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Chapter Notes:

Investigator Buttans Ngumbo winds down from his daily run and shares a beer with his partner, Investigator Lynhart Shran.

Star Trek Hunter
Episode 4: Run To Earth

Scene 3: Ground Operations Lounge


Ground Operations Lounge

Like all non-automated starships, the vast majority of the U.S.S. Hunter’s space and resources was devoted to meeting the needs of the crew. But the Hunter was not a deep space exploration vessel. Crew members on the big ships would literally spend years in space without ever exiting their vessel. For this reason, ships designed for deep space exploration missions were essentially flying hotels with extensive crew quarters and recreational facilities.

In order to conserve space on the Hunter, crew members slept in their emergency escape pods. Only the three executive officers had individual staterooms. The remainder of crew quarters consisted of a number of small lounges, each the size of a stateroom, arranged around groups of escape pods. These lounges were designed to serve between four and six individuals. Each contained two couches that folded out of the walls and an open space in which a holographic dining table, or exercise equipment (or, in the case of Dr. Carrera, a baby grand piano) tailored for individual needs could be projected. The energy cost of creating such items holographically for temporary use was far less than the cost of actually carrying these items and securing them would be.

The four department directors, Lt. Commander Dr. Tali Shae and 1st lieutenants Sarekson Carrera, T'Lok Smith and Kenneth Dolphin, shared the director’s lounge on deck 4. The Ground Operations lounge, accommodating the two investigators and the four members of the tactical operations squad, was tucked into another corner of deck 4.

The Hunter did incorporate one accommodation not often found in starships - the outer ring of the largest deck, deck 5, was a dedicated running track. This was a concession to the need for the crew to maintain a high level of physical fitness. The Hunter’s mission included interdiction of criminals on the ground by a highly trained tactical operations squad and by pilots using interceptors, which had limited inertial dampening. Fighter pilots tended to be body builders - having a greater muscle mass allowed pilots to deliberately constrict their blood flow by constricting their muscles - helping to keep more blood in their brains to maintain consciousness during high G turns.

The rest of the crew also took advantage of the deck 5 running track, but whenever Investigator Buttans Ngumbo arrived on deck 5, anyone else running there would wrap up their tracking and leave the track to Buttans. This was neither out of respect nor dislike, but simply because Buttans ran so much faster than anyone else, his presence alone would make the track feel crowded as he would pass other runners twice and even three times before they could make a single lap.

Having long noticed this, Buttans had become very regular about his training time so that the rest of the crew could plan around him. This was beneficial to him as it allowed him to run as fast as he could given the need to constantly turn on an oval track that was less than 40 meters in circumference. 

Following his run, Buttans went down one deck to the Ground Ops lounge and took a vibe-shower, which allowed him to wash both his body and his running trunks in waves of damp air that felt and acted like water, but left him and his clothing dry after cleaning. This cleaned his body without need for chemicals such as soaps. His sweat and any accumulated grime was reclaimed by the boat’s life support system for reprocessing. The lounges each had two such shower units - which could allow six people to coexist in relative peace.

Buttans donned his running trunks again and walked, barefoot and bare chested, to relax on one of the couches. Each lounge had its own culture and the ground operations group, half male and half female, felt comfortable with minimal clothing. 

Investigator Lynhart Shran was seated on another couch, wearing gray shorts and undershirt, diligently polishing his shoes. Shran was probably the only person on board who actually had personal belongings to bring on board. Buttans’ clothing, including his running shoes, was made by the replicator using patterns stored in his personnel file. When these became threadbare or damaged, he would dump them into the replicator to be reduced to their component materials and reconstructed. 

All of Shran’s clothing was tailor made, including his jeans and his shoes. He also had his service revolver from his years in the Andorian Imperial Guard, along with a supply of ammunition that was exclusively made on Andoria for this antique weapon. Like Buttans, Shran was a creature of habit. He cleaned and oiled his revolver every morning and polished his shoes at the end of every shift. 

Buttans Ngumbo laced his fingers behind his head and reclined. If an ancient Greek were to happen by, he would have immediately looked for a block of marble to record an image of the young man’s perfect form - possibly needlessly adding winged sandals as if anything could make the young investigator look faster. With his almost shiny, nearly black skin and powerful, ropy muscles, Buttans looked like speed itself, taking a rare breather, perhaps only to pose for others to admire.

Shran got up, stored his shoes and the polishing kit in a foot locker mounted in the escape pod that also served as his sleeping pod. He fished out two bottles of beer he had acquired on Ocean and opened them. Buttans' eyes were closed, but he held out his hand as Shran wordlessly brought him one of the bottles.

The investigators reclined on separate couches, eyes closed, silently enjoying their beers. They had been partners for years and this was a sort of evening ritual.

This quiet aesthetic was broken when the four tactical squad members bustled into the room. They weren’t noisy, but they were quite energetic. Buttans wasn’t yet 30, but these scrawny street kids made him feel ancient by comparison as they disrobed and hit the showers. 

Belo Cantys was the first out of the shower. The youngest and scrawniest of the lot, she wasn’t heavily muscled, but there was hardly any fat on her body - her ribs were there to count. Dressed only in an athletic bra and shorts, she threw herself onto the couch next to Shran. Buttans smiled and closed his eyes again. Those two would not remain in public long. They had been together almost from the moment the Belo siblings had joined the crew.

Star Fleet recognized the inevitability of relationships among crew members, particularly on deep space missions. In order to protect everyone, a joint-disclosure registered with one of the executive officers and the medical director was required at the beginning and end of any intimate relationship among crew members. This led to a long-running joke about the Star Fleet approved pickup line: “Hey baby.. do you want to disclose?”

Cantys’s half-brother, Belo Garr, called for a resistance training kit, which the holographic emitters produced in the small open area in the lounge. He started a short workout. Their half-sister, Belo Rys, and their cousin, Jarrong, headed directly to their pods after emerging from the showers. Buttans drained his beer, got up without a word, dropped the empty bottle in the replicator and retreated to his pod as well.


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