The Yes Album: Star Beagle Adventures episodes 3-6


The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 2: Minor Serrat Station

Minor Serrat Station

The Beagle task force was in full swing, exploring the 6 planets of the Serrat system. Serrat Prime was the planet that was in the Goldilocks zone - and it appeared to be a super planet - with an exceptionally stable orbit and a history of life going back billions of years. The 2nd and 5th planets in the system were rocky worlds with frozen atmospheres. Planets 3, 4 and 6 were gas giants with Serrat 6 by far the largest - nearly half again the size of Jupiter, with at least 98 moons.

All of the task force’s assets were deployed. While all the biologists, most of the marines and the oceanographers were stationed in three locations on Serrat Prime - each supported by small, vulcan-built science shuttles from the U.S.S. Beagle, more than a dozen probes from the Beagle, U.S.S. Mako and U.S.S. Escort were coursing through the system, surveying all of the planets and moons. Escort was staged on one side of the Serrat system, studying the small, frozen, rocky, but mineral-rich Serrat 5.

The Beagle was stationed in high orbit of Serrat Prime, ready to support the landing parties, but also coordinating information gathering from all of the assets scattered throughout the system. Mako was in orbit of the massive Serrat 6, cataloguing the moons as well as the atmosphere.

Major Janet Carter was piloting the Bluebird with Sgt. Tommy Richards as well as the stellar systems team from the Vulcan Science Academy, traveling near the Serrat star for detailed analysis.

But it was the U.S.S. Puppy, the Beagle’s large task shuttle, under the command of Sakura Nakamura Holland, way out on the far edge of the system studying the red dwarf that orbited the system at a great distance, that made the discovery that verified readings from probes that had passed near this system over the past few centuries that had put the Serrat system on the task force’s priority list:

There had once been an intelligent species living in the Serrat system that made cultural use of radio and may have had faster than light travel.

A large space station had been erected in orbit of the red dwarf - close enough to draw power from the star, far enough out to avoid damage from plasma blasts and electro-magnetic pulses occasionally emitted by the unstable star. At least before that star had entered an even more active phase...

The two small planets orbiting Minor Serrat were both burnt out rocks. At some point, each had been washed clean of atmosphere and water by solar flares from the unstable red dwarf.

The same fate had apparently fallen the space station, not once or twice, but dozens of times.

“The station is not stable enough for us to board.” Sakura was on the comm unit with her husband, Commander Dutch Holland, currently in command of the U.S.S. Beagle, nearly 6 light hours away in orbit of Serrat Prime. “We’re sending in the dogfish, but as ancient and heavily damaged as that station is, it’s unlikely it will contain sufficient parts to build more robots. And I’d rather not do any scavenging as that would just be bad archeology.”

The masked luchador looked simply amazing on the throne-like command chair of the vulcan-built Beagle - almost like some ancient Aztec god. “My probe lab is empty. All of our probes are out surveying the system. But I suppose we could put together a care package for you. It will essentially be a probe tube with about a dozen dogfish crammed inside it. There won’t be room for much else other than an engine. Probably 2 hours to get it ready and another 10 hours to get it to you at warp 0.8. I don’t like the idea of getting much closer than that to light speed within the system.”

“A dozen?” Sakura asked with some incredulity.

“I’m not down there to work out all the geometry, or I’d say 15,” Dutch replied.

“I’m doing the geometry in my head and I can’t see a way to get more than seven of them in there,” Sakura replied.

“Only one of them needs to be fully assembled. It can assemble the others once it gets there. Much easier to cram a bunch of them in if they’re disassembled. Faster on our end, too,” Dutch Holland responded.

“And why didn’t I think of that?” Sakura asked with a smile.

“Because you’re looking at some amazing ancient alien space station while I’m babysitting three away teams down on a planet that looks like a paradise, but I don’t get to walk on it.”

“Don’t be too upset, mi magnífico león,” Sakura rejoined. “I’ve done the ‘running-with-the-tellarites’ thing before. Believe me, you wouldn’t like it.”

xploring the 6 planets of the Serrat system. Serrat Prime was the planet that was in the Goldilocks zone - and it appeared to be a super planet - with an exceptionally stable orbit and a history of life going back billions of years. The 2nd and 5th planets in the system were rocky worlds with frozen atmospheres. Planets 3, 4 and 6 were gas giants with Serrat 6 by far the largest - nearly half again the size of Jupiter, with at least 98 moons.
There had once been an intelligent species living in the Serrat system that made cultural use of radio and may have had faster than light travel.
The sixth planet with billions of years of life history, where the fifth and second planets were frozen; sounds like the intelligent species that had lived there were originally from outside the system. So, FTL technology seems likely.

Love the lateral thinking for packing parts instead of assembled units, to maximize space.

Maybe shipping a pre-programmed Replicator with raw material supplemented by local resources could work too.


The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 3: Werewolves


Spike had trained herself to be a tracker and she put serious effort into maintaining peak physical fitness. But a dozen bounding tellarites left almost no trail for her to follow in this forest - some bent twigs… claw marks on bark… If it weren’t for Captain Skip Howard’s presence in that group, Spike would probably have lost the trail. His boot treads were much easier to spot.

Even so, at least twice he had called to her from afar: “Up here, Lance Corporal!” “Not that trail, Spike - look 20 degrees to your left!”

She might have had a chance of catching up with the survey in the first few hours if it had not been for her squad. Privates First Class Raanda Habib, Sasha Soko, and Guz Maxwell, (respectively, “Boyfriend”, “Moscow”, and “Songbird”), were doing their best to keep up with Spike - they were teenagers in the peak of physical training - but for all their training, they didn’t have the years of experience running through wild environments while following a trail that had kept Spike and so many other marines alive and successful during wars first against the Klingon Empire, then against the Dominion.

There were times they could see Captain Howard - and seeing him helped them see the tellarites - scrambling up a nearly vertical cliff that Spike and her marines hit about five minutes later. Fording a river that Spike and her marines got to just about five minutes later.

The morning had gotten dark and misty and the biological survey (and their trailing protection detail) had covered nearly 5 miles and had gone up nearly 500 feet into a line of low, rocky mountains. Spike put up her fist instinctively and her marines stopped. She could hear them breathing heavily.

It was a scent that had stopped her. A heartbeat later, she realized she had led her team into the midst of a silent, nearly motionless pack of tellarites. Another hand signal told her team to remain silent. With yet another hand signal she permitted them to remove their hats and loosen their collars so they could cool down more quickly.

