A Camping We Will Go
Location: Gentris IV
Timeline: Mission Day 3 at 1530
They'd been hiking, following the bowl of the lake nearby where the crew of the Sojourner was camped, for about an hour. Irynya, hair tied up into an intricate sort of messy bun so it would stay off her neck, was thankful for sturdy shoes and the level of fitness that was generally required to be a Starfleet officer. It wasn't that it had been a brutal hike. She'd led Timmoz and Noah, both of whom she'd somehow coaxed into coming with her--she suspected they had agreed out of concern for her emotional state--at a leisurely place. The lake, though, was not small and she was in search of its source; the river or stream or whatever it was that fed the coolness of the large body of water. Surveys from the air had indicated a particular sort of vantage she was hoping to enjoy.
"Looks like our turn off might be up there," she commented, pointing at a spot where there seemed to be a sort of natural inlet that led away from the main body of the lake.
"Lovely view Kava, for a raw planet, but I think walking around it this long, we can say we've seen it," Timmoz teased jokingly. He stopped, almost posing his body with a foot on a rock. Timmoz looked behind him as the skinny cadet who had taken up the rear was snorting something up his nose- the same bottle Timmoz had seen at the campfire.
This time Noah was dressed for coverage- rather than half-thigh shorts and a t-shirt- but a new red, pimple-like dot was raised on his cheek along the swoop of an otherwise elegant cheekbone. The pink scratch mark around it said Noah had already itched it. Timmoz smiled wolfishly at the cadet. "Don't fall behind, Cadet. Something bigger than an insect might find you delicious." Timmoz raised an eyebrow. He kept his errant thought to himself: something bigger than an insect might count that rotund Scientist who eyed the cadet when he wasn't looking.
Noah grimaced and stopped, puffing. "Says," he looked at the two of them, "The ones from high gravity worlds." Noah swallowed and filled his chest several times.
"Should I carry you?" Timmoz teased again.
Irynya paused, looking back at Timmoz in his rugged mountaineer pose, and grinned. She took a moment to appreciate his lime figure against the variegated greenery around them. "You almost blend in," she commented sidelong as she moved back towards him and then past to Noah.
"Camouflage," the Orion replied.
"Are you ok?" She asked. The inquiry was kind, a little bit of worry coloring her tone. She was very aware that Noah had come because of her and despite her suggestions that it could be avoided the insects and greenery on the planet seemed to have decided he alone was an interloper and needed to be driven out through a whole battery of annoyances. Almost absently she thought that she should find Kennedy when they got back to the site and ask him for a hypo for the beleaguered cadet. But of course, Kennedy was not there and her brain corrected her mistake uncomfortably nearly as fast as it happened.
Noah looked from the lake to Irynya, still a little out of breath. "I'm fine. Really. You said something about a uh, a turn off?"
Irynya looked the lanky cadet over critically as if checking to confirm what he said a d then shrugged lightly before turning back to point at the spot. "Do you see the inlet up there? About 200 or so yards ahead?" She glanced at the spot she was now pointing at and then back to Noah. "The waterfall is another 5ish minutes up from there."
Noah nodded his head slowly, breathy. "OK, I see it," he said. He was still unsure what Irynya had planned, but this was what they were supposed to do, right? It wasn't what Noah normally did but this was what others did for Shoreleave? The cadet looked at Timmoz. So much that came out of Timmoz's mouth off-duty seemed to be a joke or a teasing in some way. And Noah assumed this was one of them.
"Lead on," Timmoz said. "We'll follow you."
With a quick shoulder nudge to Noah, Irynya resumed the lead position, bringing them forward. Their conversation was light as they continued, more banter than any kind of serious discussion. Every time Timmoz took a crack at Noah the Risian had to resist the urge to giggle. It all felt so immensely normal to be doing something like this with both of them. As promised they only had a bit further to go. As soon as they'd turned inward toward the inlet the waterway had narrowed quickly and as soon as they lost sight of the lake through the trees the land began to slant slightly upwards.
She heard the waterfall before she saw it, the water thundering down into a wide opening below it, falling easily 40 to 50 feet before it churned into the water. The waterway that had previously narrowed spread out significantly in a round pool, the work of possibly centuries of erosion into a perfect spot for swimming.
Iry pulled up short just before the pool, dropping the small pack she had been toting onto the ground at her feet before turning to catch a look at her friends' faces as they approached the sight. "Well?" she asked with a grin. "What do you think?"
"Wild," Timmoz rumbled with a gaze. "Untamed. I can see why you brought us here." He glanced at Irynya. "How did you find this?"
