Make Your Choice
Predators and Prey
Location: Shuttle Crash Site, Shaddam IVa
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1050
[Shuttle Crash Site]
[Forests of Shaddam IVa]
[MD 1: 1050 Hours]
The team had boarded the Waverider as instructed, quickly running through pre-flight checks as the final bits and bobs of necessary equipment were offloaded. Once the craft was clear, it had risen back into the sky and jetted in the direction of the shuttlecraft they'd all seen crashing in the distance. Despite flying versus walking, the trip took several minutes to complete. When the Waverider closed distance to the crash, however, it proved impossible to land: the shuttle had downed in the middle of a thick forest. The trees were simply far too dense to land the large craft.
Instead, the team sat the Waverider down just shy of a kilometer to the south, where the trees thinned and a clearing presented itself as a prime landing spot. Unfortunately this meant the rest of the way to the crash site had to be on foot: a simple trek made more complicated by the thin air and the urgency of getting to their destination as quickly as possible.
Charles assessed the situation from the tactical station on the Shuttle. “I’m not seeing much from tactical. I’m going to have to put feet on the ground and go hands on to see if there were any survivors.” As he put on his respirator. “Mr. Timmoz, if you don’t mind, I’ll take point as I want to keep you guys safe. We don’t know what to expect out there. Do you agree?” Asked Bridgeport.
"You'll be with me Mr. Bridgeport," Timmoz said without looking up. His slender fingers were working his mission ops console from a standing position, having ceded piloting to Lieutenant Irynya. The green one glanced up at Bridgeport. "I'm very familiar with a phaser." His smile slid into his Cluros, bemused.
As the Waverider began to touch down, Timmoz too donned a thermal coat and a respirator- this moon was far too cold and thinly veiled for a tropical creature such as himself. Timmoz shifted back to mapping the topography and route to the shuttle crash site from their touchdown. He sent that data to everyone's PADDs. "Lieutenant Wang," he said, bracing his hands on the console. He looked up. "What do you need for triage support?" He looked at Parsons and Irynya. "Parsons, Kava, you've just been promoted to Nurses for the moment. We may need to move injured personnel out of the danger zone." He looked at Nico. "Mr. Oliveria, I need you to make sure we aren't walking into a toxic mess."
Xex was already half out of the seat at the science console he had strapped into for the rapid flight over. He straightened fully and though his eyes flicked to the cockpit's door as though he wanted to sprint through it, Timmoz's question stayed his motion and he blinked once, seemingly stunned at the notion of someone asking him his requirements. When his silvery features once again animated however, he ticked off his requests with the ease of long practice. This, it seemed, was not Xex's first triage rodeo.
“We'll need trauma kits one and two on site-- we'll leave the bulky stuff in the shuttle and bring anyone requiring more care to it, rather than vice versa,” Xex said, with nods toward his recently promoted nurses. His tone was optimistic, refusing to acknowledge the possibility that there might not even be anyone in a position to receive aid. His expression was surprisingly jaunty, as though pleasantly surprised to find himself with extra hands to help. “And we'll need the stretcher. I actually saw one in the medbay, and it had a grav unit on it; one person should be able to operate it. I'll grab any meds we'll need.” Finally, he gave himself permission to move and strode for the aft cockpit door, one hand shifting to his newly-issued phaser to assure himself of its placement.
Parsons rose from the station he'd taken and nodded to both Timmoz and Wang. "Understood," came the young engineer's reply. "Just um...be ready to catch me if I pass out? Blood and I don't exactly get along," he gulped. Already clad in his thermal gear, Sheldon grabbed additional supplies as directed and made his way to the Waverider's exit ramp. This footsteps thudded on the metal protrusion as he made his way out of the large craft. He made a point of showing Bridgeport his phaser as he passed, indicating that he, too, was armed and ready as needed.