The tellarites were standing, squatting, lying on the ground - sniffing - seeking a scent… tasting the air… Some people compared these beastly aliens to pigs. Others compared them to goats. After following them at a breakneck pace through the forest and seeing them standing about, silent in the mist, it seemed to Spike more like she and her squad had been chasing a pack of werewolves.

The enormous Drisk javWalirsh and his daughter and assistant director, Chauv bavTlitch, loomed out of the mist - both much larger and heavier than even Sasha Soko, who was himself 6’4” and 240 lean, muscular pounds. These leaders of the tellarite survey handed some dirty, strong smelling roots and a few pieces of fluffy, white mushroom to the young marines.

“Eat. Refresh your strength, Stinky,” said Drisk as he handed the food to Spike.

“Perhaps you would like for us to make some nice, soft chairs for you,” Chauv said as she handed out food to the younger marines.

“Oh, that would be wonderful,” said Sasha.

Chauv slipped behind the large, young marine, wrapped her arms around him and rested her chin on his crew-cut, blonde hair. She reached around him to hand fluffy, white mushrooms to his fellow marines. “Oh, I’ll find a nice, soft place for you to sleep tonight, Tiny…” The enormous female tellarite slipped away into the trees, leaving Sasha blushing violently.

Drisk bent over, bringing his enormous face close to Sasha’s. His huge tusks were nearly touching Sasha’s mustache. “Be very careful, little pup. I think she likes you…”

“Well, her fur is nice and soft…” Sasha managed.

Drisk javWalirsh raised back up to full height and emitted a loud, barking “Ha!” Then a series of them as he walked off. It took a moment for it to register with the marines that the enormous tellarite was laughing.

Spike had only begun to wonder where the captain was when he appeared from the mist. The modern Star Fleet uniform jacket was gray and black. The red collar and cuffs of the undershirt were largely concealed by the more somber colors of the jacket. In terms of muted colors that allowed an officer to be camouflaged in a landscape at need, it was one of the best uniform designs Star Fleet had ever come up with.

Skip Howard was smiling and relaxed. There was hardly any evidence that he had spent the past nearly four hours keeping up with a pack of werewolf-like tellarites and easily outpacing his teenaged marine detail. “Be sure to clean all the dirt off those roots. Drisk and Chauv gave you food that is good for you, but the tellarite immune system is far more robust than ours. And be very careful with those mushrooms. I would recommend eating no more than half the amount they gave you. It’s mildly psychotropic. But it will help you pay better attention to the forest. You’re fighting the forest instead of flowing with it. Pay attention to how the tellarites run. This world is completely new to them and yet they are already creatures of this forest.”

“You trained with them?” asked PFC Guz Maxwell.

“Very astute… Yes, I spent my practicum year at Star Fleet Academy with the Tellarite Biological Survey on Tellar Prime - probably the most beautiful planet in the entire Federation. I spent two more years after I graduated with the Survey, earning their equivalent of a master’s degree in biology.” He looked about at the tellarites all around them, who were snuffling about or looking off into the distance. “They’ve catalogued at least 3 or 4 hundred separate species over the past 4 hours. And found evidence of a dozen more. We’re on the trail of a herd of herbivores. Be ready - they’ll take off with very little signal. You’ll see them all looking in the same direction just before they go. Learn how to use the land the way they do and you’ll be able to keep up.”

“How did they manage to catalogue hundreds of species when all they’ve been doing is running through the forest?” Raanda Habib asked.

Skip Howard laughed. “You were the ones who spent all morning running, Private. We stopped several times to collect samples. And the tellarites, even when running, memorize every smell, every change of scenery, everything they see and hear. We won’t know for certain how many species they catalogued until they write up their reports.”

The captain walked over to PFC Sasha Soko, put his hand on the large marine’s shoulder. Bavarian Forest Green fingernail polish that matched the captain’s eyeshadow. “A word in private, Private?”

The two men walked off a short distance, the small, slight captain speaking very quietly with the large young marine. Spike and the others could see the two talking a short distance away. They saw PFC Soko open the top of his jacket and pull his shirt away from his neck, allowing Captain Howard to give him an injection with a hyposyringe. The captain tapped the marine’s chest lightly with his fist. Twice. Then walked away to talk with a few tellarites.

“What was that about, Moscow?” Spike asked as the young marine rejoined the group.

Sasha blushed violently again, his ears lighting up as if they were on fire.

“It’s private, Spike,” said Guz Maxwell, drawing the attention of his fellow marines. Guz winked.

Spike’s eyebrows went up and her mouth made a silent “Oh.”

PFC Raanda Habib was still confused. “What?”

Guz silently mouthed the word, “Later” to her.

...I like this take on them as angry, horny werepigs... :lol: :evil:

happy, snarky angry, horny werepigs... I'm definitely taking some license, but there's nothing in canon to suggest that tellarites can't come in as many varieties as domestic dogs. From the tiny, pink, nearly hairless Norakond Vef to the enormous dark brown and wooly Drisk javWalrish - it just happens that the few tellarites we've seen the franchise put on screen are of a more human-sized variety.

Cross-species STDs, or population control?


The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 4: Cause it’s Time

Cause it's time and time with your time and its news is captured...

Cause it’s Time

Five hover-skimmers were traveling about 200 feet above the ground, parallel to a chain of active volcanoes, which was riven by rivers of lava. For vulcan-built machines, they looked surprisingly like snowmobiles - at least the top half. Each supported two riders in tandem with the one in front driving. The resemblance ended there, however.

Instead of handlebars, the driver had a virtual console and instead of a pair of skids followed by a pair of tracks, the vehicle was mounted on what appeared to be a composite slab with six legs, each of which included an antigrav unit and a landing foot. The second seat had a wraparound science console.

Each of the five hover-skimmers was piloted by a marine with a scientist riding second seat - the first four in the line each had a scientist from the Denobulan Planetary Society. The 5th vehicle was piloted by Sgt. Chavez Lone Wolf with Lt. Commander Senek, the Beagle’s science officer, riding second seat.

Anyone who knew Senek would have said this work was good for him. The mournful expression was gone - replaced by intense concentration on the readings across his consoles. Long, golden blonde hair flying out behind him. He put in a call to the denobulan assistant director who was in the lead skimmer. “Risl, I’m picking up two very interesting readings. Have you noticed the carbon content in the iron?”

Assistant Director Risl Phynyx’s voice came back to him through the skimmer’s comm system: “Very interesting reading, Lieutenant Commander. Carbon levels indicate a very high degree of processing. Given the layer we’re picking it up in, I would estimate between 15 and 40 thousand years ago someone either refined or brought a significant amount of high quality steel here.”