Noah looked on in comparative silence. To him it was the same alien beauty as any terrestrial place. It felt more real- and less hygienic- than the Holodeck. The trees stirred the same instinctive feelings in him as they did in any Human. It harkened back to their primate ancestors- of safety, maybe food.
"Low altitude sensor sweeps," she said with a cheeky grin. "I snuck a look at the details near the proposed camp site before we were cleared to come down. I wasn't entirely sure how big it would be, but I knew there had to be something interesting in the waterway here based on the pool." She gestured at the water which churned, throwing spray as the waterfall roared into the pool below, sending out ripples that nearly smoothed out before they reached the shore.
She looked from the olive-toned face of Timmoz to the flushed face of Noah. "Our end goal," she said, pausing for effect, "is up there." She pointed to the top of the falls, waiting to see what they would say.
"Lead on," Timmoz purred. He sniffed and raised an eyebrow under his eyebrow. "Hmm... unusual pH for a pool of water..." He indicated. And the water had almost a milky turquoise cast as it frothed down into the river. He was curious if the waterfall was the source, or was it plunging into some kind of alkaline spring?
Timmoz followed Irynya dutifully up the remainder of the hill until they reached a crest. It was wide and flat, but not as wide and flat as he'd expected. It was more a series of buttes than a single mesa, all thickly overgrown. "That's interesting...." He gestured at Irynya to follow his finger as the Engineer came up behind and squinted. Between the buttes was, clearly, a flat pan of something made of rock. "I'm not an archaeologist but I doubt that is a natural formation."
Noah peered at it. "Might be an aqueduct?"
Irynya's eyes narrowed at the spot Timmoz was indicating. It was too symmetrical for natural occurrence--she could see that from where they stood. "If it's an aqueduct then where does it go?" She wondered out loud, not exactly expecting an answer. Picking her way through some of the thick undergrowth she moved closer, hoping to get a better vantage point. "Sensor sweeps didn't show any indication of sentient life. Not even ruins," she commented back to the other two.
Timmoz's smile was wide, infectious. He looked at Noah, in his controlled misery of trying to look like he was having fun, and then swiveled back to Irynya. "Maybe the bugs built it." Then he acquiesced with a shrug. "It might have been a transient build. A small group. We'd have to bring in Ensign Ratthi."
"We-we could do a scan for rare earth and synthesized materials," Noah suggested. Timmoz chuckled.
"And that is the sound of an engineer getting an erection," Timmoz teased. "They all have edifice complexes."
It took an unfair amount of effort on Irynya's part to stifle the outright bark of laughter that threatened to escape at Timmoz's comment. As it was it still came out as a sort of aborted huff of air, almost like a cough, that made her eyes water as she swallowed it back. She looked Noah over and for a wild moment her brain chose to insert a memory of damp curls and rhythmic ocean swells against pale skin and she had to purse her lips to stop a second eruption of giggling. "I'm sorry," she managed quickly when both men fixed her with curious looks. "I can think of other paths that would end with the same effect," she finally confessed, eyes shining at the oblique mention of the kiss that he had aborted so quickly, concerned about the reaction it had drawn.
Even Noah chuckled at it. "We-we do, it's true..." Noah shifted, scratching the red spot on his cheek. He squatted down and began to study the out of reach aqueduct. "It's... it's not crude. My guess is that it's, uh... probably feed off this waterfall's source.
Timmoz meanwhile, stood behind the squatting Cadet with Irynya, looking on with bemusement. His arms folded across his chest and he side-eyed a look to the Risian.
When Timmoz wanted to be subtle he certainly could, but his side-eye was far from subtle. Tilting her head in a question Irynya mouthed What? at him, challenging him with the expression on her face as she did.
Timmoz shook his head with a wolfish smile. "Noah. We're not here to stare at rocks." The cadet looked behind him and slowly extended to his leggy, extended height.
"OK," he said. "Still, should we-we report it?"
Irynya chuckled and then leaned over bumping Timmoz with her shoulder affectionately as Noah stood. "You can look at it if you like," she said. "We do have a little bit of time here. I was hoping to find a spot to swim." She gestured around them. "And thought the view from the top of the waterfall might be worth the climb. But really I just wanted to spend some time with both of you. I don't care if that means we're inspecting questionable rock structures."
With a liquid motion, Timmoz shouldered off his top and stretched his rangy arms over his head. He purred with a stretch. "As long as the water is warm," Timmoz said. "Report it if you like, Cadet. You are on vacation. It might please Ensign Ratthi." He approached Irynya's side, his sternum nearly brushing her shoulder. "I'm finding water."
