(written from a Production point of view)
Balance of Nature is a Pocket SCE eBook novella – #27 in the series – written by Heather Jarman. Published by Pocket Books, it was first released in April 2003. The novella was later collected in the SCE omnibus Breakdowns.
- From the book jacket
- In the wake of the catastrophic events of Wildfire, P8 Blue returns to her homeworld, only to find herself caught up in a web of intrigue. Strange disappearances among her fellow Nasats and odd happenings throughout her homeland have stymied local authorities. Due to her experiences with Starfleet in general and the S.C.E. in particular, Blue is asked to aid in the investigation.
- What they turn up will lead to a terrible secret from the Nasat's past, and it will take all of Blue's ingenuity to save her people – and an entire world…
As P8 ("Pattie") Blue steps foot on the Nasat homeworld for the first in years, a quake strikes, the first in sixteen seasons (or eight years, Federation standard). While trying not to fall off the ledge of the city built into the treetops kilometers in the air, many other Nasat are injured by the debris. She is also worried about a very important duffel bag she's carrying - which contains young larvae (her offspring). Nasat leave their young in special nursery buildings, and the young never meet their parents. Once the quake stops, she searches for her Betazoid friend "Zoë" who was there to meet her. The two of them try to treat injured Nasat, but a Nasat security guard tries to get everyone evacuated by order of the planetary council.
After finally giving up arguing with officer, (as they've done all they can for the injured anyway) they head back to Zoë's paddock. Watching the news on Dr. Tarak's power cell viewscreen (as the power was out), P8 tries to figure out why the more sturdy buildings were destroyed while the older ones were reasonably untouched. She takes several frames and studies them, as Zoë catches up with her on her and Tarak's research into "quiets," as well as her budding relationship with the Vulcan.
Pattie determines that she can, and must, help with the research operation to find out why the quake occurred, as the future of the entire city could be at stake if the mother tree is damaged in any minor way. After determinedly going through numerous channels, she finds a way to schedule an appointment with Governor Z4, who assigns her to a research team going to study the problem. On the way back to her paddocks with the good news, she decides to stop by a nursery building to examine their facilities - since one of the reasons she came back to Nasat was to leave her young larvae. She realizes that her 'quiet' genes may have been given to her offspring, and hopes that they aren't, so that they can have a better early life than she did.
On the research team, they split up to climb part-way down the side of the huge tree. Pattie finds a large collection of patches of black, oily tar, and takes pictures of them when she hears a loud humming. She goes to call base, but can't. When Base calls her to see if anything is wrong, she can't speak: a condition she has when she is very nervous. The teams go to rescue her, after the mysterious cause disappears. At a meeting, they cannot determine the problem: until Pattie realizes a connection to two maps of the mother tree. This leads her to suggest that the only way they can find the cause is to travel to the surface, something unheard of. Finally, she convinces them, and a small team begins climbing down the side of the tree, including Pattie and Tarak.
There, they find carvings into the tree from over eight hundred years before – depicting the black tar on the tree, ancient Nasat, and ancient Nasat without mouths (which Pattie presumes stands for "quiets"). Pattie devises a way to alter their SIMs beacons along the ultraviolet spectrum to see the trails left by the tar-creating creatures. Soon they are attacked by the strange humming monster from before, and the teams split up running. Pattie, Tarak, and Y29, a Nasat that actually showed Pattie respect, run in one direction – as Y29 falls into quicksand. Pattie tries desperately to save him, as Tarak holds the branches, and they are successful. As they lose the strange cause of the "humming," they set up camp.
Pattie takes some time to think to herself, and go over the evidence they've found, as the "monster" attacks again. This time the whole team is brought to the ground (most of the Nasat curling into defensive balls) but Tarak manages to crawl to Pattie, and meld with her. He tells her "not to resist" the high-pitched humming. She knows she can trust Dr. Tarak, and decides to let it in. A rapid influx of telepathic images enter her mind, and she is able to speak with the creature. They find each others name, (the creature: a Citoac) and Pattie realizes why they were attacking.
In ancient times, the Citoac and Nasat lived together in harmony, until the Nasat decided to move to the treetops. The Citoac preferred a more simple life on the ground, and the two agreed that certain sections wouldn't be developed so that light could reach their photosynthetic food. The "quiets" were in fact a special group, that were the only ones that could communicate with the Citoac. But due to the Nasat's nature of ignoring the past, the agreement with the Citoac had been forgotten - and they were being starved in the darkness.
Pattie agrees to give them a voice in the planetary council in the canopy, and the team returns to the Nasat city level. After a week of convincing, the Planetary Council agrees to move the outer establishments further up the tree, so that light could more easily reach the Citoac. With only a week left of shore leave, Zoë is surprised that she didn't take up the offer to oversee the move, as it was based on her designs. But she reminds Zoë that this is still her vacation, and she wants to spend her last week resting before returning to Starfleet. But before she does that, she returns to the nursery building to drop off her duffle bag. After filling out a chart, she for the first time regrets the fact that she'll never know her offspring, and wishes them well - perhaps they may even be as lucky to be born a "quiet" as she was.
"Please be calm while you're being squashed flat. Resistance is futile."
- - P8 Blue, on the computer's constant reminders to remain calm during a dangerous quake
"With many small limbs, large tasks are done."
- - Old Nasat proverb
- Zoeannah "Zoë" Xanfer
- A Betazoid scientist who has worked on the Nasat homeworld since 2366. Her and Dr. Tarak's work with "quiets" has progressed slowly over ten years, but the two of them still have high hopes. She helped Pattie get over her "quiet" status when she was younger, and the two have since become close friends. She was waiting for Pattie at the landing point, when just after Pattie got off a quake struck. She later caught Pattie up on her and Tarak's relationship.