“Are you seeing some interesting molecular dynamics with the silicon in those same layers?” Senek asked.

“Silicon-based?” asked Risl Phynyx. “I suppose those readings might indicate organic activity. But there’s no evidence of any wide-spread environment that would lead to the development of silicon-based life.”

“Not on this planet,” Senek replied.

“Something from another solar system - or from somewhere else in this one?” Risl asked.

“Yes,” Senek responded.

Risl Phynyx was confused: “What? Which one?”

Risl’s sister, Tetri Phynyx, the director of the Denobulan Planetary Society’s representation within the Beagle’s faculty, had been listening in. She was at base camp for the group inside the small, personnel shuttle that was supporting this mission, gathering information from the field survey group on the skimmers. “What are you talking about, Senek?”

“Tetri, can you patch me through to Commander Holland on the Beagle?” Senek asked.

Instead of answering, the elderly denobulan scientist simply opened the channel. “Commander Holland, please stand by for communication with Lieutenant Commander Senek.”

“Go ahead, Senek,” came Dutch Holland’s voice.

“Commander, would you please add Dean Nakamura Holland to this discussion?” Senek asked.

“Stand by”

A moment later, Sakura Nakamura Holland’s voice came through the link, “What have you got, Senek?”

“I am sending you some readings we picked up in a layer of volcanic rock that was laid down between 15 and 40 thousand years ago” said Senek. “I suspect you will find similar readings in the metallurgy of that ancient space station. You might also take some readings on the planets orbiting Minor Serrat. We have some readings that indicate silicone-based organics.”

“The age range would almost coincide with about the time we estimate Minor Serrat Station was abandoned,” Sakura replied. “Actually, it would be somewhat more recent. Preliminary analysis indicates this station was abandoned closer to 70 thousand years ago.”

“Then we should consider the possibility that the intelligent life form that abandoned Minor Serrat Station may have subsequently survived on this planet for tens of thousands of years,” Senek concluded.

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there's nothing in canon to suggest that tellarites can't come in as many varieties as domestic dogs. From the tiny, pink, nearly hairless Norakond Vef to the enormous dark brown and wooly Drisk javWalrish


From a strictly Natural Selection point of view, the various "breeds" of Tellarites, given some of the breeds' combative dispositions, likely went through ancient specializations to develop different strengths: guardian, hunter, shephard, forager, companion,..., and have a history of inter-breed conflicts that may have cut down on the possible varieties their ancestors had been. Civilization, along with cooperative inter-racial, inter-species, inter-breed support would be a relatively recent environment, even in the ST-NG years. Still, a thousand years or so would likely still have had a noticeable effect.

It would be interesting to explore the Tellarite world more.


The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 5: Any Black Square

Move me onto any black square
Use me anytime you want

Any Black Square

Setting up a system-wide conference was a logistical nightmare - requiring inputs and outputs to away teams in several locations on Serrat Prime as well as coordinating communications among a half-dozen ships and shuttle-craft scattered throughout the Serrat star system, including the U.S.S. Puppy, in orbit of Minor Serrat, the red dwarf at the far edge of the system.

This task was made even more formidable due to the assignment of communications officers to the different teams, leaving only one overworked communication officer onboard the U.S.S. Mako.

Commodore Yui Song gave this monstrous task to her first officer, Commander Jason Bates. Bates, in turn, bargained with the one person he was certain would be able to figure out how to make it happen: the diminutive ferengi businessman, Trader Pel.

And with personnel scattered throughout the system, working at full capacity surveying the two stars and their many planets and moons, the resource Pel needed for this task was available: the U.S.S. Mako’s holodeck.

This unique use of the holodeck allowed an amused Commodore Yui Song to walk from simulations of the bridge of the U.S.S. Beagle, into the cabins of the U.S.S. Bluebird and the U.S.S. Puppy in orbit of, respectively, Serrat and Minor Serrat, into the forest camp with Captain Skip Howard the the tellarites, to the seaside camp of a number of oceanographers along with the Mako’s science officer, Lt. Cmdr. Gregg Clark, to the volcanic island base with Lt. Cmdr. Senek and the denobulan planetary survey.

Commodore Yui's presence in each of these environments was represented locally by ghostly, rather primitive holograms of her emanating from various local tricorders.

Additionally, everyone on conference, and particularly Commodore Yui, could also access the readouts from every probe in the system, as well as a system map, showing the location of each ship, each shuttle, and every probe within the binary system, along with the two stars themselves and each of their planets and moons.

“The evidence is not conclusive, but it is very suggestive.”

Dean Sakura Nakamura Holland was reporting from the U.S.S. Puppy. The very elderly former premier of the Vulcan Science Academy, T’Eln, currently directing the U.S.S. Beagle’s Astrophysics & Stellar Cartography department, was seated next to her.

“Materials analysis indicates a strong correlation between the steels used in construction of the space station out here in orbit of Minor Serrat and the remnants Lieutenant Commander Senek discovered in the volcanic layers on Serrat Prime. We are also now ready to identify the planet Minor Serrat Prime - the first planet in orbit of the red dwarf out here - as the likely home of the builders of this station.”

Director T’Eln spoke up. “The Minor Serrat star entered a very active phase almost 200,000 years ago. Any potentially space-faring species would have been highly motivated to evacuate the first planet, assuming their science was sufficient to predict the devastation the red dwarf was about to unleash on their world. Phillip?”

The young planetologist from Sierra Leone, Phillip Gorman, was seated at another console on the Puppy. “The two planets in this system once had atmospheres that have largely been washed away by gigantic solar flares from the red dwarf. There is evidence of widespread underground structures on the first planet and some on the second planet. It is unlikely that a silicon-based lifeform would have evolved on the surface, but with a combination of pressure deep inside the planet, rivers of liquid methane under very high pressures and significant energy provided by a very active star, there is the potential for such life to have evolved deep inside the planet.”

Sakura Nakamura Holland picked up the story. “We’ve sent our robots fairly deep into those caverns. There definitely was an advanced society that lived down there. They moved closer to the surface and eventually colonized the 2nd planet due to a period of low solar activity - they needed the energy that was available closer to the surface. Then the star entered a period of very high activity. The space station may have been constructed in orbit of one of these planets, but it was eventually moved to an orbit further out to protect it from far more energetic solar activity - energetic enough to sterilize both the planets. As the Minor Serrat star became even more active, they would have been forced to abandon the station - material analysis indicates that happened about 70 thousand years ago.”

Commodore Yui Song mulled this over, then asked. “Okay, so if they could build a space station and they eventually showed up within the Serrat system proper, why haven’t we come across any of their satellites in orbit of any of the planets? Space stations? Derelict space craft? We haven’t encountered the kind of orbital debris that usually accompanies in-system local space travel.”

