Captain Howard Nelson walked into the office, hesitating at the door as it quickly slid out of his way. Admiral Barnard waved him into the room.
       "Howard, how do you like my new door?"
       "Hmm, different."
       "Something new R&D came up with in automatic sliding doors. Quicker and more accurate than the old models. Practical for every day use. We admirals got stuck with the first ones so we can't hide anymore."
       Nelson grinned as he tossed his hat on the rack and took a seat. "Variation on the 'open door' policy eh?"
       "You might say that." Barnard looked at the hat. "I see you haven't gotten the new quartermaster orders yet."
       "New orders? When?"
       "Two weeks ago. New uniforms. Hats and jackets are out."
       "That was the package I got on the way out this morning. So what are we getting now?"
       Admiral Barnard stood and modeled the new look. "Stretch stirrup pants, short sleeved tunic with small epaulets. Looks like military style pajamas if you ask me, and heaven help anyone with a gut." Said Barnard patting his own. "This looks great with your figure Howard, but silly on anyone my age. Someone got the bright idea that we needed, 'A break with the military past.' So we get the Buck Rogers outfits."
       Nelson looked over the new uniform critically. "It looks practical for ship duty. Most of what we do is shirt-sleeve, and moderately clean."
       "I feel like blinking Peter Pan in this outfit."
       "God and the High Command, their will be done."
       Barnard sighed. "Well, you have that one right. I would go back to the BOQ and change when we're done. This is being pushed pretty hard."
       "Is the war going that badly?"
       "What makes you think that Howard?"
       "Rich, we both know that when the news isn't good, the silly schemes to 'boost morale' get pushed the hardest."
       "No, war news isn't bad, but the war itself is not popular. Civilian factions on Earth and the Vulcans are pushing for a negotiated settlement to the war. These Romulans are not willing to negotiate, and the public isn't willing to see that. We don't know what it's going to take to get them to sue for peace, but we are going to have to do it."
       "What about the destruction, the aggression against Federation ships? Can't these people see this?"
       "No Howard, that's the problem, they can't see it. Ships destroyed in space don't leave nice graphic images to incite the public with. No one even knows what a Romulan looks like. A faceless enemy that does sterile damage."
       "And what the public cannot see and feel is not real."
       "Exactly. Some have gone so far as to declare the entire Romulan War a Starfleet hoax to gain control and more resources."
       "So, who's pet project got canceled?"
       "Some physics professor by the name of Dr. Kow Gho Mu. And it wasn't canceled, she just didn't get the level of funding she thought she should have."
       "What is she working on?"
       "Another scheme for an 'instant anywhere' device. She is talking replacing starships. Her more down to Earth colleges agree that it 'might' work, on a more limited range. She is still in the number crunching and blue sky phase. She requested hardware phase funding, and of course, did not get it. So it is Starfleet's fault for the shipbuilding projects to fight the nonexistent war. 'Show us a Romulan' was her challenge."
       "We don't have any Romulans to show."
       "Again on the mark. Current tactics and weapons don't leave bodies. We haven't seen any ground battles in this war."
       "And we thought the Federation would usher in an age of eternal peace."
       "Naive of us. These Romulans didn't sign the charter. Speaking of signers, I haven't had a chance to read your report. How did it go?"
       "Strange, very strange. Rich, they are living on an artifact, surrounded by more of the same and they don't use any of it themselves. We lost Commander Phillips to an unfortunate incident. As soon as a ship can be spared, I suggest we send an archeology team to their stations. Who knows what we may find. In any case, where are we headed?"
       "Sector 7. As soon as the gadget boys get that new particle cannon fitted to your Grant, and a few crew changes are made, you are shipping out."
       "Tough sledding. I had hoped for more of a break. Life in those cans is rough. What is it going to take to get a decent sized ship for these long patrols?"
       "I understand that R&D is working on it. The stresses imposed by warp drives is the major problem. R&D has been kicking around some ideas that will allow for bigger ships, and some defense as well. A variation of the fields we currently use for navigation defection."
