Log Entry 160326.174

I was still frustrated by the fact that I didn't know what was going on. What had I volunteered us for?
"I don't understand why the High Emperor needs us to do this for him," began T'Roc, making herself comfortable on the sofa. She leaned forward and poured a cup of the mysterious beverage from the pot that remained from breakfast. It would be stone cold by now but it didn't seem to bother her. In fact, as she sipped it, an eyebrow rose in satisfaction. "It's not exactly difficult or specialist, and he has the whole of Dirria to call upon, so why does he need Starfleet?"
"Fear," replied Traeth.
"So it is dangerous then," I interjected.
T'Roc tutted. "Oh, put her out of her misery, for goodness sake."
Traeth laughed. "The High Emperor wants members of the Earhart to explore Tikarra Island for him."
"What's so important or terrible about Tikarra Island that it requires Starfleet?"
"Nothing, not that anybody knows of anyway."
"Then why us?"
"Ah, that's my fault, I'm afraid," said Traeth. "Honka and I—"
"The High Emperor."
"You're on first name terms with the High Emperor!" I exclaimed.
He laughed. "Yes. When the delegation returned from the Drakonia, he heard all about your tales of me and sought me out. He was intrigued to know more about Earth and its people. Since then, I've been interrogated endlessly about my time on Earth ... and that's where things go wrong." Traeth sighed. "The problem is that I didn't realise what he was after. I regaled tales of our adventures as children, through the eyes of a child. I inadvertently painted you as being some brave and intrepid explorer."
I wasn't quite sure how he managed that. We never ventured more than a few miles away from the orphanage, but as Traeth continued, I got the gist of it.
"We were just children on a great adventure. We made our own entertainment ... where scaling a steep embankment became ascending a mountain; climbing that big oak tree in the park was conquering a monster and do you remember those big stone pillars that we used to leap along the top of?"
I did them. It was a sculpture: an arrangement of large bollards between one and three foot high, each one about a foot across. A line of them snaked across the park, through flower beds and lawns. I'm not sure if we were supposed to stand on them or not, but the park keeper never minded—as long as we didn't squash his azaleas that is.
"That was us traversing a great canyon via stepping stones a thousand metres high! Below were targs, dragons and other carnivorous beasts waiting to devour us should we fall." His voice echoed the excitement we felt in those adventures so long ago, and I smiled remembering it well. "And then there were the Great Adventures."
I think I must have looked blank there because Traeth reiterated further.
"The treasure hunts in the park! Come on! You must remember!"
An elusive, vague memory began to surface.
"There was me, you, Lucy, Berry and Rufus and you'd create treasure hunts and games for us. Like the time you sent us all off with a little box and a list of things to fill it with. We had to find a yellow flower, a simple leaf, an acorn, a smooth stone, a twig shaped like the letter Y, a seed—lots of stuff like that."
Now I remembered.
"Quite the entertainments manager, weren't we," quipped T'Roc.
"It was just something for everyone to do. Otherwise the weekends were really boring."
"Still commendable; sounds like it took some organising."
"Not really. I did most of the planning during history."
T'Roc tittered and shook her head. Traeth continued.
"And you took us off to explore places. We went into town, various cafés, shops and museums, the parks, the lake—"
"Ah! The lake!" I screamed. Suddenly it all made complete sense.
"You remember the lake then?" said Traeth.
"Yes, and you were terrified of the water!"
"As are all Dirrians."
"Ah!" cried T'Roc in realisation. "And that's why the High Emperor wants us to explore the island for him."
"Exactly. Honka wants to know what's on the island but all Dirrians have this deeply inset and somewhat irrational fear of water."
"But he could just transport himself over there and explore it for himself," I said.
"We don't have transporter technology."
"Okay, but we could transport him over there and then he could explore it for himself."
"Do you have air conditioned tents and hot tubs, plus enough supplies to feed thirty servants and a battalion of chefs and kitchen staff? Trust me, Terran, you won't get Honka nibbling of the end of a single Kit-Kat shared between five kids."
"Okay, but he could send a party of Dirrians—I mean get us to transport a party of Dirrians to the island."
"He is, thank you very much, Terran."
I frowned, not appreciating what he was saying.
"Me, you fool! I can't say I'm overjoyed at the prospect, but he's sending me—with you! He wants us to go over there, discover new things and then come back and regale with him wondrous tales of adventure."
"But what if there's nothing there?"
"Then, just like in the park, we make canyons out of flower beds and mountains out of embankments because if we don't," Traeth rolled his eyes. "I don't even want to think about it—" I gasped wondering what horrible, dire punishment might await us. Traeth continued. "He'll sulk for months!"

