Captains Log, Stardate 7328.5
The Enterprise is journeying to the Acrux system, which is just outside Federation territory, and whose fifth planet is a Class M planet. The mission is two-fold: to explore the world and to investigate the disappearance of the survey team sent from the U.S.S. Philostrate.
Kirk swiveled in his chair, directing his gaze towards Science Officer Spock at the science station. "Could you give us more information about Acrux Five, Mister Spock?"
The Vulcan looked up from the viewing monitor. "Captain, the average mean temperature for this world is about minus forty degrees Celsius. There are several land masses, each with some surrounding islands. The most recent report from the U.S.S. Philostrate, before the survey teams untimely disappearance, indicated that the dominant lifeform is an avian species. While there is no evidence of spaceflight outside their planetary system, there has been development of craft that can travel on land and sea as well as in the air, indicating technological development consistent for a culture with a rating between G and H on the Richter Scale of Cultures. There is also evidence of ecological damage to sections of this world that occurred approximately 96.5 years ago, consistent with nuclear weapons."
"Any lifeform readings that could possibly be the missing landing party?"
"Have there been any distress calls?" Kirk looked toward the communications station.
Lieutenant Commander Uhura looked up from her station with a frown. "None recently, Captain."
"Any signs of debris from a shuttle wreckage?"
Security Chief Chekov, seated at the weapons console, turned his head towards his commanding officer. "No, sir."
Kirk drummed his fingers on the arm rest and swiveled his chair. "Well send down a landing party to include experts in frigid weather species. And well also need to be prepared for a rescue mission. Spock, Chekov."
Spocks response was immediate. "Ill confer with Xon and assign the appropriate personnel."
Chekov, seated at the weapons station, turned his head towards his commanding officer. "Aye, Captain. Ill bring along a security team."
Kirk turned his attention to Uhura again. "Commander, I would like you to be in overall command of the landing party."
The landing party was beamed down to the frigid surface of Acrux V, rematerializing not far from the coast. There appeared to be some rectangular and domed structures in the vicinity, but the vigorous winds that were blowing snow prevented the landing party from seeing them clearly.Lieutenant Courtney Courtney Kovalchuk, a science officer, looked up with a frown after taking tricorder readings. "So far, I have not detected any Human life signs."
Xon pondered Kovalchuks observation. "It appears that much of this worlds crust is composed of minerals that appear to be inhibiting our readings. And that appears to be true of the structures up ahead. The Enterprise had detected life on the surface of this world, including the seas. But the quantity were able to read at the present time is much less than what was previously reported. Given the inhospitable climate, it would be logical to believe that the principal lifeforms here inhabit subterranean dwellings. And that if there are any survivors on the expedition from the Philostrate, they would also be underground."
Kovalchuk nodded her head. "That would explain why its so hard to detect Human, or for that matter, avianoid, life around here."
Dubofsky looked up from his tricorder, a pensive expression on his face. "If anything, the number of lifeforms I can detect is somewhat variable. Ill detect them, and then theyll...disappear."
The Vulcan stepped closer to Dubofsky. "That would be consistent with the denizens here inhabiting areas unreadable by our instruments."
"Unfortunately," grumbled Kovalchuk.
At that moment, Xon aimed his tricorder towards the structures in the distance. "The nearest concentration of the dominant avian species is four hundred meters from here, at a bearing of 45 mark 6, which is the same distance and direction from us as the structures up ahead."
The landing party followed the path laid out by Xon, primarily across icy terrain along a coastal area. The scientists detected aquatic creatures, similar to fish, crustaceans, krill, squid, and seals in their scans, but not the worlds dominant lifeform. The frozen coastal waters were dotted with holes from which seals would pop in and out of in order to breathe. Soon they came upon several structures that overlooked a lagoon that veered off from the sea. Most of them appeared to be small buildings, each dominated by a dome on top. A few buildings, rectangular in shape, stood nearby.
Kovalchuk pointed towards the structures. "These must be the dwelling places of the inhabitants here. It is difficult to figure out the level of technological development based on what we see here."
Security Officer Perez, his tone of voice slightly weary, sighed, "Theyre certainly making themselves scarce."
