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Cmdr Waterhouse, LtCmdr Caine & Lt Khan - "No Walls, Restraints, or Momentary Thrill"

Posted on 2016-05-29 13:16 by Lieutenant Streeh Khan II & Ensign Kelly Liebenswert & Captain Amelia Waterhouse & Rik Caine

Mission: Black, White & Red All Over

The chase to Vulcan had gone pretty much as expected: The Romulans had gone to slipstream as soon as they'd cleared the solar system, getting about a twenty minute head start on the Emperor. They'd dropped out of slipstream a little earlier than they'd needed to, and elected to go to cloak long enough to adjust their trajectory to look like they'd been coming directly from Yridian instead of Earth. The Emperor crew had closed the gap by dropping slipstream much closer to Vulcan with fake orders to explain their presence. The two ships reached orbit within minutes of each other, and there was no signs that the Romulan ship had beamed anyone down yet.

Amelia, Rik, Streeh, and Kelly had been prepped in the transporter room when Zola had carefully guided the ship into its assigned orbit, and they wasted no time beaming down as the cargo transporter had beamed down hover bikes to the same coordinates. Further discussion during the two hours in slipstream had brought up that the image used as the source for S'Blen's hidden plate had been a Vulcan woman named T'Maira, and though the Starfleet database still showed her at the Hall of Ancient Thought, follow up showed that she'd retired to a small house in the middle of the desert about a year ago. She was their first intended stop.

Amelia adjusted the off-white helmet on her head as she scanned the horizon through the tinted visor. Nothing but sand and desert shrub for kilometers. She looked over the bikes and walked over to the one that had the ghostly green flames painted across its body — it synced with the computer in her stealth suit. The suits the team wore had been replicated in off-white for the use in the desert terrain with an added cooling system, and had protocols added to allow them to interface with the hover bikes, but otherwise was unchanged from the standard specs. The HUD in her helmet flashed to life, and the bike's sensor system started scanning the sand around, throwing up warnings about hidden fissures, life signs (nothing large enough to be humanoid), and anything else it thought might be of interest. She clicked her tongue and the comm popped to life.

"Everyone ready to move out?"

"I'm ready," Kelly said as she sat astride her black and white hover bike and finished the check and put on her white helmet that had Conga written on the front of it.

Streeh looked up as he finished checking his matte black hover bike and got on it. "Ready, Commander."

Rik was scanning the horizon through his HUD as the team were prepping themselves. "Should be an easy ride," he commented through the comm as he swung his leg over the black and red bike. He'd been greatly amused when Zola had shown him the red bat emblems on the sides and front. Wondering if it was as tricked out as he'd hoped, he revved the engine into gear. "Ready." It had been a while since his ridden one of these, and he wished the ship had been big enough to store an Argo buggy, he preferred the feel of a car, especially one with wheels.

"Kleiô, if you'd be kind enough to take the lead. I get the impression you've put in more than a few off-hours on a hover bike," Amelia directed with a small smirk hidden under her helmet — she was well aware of the understatement of her observation, and that was one of the reasons she'd selected Kelly as part of the away team. She mounted her bike, and intending to wait for the rest of the team to move out in front of her. The maps and surveys of the area had indicated that this should be an easy ride ahead of them, but Amelia was still uneasy with how exposed they were going to be. If they weren't racing the Romulans, and possibly others, she would have preferred to wait until night to make this ride, if for no reason but to take them out of the blistering Vulcan sun; the cooling systems that Zola had added into the stealth suit was going to have to suffice. And direct beam in had been eliminated on two counts: they wanted to avoid drawing attention to where they were going, and T'Maira had gone completely off the grid, giving them very little to scan for — they were forced to trust the old maps. The ship would still be scanning from orbit, and if they found something they would send a short data burst to update the maps loaded in the hover bikes, but it wasn't expected to be faster than a visual search on account of the type of rock she'd drilled into to build her in-ground home.

