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Randall Landers
with Rick Endres

February 8th 2296

Pavel Chekov leaned back in his lounger. He regarded the small sea before him. The sand of Tau-2 Hydrae X was a rusty pink, a bit grittier than he cared for. The water was a bit more purple than he'd ever seen before. The blue sun made for a violet sky. Gentle waves lapped at the shore, and small sea birds fluttered about the dunes, dining on what appeared to be the local equivalent of sand fleas. Large, herbivorous turtle-like reptiles that the biology department had named Caretta gameras after one of Peter Kirk's esoteric jokes lazily stretched about the beach, soaking up the sun's rays. Occasionally, one would take off into the water, either to cool off or to grab a quick bite.

All in all, this was not a regular day on Thetis, as the science department had christened the planet predominantly covered with warm seas. The planet in question was a geological oddity, and the science teams were crawling all over its surface. Chekov had decided that while they were doing that, he would sit on the beach and read a book.

Saavik had expressed her disapproval, of course. Peter Kirk had hidden his amusement at the sight of Chekov's Hawaiian shirt, cut offs and flip-flops. Ch'terr had chirped something the computer couldn't translate, and Doctor Chapel had finally groused that a few hours soaking up some sun, even a blue one, would do wonders for Chekov's "pasty complexion."

Ah, the abuse that a starship captain faced from his senior officers.

"Excuse me, Captain," came an unfamiliar voice from behind him.

Chekov put down the book he'd been half-reading, and turned to see who had dared to interrupt his day off. He regarded the man with patience. Lieutenant Nick Reinhardt, one of the senior astro-geologists on the Enterprise-B, was a thin, short man, shorter even than Chekov, with reddish blonde hair and a Midwestern American accent that said "Ohio."

"Vwhat is it, Lieutenant?" the fleet captain answered.

"Sir, this is a dying world. We shouldn't be here."

There was something in the geologist's tone that Chekov found disturbing. Still, the man was only stating the obvious. A meteor shower of some magnitude had pocked this once vibrant world with thousands of large craters. Much of the land above sea level was decimated. What was left of the seas had rushed into the craters, leaving some of the sea bed exposed, and flooding areas once populated by a humanoid race which had been wiped out almost completely by the impact. Those who survived had sickened and died from the selenium and iridium carried by the meteors. Eventually, the water vapor turned to rain, and the resulting landscape was ring-shaped beaches across the surface of the planet. A few species had survived, such as Peter Kirk's sea turtles, the sea birds, the sand fleas, and several species of jellyfish and cyanobacteria. The biology department had suggested within a hundred years, the surface would be devoid of life. If so, it would be millions of years before the life in the seas could manage to crawl back ashore.

"Life survives, Mister Reinhardt." Chekov gestured to the quilt spread over the sand next to him. "Come sit vwith me."

"This planet is doomed, and there's nothing we can do to stop it."

The fleet captain nodded grimly. "Probably not. My question to you is vwhether or not we should try."

"Sir, these beautiful sea turtles are going to die out first. Already the change in their diet is affecting their metabolism. Many of them show signs of iridium and selenium poisoning."

"True, but do not some of the turtles show an immunity to those metals? Have they not adapted to the change in the environment?"

"Those that survive may not number enough to maintain a viable population." Reinhardt seemed heartbroken by the prospect.

Chekov had no argument for the geologist. "Tell me, Nick, as a senior geologist aboard the Enterprise, I vwould have thought you vwould have seen this sort of thing before."

Reinhardt shook his head. "In reports, yes. I remember the Andorian tsunami in the sixties that decimated the coral-like lifeforms in their seas. They still haven't recovered, and the Andorians have actually begun genetically engineering new coral fields from those of Chrysalis."

"Life survives. No matter how impossible the odds, life survives, and vwe're here to document it."

Chekov's communicator chirped. "Kirk to Captain," came a voice over its speaker.

The fleet captain brought the wrist-born device up to his lips. "Chekov here. Go ahead, Lieutenant."

"Sir, we've found something of interest you might want to take a look at."

"Can you give me fifteen minutes?"

"Fifteen minutes should be okay, sir," Kirk replied. "But I wouldn't wait much longer than that."

Chekov raised an eyebrow. "Then I'm going to beam up to the Enterprise and change first. I'll beam to your location in fifteen minutes. Chekov out." The captain stood, dusted the sand off his hands, and looked at Lieutenant Reinhardt. "Chekov to Enterprise, two to beam up." He looked at his quilt, chair, book, cooler and music player. "And send down a yeoman to gather up my beach gear."


Fleet Captain Chekov and Senior Geologist Reinhardt materialized awkwardly on a tilted metal deck. Quickly, both shifted their balance to regain their footing.

"Easy, Captain," Reinhardt cautioned his commanding officer.

"It’s okay. I’ve beamed down in far worse conditions. Once I beamed down two feet above a fetid swamp. It vwas not a good experience." He glanced around, annoyed that no one was present to greet then. "Mister Kirk?" he called.

