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Posted on Thu Dec 15th, 2022 @ 2:21am by Ensign Brian Davies & Lieutenant Margarar & Ensign Mei Ratthi & Ensign Noah Balsam & Andrew Munro & Ensign Jyl-eel Tor

Mission: A Camping We Will Go
Location: Waterfall Springs, Gentris IV
Timeline: Mission Day 3 at 0000

Downstream the waterfall Irynya had spotted from sensor sweeps thundered into a tepid basin of cloudy, pearly turquoise water. The green canopy hung over the springs, dappling the ground and pool with filtered light. Pale trees with conifer-like growths interspersed with leaf-like plants, drinking up the morning light. On the banks of crusty calcite limestone from the pool grew strange fungi.

Above on the butte where the waterfall fell, the shuttlecraft had perched- and now lifted away- with the scientists, their gear, their security escort, and an engineer all left behind. As usual Timmoz had told them to comm into the camp when they needed a pickup but this site had proven an interesting challenge- no landing.

Instead, Noah had worked the transporter to beam the scientists and their equipment the sixty meters above the treetop canopy to the floor. It may have been one of the shortest transporter ranges, but carrying the equipment up the bluff would’ve proven challenging.

Jyl-eel Tor, playing with an errant coil of her hair, began to deploy a small specimen table with telescoping legs. She had a case slung across her plump form but already, specimen canisters were coming out of a knapsack. “The soil looks quite alkaline,” she observed. “It might be interesting to see how the elements in the springs affect plant and animal evolution.”

The moment that Noah beamed down, Margarar relaxed, but only slightly. She was, after all "on duty," and the Antican new that she had a role to play. That being said, she could not help be envious that the cadet was going towards the water but she was going to be stuck in the base camp. "Could have gone fishing," the Antican grumbled.

Andrew slung his backpack up onto his back, looping his other arm through the remaining strap and then fastening the waist strap that kept it snug to his lower back. It seemed like forever since he last performed that motion but it still felt familiar. As the scientists began to disperse, he decided to head for the water first. Usually the lifeblood of an ecosystem, it seemed like an optimal place to start.

Meanwhile, Noah was slinging his own engineering kit across his skinny self, and he pointed for Ensign Ratthi. “Um. The-the aqueduct we saw is up there,” he pointed a little down the way toward the source of the waterfall sound. “It was like it branched off… mostly underground.”

"Okay. I'm not about to follow it underground, but we can take a look at the external structure and try to figure out if it's natural or artificial. I'll admit, though, that architecture isn't my thing, but if this site isn't classified or anything, I could send our data back to my sister, who is a structural engineer. As long as you don't mind how long it'll take to do that." Mei flashed Noah a grin and adjusted her backpack's straps over her shoulders before taking off at a brisk pace toward the aqueduct. "I'm assuming you brought a scanner so we can get some detailed holograms of it?"

The skinny cadet smiled almost in a wolfshly Timmoz way- except his mouth was too wide. He nodded his head. "I-I have a couple of surprises in my kit here." He began to lead the archaeologist up to the location, being sure to point out the geography and geometry of the terrain. "Do, um, you see any other signs that someone was here before us?" He asked over his shoulder.

He unslung his kit when they arrived. He squatted down and opened his kit. Inside he had one of the drones he'd used to scan Chameloid artifacts. It was spherical. And with a twist of his hands, it emitted a friendly chirp. When Noah let it go, it went airborne, using some kind of antigravity thruster system. The little device had a series of eye-like cameras, while soft medical light pulsed in its polar extremes. It began to whirl and happily chirp, its equatorial cameras spinning.

"It's-it's just in self-diagnostic mode. That's Archie," he pointed. The calibrating device gently bobbed around Mei Ratthi with its midsection spinning, clicking, and chirping.

"Hi, Archie," Mei waved at the device. "You know, I've always found it interesting how so many different peoples will bond with devices and other things that can't return the sentiment or even understand it in the first place. Like, I knew a medical student at the Academy who had this tricorder that was kind of out of date, and everyone told them they needed to get a new one, but they were intent on keeping the old tricorder because it was their tricorder, and they felt like getting a different one would be a betrayal of the old one. No idea what happened with all that in the end." She picked her way through rocks and plants, her eyes on the ground and not really on her own tricorder.

