Nearly thirty minutes later, we sat down, still only a few feet from the trees, and Traeth began to explore the beach with his hands, sifting the sand through his fingers. He was ignoring the sea as best he could but wasn't brave enough to turn his back on it, but he was beginning to feel some of the pleasures of the shore on a warm summer's day.
Another half hour passed and we began to encourage him down to the damper sand. It took a while as after each step he took, he was compelled to sit and watch the waves gently rolling in to assure himself that it wasn't going to do anything dramatic—suddenly rear up and swallow us all whole, for instance.
Once there, we finally started building sandcastles, or rather, sandcastle—one very big castle indeed. We used the mugs from our backpacks as buckets and made a rather impressive building. Traeth made tall turrets, stacking mugs of sand one on top of the other, working out the optimum height possible before they collapsed.
Traeth always was a stickler for detail and he hadn't changed. Having discovered how well you could mould the wet sand, he sent Al to the water's edge to fill a mug with water, so that he could dampen it to its optimum consistency to make impressions in. Each stone was marked out on the building and windows engraved into the sides. On the top, castellated walls with detailed walkways completed the building. It was a very fine sandcastle indeed.
I'll be honest, it was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon, interrupted only by my chiming intercom. I answered it to find the captain at the other end.
"You don't appear to have got very far," T'Roc said. I couldn't disagree, but I wasn't going to hurry things.
"My apologies, Captain, but if this mission is to be successful, we must be patient."
I could feel her rolling her eyes at me from down here. I stepped away from my team so that I wouldn't be overheard and lowered my voice.
"Sir, may I speak freely?"
There was a slight pause before she responded.
"Knock yourself out, Terran."
"And in private?"
A silent tut echoed all the way from the bridge, through the atmosphere of Dirria and resonated across the beach. A few moments later, T'Roc responded.
"Just you and me now, Terran. What's the problem?"
She had obviously left the bridge and was now in her office.
"No problem, but you did assign this mission to me. I know it's not a big deal in the great scheme of things; in fact, it's a very minor mission but it is a mission nonetheless, and I'd like to do it properly."
"Sometimes, Terran," she sighed. "I swear you must have some Betazoid blood in you. It feels like you can see right through me. Yes, I am impatient to return to normal duties, but you're right. This is a mission, even if it is only a little one." She sighed again, this time more heavily. "Just make sure to bring me back a stick of rock."
The comms channel shut abruptly and I could envisage T'Roc leaning back in her chair, tenting her fingers and scolding herself. Maybe I was right, but no one loves a smartarse. I'd pay for it at some point, undoubtedly the next time I screwed up.