       "How can navigation defelctors make a ship bigger?"
       "They will create a vitural ship made of force fields that holds the physical ship together and takes the stress off of it. A vitural hull over the real hull to absorb damage. It looks to be very promising."
       "But useless right now. We have to make do with what we have."
       "Afraid so. The new weapons should be of considerable help. Already they are driving the Romulans back. Any place we can achieve superior numbers we have the Romulans right where we want them. It's getting those numbers. Any one of our ships can beat any three of their's, but they seem to have five ships for every one we do. We need you and the Grant out there as soon as possible."
       "I never signed up to be a soldier Rich."
       "None of us did." He held out his hand. "Good voyage, and good luck."
       Nelson left the office, his hat still hanging on the rack.
       Howard Nelson got his kit back the Grant as soon as possible. Admiral Barnard was right, the new uniforms made him feel like Peter Pan, even if they did look better on him than they did Admiral Barnard. He spent the balance of the day signing crew transfers, on and off the Grant. A new first officer, Commander Ami O'Neil. Lt. Nevel the inventive sociologist was leaving, replaced by a tactical/security officer, one Lt. Jody Stiles.
       His door buzzed.
       A young man wearing the new ratings uniform of a one piece coverall belted in the middle stepped in.
       "Spaceman Raymond Hailey reporting sir."
       "Hailey, I have the orders you requested. I must say I am sorry to see you go."
       "Yes Sir, I has been a pleasure to serve under you."
       "If I can ask, why did you want a shore assignment then?"
       Hailey blushed. "I'm getting married Sir."
       Nelson stood up and shook the younger man's hand. "Congratulations then. The best of luck to you and your bride. Here."
       He flipped his terminal around and typed in a few commands, waited a moment. Ripped the sheet off the printer."
       "A man needs a new stripe to wear at his wedding, and a little more pay to help with the family. Congratulations Chief."        "Thank you Sir, thanks a lot. I must say I'll miss you and the Grant."
       "Likewise Ray, I'm going to miss you to." Nelson stood, saluted the young man. "Dismissed, and good luck."
       Nelson looked after the retreating form and sighed. Twenty years ago, he would have done the same thing. But command left no room for family. A ship permitted no mistress. He turned back to the work before him.

       It was the next day before his new XO arrived. Ami O'Neil was bright, red headed and freckled. She looked like she would be more at home in front of a class of first graders, or working the horses in some Irish paddock, than on the bridge of a warship.
       "Commander O'Neil reporting for duty Sir."
       "At ease Commander. Welcome aboard." He rose to shake her hand.
       "Thank you Sir. How long before we sail?"
       "I would give it another week, the shipyard is about finished with us."
       "I don't have a lot of time then."
       "To get to know the crew Sir."
       "Please, sit down. You will have plenty of time. We are headed into the Romulan sector. That is a long haul."
       She smiled, lighting her eyes. "That's good, and bad."
       "Good and bad?"
       "Yes Sir. Good, because I get a chance to know the crew. Bad, because a war zone offers far too many opportunities to write letters that begin; `We regret to inform you'."
       Nelson looked down and sighed. "Yea, it does at that."
       "I understand I am replacing an officer that was killed in action?"
       "That is the story."
       "There is something unsaid, I would like to know what I am getting into Sir."
       Nelson leaned back (there was no room to pace). "Commander Karen Phillips was killed by pointing a gun at the wrong man. She acted in no official capacity. Her reason for pointing that gun was her own. The upshot of the incident was do not point guns at ornery old men, they don't wait until you shoot, to shoot back."
       "If I may be so bold to ask Sir, what do you think about it?"
       "I am sorry to lose a good officer and a friend. I can't say I am over it. It was so, senseless. Up until we got to El Nanth Cmd. Phillips had never demonstrated any unbalancing character flaws. Once we got there, she kind of went over the edge, all over a ship to old to sail, and an incident almost a century old. If I can give you a piece of advice out of this, it is to leave the last generation's grudges with the last generation, we all may live longer."
