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Capt Waterhouse, LtJG Lexil, Ens Jarkil, Ens McKenzie & Ens Ogai - "Trying to Find a Memory in a Dark Room"

Posted on 2018-06-05 22:27 by Captain Amelia Waterhouse & Lieutenant JG Lexil & Lieutenant JG Cillian Jarkil & Ensign Liam McKenzie Ph.D. & Ensign Neevvi Ogai

Mission: Planet of the Sequined Love Nun

The transporter beam released four figures in a small clearing. To the casual observer they looked like humanoid-birds, but hidden under the feathers were four Starfleet officers in stealth suits wrapped in holographic disguises. The one with green feathers—from almost yellow at her throat and chest to almost black with an emerald sheen over most of her body, and a crest that was almost Mohawk like on her head that ranged the whole gradient between the two—spread her arm-wings wide as she looked around before taking her phaser in hand and looking along the surrounding tree-line. No signs of life larger than a rabbit she could see.

"Hermes, if you would take point please," Amelia directed, using the stealth suit closed circuit comms. "I'll have the team's six as we move out."

Cillian was impressed with Fen's work. While the base colour of his feathers were black, the ones down his back glinted red and orange in the sun, while the feathers on his chest sheened yellow. It was less overt that the captains plumage but he was pretty happy with how realistic it looked. He looked at Persephone and nodded once before moving forwards. His eyes scanned the clearing as he moved.

"This way," he said after checking his bearings and headed into the trees.

"What do you think, should we deploy the little big probes, or do you think it should be easy enough to find the drone at the base of the hill it scarred on its way down?" Amelia looked at Liam and Neevvi as she waited for the two of them to follow Cillian's lead, though her question was primarily directed at Cillian.

"The quicker we find it, the quicker we're done here, best to have as many eyes in the sky as we can, make sure we stay on course," he replied as he continued moving forward through the trees, keeping the rest of the team in his peripheral just to make sure they didn't get separated.

After he had fully materialized Liam released the breath he had been holding for several moments. Transporting was always his least favorite way to travel, even though it was certainly necessary in this case. His feathers ruffled as he settled into his new surroundings, glancing quickly around for a sign of any trouble. Not seeing any, he nodded to the Captain’s order and silently followed Hermes.

As they walked he made sure his key gear was intact – a phaser pistol, scientific tricorder and universal translator – all of which were in working order. He listened to Hermes’ response and nodded in agreement. Speed was of the essence.

"If we want to be true bird like creatures, we might have to move in patterns of a group, so do stick close together. We might be spotted." The deep purple feathered Neevvi now said as they walked. She had been observing the area around their landing, from the transporter, after they landed and kept quiet until now.

"I know some birds on earth fly in a v," Amelia pointed out as she pulled little big probes out of the pouches on her stealth suit belt—it looked like she pulled them from under her feathers. They synced with the groups' HUDs as she turned them on and tossed them into the air. "What do you think, Icarus, how do the Mor'Cris group?" The probes flew off into the sky, and telemetry started scrolling across everyone's HUD.

“The Mor'Cris are organized into different pre-industrial societies, with more or less distinct cultures," Icarus replied. "Detailed information like that is hard to come by for any of them – but my guess is yes, that would be a logical way to move about. Frankly it would be a good tactical move for us, anyway, since we can all keep our eyes forward,” he added before looking over the probe’s data feed. “The probes will tell us more, so let’s adapt our stance based on what we see them doing.”

As they walked he admired how his black feathers shimmered slightly in the daylight, revealing multiple layers of different shades of dark gray. The unexpected, subtle beauty of them caught him a bit off guard, but only for a moment.

Cillian flicked between readouts on his HUD, he'd been fairly sure about the crash site of the drone, but the probes could only help in locating it. He brought up their feed next to the readings from his tricorder, which was scanning for any traces of the alloys the drone would have been made from. Nothing yet, but they were still a little far out from the suspected crash site. He was paying more attention to their direction and surroundings than the conversation about the formation they should walk in.

"When we reach our destination, I suggest we circle the object, to pretend to be birds of prey. I don't know if this species does that, but it's a common thing for flocks of birds to do. It'll also create a perimeter for us to work in while having full control of the situation." Neevvi whispered. She was more used to doing this kind of thing alone or sneaking in through vents and Jefferies tubes. This assignment was a bit of a challenge.

Icarus thought for a moment before responding. “This species hasn’t been studied very much, so that’s not in the database. But, given the shape of the digits on their feet – three toes forward and one back – that implies that they hunted in their evolutionary past. I think circling is a good idea,” he commented. “Most intelligent species we know of are - or were - omnivorous, so chances are they hunted in the air or on the ground at some point.”