Kelly nodded and fired up the hover bike, then checked the sensors and took off like she was out to win a race. She kept on a straight line for the most part, only swiveling on occasion to get around an obstacle that was too large for the hover bike to simply go over. Her long brunette locks which came from under the helmet waved in the breeze behind her and she gave a war cry as she accelerated faster.

Kelly's enthusiasm was infectious, and Amelia couldn't resist it. Instead of waiting for Streeh and Rik to follow in the tiny pilot's wake, Amelia took off right behind her. Her red braid whipped up from where it'd hung out the back of her helmet like a snake of fire as she took off, dancing and waving in the wind. "COWABUNGA!" she cried with glee as she followed at Kelly's four-o-clock.

Streeh gunned his hover bike as Commander Waterhouse took off and after pushing it, he caught up to her and maintained speed by her side. "Don't get too far away from me, Commander," he said over the com. "I can't protect you if you can't."

"Don't make me regret making you chief security by reminding me that I'm supposed to be careful," Amelia quipped, though she resisted the urge to try to catch up with Kelly and leave him behind.

Meanwhile, Kelly was far enough ahead that she decided to loop around in a wide one hundred and eighty degree turn, nearly laying the hover bike on its side before she pulled out, spun around and took off again.

Streeh laughed. "The sun is clearly baking my brain, Commander. For a moment, I thought I was doing my job."

Rik only shook his head as he followed behind the procession to cover the rear. The scanners were empty, the ride was almost relaxed. He couldn't shake it though, a feeling of unease. Wondering how things were going on earth he almost missed it, "anyone else see that on the sensors or am I just imagining things... Zola did check these for glitches before she let us loose on them right?"

Amelia bit back the retort she'd intended to sling back at Streeh as Rik mentioned the blip just as she was realizing she'd seen a flash of something. "You know she checked it, she was in the middle of writing one of her trademark novella reports on the testing when she gave us the walk through after replicating them," she insisted as she glanced over her shoulder in the direction of the blip. "I'm going to have a look, you stay with Liebenswert. Lieutenant Khan can keep an eye on me. It's his job." And before anyone could respond, she pulled a hard turn and split from the group, a gleeful laugh filling the com channel as she did.

Streeh repressed a curse as Commander Waterhouse veered off and brought his hover bike around in a tight arc and accelerated. This time, though, he knew that any attempt at getting her to be cautious would be met with more actions which would put her in greater danger. When he finally caught up with her, he checked his sensors and switched to a two way com with her. "What was the last known location for T'Maira, Commander? The middle of the desert was rather vague."

"It should be in the face of the Mesa that Liebenswert is leading us towards. I think maybe another ten to fifteen minutes ride?" Amelia answered, slowing down a little as Streeh caught up with her. "These Vulcan rocks and sand can play tricks on the sensors sometimes, so we're probably chasing a ghost. I just want up make one wide loop to be sure, and then we'll rejoin."

"This heat is also playing havoc with my senses," Streeh admitted. "Everything smells baked around here. I'm sure that if I caught the scent of something that isn't native, I'd know it, but not until it was close."

"Considering how little there is to obscure our view, nothing should be able to get close enough for you to smell it without either technology our sensors should pick up, or us being able to visually spot it," Amelia insisted, though she was starting to wish that she'd taken Zola up on her suggestion to deploy a swarm of her Little Big Probes — Amelia had thought it would be overkill, but she'd appreciated the option having been offered. Now she was kicking herself for not accepting it. "Let's rejoin the others."

"Got it," Streeh said as he gave a long look ahead with his eyes and the sensors. "With a bit of luck, they've found something."

Rik had rolled his eyes as Amelia had sped off and assumed Streeh hadn't been best pleased. He'd stayed with Kelly, watching his monitor more closely for any other unusual blips. "Not seeing anything else, I doubt Zola missed anything though... How far away are we?" He asked Kelly through the comm.

