Based loosely on Star Trek, which is copyrighted by CBS and VIACOM. They own it all. There's nothing you can do about it. Here's hoping they don't care enough to sue.

Author: Alan Decker
Copyright: 1993

Star Traks

Claire Webber: The Hugging Hunter

by Alan Decker

“God, I hate this,” Commander Travis Dillon, first officer of the Starship Secondprize moaned as he pushed his way through another mass of thorny underbrush. “Why couldn’t we have just beamed into the middle of the village instead of half a mile outside of it?”

“This is a primitive culture,” Counselor Claire Webber replied. “They’ve never seen a transporter before.”

“Fine, then why couldn’t the Kynaxins handle this themselves instead of sending us in?”

“They tried,” Lieutenant Commander Jaroch said, wondering if Dillon had slept through the entire mission briefing. “The Oloni natives have killed every Kynaxin they’ve encountered.”

“Charming,” Dillon commented.

“The government of Kynax is a member of the Federation, which entitles them to ask for our assistance,” Jaroch continued. “They have started to colonize this moon and want to make peace with the natives of Oloni before any more people are killed.”

“I don’t like this. I feel like I’m breaking the Prime Directive here,” Dillon said. “I mean, we are going to be affecting the development of a culture.”

“Yes, but technically they are residents of Kynax which makes them Federation members as well,” Webber replied.

“Oh, so we can mess with them all we want. That’s better.”

“Something like that,” Jaroch said. They were coming up on the outskirts of the first village. The information they had received from the Kynaxins revealed that Oloni culture was extremely polarized sexually; women lived in one village and men in the other. They had almost no contact except at religious festivals in mid-winter and mid-summer. Needless to say, a lot of what went on at those festivals was designed to ensure the next generation of Oloni.

“Well, Counselor, how do you think we should go about this?” Dillon asked as the three away team members watched the village from the underbrush.

“This is an extremely delicate situation. These people are about to have their entire lives changed. I’m not sure how to best break that to them. I guess we should start at the top.”

“You mean the old ‘take me to your leader’ approach?”


“Fine then, we’ll go with that. Go talk to them, Counselor,” Commander Dillon ordered.

“But you’re in charge of the away team,” she protested.

“You have more experience breaking things to people gently!” Dillon said more forcefully.

“You’re in command. You do it!”

“You’re damn right I’m in command!” Dillon shouted. “That’s why you’re going to do it!”

“I think that we will all have to do it,” Jaroch interrupted.

“Why?!” Dillon and Webber shouted.

“Because there is an angry-looking mob of approximately forty of them standing about three feet in front of us,” Jaroch replied. Dillon and Webber turned from each other and looked into the village. Their gaze didn’t go far since their line of sight was blocked by a wall of seven-foot tall, extremely muscular females who didn’t look very friendly.

“Hi there,” Dillon said with a weak smile and a wave. The female in the center of the group stepped forward. Obviously, she was the one in charge. She was about four inches taller than the tallest of her followers and, besides the typical native garb, wore a cape made from the hide of some unknown animal. “I am Commander Travis Michael Dillon of the Federation Starship Secondprize. I’ve been sent to…”

“Kill him,” the chieftess ordered.

“You cannot just order his death like that,” Jaroch protested.

“Kill him too.”

“You don’t even know what we want yet!” Webber shouted. These people were definitely not friendly, and this was not turning out to be a fun away mission. Webber preferred happy, friendly cultures. They’d talk, exchange hugs, and everything would be fine. These people didn’t look like they’d enjoy a hug at all.

The leader thought for a moment about Webber’s statement.

“You are right,” she said finally. “Imprison the males and bring her to the place of hearing.” The chieftess turned and strode away through the crowd.

Dillon seriously considered running until three large sets of arms grabbed him and dragged him into the village. He and Jaroch were thrown into a small hut at the edge of a courtyard in the center of town.

“Phasers would have been helpful,” Jaroch commented, rubbing the large bump that forming on his head from his collision with the floor of the hut.

“This was a diplomatic mission with a primitive culture. Regulations forbid it,” Dillon replied.

“Considering what befell the Kynaxians who preceded us, I believe an exception could have been made.”

“Regulations don’t have exceptions!” Dillon snapped.

“How silly of me,” Jaroch said. Going down this route any further with Dillon was a waste of his time and energy. Perhaps a different tactic. “We could always call for beam out. They did not take our commbadges.”

Dillon thought about it for a moment, then nodded. “I like that. But let’s see how the counselor does first. I like to give junior officers a chance to prove themselves.”

“I am sure she appreciates the opportunity,” Jaroch said, settling in to wait.

