Predators and Prey
Location: Base Camp, Shaddam IVa
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1030
[MD1: 1030 Hours]
The three other teams -- as assigned by the First Officer -- had all departed for their specific assignments, meaning the area they'd set up as base camp was empty, save the four crew members chosen to remain behind. Tasked with collecting and analyzing samples of the air, water, and earth that this moon had in abundance, the team would be quite busy indeed. They would have several hours to complete their survey but no more: once night fell, it would be far too cold to remain on the moon's surface. Even now, with thermal gear, the winds were beginning to whip, kicking up dust and driving temperatures down even further.
The moon was indeed a mystery but one hopefully soon solved by the efforts of the team left behind.
Lieutenant Arianna Durand shivered as she turned to face the team she'd been assigned to lead. "Right. I'm sure none of us wants to remain here any longer than is necessary. We're going to focus on the square kilometre centred on this location." She gestured at the containers that held the scientific equipment. "Lieutenant Kestrel," she directed her gaze at the short Argelian woman. "I have a bad feeling about that vessel which passed overhead. If they were attacked then there may still be some sort of hostile force in the area. I'll need a contingency plan to execute if such a force discovers us."
Kestrel nodded, her mind already whirling with possibilities. "Understood," the security officer responded, eyeing her tricorder. Aside from the away teams, there weren't any other humanoid lifesigns she could detect. And, judging at least by the limited scanner range, she didn't see any other ships showing up, either. Still, Durand was smart to ask for a contingency plan. Kestrel set herself to coming up with something.
"Midshipman ... Balsam is it?" Arianna looked towards the lanky engineer for confirmation.
"Yes Ma'am," Noah confirmed.
Durand continued. "I want you to get the analysis consoles up and running." She turned to face the remaining member of the team who towered over her and reflected that she'd never been quite so close to a Gorn before. "Lieutenant Gar'rath and I will be collecting the samples. Ten meter intervals in a grid pattern."
Lieutenant Gar'rath grunted an acknowledgement, though in his mind he had already drifted to planning worst case scenario tactics should his heat source in his cold weather gear decide to give out. His eyes flitted about their makeshift camp, his opinion of the current set up hidden behind inscrutable micro expressions that mammalian species weren't adept at interpreting on his reptilian face.
The cold seemed to creep from her exposed face down to her chest, instilling an urge to get moving. "Are there any questions?" Arianna asked of the team.
Noah, with a note of hesitation born out of his rank and inexperience, took steps toward the bulk of his work- to get things up and running. "I'll-I'll get started Ma'am," Noah said. "Is there. Is there any one of them you want up first?"
As Arianna considered priorities, she noticed a metallic glint in the dust stirred up by the frigid breeze. "Yes, start with the scanning electron microscope and attach an energy dispersive detector."
"Yes ma'am," Noah acknowledged without missing a step. The over-leggy cadet moved swiftly to the base zone he'd managed to get the equipment to. He squatted and examined a few hard cases. And then he found the one he was looking for. He started moving it into position and then unlatched the hard case. It folded down and revealed the portable sensor array that was the dispersive deflector system. Then he returned to his situated equipment and found the electron microscope.
Kestrel, meanwhile, had been busy both establishing a perimeter and coming up with the ordered plan. "Sir?" she said, looking towards Durand. "Without the Waverider here, we're somewhat limited in terms of cover options. Since we're pretty exposed here," she gestured to the clearing around them, "my suggestion would be to head into the forest to the east if things go sideways. The trees grow pretty thick there and could be used for partial cover at the very least. What I wouldn't give for a good cave, though," she trailed off.
"Hmmn. That does seem like our best option," Arianna agreed. "Let's hope there's nothing big and hungry lurking in there." It was a joke, but their equipment hadn't exactly been reliable on the moon and so she couldn't be sure that there wasn't.
Offering a rye chuckle in response, Kestrel nodded her agreement. "Let's hope not, indeed." Her eyes scanned the equipment pile and then, given the circumstances she added, "I'd also recommend we have any emergency gear located centrally. It looks like we've been left with at least a first aid kit. She eyed the box that bore the medical colors and symbol. "If we do have reason to move quickly to cover we'll want those to be easily accessible to take with us."