Becker, another security officer, shrugged. "Well you cant really blame them for wanting to stay out of the cold. Its too cold here, even for Eskimos."
The rest of the landing party laughed in response, breaking the tension.
Soon a buzz could be heard. Dubofsky checked his tricorder and became animated. "Im getting a strong signallifeforms ahead."
At the same time, there came an excited shout from Kovalchuk. "Im detecting four lifeforms coming from the building to my right."
The rest of the landing party turned in response. At that moment, four lifeforms emerged from a cellar-like door. Even underneath the downy cloak-like garments they wore to protect themselves from the extreme cold, it was obvious that they were avianoid in nature. The four creatures were mostly black, with white chests, and were stocky in build. They had very short legs in proportion to their bodies, had webbed feet, flipper-like arms with manipulative digits at the end of themsomewhat like four-fingered hands with all digits opposable to each otherand walked with a waddle-like gait.
Kovalchuk took more detailed readings. "These creatures range from one point five to two meters in height, sphenisciform in nature."
Becker spoke up. "They look like larger versions of penguins Ive seen at zoos."
Xon raised an eyebrow. "Penguin is the colloquial term for thesphenisciform species."
The sphenisciforms had noticed them as well, given that they stopped in their tracks and stared at them for several minutes. They eyed the group, with expressions of both shock and wariness and chatted among themselves but made no moves to approach them. Eventually, the natives walked away from them, devoted some attention to some tasks on the planetary surface, before disappearing into the subterranean entrance of a different buildings.
Time passed. A few more natives in the vicinity would emerge out of buildings, walk along the planetary surface briefly to another building and, like the first set of natives, would soon go back underground.Lieutenant Jennifer Parise, a linguist who was near one building entrance, frowned as she looked up from her tricorder. "Ive gathered some data on their language but so far, our universal translator has not been able to translate their speech to a form we can understand. Or vice versa. Ive gathered a few terms, such as tundra seals and hard flippers which probably refer to us, but no coherent sentences yet."
Uhura sighed with resignation. She paused before speaking again, more resolutely this time. "I understand. Its been hard to gather enough data about the language here for our universal translators to work effectively since the natives spend most of their time in underground dwellings that inhibit our readings."
Xon spoke up. "Given that the population on this world generally stays inside due to the inclement weather, our most logical course of action for observing them and learning about the fate of the Philostrate crew members is to try to get inside ourselves."
Chekov chimed in. "Assuming their security systems do not preclude entrance by outsiders, such as us."
Eventually, a shuttlecraft-like vessel that was flying overhead landed in the vicinity. A hatch opened, revealing three more avianoid creatures that waddled towards the subterranean entrance for one of the buildings.
Uhura addressed the landing party. "Follow them."
The landing party climbed into the subterranean entrance into a downward sloping hallway that emptied into a large chamber that vaguely resembled a spaceport. There, they encountered many more sphenisciforms coming from several different directions. Many of them seem to come from subterranean passageways that led to the chamber.
Xon aimed a tricorder towards it. "Underneath the planetary surface is an elaborate network of tunnels. We were unable to detect these before because the buildings materials inhibited our scans. There is also evidence of an underground canal network where the water flowing through them has an average temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Fascinating!"
Regardless of their method of arrival, whether from the outside or from the interior, each group of sphenisciforms would generally consist of one or two adults, who escorted several smaller beings. They would usually escort the smaller sphenisciforms to a room, leave them there, and leave the building unaccompanied.
"They remind me of parents dropping their kids off to school," Becker said, matter-of-factly.
Parise, whose tricorder was aimed at one cluster of natives, looked up at Uhura. "Thats the feeling Im getting, from what snippets of their language Im picking up. Seems that children here are like children everywhere--they love to talk."
Uhura turned to her fellow linguist. "Thats my opinion, as well."
Chekov, with a worried yet hopeful expression on his face, observed, "Sounds like youre making progress."
Uhura frowned. "We are but we still have work to do before our universal translators will allow us to converse with them."
Time passed. More native adults began returning to the chamber where the landing party stood. The adults would occasionally greet one another. With translator in hand, Uhura was able to overhear enough conversations to get confirmation that the arriving adults generally were parents or other caretakers of the native children who were at the nearby school.