Xex clapped the engineer on the back as he passed, saying, “We’ll do our best to make sure you aren’t another casualty. Just… try not to look too hard.” Despite the situation, he flashed Parsons a grin, acknowledging the ridiculousness of that request. Assuring himself that his erstwhile nurses were appropriately kitted out, he took an extra moment in the med bay, filling the various pockets of his medkit with as many supplies as he could, looking like nothing so much as a child in a candy shop. At last, he fitted a respirator over his face and clipped a few extras to his belt, before descending the ramp to the moon’s surface.
Running in thermal gear -- and respirators, for those who'd taken them -- was much more difficult than it would normally be. But in time, the team made it to the site of the downed shuttle and began their efforts to investigate.
"Holy..." Parsons exclaimed, eyes roving the wreckage. It was not a pretty sight at all. Of course, it was a crash site, so what did he expect? Even so, he found himself surprised by the condition of the crash. Starfleet shuttles were, it seemed, much hardier than whatever race had built this shuttle. The engineer whistled lowly as he peered at the twisted, smoking hulk in front of them. "Could anyone have survived this?" he wondered out loud.
Bridgeport observed the wreckage as they stood looking at the mangled mess. “I think this shuttle was shot down. Notice the scorch marks on the outer hull.” He offered as a point of conversation. He had converted to investigator mode and didn’t realise it. It all came flooding back into his mind. Who what when where and how. All questions that needed to be answered in an investigation. Then his eyes went to the ground in the immediate area. Because if they were shot down, and there were survivors, they would try to get as far from the wreckage as possible. So Charles sought tracks to prove his theory. But there was also a W that he left out. And that was the Why? If they were shot down, why were they shot down? Thought Bridgeport.
Xex was breathing heavily by the time they reached the actual crash site, the respirator doing him no favors when it came to ease of drawing breath. He took a few moments, chest heaving, to collect himself. “I’m going to pay for this,” he muttered, more to himself than his crew mates.
While he worked at getting his breath back, Xex waved a distracted hand in front of his face in a vain attempt to dispel some of the hanging particulates stirred up first by the crash, and then more recently by their arrival. His expression was difficult to discern behind the respirator, but his voice was unwontedly somber as he added to Bridgeport’s report, “That’s assuming they were in any kind of shape to move themselves anywhere.”
At least Parsons was asking questions he could answer. With the smooth motions of long practice, Xex drew out his tricorder and began a preliminary scan. The screen reflected eerily off his respirator’s face shield, and made a few concerning booping noises. “The answer, Mr. Parsons, is yes. And,” he sounded just a touch surprised, “Our fine security chief is also correct. I’m picking up a single life sign but it’s about two hundred and fifty meters…” Xex trailed off and spun, eyes glued to his tricorder, until he came to a stop, pointing, “That way. Headed away from this position.” Report made, the man continued to stare down at his tricorder screen, tension in every line of his body.
"Caution," Timmoz advised as he raised his voice for the first time since entering the crash site zone. "If Bridgeport is correct and they were shot down, they might think we are the shooters." His eyes fell on Xex and Bridgeport. "Oliveria, Parsons, Irynya. Secure this area. See what you can find out about these people. Language, technology, maybe why they are even on this rock. Irynya, if anything is left of their logs, try and find a flight path or at least a heading." He said. "Xex, you're behind myself and Bridgeport." Timmoz pulled out his phaser and checked its settings. "Lets find this individual."
Xex grunted his assent and hardly glanced up from his tricorder as he fell in behind the other two.
“My thoughts exactly.” As Charles stepped off in the direction they needed to travel. “If you scan and keep me aware of distance. I can handle our situational awareness. I hate surprises.” Said Charles.
In principle, Timmoz agreed. But being Syndicate, one kept one's own awareness- and readiness- when entering a strange situation. And one that suggested unfriendly fire. After all, among Orions, one was responsible for oneself. "One more thing," Timmoz said back to the group staying. "The second you detect anything that might be coming in hostile. You get out of here faster Bunjeezu's Posse. Don't worry about us. We'll lay low in the forest. Report back anything to t'Nai and Kodak. Understood?"