"Good idea." An icy breeze sent a shiver from the back of Arianna's neck all the way down her spine, making her arms twitch as a result. "If we do have to move quickly, we don't want to get separated from our environmental gear." She glanced at the unopened containers in the pile that held the somewhat awkward garments, unsure whether wearing or carrying them would slow their movement more.
"Agreed," Kestrel replied, offering that same wry smile to the chief scientist before turning to the equipment and evaluating the space for the best place to stash things.
A gentle hum and singing whine rose from Noah's whereabouts: the blue and green diagnostic lights whirred. Noah stepped back, PADD in hand and the light of amber holo-LCARS floating above. His finger flicked through the data. "We're online."
As the console came to life, so too, it seemed, did the wind. Another strong gust kicked up, driving the temps down several more degrees and stirring up the layers of dust covering the ground. The wind kept up for several long moments, swirling about the clearing and creating a bit of dust haze in the air that reduced visibility, though only slightly. As the gust faded, the dust remained in the air, floating around in the normal air currents.
Noah stood, idle but curious. He lifted his technical HUD from his face with a gesture. "Uh that's... new?" He said. He pressed his oxygen breather a little tauter to his slender face until the dust had mostly settled. His curiosity had him pulling out his tricorder and he made an awkward, tight walking circle of his space while he moved his tricorder up and again, trying to determine how the technology had so affected the space.
Kestrel tucked her arms around her torso, shivering slightly even after the wind died. The haze of the dust on the air gave everything an almost ethereal feel in her view and she found herself wishing she could sketch the alienness of everything. It was beautiful, if frustrating and cold. With a sigh, she snagged the med kit and the small box of gear and moved toward Noah's console, settling the things just beside it. The console seemed as good a choice as any and there was likely to be someone nearby it at any point.
"Find anything?" she asked as Noah completed his circling.
The confused Engineer wrinkled his vaguely freckled nose, stepping up Kestrel and turning the tricorder toward her. "N-nothing I understand. Except." Above his aquiline nose, Noah's brows furrowed into an almost-unibrow. "The metallic alloys have some strange... b-bonding properties. Possibly electromagnetic. I-It's forming lattices with the dust." And again, he showed Kestrel and the group where the LCAR-stylized dust particles were forming concave lattices with ordinary silica and carbon to form shapes akin to small domes.
The Gorn's eyes narrowed at the odd formations and he muttered just loud enough for the group to hear him, "Reminds me of Tholian crystal structures... Just not as intricate or purpose built."
As the officers gathered around Noah to observe his readings, the wind kicked up yet again, this time strong enough to buffet the team and blow a couple of the supply crates atop their pile over. They fell to the ground, springing open to vomit their contents into the waiting dust layer below, items strewn in haphazard piles. Unlike the previous wind burst, however, this gust seemed wholly uninterested in subsiding, blowing even more of the dust into the air, causing visibility to lower further than it had already. The weak sun shone through the brownish-gray haze, a fuzzy ball in a sky that was growing cloudier by the moment. Suddenly, Noah's tricorder began to urgently beep, demanding eyes be laid on the warning the device was offering up.
"What is that?" Kestrel yelled, eyes darting to Noah's tricorder just as the gust seemed to physically push the team way from each other leaving only the Ops Chief, in place--held there by sheer body mass. The wind whipped the words from her mouth even as she called them, and when Noah looked askance at her for repetition she shook her head and nodded toward the copse of trees she had pointed out not long before that. Doing her best to lean into the gale she ducked, snagging the medical kit she'd noticed earlier, and beat a slow, though determined, retreat toward the trees.
Arianna struggled to see or hear anything through the sudden dust storm but noticed Kestrel heading for the trees with the medical kit and understood that it was time to action the security officer's plan. She tried to call to the others to follow, but resorted to a physical gesture when her words went unheard. There hadn't been time to look out any other supplies they might need in a hurry and the stack of containers was now a jumbled pile. With an inaudible sigh, she followed the group towards cover.