Outside, they could hear the villagers gathering in the courtyard. Dillon moved to the door and peeked out through the crack between it and its frame. The crowd was massed in front of a raised platform upon which stood a throne and upon that sat the chieftess. Webber, flanked on either side by an armed native, was brought up onto the platform.

“Now then, short one, tell us why we should not execute your companions,” the chieftess ordered. The two guards stepped away from Webber, but were still within range to act if she were to make a break for it. Of course, the mob in the courtyard would make running away really difficult anyway.

“Well…” Webber began nervously. “We are here on behalf of the Kynaxins.”

“Who are they?” the chieftess snapped impatiently. One of the guards stepped forward to speak.

“Uh…I believe that they were the people we killed last week, your highness.”

“Oh yeah. What did they want again?”

“We killed them before they could tell us,” the guard replied.

“Oh. Never mind then. I’m sure that our captive here will me more than happy to tell us.”

“They want to make a treaty with you and help your people,” Webber replied.

“How can they help us?” the chieftess demanded.

“They have medical abilities far beyond your own, for one thing. Also, they have devices that produce food, so you would never have to hunt again.”

“Ha! If they are so great, how come we killed them so easily?”

“They did not come armed, since they didn’t want to fight you.”

“Oh. Well, they sound like weaklings to me,” the chieftess replied obviously unimpressed. “Do you have any other reasons why we shouldn’t kill your companions?” Webber started to get worried. Logic was definitely not working with these people.

“Jaroch’s brilliant and he’s a great scientist and he’s real smart and he knows a lot about computers, not that you have any, but he could build you one and he’s pretty strong and he’s possessed, it’s a past life, actually, well a bunch of them, that’s not a great reason. Did I mention he’s real smart?”

“What about the other one?”

“Uh…Commander Dillon is…uh…real good at giving orders and…he…uh…is great at sucking up to people more powerful than he is. And killing them just wouldn’t be very nice!” Well, maybe they’d at least spare Jaroch.

“Is she trying to get me killed?” Commander Dillon exclaimed turning to Jaroch. Jaroch was seated in the corner of the hut looking at the floor.

“Probably,” Jaroch replied without looking up. “Now that you have given her this amazing opportunity.”

Dillon turned back to the crack, fuming. He was good at lots of stuff. Webber was probably just nervous and having a hard time thinking clearly, but this was his life she was playing with!

“Look,” Webber continued desperately. “Making peace with the Kynaxins cannot do anything but help your people. I just don’t know how to convince you.”

“I can see by the passion in your voice that you really believe that you can help us,” the chieftess replied. “I appreciate that and admire your dedication to helping others; therefore, I will give you a chance to prove the depth of this dedication and, if you succeed, I will follow your advice.”

“Really? That’s great! What do I have to do?”

“You must hunt down and bring us back a Stuyluppo!” the chieftess stated. This proclamation was followed by gasps from the crowd.

“Is that the only way?” Webber asked hopefully. She abhorred the idea of having to kill an innocent animal.

“Yes, but be warned, the Stuyluppo is a vicious killer. Its blood-curdling howl can be heard for miles, and it means death for all who approach. We will supply you with proper hunting garb and a weapon, but you must do the rest.”

“Thanks, but I’d prefer my uniform,” Webber replied not wanting to be separated from her communicator.

“Too bad,” the chieftess replied. “Prepare her.” The two guards returned to Webber’s side and escorted her to a hut where she could change. Fifteen minutes later, she was shoved off into the forest with nothing but a spear to protect her. Webber considered the current situation. Alone in woods she didn’t know anything about in clothes that weren’t hers armed with a spear she didn’t know how to use and expected to kill something she’d never seen before and didn’t want to kill in order to save her shipmates. All in all, things could be going better.

“That’s it,” Commander Dillon announced after he watched as Webber was pushed off into the forest. The mission was a failure. She had no combat training to help her. Webber was going to be eaten by some monster, and that would be the end of it. There was no reason for Jaroch and him to hang around any longer. They’d just beam up to the ship, find’s Webber’s mutilated corpse if they couldn’t rescue you her in time, and then tell the Kynaxins to deal with the Oloni themselves. “Dillon to Secondprize,” he said slapping his commbadge.

“What is it, Number One?” the voice of Captain Alexander Rydell replied.

“We’re in trouble down here. Jaroch and I have been imprisoned, and Webber has been sent off to kill some vicious, murdering monster. The Oloni obviously don’t want to talk to us. I recommend that in order to keep the number of wasted lives down to a minimum, we be beamed up immediately.”

“Understood,” Rydell replied. Seconds later, Jaroch disappeared in a flurry of molecules.

“Hey!” Dillon shouted. “What about me?!?”

“You need to see to Counselor Webber’s safety,” Rydell replied.

