"I hear you are taking an unexpected leave of absence, professor?" grunted Gretham. To other life forms, the Tellarites seemed to be perpetually grumpy and argumentative, their pig-like snouts and squat stature making one Human admiral to privately describe a Tellarite conference to be like a barnyard fight. Between Tellarites the subtleties were obvious.
"I have three years accumulated leave, Vice Chancellor. Something has come up that requires my personal attention." Tondaner’s answer was defensive but firm. A life-long bachelor, xenoarchaeology was his life, his infrequent vacations were invariably connected with his work.
"A family matter?"
"You could say that." This time Tondaner was noncommittal, not giving anything away.
"Yes, I could ... but I would be wrong wouldn't I?" Gretham was an old Tellarite, his movements slow and ponderous. He turned to the wall.
Like all Federation planets, the Tellarite public computer system was keyed to voice commands. By identifying himself to the system, Gretham was able to use it as if it were the one in his office
"You are Vice Chancellor Gretham." The computers reply was a gruff female Tellarite voice.
"Access Gretham aleph-aleph-sin 5b"
A large section of the wall which before had looked like a rare ethnic Tellarite tapestry, now became dark for a moment before showing a youthful Tellaran behind a desk. Behind him was graphic of a Nebula class Starfleet cruiser.
"FNN News. This is Kranf Sonderhend reporting. The lead story for the day is the latest release from Starfleet headquarters of the amazing discovery by the crew of the USS Magellan who have discovered what have been confirmed to be artifacts relating to the LIEF Erikson."
The USS Magellan disappeared and a remarkably clear shot of professor Tondaner took it’s place.
‘The LIEF Erikson was the subject of a minor diplomatic exchange between the Tellarite and Andorian governments when professor L'naa Tondaner of the Tellarite Department of Xenoarchaeology was accused of ‘academic thuggery’ by his Andorian counterpart, professor Nala Danernot."
"I don’t have to watch this rubbish!" Tondaner angrily marched over to Gretham "Computer, off!"
The old Tellarite calmly remained standing with hands clasped before him. "Within hours of this I get an application for leave from the departments professor emeritus. A professor, I might add, whose professional credibility rests on his rather uncompromising stance that the LIEF Erikson never existed."
Nala angrily stabbed a finger in the direction of the Vice Chancellor. "You're paraphrasing me! Taking my words out of context. I never said ..."
This time Gretham rose to the challenge, raising his voice to make his point.
"Don't play the debating scholar with me! Your last article in Xeno Journal nearly cost Danernot his funding and caused a major incident with the damned Andorians!"
He flung his hand towards the half packed bag.
"What do you expect to do? Turn up at the Dig coordinates and bluff your way through the Starfleet security lines? Do you realize that this is the most heavily guarded find of the century? Do you want to start another interstellar incident? Don’t be a fool! I had your passport cancelled as soon as I heard the news!"
Tondaner recoiled as if stung! "You did what!"
Gretham turned and walked to the cluttered desk that dominated the end of the room, talking as he went, his hands now clasped behind his back, his voice moderated.
"L’naa, we do not see eye-to-eye on all things. I love a good argument as much as the next Telleran but you are reckless, you let anger get the best of you."
When he got to the desk he turned and took up one of the many artifacts littered about it and idley examined it before replacing it.
"However I cannot deny that you are the most brilliant xenoarchaeologist that Tellar has ever produced. What would you say if I told you that we had been invited to take part in a combined xenoarchaeological project to unlock the secrets of … whatever it is they have found."
Tondaner was surprised, but did not allow himself to show it. "I would say, why did we not make a bid for control of the project? Tellar has by far the greatest xenoarchaeological resources of any planet in the Federation."
"Quite simply it all boils down to politics, " said Gretham, bobbing his head in the Tellarite equivalent of a shrug. " This is a potentially explosive development which could change the face of the Federation."
Tondaner looked skeptical so Gretham went on. "Andor and Tellar have always been a major part of the balance of power in the Federation, but the relationship has always been a delicate one. We have always had to be on the lookout that the Andorians do not gain an overwhelming influence over the Federation council. The creation of the Federation has never been in doubt, so we have always known where we stood."
"The information that might come from the LIEF Erikson could be destabilizing for both the Earth and Vulcan governments, which could make a power vacuum that could advantage us, the Andorians or one of the newer systems. None of these developments would be welcome. I don’t mind telling you there are forces at work that do not want the secrets of the LIEF Erikson to see the light of day."
"It has been decided that the Human and Vulcan involvement in the project will be kept to a support role to ensure objectivity and that the project will be jointly managed by Tellar and Andor. Tondaner, I want you head up our contingent."
The professor smiled complacently as he imagined the glory ahead of him. Pity he had to put up with the interference of those Andorian amateurs. The Vice Chancelor was continuing as a horrible thought crossed his mind.
"Tondaner, I am trusting you for once in your life to be diplomatic …’
Professor L'naa Tondaner felt his dreams come crashing to the ground as he listened to the fateful words that would seal their doom.
"… because your co-director will be professor Nala Danernot of the Federal university of Andor.’