Noah, a hesitation in him while he processed what Mei said, turned and squinted into the filtering sun. "I sort of understand them. I-I have my favorite tools. Tools...." He shrugged and kept readying his diagnostics and rendering equipment, "Computers,... they do develop, um... tics. Personalities."

After a few minutes, Mei hopped onto a boulder and focused on her scans, turning in a slow circle until her tricorder beeped. "There's nothing that's standing out to me from here. Granted, it can take a while to figure out if something is artificial and broken, or just natural. You can have potsherds or other artifacts that register as bits of rock. I don't see anything that's clearly artificially shaped, manufactured, or made of metallic alloys. As for the aqueduct or whatever it might be, well, there are plenty of natural landforms that look like they're built structures. If we can get right up to it, we can see if there are any markings that would indicate languages. Humans aren't the only ones who like to leave their marks on the things they've built." She looked over at Noah and grinned. "Ready?"

"I'm ready." Noah had straightened and had his PADD in hands, thumbs at the ready. With a squeal he began to type at it with his thumbs like it was some kind of controller. Archie spun, re-orienting, chirped and began to head where Noah had sent it. Archie lowered itself into the gush of theater Noah had wondered might be an aqueduct. For the moment, with water churning around it, the little probe was in station keeping.

"Archie. Shields up. Activate your holo-rendering software," the device chirped, almost like an eager bird in a birdbath. Noah meanwhile narrowed the data band and then he flicked three times in front of him. His PADD cast three walls of holographic images- which was showing a flow of water around Archie's front.


"How long do you think it will take?" Mei glanced back at the images, then up at the waterfall and the aqueduct like she was trying to match up the display to the real stone in front of them. Then, arms spread wide to help balance on the rocks, she got as close to the river as she dared without stepping into it. Squinting up at the edifice, she set both her tricorder and her eyes to scan the thing to see if there were any visible, artificial marks on it. "I mean, the whole thing looks really regular, but like I said, that doesn't automatically point to a manufactured structure. You can have rows of columnar basalt that look like someone stood them up in a line, but it's just volcanic action. But. There are some markings up there that are interesting." She pointed to a series of hash marks about halfway up one of the columns, a series of evenly spaced parallel slashes in the rock. Perhaps it was the light, but it looked like there were also a set of smaller lines set at right angles to the main slashes. "What do you think?"

"Not long Ma'am," Noah tried to assure, though his attention was clearly distracted by the PADD used for his machinations. He set it into the water near the mouth of the aquifer and, staying squatted down like a cricket taking a rest on its haunches, he started to maneuver. Archie chirped and began to venture under the ground beyond the reach of the Humans. Around Noah, the holo-filters began to immerse Mei and Noah in a three-dimensional display with their bodies at the center. Noah jerked his head up as Mei examined a series of even slashes. "That c-could be tool marks. Unless it is a cleave mark..."

"That's why we need the scans. To figure out if the marks were made with tools or not. And," she caught his gaze and held it, all humor gone from her expression, "it might be that we won't be able to tell if they're natural or artificial. Even if there are tool marks, they could be so eroded that we can't tell how they were made. So don't go and form any hypotheses just yet. We don't have nearly enough information to start doing that, and we may never have enough. Anthropology and archaeology aren't fields where you always have a solid answer. I'm not trying to be mean or anything, it's just that our data might be inconclusive with only a few scans to guide us. Or we might get lucky and find an obvious signature. You never know." Mei's bright smile returned, and she looked back up at the aqueduct

The lanky stick bug Engineer nodded once. "W-well, whatever you say Ma'am. I'm just tech support." Noah kept monitoring Archie as the small probe droid moved through the length of the aqueduct. The hologram around them, like a superimposed reality surround, changed as the probe moved through. Eventually Archie displayed bright, filtered sunlight somewhere near the waterfall. "Tha-that looks like it's it." Noah said.