Finally, the buzzer sounded indicating the end of the school day. One of the native children stared at the landing party, his eyes as wide as saucers. He excitedly raced to the adult who appeared to be his caretaker.
"I see a bunch of tundra seals. They look a lot like the ones that belong to the Clan of Dobyl."
Several other native children joined in the clamor. "Yeah, there are. Howd they get here?"
Another child spoke up, "I wonder what Clan owns them."
As the landing party continued to observe the native chicks rendezvousing with their caretakers after school, Uhura looked up from her translator, excitement evident in her face. "Pavel, I think weve finally gathered almost enough data on the native language here to hold a conversation. This race calls themselves the S%fn#x."
Parise, who was huddled over a tricorder with Kovalchuk and Dubofsky, turned to Uhura. "It appears that the natives here are very interested in aquatic activities. It sounds like most of their recreational pursuits involve water."
Dubofsky added, "Given that their bodies are aerodynamically designed for navigating through water, a natural choice. It will really be fascinating to observe them in action."
The security chief smiled in return. "Very good!"
Parise spoke up again. "It sounds like several of the children in the Dobyl Clan are competing in this Gold Medal Diving Competition thats taking place at the main rec center in this city. Apparently, this competition is a really big deal and many people here in town plan to attend."
Uhuras facial expression betrayed her happiness. "Very good, Jenn. So lets see if we can attend this diving competition and thus, find members of this Dobyl Clan. If S%fn#x parents are anything like Human parents, theyll certainly be in attendance."
Chekov nodded his head. "Thats generally the case."
"And from them, try to learn where the Philostrate crewmembers are."
After conferring with Parise as they huddled together over a tricorder, an obviously happy Uhura looked up at the rest of the landing party. "I think Im ready to ask the S%fn#x for directions to their rec center."
Everyone followed Uhuras lead as she approached a group of natives who were accompanied by chicks.
The communications officer spoke, "Excuse me, I was wondering where the Gold Medal Diving Competition was taking place."
The S%fn#x looked dumbfounded at her query, but recovered his composure enough to answer her. "Why its at Consengloo."
"Consengloo," Uhura repeated slowly.
Consengloo, it turned out, was an igloo-shaped recreation complex that was located not far from the banks of the ocean. That evening, it was to be the scene of the Gold Level Diving competition for the region, which involved competitions in numerous events for different age groups. Upon arriving at the complex, they saw numerous amphishuttles arrive at the same time, with the S%fn#x natives, both adults and children, pouring out.
As they got closer to the building entrance, there was a shout from Dubofsky who pointed up ahead. "Lieutenant Chekov, Im reading two Human lifeforms in the vicinity."
Chekovs own tricorder confirmed Dubofskys readings. "Youre right!"
The signals grew stronger the closer they got to the entrance and grew even stronger when they went inside. Strolling through the concourse were many S%fn#x, generally traveling in small groups. However, they also spotted two Human figures dressed in furs. One was a tall, slender but athletically built male. The other figure was a moderately tall female of medium build. Even underneath the furs, it was obvious she had dark brown hair and green eyes.
The female voice was obviously excited. "Look! I see Humans nearby."
Her male comrade answered her, with a thick Russian accent. "Youre right. They appear to be from Starfleet, and Ill be! I think I know one of them!"
In response, Chekov led the landing party towards them.
"Boshe moi! Pavel Andreievich? Is that really you?"
"Denis Stipanovich!" the security chief shouted as he embraced his old friend with a Russian bear hug. Syomin wrapped his arms around Chekov in return. In the process, it was obvious that Syomin had trouble moving his left arm.
"Im so thrilled to see you, Pavel. After our shuttle had crash-landed here and we lost communication with the Philostrate, I had resigned myself to the fact we were stranded here."
Syomins female companion, Mikayla Green, nodded, sadly. "Only to become captives of the race here."
Chekovs friend continued his story. "When we crash landed here, we ended up setting fire to an ancestral crèche, killing many hatchlings and their caretakers as well as two members of the shuttle crew. Because we killed a seasons worth of hatchlings, we were considered to be dangerous. They had enough compassion for us not to kill us outright or leave us to die in the hostile climate here, but, instead took us prisoner. The Sefenex regard us as a combination of pet and beast of burden."