“That’s assuming they saw value in creating satellites,” said the U.S.S. Beagle’s masked first officer, speaking from the command throne on the Beagle’s bridge. “What if, instead, they build underground bases on various moons throughout the system? Would we have detected them?”

“While our probes are programmed to look for lunar stations, I’m not so certain they are tuned to seek out sublunar stations,” Sakura mused.

“Then they need to be re-targeted,” Commodore Yui said.

“We’re talking about time frames that can be evolutionarily significant,” mused Captain Skip Howard, speaking from a forest camp and surrounded by sylvan tellurites. “They were originally adapted for life deep underground. No longer possible in the red dwarf system, but they could have established subterranean colonies here and on several different planets and moons throughout this system. Their descendants might still be there. And over tens of thousands of years, they might well have speciated. They might have started as a single race living deep underground on Minor Serrat Prime, but they could have become a dozen different species, cut off from each other, surviving in their various caverns on several different worlds in this system. And up until only 230 years ago, someone in this star system was making cultural use of radio…”

“Then all of our assets need to be retargeted and our investigative methods significantly revised to determine where such settlements are likely and go look for them,” Yui Song concluded.


The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 6: Taking Point

Take a straight and stronger course
To the corner of your life
Make the white queen run so fast...

Taking Point

The Tellarite Biological Survey moved on from the forest environment to a broad savannah, now without Captain Skip Howard, who had returned to the bridge of the Beagle to assist with retargeting the task force to seek out the descendants of the silicon-based life form that had abandoned the space station that orbited the red dwarf on the edge of the Serrat system.

At Captain Howard’s specific request, Captain Rhonda Carter’s 2nd officer, Lt. Cmdr. Vranran zh’Kathar, had taken his place with the survey. As a result, Spike and her marines had a new assignment:

Keep the peace between a sarcastic, overbearing band of tellarites and a hot tempered andorian Star Fleet officer. A ridiculous assignment for a small squad of U.S. Marine privates and a low-ranking NCO.

At least one thing had become easier - the marines had a much easier time keeping up with the tellarites on the savannah. Keeping up with zh’Kathar, on the other hand, was pretty much impossible. Andorians were famous for being great runners and the first way the aggressive andorian 2nd officer of the U.S.S. Escort had of expressing her aggression was by simply outrunning the group until she was only a speck on the horizon.

“Hey, Stinky…” The enormous director of the Tellarite Biological Survey caught up with Lance Corporal Petra Spitze with some effort. Spike was somewhat gratified as she had only a few days earlier felt incapable of keeping up with him.

Drisk javWalirsh was breathing hard. The tiny Norkaond Vef, the smallest of the tellarites, was with him. “That andorian is just going to keep doing that. She’s putting herself at risk - there are dangers in this landscape. Not just predators.” The enormous tellarite was carrying a large stick. He used it to prod a small plant, which, in turn, whipped up and wrapped around the stick, latching onto it.

“Carnivorous plants,” javWalirsh explained. “They’re not deadly to you - most of those spikes wouldn’t get through your uniform. But if you’re running as fast as you can and one of these gets you…”

“Broken bones, a bad tumble, some bad cuts,” the tiny, pink-skinned tellarite continued. “And they’re poisonous. It’s a mild poison, but if you’re out there by yourself…”

“Are you two worried about an andorian?” Spike asked.

“We had a few skirmishes a few hundred years ago,” said Norkaond Vef. She sidled close to Spike - the tellarites seemed to have no concept of personal space. The little tuft of fluffy, white hair at the top of her head was almost touching Spike’s chin. “I don’t think they’ve gotten over it,” she said quietly. “They’re kind of weird that way. They hold grudges when they win.”

“You and lover-boy are the fastest of your lot,” Drisk continued. “Norkie is as fast as any of us. We’ll look after your two smaller puppies. How about you take that big kid and Norkie here and get up there and look after that andorian who is supposed to be looking after us?”

Instead of answering, Spike called to her marines. “PFC Habib! PFC Maxwell!”

The two younger marines sprinted over to her.

“The two of you are detailed to support the survey.” Spike turned toward Sasha Soko. “Moscow, you with me. We’re taking point.” She looked around. The tellarites had spread out to take samples. The plant javWalirsh had triggered had lost interest in the stick and recoiled itself. Spike picked up the stick and looked for another such plant. Her team watched with interest.

She found what she was looking for a few yards away. She prodded the carnivorous plant with the stick, only to have it snatched from her grasp by the plant. “Look out for these. Don’t step on them.” Spike took off at a solid run with Sasha Soko and Norkaond Vef following.

PFC Guz Maxwell turned toward Drisk. “I’m actually faster than he is.”

“I know,” javWalirsh replied. “I just wanted to split him and Chauv up for a while. I could put up with it in the forest, but out here… That was just getting unnerving. The grunting and banging and howling were all okay. But I just couldn’t handle all the crying afterward.”

Guz Maxwell and Raanda Habib nearly died laughing.

Excellent updates... I'm curious if the SAS in still in service in the Beagle verse?

Thanks for the kind words!

I hadn't thought in that great detail. Most current human institutions persist into my trek-verse, including the current nation states (which are subsumed under United Earth Governments) and their military institutions (also subsumed into UEG). It makes sense to me that highly specialized, elite units such as SAS, the Foreign Legion, etc. would also persist, although again under the general command of UEG.

The persistence of these military institutions would leave Earth with a number of massive military establishments geared primarily toward homeworld defense and only a very small number of extremely elite units (such as the Space Hounds) would be tasked outside of Earth's solar system. Except for wartime, the primary UEG presence outside of Earth's solar system would be Star Fleet.

Thanks!! rbs

The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 7: A Trip to the Beach

Make the white queen run so fast
She hasn't got time to make you a wife...

A Trip to the Beach

“Lieutenant Commander, can you please come to us? We have a situation, sir.”

Lt. Cmdr. Vranran zh’Kathar was irritated. Her antennae were twitching. She had less than no idea why she had been chosen to babysit a dozen tellarites as they went about a biological survey. She was no biologist. And while she had no particular love or even tolerance for tellarites, she was well aware that they were more than capable of looking after themselves in a wild landscape. They hardly needed a squad of U.S. Marines, much less a Star Fleet officer to protect them from the local wildlife.

But she could hear a note of panic in Lance Corporal Petra Spitze’s voice and before the communicator shut down, she also overheard the other marine breathlessly saying something about resuscitation. The marines were supposed to look after her, not the other way around. But as a Star Fleet officer, she did have an obligation to them. She quickly spotted the lance corporal, who was waiving her phaser rifle in the air to get her attention.