"Great! I look forward to analyzing the data once we get back to the ship," Mei said brightly. "Any other technical details you need to take care of, or do you want to explore a bit more of this place before we have to head back?"

The engineer shook his head, not needing anything on his end. It seemed it was time to head back.

[Back at base camp]

Brian Davies traveled light: a phaser, a tricorder, and a single case with specimen collection jars and tools. With the case slung over his shoulder, the entomologist moved away from the landing site and began scanning the area visually. It was certainly beautiful in this locale; so much verdant plant life would have to attract no end of insects. From pollinators to leaf cutters to web weavers, Brian suspected a wide range of differing bug types to be on display. The readings from his tricorder only confirmed this belief, eliciting a low whistle from the man. "I could spend days here," he commented to no one in particular, using his tricorder to get a magnified view of some ant-like creatures crawling up the trunk of a nearby tree. "Look at those mandibles!" Brian exclaimed, delighted.

"Well we have a couple left," Jyl-eel lyrically said. She was as merrily pleased as Davies was at their surroundings, She rose from studying a series of interesting stalks that looked like miniature bamboo, but her tricorder insisted had psilocybin qualities. DO NOT CONSUME flashed across her tricorder. At Davies' exaltation of an insect's form, she ventured over, curious, to have a look. "Oh my," she agreed. "Perhaps... for root cutting?"

"Hmm," Davies replied, looking up to smile at Tor, "you might be right. Their mandibles do seem highly specialized for cutting rather than gnawing," he commented, eyes returning to the line of ant-likes climbing their way up the tree's bark-striated surface. Some of the creatures carried small plant cuttings on their backs while others seemed to carry some kind of moist, pollen-like globules. "What are those?" Brian asked, kneeling aside the ant stream to physically view the orangey-pink blobs on the ants' backs. "Something you recognize?" he asked, turning to again regard Jyl-eel.

Jyl-eel knelt with him and raised her tricorder. It pulsed slowly. "Very good question," she asked. "They're highly nutritious whatever they are. High amounts of... some kind of tetraglucine. Niacin. I'm detecting a primitive hemerytherin in them. That's interesting."

"Niacin," Brian responded with interest, letting the word tumble over his lips. "That suggests that whatever this...stuff is," he emphasized, pointing at the ant-likes, "it must be essential to their biological processes."

Margarar looked over in the Ensigns' direction and called out, "Don't be eating any of that yet. The last thing that I want is to be on report for two ensigns not following protocols under my watch. Bag it and tag it while I get all of your equipment set up." The Antican gathered a number of pieces of what would be a science console and spread them about her in a semi circle. Taking her eyes off the ensigns, she confirmed that every widget was accounted for before putting together the first console in the time it would take for someone to say "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Of course, had the Antican known of the word, she likely would have said it was quite atrocious.

"Thank you, Lieutenant," Jyl-eel said behind her back, "We'll be careful. I'm not detecting any toxins. Psilocybins... yes."

"And that is just as hazardous," the Antican replied back. "Containment protocols. Scientists becoming irrational sounds like a major problem and I have enough just building your stations."

"Oh I dunno, sir," Davies chuckled as he turned to regard the engineer, "while us inadvertently dosing ourselves would be a bad thing, I once studied an Anthophila...a bee," he clarified the phylum name-drop, "that picked up amounts of psilocybins from flowers it would visit. The drug would get all over its stinger, causing hallucinations to anyone it stung. That's not the good part," he laughed, turning to look at Tor. "The good part is that the psilocybins actually became a very useful drug for treating certain types of depression. Nature's psychiatrists, those little bees," he grinned. "Maybe you've found something equally useful?" he offered to the scientist.

Depression was not something that Anticans often suffered, so Margarar tilted her head to the side and retorted as she laid out another console, "And of course, never mind the fact if one was not depressed that someone would hallucinate and potentially get in more problems." The Antican scoffed. "I swear that scientists delight in finding more problems just so others can fix them." She whipped up the new console before turning to the scientists and putting her hands on her hips. "And that's what engineers do: fix problems. Must be why the elders sent me here."