Timmoz looked at his phaser setting again. V'draysh set things on stun. Syndicate did not. The urge was there. Timmoz resisted.
"Understood," Parsons nodded. As Timmoz, Wang, and Bridgeport set out, the ensign focused on the work ahead. He had a phaser in his right hand, at the ready, while also scanning the debris with the tricorder in his left hand. The device softly trilled as it analyzed the smoking hull fragments at the junior engineer's feet, Sheldon himself nodding along as the readings populated. "Scorch marks seem consistent with weapon's fire, though I think this shuttle had a pretty rough ride through the atmosphere, too," he remarked, lowering to his haunches to take a closer look with his eyes. "The metallurgy of these hull fragments suggest the shuttle wasn't really designed for heavy atmospheric use," Parsons trailed off, eyes back on his readings.
Irynya had been, uncharacteristically, quiet through most of their journey. Beyond acknowledgement of orders and getting right to it, anyone looking would have pegged her as withdrawn. But she was doing the work that needed doing and in that regard, at least, she seemed fine. Like, Timmoz, Irynya considered herself a tropical creature, so she was bundled into warm attire. Gloves, however, were unhelpful and so her hands remained unencumbered. She crouched next to Sheldon. "Can I get inside?" she asked him, turning her head to her friend and roommate. "I'll probably need to be inside to recover any kind of data."
"Let's find out," Sheldon nodded, then toed his way slowly towards the main hulk of the wreckage. From the front, he could see the spider-webbed window of the cockpit, the glass having mostly held up to the crash. Mindful not to get too close to the metal surface of the shuttle, the engineer tried to peer inside but couldn't see much. Gesturing Iry around the side and back, Parsons used both his eyes and his tricorder to investigate the potential safety of entering the vehicle's remains. Aside from a sparking auxiliary panel, things looked safe enough for their purposes. "Looks mostly OK," he said, stepping carefully around fallen debris and personal items, "just watch where you sit..." he trailed off, his eyes narrowing -- and his adam's apple bobbing in a gulp -- as he spied a large pool of blood on the pilot's seat.
Ducking around the lanky engineer so she could get a better view, Irynya spotted the blood pool a few seconds after, stalling where she stood for just a moment before moving further in. She glanced back at Sheldon as she did, concern clear on her features. "From the look of things this shuttle was built to be manned by a single operator. It could, maybe, support two others, but it's too small for a large group. Whoever was inside..." her eyes went back to the blood again, but she trailed off, moving instead to see what, if anything, could be done from the flight panel without having to sit in the pilot's seat itself.
"I wish I had a duotronic mode converter from the Adelphi," Nico murmured as he knelt in front of the computer interface. He scrubbed his face for a moment and looked to his compatriots, "Sheldon, tap your power module in here. This grid is smashed. No way we can restart the computer without extensive repairs. Let's see if we can get anything from the active buffers."
"Can do," Parsons said, moving to the open panel Oliveria had indicated. He used a foot to drag bits of broken glass and debris out of the way, then laid down on the spot he'd cleaned. "What a mess," he groaned as he looked up into the panel's components and circuitry. Several sections were burned out but he found a power junction he could jack into. Opening one of two engineering kits he'd had slung over his shoulders, Parsons withdrew a power module and began searching for an adapter that could bridge the connection between Starfleet tech and whatever this was. After trying a few different connectors, he landed on one that -- while imperfect and loose -- would still get the job done with a bit of creative rigging. "Getting anything?" he asked the Chief.
