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Discovering the Bay

Posted on Wed Apr 17th, 2019 @ 4:33pm by Lieutenant Wale Scholl Ph.D.

Mission: Between the Pages
Location: Shune Bay

The Golovin Leadership Council had finally come through on his request for lodging, and as he'd hoped, he was lucky to have been granted a cabin by the Bay. The cabin was small, but nicely furnished. It had the quality and feel of a standard colony dwelling, but somewhat improved. However, its top quality, at least in Wale's view, was its view of the Bay. He set down his bag, took off the tongs on his feet, and checked out the cabin. The floor covering felt very much like bamboo, or at least its local equivalent - Wale wondered if it had been replicated, or made from local materials. In the bedroom, the furniture seemed like standard-issue Federation colony equipment, and consisted of a double bed, with matching dresser and nightstand, in the standard grey/beige dull color palette. He made a mental note to change that as soon as humanly possible. There was no art of any kind displayed anywhere, leaving a blank slate for the occupant to fill.

A round glass dining table with four chairs filled the dining room, along with a small space set up to prepare the meals. It was unequipped, leaving the occupant to install whatever equipment they might desire. Wale made a note to put in a request for cooking equipment. He was very much an amateur, and his cooking talent was modest, but it was something he enjoyed nonetheless.

The living room was equally unimpressive, with a loveseat, two armchairs and a coffee table. The loveseat faced a viewscreen mounted on the far wall, while the armchairs faced the windows, looking out at the Bay. A glass door next to the window opened out onto a balcony. At the end of the balcony, a short flight of five or six steps led down to the small beach, and into the waters of Shune Bay.

He stepped onto the balcony. It was fairly small, just large enough to accomodate a chair and maybe a table. But it was oriented toward the sunset, which Wale thought to be a good thing, and overlooking the Bay, which was even better. But the eyesore, as Wale looked farther out into the Bay, was the bow of the Andorian cruiser, jutting out thirty meters into the air, a relic from a battle long ago that had crashed into the Bay. The prow seemed firmly entrenched in the mud, while the bow rose at a sixty-degree angle from the ground. The crash had clearly been a rough one. Battle damage was visible on the aft engines. Scorch marks on the hull betrayed the burn-up that the ship had endured in the crash, and pieces of hull plating had been torn off, to either burn up in the atmosphere, or worse, to land Gods knew where in the Bay or surrounding jungle.

A flapping sound came from the water. Wale walked down to the beach. The sand felt oddly soft under his feet, reminiscent of the mineral microbeads that served as sand on the beaches of Kilanna VI. Unlike the sand found on most of Earth's beaches, where the grains were almost microscopic rock fragments with sharp edges, the grains of sand on Kilanna had rounded edges, polished clean by millenia of erosion from the minerals found in the sea. The end result was incredibly soft, but also hell to walk in, since one would easily sink up to their ankles in the stuff. Here though he remained firmly aboveground despite the smoothness of the sand. He made a mental note to examine the physical properties of the sand at a later date, just to satisfy his own curiosity.

He looked down into the water to find the source of the noise he had heard, and found a small amphibian, of a dark brownish green color and roughly the size of his hand, sitting on a rock and flapping its legs in the water. Small droplets of water rose into the air, and the creature lashed out at these with its tongue. Wale's brow furrowed as he observed the animal's behavior, until he noticed very small winged insects hovering above the water, but never touching the surface. The amphibian was catching the insects in the water droplets, and then absorbing them with the water. He smiled, thinking of a number of colleagues who would be completely fascinated by this creature.

The sound of his chuckle startled the creature, who jumped into the water and disappeared. Wale's eyes followed the creature as it headed out into the Bay, and he caught sight of a larger animal breaching the water some distance away - a much larger animal, that reminded him of a dugong.

The animal dove back underwater about twenty meters away from him. Wale sat on the bottom step, and observed how long the animal would remain under water. He counted to four minutes before the animal breached the water again, a few meters closer to the shore. The animal sat on its hind legs, its large head above the water, and looked at Wale directly for a few seconds before diving back.

Wale seized the opportunity to run back inside to fetch a diving mask and rebreather kit. He stripped out of his clothes, ran back outside in the simplest apparel, and dove in the water, trying to find the 800-kg animal. Contact with the warm waters of Shune Bay had an instant calming effect on him. He always felt more at home when he was in the water.

He spotted the animal grazing on seagrass at the bottom of the bay, some six meters below the surface. Wale already knew the animal would have been a herbivore, like its distant cousin on Earth - the biggest clue had been the mandible he'd seen on it when it had gazed back at him. The water carried the sounds of the animal as it munched on the grass. When it dove back up to breathe, Wale caught sight of a dozen more of these animals farther out into the Bay. He swam out toward them, and pushed a button hidden in the side of the diving mask he was wearing. The device had sensor equipment built in, similar to the wand of a tricorder, and was configured to provide an enhanced-reality holographic display, augmented with the sensor information on what he was examining.

He noticed that the animals were feeding on the seagrass in a very specific area - the vegetation from the shore to a line about sixty meters away had clearly been grazed extensively. But beyond that point, the seagrass was clean and abundant.

Wale swam closer to the seagrass. His sensors picked up traces of microscopic plankton living on the grass closer to the shore - the animals were feeding on this plankton. But farther out, the plankton concentration decreased exponentially, the farther out he swam from the shore - and the closer he got to the fallen cruiser. Wale swam farther, until he was about fifty meters away from the ship. At this point, even the seagrass began to appear affected by the wreckage. The plants were smaller, wilted, and clearly not in great shape. Closer to the ship, there was nothing but sand on the ground.

Nothing was growing.

 

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