       "I'll keep that in mind Sir. Can I anticipate and problems in `taking her place' with the crew?"
       "No, I don't think so. The Grant has a good professional crew, they understand that she has to be replaced."
       "Thank you Sir. I anticipate a good voyage."
       "Again, welcome aboard. Dismissed."
       As she was leaving Jody Stiles was right behind her. Jody Stiles suddenly gave Captain Nelson a reason to like the new uniforms. She filled one out in a most, remarkable, way.
       "Lt. Stiles reporting for duty Sir."
       "Yes Lieutenant, welcome aboard." Nelson looked at his papers to gather his wits. "I see you listed as a security and tactical officer. I am not familiar with those duties. Tell me about them."
       "Yes Sir. Security is concerned with internal ships security. Organization against boarding, detection and capture of spies, maintenance and control of hand weapons, and (ahem) suppression of mutiny. Tactical is much the same but outside the ship. I will be responsible for the maintenance and firing of the ship's weapons sir."
       "You are replacing our social scientist, be aware that I regard his loss as a loss indeed."
       "I understand Sir. I am trained in sociology as well, I have a smattering of Xenophology, and life sciences. If it will increase your comfort level Sir I will hone those skills during the voyage."
       "I appreciate your willingness to do so. Please feel free to learn all you can, but not with any pressure from me. My main concern is the loss of my scientists and their replacement with warriors and spooks."
       "Begging your pardon Sir, but I am not a ferret. You will not find me poking into the lives of the men aboard. Everyone on your ship was cleared of any shady background before they entered the service. What I am is a social psychologist trained to watch for the signs of stress that signal a crew break down, to inform you, and aid you in planning activities to relieve that stress, not the gestapo."
       "That's a relief."
       She smiled. "Good. Sir, unless you have further questions, my kit is in the companionway."
       "I do, mainly about that new `gun' we just got, but they can wait. Dismissed. Oh, one other thing. We only have three female officers aboard, you're the odd one out right now. Do you have objections to sharing a cube with a male officer?"
       "No Sir, as long has he doesn't object to me."
       "I don't think he will, carry on."
       It was going to be an interesting voyage.

       The officers of the Grant filed into the ward room. Coffee as usual was being passed around. Anders as usual was talking, in this case, to Cmd O'Neil.
       "...Yea it looks real promising. A little shorter, but almost twice the volume, and warp 4."
       Smith broke into the conversation. "What are you talking about?"
       "Proposed new ship class."
       "Does it have a decent sized briefing room?"
       "Woodie I swear you would serve on a sleeper ship made of paper and pipe dreams if it had decent sized cabins."
       The 6' 4" Smith looked down at the shorter Anders. "In a second."
       Captain Nelson came in and took the place of privilege. "Everyone here?"
       Nods and confirmation from the officers around the table.
       Nelson continued. "OK, we have several new faces, so I read off the list in order of seniority. Commander Ami O'Neil is our executive officer. Lieutenant Anthony Anders our chief engineer, Lieutenant Jason Reves, navigation and sensor specialist, Lieutenant Woodrow Smith helm and communication specialist, Lieutenant Jody Stiles, security and tactical officer, Doctor Marcus M'Benga is our medical doctor and sciences officer, Ensigns Angelia Clark, Oliver Garth, and Cody Skywatcher serve where needed. I would like to welcome officers O'Neil, Stiles, and M'Benga to the Grant."
       Nelson shuffled his papers for a second. "Our orders, in general, are to patrol Sector 7, the Romulan war zone. We will be reporting to Commodore Ricktoffin at Starbase 3 for specific orders and instructions. Any questions?"
       He waited a moment, papers were move and throats cleared, but no questions.
       "Inform the crewmen in you section that we are on a war patrol. Everyone should leave last letters and final instructions with Fleet before we depart. Such materials filed on the ship may not survive to be delivered. Also make sure you do the same, and not forget while busy reminding everyone else."
       There was a smattering of low laughter. Dr. M'Benga spoke.