Log Entry 160312.173

I scuttled behind T'Roc desperately trying to keep pace. I wasn't sure if I should just drop back and give her some time to cool off or to follow her, but thought the latter wisest for the time being. Besides, where else would I go? I suppose I could have wandered around the gardens for a time, but that didn't seem right somehow. So I followed her back into the palace and up the stairs to our room. I wasn't even over the threshold before she let rip.
"You really have no idea what you've got us into, do you? You are such an idiot at times! The worst thing you can ever do is try to cover up the fact that you haven't been paying attention. Your mind wandering is bad enough, but then you try to wash over it! Have you always been this stupid?" she screamed at me, although it wasn't really a scream. T'Roc had an uncanny ability to yell without raising her voice above a loud whisper. I must learn to master that technique some day.
"More or less," came a voice from inside the room. Surprised, we both turned to investigate.
Sitting on a chair in the corner was a Dirrian. Even sitting down, I could see that he was taller than your average Dirrian but he had the unmistakable and characteristic pale skin and dark hair of his race. He smiled smugly at us. We just stared at him.
"In answer to your question, Captain, yes, she has more or less always been a bit stupid. I don't know what she's done this time but I don't suppose it's any worse than any of the stuff she did as a kid."
My eyes widened. Could it be? Was it? If it was, he had changed almost beyond recognition. Traeth had been a small, puny child with pimples and a permanent sniff. This young man was the complete opposite. Still small and thin compared to humans, he was healthy, athletic even, and his skin was like alabaster: flawless, smooth, perfect.
" Traeth?" I ventured.
"Well, how many other Dirrians did you spend your childhood with?"
I was so delighted to see him, I forgot all about protocol, and all about to T'Roc. I ran past her to greet him, throwing my arms around him as he stood up to welcome me. We laughed; we embraced like the long lost friends that we were. I had never imagined that I would see him again. Even coming to Dirria, his home world, I had never assumed that we would meet again.
"You've changed so much," I exclaimed. "I hardly recognised you," I said.
"And you haven't changed a bit," he replied, pushing me to arm's length so that he could study at me better. "Now, let's see if I can help you figure out of this mess."
Ah, yes. The mess.

Log Entry 160305.172

As we crossed the lawns to meet the High Emperor, I was making a mental note to research Terry Pratchett. I have no idea who he is, but I imagine he's some great warrior or philosopher or somebody equally commanding. Meanwhile, the cacophony of birdsong filled the air with squawking and squealing that was about as harmonious as claws being dragged down a blackboard. I could tell that T'Roc found it equally unpleasant (if not more so) by the intense frown that deeply furrowed her brow. As the Emperor turned to greet us, though, she wiped it aside replacing it with an easy, friendly face.
"Ah! Good morning!" beamed the Emperor, happily. "Please take a seat. Isn't it a most glorious morning? Tea?" he proffered.
T'Roc and I sat down and I couldn't help but let my fingers play over the fabric of the chair to see what it was made of. I was expecting some toughened, plastic derived material, but it was painted metal, just like an old Edwardian garden set.
A servant stepped forward and laid out cups and saucers, white with a little pink floral design dancing around the rim, and poured two cups of golden-green liquid from a tall pot. The chink of the cups reminded me of bone china and as I picked the cup up, its weight and feel only served to strengthen that suspicion. I wondered if bone china was purely a Terran thing. I hoped so. Bone china is all very lovely but is quite revolting when you know how it's made.
The soft porcelain of bone china is manufactured from bone ash, which makes up about half of the porcelain's mass. Bone ash is made from animal bones that are cleaned and heated to over 1000ºC. Then the bone is ground down with water to produce a fine paste that is then added to the porcelain to make the china. So it's a bit like drinking tea out of a cadaver!
"Don't you think so, Ms Terran?" asked the Emperor.
I blushed, not having heard a word he had said.
"Oh, please forgive me," I quipped. "I was distracted by the lovely melody of the birds. Do they sing as beautifully as this every morning?"
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see T'Roc's disapproval, but it seems I had pulled off my deception.
"They are particularly tuneful this morning," agreed the Emperor with glee. "I think they knew you were coming and sought to serenade you," and he laughed. I feigned a laugh too.
"Now, what was it you were asking me?" I prompted with a smug smile.
"I was saying that while some of us are curious, not all of us are explorers."
I had to think about that one. The only reason I could immediately think of that a curious person would not naturally want to explore was laziness, but it probably wasn't best to share that thought.
"I suppose that must be true. For me, though, the two tend to go hand in hand. If I'm curious about something, I explore it."
"Excellent!" squealed the Emperor with dignified excitement. "So you'll do it! That's wonderful news! Thank you. Thank you so much. When would you like to depart?"
My eyes widened in horror at the realisation that I'd just volunteered us for something. What though? I hardly dared to look at T'Roc, but I knew I couldn't ignore her. Warily, my eyes moved to meet hers, anxious at what they might find. T'Roc's head was tipped to one side and her eyes were wide in disapproval and annoyance.
Our morning tea with the Emperor wound up very quickly after that and I found myself alone in the garden with my garden. We sat in silence for a while and I tried to ignore her gaze. I've come to realise that it's very hard to ignore a Klingon's gaze, especially when they are staring at you.
"Don't you want to know what you have volunteered us for?" she finally asked. Her voice was riddled with irritation.
"Sorry," I said. "I didn't mean to—"
"You never do, but the lesson is simple. Don't try to blag your way out of things. It'll get you into trouble. You weren't paying attention so you bumbled your way right into this mess."
"Sorry," I repeated. "Is it bad?"
"Fortunately for you, no. Although you will be scrubbing the exhaust manifolds for a fortnight when we get back—just to remind you of who the captain is here."
What the heck had I volunteered us for? But I'd have to wait to find out as T'Roc got up and strode off towards the palace. I followed like a scolded puppy, struggling to keep up with her long strides.