Disclaimer:  Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the creation of and is copyright © 2011 by SterJulie.  Rated PG.


AFTER THE CREDITS: The Devil in the Dark

Ster Julie

"On the Care and Feeding of Hortae"

It was at times like the one in which Spock found himself that he appreciated the illogic of hunches.

Spock had taken a side trip after the science conference at which he had presented a paper on the Horta of Janus V and the symbiotic relationship the creatures had developed with the miners there. He had heard that one of the hatchlings had been transported to the mines on nearby Chi Phi II. Spock had heard that the youngster was not performing as the miners had hoped. It was not thriving and perhaps even dying. Spock wanted, no, needed, to examine the young one himself.

Even though the Horta was only a quarter the size of its Guardian, it still bowled Spock over with its enthusiastic greeting when it sensed his mental call.

Spock was aghast at the condition of the Horta. He (the Horta had identified itself to Spock as male) was a sickly, wan, monochrome grey, not vibrantly hued as the Guardian had been. Spock took in the fetid sludge surrounding the babe and realized that the Chi Phians had intended the Horta to deal with their garbage and sewage instead of burrowing tunnels through the rock for them.

Spock wiped some of the muck away from the young Horta and initiated a full meld with the creature. Soon he enfolded the young one in his arms as the Horta poured out its silicon heart, bemoaning his crushing loneliness, his hunger for more familiar stone, his sorrow for his lost Guardian. He didn't know why he had been sent away from his clutch. He didn't know what he was supposed to do in his unfamiliar new home. He was hungry. He was afraid, and he just wanted to go home.

Spock gently pulled out of the meld before barking orders to the Chi Phians. The Vulcan scolded them for treating this sentient being as an animal, no, as a worm. Did they not research how to provide for the special needs of the Horta before they procured one?

Spock called for water for cleansing the young one's silicon "skin." Then he ordered the Chi Phians to bring sacks of sand and gravel -- the equivalent of Horta baby food -- for the creature to eat.

Once the baby Horta was clean, fed, and relocated from the disgusting cesspool, Spock re-initiated the meld. He conversed with and encouraged the young creature.

The Horta chose a name for himself. Spock couldn't decide if the youngster was being sassy or developing a sense of humor when he named himself "Rocky."

Spock told Rocky that he would stay with him on Chi Phi II until the Enterprise returned for him. Rocky was dismayed. He would again be left alone with strangers, strangers with whom he could not converse. How would he know what to do?

Spock told Rocky to bring the miners samples of all the different rocks he found as he tunneled. In return, Spock would have the miners lay out samples of the rocks they wanted the Horta to find. It was a beginning, a simple task that might develop into a symbiotic relationship such as the one enjoyed by the miners and the Hortae on Janus V.

Spock next allowed Rocky to listen as he recorded a report on his findings to Starfleet on Chi Phi II. The Vulcan recommended that no Horta be sent off alone, and that a telepath or an empath accompany any Hortae sent from their homeworld as a liaison between the miners and the rock creatures.

The youngster quivered with excitement. He anticipated one of his clutchmates joining him on this strange planet and of a new mind-converser (as he called telepaths like his Vulcan friend). Spock instructed Rocky that the process may take a long time. The Horta would have to be patient.

The young one scurried off and tunneled a long path. Spock didn't know if Rocky had run away or was exploring until the Horta suddenly re-appeared several hours later. It placed at Spock's feet several different specimens of rock and waited for his reaction.

Spock scanned each one. One was a gemstone, one was a petroleum-bearing shale, one was an intrusive igneous rock, and another a rudimentary type of dilithium crystal. The Vulcan asked Rocky why he brought these samples. The Horta informed Spock that he found these rocks to be tasty. There would be ample food for other Hortae here. Spock praised Rocky for being so self-sufficient at such a young age.

All too soon, the Enterprise returned. After a telepathic (and, in the silence of their minds, emotional) farewell, Spock returned to his ship, grateful that he had seen his hunch through. His mind was alredy planning his next paper, a manual entitled:

"On the Care and Feeding of Hortae"