Andorians were famous for outrunning pretty much any other humanoid known in the Alpha Quadrant, and zh’Kathar was fairly fleet-footed for an andorian. She found herself somewhat impressed at how close the humans had gotten to her before giving up. As she got closer, she realized it wasn’t the humans who had given up… The two young marines were doing their best to revive a tiny, bright pink tellarite.

“Very gently splash water onto her snout and make sure a small amount gets into her nostrils.” Spike was reading from a tricorder. Her own tricorder was stored in her belt. “Ewww… Spit works if you don’t have water… Okay, it says, without forming a seal, blow gently into her nostrils with your mouth about one inch away from her snout.”

PFC Sasha Soko was gamely following Spike’s instructions. He had two fingers gently pressing behind Norkaond Vef’s ear. “I’m still not getting a pulse.”

“Oh, it says here you’re also supposed to lightly tickle under her belly,” said Spike.

“Does it, like, have a diagram or something? What does “under her belly” mean?” Soko asked.

“You’re more familiar with tellarite anatomy than I am,” said Spike. “No. No pictures. It just says “under her belly” like we’re supposed to know what that means…”

“Keep breathing gently into her nostrils,” said Lt. Cmdr. zh’Kathar as she stepped up and joined the marines. “Gently - you’re blowing too hard.” The andorian officer squatted down to her haunches. She quickly and expertly unbuttoned the pink tellarite’s buttonfly overalls and reached in.

“It’s working, sir,” said Sasha Soko. “I’ve got a pulse…”

Only a few heartbeats later, Norkaond Vef giggled, coughed, snuffled, and managed to force herself into a low squatting position.

Lt. Cmdr. zh’Kathar stood up. “Report, Marine.”

“Sir, she was running hard to try to keep up with you and she just… dropped,” said Spike.

“I was worried about her breathing and fell behind to keep an eye on her,” Sasha added. “I think she overheated. Her snout was dry and warm. It’s supposed to be cold and clammy.”

“Why did you allow her to overexert herself?” zh’Kathar asked.

“I tried to stop her,” said Sasha. He took off his hat and ran a hand through his short brush of blonde hair. His skin was bright pink.

Spike could see streams of sweat running down his face. “Better put some sunblock on, Moscow.”

Sasha came up with a kerchief out of his pack and wiped his face. “I asked her to stop and she just wouldn’t. She was too winded to tell me why,” he added as he took a tube and started applying sunblock.

Spike followed suit. Her skin wasn’t as fair as Sasha’s, but neither of them were anywhere near as dark as Privates Guz Maxwell and Raanda Habib.

Vranran zh’Kathar shook her head, her antenna moving the opposite direction as she watched the marines and the tiny, pink tellarite. “What are you three doing out here?”

“Permission to speak freely, sir?” Spike asked.

“Always with me, Lance Corporal,” zh’Kathar responded.

“I was assigned to protect you and the Tellarite Biological Survey. All I have is myself and three privates to do that job. The other two are back with the survey. Private Soko and I are here to protect you.”

“I do not need your protection, Lance Corporal,” Lt. Cmdr. zh’Kathar replied.

“That is not of any consequence, sir. I have my orders,” Spike rejoined. “Norkaond Vef was assigned to coordinate with you by her director. The tellarites are not a military organization, but she takes her assignment seriously and she will run herself to death trying to carry out that assignment.”

Vef was finally sitting up and taking a drink with Sasha’s help.

zh’Kathar turned away. “What am I doing out here?” she muttered.

“Weren’t you ordered to coordinate the activities of the survey, sir?” asked Spike.

“As if they don’t know what they’re doing,” zh’Kathar groused. “They’re tellarites - by far the most acclaimed biologists in the Alpha Quadrant. I flunked biology and had to take it twice while I was at the academy. I’m no biologist. Captain Howard chose the wrong person for this assignment.”

“One thing I’ve noticed about the captain… He is extremely detail oriented,” said Spike. “He figured out my nickname and Raanda’s from our last names. He knew Guz was a guitarist just by looking at his fingers. I’m sure he knows how you feel about being a biologist, sir.”

“Wasn’t there something about silicon based life?” asked Sasha Soko.

zh’Kathar turned around to see PFC Soko and Norkaond Vef standing behind her.

“Silicon life is unlikely to survive in this environment,” said Norkaond Vef. “Maybe really deep caverns, but more likely deep undersea volcanic vents.”

“If silicon life has been on this planet for 70 thousand years, wouldn't it have some sort of impact on the life we find on the surface?” Lt. Cmdr. zh’Kathar asked.

“It might,” Vef mused. “We would be most likely to find evidence for it along the shoreline…”

“Contact your director, Vef,” said zh’Kathar, a sudden sense of purpose in her voice. “We need to re-target your survey.” The andorian smiled for the first time since she had arrived:

“Let’s take a trip to the beach.”


The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 8: Serrat Buffet

Move on back two squares...

Serrat Buffet

Sakura Nakamura Holland left a single dogfish to continue exploration within each of the two planets in orbit of Minor Serrat, the red dwarf star at the edge of the Serrat star system. A third dogfish continued exploration of the massive space station that occupied an orbit further out from the star. The remaining dogfish were loaded back into the Puppy - the large task shuttle from the U.S.S. Beagle - which then headed back toward the planets orbiting the main sequence star.

In orbit of Serrat Prime, the three ships formed an ersatz space station once again, with the majority of the shuttlecraft, including the Puppy and the Bluebird docked inside, respectively, the U.S.S. Beagle and the U.S.S. Mako. This allowed a service cycle to refresh their systems, recycle their atmospheres and retool these support craft for the new task of seeking out potential underground stations on various moons and planets in the system.

The crews were being re-assigned as well. The Tellarite Biological Survey was split up and crew that were not required for active duty aboard one of the ships or shuttles were reassigned to ground duty along any number of stunning beaches, there to work with the tellarites to search for evidence of deep-sea silicon-based life impacting life along the shore.

The leadership of the three ships were now gathered in the U.S.S. Mako’s galley, discussing the continuing investigation over a shared meal that included several fresh foods gathered from Serrat Prime - bitterroot, thumberries, gelled shuttle-tree sap, cotton-candy mushrooms and shamyams - a potato-like root that tasted somewhat like candied yam when steamed.

“One of the major advantages of traveling with tellarites on exotic worlds,” opined Captain Skip Howard. “They reliably find plenty of edible local flora.”