Almost as the words left the Ensign's mouth, the displays in front of them flickered back to life, "Looks that way, Ensign." Nico smirked as he pulled his hand from a tear in the console's housing, leaving behind his spanner, "Don't touch that, I needed something conductive, and I wouldn't want you to find yourself the least path of resistance." Tapping at the console for a few moments brought a frown to his face, "Well, the good news is the active buffers are non-volatile, so they contain several gigaquads of data. The bad news is I can't make heads or tails of it." He turned to Sheldon, nodding at his tricorder, "See if you can download the data and run a translation matrix."
Having an engineering problem to focus on helped Sheldon to mitigate some of the anxiety he was feeling. Orders brought order, which in turn brought comfort, and so, with aplomb, he nodded to Oliveria and began the process of linking his tricorder up with the alien system. The buffer data was, indeed, quite large in size but he only needed to sample a small bit to get the translation matrix working. "It should be populating now," Parsons said, looking up at Irynya from under the console. "I started with the most recent data from the buffer, so you should be seeing the most relevant info?" The last was said like a question, the end of the sentence upturned in curiosity.
Bending awkwardly over the flight console, Irynya watched with increasing alarm as the immediate details became clear. Her gut clenched and then she turned back to the two engineers. "This shuttle," she said, a touch of foreboding in her voice, "is Kazon. And it was shot down..." Her eyes darted between the two men, "by its own people. Whoever was flying this shuttle... they were running from something."
As the trackers of the surviving occupant moved slowly in the direction the tricorder took them, Bridgeport felt like there was something niggling him about this whole situation. He continued to look for signs of the one they were tracking.
Timmoz, while he had his own tricorder out, was more used to believing his own senses. He paid attention to the breeze and the terrain, sensing that it was taking them slightly uphill. That meant if this occupant was armed, he'd have an advantage- but it also meant their movement might be slowed. On another hand he wondered if they were moving blind. Perhaps out of worry. The foliage was getting dense and the terrain rough. Timmoz shifted strategies: he touched at his tricorder and shifted scans from life forms to power sources.
The shift still pinged the same survivor with a pair of low level power sources. "They may be armed," Timmoz pointed out. "I'm also detecting low level subspace repeating technology. They may be going high to try and boost their signal."
“If they encounter the same communication problems we did, we’re in luck.” Said Charles.
Timmoz agreed, "And it might be a way to avoid killing one another. If they want to call for help, we could provide it."
Laboring along behind the more martial pair, Xex kept most of his attention on the tricorder, looking up only as Timmoz mentioned armaments. "I am all for whatever option avoids the killing," he panted. Making a mental note to up his exercise regimen (which had never been robust), he kept his tricorder on lifesign scans, hoping to get some notion of at least what type of sentient they were following, and maybe even a hint of what shape they were in. He clambered up over a particularly large boulder, elbowing the foliage that had snapped back behind Timmoz out of the way.
Charles made the decision to switch mode of travel to movement to contact. This meant he would now be moving cover to cover. They couldn’t tell where the survivor was, so this would be the best way to go forward. “I’m switching to movement to contact.” If his boss knew tactics he would recognise the term. This way only one person would be in the open at a time. It was slower, but the chance of getting shot was less likely.
Given that the shuttle's occupant had a head start of several minutes, the trek in pursuit had required the team to double-time their movements where and when possible. If it weren't for the fact that the life sign seemed to have come to a halt, they might not have even caught up, given the precaution of moving carefully from cover-to-cover. Eventually, however, the team came within earshot of the stationary occupant. Before anyone could call out, however, a glowing, pale-blue beam of energy lanced out from the trees ahead, the shuttle's pilot having taken cover as well, it seemed. The beam splashed against a tree to the left of where Bridgeport had just moved.
"I didn't have to miss," a female-sounding voice rang out through the forest. "You take another step this way and I promise you, I won't miss again," she called out, sounding as if she were hissing through clenched teeth. "Put your weapons down and step out where I can see you. Now," the woman ordered harshly.