Kelly looked at her sensors "According to this, we have about ten kilometers to go," she said. "Although that doesn't make sense. It should be further out unless something is causing a sensor echo."

Amelia lead the way as she and Streeh rejoined Rik and Kelly, and she pulled up along side the Ensign as she did. "The good news is, we can see where we're going, and based upon the pace you've set and the distance we expected to travel, we're making good time. I'll have Zola put the sensor kit through a thorough evaluation for next time when we're back on the ship," Amelia insisted, looking across the horizon at the face of the Mesa. "We didn't spot anything when we looped around. Any more unexpected blips while we were gone?"

"No, Commander," Kelly said. "Although we're moving fast, we still haven't reached our target according to the sensors. It's like it's keeping an equal distance away from us or we're getting false readings."

"Then we're just going to have to trust our eyes and math," Amelia insisted. "While I'm enjoying the chatter, being sensor blind makes me think we should go quiet, just in case. Just stay on target, and everyone keeps eyes and ears open."

Rik reached a hand towards the wrist computer on his other arm and pressed a button, switching off the HUD, if sensors weren't working it seemed pointless to view the terrain through it.

"I could go ahead and scout," Streeh offered.

"We probably shouldn't split up while being sensor blind, but we can speed up," Amelia answered. She looked around again, seeing nothing but the four of them and the mesa in the distance.

Even in silence the remaining distance was covered in what seemed a short time, and soon the mesa loomed tall in front of them. As they came close, it was easy to spot the entrance carved into the side of the rock. Solar panels to either side — one cracked, the other looked no worse for wear — a case of winding stairs hugging the face of the rock up to the entrance a few meters above the desert floor, and a basket that looked big enough to hold a humanoid attached to a pulley system placed such that it could bypass the stairs. As the four hover bikes reached the base of the stairs, they could see a stone at the head of a patch of ground that was about two meters in length and off color compared to the surrounding sandy ground. Amelia turned off her bike, and pulled out her phaser as she climbed off. She held it at the ready as she approached the rock.

"Here lies T'Maira, beloved sister," she read aloud as her hand traced across the Vulcan script carved into the headstone.

"Talk about a dead end," Kelly mumbled as she looked around.

Streeh glared at her, but didn't say anything as he drew his tricorder and scanned the grave. "Vulcan DNA," he said quietly before he turned it to the house where it beeped. He looked at the display and raised an eyebrow. "Commander, I'm picking up the same kind of metal the star image was made of in the house."

Rik looked around, slowly taking everything in, before looking to Streeh, "Sister of who? Did S'Blen ever talk about family?" He asked.

Streeh shook his head. "No," he said. "He was intent on my training and you know how Vulcans are when it comes to personal matters. If it wasn't relevant, it wasn't discussed."

"His record didn't seem to mention anything, though I only skimmed it back on Earth," Amelia added as she looked up at the entrance to the dwelling in the rock face above them. "We should all go up together, and then we can leave someone on watch at the front door when we go in."

Rik drew the rifle that had been on a back holster during the bike ride. He pulled out the stock and readied it. "Let's not take any chances, standard formation, I'll take point. Kleiô, watch our six, Lēlantos behind me and cover Persephone... And yeah I know you don't need it doll, but we're playing this one by the book." He said, anticipating Amelia's objections. "Alright, let's move out," he added before moving to the steps that led up to the entrance. Rik sidestepped up the stairs with military precision, keeping his rifle firmly pointed above him and in the direction of the dwelling entrance. As he approached the top step, he carried out a quick scan for immediate threats and moved towards a rock.

Amelia bit back the objection to being placed in the middle where she could be protected — she hated it, but she knew that regs insisted that her crew watch out for her safety as one of their top priorities. She couldn't fault them for following regs. She fell in behind Streeh, following him up the steep stairs with her weapon drawn, helping Kelly watch for any approaching threat as the team made their way up to the dwelling.

