This Side of Paradise

Stardate ????????

My absence requires a long and difficult explanation. I only hope the higher-ups at Starfleet will look favorably on my past record. My hope is that I shall not be deemed unfit for duty.

Our first sign of trouble was when the communications array on Discovery went dark.
We’d just entered a system of rocky planets known as the Piedmonts and our subspace comms sputtered like a dwindling candle, going from 4g, to 3g, then nothing. We’d been sucked into the until now only theoretical Land of No-G.

Despite the loss, we carried on with our mission. Scans showed signs of life. And, most amazingly, they were human.

This alone should be considered a monumental discovery. An entire lost colony has been found; one who’d stumbled into the same communications dead zone long ago.

Starfleet had no records of their existence save a passenger manifest nearly a century old. Prospectors, settlers, their ship had lost all communication with the nearest outpost and been deemed lost.

However, returning them to Federation control, might not be possible…

I decided to go on the away mission alone, leaving my crew behind to sort out the communications array. My skills were better put toward diplomacy. Surely, after having been lost for so long, the inhabitants would be relieved to see a full-fledged Captain on their doorstep.

The colony’s center of activity clustered around a small, narrow building called “The Coffee House.” On seeing the name, I knew we’d found the Holy Grail of exploration.

This was a lost tribe of humanity practicing their own ancient culture and customs. It wasn’t that they didn’t have a Starbucks yet, but that they hadn’t even evolved the concept of one!

“Greetings!” I said, bursting through the door. “I’m Captain-”

“Sit anywhere you like, sweetie.”

A woman in a blue dress and white apron called out from behind the counter. Everyone looked my way. Everyone.

I was taken aback by the familiarity. The insignia hadn’t changed that much over the years. She should’ve recognized my rank. Surely they hadn’t completely forgotten about Starfleet.

I started to protest and she gave a disarming smile. “I’ll be right with you, hon.”

So, I sat.

The waitress delivered a menu and quickly whisked away before I could speak. The rest of the patrons continued their conversations with one another, their eyes never leaving me, their faces transfixed in identical grins.

It got weird.

“What’ll it be?” The waitress stood over me, pen in hand. I felt the pressure of all those happy faces. Maybe it would be best if I played along. Perhaps my appearance out of their lost past had startled them or left them too stunned to react.

“Coffee?” I said, unsure.

“Coming right up.” She scribbled on an archaic pad, writing longer than she should. “You look hungry.” She winked. “I’ll get you the Hungry Man Breakfast.”

“Uh, sure. Any chance you’ve got a Captain’s Special?” I added, trying to ease the news of their rescue into the conversation. I returned the wink.

She gave a little wrinkle of her nose and hurried off to get my coffee.

I sat there sipping, staring out the window. Mostly to avoid the cheerful faces all turned my way. Their conversations had stopped completely. Anytime I peeled my gaze away from the window they’d be there, grinning. My gaze would cross one of theirs and they’d give a little nod, a little tilt of their mug.

Falling back on my Starfleet First Contact training, I did the same.

Before long, the Hungry Man arrived. Two eggs, bacon, an entire plate mounded with biscuits and gravy, and a fried looking square of…something.

“What’s that?”

“Livermush.”

“Liver what?”

She just smiled again and swatted playfully at me before flitting away.

I swept the room. All those happy, smiling faces stayed trained on me. Nothing wrong with happy, right? I vaguely wondered if I shouldn’t have brought the crew. First Contact wasn’t exactly my forte. There could, no would be complications.

I raised my mug and gave it a little tilt. They did the same.

Things seemed to be going well. I started into the food, hesitant at first. You wouldn’t believe the terrible things some aliens eat. Okra. Or a testicular vegetable known as brussels sprouts. (Whoever brussels is, he has my sympathy.)

Then again, these were humans albeit of a more ancient, stiffer, slightly isolated stock. What could be so bad?

I risked a few bites and soon my mouth was swimming in greasy goodness.

Back on Discovery, my first officer had taken to a very regimented control of 10 Forward and the galley, enforcing a Starfleet approved diet on us all.

But this? This was pure, decadent heaven.

“How’s the livermush?”

I looked up, surprised to see the waitress standing over me. She’d refilled my coffee mug without my even noticing.

I glanced guiltily at the untouched slab of…whatever-mush surrounded by a thin smear of egg yolk and a few dollops of escaped gravy. Chairs scraped on the floor. A few of the patrons stood, coffee cups in hand, their faces plastered in that same grin.

The man seated at the counter swiveled on his stool completely around to prop one elbow behind him and lift his mug with the other.

I grinned nervously. Nodded. Took a bite.

Before I knew it, the plate was clean. I glanced up, waiting to see those happy faces. Whatever test, I’d passed. I’d proven myself to be one of them and soon, soon we could give…

…who a call?

Was this some sort of rescue mission?

I stared out the window for answers and found only rolling hills crowned with fog. Beyond were sapphire peaks which showered the lower altitudes with breathtaking waterfalls and rocky streams. Between them lay hidden valleys where man had visited and found their hunger to boldly go, fulfilled.

Smiling, I lifted my mug…

Months later I understood what had happened. Now, free of the No G vortex, I am requesting Starfleet place a quarantine zone on this region of space.

And, as a brave, loyal officer of this institution, I gladly volunteer to return to see that it is…secure.

***

Russ here: thanks for reading and please check out my Kickstarter! Help make the final chapter in Spencer’s saga in the Crimson Son Universe a reality. See your name in print, get your own limited edition copy and even signatures from a VIP starship captain…

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