Previous Next

Bird Is the Word

Posted on Sat Oct 22nd, 2022 @ 1:48am by Ensign Sheldon Parsons & Ensign Mei Ratthi & Lieutenant JG Irynya

Mission: A Camping We Will Go
Location: Planetside, Near the Camp
Timeline: Mission Day 2 at 1530

[The Clearing]
[Gentris IV]
[MD 2: 1430 Hours]

The bird was relentless. Mei guessed it was a bird, anyway; it had wings and a beak, even if parts of it looked a bit furry. It stared up at her expectantly, then gave the bundle of berries in her hand a meaningful look before letting out a raspy chirp.

“Oh, don’t give me that, you impatient thing. You’ll get another one, don’t worry. I’m rationing them, you see? You’d probably gorge yourself on the whole bunch if I let you.” Mei pulled another of the reddish berries off the stem and tossed it to the bird, who caught it in its beak and crushed it with a soft pop. Its neck stretched out for a moment as it swallowed, then folded back against the ruff of feathery fur lining its chest. It gave her another expectant look. “You’re very greedy, aren’t you? You remind me of the lizard my grandfather had when we were living with him on Betazed. I don’t think it was quite as smart as you, but it knew how to beg and somehow, it managed to look pathetic while doing it. How does a beady-eyed lizard look all sad and hungry? I don’t know. But that lizard figured it out. Maybe it was even smarter than I gave it credit for.”

The bird gave her a quizzical look, then fixed its gaze back onto the berries. They must have been one of its favorite foods. She hadn’t thought they were special; a nearby shrub was full of them. All the bird would have needed to do was wait for Mei to move on and then stuff itself silly. But maybe there was something about the berry bush that the bird found treacherous. Or maybe the bird was as curious about her as she was about it. Inquisitive natures were not unique to humanoid lifeforms. All it had taken was for a bunch of berries to fall off the branch as soon as she touched it, and the bird had poked its head out of the tall grass that edged the clearing.

Mei tossed another berry to it. The bird caught it out of the air and downed it with a happy squawk. She laughed. “I wish I could try one of these to see what I think of them, but it’s a bad idea to try strange berries. But I’m glad you like them. Here.” She tossed another berry to her feathery friend, who ate it with the same enthusiasm as it had the first one. “If I keep pulling these off the bush, will you keep eating them until you pop? Or will you figure out that you’re finally full and stop?”

Unsurprisingly, the bird didn’t answer. It stretched its neck out and shook itself from head to tail, unfurling its wings to reveal an expanse of iridescent black feathers shot through with streaks of electric blue. “You might be a little weird-looking, but you’re kind of pretty, too,” Mei smiled at the bird, being careful not to show teeth in case such a display would frighten it away.

"Um...thanks?" came a voice from nearby. "That's the first time I've been called both weird and pretty at the same time," a young man who'd yet to make Mei's acquaintance said. He was tall and lanky, dressed in a black Sojo t-shirt and a pair of khaki chino shorts. "I uh...don't believe we've met, though. Sheldon Parsons," he nodded to the woman sitting in the grass. "And this," he gestured to the athletic person behind him, "is Irynya. We just set our tents up not too far from here. Decided to take a little stroll and check out the clearing a bit." If Sheldon had noticed the bird, he certainly didn't say anything about it. His attention was focused solely on Mei and Iry.

Irynya's laugh carried across the space around them. "Don't mind him," she told Mei, "he has a habit of responding to things that weren't directly addressed to him. I got him laid once because he answered something I said to myself." She gave Sheldon a smug look, curious to see how he'd react to her forthrightness.

The young engineer's face instantly went red. "That...was an honest misunderstanding that led to a fortuitous result," Sheldon said rather prissily. He was clearly embarrassed and trying to save face.

"Sheldon this is Mei," Irynya said by way of introduction. "Mei, this is my roommate Sheldon." And then, as though it was something she did all the time, she stepped forward and wrapped the other woman in a quick hug. "It's good to see you again. Have you picked a spot for your tent yet?"

"I have, yes," Mei said when she finally pulled away from the hug. "Just through the trees over there. I got it set up, did all the 'put camp together' things, and decided to go exploring. I didn't make it all that far, though. I found this lovely little bird that I was complimenting when you got here." She gestured at the fuzzy bird that had retreated to the cover of the tall grass, but was peeking out at them, its glittering eyes sparkling in the dappled sunlight. "It's nice to meet you, Sheldon."

