Just Like Home

Commander Riis*shess and his Executive Officer Krrkehkegg were preparing the duty rosters for the coming cycle. As members of the Federation’s Diplomatic and Exploration Corps, the Commander and crew of the survey ship Infinite Curiosity rarely suffered the burden of routine and boring assignments, and this cycle would surely be no exception.

What’s more, as tedious as this administrative task might have been, it was nevertheless vitally important; every assignment had to be at least substantially compatible with the assigned crewmember. It would be thoughtless, and possibly hazardous, to assign an exobiologist from the water planet of Brissshh to perform a survey on an arid desert world. Similarly, those crewmembers from jungle planets tended to perform poorly on frozen and glaciated worlds.

“Who do you think should go down to deliver a speech of welcome to the new Federation citizens of Pirghgan III?” rumbled Krrkehkegg.

Riis*shess blooped softly a moment, then decisively said “Lieutenant Mawdrrachxt. She is an excellent speaker, and the temperature and humidity there are close to that of her homeworld.” Krrkehkegg nodded in acknowledgement.

“What about that ice planet on the edge of the habitable zone?” he grated. “Pirghgan VII I believe it is. We’ll be insystem long enough to do a decent survey, and it would be good to flesh out its entry in the planetary database.” The DEC was famous for its love of new data, curiosity being a major requirement for admission to the Corps.

“Yes, we should take advantage of the opportunity. Have Lieutenant O’Grady select a survey team.”

Krrkehkegg cleared his throat (which sounded like a minor rock slide) and said “Apologies, Commander, but I believe Lieutenant O’Grady would be unsuited for this assignment. She comes from a tropical world.”

The Commander turned his attention to the XO. “What makes you say that?”

“Do you remember when the environmental controls for the dining room and exercise facilities were misbehaving?”

“Of course.” The simultaneous failure of a cooling subsystem and runaway operation of a humidifying air filter had produced an unbearably hot and humid environment in that section of the ship. It had remained strictly off-limits for most of the crew until the systems could be repaired.

“Well, the Lieutenant supervised the engineering team that performed the repairs. She spent several duty periods in that environment, and I distinctly remember her telling me afterwards that it reminded her of her ‘summer vacations’ when she was a juvenile. Therefore, her planet is most assuredly a hot and humid one.”

Riis*shess’s torso undulated slightly as he thought. “But XO,” he said, thoughtfully, “Lieutenant O’Grady was also a member of the negotiation team that helped resolve that resources dispute on Murhlink III. That planet was an ice ball in truth — barely on the edge of habitability. And the Lieutenant told ME that it had reminded her of a seasonal holiday called ‘Christmastime’. It can be hard to know for sure of course, but it had seemed to make her quite homesick. Surely she must come from an ice planet.”

“Well,” grumbled Krrkehkegg, “It’s easy enough to find out. We know she’s from Earth. Just pull up her file, find her home coordinates, then cross-correlate that location with local recorded seasonal weather patterns.”

Riis*shess reached out a manipulator and tapped deftly and rapidly on his screen. Images flickered as he queried the system, selected a data field, and queried the system again. When the screen displayed the results of his search, both the Commander and Krrkehkegg leaned in to view it. There was a moment of silence.

“Who could possibly live in a place like that?” wondered Riis*shess in hushed burbles.

“It must be the axial inclination. And to be fair, neither the seasonal high nor the seasonal low approach the limits observed for known life forms.”

“True, true. But have you ever heard of a race that could endure BOTH that kind of heat and that kind of cold?”

“No, never.”

The two officers looked at one another in amazement, then the Commander spoke again, more thoughtfully.

“What kind of sentient being would choose to live in such a hellish place? And what must it be like, this Minne-sota?”