       "Sir, is the chance of the ship being that totally destroyed that good?"
       Lt. Stiles fielded the question. "Doctor, from the reports I have read, you tend to come out of a ship to ship fight smelling like roses, or shattered bits and pieces. The weapons of choice, are nuclear tipped missiles. Even a near miss doesn't tend to damage a ship. A direct hit destroys it."
       "An all or nothing situation, very bad."
       Cmd. O'Neil finished up. "As a result of this, we don't even know what the people we are fighting look like. All we know is we approached them, and they attacked. Every overture we have made for peace has failed. For what ever reason, the Romulans want this fight."
       M'Benga sighed. "And we cannot allow the aggression to go unanswered. War, war, endless war. No sooner have we learned to not war with each other, than we must fight others."
       Smith leaned into the table. "Any positive spin on this?"
       Nelson looked around. "Well, we don't have a deadline for getting there. So any science we run into we are free to pursue, within a reasonable period."
       "Well, we can hope to run into some."
       Nelson looked around the table. "Anyone have something to add?" He waited a moment. "Good, lets get this crate ready for departure."

       Like any ship about to patrol the Grant held a bon voyage party. And like any such gathering from a warship, if possible, it was held on the station were room was to be had. Nelson moved through the party. He, the crew of the Grant, and their guests had commandeered one of the bigger rooms on the expanding Earth spacedock, food and drink provided.
       He could feel a certain desperate edge to the entire affair. The traditional farewell gala had, changed. They were launching tomorrow for a patrol that would last at least two years, if not more. However, the level of celebration was not equal to the proposed time away. These people partied like they would never party again. It worried him a bit, but the atmosphere was contagious. Then again, they might be right. It couldn't hurt to let down the hair once in a while.

       He woke up in the morning in a strange bed. The events of the previous night were foggy. Slowly it started to come back to him, the party had gotten pretty wild. He had a bit too much to drink. And he and Ami O'Neil.... He looked on the other side of the bed, yep, there she was. His eyes lingered over the curves of her body. Then reality hit him. They sailed this morning! Were where they and what time was it? The bedside table of wherever they where had a crono on it. Good God, they had an hour to get back.
       He gave Ami a shake. She woke suddenly.
       "Where, what?"
       Then she noticed their mutual state of undress. Nelson didn't know a human could turn that shade of red.
       "We have an hour to get back to the ship. From wherever we are."
       "Oh God. What did..."
       Nelson rolled out of bed. "We can discuss it later. Right now both the Captain and the First Officer AWOL from their own ship would look pretty bad."
       "Errr, right."
       She bounced up (nice bounce he noted) and started flying back into uniform, as was he. He grimaced at the sight of the rumpled uniform. He hardly looked shipshape to board his own ship. As they dressed his eye caught a pad that said "SkyHilton - Earth Spacedock". He pointed it out.
       "We aren't sunk yet. We're not that far from the ship. You head on out, I'll check out of the hotel. I think we'll get less comment if we don't arrive at the lock at the same time in rumpled uniforms."
       She grinned, "Yes sir. Well, I did say I wanted to know the crew. You're a good place to start."
       It was his turn to blush.
       They both got back with time to spare. Chief Chalmers met him at the lock with a straight face, and a knowing look. There was no fooling the Chief.
       "Fresh uniform laid out in your cabin Sir."
       "Thanks Chief." His head was starting to throb. It occurred to him that it done so since he got up, but he was just now noticing it.
       "Morning after on your desk Sir."
       "My mother isn't as good Chief."
       "My pleasure Sir." He had the grin of an experienced Lech.
       "What's the state of the crew Chief?"
       "About as bad as you Sir, if not a little worse."
       "Are they all in?"
       "No Sir."
       "Extend leaves by two hours Chief."
       "Yes Sir, noted Sir."
       Nelson retired to his cabin for a change, and relief.

       They ended up four hours late leaving Spacedock. He had to bail three crewmen out of the brig, and the entire ship had a hangdog, and glad of it, look to them. Considering where they were headed, it was a Hell of a send-off.