The skinny spider of a cadet braced- and failed to fully keep ground- at the new gale. But once he found himself a tree to hide behind, he pulled out his tricorder again. His wide mouth frowned. "There's s-something coming at us. It's huge. It's... I-I'm not a meteorologist but it looks like some kind of storm front!" He reported.
Though the trees gave some reprieve from the ferocity of the wind, the sound of the branches above them being whipped and tugged taut made up for it, making it difficult, still, to hear well. Using the trees as anchor points, the Argelian moved from one tree to another before reaching Noah's location on the third movement. "I didn't catch all of that," she said as she tucked herself alongside him by the tree, peering at his tricorder while her mind began a fresh tactical evaluation of their circumstances.
Noah followed Kestrel's tactic and tried to use the trees for cover to break apart the full gust. Still as Kestrel squeezed in with him, his hair was whipping into his face and he was having to try and claw it away, his back to the tree. Rather than try to speak in the gale, he turned his instrument to her. "I-I don't know exactly what I'm looking at. It moved in so fast."
Arianna spotted where Noah and Kestrel were sheltering and switched trees a few times until she got close enough to shout. "Are either of you hurt?"
Noah shook his head, squinting into the foul wind, tight lipped under his mask. "N-no. But we might want to find some cover. I-it's only going to get worse!" Noah exclaimed as he turned his tricorder to Arianna to show a powerful, abrupt front moving for them. A gust whipped at his arm and sent it flailing back along with a peel of his jacket cover. He pulled it close and flush to his chest.
"No injuries," Kestrel shouted back to Ariana before frowning ahead of them.
Tucking her head to reduce the wind whipping against her face, Kestrel considered a few different options. They were fairly out in the open and Lieutenant Durand's comment about wishing for a cave came back to her again, but wishing wouldn't get them any closer to actual shelter. Raising her head again she scanned the copse of trees anew. There wasn't much more they could do. They were as close together as they could get without letting go of their trees, but with the pace of the wind and the particles in the air, visibility was diminished dramatically. A moment later, a larger branch whipped past them, just above their heads and she ducked quickly before determining that down might be better.
"Sit down," she yelled to the others, pointing downward and indicating with her own example as she slid her back down the tree until she was seated, legs pulled tight to herself.
Noah hesitated, unsure if sitting down would help. He didn't have the same innate experience as people who had lived on normal gravity worlds, Class M, with wind as a phenomenon. Another gust made him at least try it. He crouched down and buffeted the wind with the tree trunk.
Arianna reluctantly sat behind her tree, following the example the others had set. She felt that she should be doing something rather than just sitting there but the wind was frustratingly persistent. Her face was numb from the wind chill so she hugged her arms around her legs and pushed her face into them for shelter.
It felt like they'd been hunkered down at the base of the trees for ages, but in reality, Kestrel realized it must have only been about a minute... maybe two. She tried to shift, her limbs protesting the compact space and the constant bracing against the buffeting of the wind, but it did little.
"Can you see the edge of this thing?" she tried to ask Noah. The wind seemed to whip the words from her, though, and she felt fairly confident that he didn't hear her. Clamping her lips shut she turned her head toward Durand, noticing that the frenzy of dust that whipped between their two trees now resembled an opaque curtain. She could make out the form of the woman, but the rate at which the dust gathered was quickly making it difficult to see. Ahead of her it felt as if the world were suddenly closing in, drawing close as the dust began to obscure the trees around them.
It was at that moment that two things seemed to happen almost at once. First, each of them felt the buzz of their comm-badges mixed with what sounded like a burst of static. The noise, like so many others, rent the air and then was tossed away on the wind. Comms went quiet again before another loud burst, this seeming to contain the telltale rumble of their Gorn colleague, but beyond that nothing could be made out.
Kestrel would have tried to respond, or to yell to Durand for direction, but an ominous creak sounded just above her head. She had exactly enough time to look up before the ground beneath where she and Noah had huddled groaned and the tree that had protected them thus far began to lean toward them, roots wrenching up from the ground as it did.
To be continued...
=/\= A Mission Post By... =/\=
Lieutenant Arianna Durand
Chief Science Officer
Chief of Operations
Lieutenant JG Kestrel
Midshipman Noah Balsam