"You too," Sheldon said distractedly, eyes nervously trained on the bird. "Um...I know the scouting team said the local fauna was probably safe but they only had a few hours to look around and study things. Are we entirely sure that bird is safe? It looks hungry. Maybe it wants to eat human flesh?" Ever Mr. Worst-Case-Scenario, the engineer looked rather tense as he took a few steps back for safety. "Did anyone think to bring a phaser?" he asked, lamenting that he hadn't done so.

"Sheldon," Irynya practically cooed in a soothing tone tinged with no small amount of amusement. She snagged the man's hand and pulled him up next to her, winding her arm around his waist and side hugging him a second. Maybe it was just circumstance, but Sheldon would probably notice she was a bit more free with affection than usual. She decided that didn't matter and instead continued, "It's a bird. I doubt it's likely to take on three creatures significantly larger than it."

Releasing her roommate she dipped until she was squatting well enough away from the grass to not alarm the creature, but low enough to get a better look. "Hello beautiful," she said to the bird before glancing up at Mei and remembering her original train of thought. "We've got a sort of tent circle going around a fire by ours. I know yours is already set up, but you're welcome to move in with us... so to speak. Sheldon and I can help you move over. Or, if you'd rather not, then consider this your invitation to come hang out with us around the fire."

Mei brightened. "I might do that! I only picked my spot because it was convenient at the time. My roommate decided to stay on the ship, and I don't know very many people yet. As long as you don't mind me tagging along." Her gaze flicked to Sheldon to see if he had any objections, then back to Irynya. "Are there any plans for tonight, other than, I don't know. Stargazing? Sitting around the campfire?"

"Um, 'not likely to attack' is like saying 'Get ready to bleed,'" Sheldon gulped, swallowing a big bubble of air. He was understandably nervous -- the great outdoors wasn't exactly his thing. "Sorry for being so nervous," he said, looking to both Mei and Iry. "Last time I was in the wilderness, we got attacked by a big cat of some kind...and then Timmoz burned the forest down," he added with aplomb. As to the idea of Mei moving her tent, Sheldon nodded his head vigorously. "Safety in numbers, you know? We can definitely help get you moved over if you want. I'm sure Iry has got some kind of drinking game teed up for the night," he said, still eyeing the bird. "Does it...want something? I've never seen a bird so focused," Sheldon commented.

"Who me?" Irynya asked, all innocent mischief displayed clearly on her face. To Mei she said, "I haven't decided if we're playing truth or dare or if we should return to never have I ever since it got so rudely interrupted by a ship lockdown. I'm open to suggestions, though. And of course we don't mind. We'd love you to come."

"If you're sure, then let's do it! We will play the games and do the campfire things, and hopefully not get so drunk or whatever that we end up doing things we regret," Mei's grin widened, and there was a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. "And Sheldon, you really don't have to worry about the bird. It's after the berries I was feeding it, and I still have a handful of them. If you want, you can take a turn feeding it?" She held out a scant handful of bright red berries on a bit of greenish-brown twig. The bird took note of this and chirped again.

"Just careful with Iry's idea of drinks that 'aren't very strong at all,'" Sheldon cautioned. "That's code for 'This will knock you on your ass.'" He regarded the handful of berries and then the bird, then the berries again, and then the bird once more. He didn't seem entirely sure of himself as he reached for the brightly colored fruit, picking a couple of berries off the twig. "Do you just, like...throw them?"

"Yeah! I've been tossing them to it. It's pretty agile. Caught every last one of them, no problem at all. I'm betting its species eats insects, too. Or whatever other small things they find. They remind me of ravens from Earth. This one seems like it might be as smart as one of them, anyway. Maybe he's an outlier. But I doubt it. Go on. Throw one to him. It'll be okay, I promise." Mei made a tossing motion with her offhand, and the bird followed the movement without diving for a non-existent berry. It turned back to them, waiting, its cocked head giving it an air of curiosity. "See! He's smart enough to know I didn't throw anything, and he's not mad about it."

Sheldon looked ready to half prance, half run away if the bird so much as moved in a way he didn't anticipate. "Alright," he said slowly, having taken note of how the avian responded to Mei. Making some quick calculations around estimated distance, height, and force, the engineer made a concerted toss that he hoped would land the berry near the bird. As anticipated, the tiny red fruit fell short but was close enough to certainly be noticed. Sheldon held his body very stiffly, still ready to run if needed. Maybe it was just a harmless bird but if it flew into a pecking frenzy, he'd be ready.

