On the Ground

Posted on Mon Aug 15th, 2022 @ 7:18pm by Lieutenant JG Holly Swan & Lieutenant Richelle Sorenson & Lieutenant Broderick Drayton & Lieutenant Osher Shouwei & Lieutenant S'teia
Edited on on Mon Aug 15th, 2022 @ 8:52pm

Mission: Message in the Dark
Location: Planet Surface

The haze from the transporter quickly passed allowing the away team to take stock of their surroundings for the first time. They’d arrived in the depths of a tropical rain forest; the humidity was instantly felt upon their skin drawing beads of sweat. Stretching high above the tree canopy blocked most of the sunlight, while the branches teamed with life: birds called all around and insects buzzed eagerly at the away party.

“Ugh!” Lieutenant Junior Grade Holly Swan battered away a flying menace with a shudder. “This is just lovely,” she remarked with displeasure before consulting her tricorder. “I have fix on the wreckage. One point two kilometres west of our location,” she pointed in the direction they needed to take.

“I don’t suppose you have something to keep these nasties away,” Holly looked toward Osher and other senior staff swatting another persistent insect. “Otherwise Doctor you’ll have a couple more casualties at this rate.”

Osher had his phaser out in one hand, the tricorder in the other. He listened with half an ear to the junior lieutenant as he made certain there were no energy signatures nearby.

"Perhaps you could reconfigure your tricorder to set up some sort of ultrasonic harmonic to upset the insects," he suggested as he stared up at the branches above, "Unless that would make the doctor uncomfortable," he spared Swan a glance and slight smile, "I would suffer insect bites aplenty over a distracted doctor."

"Indeed you would. However, I will be fine. I can tune it out. I have had ample practice at it. Go ahead Lt. Swan. It'll be fine!" S'teia said

Swan rolled her eyes at Osher comments before attempting to adjust her tricorder which had the potential to work: "Either way we only have a few hours before the ion storm, we should hurry."

"Agreed" S'teia replied.

Osher nodded, "If no one objects I will take point," he held his tricorder out in front of him and decided to set a more or less quick pace; it was risky but being stuck on the ground when the storm hit would be disastrous. He headed out, feeling that old excitement, of being on an alien world where numerous things could kill him. Or worse. It was almost disturbing to discover he actually missed it...

A warrior's challenge of a climate, Broderick thought to himself. He stood to be behind Osher, "right behind you Lieutenant." Broderick could feel his blood start to flow and his Klingon instincts started to flare... this planet was having an effect on him.

Bringing up the rear of the party Lieutenant Swan consulted her readings, as expected the forest had a fascinating ecosystem - something she wished they had time to fully document. Despite the pressing need to push toward the crash site the science officer couldn't help but gather as much data as she could. This unexplored planet had many mysteries to tell, aside from the missile platform and garbled message - enough to scare curious explores away - the planet was fascinating from every angle she'd seen.

The northern most continent like Earth was capped in heavy snow and the normal churning oceans were frozen solid, this was the same from the Drummond's observations. Unsurprisingly the Proteus' more probing scans hadn't located any civilizations in the freezing conditions - it certainty wouldn't be Holly's first choice to set up home in the endless cold where the sun barely rises. Only the ultimately brave or crazy would call that barren waste home. A smile tugged at woman's lip as she caught sight of Osher pressing ahead, he'd certainly fall into that category.

That, however didn't explain the discover Swan had made before they beamed down: where was the population? They'd detected great cities scattered across the three continents when in obit, yet they all appeared empty. If the citizens were taking shelter from the advancing ion storm surely the ship sensors would have located them holed up in underground bunkers?

"Where do you think everyone went?" she asked the others ahead.

Osher gave a minimal shrug, "Shrunken to microscopic size, phase shifted into another dimension, mass evacuation into an earlier time to avoid the storm? For all we know everyone is dead and we are dealing with some computer system thinking it still has to protect an extinct civilization."

He spared Swan a glanced over his shoulder, "If you truly want your brains cooked imagine you are in a malfunctioning or unfinished simulation, your body hooked into some giant computer."

He turned back, "I am just glad figuring out what's going on isn't my job; it's yours..."

"Thanks," Holly muttered lowly. "What do you think Lieutenant Sorenson?"

"Hard to say. I still say they went underground to survive. There is plenty of game around and vegetation to sustain the inhabitants."

Swan nodded thoughtfully as the LT had a valid logic especially compared to Osher's theory of a super computer, though she wasn't fully able to shake the idea.

The team pressed forward at a brisk pace ever aware of the looming deadline before the ion storm would hinder their ability to return to the ship. Aside from the constant hum of biting insects, the whooping animal calls somewhere above the canopy and heavy humid air they journeyed without incident save for Swan's repeated desire to ran more depth scans every hundred yards or so.

"I'm picking up something dead ahead," the science officer called while her scanner bleeped softly. "It's the Nightwalker."

Richelle stopped suddenly. "The what? Nightwalker?" Walking up to the science officer, "Let me do an in-depth scan of the wreck. We don't need surprises like booby traps and IED's," she said pulling out her tricorder and started scanning, keeping one eye to the sky.

Probably a good idea." S'teia said. "We can't be too careful."

Osher listened with half an ear as he guarded the away team's back. His eyes scanned the canopy above as he strained to listen for any sounds that felt out of place. Problem was, it was an alien planet and "out of place" meant them.

The down ship had taken a beating, its once sleek shape had been scared with weapons fire and scorched on entering the atmosphere. It's fall from heaven had craved a deep trench in the ground and trail of damaged trees in its wake. The wreckage was smaller than Swan had been expecting, the Nightwalker they were able to identity was a Cardassian civilian vessel probably with no more than a handful of crewmembers - clearly they'd encountered something ill upon their travels to end up here.

While the others were cautious Swan consulted her readings again: "Something is off," she remarked softly. "If we only received their distress call a few hours ago why does the wreck look so weathered?" From her position she could see moss had covered several panels on the starboard side, even the gouge in the soil was recovering from the turmoil, the trees too that had been damaged were showing signs of regrowth. "It's like this has been here for months or perhaps longer."

"I see two immediate possibilities," Osher replied without stopping his scan of the foliage, "The first is there are some sort of temporal hijinks going on here, which considering how weird the universe is in general we can't rule out. The second is someone looted the ship and used it's communications components to pretend to be the Nightwalker. Either was we won't learn anything standing out here."

S'teia scanned for life forms. Anything that would indicate that some of the crewmembers were still there.

"OK, let's get a closer look," Swan nodded stepping into the wreckage with care.