Dr. Lucian Moorman, chief medical officer for the U.S.S. Mako, held up a small, puffy white mushroom. “Didn’t I hear that these were mildly psychoactive?”

“In much the same way that caffeine is psychoactive,” Howard responded. “Actually, chemically, it has some resemblance to psytosogent beans - the stuff betazoids use to make sog.” Howard popped one in his mouth. “But unlike sog, these don’t taste bad. Or really have much taste at all. And they just seem to melt in your mouth.”

“Well, I’ve had feasts gathered from a dozen planets,” Moorman replied. “Serrat Prime is as good as I’ve ever tasted.”

“So what are the chances that the people who made that space station have descendants living somewhere in this system?” asked Commodore Yui Song.

“Our probes and robots have now identified and explored four unpopulated lunar bases within this system,” Sakura Nakamura Holland replied. “From our explorations, it looks like these were temporary sites, used as launch points and resupply ports for construction elsewhere in this system. While there is no evidence of recent activity, I would have to characterize these as still operational. There are still supplies and building materials staged that would be useful. These are not derelict stations.”

“Have we found any evidence of what was producing radio signals as recently as a few hundred years ago?” Yui asked.

“Very probably those stations or stations like them,” answered Major Janet Carter. “Signal analysis indicates the use of radio recorded for this system was strictly machine to machine. There’s no evidence of mass communication or even interpersonal communication. Best we can tell, the radio signals were very simple docking maneuvers, mechanical status reports and various beacons.”

“Machine intelligence?” asked Captain Rhonda Carter. Carter’s hair was starting to grow out, long and straight, and dyed a bright, cobalt blue with iron gray roots. The blue set off her eyes, creating a striking and somewhat intimidating effect.

Her younger cousin shook her head. “Nothing so elaborate that would suggest machine intelligence.” Major Carter’s U.S. Marine uniform was a fractal camouflage pattern generated out of various gray and brown hues. “It is much more like the machine-to-machine signal traffic you would expect at any star base or space station. Close range docking instructions. Manifest orders. Not even long range planning that you would expect - like docking schedules. Those must have been communicated in some other way.”

“From biological to biological?” Skip Howard asked.

“But if not by radio or subspace radio… other EM frequencies?” Sakura asked.

Dr. Tentis Uto stopped chewing mid shamyam… Everyone was looking at him… expectantly…

Uto finished chewing his shamyam and swallowed. “I can hear what you’re thinking, you know… My staff and I are all also explorers. We’ve been open to telepathic contact, listening for alien telepathy. But we’re talking about silicon-based life. If they are telepathic, the recipe for their telepathic communication would be just as alien as their biology.”

“Could you, like, send a broad-based “Hello”?” asked Captain Rhonda Carter.

Before Uto could reply, Captain Howard, Commodore Yui and Dean Sakura Nakamura Holland responded in unison:

“Prime Directive!”

“Only 1 in every 30 species that manage local space travel make the leap to faster than light,” said Skip Howard.

“We haven’t picked up any evidence of warp drive,” said Captain Carter. “Why are we still looking for them?”

“Warp drive is not the only means to FTL,” said Commander Dutch Holland, speaking up for the first time after downing rather astounding amounts of bitterroot and gelled shuttletree sap.

“The history of these people will be of interest to the Federation. Silicon-based life very rarely develops local space travel,” said Commodore Yui. “And if they are superluminal, we will definitely want to know more about how they do it. It was decades before we confirmed the tholians were using warp drive just because their configuration was so different from ours.”

Nice, methodical investigations. All feels appropriately scientific.

I really like the ongoing efforts to make all the aliens seem suitably ‘alien’. Like the bit about Andorian running abilities or the massive Tellarite werepigs. Something I don’t think about enough in my own writing, I guess. I’m still picturing everything through the lens of a TV show where all the aliens in the story are just humans with bits of rubber and/or spray paint stuck all over them. :lol:
Nice, methodical investigations. All feels appropriately scientific... I really like the ongoing efforts to make all the aliens seem suitably ‘alien’...

Thanks for the kind words!! I do like to show my characters thinking things through. Glad you picked up on me pushing the aliens to be more alien than the franchise was able to present given the limitation of accomplishing them with human actors. i also like to push the weird on the assumption that the universe is far weirder than we imagine...

Thanks!! rbs

The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 9: Turquoise

Don't surround yourself with yourself...


Sakura Nakamura Holland was once again commanding the Puppy, this time with Major Janet Carter at the helm. Both women were doing their nails, which was rather odd, considering the large, muscular, African American woman never wore nail polish and the U.S.S. Beagle’s Dean of Ship was always immaculately made up before she let anyone set eyes on her.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear any kind of make-up,” Sakura observed.

“You normally use clear lacquer with a white stripe after the quick,” Janet Carter observed. “And you did that this morning… Why change to black now?”

Sakura suddenly stopped, leaving six of her nails a glossy black, three their original combination of clear lacquer below the quick with a white stripe beyond the quick, and one nail, the index finger of her right hand, halfway in the transition from white to black.

She turned sharply to see the other three passengers, Falok from the Vulcan Science Academy, the assistant director of the Beagle’s UFP delegation, Erok Gruex, who was a member of the rarely seen vrish people, and Fish Head, an archeologist from Olympia, Washington, all busily painting their nails a glossy black. Well, in Gruex's case, his talons...

“All Stop! Bring us to station keeping!”

Major Carter had the presence of mind to hand the tiny bottle of black, glossy nail polish, along with the cap/applicator, to Sakura before reaching to the controls. As Carter brought the Puppy to station keeping, Sakura turned her chair to look at the other passengers. “Stop that and close those bottles.” She emphasized her order by lidding first the bottle Carter had handed her, then lidding the one she had been using.

It took a moment for it to register with her that she had observed each person on board requesting the replicator to create a bottle of nail polish for them. All three of her civilian passengers stopped, then looked at their own nails in confusion.

Sakura turned back to her console and entered a quick series of commands. “All ships, this is Dean Sakura Nakamura Holland. Please bring all probes to station keeping, remove all robotic explorers from any archeological sites, and cease all probing activities. Commodore Yui, Captain Carter, Skip, please enter conference mode. All other teams, please monitor the conference.”

Major Carter’s older cousin, Captain Rhonda Carter, was the first to respond. “This is the U.S.S. Escort, Rhonda Carter commanding, what is the nature of the emergency?”

“Rhonda?” asked Janet Carter. “When did you start wearing green eye shadow?”

“Never,” Captain Carter responded. “I always wear blue. Sets off my eyes.”

