uninvolved in the brawl going on in front of them.

"You understand I’m not the only one stealing from this planet." Anfar made that a statement not a question.

"Of course this world is too rich to be overlooked by the rest of the galaxy for long. Now that the Federation is taking an active hand in the matters they will have a much harder time of it." Ezra took a sip of his wine with his free hand. "But it’s no longer a brouhaha. The law has come to O’tam and it means to stay."

Anfar looked at him as he too partook of the wine. "My money’s on the criminals winning out in the end."

"That’s a bet Ah believe Ah’ll take." Ezra nodded his head to Anfar. They both turned their attention back to the fight.

Spock joined the fight at his Captain’s side. They fought taking on all comers till a body flying through the air broke them apart. Buck and Josiah had taken down two outlaws each and were digging into the rest of the fray. Vin and Chris were back to back blocking blows aimed at the others. They too had taken down a number of the outlaws. They were bloodied but not down. A chair-swinging bandit had tried to take out the pair but a Vulcan nerve pinch took him out of the skirmish and Jim’s fist took out the last man standing on the bad guy’s side.

Buck was leaning to one side supported by Josiah whose nose was bleeding. A wolfish smile graced his face. Their clothing was torn and they were covered with bruises and cuts. Vin and Chris were pretty much in the same shape. All four had hands bruised and cuts from the fight. The losers now lay moaning at their feet. Even Captain Kirk had his share of bruises and cuts. In the morning they would all feel the damage more keenly.

Ezra still sat at the head table with Anfar, his derringer still pointed at the man’s head. Other than a layer of dirt covering him from their travels, he appeared to be without damage to himself or his attire. The man sat without a care sipping from a goblet of red wine.

Chris growled as he stepped towards the man who hadn’t helped out in the fight. Only Jim’s hand on his arm stopped him.

"How are your ribs Professor Standish?" he asked of Ezra.

"They’re fine, would one of you gentleman care to take Mr. Anfar off ma hands?" Josiah came forward and got Anfar letting him join his men on the ground. Ezra slowly lowered his arm pulling it in close to his body.

Chris took a good look at the Southerner. Did he seem pale or was it the lighting? He was holding him self up straight as if he had a rod stuck up his back.

"Vin go find Nathan and JD, tell Nathan to come here and bring his medical kit." Vin took off.

"Mr. Larabee Ah’m fine, there’s no need to bother Mr. Jackson."

"Shut up Ezra, I take care of what’s mine. You’re one of my deputies, that makes you one of my men." Chris almost laughed at the look of indignation that came over Ezra’s face. Chris turned his back and walked away before Ezra could start objecting.

Buck looked round at the bodies piled on the ground, some were beginning to move. "What are we going to do with them?"

Spock pulled out a hand phaser. Jim stared at it. "Mr. Spock I thought you told me that our phasers wouldn’t work here?"

"I did." Spock answered,

Jim waited for his first officer to continue. "Spock." He warned when the Vulcan wasn’t forthcoming.

"After I disabled the Andorian’s equipment I examined them and made modifications to the phaser. This phaser will work now." Spock set the weapon on low stun and sent the outlaws back to sleep. "They will stay unconscious till tomorrow. Time enough to arrange transportation."

"Very good Mr. Spock." Jim thought of something. "Why didn’t you use that before the fight?"

"I have observed that humans, following a difficult period benefit from a physical release of energy, that you yourself had used your fists in the past to express that discharge."

"In other words, Mr. Spock, you didn’t want to spoil my fun."

"I believe I just said that Captain."

Jim turned to Chris to hide his amusement from his first officer.

Jim laid his arm around Chris’ shoulders. "You know kid, I can’t keep rescuing you this way. It’s time to learn how to get out of these little problems on your own."

Chris wiped the blood off his mouth from his spit lip. "I’m ready for round two, if you are, old man," his feral grin showed teeth. Josiah wasn’t the only one who looked wolf-like.

+ + + + + + +

The morning came too early for the bruised men. During the night Spock had returned to the shuttle and contacted the O’tam government. The Council gave permission for Marshal Larabee to use Enterprise’s shuttles to transport the bandits back to Four Corners to stand trial under Judge Travis.

