Survival Of The Fittest
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Table Of Contents

Mission 17: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

The contents of the Ship Logs are considered to be a "compilation" under the provisions of Title 17, U.S. Code (known as the Copyright Act): that is, "A work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that is selected, coordinated or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship." As such, it is the property of the ship’s Captain; however, automatic transfer of ownership to STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET is effected upon publication of this mission by the ship’s Captain ipso facto.

As outlined in Circular 1 (Copyrighted Basics, Library of Congress, Washington DC, USGPO 1989-262-309/12), "copyrighted in each separate contribution to a periodical or other collective work is distinct from the copyright in the collective work as a whole and vests initially with the author of the contribution."

This mission may not be reproduced in any form without the express, written authorization of STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET.

Prologue

Commander Hank Kuttner, doctor of Exobiology and commander of Dhal Theta II’s science station, glared at the massive old oak. Eighty-nine tons of carnivorous hardwood glared right back. While not actually an oak, the Dhal Thetan tree looked enough like a vine draped version of its namesake for the appellation to stick. The tree had no eyes, per se, but Kuttner’s scent, respiration, and electrical field pinpointed his exact location and marked him as "lunch" in the tree’s rudimentary brain. It shifted its enormous weight, leaned perceptibly toward its intended meal and sent out a questing shoot. Cellulose burst and secreted neurotoxins spattered as the thorny tendril touched the science station’s force field. The wounded shoot was yanked back as the tree quivered in arboreal rage.

The huge oak’s malevolent hunger was palpable to Kuttner, who silently watched from the dubious safety of the station’s shields. In the four year since the base had been established, the tree had tried constantly to penetrate the shield, earning numerous phaser scars for its efforts. Were it not for the force field, the oak could easily reach the armored outer walls of the compound. Not good! The tree’s roots on the compound side were trimmed back daily by the #32 phaser array , though lately they seemed to be growing back faster than ever. Kuttner made a mental note to have the PHOENIX ready a low-yield photon torpedo and settle this problem once and for all. Captain Lawrence wouldn’t mind helping with the yard work. He turned away from the malign tree and opened the enormous outer access doors, revealing the base’s fusion generators.

"Commander QaS, this is Kuttner. We’ve got twenty-minutes. The outer access doors are open; bring the secondary generators in from the south side. We’ll just slide ‘em in and button her up before the storm hits, you copy?"

Even though the weather was clam (for now), and they were using high powered Comm. units, Dhal Theta II made person to person communication a bit difficult at 50 meters and impossible beyond 1 kilometer.

"Kuttner, this is QaS. Copy that. We’re on our way, out."

Captain’s Personal Log:

We are still orbiting Dhal Theta II, re-supplying the science station on the surface. I have assigned 53 of the crew to assist repairs and upgrades of their scientific and defensive systems. Commander Stryker is in charge of the landing party. The amount of material the science station uses is staggering, but after Hank Kuttner’s tour yesterday it is easy to see why. I had hoped to get my crew off planet before the next storm hits and blocks transport and communications, but the work below is taking longer than anticipated. End Log.

"C’mon people! The storms almost on us! We’ve got ten minutes to get this reactor in, let’s go!" LCDR QaS’ voice cut through the rising winds.

The leading edge of the storm had already rendered their communications useless. An even dozen science techs and crewmembers from the PHOENIX muscled the last fusion generator off its recalcitrant loader and began to carry the heavy unit inside the cavernous generator room.

Commander Stryker was fascinated by the giant oak. It was nearly 100 meters tall, 25 meters across the base and its canopy stretched over 40 meters in any direction. If it weren’t for the station’s force field, the "vines" hanging from its outer limbs could easily reach them. By Wolf’s count it had burned itself 39 times in just the last eight minutes on the station’s shields. The tree was actually leaning forward trying to get to them! Stryker lightly fingered the phaser on his hip and began to wish he was somewhere else. He would be very happy to get the teams back aboard the PHOENIX.

Commander QaS wasn’t afraid of any critter, sentient or not, but 89 tons of bloodthirsty oak tree was pushing things a bit.

"They’re not paying us by the hour! Let’s move!" QaS bellowed loud enough to be heard over the still rising winds.

The oak tree was furious. It had never seen so much food in one spot in its life, and its proximity was madding. Every time it reached out to get some, its shoot hurt, enraged the tree even further. Its root base on that side was missing, so it couldn’t grab with those and also making any attempt at bending over further dangerous. It’s all consuming hunger in the presence of so much food soon overrode any thought of self preservation. The oak slowly, inexorably, shifted its entire mass in its overwhelming desire to slay. Massive roots tore from the thin soil as the giant tree over-balanced and hurtled toward its prey, its tiny brain howling with the glee of joyous slaughter.

The station’s shields, never designed to continuously bear 89 tons of berserk tree, held just long enough for the crew to scatter, then buckled and failed. The oak’s immense trunk smashed through the station’s armor as if it were paper. The station’s only operating fusion generator was crushed, along with several storage areas, living quarters, a lab and most of the mess hall. Branches and shoots whipped in every conceivable direction, frantically looking for prey. Broken branches, severed tendrils, shattered panels and electronics of every description littered the ground. The screams of the wounded and dying filled the compound. Less than two minutes later, the storm hit. Dhal Theta II would not suffer the weak to live…

Captain Lawrence stepped off the turbolift to see Colonel Horn having an animated conversation with one of the science station officers over LT Leroux’s shoulder. The signal was grainy and visibly deteriorating. As the captain stepped over to communications, the signal suddenly cut out.

"Hey! What happened? I thought we had three more minutes." ENS Pyrebon sounded more than a little disappointed.

"Transmission terminated at the source." Gabby was genuinely puzzled. "I wonder what happened…" Her voice trailed off as she began trying to re-establish communications.

Lawrence instinctively knew something was wrong. She turned to Lamar at the sensor station who spoke before could begin her inquiry.

"The storm is one minute thirty seconds from the station. Our link to the science station’s sensors has been terminated at the source. It is impossible to be certain, but sensors indicated a complete failure of the science station’s power grid just prior to losing the link." She turned to the Captain. "If the reading is correct, they are defenseless."

Captain Lawrence looked up at the main viewer. A roiling mass of clouds and electrostatic discharge began to engulf the tiny island where the science station sat, naked and alone against Dhal Theta II, her firepower gone. In less than 90 seconds rescue would be impossible until the storm passed. If anyone lived that long…

Note: Please check out the Worlds and Lifeforms page for information on planet Dhal Theta II.