“You’re wearing green now. And I’ve never seen you wear nail polish of any kind.” Major Carter held up her hands, waggled her fingers - 4 polished black, 5 unpolished, and her left thumb partly polished.

Her older cousin held up her hands and looked in blank confusion at her own nails - all glossy black.

At this point Commodore Yui Song came into the conversation. “I caught part of that, what is this about fingernail polish?”

“Look at your nails, Song,” said Sakura. “And is that Trader Pel sitting next to you? Look at his…”

Yui Song looked first, uncomprehendingly, at Pel’s glossy, black nails, then, in increasing shock at her own. “Ew, I hate black nail polish. It’s just so…” She didn’t finish that sentence as General Krank came into the conversation from the helm of the Bluebird.

“Would someone like to explain this to me?” The elderly klingon held up his hands, displaying black nail polish, then gestured with all ten fingers to his eyelids, the garish British Racing Green eyeshadow contrasting wildly with his skin.

Captain Skip Howard of the U.S.S. Beagle was the last to check in, lounging scandalously on the vulcan-built ship’s command throne - like some insouciant emperor imported from some bygone era.


The accusatory tone was amplified by the choir of voices who launched his name like some sort of invective.

“I’ve been monitoring,” Skip Howard replied. “Ten?”

Skip Howard’s visage was replaced with that of the betazoid doctor, Tentis Uto. Uto’s nails were also glossy black and he was wearing British Racing Green eyeshadow. “It has to be some sort of unconscious telepathic simpatico. I’m reviewing our recent diet from Serrat Prime. I’m thinking, maybe, mushrooms?”

Skip Howard touched a control and his image replaced the bald, betazoid doctor in the conference. “Okay… But here’s the fork in your soup…” Captain Howard held up his hands to display his nails, gestured toward his own eyeshadow:



The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 10: Licked

Just remember that the goal is for us all to capture all we want...


While the investigation of the Serrat system was on hold in space, on Serrat Prime the investigation along the beaches on the west coast of a large continent, selected because they were in the path of ocean currents that passed across a number of deep sea ocean vents, continued uninterrupted.

More than 150 combined crew members of the Beagle task force were camped out along various shore fronts along more than 2,000 kilometers of shoreline in the equatorial and semi-tropical areas. During the daytime, they were collecting shells and investigating aquatic and semi-aquatic animals that washed up along the shoreline, analyzing these for residual traces of silicon-based organics.

During the evening and at night, these crew members were camped further from the shoreline, with authorized campfires. Trader Pel had been involved in setting these up, so activities in the camps included volleyball, shuttleball and knife-throwing, as well as campfire entertainment provided by various storytellers and musicians, including PFC Guz Maxwell and his electric guitar, Assistant Astrophysics Director T’Kusytt and her lyrette and Phillip Gorman and his flute.

It was a sort of working shore leave.

One of the most heavily populated beaches was Pichilemu Beach (so named for its striking resemblance to its namesake on the west coast of Chile.) Large, 12-legged animals dug into the beach, waiting for the tide to come in so they could capture snake-like fish. When the tide washed out, these animals would come out of their burrows and hunt along the beach. They were rather foul-tempered and were intolerant toward the landing parties. With thick shells and four heavy pincers distributed around their low-slung bodies, they were quite formidable and clearly best avoided.

But these creatures quickly became inactive once the sun set and simply lay strewn along the beach. Lance Corporal Petra Spitze and PFC Sasha Soko were assigned to the group exploring this beach, along with the tiny pink tellarite, Norkaond Vef.

Aboard the U.S.S. Beagle, Dr. Tentis Uto was in bed with his wife and assistant medical director, Bettes Uto. Both sat bolt upright out of a deep sleep, grasping their heads. Bettes struggled into her scrubs while her husband reached for the communicator. She had her slips on and was staggering out the door by the time he had managed to raise the captain:

“Skip! It’s Spike - that team is in danger. You have to get them off that beach now!”

Captain Howard rolled out of bed and landed in an undignified tangled heap on the floor - still half-wrapped in his sheets. He had Tentis Uto screaming at him in his head and over the communicator. Without getting up from the floor, he reached up and hit an override on the comm system that sent his voice to the Beagle’s communication center: “Relay to Pichilemu Beach - Spike!! Get everybody off that beach - now! Transporter rooms, prepare for emergency beam out of all personnel in shore party 11. Repeat, standby for emergency beamout!”

On the beach, Lance Corporal Petra Spitz heard Captain Howard in her head before his words echoed from the communicator. “Buh… Guh… MOSCOW!!! Grab your boots! Evacuation! We’ve got to get everyone off this beach!”

She and PFC Sasha Soko exited their tent and began shouting: “Off the beach!! Retreat to the tree line!! Carry your shoes - go now!!!

As the two marines, a couple of tellarites, various Star Fleet crew, diplomats and scholars raced for the tree line in the starlight, long, dark arms came out of the ocean, sweeping the campsites into chaos, extinguishing camp fires and catching a couple of stragglers, who started screaming.

A horrendous blubbering howling roar started.

Spike and Sasha used their phaser rifles, trying to hit the sweeping arms that had swept up people. The arms began flailing, and the howling roar increased. Two people a few yards away were tossed into the air and landed elsewhere on the beach. They could tell from the screaming that another person was still caught.

“Flares!” Spike yelled.

Sasha stopped firing long enough to dig a flare gun out of his pack. He launched all four flares from the gun into the air where they rode the breeze, providing some illumination to the beach. Several gigantic animals had pulled themselves out of the surf and onto the beach - gigantic mouths open - long tongues sweeping the beach.

With this light, Spike was able to better aim her phaser, cutting into a gigantic tongue that still had someone trapped on it, preventing it from retracting. Other tongues retracted - some bringing tents and camping gear and glowing embers of camp fires into the mouths along the surf line.

Further up the beach, other tongues were sweeping up the large, 12-legged animals that lay strewn across the beach. The tongues probed further up into the tree line.

“Norkie,” Spike yelled. “Keep everyone together. Get them further into the tree line!” Spike held her position, still trying to free the one person still stuck to a tongue. She could see others running out to collect the two people who had been thrown and dragging them into the tree line.

Sasha used his phaser to defend their position, keeping himself and Spike from getting licked off the beach as she turned the phaser power up and finally cut clean through the tongue that still held one person captive.

The flares were starting to fade. Spike hit her communicator pin. “Beagle! This is Lance Corporal Spitze! We need some serious light down here! Can you beam in some daystars?”

Moments later, extremely bright flares were beamed into the air over the beach, lighting the entire beach as if it were day.