+ + + + + + +

Vin gave out a low whistle when he saw the thief’s shuttle. It was a sleek ship, designed to cut through space or atmosphere undetected. It could easily hold up to eight people and supplies. With this ship the Marshals could go anywhere on the planet. Vin looked over at Chris.

"Ya going to teach me how to fly her?"

"Yeah and after you learn, you and Buck will teach the others."

Nathan had insisted that Ezra ride back to Four Corners in one of the shuttles. His ribs were on the mend but Nathan didn’t want the Southerner jolting them on horseback on the return trip home. It wasn’t that the gambler was opposed to the idea, he just didn’t like Nathan hovering over him. Nathan wouldn’t take his "Ah’m fine" at face value.

Larabee was pleased. The hostages and his men were safe. The men had proven to be able to work together as a team. They had a ways to go but they would get there. He also had one less mystery to solve, even though the planet had many more to offer. The first investigation of the Marshal program had been successful. The outlaws had been caught and were on their way to stand trail. And Chris Larabee had six men he trusted for his team.

+ + + + + + +

With the realization of their vulnerability to outside forces, the O’tam Council had asked Star Fleet to help set up a monitoring post using the station on the moon to keep watch for unauthorized ships. Star Fleet personnel would man it till the citizens of O’tam could do so themselves. It would be placed under Marshal Larabee’s authority. The Marshals would still be based on the planet, but would regularly check on the base and handle any problem that arose from there. The Federal Marshals program now included a fast shuttle as well as a moon base.

+ + + + + + +

Judge Travis set up court in the saloon, as it was the only building in town with a room big enough to hold everyone who wanted to attend. After listening to both sides he passed sentence on the Andorians and those who had been helping them raid the mines shipments for dilithium crystals. They were sentenced to time in the territorial prison and fines. The men who cold bloodily murdered the freight haulers would spend the rest of their lives on the only prison for premeditated murders on O’tam. Hanging was one custom that no one wanted to reinstate.

The prison was an island a hundred miles off the Texas coast. The prisoners were dropped off there by shuddle and left to fend for themselves on the isolated island. Treacherous winds and ocean currents swept everything away from the mainland. Rocks and a coral reef kept anyone from landing there. There was food and water to be found on the island as well as trees to build shelter. But they would have to do the work themselves; forever cut off from the rest of the world.

That left one more case to be heard.

+ + + + + + +

The Ferengi Ziv glanced around the makeshift courtroom in the saloon nervously; the judge had ignored his bribe again. Judge Travis had a reputation of being honorable to a fault; a fair man, more interested in justice then the letter of the law. This worried Ziv. Ferengis weren't used to a justice system that couldn't be bought. Unless Ziv won over the Judge he was going to lose the saloon. He looked into every other means to get it back and couldn’t find a loophole in his favor. So he took a chance and brought the matter in front of the court hoping that there was a way to get the judge to give him back the saloon.

As soon as the court was settled Ziv jumped up and pointed a finger at Ezra.

"This huuman is a cheat, he cheated me out of my saloon."

"Ah did nothing of the kind your Honor," Ezra responded, outraged as he too leapt to his feet.

Judge Travis banged his gavel on the makeshift desk.

"Shut up both of you, another outburst like that and you will find yourself being held in contempt of court."

Both men sat down and glared at each other. Judge Travis pointed his gavel at the Ferengi.

"You first Ziv."

"Your most honorable Judge sir, this huuman is a cheat, he cheated me out of my saloon. He is nothing more them a low down dirty no good professional gambler. I would had never had bet my saloon if I had known he was a professional gambler."

"Ah object, he is slandering my reputation!" cried Ezra.

"Mr. Standish I will not warn you again." Judge Travis rubbed his forehead and tried again,

"Mr. Ziv you run a gaming house; a saloon where people can play games of chance. That makes you a professional gambler. If Mr. Standish is a professional gambler then he was playing with the right party." Looking to Ezra he asked the southerner.

