Log Entry 160229.171

I was expecting to sleep very badly. After all, it's not every day that you have to share a room with your captain. Strangely, though, I slept like a log!
The sun was high in the sky when I awoke, and birds were singing outside in the garden. At least, I think they were birds ... and I think they were singing. It sounded more like someone was strangling cats than birdsong, but the little yellow feathered, winged, lizardy thing that was sitting on the balcony's rail, screeching its little heart out in toneless notes told me that it was the Dirrian equivalent of the dawn chorous.
"Morning, sleepyhead."
I sat up and found T'Roc sitting on one of the sofas. She lounged leisurely on the settee, a piece of toast in one hand and a mug of something hot in the other. Steam rose from the beaker carrying a melange of fragrances. I detected notes of coffee and hot chocolate.
"Want a cup? Not sure what it is, but it's very good," she said and leaned forward to pour me a cup.
I climbed out of bed, tugging at the hem of my pyjama top and ran my fingers through my tangled hair to smooth it. They got stuck on the way, which made T'Roc laugh.
As I freed them from the mass, T'Roc said, "Thank your lucky stars you don't have Klingon hair. It may look glorious but one restless night is more than enough to make you consider a crew-cut."
I remembered the time when she had appeared at my door with Beastie in her arms. Her fuscia pink and lime green pyjamas had been startling enough, but her hair was evil! A thick, tangled mass of ebony tresses topped her head like a hapless bird's nest.
I took the mug from T'Roc, thanking her, and took a sip. She was right. It was very pleasant. I could detect some subtle vanilla undertones among the coffee and chocolate flavours too.
"Come on," she said. "You should get dressed. His Highness is waiting for us in the garden."
Indeed, as I looked out of the window, I could see the High Emperor sitting at a most peculiar scene, one more suited to an English Edwardian garden than an alien landscape. On the lush, green lawn stood a garden table and four chairs. It looked like they were made from wrought iron, painted white, but was more likely to be made of something lighter and more durable. Sitting on one of the chairs was the High Emperor. In front of him, upon the table, was laid out a tea set complete with teapot, sugar bowl and milk jug. He sipped a cup of tea—well, probably not tea, but that's what it looked like, with his pinkie finger outstretched, and was reading a newspaper—not a datapad, but a newspaper made of real paper!
"Surreal, isn't it?"
"What?" I turned, startled by T'Roc's voice.
"It's like something out of an Emily Brönte novel. Have you read Brönte?"
I had to admit that I hadn't. T'Roc tutted. "Shame on you. It's a Terran classic, isn't it?"
"Yes, but—"
"No buts! I had to read both the Klingon and Vulcan classics. Doesn't seem fair that you've got away without reading any at all."
I grinned.
"They sound a bit heavy—Klingon and Vulcan classics I mean."
T'Roc laughed.
"Klingon classics have lots of gusto and are filled with the brave deeds of warriors seeking a noble death." Her voice lowered to accentuate the magnificence of the stories. "But once you've read one, you've read them all; while Vulcan literature is a little ... dry."
"So who's your favourite author?" I asked.
I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't the answer I got.
T'Roc beamed a mischievous smile at me and whispered, "Terry Pratchett."

Log Entry 160220.170

The room we were given was beautiful, luxurious even. A string of French windows lined one wall, opening onto the gardens to let in the fragrant, cool, night air. There were no curtains but the other soft furnishings were lovely. There were a number of chairs and sofas, all upholstered with large, soft cushions and sculpted rugs on the floor. Their muted colours provided welcome relief to those of Dirrian's nature.
A little disturbing, though, was the fact that T'Roc and I would be sharing the room. There were two beds, amply big enough, even for T'Roc, but both next to each other, separated only by a nightstand. Nightwear had also been provided. A pair of silky, white pyjamas lay neatly folded on each bed, and in the adjoining bathroom, all the appropriate accoutrements that one could possibly need.
"Very nice," said T'Roc, "but I hope you don't snore."
So did I.