Uhura gave Syomin a thoughtful look. "Sefenex, huh. Your term for the S%fn#x." There was a pop and a whistle mixed in with the familiar consonant sounds as she said the name.
"Youre doing better than me." Denis grinned slyly. "I must confess I dont know their language too well. I can understand it to some degree, enough to understand what theyre ordering me to do. But I cant reproduce their sounds."
Kovalchuk turned to Green and Syomin. "Your story seems to explain why the first natives we encountered here called us creche burners."
The Siberian nodded again, sadly. "After they realized how remorseful we were about the tragedy, Mikayla and I were eventually tasked to watch some Sphenician chicks whenever their parents are gone."
Chekov smiled. "I suppose someone has to do it."
Syomin gave Chekov and Uhura a mournful look. "And thats about all I can do, with only one good arm. My wrist got broken when the shuttle crashed about four weeks ago. And then when the craft caught on fire soon after the crash, I managed to hurt my thumb during the escape process. We were unable to salvage anything from the shuttle so we have no Starfleet medical devices on hand. And since the Sefenex have never seen creatures like us, weve been out of luck for having our injuries treated."
Xon raised an eyebrow at those words. "I concur with your observation. According to our scans, bipedal mammalian species have not been detected on this world."
Green shook her head slightly. "And theyre really at a loss for how to treat my shoulder. My shoulder got injured in the crash, and Ive had trouble lifting my right arm very far."
Uhura turned to them both, her tone of voice excited. "Listen, were going to get you up to the Enterprise for medical treatment and get you out of here before the S%fn#x realize youre gone."
Green sighed. "Id love to, but we cant leave our other survivors behind. One of them is really sick. And even though were captives here, I still feel enough of an obligation to our captors to not just abandon the chicks without any notice."
Doctor Chapel jumped into the conversation. "Here, Id better take a look at you both to see whats going on." She first turned her attention to Syomin.
The young auburn-haired man held his forearm out as the doctor waved her medical scanner over his hand and wrist. She murmured, "Spiral fractures of the distal ends of both the radius and ulna. Comminuted fracture of two wrist bones. Injury incurred approximately one month ago and bones werent properly set. In addition, there are some severely torn thumb ligaments."
Chapel grabbed a splint from the medikit. "For faster healing, I would recommend beaming you on board and having your wrist treated by the bone and tissue regen unit. Youd be healed within hours. But down here, this," she took a portable regen-splint out of her medikit, "will work fine. Your wrist and thumb should be as good as new within the next two days. And Ill also give you an analgesic."
Deniss eyes lit up as Chapel wrapped his right hand with the splint.
After a few minutes, Syomin smiled at Doctor Chapel, "I feel better already. Im not in as much pain."
Once she was done treating Syomin, the doctor waved her scanner over Greens right shoulder and arm. "It appears you have a separated shoulder, Lieutenant. I can give you some medication to make to feel better, for now. But Id like to get you to Sickbay as soon as its convenient." Chapel grabbed a hypo from her medikit and gave Green an injection and smoothly popped her shoulder back into place before putting her arm into a sling.
The doctor changed the conversation to inquire about the ill crew member that Green had mentioned earlier. "You did mention an ailing survivor? How critically ill is he?"
The environmental scientist nodded, "Yes, Johan Ericsson. Hes having many stomach pains. It appears he is allergic to many of the foods down here, so hes not getting enough nourishment. I get the feeling our hosts are wondering how long they can keep him and whether they should euthanize him."
Chapels expression became more determined. "We need to treat Ericsson as soon as possible."
Chekov asked, "Did you ever try to escape?"
Green shook her head. "Where could we have gone? The aquaflitter vehicle we drive here cant reach escape velocity, so we were resigned to staying here and living as subservient creatures to the natives."
When all events were complete, Syomin and Green led the landing party over to the bleacher area occupied by the Dobyl clan where they encountered Rasher, Dobyl, their mates and other adults of the clan. They were eventually joined by the chicks from the clan who competed.
The largest chick, Sycros was obviously excited. He was chirping in happiness as he strutted towards them. "I won the Black Feather Award as the best overall in my age group!"
