Krev Halrathyan looked down from her lofty perch. The platform she stood upon hovered over a hundred metres from ground littered with brown leaves and the autumnal detritus of an ecosystem that hung in perfect balance. Gree worms churned the soil; their castings releasing the irons, sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium that gave life to the dense canopy that hung above. Great taproots plunged down into the dense loamy medium, drinking deep from the moisture pockets in which these precious nutrients lay suspended.
She navigated the platform through giant branches that splayed out from the colossal trunk, each one thicker than the body of a Savrillian goliath python. After inputting guidance commands, her weathered hands gripped the railing as it propelled itself. An occasional leaf brushed across her purplish hair, causing her to raise an arm and shield her face from the grasping foliage.
The platform moved higher still, gradually gliding to a stop beside a young branch near the apex of this immense specimen of arboreal flora. Only a few metres now remained between Krev and the arboretum ceiling. She could clearly make out the mist jets that jutted from the panelling at regular intervals, designed to simulate rainfall at the precise acidity levels required by the vegetation in each sector of the expansive garden. She eyed the branch in front of her carefully. It was young, still flexible, and did not reach far. Her eyes scanned the new bark, ashey grey with flecks of green where new growth had outpaced the weathering process.
There it was. A deep gouge that exposed the living wood beneath. Sap leaked from the wound, congealing in a hardened barrier around its edge. The tree used all its might to fight the infection. A pathogen of some sort, this one looked viral. Perhaps something the transporter biofilters had failed to recognise, or maybe traipsed in by visitors from a docked starship. The vectors were endless, but such were the risks of putting these natural wonders on show; here for visitors from a thousand different star systems to see and touch.
She pulled a laser cutter from her belt. Focusing the beam at the infected site, she pressed down. Red light spread out from the device’s tip, clearing away a layer of infected bark. Krev blinked, terminating the beam and inspecting her work. She smiled, satisfied that the threat was contained. She’d already collected samples from infection sites across the arboretum. A level six biosweep would have sufficed to purge the entire ecosystem of this scourge. For this tree, though, she would personally inspect every branch. This vast remnant of a bygone time was different. As a sapling it had grown on the slopes of Yel’Sharath, clinging to the fertile volcanic soil. Uprooted and transported light years away after the final survey mission to a doomed planet, it found itself subject to a century of scientific study. The star that gave it life; gone. Scattered into the galactic winds as it transformed from supernova to white dwarf to singularity, consuming all around it.
Now, towering over the Starbase 86 arboretum, it presided. Station commanders had come and gone. Political rivalries, galactic threats and nemeses had bloomed and decayed. The life cycles of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants had continued their flow as sure as the spiral arms of the Milky Way rotated. Krev’s Boslic eyes gleamed with pride. The Yel’Sharath tree would continue to grow long after she had gone. She would ensure it did. She was the steward of this place, the guardian of this special being; survivor and last of its kind.
Task Force 86 has the honour of hosting the second round of events for our latest fleet initiative! The focus of this campaign is really in the name, with the competitions on offer really giving us a chance to develop the parts of the fleet we call home. Whether you’re preserving trees in your starbase arboretum or downing drinks in your dingy degenerate den of choice, we want to hear about it! You can submit your stories in the writing competitions here that make up the backbone of Operation Homestead. Deadline for these is December 12th, 2021!
As for Task Force 86, we’ve got a few offerings here too that you can get involved with while waiting for that creative energy to flow. Our five competitions, based on things you can find in and around the old Task Force 86 homestead, are:
- Cubic Experiment – A Federation scientist is developing a new fractal encryption system. Help him test it!
- Cog Owl – A mysterious space dwelling life form needs food to stay alive!
- Bubble Shooter – The Azure Nebula is expanding. Help put it back in its place!
- Zigzag Puzzle – Find the planet names on an ancient Tkon tablet!
- Double Puzzle – Unscramble the location of a pirate base in The Triangle!
Echoes of the Tkon Roundup: Promotions and Awards
The time has come to bestow great Task Force 86 love upon those of us who made huge contributions to the Echoes of the Tkon fleet action. All of you played a crucial part in making this the most productive and successful event of its kind Bravo Fleet has ever produced! Here you shall be recognised, and your names committed to the Task Force 86 scrolls of legend.
- First up, and he needs no introduction, the legendary DarthCrusader has earned himself not only the Jonathan Archer Legion of Merit, but a battlefield promotion to the rank of Captain too! Darth, you continue to make this Task Force tick with your boundless enthusiasm and dedication to your job. I’ve really enjoyed writing with you and can’t wait to see what else our characters have in store.
- DaveP’s Star for Distinguished Service was certainly well deserved for his competition entries and writing efforts. Sincere thanks to you Dave for the fleet action boost.
- Ed’s efforts have led to him being awarded the Star Cross for all his activity. He was also awarded a battlefield promotion to the rank of Captain at the end of Phase I. Thank you for being active in the community, Ed. It’s a pleasure to have you around!
- Khamnin’s efforts led to a battlefield promotion to the rank of Lieutenant at the end of Phase III. It was great to be able to recognise your work, Khamnin, and I hope to see what else you’ve got up your sleeve!
- A Star for Distinguished Service marks the latest in a slew of awards Andrew has been collecting for his constant work and dedication to the Task Force. You’ve done us proud, thank you and well done!
- Last, but oh most certainly not least, Jess has only gone and got herself a Silver Palm for throwing out a tremendous chunk of writing during the fleet action. Her battlefield promotion to the rank of Commander at the end of Phase II proves that she is one of Task Force 86’s most valued and respected members.
I’m really enthused to share a Task Force with the above illustrious people. You’ve all done us proud! I’m definitely looking forward to feasting my eyes on all that you produce during Operation Homestead and beyond. If you’ve just joined us, or are coming back after a break, these are the people that are doing it right. Check out what they’ve done, then see if you can have a go yourself!