"Mr. Standish are you a professional gambler?"

"No sir, Ah do not make ma living by gambling, though Ah have played in tournaments and have done quite well."

"How do you make your living Mr. Standish?" asked the Judge.

"Ah am a college professor at the University of Virginia on Earth, as well as a writer."

"Are you planning on staying on O'tam permanently Mr. Standish?"

"Ah have no plans to do so at this time Your Honor." Ezra answered the Judge.

"What plans do you have for the saloon Mr. Standish?"

"Ah haven't had the occasion to give it due consideration thus far, with everything that has been going on. Ah’ve never been in possession of a saloon and everything that it takes to run the establishment previous to this. Ah will need time to ponder on the possibilities."

Ziv stood up and faced the Judge, "Sir, your honor I bet the saloon not everything that went with it."

Ezra smiled "There are witnesses who will say different Mr. Ziv. Ah know better than to go into a business transaction with a Ferengi without witnesses. The wager was the saloon, and everything that it takes to run the establishment. Ah asked you at the time, to make clear what you meant. If you meant the building, the land under it and everything in said building. If that included upper stories as well, the stock, the furniture, the entire assortment of objects in said building and you sir said yes."

Judge Travis looked at the crowd in the room and said,

"Witnesses come forward."

Jeff Smith the town’s Banker, Virgil Watson the owner of the hardware store, Josiah and Gin stepped in front of the Judge; he banged his gavel and said to them.

"Gentlemen consider yourself under oath. I will remind you of the penalty for lying under oath in my court and that is a year in jail and a heavy fine.

While the three humans testified, Gin looked over at his cousin. If the judge found out he was going to lie for Ziv, Travis would throw him in the deepest, darkest hole he could find. Gin knew he couldn't count on Ziv to keep his word and get him out or even to pay the fine. If Ziv lost the saloon maybe they would have to leave this miserable dry planet and go home. If Ziv got to keep that damn saloon Gin would never get to go home. Gin made up his mind.

"Gin," the Judge called to the Ferengi, "It's your turn, did you understand what I said earlier about lying under oath?"

"Yes your honor I did and Ziv bet everything with the human, just like the others said he did."

"Gin!" whispered Ziv, "what have you done?"

Gin walked over to his cousin and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"We can go home now cousin, the saloon was holding us here, but now its gone. Please Ziv, let’s go home."

Judge Travis banged his gavel and gave his verdict.

"I find for the defendant. The saloon and everything that goes with it goes to Mr. Standish. Ziv you have twenty-four hours to gather any personal belongings you wish to take with you." Judge Travis banged his gavel and said, "This case is closed."

Ezra was delighted he had won. He slammed his hand down on the table and joyfully yelled out


"Standish, that’s thirty days." Judge Travis banged his gavel.

"YOUR HONOR, Ah object!"

"Sixty days Standish do you want to try for ninety?"

Ezra snapped his mouth closed and sat quietly in his seat and waited for the Judge to finish.

As the six men crowded around Ezra to congratulate him, Judge Travis banged his gavel again.

"Mr. Standish, there is the matter of your misconduct in my courtroom."

Josiah and Buck quickly jumped into action. Josiah stuck a bandana in Ezra's mouth as soon as he opened it to begin his defense and held Ezra’s arm and shoulder on one side while Buck held on to the other to keep him in place. Ezra struggled but gave up when he realized they weren't going to let go. Josiah spoke up.

"Your Honor if I may, I’d like to speak on the behalf of this young man as neither of us wants to spend the rest of the day listening to why he shouldn't be held in contempt."

Judge Travis was trying hard not to chuckle at the sight before him. "He is that articulate Josiah?"

"And then some, Orin."

"In order to speed up things Josiah Sanchez will be speaking for Mr. Standish." The judge banged his gavel to make it official.

Josiah smiled and started speaking but didn't let go of his hold on Ezra and neither did Buck.