"Very nice." Rasher wrapped his flippers around Sycros for their species version of a hug.
"And I won in my group!" Jorstal shouted as he raced towards Dobyl.
Other chicks gave reports of their performance, which included several great ones even if they did not win the major awards won by Sycros and Jorstal.
Once the congratulations to the chicks had subsided, Uhura, followed by Chekov, Syomin, Green, and Chapel, approached Dobyl and his mate. "I want to congratulate you for your chicks performance."
Dobyl was taken aback, his facial expression displaying shock. "Youre beings like our tundra seals, yet you can talk like youre one of our people."
Uhura smiled in return. "We have our ways of learning languages."
Rasher spoke up, "Thank you for praising our children."
"Diving competitions are so beautiful. I enjoy watching them on other worlds."
Rasher smiled in response. "Im glad you enjoyed watching our children. Come, let us retire to our nest-home."
After a short trip to the residence, Uhura addressed the gathered S%fn#x with a conciliatory tone of voice. "We are honored to meet you and to bring some of your children home to you. They told us a lot about you."
Dobyl looked grateful. "Thank you."
Uhura continued, "I am sorry your first encounter with our people went so badly. We would like to make up for it, but first, I understand that one of your tundra seals is not in good health. I brought along a doctor to help." The communications officer pointed out Chapel to their hosts.
Dobyl got slightly flustered. "That beings so sick that we dont know what to do with him."
Chapel took a step towards Dobyl. "Id like to take him with me for treatment."
Dobyl rolled his eyes. "You can do whatever you like with him. We consider their debt to us unable to ever be paid; the hatchlings of an entire generation were lost in the fire. However, they have comported themselves with honor and remorse. They are free to return with you to your lands."
Uhura bowed gratefully. "We would like to help you protect your crèche from any future accidents. Can we show you how?"
It was Dobyls turn to bow. "By all means "
Green and Syomin escorted Doctor Chapel to a back room where a blond-haired young man lay on a pallet on the floor. He looked extremely uncomfortable. Green greeted him, "Hi, Johan."
"Hi, Mikayla," was his weak sounding greeting in return.
Green presented Doctor Chapel to him. "This is Ensign Johan Ericsson, an environmental scientist. Hes been sick since we got here."
The Swedish accented reply was, "Hej, Doctor."
"Can you tell me about your symptoms?"
"Ja, Ive been having all kinds of stomach problems. I have trouble keeping food down. And have gotten hives."
The doctor scanned the young Swede, confirming what Green had already told her. "It appears you are allergic to the seafood on this planet. If we dont get you off this world, youll be dead in two months!"
Ericsson replied somberly, "As it is, the Sefenex are really upset with me. I cant help them out since Im too weak. I dont know how much longer theyll keep me in their colony. In fact, some of them have been lobbying to have me euthanized."
Doctor Chapel opened up her medikit and grabbed a hypo and injected some medication into Ericssons arm. "This should help the nausea and allergies youve been having. We should get you up to the Enterprise for further treatment."
"Tack," Ericsson said weakly.
The doctor opened up her communicator. "Chapel to Enterprise. Four to beam up. Have medical teams standing by."
Captains Log, Stardate 7328.7
Our landing party has learned that there were four survivors from the Philostrate. Doctor Chapel brought three of them up here for medical treatment: Lieutenant Green, Lieutenant JG Syomin, and Ensign Ericsson. While here, they have debriefed me about the native race on this world and the situation involving their landing party. I am beaming down for diplomatic reasons and to take a first-hand look at the Sefenex.
Captain Kirk, Commander Spock and Doctor McCoy materialized outside the residence of Clan Dobyl. They quickly moved out of the cold into the warm environment. The Sefenex family was celebrating the victory of their young in yesterdays events, and wanted to send their former pets off in style.
A tall, muscular, Human male with wavy dark hair who had just entered the main room suddenly attracted the attention of everyone. He stared at the large group of Starfleet officers and looked shocked. His Finnish-accented voice exclaimed, "Jopas nyt jotakin! Starfleet came back for us after all."
The Finnish officer introduced himself to the party from the Enterprise, beaming with pride, "At least youll get a touch of Earth for dinner tonight. Ill be making smoked fish from an old Finnish recipe but with ingredients from this world. Im Olaf Osala."
