"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!"