Eyes flashing with appreciation Iry tilted her head to look up at the Orion who was now squarely in her personal space. "I'll join you," she said, and in a surprisingly fluid motion considering their proximity, managed to strip off her own shirt so that she was down to her sports bra. Shorts followed leaving her in just her undergarments before she moved away. "We're going to swim, Noah. Join us when you're ready?"
"OK," Noah said with distraction full in his voice. He was drawing a mental picture of the lines, conjecturing on its trajectory into a thick copse of trees and brush.
Timmoz leaned to Irynya's ear, "Two slips that he's there all afternoon," he husked to her ear. His wooly curls brushed her ear while he pulled back. "Let's find a place," Timmoz murmured. "Don't get eaten Cadet." Timmoz ordered.
Irynya chuckled amused, but also appreciative of the closeness. "Two slips says he feels bad and comes looking for us within the hour," she shot back, hair standing up on her neck as Timmoz pulled away, curls brushing her ear. She bent and picked up her shorts, folding them and her shirt into a small neat pile and shoving them into the small pack she had with her. "Lead the way."
"You're on." The Orion said. He offered his hand out to seal the bet.
She took his hand, shook it, and then neatly slid into holding it, tugging on the Orion to take them closer to the water.
They walked for a minute still moving against the water, before the stream broadened with it's waters darkening to indicate, what Irynya assumed, was depth. Tentatively, she moved to the edge of the water and crouched, dipping her hand in to check the temperature. She'd swam in the lake that morning so felt confident it was warm enough for her. Timmoz, on the other hand, may not have agreed.
The Orion eased down into a kneel as well, his knee on a smooth piece of white rock. He scooped his lime hand into the water and pouted out a lip. "Not bad. Not hot springs hot but... warm enough." He moved his hand up and sniffed. He dabbed the tip of his tongue at his palm-pool and then hissed it out. "Very alkaline. It probably has most of the periodic table in it."
Timmoz stood and dislodged his footwear. Then hooking his thumbs on his pants, he pulled them clear. He had his scaled copper trunks from Risa beneath. Timmoz rolled his attire together into a tube of clothes and set them into the nook of a tree's trunk and a branch. Then, pulling a springy band off his wrist, he began to gather his hair behind his head.
While Timmoz gathered his hair to tie it back, Irynya was doing the opposite, tugging free the band that held her long ponytail up in a messy bun. She left the second tie in so that her hair remained pulled back although she was still considering undoing that as well.
There was something about having her hair loose when swimming that Irynya appreciated. "The survey said the water was safe to swim in, so I assume the unfriendly parts of the periodic table are absent," she commented. She moved back setting her shoes and bag on a rock next to Timmoz's tree, and then picked her way back to the water's edge on tip toe. "Those are nice," she commented, looking pointedly at the copper trunks. Her tone on the word nice making it clear that she meant something much more salacious than the word itself meant.
"They'll do," Timmoz agreed at his attire. "For now." The lanky Orion began his wade in. When a coiling tress of his hair had gone missing from his bundle, from his temple, he re-did his ponytail of kept hair. He kept wading until his hips were the break line of the water. He began to proceed toward the falls, entering a froth of the cloudy turquoise water. "It's fizzy...." Timmoz said. "I think that's the word."
Irynya was following a few steps behind him, the water covering her midriff by the time she stepped into the cloudy brilliant-colored water. She shivered slightly at the sensation, miniscule bubbles rushing along her skin in a way that very nearly tickled. "Effervescent," she commented absently, dipping her hands below the surface to let the fizzy water run through her fingers. "I wonder what's on the stream bed here. Maybe it's a reaction to a particular mineral?"
"Effervescent," Timmoz agreed with a bob of assent from his head. "Better." He smiled into a cheek. "Ask the scientists. As long as it doesn't dissolve us its just vaguely stimulating. Like a massage." But, Timmoz guessed, "Carbonic acids, maybe." Timmoz reached out for Irynya's hand and tugged her close. "Let's have a look at the falls. Whatever's on the ground might be a calcium deposit from," he pointed at the falls, "Up there."
"Mmmm," Irynya murmured her agreement. The bubbly sensation had resolved from ticklish to something more relaxing. She let herself be tugged, and sighed a bit when the Orion's own warm biochemistry added to the pleasant feeling of the fizzy water. She tilted her head to lean against him for just a moment before shifting away and slowly moving in the direction of the falls themselves. "From down here first," she said back over her shoulder, one hand trailing behind her for Timmoz to take. "As close as we can safely get at least."
Timmoz took the Risian's hand and concentrated on the uncertain, obscured surface they were walking on. He used his feet to feel out the safe terrain for walking. The trees above filtered the light save for an area around. The waterfall was well under its green canopy. The splashing of the falls built steadily until Timmoz accepted that if they went any farther, they'd end up drenched. The current of the water, from the falls, grew until it eclipsed the feel of the bubbles as well.
