Bright sunlight from the solar system’s binary stars, both high in the sky, filtered down through the warm tropical water of the bay. The blurb on the tourist information page actually had been true, Kirk thought; the water was clear enough so that he could see the pebbles on the bottom.
Kirk dove lower, with bubbles rising around him from his breathing apparatus. A large clump of seaweed drifted by above him, momentarily shading the scene, but still, he could see everything in the water very clearly. There was an irregularly shaped chunk of rose quartz; next to it was a smooth, dark pebble that looked like shale; and two yellow chicks stood next to the pebble…
Kirk blinked twice, and both of the things were still there. They looked like–yes, they indisputably were–those awful unmentionable marshmallow candies Kirk had been hoping to avoid when he scheduled a shore leave on a balmy vacation planet over Easter weekend. His plan had seemed so flawless. A tropical island, alone, with no other characters around for those arch-villains (AKA fanfic writers) to exploit. And underwater, to boot. What could be done with Peeps underwater? Surely his tormentors would have to give up and leave him alone this year.
And yet, somehow the dreaded Peeps had found him.
He glanced around cautiously. No other characters were in sight. There was an interesting assortment of junk next to the Peeps, though: an empty glass bottle with a Rigel’s Best Brew label, a striped bikini top, the cracked sole of a flip-flop sandal, and a rusty hex bolt. Even the most demented fanfic writer couldn’t be planning to torture him with trash like that. There had to be some other explanation.
After a few moments of less-than-pleasant speculation, he remembered an article that he had read long ago about the behavior of marine animals. Octopi liked to collect things for decorative purposes, or perhaps to attract mates; nobody really knew why. That had to be how all this junk had ended up here. Just a stupid octopus. And if any fanfic writers were twisted enough to sic a mate-hunting octopus on him, well, they could just kiss his firm, well-shaped glutes. No, on second thought, they probably would enjoy that too much.
He reached up to brush away a strand of cool seaweed that had gotten tangled around his shoulder. Needless to say, it wasn’t seaweed.
“I’m not too impressed with the intelligence of your species either,” the large octopus that had just swum up behind Kirk informed him, “and I wouldn’t pick you as a mate if you were the only creature alive.”
Its voice translated into Kirk’s thoughts in crisp tones somewhere between the male and female ranges of speech, and it kept a tentacle on his shoulder; apparently it was some sort of touch-telepath. Of course, the tourist information for this planet hadn’t mentioned any intelligent marine life.
“I’m sorry,” Kirk subvocalized. “I didn’t know you were sentient.”
“A common failing of your species. Whenever you see anything different, you assume that it has to be inferior to you.” The octopus clacked its beak disapprovingly.
Kirk didn’t see much point to arguing the failings of humanity with an alien cephalopod. Especially one that liked Peeps. He took another look at the junk neatly laid out on the sandy floor of the bay.
“Why do you collect this stuff anyway?”
“We use it for teaching,” the octopus explained, using several tentacles to gesture toward various parts of the tableau. “Other species have teaching-places for their young, where the students can see pictures to learn how things should be done. We also do this.”
Kirk looked around but didn’t see any young octopi. “This is a school, you mean?”
“A teaching-place,” the creature said again, its telepathic voice beginning to take on an impatient tone. “One of many. When our young are in need of teaching, they seek out such places in their quest to gain wisdom.”
More bubbles rose silently as Kirk pondered this bit of information. He wasn’t particularly thrilled with it. All he wanted to do was enjoy a quiet relaxing Easter, with no Peeps, tribbles, hortas, grapefruit, or bizarre combinations thereof. The last thing he needed was an underwater Yoda with tentacles, proclaiming the wisdom of Peeps.
“Ask,” the octopus intoned, waving its tentacles in swirling hypnotic motions, “and you shall find.”
Kirk shook his head impatiently. This was just too ridiculous. “What wisdom can there possibly be in this pile of junk?”
Evidently taking Kirk’s gripe as a real question, the octopus once again began gesturing toward the various items in turn. “This is a lesson for you, Jim Kirk: The effects of alcohol are temporary. Women come and go. Shore leave on pleasure planets is over all too soon. Even that fine ship you love with such passion will one day be no more than rusty bolts. But Peeps… are forever.”
As the octopus finished speaking, the two yellow chicks turned toward Kirk in unison, staring at him with their evil little eyes. They levitated out of the sand and began floating toward him with alarming speed, growing exponentially larger. They were all over him before he could do anything…
An eerie yellow brightness surrounded Kirk as he fought to free himself from what felt like a soft spiderweb. The Peeps had him… but no, this didn’t feel like marshmallow…
He opened his eyes and found himself entangled in a hammock on the beach, staring up into the twin suns overhead. He had only been dreaming. As his hammering heart slowed to a more normal rate, Kirk extricated himself from the hammock and stepped down into the warm sand. His right foot knocked over an empty bottle of Rigel’s Best Brew, which he had been drinking before he dozed off.
Man, that stuff was lethal.