"Your Honor, on behalf of this young man I wish to apologize for his behavior here today. He is deeply sorry for any disrespect he may have shown in your court and wishes to make any restitution you think justified." At that that Ezra came back to life. He didn't like the sound of restitution and tried to get loose from the men holding him. Josiah hissed at him,

"Sit still"

The Judge seemed to think things over before making his decision. He knew of Standish’s desire not to take an active role with the Marshal program. But the man was needed here. The Council had partly based their decision for the Marshals program on Professor Standish being an active member. They needed to keep the program authentic as possible without sacrificing the entertainment angle from the transmissions that the O’tams had enjoyed watching over the years.

"Mr. Standish, you have shown great wisdom in allowing Mr. Sanchez to speak for you. Therefore I will wave any fine and leave your punishment to be community service. Sixty day community service to be served under Marshal Larabee as a peacekeeper." Travis banged his gavel again "Court adjourned. You can open the bar."

Josiah and Buck let Ezra go and jumped back as the angry young man got to his feet. "Wait a minute here Josiah, don't Ah get any say in this?"

"Of course son, but court’s over so it won't make a difference," patting Ezra on the back Josiah went on. "Orin isn't a patient man Ezra. I don't believe he would have let you filibuster your way out of this. Might have just dug yourself in a whole lot deeper. With Judge Travis that could have meant spending the next sixty days sitting in a jail cell." Josiah patted Ezra on the back again.

"It won't be so bad, you'll be doing what you have been doing, just for the sixty more days."

Ezra sighed. He had been had. His mother would be so disappointed in him.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra let himself be dragged over to the owner’s table and was strangely pleased that this place was his. True it needed work, if only to get rid of the Ferengi influence if nothing else. Maybe he would offer Ms. Recillos a partnership in the saloon in exchange for running the place. That would give him the freedom to do other things.

The seven lawmen and the two officers from the Enterprise relaxed and were enjoying their beers when Captain Kirk turned to Ezra and said, "Professor Standish, with the fight and the trail I forgot to tell you the news."

"News Captain Kirk?"

"Just before we left the Enterprise this was sent to us to give to you." Kirk handed him a data pad.

Activating the pad, Ezra read the message. First his eyes got big then his body started to shake. The others at the table were concerned at what had their colleague so upset. Josiah took the pad out of Ezra's hands and read what was written there. He too began to shake. Suddenly both men burst out laughing.

"Alright you two, what’s going on?" demanded Chris, glaring at the pair for worrying him and the others.

"Oh lord," Ezra gasped "Ma…ma Mothah has… has…" another fit of laughter had tears running down his face. "Josiah you tell them."

Josiah shook himself and sat up straight. Clearing his throat he said.

"The proficient and accomplished Mrs. Maude Standish now has a seat on the ‘Council of the Federation of Planets’, she is now a full member of the council."

"May the lord help us all gentlemen for civilization as we now know it is about to change." Ezra said as he wiped the tears from his face.

"That ain't a nice thing to say about your mama Ez," disapproval sounded in Vin's voice.

"You have not met ma Mother Mr. Tanner. While Ah loves the lady dearly, she is a force to be reckoned with. Ah wish the rest of the council the best of luck in dealing with her… they're going to need it." With that he raised his glass in salute and drank the contents down.

The others turned to Josiah for him to clear up the matter only to find him in a similar state as Ezra, but more articulate.

"Maude is all that and more, but I can't think of anyone more capable to deal with that group of old fools than Maude Standish. It's past time for some new ideas on the council. They’ve needed someone to force them to look beyond their own interests for a long time now and Maude’s just the person to do it."

"In that case let’s offer a toast to Ezra’s ma," said Buck and the men around the table raised their glasses in salute.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee looked over the batwing doors, out into the street in front of the saloon. The sun was starting its climb into the sky and the day promised to be a hot one. It was time to check on any transmissions that might need their attention. As he stepped off the boardwalk and headed toward the town jail he didn't need to look back to know six men followed him. The town folk got out of their way, not in fear but in respect. These men were their peacekeepers, the kind of men legends were written about. All Chris knew was that this felt right. The Seven of them here on this planet together, doing the job they were doing.

And so it begins…

So what do you think? Love it? Hate it? Please let me know at: Nsscbs1978@aol.com