       The Grant was three weeks out from Earth and all was quiet. The crew replacements had settled in quickly, routine was reestablishing itself, and that bon voyage party was almost recovered from. Nelson sat in the command chair of the Grant's bridge idling away another shift while the two ratings at the Nav console made small talk.
       "So, Billy, what's the movie tonight?"
       "Zefarm Cochrane, Promise of the Future."
       "Didn't we see that last night?"
       "Why are we seeing it tonight?"
       "Chief likes 'Zefarm Cochrane'."
       "Why does the Chief pick all the movies. We'll spend the entire voyage seeing 'Zefarm Cochrane' if he has all the say. Remember the Chief's last obsession with a film?"
       "Yea, 'Klan the Betrayer'. What ever happened to it?"
       "I think it got lost in a disposal unit."
       "I liked 'Klan the Betrayer'."
       "Heck, so did I, but every night for a week?"
       "I liked 'Klan the Betrayer'. Chief got a new copy, and a load of other new films too."
       "Hopefully we'll see them before 'Zefarm Cochrane' drives us nuts."
       Jarvis held up a hand to cut Billy off, and addressed Captain Nelson.
       "Blip Sir, heading 355 mark 10"
       Nelson came out of his doze. "Heading and speed?"
       "Heading 226 mark 137, speed, .001c."
       "Working Sir." A long moment passed. "About twice the Grant Sir."
       "Drop to impulse speed, match speed and heading of the target."
       "Aye, aye Sir, matching speed and heading."
       "Turn on the lights, lets have a look at it."
       The object was a ship once. Its graceful lines blurred by the action of Interstellar dust. It tumbled slowly. The bridge crew watched in silence as the lights played across the old ship. Parts seemed to be missing, the flowing lines seem incomplete.
       The Grant's officers drifted onto the bridge as word of the find filtered throughout the ship. Cmd O'Neil was the first to ask.
       "Do you want an EVA team Sir?"
       Nelson looked lost in though, his eyes absorbing the details of the derelict.
       "Sir?" She repeated.
       "Oh, yes, Excuse me. Yes, a personal look is a good idea. Take Anders and four crewmen. Use a shuttle."
       "Yes sir. Any special instructions?"
       "No, just do a thorough job, and we'll examine the data before we continue."
       "Yes Sir. I'll get started at once."
       She left the bridge dragging Anders with her. Nelson went back to looking at the tumbling ship and its haunting graceful lines.

       It took a good hour to get the shuttle loaded, the bay decompressed and the shuttle launched. Crossing to the wreck was a minor matter. Getting into it would be a problem. Spaceman Enders explained.
       "Well, see that spin will make you heavier than heck near either end, and makes latching on a real problem."
       O'Neil was impatient. "Can you latch on?"
       "Yes Sir."
       "Then match the spin and get us attached, hard."
       "Yes Sir."
       A few moments latter they were fast to the wreck.
       O'Neil ordered. "Now, kill our spin."
       After a goodly expenditure of fuel the wreck, and the shuttle lay still in space. O'Neil reported back to the Grant.
       "We are ready to board Captain."
       Nelson watched from the bridge. "OK, be careful."
       The EVA team moved to the ship's hatch. Anders looked at the triangular controls.
       "So, which one opens the doors, and which one blows it up?"
       Ami O'Neil grinned through her faceplate. "You pick."
       Anders shrugged, and punched one. Nothing happened. Likewise for every one he hit, nothing. He looked at the rest of the team.
       "No power, now what?"
       O'Neil thought a moment. "We blast."
       The detcord was brought, set and the EVA team retreated to the shuttle. The "Bang" was transmitted through the hulls. Anders peered out the shuttle window.
       "So, what was the result."
       The Grant answered. "All flash, no hole."
       O'Neil hrumphed. "OK, we'll try that big transparent port."
       Once again they went out and placed the explosives. Once again they retreated to the shuttle. The Grant reported back to them.
       "You have a hole this time. It cut a neat chunk out of the port. No depressurization either."
