14.2.19

Unofficial 34

Unofficial Literary Challenge #49: Welcome to the Epsilon Fringe

The Ar'Kif-class R.R.W. Tetreya was flung, recklessly out of a wormhole and back into normal space upon the far reaches passed the Delta Quadrant. Commander Tressa got back onto her command chair.

"Status report!" the female Romulan called out.

Centurion Lesket, a Romulan male, tapped frantically at his tactical control panel. "Weapons, shields, life support! They're all good!"

"Well, then why are we freaking out like a bunch of n00bs?" Tressa asked. "Anyway, as you all know, the Republic wants to try out this Federation-exploration trend in hopes of becoming more like a people who don't ignore an impending energy-multiplying supernova."

Chupa, a Bolian and the Chef, stepped off the turbolift, carrying a large bowl of ganglia. "Anyone try the Kelpien yet? It's not that bad, actually."

"Ugh! That's not even a thing they did from our universe," argued Centurion Reivf, a Romulan and a female. "But I'll take ten bowls."

Suddenly, Tressa and her Bridge crew found themselves transported onto the surface of an unknown planet.

---

The group was quickly approached by an enthusiastic, tall Kelpien-like alien.

"Greetings. I am Cuva, and we are the Kolpionn. We have just become aware of space-faring species, so as soon as we detected you, we brought you here to meet you," the alien explained.

Sarmin, the ship's Science officer and a Reman, took out his tricorder and scanned the alien. "You are similar to the Kelpiens! Like some sort of offshoot! Also, the name."

"Our ancient myths describe being planted here via distance-traversing vortices, eons ago," Cuva said. "We enter this country every year to engage in The Great Cannibalism: An event in which our underground society, the Kulpiun, goes mad and we eat them before they kill us."

Tressa shook her head. "That sounds terrible. Not to judge your culture or anything, but you're all doing everything wrong, all the time."

"Oh, pish-posh! You'll simply love it! To become one with our brethren is the only way to really live," he explained reassuringly as the distant echo of madly-driven Kulpiun began running straight for the group.

The crew then watched as Cuva ran off and tackled one of the incoming mad-Kulpiuns, feasting right into the creature before both of them disappeared in a shimmering light.

"Commander, there's a force-field preventing our escape, and no indications of any exits anywhere," Lesket said, scanning.

Chupa widened his eyes as he peeked at Lesket's tricorder. "Is eating one of these Kulpiuns the only way out of here??"

"I mean, surely we could map a way off world, or modify the energy-signature of the shielding, or--" Reivf started before the group was surrounded.

Tressa shook her head. "That's what Starfleet would do. I posit we do things the Romulan way! We follow through with our own new version of First Contact procedures, which is to consume these things, like the Kolpionn do."

"But isn't that messed up, yo?" asked Reivf. "Respectfully, of course."

The Commander shook her head. "The Klingons eat people every day. But they won't tell anyone nor celebrate it. We Romulans are different. Sure, we are prim and proper, and will deny all forms of bodily fluids, but we are also game players."

"You don't have to ask me twice," Chupa said as the group watched him tackle one of the surrounding Kulpiuns and sink his teeth into it. Moments later, Chupa and the creature were transported away.

Lesket tapped his chin in thought. "It's not like it's cannibalism if it's another species, right? Humans eat dolphins all the time, I assume, despite the latter having scientifically proven superior intellect." The Romulan tactical officer then ran right into a Kulpiun and ate his way to transported-freedom.

"My Reman brethren ate each other every day," Sarmin said. "It's how we survived the underground mines and kept our population down. Saturdays was Human-clone night."

Tressa and Reivf watched as Sarmin followed suit, tackled a creature, and disappeared.

"I'm having second thoughts about this," Tressa said. "Am I just making speeches to measure up to the Federation and Klingon Captains?"

Reivf turned to her. "You were trying to set us apart from those buffoons, and I applaud you for that. In fact, others in the Republic will applaud you and build statues in your honor. Statues are our thing. It's a huge thing we Romulans do."

"They won't throw up in their mouths a little bit?" Tressa asked.

The other Romulan nodded. "Oh, no, they definitely will. It's going to be at least a week of mental processing for everyone. Prepare to be shamed relentlessly." And then Reivf ran off and tackled a Kulpiun to the ground.

"Alright, let's do this. I did skip breakfast," Tressa said to herself as the last remaining officer. She was then tackled to the ground by a drooling, madly-insane creature. Taking a deep breath, she bit right into its neck, squirting a good ounce of blood before she and it disappeared.



---

Commander Tressa found herself transported into a fancy ball room overlooking the countryside where hordes of Kulpiun and Kolpionn were recklessly engaged with each other.

"The metaphasic properties of the planets in Epsilon Fringe has given our species morphogenic genes," said Cuva as he handed Tressa a glass of champagne.

Lesket picked off a waiter's palette of ganglia appetizers. "It turns out when they bite into each other, the two species merge, or Tuvix if you will, into one being."

"And now it's become a ritual for them," reaffirmed Chupa who scooped a handful of the rest of the ganglia.

Tressa raised an eyebrow. "So, our DNA is now altered?"

"It will last about two days for you," Cuva said. "Your alien genes will likely dominate and push out the Kulpiun. After expulsion, you can then return your Kulpiun counterpart back to us."

The Commander took a sip of her drink. "I am not looking forward to that. But, I must know, have we now succeeded in First Contact procedures?"

"Would I be inviting you back next month for The Great Love Fest if you hadn't?" Cuva raised a glass and winked.

Tressa nodded in understanding. "Now I know why Starfleet is so messed up: All these strange and horrifying cultures easily dilute one's own grasp of reality. Thank you, Cuva, for making me never want to meet new civilizations again."

"As long as I did some good," he replied. "You know, a lot of people actually call this the Epsilon Cringe," he added as the two tapped champagne glasses.

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