Cover the rear Kelly mentally grumbled. Right. I'll just make sure no one creeps up on us in the middle of the Vulcan desert. "Got it," she said and checked the holographic targeting scope on her rifle.

Crouching on one knee, Rik took up a defensive position and motioned for Streeh to take up a position at the doorway. "Everyone in position and we breach and sweep on my command," he whispered over the comm as he reached Streeh's location and then moved for the old and battered door. It opened with ease. "Breach, breach, breach," he instructed as he swung his rifle in first and followed shortly behind. The flashlight activated and the team entered the eerily quiet darkness.

Streeh checked his weapons and entered behind Rik, sweeping the room in the opposite direction of the Commander quickly while letting his enhanced Luga'Ru senses tell him what a visual sweep confirmed.

Amelia followed into the single room. A stove in a corner, a bed against the far wall, a shelf against a wall, and a table in the middle of the room. The shelf was full of books, a small computer terminal, and a metal box. Standing next to the shelf was a telescope with a holorecorder attached.

"All clear," Rik said as he retracted the rifle stock and clipped it into the back holster as he reached for a phaser, just in case. "So do we have any clue what we're even looking for?" He asked.

Kelly activated her stealth suit and perched by a window with the rifle held to her shoulder as she swept the terrain.

Streeh pulled his tricorder out and swept for the metal he had detected when they were outside and got a reading on it from the metal box. "Over here," he said as he headed towards it and adjusted his tricorder to see if it was trapped or alarmed.

"Is this the metal?" Amelia asked, approaching the shelf and standing next to Streeh. She resisted the urge to just pick it up and open it. Besides the obvious risks involved until Streeh had finished his scan, and even after as there could be something undetected, this was potentially what they were looking for and meant it was left by S'Blen. She felt like Streeh should be given the change to open this box possiibly left by his mentor. "If the scans show it should be safe, would you open it on the table?"

"it is," Streeh confirmed after he finished the scan. "There's something inside of it, but there's no apparent way to open it." He set the tricorder down when he remembered the plate at S'Blen's residence and removed his glove. "If I'm right, this should do the trick." Without waiting for authorization, he laid his hand on it and the same constellation that had appeared on the metal plate at S'Blen's showed up on this one and the lid began to open when he pulled his hand back. He looked in and saw a leather journal and a isolinear chip and looked back at the Commander. "I think we have something, Commander."

"It looks like we do. We'll access the chip on the ship, but we should probably look at the journal to see if there's anything else here we should collect," Amelia said. "Probably not a bad idea to bring the box also."

Kelly perked up at the window as she looked through the HUD on her helmet "We have incoming bogeys, Commander," she said as she began to target them. "They're not sensor echoes, either. They are confirmed."

"Acknowledged," Amelia returned, "let's take the money and runs. Mark the coordinates where we're at, in case we need to return, and let's get to the rendezvous. How far out would you estimate our guests are, Ensign?"

"Twenty kilometers and closing," Kelly reported. "They're moving fast, too."

Rik holstered his phaser and looked to Amelia, "that doesn't leave us long."

"Okay, Helios and Kleiô will cover from here while Lēlantos and I make our way to the bottom of the stairs, then we'll provide cover from down there on your way down. Do not open fire unless fired upon," Amelia directed, switching on her suit's stealth as she moved towards the door. "If you've got the box, please lead Lēlantos." Amelia wanted to lead the charge, but she believed distracting Streeh by putting herself blatantly into the line of potential fire was not the way to allow him focus to the task at hand.

=/\= To Be Continued... =/\=

Commander Amelia Waterhouse
Commanding Officer
USS Joshua Norton, NCC-74819-A

Lieutenant Commander Rik Caine
Executive Officer
USS Joshua Norton

Lieutenant Streeh Khan II
Chief of Security/Tactical
USS Joshua Norton

Ensign Kelly Khan NPC'd by Rocky


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