“There isn’t a record of the Mor'Cris having first contact with anyone,” he went on to add, which had been mentioned in previous briefings. “But we are so close to Orion space we don’t know for sure. If our cover is blown they could get jumpy fast. Especially if the Orions had been… unfriendly to them,” he said, stating what was perhaps the obvious.

"My hope is that we'll be in and out quickly, and they won't even know we've been here." As the team cleared the tree line again, Amelia moved to Liam's five'o'clock, trusting he'd do the same relative to Cillian, and that Neevvi would in turn take Cillian's seven'o'clock and form that V that the team had discussed.

Spread out ahead of them, a field of tall grass stretched south to the end of the valley and the hill that had been scarred by the probe. Judging by the height of the sun in the sky, it was just a little past midday. Amelia couldn't help enjoying the view as they walked—if this wasn't a prewarp civilization, it would make a fantastic vacation spot.

"Do we know if they're still capable of flight?" As she asked, Amelia extended her arms and gave them a couple of pumps up and down. She felt the holographic feathers drag through the air as she did, and couldn't help grinning. Her holographic beak opened just a little, and her crest of feathers flexed, and she laughed a little. "Tauris certainly thought of everything, hopefully bird expressions are universal enough that I didn't just challenge someone to a fight."

"From what little we know about them – no, we don’t think they can still fly. They probably lost the ability when their wing digits began to evolve into hands." Icarus lifted his arms to look at the vestige wings connecting his wrists to his waist. "Just a hunch, but my wings don’t look large enough to lift something my size off the ground. I wouldn’t be surprised if they could glide though, like flying squirrels on Earth." His beak twisted sideways a bit to mimic the smirk that was on his face as he continued. "But let’s not try that hunch out, right? Without our mommy birds showing us the ropes, we could all fall like rocks."

Cillian smiled at the conversation behind him, no one would have been surprised if he'd admitted he'd been wondering if actual flight would have been possible since he'd seen the base form that Fen was working on. "I dunno, if we do try it there's the emergency transport to get us out of a pinch..." he replied, only a hint of the excitement he felt evident in his voice. He'd try a small distance first of course but he really wanted to try it.

"It's not like we're going to jump off a twenty story building or something. Running start from a small hill, or jumping from a low tree would probably be enough to test the theory..." Amelia mused, looking around to see if there were any likely candidates for either option. The field they were crossing was pretty flat, and the grass moved slowly with the light breeze. The data from the probes highlighted something in red, and when Amelia's gaze focused on it, her HUD zoomed in for her. "Anyone else see that life sign emerge from the tree line a little to our east? Big enough that it might be one of the Mor'Cris, moving at a decent spee–" The data changed, and the trajectory of the life sign slowed significantly. "They may have spotted us, let's act like we don't notice and see if we can avoid contact?"

"Roger that," Icarus said in a low tone, his eyes glued to the same red dot on his HUD as well. He did his best to keep moving forwards without turning his head in the direction of the interloper, however difficult that quickly turned out to be.

"Adjusting course," Cillian replied, already deliberately focusing his gaze away from the lifeform. He made sure to keep his speed consistent, moving as though nothing had changed, the readouts on his HUD informing him that the rest of them were maintaining the formation. "We may want to relax this strict V a little, make it look more casual so as not to cause alarm," he suggested tentatively as the lifeforms trajectory remained at the slowed pace it had adopted once it had seen them.

Amelia slowed her pace a little, moving a little inward to better allow her to cover the whole group if the life form turned out hostile. The group was approaching the hill by this point, and the shipping drone's crash path could be easily seen. The point that was the most likely final resting place was obscured by the tall grass still. Amelia brought up her arm to access the stealth suit's computer and give the little big probes direction, she sent one zooming ahead to try to get a look where the shipping drone should be.

Come on drones… fly faster… Icarus thought to himself as he followed Cillian’s lead and loosened up where he stood in the formation. He breathed a sigh of relief when they located the crash path. While he was so focused on the first life form, it took an extra moment for the second blip on his HUD to register.

“Captain, do you see what I’m seeing?” Icarus asked calmly. A new reading seemed to be moving slowly in a parallel line to the crash path, a few meters to one side and inside the tree line. It was closer to them than the first and was generally moving towards the crew. A chill ran up Icarus’s spine at the thought of a first contact, and he wondered what the Captain’s orders would be.