There were more than 20 large animals that had been feeding. Most of these left immediately as soon as the flares arrived. They pulled their heavy bodies back into the ocean. The one with the severed tongue was blubbering and howling, thrashing about in agony - what was left of its tongue could not retract, but it posed no threat beyond the reach of the stump of its tongue.

Another two pulled more slowly back into the water, clearly wounded by their contact with the camp fire and swallowing tents and other camping gear.

Spike ceased firing and ran to find that a middle-aged man, clearly a civilian, was still stuck to the end of the tongue. His eyes were open and his body moving feebly.

“Beagle, medical beam out, I’m placing my communicator pin on the victim.” Spike removed her communicator pin and placed it on the hapless man. She waited until he was beamed out, then went to check on the two people who had been thrown, only to find out that they were members of the U.S.S. Mako’s crew and had already been beamed to the Mako’s medical center.

2nd Lieutenant La Toya Johns from the U.S.S. Escort turned out to be the ranking officer on site. She accounted for all but two of the personnel who should still be present. A quick report back to the U.S.S. Mako determined that both were also Mako crew members who had beamed up to look after their two casualties.

Spike, PFC Sasha Soko and 2nd Lt. Johns coordinated the beamout of the remaining campers. but remained on site, along with the two members of the Tellarite Biological Survey as a security team from the Mako beamed in, along with Captain Skip Howard and Commodore Yui Song.

Commodore Yui scanned the site: “Well, this is an unmitigated disaster…”

Captain Howard activated his communicator pin: “Dutchie…”


The Star Beagle Adventures

Episode 5: All Good People
Scene 11: Tongue-Fish

Move on back two squares...


“I want a satellite in geosynchronous orbit to track these animals. Are there any near our other beaches?”

Captain Skip Howard was focusing his tricorder on an enormous, dead animal that was halfway out of the water, its mouth open and its tongue stretched out in two large pieces on the beach. Mounds of foaming blubber and blood oozed from the open ends where Spike’s phaser had cut the tongue almost exactly in half.

Commander Dutch Holland’s Mexican accent sounded somewhat tinny coming through Captain Howard’s communicator pin: “No, not within several hundred kilometers. And except for two that appear to be stationary about a half-kilometer from you, and that dead one on the beach, there aren’t any within 20 kilometers of you - and those are moving away.”

“If any of these animals get within 10 kilometers of any of our beaches, I want that beach evacuated,” Howard replied. “Patch me through to medical.”

“Aye, Skip,” came Holland’s voice.

Then Dr. Uto’s voice came over Howard’s communicator: “Confirmed DOA.”

“Understood, Ten,” Howard responded. “I need you, Bettes, and your forensics team down here along with all the equipment you will need to perform remote surgery on a pair of 100-ton carnivorous fish. They appear to have eaten a lot of camping equipment and, apparently, some live camp fires. You’re going to need to remove the foreign objects from them and do what you can to patch up the damage eating all that stuff has done to them. Set your equipment up in a shuttle so that you can hover over the water close to them. Dutchie will give you their location and depth.”

“You don’t ask for much, do you, Skip?” Dr. Uto observed.

“I want a miracle, Ten. Let’s try to undo as much of this damage as we can,” Captain Howard rejoined. “Oh, and make sure to hover at an altitude of at least 100 meters. These animals have very long tongues.”

Howard turned to find Spike standing at attention. He took a breath as if to give an order, then changed his mind. “Let’s do a walk-through, Lance Corporal. Walk me through from where your tent was, to where you made your stand and just kind of… re-live this for me.”

PFC Sasha Soko was standing nearby. He moved to follow. Howard turned to him: “Private Soko, I want you with Commodore Yui for now. Report to Ensign Peterman, who is in charge of her detail, and let her know you stand ready to answer questions.”

“Yes sir!” the young marine answered crisply, and turned and walked quickly toward the commodore.

Spike gamely walked Captain Howard from her best guess of where her tent had been to the location she had selected to try to control the situation with her phaser. She was extremely nervous as she recounted the night’s events. It was still night, but the daystar flares hanging in the air over the beach made it seem like mid-day.

“…and I finally cut through its tongue…” Spike’s voice trailed off. She had an irrational fear that the captain was angry with her. She wanted him to be angry with her. She started to shake, her eyes tearing up. “They… They weren’t monsters. They were just feeding. Just some kind of… whales?” She turned to see Captain Howard squatting down to his haunches and scanning the beach.

“No. Not whales. These animals are water breathers.”

“How can you tell?”

Captain Howard pointed to the huge, dead animal that was now rolling slightly as the tide started to wash out. “That one asphyxiated. Kind of the opposite of whales. Whales hold their breath and dive deep into the water. These… I guess we can call them tongue-fish? These tongue-fish hold their breath so they can come out of the water to feed.” He stood back up.

Spike found herself wishing the captain were just a little taller. It seemed wrong somehow that they were the same height - about 5’6”.

“You selected a good spot to make a stand,” Howard observed. “Especially considering it was dark. You must have had this spot picked out before you bunked down. You saved a lot of lives tonight, Marine. It’s okay to cry. That’s why I had you bring me up here.”

Spike was crying freely now. In a way, she was relieved that Captain Howard was just standing beside her - had made no move to touch her. She didn’t want to be touched.

“Just look out across the beach and wipe your eyes,” Howard continued. "No one will know you’re crying. It’s just you and me up here. You had a rough time getting to us. You were hunted, captured, tortured, witness to an execution... you still haven’t processed killing those tholians. And you didn’t get much down time after the war, did you?”

“A couple of weeks with my mom, but she was still on active duty,” said Spike. “So I was pretty much on my own.”

“I read your jacket. You went from one battlefield to another. On the front line or behind enemy lines for the duration of both wars. Almost no down time. You’ve been in battle mode non-stop for 7 years. I’m going to arrange some down time for you and I’d like for you to spend that time with General Krank. I’m going to ask him to teach you tri-D chess. He’s a master.”

Spike was puzzled. It was an odd request - enough to take her mind off recent events and give her a little self-control. “Tri-D chess?”

“The man you tried to save, Dr. Arthur Rush. He was a friend of mine,” said Captain Howard. “And he liked to play tri-D chess. Liked playing against Krank. Krank and I are both going to miss him. I think you’ll enjoy the game - it kind of pulls you out of yourself - or so I’ve heard.” Howard turned to look at her. “I know how hard you tried to save Art. Somehow, it seems to me if you learn something about his favorite game, some part of him will live on.” He turned again to look back out over the beach.

Spike dried her eyes, still shuddering a little. But she felt better. Better than she had felt in a very long time.

In the forest behind her, the sun was starting to rise.