Log Entry 160214.169

Materialising on the surface at the given coordinates, T'Roc and I found ourselves in awe of our surroundings. We were in the gardens of a large and beautiful building, and the flora was stunning. I've never seen such vibrant colours in nature, or such huge flowers. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, having been shrunk down to the size of a mouse. We were standing beneath, what I can only describe as, an enormous tulip that towered four feet above our heads, and it wasn't the only one. These huge blooms lined the path at intervals like trees would a country lane on Earth. The grass was an intense, verdant green, and the surrounding bushes and flowers that filled the borders and beds were so vibrant in colour that it hurt my eyes. It was as if someone had turned the colour adjustment up on a monitor to its highest setting, the colours were so intense. Even the white flowers couldn't be demure. They screamed out their brilliance against their garish surroundings.
The building in comparison was of plain, tan-coloured stone and rose with all the majesty of an Arabian palace—not quite as ornate, but nearly so. Beautifully proportioned in its symmetry, it was three stories high with a domed tower in the centre and two smaller domes at each end. A run of ornate arches stretched between them providing shelter from the strong sunlight, and beyond them, we could see windows and door into the building itself.
People were ambling around us, most making their way to the palace too. It was obvious that they had dressed for the occasion by the fabrics that they wore, but as to design and colour, it was startlingly plain. Everybody wore a simple, long, white robe that reached to their ankles and plain, flat shoes. The ladies wore pretty voiles over their garments to enhance them, but in none of their clothing was there an ounce of colour.
In their hands, they held little boxes varying in size from a matchbox to a shoebox. They were white and tied with little white ribbons too. Gifts for the High Emperor perhaps? We looked down at our offering; very different from the Dirrians', and then our uniforms. We felt very conspicuous in our black, gold and red. It didn't help that T'Roc was so tall either. Dirrians skirted around us, intimidated by her height.
Shrugging our shoulders, we stepped off the grass and onto the white gravel path that led towards the palace. The stones crunched noisily under our feet and looking down, I noticed how it sparkled slightly in the sunlight. How did they keep it so clean and white, I wondered?
Music drifted from the palace as we approached. Looking through the doorway, I could see the instruments and musicians: a small orchestra of about a dozen people playing a variety of tubular bells and drums. It was odd music but melodic and soothing.
We were greeted at the door by servants. Also dressed in white, they wore short-sleeved tops like tee-shirts but with tails like a dress-coat, and three-quarter length trousers. They wore white shoes with a white dress buckle on the top. They tipped their heads to us and offered us drinks, which we took. The glasses were tall stemmed, rather like champagne glasses but larger, and the beverage was the colour of mango juice. In fact, it tasted very much like mango juice too.
We mingled with the crowds, feeling rather out of place as we nodded politely at everyone and somewhat surprised that we were being treated with virtual indifference.
"Welcome," a voice suddenly rang out across the room.
T'Roc and I turned to see who the person was greeting and were both relieved to find it was us. T'Roc smiled broadly at the Dirrian and dropped down onto one knee as he approached. This wasn't subservience but because she had read my report. T'Roc understood that her height might offend the High Emperor—and this was obviously the High Emperor. He wore a wreath of green leaves around his head like a Roman emperor.
The Dirrian spread his arms in a welcome, took T'Roc by the elbows and kissed her cheek. I swear I saw her blush!
"And what is this you have for me?" he asked brightly, looking into the pot. "Oh!" he immediately cried in disappointment. "It's dead."
"No, no," cried T'Roc. "It's a whole plant."
"In a pot?"
"Yes, in a pot."
"But ... what about its roots? Where do they go?" He was obviously confused and a crowd had begun to gather around us.
"In the soil ... in the pot."
He studied the pot in more detail, looking around it and beneath it. "But it's so small."
"It's big enough for an amaryllis," explained T'Roc.
"Amaryllis? Is that what you call it? It's a beautiful name."
"For a beautiful plant. In about six to eight weeks, it will flower—"
"Yes, but I understand that it's worth the wait."
"Wait! What wait? That's incredible! How big does it get?"
"Um ... about yay high?" and T'Roc illustrated with her hands.
"Really!" exclaimed the High Emperor. "That's incredible. I could almost sit and watch it grow!"
The Emperor then explained to us that Dirrian plants had huge root systems below ground, about twice as big as the plant above, and that they took years to grow to any kind of size. The tulip trees outside were, in fact, over five hundred years old, and the shrubs took about fifty years to grow to knee height. This slow growth was one of the reasons why plants were so treasured on Dirria. You couldn't simply plant a hedge and next year, you'd have a hedge. Gardens had to be planned for the next generation's enjoyment, not yours.
It wasn't long before the plain, white pot was placed on a ceremonious Doric-style plinth for public display. Gardeners and botanists were summoned to study the plant and measuring equipment was brought in to record its fantastic growth. The night drew on, turning out to be a very long one as fascination in the amaryllis continued, demanding that we downloaded and provided lots of information about its care and upkeep. We had no idea that this one plant would cause such a stir.
As T'Roc continued answering their questions, I stood and admired their moon through the open window, stifling a yawn, when a Dirrian servant tugged at my sleeve.
"Rooms have been prepared for you," she explained.
"I'm not sure we had planned to stay over," I whispered discretely.
"The Emperor has made his requirements clear and provisions have been made," and she turned and left. I stared at her back until she disappeared into the crowds and then went to find T'Roc. It wasn't hard when she towered, head and shoulders, above the Dirrians. I was a little anxious about telling her that we were staying over, but she just rolled her eyes and whispered, "Damn! I didn't bring my PJs."