       The ship was a yacht. The decks were large and open, huge spaces that the Grant could not afford.
       Anders commented dryly. "Woodie would love this." No controls were visible, even in the cabin they took for the bridge, flat indigo colored panels with no controls. Signs of luxury abounded. Long couches snaked around the walls of one cabin, the pillows floating and frozen solid. A large brick of ice was frozen behind a transparent panel
       O'Neil looked at it a while. "Hey Tony, what do you make of this?"
       "Aquarium? If so that ice will hold some interesting things."
       "I means the ship froze before the gravity failed."
       Anders tapped the glass. "Yea, you have a point there."
       Nelson broke in on the line. "What do you have?"
       O'Neil replied. "Large block, say 500 gallons of what looks to be water ice. It's contained in a well, a container. Should break it out and bring it back? We think it's an aquarium."
       "Assuming your right, it could hold all sorts of nasty surprises."
       "True sir, but if we don't bring it back we gain nothing."
       "OK, but wrap it well, and decontam when you get back."
       "Yes Sir. Alright, now, how do we get it out?"
       Several minutes of banging and tugging finally resulted in O'Neil pulling her hand cannon and blasting the "glass" away. The ice was practically untouched by the commotion.
       "OK, we have that, what else is there?"
       Spaceman Grover answered it for them. "I found the living cabins, I think they were humans."
       A minute later the four of them were standing over the bed. Floating slightly above it was the desiccated remains of what looked like four people they where so dry and so heavily clothed that gender was impossible to ascertain. Two were smaller than the other two, clearly children. A cocoon of blankets floated right above them, frozen in its shape. They looked closer. A small head could barely be seen under the clothing of one of the larger of the group. Ami O'Neil turned away.
       Lt. Anders floated in the somber scene. "They froze to death, hugging each other."
       Anders fumbled for the switch on the suit radio. "Anders to Grant, come in please."
       "Nelson here go ahead Anders."
       "We have located five bodies, frozen together. It looks like a family, parents, two children, an infant. We are taking lots of pictures. They, look human from what we can see."
       "Can you get the bodies."
       "I don't know that we can get them to the Grant without damage Sir. I don't want to damage them."
       "Tony, can you send me an image."
       "Yes Sir."
       Anders plugged the camera into his suit, and widened the beam.
       Nelson and the bridge crew saw the image on the viewscreen. Several gasps were heard around the bridge.
       Nelson fingered the mike. "Tony, take clippings, clothing, flesh, but don't disfigure them."
       "Yes sir, I can do that."
       "Then get back and look at those drives."
       "Yes sir."
       Anders and O'Neil quickly took the requested samples and sealed them. Tony Anders was a paler of the two by the time they were done.
       O'Neil took a good look at him. "Anders, are you going to sick in the suit on me?"
       Anders swallowed hard. "No Sir, but moving on would be a nice idea."
       "I concur with that."
       They moved further back into the ship. Continued searching found more empty rooms, but no further bodies. A few interesting items got snagged and placed in sample bags. At last they reached a door clean across the ship. Short work with the jaws reveled why the ship was dead. O'Neil called back to the Grant.
       "No secrets of warp drive from this one Captain. I now know why the ship looks unfinished."
       "What's missing, as if I need to know."
       "The entire engineering section, unless they did a great job hiding it as a lounge."
       Nelson sighed. "Alright, come on back."
       "On our way."

       "Mr. Smith, your elbows are bony indeed."
       "My apologies Mr. Stiles, if you forgive my protrusions, I'll forgive yours."
       She gave him a dirty look. The two were sharing a cabin. Ship scuttlebutt had them mating like mad minks. Neither one would confirm or deny.
       Anders lolled over his cup of coffee. "If you two will stop obsessing over your body parts, the others might get here."
       Stiles answered. "I don't think body parts have anything to do with it."
       O'Neil walked in on the tail of the comment. "What about body parts, someone missing any?"
       "Lt. Anders will be missing his less useful head in a moment."