There was a salty tang to the falls- not like seawater, but something different. Timmoz spanned his free hand out and dipped open fingers into the frothy lake. There wasn't any obvious texture to the water, it wasn't slick like suds. It was different than Botchok. The temperature, the light, the shape of the greenery. But it was more pleasant than the bland of a Federation ship.
"I wonder why there's no colony here," Timmoz mused out loud. "Balsam's aqueduct aside... Minshara types aren't that common in this sector."
That same thought had been niggling at the back of Irynya's head as well. The water was deeper where they stood now and she felt the undertow, kicked up by the heavy weight of water dropping from far above, tugging at her legs. She repositioned her feet so that she was better braced against the pull and then, fingers still threaded between Timmoz's lime green, she took a breath and ducked under the water. Bobbing back up quickly, droplets ran down her hair, face, and chest in long wet rivulets. "We're going to get wet anyway," she said at a look from Timmoz.
"We are," Timmoz agreed while she re-situated her hair after she plunged her head under. But the Orion didn't follow suit. He was content to let the falls do their work.
Surveying the water around them she added, "Perhaps there aren't civilizations near enough that are compatible with the ecosystem?"
Timmoz wryly judged with an eyebrow. "Possibly. I haven't looked that closely at the local astrochemistry reports. The only life we've encountered out this far have more in common with a Holodeck character than us." He shrugged his slender and sloping shoulders. His copper armbands, spritzed and dropletted, glistened in the filtered light. At once he let himself fall chest first into the water and scooped his lean arms in arcs. He swept toward the falls but wasn't foolish enough to challenge going directly under them. Instead he circumvented the fall zone to the side.
Leaning into the water Irynya kicked off of the bottom giving herself a boost as she followed behind her friend. The sound from the falls grew, blocking out nearly all ambient sounds outside of the crash of water against water. The tug of muscles against the buoyancy from the water felt good and with small kicks of her feet she followed along to the rear of the cascade.
If it was loud in front of the fall, the space behind acted like a natural amplifier, taking the roar of the water and bouncing it back against a concave rock face. Above them the waterfall ran off of a cliff that curved backwards away from the water as if the spray had worn it away over time. The water below the falls churned just as it did in front, but calmed the closer it got to the rock giving the swimmers enough space to swim abreast of each other, but not much more. The rock face itself had a natural bench cleft into the rock, slick with spray, but deep enough that a person could sit if they could pull themselves out of the water. It was eerie and loud and beautiful all at once.
"Secluded, not bad!" Timmoz commented, emphasizing his words over the crash. "I imagine Munro and Tahedrin will be finding this location soon enough," he drawled in his easy accent and Cluros smile. He kicked his feet intermittently, bobbing enough to stay upright and surfaced. His arms were a lazy sway of a bird, treading. The color through the falls, while the aquamarine of the pool beyond, shifted into the greens and whites of the spectrum. The rock itself was as pale and soft as that which they walked on. Timmoz didn't know the name of it, but it's buff color, it's organic smoothness was this planet's version of calcium carbon.
The great roar of the waterfall made conversation difficult and Timmoz abandoned the idea. He started to kick, moving to a sitting-like motion with his back as the breaker. He lazily swam around Irynya.
She'd made out most of what Timmoz had said and from that inferred the rest. Even enunciating and pitching his voice, he was hard to hear and she'd nodded mutely in reply answering him with her eyes and her smile. Her own hands shifted back and front, balancing against the natural buoyancy that came with being a curvy woman. Even with a sports bra on, her body was slightly more top heavy. As Timmoz circled she spun in the water, following him slowly, watching his movement. Even in the water Timmoz was graceful and she wondered if enough people truly appreciated the beauty of his movement--the economy and elegance. Even creating a breaker of water that sluiced in her direction as he moved his long arms were smooth in their strokes.
Perhaps the Captain and Andrew would find this place, but for the briefest of pangs she wished she'd cause to bring someone here herself... at least someone for the reasons for which Timmoz was implying. She realized, belatedly, that the thought must have played out on her face and, pulling her smile back on like a cloak she ducked her head underwater again, hearing the roar from a different perspective for a moment before bobbing up again, brushing damp strands from her face while she used her other hand to tread water.
It was so loud, Timmoz could hardly ask her what had just crossed her mind. She ducked under and came up. For a moment, she'd looked the saddest person in this pool. But why? That wasn't immediately clear. There was only one idea that seemed clear to Timmoz- an old trick of speaking through bulkhead he'd learned on an old freighter. Timmoz moved for the ledge and pulled his elegantly slender body up and out.