Log Entry 160211.168

Urgh! Why do dress uniforms have to be so uncomfortable? They're starchy and suffocating, with thick, unyielding fabrics and collars that are smaller than your neck. With the proliferation of modern cloths that are available today, I just don't understand why they have to be made this way. I can't say I like the cut either. Is it a long jacket or a short dress that you wear with trousers? I feel sorry for the fellers especially. I'm not a dress person myself, so I can imagine how the blokes must feel.
Having fought my way into my newly acquired uniform, I made my way to the transporter room where I found T'Roc waiting for me. She was standing near the platform with her back to me. Jarrod and Gideon were also there at the operations panel. I greeted my captain, still tugging at my collar, and she turned, her fingers similarly jammed down her neckband. She chuckled, "Welcome to the joys of the Starfleet dress uniform."
Jarrod ushered us onto the platform and we prepared to transport. Jarrod gave the command to energise, but Gideon faltered.
"Problem Ensign?" Jarrod asked.
His fingers hovered over the controls, playing with the air.
"I'm just wondering," he said. "Will they be expecting a gift?"
A gift! My mind raced. In many cultures, even Terran ones, when invited to a prestigious event, it was customary to take something by way of thanks. The same thought was passing through T'Roc's mind and I could feel her eyes boring into me. I bit down on my lip thoughtfully.
"Well?" prompted T'Roc.
"I don't know," I had to admit. "But I'd suggest it's better to play safe and take something."
"Okay ... Any suggestions?"
I hadn't got a clue.
"Come on, Terran. You know the Dirrians best."
"I appreciate that but as they say ... In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
At least it got me a laugh, but it didn't stop me feeling helpless.
"I always take my mother flowers," suggested Jarrod. "I don't think you can go wrong with flowers."
"Okay. Quick trip to the nearest replicator!" declared T'Roc. "Follow me!"
Jarrod and I fell in behind as we marched off to the nearest replicator. At T'Roc's command, a beautiful bunch of flowers materialised from a range of different worlds, but something wasn't right. Something itched at the back of my mind.
"Aye up!" declared Jarrod. "What's up, Terran?"
I stared at the flowers desperately trying to bring it to mind. There was something about them ... something ... alarming, but I couldn't recall. T'Roc smiled.
"I don't know. I just ..." My words trailed off. "And we're going to be late."
"Fashionably late," said T'Roc. "And this could be important. I suspect it is, otherwise you wouldn't be hanging back."
The moments passed as I stared at the flowers, but nothing materialised.
"Okay," Jarrod finally said. "Let's think about this sensibly." She reached over and plucked a little white flower from the display. "Do you know what this one is?" she asked.
I shook my head. It was a very pretty flower with a purple centre that bled along its petals, but I'd never seen the like of it before.
"So which flowers do you know?" she asked.
I could name the gypsophila, various lilies, Orion bellflowers and a good number of others, but as I named each one, there was no flash of enlightenment.
"And what about this one? Have you seen this one before?" asked Jarrod.
It was a large, white, bell-shaped flower that I was familiar with but didn't know its name.
"And where do you know it from?" she asked.
"The park. There was a park near the home that Traeth and I were staying at and—" Suddenly the memory hit me; it was like a dream being broken. "That's it!" I cried. "We were in the park and I picked a flower—one of these and Traeth was horrified!"
"Horrified? Why?"
"He said it was a shameful waste and extremely selfish. He said that if you had a one thousand-year-old tree growing in the garden, would you chop it down and put it in a vase in your front room?"
Jarrod and T'Roc exchanged glances.
"It'd have to be a very big vase," mocked Jarrod.
"Yes," I agreed. "It's not the best comparison in that respect, but what he was saying was that once you've cut the tree down, it's begun to die. The vase of water only prolongs the inevitable death. But cutting it down and removing it from its habitat not only kills it, it denies everybody else the enjoyment of it. The Dirrians love plants. They would never pick a bloom."
"Cut flowers are out then," sighed T'Roc.
"Ah-ha!" shouted Jarrod. It was obviously a eureka moment, and she held a finger up to herald her idea. "But this will be perfect," and she replicated a plain, white pot filled with soil. In the middle of it, a single bulb sat with a thumb of green poking out of the top. It didn't look very impressive.
"What is it?" asked T'Roc.
Jarrod was taken aback. "It's an amaryllis!" she declared.
"It's not exactly ... impressive," said T'Roc doubtfully.
"Not now, no, but it's a wonderful gift because with just a little love and care, they grow quickly to about thirty to sixty centimetres and then burst into bloom with a cluster of up to twelve gorgeous lily-like flowers. Trust me, he'll love it."
With our newly chosen gift, beautified with a luxurious bow, we made our way back to the transporter room. Minutes later, we materialised on Dirria.