“But when she doesn’t come back, they’re going to kill me!”

“That’s the danger of being a Starfleet officer.”

“Can I at least have a phaser?”

“No!” Rydell shouted. “Secondprize out.” Dillon sat down on the dirt floor and put his head in his hands. This was not the way his life was supposed to end. He had a long and glorious career still ahead of him. He was supposed to die peacefully in his sleep many, many years from now. There would be a galactic day of mourning, and a holiday established in his honor. Getting killed here just wouldn’t be fair.

Counselor Webber was really getting to see a lot of the flora of Oloni. She had thus far been trapped in a web of some kind of purple vine, had her feet nipped at by some carnivorous grasses, and refused a rather lewd offer from a talking flower.

Strangely enough, though, considering the amount of life around her, she hadn’t seen any animals at all. She took this as a good sign that she was getting close to a Stuyluppo. The other fauna were probably giving it a wide berth.

As she entered a clearing, a sudden, earth-shattering howl broke the stillness of the forest. Webber jumped about ten feet back and collided with one trees bordering the clearing. Branches wrapped around her and gently squeezed. She could swear that she heard a sigh of contentment. Turning around, she gave the tree a hug. The sigh got louder and the brown trunk turned a lovely shade of green. Hugging trees? She had to get some of these for the Secondprize! Every crew person would be required to have one in their quarters and hug it daily…no hourly!

She pranced happily around the clearing hugging every tree. Soon, they were all bright green and sighing contently. Now this was more like it! She sat down in the center of the clearing and gazed around at all the happy trees.

Another howl quickly brought her back to the reality of her situation. If she didn’t hurry up and find that Stuyluppo, Jaroch and Dillon would never get the chance to hug a tree. Of course, neither of them really seemed to like hugging. Jaroch was always too serious, and Dillon was just plain uptight. Maybe she could just stay here. Their deaths wouldn’t be too big of a loss. Wait! She was responsible for the psychological welfare of the Secondprize crew, and being held captive and then executed would probably be extremely mentally damaging to Jaroch and Dillon. She stood up and marched resolutely out of the clearing toward the origin of the howl.

As Webber moved closer and closer to the howls’ origin, they became more and more frequent. Fear ran through her body. Her hands were ice cold. All she wanted to do was turn around and run back the other way, but she had to save her crewmates. She kept on going.

Finally, she came to another clearing. Inside it was the most hideous thing she had ever seen in her life. It was bigger than two elephants put together. Dark brown, rough looking fur covered its walrus-like body right up to its mammoth bear-like head. As the creature let out another howl, Webber saw its gigantic mouth. Sharp teeth the size of her entire body lined the inside of the gaping maw. She raised her spear and readied herself. For a few moments she just stood there motionless. The Stuyluppo put its head down on the ground and just lay there. With its mouth closed, it was almost cute. Webber tried to ignore this and just carry out her mission.

“I can’t do it,” she said finally dropping the spear. Killing this animal went against everything she believed in.

“Well, that’s a relief,” a great, booming voice replied. Webber looked around frantically, trying to figure out who said that. The only thing around was the Stuyluppo. She approached it cautiously. “I’m not going to eat you,” the voice continued. The Stuyluppo’s mouth didn’t move at all, but Webber was sure that it was what was talking to her.

“Hello,” she said. “My name is Claire.”

“I am Jonil,” the Stuyluppo replied. “It’s nice to meet you. Have a seat.” Well, it seemed very friendly. Webber sat down in front of her companion.

“I’m sorry about trying to kill you, but the natives are holding two of my friends and have threatened to execute them.”

“Quite all right,” Jonil replied. “They are a violent sort, but I’ve managed to keep them away.”

“How? I don’t mean to offend you, but you didn’t exactly try to stop me when I showed up.”

“You are the first one ever to come this close. My howl keeps the natives away. They’re scared to death of it.”

“They say you’re a vicious, murdering monster.”

“Look, I haven’t moved from this spot since I crashed on this rock.”

“You’re not from here?” Webber asked in shock.

“No. I was an explorer for my race. I was out on a routine assignment when I got sucked into some kind of wormhole. Next thing I knew, I was plummeting to the surface here.”

“Where is the wreckage from your ship?”

“Ship?” Jonil asked confused.

“The vehicle you traveled through space in.”

“I am my vehicle,” Jonil replied. “Normally I would leave here and be on my way, but the gravity is much much stronger than that on my world. I can’t off of the ground. I’m lucky I can get around to forage for food.”

“I think that I can help you with your problem, Jonil.” Webber said as she put her arms around the big creature’s neck consolingly. “But I need you to help me bring in a vicious Stuyluppo.”

“A what?”

“Stuyluppo. That is the native’s name for you.”