He perched on the rock, one knee bent and leg open while the other he let dangle in the warm water. He gestured for Irynya to join him.
Cocking her head curiously Irynya watched Timmoz get out of the pool. When he gestured she carefully made her way over to the ledge and pulled herself up next to him. Her body language mirrored his naturally, the leg closest to him flat on the rock ane cocked back so her foot was propped on her opposite thigh. Her furthest foot also dangled in the water and she stretched it out, swirling her foot around at the ankle and watching the water move around it. Fixing Timmoz with a look she raised her eyebrows as if to inquire what he wanted her to do next.
Cupping his hands around Irynya's ear, Timmoz spoke in the chamber he created. "Isak for your thoughts." He said, annunciating outside of his normal brogue. "You look like someone stole your Horg'ahn." He lowered his hands.
Her eyes widened as the sound of the waterfall dampened with Timmoz's cupped hands and when he dropped them she looked at him, nibbling the corner of her lip for a moment. After a second, though, she resituated, moving closer so ahe could more easily reach her friend. Carefully she brushed back an errant damp curl and then copied the way he cupped his hands. The air between her lips and his ear turned quickly humid as she spoke. "I was wishing I had someone to spirit away to a secluded waterfall cave," she said, careful to enunciate. "I don't."
Timmoz's lime mouth had the shape of an, "Ah," while he nodded understanding. He considered that then he brushed her hair past her ear and made his hand chamber again. "Yours is gone to a new posting. Mine wanted to stay on the ship and wants to eat Debbie's food more than bed me." He acknowledged. He put his arm around her and pulled her shoulder against the warm nook of his underarm. He kissed her temple.
She sighed into the embrace, appreciating the brush of his lips on her temple more than she felt she had any right. After a moment she pulled back, though, just far enough to cup her hands to his ear. "Mine is not mine anymore. Will not be again. I think." She expected no response, but stating the truth of it unfurled something in her chest and she settled back into the spot she had just left, shifting so that her own lips dusted affectionately against his shoulder.
His feverishly warm hands moved and he toggled her head to rest on his shoulder. He twisted enough to shelter her ear with a hand and a twist of his face toward her. "You'll still have something of his." He shook his head, smiling as he did with a touch of ennui. He said something unintelligible with an eyebrow lift and another head shake. Relationships were worth trying for but they had a way of being overly complicated. Timmoz remembered the myths told to him, that V'draysh officers were like little chaste monks, never having families. It was a myth he quickly proved wrong. But nonetheless, there was a simplicity to it.
He cupped his hand top her ear again, "Humans! They are so annoying sometimes!"
Whatever she had expected him to say that wasn't it and she snorted, the sound lost to the waterfall though her whole body jolted with it, the movement unmistakable. Her mind turned, though, despite the amusement. It wasn't that she grieved Kennedy so much in that moment, though she did grieve him. It was more that with that grief had welled up a feeling of absence. The sense that she didn't belong to anyone and the unmistakable question of whether she would again. They were in the Delta Quadrant. It was a small ship. Chances had been slim in the first place. She wasn't sure how to explain that, though, without also giving up the spot where her head rested on her friend's shoulder, and so instead she wrapped her arm around his torso and squeezed lightly, hoping her appreciation for him would come through in the gesture.
Timmoz did better, lifting- spidering- himself to be behind Irynya and to enthrone her with his lankiness. His arm belted under her breasts and he pulled her flush to him. "Do you think your pet Cadet is still staring at that aqueduct?" He said to the shell of her ear.
As Timmoz rearranged them she melted into him, resting with his arm wrapping her and her head resting against his chest. Settled in as they were, Timmoz couldn't see her expression, but she nodded her head against him and then. Craning her head backward so Timmoz could dip his head for her to speak into his ear. "If it hasn't led him to something else to look at, probably. Doubt he has noticed our absence yet."
Timmoz hummed a soft note of acceptance at her hope that the engineer was likely absorbed. He tightened his arms around her and tilted his head against the lukewarm limestone. His fingers painted against her ribs, rhythmic to the beat of some primordial Orion music long since captured in memory tropes. His dual-heart beat was relaxed against her spine.
It was entirely possible she could have sat like that for hours, basking in the quiet closeness; in the warmth of skin against skin and the soothing touch of Timmoz's hands. She breathed with him, let the rhythm of his heartbeat lull her. And with the lulling came a loosening of things she held in check. Things that felt too messy to share with anyone. She was quietly thankful for the spray of the falling water, because it hid the flow tears that escaped her.