- A Vulcan scientist that has been studying "quiets" on the Nasat homeworld for many years, trying to find the cause and cure of it. His wife, Tu'vara, was a Starfleet officer assigned to the USS Cairo when it was presumed destroyed near the Romulan Neutral Zone in 2374. Starting in 2375, Tarak and Zoë became more than "research fellows." He later went with the Nasat team to the surface to find the cause, and telepathically joined with Pattie to give her the strength to communicate with the Citoac.
- The Nasat leader of the second research mission, that went to the planet's surface. Pattie found him to be annoying, ignoring several important options that could actually have led to finding out the cause of the strange tar. He rolled into a defensive ball when the Citoac attacked the final time.
- M9 Green
- She served as mission leader of the team examining sector 9A, deck 6. When Pattie met her, she was busy giving out orders. Later while Pattie was trapped and frozen in a tree, she tried contacting her, to no effect.
- A Nasat security officer that came across P8 Blue and Zoë trying to help injured Nasats after the quake. He told them to go back to their house and medical personnel would be along shortly, but they told him it was pointless to leave the injured lying there while they could help. Pattie tried to convince him that she had advanced engineering training and basic medical from her work with Starfleet, but when he looked at her identification file he prejudicially assumed she was less intelligent being a "quiet."
- Y29 Brown
- One of the scientists on M9 Green and P8 Blue's team, he quickly befriended P8 as he was more open to her then most of the other Nasat there. Later, on the expedition to the forest floor, he followed Tarak and Pattie running from the "monster," only to fall into some quicksand. Pattie was able to rescue him.
- Governor Z4 Blue
- Governor of the planet-quadrant encompassing the quake damage and Pattie's hometown, Z4 has been secretly following P8's career since they were both in the same nursery. He was friends with Commander Enom, who P8 contacted to be able to contact him since he was so shielded from civilian complaints/appointments. Happy with P8s work with the SCE, he gladly gave her a provisional rank to work with the research teams.
- Ktarian Merlot
- Zoë commented that after P8 Blue's dramatic entrance included the first quake on the Nasat homeworld in eight years, she could have just brought a bottle of Ktarian merlot and some Risian pottery.
- Vulcan, Trill, Andor
- P8 Blue mentioned that the Nasat homeworld wasn't exactly up to Federation building codes, such as other Federation member planets.
- C'kh fly
- Insectoid species native to Nasat homeworld. Occasionally builds nests in trees that cause an infestation, requiring immediate procedures to remove to protect the tree. A c'kh fly infestation was one possible excuse for the quake.
- An ancient people that lived on the forest floor of the Nasat homeworld. After years of war, they because general allies. When the Nasat wanted to work their way up, and migrate to the treetops the Citoac protested, wishing to remind on the forest floor. So that their photosynthetic food would remain, they made an agreement that the Nasat would only expand their canopy settlements to certain areas, so that sunlight would still reach the forest floor. When the expansion blocked sunlight by the 2370s, the Citoac once again went to war the Nasat. Their transportation left black acid-like residue where it went, and they would use it to harm the trees the Nasat lived in - damaging the settlements that were where the Citoac reserved sunlight only. Partially telepathic, they can only communicate with "quiets", which is why quiets tended to live on the outskirts of settlements. Their existence was forgotten by the Nasat for eight hundred years, until P8 Blue traveled to contact them. Their communication sounds like a high pitched "hum" to non-"quiets."
- D5 Green
- Governor Z4 Blue's secretary, access to her is almost as hard to get by the public (to make an appointment) as it is to meet with the governor himself.
- Commander Emon
- An old friend of Z4 Blue, he was a first year cadet at Starfleet Academy when Captain Gold was a senior there, and as such the two occasionally caught up. P8 pulled some strings with Captain Gold and Commander Emon, in command of a near-by Starbase, so she could speak with Z4, who was surprised she went to so much trouble.
- Wrist lights
- Starfleet SIMs Beacons; they must be used on the surface because so little light gets there. Pattie devises a way to alter them on the Ultra-Violet spectrum to show the trail of the cause of the tar-acid killing the mother tree.
- Laito monkey
- A species of furry primate native to the Nasat homeworld, known for their swinging from treetop to treetop. The occasionally chew at live power lines, something security was worried about shortly after the quake struck. They also nest on the smoothed parts of branches.
- The primary tree of a Nasat city, it is the central base for all their buildings. A minor problem, like an insect infection in a single branch, can lead to the destruction of an entire city, so extreme care is taken and many scientists keep the tree healthy.
- Nasat (species)
- An insectoid species similar to large pillbugs, native to a planet of the same name. They live in the treetops, though in ancient times lived in the mushy underbrush. They do not pay nearly as much respect to the past as sentimental humanoid species, citing "when a building is no longer useful, it should be replaced, no matter what happened there." As slang, they call each other "shells" or occasionally the color of their shell (Red, Green, Yellow, Blue, and Brown) and they call humanoids "softs." (See: M3 Green)
- Nasat (planet)
- The homeworld of the Nasat, their cities are kilometers above ground level in the treetops, where a city is anchored to a central "mother tree." The surface is bog-like muck, which the Nasat prefer never to go down to; in between the two, the forest's midsection are parts of the tree covered in a kind of lichen.
- Name for Nasat young that are born with a disorder where pressure on their brain doesn't allow them to interpret language accurately, and hence go on to lead an isolated life. A "quiet" Nasat is listed as so in their planetary identification record, and is often expected to be so to an almost prejudicial manner. Approximately 1 in 750 Nasat of all colors and genders are born with the disorder, including P8 Blue. There is some forms of treatment however, such as training with Dr. Tarak and Xanfer, though most Nasat are not eager to meet with Federation scientists since rumors of them "performing experiments on quiets" have circulated.
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