Davies, for his part, couldn't suppress a chuckle at the idea of scientists making life more complicated. Margarar was right, though, about psychoactive bee stings not doing non-depressive people any favors. "If only we could direct the bees to go to certain people, hmm?" he tossed back to the Antican as he continued to study the readouts on his tricorder.

Tor smiled her gentle, serene smile as if she had a warm hot chocolate teasing under her nose. "We do. We like trouble. That's what science is for, Lieutenant. Every time you uncover one answer, you get three more questions. We Valt believe in the rule of threefold." She looked to Davies. "Should we take samples? I am detecting very low-level radio emissions from them," she mentioned of the ants. "Communications between them?"

The Antican shook her head and started rigging a makeshift containment field. She had a sick feeling that they were going to need it.

"I was just thinking the same," the entomologist nodded to Tor, crouching down once again. Davies opened the kit that had been slung around his shoulder and removed a live specimen collection jar and a pair of tweezers. As gently as he could, the scientist picked out an ant -- one with a leaf cutting on its back -- and lifted the squirming insect into the jar. Spinning its cap into place, Davies looked at the ant inside and muttered an apology. "Sorry little one. Please don't be angry with me," he said, placing the jar back into his kit. "Lieutenant," he called over to Margarar, "any chance you've got a workstation at the ready?" To Tor, Davies flashed a smile and said, "Want to share a workspace?"

Margarar looked over at the two work stations she had already built and then back over at Davies. Scientists really do live in their own world and cannot see what is in front of them. "I did not realize that my stature was blocking them," the diminutive Antican replied.

"Sure," Tor chirped merrily. She smiled at the Antican, gentle and patient, "Power comes in many sizes, Lieutenant Margarar."

"Yes it does," Margarar agreed. "It is all a matter of atoms, molecules, and chemical reactions, but you should know that." She blinked twice while looking innocently at Tor.

"You're a lifesaver," Davies imparted to Margarar, excitedly moving over to the console the Antican had put together. He'd let the acerbic remark about blocking the stations pass by, instead opting to choose kindness and professionalism. "Thanks for putting this together," he said, assuming position at the now operational science station. He took up the right side, leaving the left free for Tor to utilize for her own research. "How was your run earlier? I bet it felt good to let loose after being cooped up on the ship?" he asked of Margarar. For Tor, he offered an encouraging smile.

"Indeed," Margarar answered with reference to the run. "A holodeck is an incredible invention but feeling one's limbs on the earth, as nature intended, cannot be replicated. Imagine the feel of riding a bicycle compared to a stationary bike. It is very much the same sensation. To feel actual earth and air...." Margarar's eyes got a far away dreamy look to them.

Tor raised an eyebrow. "What is a bicycle?" She asked, looking between Davies and the Antican. "Bike?"

"It's something we use on Earth for transportation," Davies explained. "Imagine a metal frame with a large wheel in the front and back. You sit on a central seat and use your legs to drive pedals, which in turn drives the wheels. Bikes are great exercise and a wonderful way to explore your surroundings," he said. "Never was a fan of the stationary exercise versions, though, so I definitely get it, Lieutenant," Davies smiled at Margarar.

"Ah," the rotund scientist replied, bobbing her head slowly.

"Bicycles are not a good substitute for running. You can feel the earth move with you and your connection to it." Margarar's eyes took on a faraway look, as if imagining her last run. She then continued, "The bicycle removes that."

"True," Davies admitted. "But I can go a lot faster and further on a bike than I can jogging," he smiled, enjoying the back and forth with the engineer. The Antican was a lively one, that was for sure.

As work subsumed the trio, they fell quiet, settling into their respective tasks. While they were technically on vacation, you just couldn't stick a bunch of scientists on an unexplored planet and expect them not to Science. No doubt the group would collect a lot of interesting and useful data. And since they would likely never visit Gentris IV again, this was most likely their only chance to satisfy their curiosity about the place. Science would, indeed, have its day.

*** A joint-post by... ***

Lieutenant Margarar
Asst Chief Engineer

Ensign Mei Ratthi
Science Officer

Ensign Jyl-eel Tor

Ensign Brian Davies
Science Officer

Midshipman Noah Balsam
Systems Specialist

Andrew Munro


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