The bird stepped forward and grabbed the berry off the ground with a quick peck. Its head bobbed as it swallowed, and it looked back up at Sheldon, plainly awaiting another bit of fruit.

"See? That wasn't so bad, was it? He's friendly enough," Mei said. She glanced back and Irynya and tilted her head, as though to ask, 'is he always like this?'.

At Mei's glance, Irynya broke into a broad amused grin and she popped her eyebrows momentarily in response. She was still crouched, so she reached for the bush with the berries, breaking off a small piece and gently extracting a berry. Deftly she tossed it in an easy arc to the bird who, as if it was made for such tricks, snatched it out of the air, head bobbing before it gave a small chirp and then seemed to peer back and forth between the three officers.

"Smart beauty," Irynya murmured soothingly to the bird and then craned her neck up at Mei. "Have you tried feeding him from your hand yet?"

"And let it get close?" Sheldon, despite having successfully fed said beauty, didn't seem too keen on this particular idea. Especially without a phaser... The engineer found his knees growing tired as he crouched so slowly returned to a standing position, being careful not to scare the bird.

"Yes, you'd have to let it get close," Mei said, laughing. "I don't think it's thirsting for your blood or something. It's just a bird that likes berries. And if it hasn't been aggressive yet, I doubt it's going to start. It's okay. And no," she glanced back at Irynya, "I haven't tried to feed it from my hand at all. It's probably not a good idea to get too familiar with it. I wouldn't want to disrupt natural family cycles or anything like that."

Irynya had been halfway to trying this herself, but stopped at Mei's admonition, hand pausing midair. She slipped the two berries she'd set in the middle of her palm down to her fingertips and then tossed them one after the other watching with amusement as the bird snatched each neatly out of the air in quick succession. With a sigh she also stood, dusting her hands on her shorts. "Thank you for introducing us," she said with a nod toward the bird. "Do you want help moving your gear now or should we explore a bit more first?"

Mei tossed her last few berries to the bird, brushed the twig's remnants off her hand, and squinted up at the sky, shading her eyes against the sunlight. "I think we have enough time to explore a little more. Unless you're anxious to get back to the camp?" She glanced back and forth between Irynya and Sheldon, eyebrows raised in a silent question. "I love a good forest, and unless I was mistaken, I thought I heard a little stream up ahead."

Irynya grinned back at Mei, hands settling on her hips and absently tugging on her t-shirt even though the shirt wasn't out of sorts at that moment. "I vote stream," she said warmly, darting a glance at Sheldon that all but begged him to agree.

"Stream sounds good to me, too," Sheldon said with a nod. "Just don't ask me to walk barefoot in it or anything. I know the survey team said it would be safe enough to drink but that's only when boiled. What if I cut my foot on a rock and bacteria in the water gets inside? Or what if I slip on the underwater rocks and smash my head on something? I might bleed out in the water. No thank you," he said, shaking his head fervently. "I will be content enough to appreciate the stream from the shore," Sheldon stated.

"Very well, then," Mei said solemnly. "I will respect your decision to remain on the banks of the stream and not try to coerce into actually going into the stream, so you don't risk death by a pretty little waterway." She managed to keep her serious expression in place for another few seconds before a wide smile spread across her face, and she spun about to lead the way. "Now let's go!"

Irynya watched the exchange with intense amusement. She was going to have to remember to thank Debbie for introducing her to the young scientist. She was already managing Sheldon like she'd known him forever. Looping her arm through Sheldon's she tugged, making it clear that he should get moving so we they could keep up with Mei. "She may promise not to coerce you," she said, voice low and conspiratorial, "but I promise nothing." Then she gave the tall engineer her warmest most innocent grin and hurried them along.

Sheldon audibly gulped. What was Iry going to get him into this time? If he knew her, he'd end up half naked and drowning in the stream before too long if he wasn't careful. Steeling himself against the possibilities, he allowed himself to be led forward, sparing one last look at the bird who'd started this whole thing. With a final toss, the last of his berries landed haphazardly in front of the avian, who pecked them all up before taking flight into the trees.

=/\= An Adventure By =/\=

Ensign Mei Ratthi
Archaeologist / Anthropologist

Ensign Sheldon Parsons

Lieutenant Junior Grade Irynya
Assistant Chief Helmswoman

Special Guest:
Delightfully Friendly Native Bird


Previous Next