 "Here, Captain!" came the voice of the science officer from a metal shack atop the tilted deck.
The fleet captain glanced around and quickly determined he was on the top deck of a wrecked derrick of some sort, possibly a petroleum or natural gas drilling platform. Chekov and Reinhardt carefully worked their way to the shack. Inside, there was feeble illumination coming from a series of fluorescent lights. Two Enterprise crewmembers in green field fatigues sat next to a creature leaning against the wall of the shack. It took Chekov almost a full minute to realize that the humanoid was actually still alive.

"Careful, Captain. Let's not frighten our host any further. I'm not sure she can handle it in her current condition. She said her name is Aldon'na."

The woman was emaciated to the point it would've been hard to visualize what she must have looked like when she had been healthy.

"Raydola, is that you?" asked the Thetisian female, struggling to see Chekov and Reinhardt with her failing eyes.

"No, ma'am. I'm Kyptin Pavel Chekov of the Enterprise. I see you've met some of my officers." He knelt beside the frail creature. Humanoid, with blue skin, she wasn't very tall, almost as short as an Alcyone. Her haggard condition made it difficult to determine her age, and her eyes were slightly opaque. Chekov remembered how Nana once had cataract surgery to correct a similar problem.
"So long ago... I was sure Raydola would've been back by now."

"Vwhat happened here?"

"The meteor storm took out everything, everywhere. We were hit by an impact wave that had to be at least seventy jublas over the deck. Raydola lashed all of us down to our stations, passed out the diving gear, and we braced ourselves and our control room for the wave. I think we lost only three people then. I was very young. After the wave came, Raydola had us haul out the fishing nets and catch everything we could. Within a week, things were getting cold." She coughed a little, and Peter Kirk offered her a sip from his canteen. "By the end of the month, we were all freezing. Fortunately, we had our cold gear. By the end of the year, it had only gotten worse. We lost track of time, slowly depleting our food stocks, our vitamin rations. It must have been years later that we saw the sun again. It was many more years before the sea thawed." She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. "Many people here died from the sickness, borne from the dust and debris in the air. Raydola devised a filtration system using the pumping equipment. We continued to eke out our existence here on Platform Sokag. Eventually, the world began to heal itself. Some of our band of survivors set out in a makeshift dirigible to find out if we were the last. None of them returned. A few others set out by boat, and we never saw them again. It was just Raydola, Glontata and myself."

"Where did Raydola and Glontata go?"

"They...they had an argument, and Glontata tried to kill Raydola. I helped Raydola in the fight, and once we had stopped Glontata, we made him leave. It was a very sad day for us."
"And Raydola?" Kirk prodded.

"He--he left. For some reason, he felt that if he headed south, he had a better chance of finding an intact pocket of our civilization. Said he would come back for me. In the end, I think the stress of being the leader, the isolation, affected his mind." She paused. "I should have tried to stop him." 
"How long ago vwas that, Aldon'na?" Chekov asked gently.

"I...I do not know." She stared at him with a cloudy, sightless gaze. "A long time...too long. He should have been back by now. Something happened to him, I know it..."

Behind him, Chekov heard a muffled exclamation of surprise as Doctor Christine Chapel and a med tech materialized on the crazily-angled deck. Chapel raised an eyebrow at the sight of her patient. She fiddled with the settings of her medical tricorder until she was satisfied the device was calibrated. She scanned Aldon'na.

A grim shake of her head told Chekov all he needed to know.

Aldon'na seemed to sense that her time was short. She feebly gripped Chekov's wrist.

"C-Captain Chekov," she wheezed. "Please...there must be others somewhere. Find them...please save our world..." 

"Vwe'll do our vwery best, Aldon'na," Chekov said, patting her hand reassuringly.

Suddenly, a violent, wracking fit of coughing seized the woman. A dry rattle vibrated in her chest; a trickle of dark blue blood dribbled from the corner of her mouth, and she slumped to the deck, dead.
"I'm sorry, Captain," Chapel said softly.

Peter Kirk shook his head. "She was the last survivor of her race, Captain--the last humanoid on this planet."
"Are you sure of that, Lieutenant?" Chekov asked.

"Yes, sir," Kirk replied with a confident nod. "I calibrated Enterprise's sensors to Aldon'na's biosigns. She was the last. Most of the surface is under water; we scanned everything, but we concentrated on the few land masses."

"Could any of them have escaped underwater?" the captain persisted.

"There's no evidence of any submarine structures, sir--and if there were any biosigns, we would've read them."
"So that's it, then." Chekov gently closed Aldon'na's eyes and rose to his feet. He caught Reinhardt staring at the woman's corpse.

"Mister Reinhardt?"

"You said 'Life survives,' Captain," the geologist murmured, never breaking his stare.

"Indeed." Chekov heaved a weary sigh. "It does...just not this time."

He flipped open his communicator. "Chekov to Enterprise. Landing party to beam up."

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