Dobyl patted the Finn on the back. "This one has become a favorite of our children; they love his unusual cuisine! Its a pity that our clutch was killed when they arrived; I would have wished that they couldve experienced this."
Captain Kirk stood up and said, "Our people came in peace, on a mission of exploration and did not intend to damage your breeding ground. Wed like to takes steps to prevent any similar incidents from occurring in the future."
Dobyl was taken aback and spoke slowly, pausing between words. "You want to prevent similar crashes?"
Kirk nodded emphatically. "Yes, I do. I would like the assistance of some of your people to direct us to your ancestral site."
"That can be arranged."
An investigation of the crash of the Philostrate shuttlecraft took place and the conclusion was that the shuttle had a mechanical failure. Details were documented and transmitted to Starfleet Command. Chief Engineer Scott and an engineering team worked with S%fn#x engineers to design shielding devices to be used at all mating grounds.
When all was completed, a farewell meal prepared by Osala was enjoyed by everyone. When the meal was over, Rasher rose from his seat and addressed the visitors. "Ill admit my own opinion of your race was not good. We assumed you were no better than beasts of burden. But even as beasts of burden, you willingly did your tasks. And now you have made an effort to learn our language and our culture. So, Id say, you can take your people back home. And some day, we could join your Federation."
Uhura smiled sincerely. "Maybe so."
The S%fn#x lined up in single file, led by Dobyl. The Humans and Xon formed another line, also in single file, with Uhura in front. They walked towards each other, with Uhura extending her right hand towards Dobyl who extended his right flipper in return, as she grasped the edge of his flipper with her hand for an interspecies handshake. After letting go of each other, Uhura moved on to the next S%fn#x in line, Sycros, and repeated the ritual and continued to do so for all the S%fn#x. At the same time, Dobyl repeated the same ritual with Chekov and all other Humans in line.
When all the Humans and Sefenex had completed the ritual farewell handshake, Uhura opened her communicator. "Landing party ready for beam up."
"Our people will return to you some day." Uhura smiled sincerely, just before dematerializing.
Captains Log, Stardate 7328.9
The Enterprise has departed from Acrux V and is heading towards Starbase 25 for refueling and shore-leave for our personnel who badly need it after several difficult missions. We held a memorial service for the members of the Philostrate crew who died there. I also will be discussing new assignments for the survivors of the Philostrate. It appears they have developed a very good rapport with the members of my crew.
"The Polar Exhibits over to our right!" Dubofsky shouted with excitement as he led Chekov and Kovalchuk to one of the more popular attractions at Starbase 25.
"Pavel!" At the sound of his name, the security chief turned around to the sight of Syomin and Green who had also come to view the same exhibit.
Green smiled at the trio. "We just got our official orders. Weve been transferred to your ship. Were now part of your crew."
"Oh thats wonderful!" Kovalchuk hugged Green.
An obviously excited Syomin revealed his own news. "Pavel, Ive been assigned to Security. This will be a good way to broaden my experience."
"Congratulations, Denya!" Chekov clapped Syomin on the back and then hugged him. "What about Osala and Ericsson?"
Green scratched his head. "Osala will return to Sefenexia with an anthropological team that is being assigned to study that world given that he spent the most time interacting with the natives in his role as cook. Guess hell introduce more of them to smoked fish--Sefenexian style. Meanwhile, Ericsson is joining our crew as well."
After getting all the updates on the rescued, Kovalchuk changed the subject. "Youll have to pardon Dubofsky here. Hes never found a marine exhibit he didnt like." The others all laughed.
The officers observed Aldebaran penguins for a few minutes. Kovalchuk scratched her head, turning to the others. "You know, it is amazing how similar the penguins here are to natives of Acrux Five. Similar body build. Similar walk. After meeting the S%fn#x, its hard to look at penguins in the same way as before."
Green looked at the others, with a bemused expression. "What if the Sefenex had decided to make us a zoo exhibit?"
Postscript: Acrux V was designated S%fn#x in Federation records in honor of the inhabitants name for themselves, with the alternate, more Human-friendly name as Sefenexia as an alternate.
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