       Anders made an exaggerated hands over the crotch gesture.
       "Wrong head."
       Egn. Clarke stirred her tea. "Men think far too much on pelvic matters."
       Anders shot a look at Smith. "Hey, the women are ganging up on me."
       Smith sat back (as much as he dared). "Most fellas would like the attention. What's with you?"
       Reves came in, bringing a cup of coffee followed by M'Benga.
       Reves said. "What, did we miss something."
       Smith replied. "Nothing important. I was just questioning the good engineer as to why we can't weld that nice big lounge on the Grant."
       Anders jumped at a less personal line of conversation. "We can weld it on easy, its keeping it that is hard."
       "They kept it."
       O'Neil took a sip. "He has a point Tony. They kept it on there."
       Anders was into his subject. "I will also point out that the ship is ripped in two and dead, along with the passengers. It's the stresses. We can't make the materials any stronger than they are. With what we have pushing warp 4 causes structural failure, and engine overheating. Even with a small, very strong ship and really big engine. Warp 4 is the limit of the technology. If we built a ship like that warp 2 would be pushing the limits. The Centaurii Liners are built spacious, and wallow like whales. 6 month round trip from Earth to Centaurii."
       Smith said. "So you don't think the alien ship did better than warp 2?"
       "Hard to say, we don't have any data."
       Nelson came in and got his coffee, he didn't interrupt.
       Reves jumped back in. "What about the Savanna? According to the Ane the ship was making a light year a week. That is close to warp 4. And that was in the 2160s."
       Anders was on a roll now. "I don't know about that. The ship is small and well built, but warp 4, even the 3.8 it would take. I don't know."
       O'Neil asked. "Maybe you were looking at the wrong ship?"
       Anders conceded. "The lady has a point. Maybe we looked at the wrong ship."
       Nelson broke in. "Very interesting, I'll include the suggestion in my next subspace packet. Meanwhile we have a very interesting problem right here. The matter of the Aliens. Dr. M'Benga, your report please.
       M'Benga looked around, decided that standing was out of the question, and reported in his seat. Stiles interrupted before he started. "There is a reason we don't stand when the Captain enters."
       A brief wave of laughter lightened things.
       M'Benga continued. "Indeed. However, The samples of flesh and the contents of the ice block have had a preliminary study. The ice block; Water ice with a sodium chloride concentration of .04 percent. Other elements including ammonia and sulfur dioxide were present in trace amounts. The ice contained 5 objects identified for the moment as animal life forms and 15 objects identified as possible plant life forms. The bottom of the ice was coated in a substance that consisted of various minerals, an exact breakdown is in the report, and a heavy organic factor that could be commonly called "soil". Other objects found in the block are tentively identified as artifacts. Presumably to regulate the environment of the container." He shuffled through the papers.
       "Second group of related object given to me were a number of "fabric" and dry tissue samples taken from the bodies found. We are not making any firm statements here, but the tissue samples are consistent with human tissue preserved under the same circumstances. We are attempting to extract genetic evidence. However, we did run an age test. Samples are consistently over 20,000 years of age."
       Nelson cleared his throat. "You think we would get used to shocking things after we got enough shocks."
       Smith answered. "Different shocks. You sure they are human?"
       M'Benga replied. "No, I am not. We would need larger samples, preferably the entire bodies for autopsy."
       Nelson looked very uncomfortable, as did Anders and O'Neil.
       M'Benga continued. "I realize, that certain of you have formed an attachment to the pathos of the scene. However, allow us to be practical. What spirits exist, have long flown from this place. Given a choice, these people would not choose such an end I think. Allow us to study them, and we can see they get a proper burial on a warm, wet world."
       Nelson looked a little less pained. "Anyone have a problem with that?"
       No one answered. OK, we will recover the bodies. Full isolation. 20,000 years old or not, lets not get any space bugs a chance."

Continued in: Part Two

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The Above is a work of fiction. All characters are fictional, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.

Copyright Garry Stahl: May 1998. All rights reserved, re-print only with permission.

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