The Devil in the Dark

Captain’s Log, Stardate 120818

Discovery has survived passage through the debris field left by the monstrous storm. With nowhere to disembark, we’ve settled into orbit on the edge of the swath of destruction. We take up position at the very edge of the Gulf, a lone sentinel for the people here who work to rebuild.

Their resilience is difficult to believe. They’ve seen devastation like this before but what drives them to continue? How do they cope? I’ve decided on a diplomatic mission to a nearby settlement in an attempt to understand them…

“Interstellar Guardian Association?” I asked, staring at the sign.

Science Officer Alfie shrugs.

This seems to be some sort of center of activity. The landing pad is filled with shuttles. Along the flight, we passed a library which had been turned into a Federation outpost. I almost stopped to report in, but then I remembered my First Officer’s promotion.

“She’ll want to be here for that,” I’d said as I kept flying.

Since the Federation has a presence here, I’ve opted to skip the cultural attire which consists of camouflage and flags – an odd combination indeed.

Of all the other locations we passed, this “IGA” seems the most likely place for intel gathering. Alfie and I are almost surprised by the automated swish of the doors as we approach.

“How enterprising of them,” I mutter. The sensor-driven doors are something of a sore point. Discovery’s sliding crew cabin door has to be manually operated.

The building is one big warehouse with a bank of security lines. Oddly, everybody seems to be scanned right before leaving. At Starfleet, we’ve been trained to not react to such cultural oddities. No point in offending them, but the practice does seem self-defeating.

“You there!” A man says, his orange hat clearly some symbol of authority.

“Yes?”

“No dogs allowed.”

We may have crossed the debris field, but apparently haven’t escaped this civilization’s distrust of Woofians.

“I’m Captain…”

“Business, huh?” the man interrupts. “Let’s talk outside.”

That was quicker than I’d expected. Of course, with the Federation already nearby, they’re likely used to seeing Starfleet Officers. We step outside and the man follows.

“What’s your catch?” he asks.

“No catch,” I say, trying to sooth any misgivings he might have. Working with Starfleet can be an intimidating process.”I’m here on a diplomatic mission.”

The man slips his hat off by the brim and scratches his head. “Venison then?”

“I’ve never been,” I say. “Though I hear it’s a nice place to visit if you’ve shielded your ship properly.” He seems put off by the small talk. “Business, right. I was just wondering how it is…how you do it.”

“Do what?”

“Survive here. Live,” I say, sweeping an arm toward the Gulf plainly visible between the buildings on the other side of the street.

The man places his hat back on his head. “You kidding? How could we live here without that. Fishin’, boatin’, tourin’ your type around, that’s what brings home the bacon.”

“But those storms…”

His eyes widen knowingly. “Well, the good Lord giveth and the good Lord taketh away. We can’t do nothing about that but keep on living.”

Fatalistic, but logical. I look at my Science Officer who seems to have taken an unhealthy interest in the man’s boots. I give him a nudge.

“Aren’t you afraid?” I ask the man.

He shrugs. “Could be worse. Could end up like Cebe Tate.”

“Cebe?” I say, struggling with the alien name. I tap my universal translator to make sure it’s still on.

“Yep. It ain’t the Gulf we worry so much about.” He turns inland and gazes into the distance. “It’s there. Those places where man ain’t never meant to walk.”

I try to see past the scattered buildings and houses. Some trees. A few palms. Then there’s an odd mix of tall pines and a gnarled wall of brush. A place where no one has gone before…well, except Cebe.

“Why?” I ask, softly, my imagination running wild.

“Good ‘ol Cebe, he owned a ranch not far from here. One night, he found some dead cattle, all torn up and mutilated…” he pauses and his eyes light up mischievously. “They’s surrounded by the tracks of a vicious beast, likely come from that there yonder Gulf. A hunter from pure oblivion. Stealthy as the night and more fierce than any storm.”

“What happened?” I ask, completely caught up in his tale.

“Well, Cebe wandered that land for seven days and seven nights. He’d gotten himself lost. No food, no water. When he finally came out, why, he only lived long enough to say one thing…”

I lean closer. Even Science Officer Alfie is at full attention.

“What? What did he say?”

“He says, My name’s Cebe Tate, and I just came from hell. And that’s what they call it to this day. Tate’s Hell.”

Uncharted wilderness. Terrible, ferocious space beasts. A dangerous away mission fit for any Starfleet Captain.

Excited, I glance at Science Officer Alfie. He’s staring up at me, already waiting for what comes next. He slowly starts to shake his head.

“We’re totally going,” I tell him.

Alfie lets out a little, defeated squeak with his sigh. I thank the man and I’ve already started to race toward the shuttle when I turn.

“I’m sorry, my manners. What’s your name? I’ll need it for my report.”

“The name’s Lucius. Lucius Tate.”

With that, he steps smoothly toward the sliding doors and nearly walks into them. Closed, he waves his hands around until they finally swish open.

I already feel better about not having them installed.

 

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