“They’ve never even seen me,” Jonil replied insulted. “How could they give me a horrible name like that?”

“Don’t take it personally. Come with me.”

“Where are we going?”

“To the Oloni village.”

“But they’ll kill me,” Jonil protested.

“No they won’t. Trust me.”

“The woman has not returned,” the chieftess stated from her throne. “Bring out the prisoners.” In the prison hut, Commander Travis Dillon braced himself for the worst. As soon as the hut door opened, he burst out crying.

“Please don’t kill me!” he wailed falling at the guard’s feet. Ignoring him, the guard threw Dillon across her shoulder and carried him outside. A few moments later, he was tossed unceremoniously onto the throne platform in the courtyard.

“The other one is gone,” the guard said.

“Where is he?” the chieftess demanded.

“He escaped,” Dillon replied.

“Then why are you still here?”

“I figured that if you caught us escaping, we’d be killed. I didn’t want you to kill me,” Dillon replied blubbering.

“You should have escaped. Kill him.”

The guard raised her spear and prepared to strike. Dillon looked up at her with his best attempt at puppy dog eyes. She started laughing and raised the spear a bit higher. A sudden loud howl diverted the crowd’s attention. “Stop!” the chieftess ordered. Counselor Webber emerged from the forest carrying a flower.

“I have brought you your Stuyluppo!” Webber announced raising the flower over her head. A mouth opened in the flower and let out another blood-curdling howl. “You and your people have been scared of a flower with a loud voice! I have done what you ask. Now let my friend and I go.” The chieftess nodded to the guard who lowered her spear. Dillon picked himself up off the platform relieved and ran down to Webber.

“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you,” Dillon said grabbing Webber in a bear hug. When Dillon was scared enough, he did appreciate hugs. Webber would just have to work on that…and his technique. This hug was way too clingy.

The chieftess stood up from her throne and walked down to Webber. “It was a flower?”

“Yes, your chiefliness.”

“Perhaps there are some things we can learn from others,” the chieftess said. “I will talk to the next Kynaxin group that comes to visit us. They will see we have some things to teach them as well.” She clapped her hands quickly and another Oloni ran over with Webber’s uniform. “You have my thanks, Claire Webber.”

“And thank you,” Webber replied. “The hunt was an eye-opening experience for me.

“Yeah and thank you for throwing me in a damn cell!” Dillon said angrily. “I hit my head and…” Webber stomped on Dillon’s foot. He shut up.

“We will go now,” Webber said as she turned and headed back into the forest. Dillon followed sulking.

“I just wanted to tell her exactly what I thought of her treatment of me,” Dillon said. “I am a Starfleet officer. That entitles me to…”

“This is your friend?” Jonil interrupted. Dillon quickly spotted where the voice was coming from and turned white.


“Well, he’s my commanding officer,” Webber replied.

“Hey! When do I get my kiss?” the flower demanded. Webber lightly kissed the plant and put him down. He hopped off into the woods on his stem. “If you’re ever back in the area, come find me,” he called as he hopped away.

“Th…flower…duh…talk…unnnnnh.” Dillon collapsed to the ground in a dead faint.

“I thought two people came here with you.”

“Jaroch apparently escaped without Commander Dillon,” Webber replied. Webber took the commbadge off her uniform and tapped it. “Webber to Secondprize.”

“Rydell here. It’s good to hear from you, Counselor”

“Trust me. I feel the same way. We’re ready to beam up, but I have a large friend with me that needs to be beamed directly to the shuttlebay.”

“Acknowledged. Secondprize out.” Seconds later, Webber, Dillon, and Jonil were gone.

“I want to thank you for your hospitality, Captain,” Jonil said as he prepared to leave.

“Not a problem,” Rydell replied. “You helped members of my crew out. The least I can do is return the favor.”

“Yes. Your Counselor Webber deserves most of the credit, though. It was her idea to have the flower pretend to be me. Luckily, the plant was more than willing to oblige. I just sat back in the woods and howled when Claire raised the plant into the air.”

“Well, the important thing is that it worked,” Webber said.

“Yes. But I have a long journey ahead, so I must go,” Jonil said. “Thank you again. Goodbye, Claire.”

“Goodbye, Jonil.” Webber and Rydell walked up to the shuttlebay observation area and watched as the huge doors opened and Jonil sailed out into the void.

“Well, Counselor,” the captain said as they walked out into the hall. “You made peace with the Oloni, opened the door to a Kynax/Oloni treaty, and established relations with a fantastic new life-form all in one day. Pretty impressive.”

“Thank you, thank you,” Webber replied with a bow. “Can I ask a small favor in return?”

“What is it?” Rydell asked not sure what was coming.

“Well, I found these great trees…”

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