Saturday, 10 February 2018

The Joys and Woes of an Arboretum

CAPT Anni Potts

When I first took command of Space Station Centaur, I was quite overwhelmed by the size of the arboretum. With a diameter of over 800m, it's a beautiful space filled with flora and fauna of all kind, and at the centre lies the beautiful, if not ambitiously named, Centaur Village, or the top of it anyway.
Centaur village is more of a glorified shopping mall filled with shops, restaurants and other eateries filling a total of six floors. The top floor opens out onto the arboretum and houses a small selection of shops: coffee bar, gift shop, quaint little wine bar, that sort of thing, creating an air more akin to a little country town square. It all sounds quite idyllic but it's not without its own problems. Take this morning.
As the station turned and the morning rays from the nearby sun cast its beams through my window, I mused at how, with the twittering of birdsong, it was just like at home.
"Oh, crap!" I shouted, realising that this was a space station. "We've got an escapee."
Fumbling on my uniform, I alerted the bridge and within half an hour a small team of us were wandering the corridors, nets in hand, stalking our little feathered friend. Once more I cursed the fact that sensors and transporters were down and made a mental note to chase up engineering regarding progress.
Holly led the way, being an expert on wildlife, and three hours later, we had a beautiful, pink breasted chaffinch in custody. Seriously, it would have been easier to catch a Ferengi with his hand in the till.
Especially pleasant, though, was the release. We all popped up to the arboretum, like a bunch of school kids on an outing, and released Mr Biggs (named after Ronnie Biggs, a train-robber who eluded capture for many years apparently) back into the wild. We all cheered ... until the little sod flew straight back down the stairwell and back into the depths of the village. We all stood around, looking somewhat crestfallen, our gazes focused on the stairs.
"Okay, guys," I said. "Round two ..."
Trying to organise ourselves more proficiently, we contacted Engineering who were able to erect a species sensitive force field. Apparently, it also emits an ultra-sonic signal that will deter birds approaching (I wonder how the Ferengi will fare with that one.) and just ninety minutes later, Mr Biggs was in custody again.
So, while the arboretum is a wonderful space, it brings with it a completely new set of challenges for us to tackle. It's not just birds either. We have a huge selection of plants, and plants require pollination, and that means bees. We also have a selection of carnivorous plants. Don't worry, no triffids but we do have specimens like the Venus Flytrap and various Pitcher plants. These all require insects to feed upon as well—and insects are even more adept at escape than the humble chaffinch.
To conclude this report, Security is very busy establishing new methods and protocols to ensure we have no more problems with rogue birds, animals and insects from the arboretum. I don't think they're very happy about it. Bless, they were trained to deal with smugglers and thieves rather than zoo keeping. I almost feel like hiring a couple of bandits to give them a project more suited to their skill set!

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