These are the voyages of the USS Burketown. Her mission: to discover strange new worlds, meet new civilisations and to carry out her Federation orders despite being cobbled together from two different vessels, having lost its Captain and being run by a skeleton crew.
When caught in a trap, what better plan than to act like you belong there?
The world looks very different when you’re hanging upside-down by one leg. Lt Scates, security officer from the USS Burketown, tried to gather his wits. The snare trap must have been laid by the inhabitants of the nearby jungle village that he had been trying to approach stealthily. “So much for that plan,” he thought to himself.
Hiding in the undergrowth, only a hundred metres away, the furry purple Engineer named 421 and Dr Lojika were frozen in shock. They could only watch and remain hidden as sounds of alarm came from the village, and a small group of villagers began to search the surrounding jungle.
Lt Scates fumbled at his hip, and reached into the botanical sampling kit that had fortunately not fallen from his belt. Withdrawing a small cutting blade, he strained upwards to reach the cord holding his foot. He could hear the approach of the alien search party, and he frantically cut at the entangling vines until they split and wound free, dropping him to the ground.
Standing up, the Lieutenant was greeted by the points of several long wooden spears. They were wielded by the alien villagers, lean humanoids with twin vestigial horn buds in mid forehead. Ten hunters, or maybe more, surrounded him with their flint-tipped weapons poised. They murmured amongst themselves.
“What is it?” came a voice from the Universal Translator. The device had quickly figured out the alien language. Scates breathed a sigh of relief at the knowledge that the UT could handle the translation. With few other options available, he decided to gamble.
“I was expected,” he pronounced matter-of-factly. The villagers refused to meet his gaze. Confusion gripped the hunters, and several relaxed, lowering their weapons.
“I am here to see your leader. He is expecting me,” Scates repeated. More hushed debate ensued, but Scates knew he had them curious. Curious enough not to kill him, he hoped. “Come on then,” he said, striding forward, “Let’s go see your leader.”
“We follow this one too?” The snatch of hushed conversation caught by the translator emboldened the Lieutenant as he strode purposefully towards the huts of the village. He wondered if he was about to meet Hiktok Mu, the Bajoran priest they had been tracking through the jungle. As he walked, Scates casually tapped his commbadge to keep an open line to Dr Lojika and 421, who were still hidden in the jungle.
The village dwellings were crude but sturdy. Round huts with rough-thatched roofs were the norm, and curious horned faces stared from the doorways of several of them. One of the hunters who accompanied him now ran forward, guesturing, directing Scates towards a larger dwelling in the centre of the camp. As he approached, an animal skin was drawn aside to admit him. The interior was dim, lit only by a cookfire, which was tended by two small figures. In a large chair of wood and woven vines sat the Village Chief. His horns were the largest Scates had seen, and behind the bulk of the throne cowered several more attendants.
“Who are you? Why you here?” spoke the chief.
Knowing that first impressions may mean the difference between life and death, Scates wracked his brain to figure out what kind of greeting would be respectful, yet not diminish the slight authority he had commanded. He settled on a graceful curtsey, which he was pleased to see returned by the chief a moment later.
“I am seeking my friend who came this way,” said Scates. “Have you seen a man with ridges on his nose?”
“He came yesterday,” replied the chief, “but he left us. We are not happy with this man.”
“Because he disobey my warning,” said the Chief, suddenly angered. “He entered the forbidden caves!”
What could Hiktok Mu want in these forbidden caves? Would the villagers let Scates, Lojika and 421 follow the priest inside? Find out next time!