"I do, gonna send the probes to try to get a better look. They're up in the sky and silent, so they should go unnoticed." Amelia redirected the probe that had been headed to the crash site towards the new lifesign, and sent one of the other back towards the first one. The away team broke through the edge of the grass into a rocky dusty area that was surrounded on either side by trees and facing the hill. They could see the crest of dirt and rock that indicated the shipping drone was likely buried nose first into the ground when it came to a stop, but it couldn't be seen as they approached.

"Does it make sense to cross to the other side of this opening, and move through the far treeline, to stay away from the new 'blip'?" Icarus asked quietly. As he was a newly minted Ensign the junior crewmember here, he posed his idea as a question.

"If they haven't spotted us yet, trying to move into cover will likely draw extra attention to us. Besides, that will take us away from our goal at this point. Stay the course." The away team started to circle the landing site as previously discussed, and behind them the first life sign started to retreat. "Looks like the first one has decided we're not interesting."

"Copy that," Cillian replied, as he started to loop round the site. He started taking readings of the site, looking for any kind of clue as to where the drone might have gone. The ground was hard, and rocky, but he persisted... there had to be something here. The drone had been here, alloy residue on the ground, the gouge in the ground, but where had it gone? Then he started seeing patterns, claw scratches and prints in the dirt. "There's been a lot of traffic in this area, definitely locals," he said quietly. He moved a little further. "I've got wheel marks and hoof prints round here," he added a moment later. He looked in the direction they pointed, just about able to make out a track and more claw prints. "Heading east..."

"East? That means we need to go there too, or at least inform the ship to do a scan." Neevvi commented after she had been on an outlying patrol for a bit, taking a wider circle around the area they had been in. Her eyes peered across the horizon, or at least as far as she could see in this nature. "We might want to scan some more so that we can camouflage as locals."

As they waited for the scan, Icarus approached the site with a great deal of interest. While they had avoided meeting any Mor’Cris, finding these tracks were still scientifically very interesting for him. Kneeling down, he looked them over as best he could. While not a trained wilderness tracker, his studies in physical anthropology hinted at a few items.

“Hooves would imply domesticated animals,” he said in a low tone, “and these narrow, shallow wheel marks resemble a cart rather than a modern wheeled vehicle. The slightly deeper depth to the tracks leading east seem to confirm things. It appears the locals have it.” He looked up at the Captain with a serious expression, knowing this meant their mission just became a lot more complicated.

"Okay. So we know ship sensors can't scan for the drone itself because of the tritanium deposits, but I don't like the idea of just heading off eastward and hoping we don't loose the tracks. I'm gonna call the ship for some settlement locations, and we'll head out based on how those align with these tracks you've spotted." Amelia turned towards where the little big probe continued to track the Mor'Cris in the trees. "Persephone to Olympus."

"Olympus, this is Daphne. What can I do for you?" Lieutenant Lexil's voice came back over the comm after a few seconds.

"The drone wasn't where we expected, and we have tracks that appear to be from the locals, headed in an eastward direction. Can you scan to see if there are any settlements nearby, or anything else that might help guide us as we track it?"

"Searching, standby." Lexil's usual tone was clipped to keep radio chatter as direct as possible. After a short while of beeps passing down the open comm line she spoke again.

"There is a concentration of the most advanced life forms and lesser life forms based around a cave system in the cliffs at the end of the valley bearing.... Zero eight six from your position. If...." Her voice stopped for a moment but it wasn't the comm line as the background of the Joshua Norton's bridge could still be heard.

"Oh very clever." Lexil continued. "Well disguised but there is a small ship in a clearing in the forest further down the same Valley. Looks like a civilian model based around bird of prey roots but somewhat smaller. Someone has taken a lot of trouble to disguise it, I almost missed it."

"Please transmit coordinates for both locations to our stealth suit computers, Daphne." Amelia waited for her HUD to acknowledge the transfer. "Thank you, data received and resuming comm silence. Persephone out." A small beep indicated that the comm channel closed. "Okay, let's pay a visit to this ship that clearly shouldn't be here, then if that yields no drone, head onto the settlement. Apate, please take lead this time, I'll maintain rear guard."

"Of course, Captain." Neevvi led the pack and went through a small circling pattern before moving further out. "Time to see more."

=/\= End Log =/\=

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

Lieutenant JG Lexil
Stellar Cartographer
USS Joshua Norton

Ensign Cillian Jarkil
USS Joshua Norton, NCC-74819-A

Ensign Liam ‘Mac’ McKenzie
Linguist & Cultural Specialist
USS Joshua Norton

Ensign Neevvi Ogai
Infiltration Specialist
USS Joshua Norton, NCC-74819-A


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