Bizarrely, the pilot's words were being translated without issue by the universal translator. She was perfectly understandable, which meant she must come from a race Starfleet had previously had contact with. But which one? The region the Sojourner was operating in played host to many races previously encountered by the USS Voyager. Could it be one of them? Logic lent itself towards a yes but the Sojo hadn't run into anyone else since the Talbeethians.
Bridgeport looked to the rest of his team before he spoke. If anyone was going to expose themselves it would be him. So he gave the hand signal to flank the survivor. “I thank you for not shooting me. That’s very sporting of you, but we are here on a search and rescue mission. Nothing more and nothing less. And if you saw me, I’m sure you know I’m not alone. So I’ll put down my weapon if and when you put down yours. And please tell me who shot you down. They might be a hazard to us as well.” Replied Charles.
If nothing else, Xex's reflexes were good, even winded though he was. Even as the energy was splashing against the tree, he-- several spots of cover behind Bridgeport like a good little medic-- was crouching behind an enormous buttress root, curling himself into as small a ball as he could. It seemed this doctor had seen enough action to make himself as little of a liability as possible. He remained thus while Bridgeport exchanged pleasantries, moving only enough to unholster his phaser and check its settings. And then double-checked again. Satisfied that it wouldn't kill anyone outright, he returned his attention to his tricorder.
Now that they were within shouting distance, the 'corder had managed to get a better read on the lifesign, and the picture it began to paint in soft noises and glowing information froze Xex's expression behind the reflection of his respirator's facemask. It remained so for only a moment before his mobile features were animating again and he was muttering to himself. The muttering seemed to bring him to some sort of conclusion, for he hissed succinctly, "She's dying," to Timmoz up ahead of him. Without waiting for a reply, the silvery man was in motion, edging around the root and moving in the general direction of where the energy beam had come from. Perhaps he was counting on Bridgeport as a distraction; his caution and willingness to hang back seemed to have vanished as swiftly and easily as he had made the decision to move. At the very least, his movements kicked up ongoing clouds of the fine moondust, occluding sight lines and lingering unpleasantly at the back of the unprotected throat.
Bridgeport took this moment to declare their intent. “Ok, we have already established that you don’t want to shoot us or you would have. A decision has to be made. We are coming to help you, so if you must shoot so be it, but we can’t waste any more time talking about it. I’m breaking cover so we can save time and maybe even you!” Replied Charles as he stepped out hoping not to get shot.
Timmoz, who appeared at least publicly unfazed, raised his voice and braced fro Charles to hold back a moment. Xex's advisory in his ear, Timmoz considered what to say next. "If you kill us, who's going to get you off this rock? Transporters and comm systems don't work. But we have shuttles and a ship in orbit. If you shoot us, more of us will come. And they might not be as ready to help you as we are. Right now your choice is we can stand here while you die, or we can administer some medical attention. The latter happens when you lower your weapon. Make your choice."
Several long moments passed; moments that were pregnant with the possibility of what might happen next. Rather than a follow up phaser beam, however, the trees ahead birthed a woman clad in brown leather hides. Her face was the color of mud, severely bulbous brows sweeping up into a ridge that ran the length of her forehead. The ridge terminated at the base of a bird's nest of black hair, matted and twisted atop her head in almost-spiky protrusions. Bits of leaves and dirt were stuck in her hair, perhaps indicative of her frenzied run through the forest away from the crash site. The Kazon pilot kept her rifle pointed at Bridgeport but, after eyeing Wang and Timmoz, seemed to visibly sag.
"If you have a doctor, they may approach," she called out, lowering her weapon. "I promise not to hurt them as long as the two of you," she stared at the green-skinned man and his cohort, "keep your distance." The fire in her eyes burned bright, daring them to deny her compromise. If they truly meant what they said about helping her, they would accept the ground she was willing to give. "Keep your weapons up, though," she hissed, sagging against the tree to her left, clearly in pain. "I am being hunted. And if you are helping me, they will kill you, too."
"They can try. We don't die easily." Timmoz gave his assent to Xex to approach. "Who are your people, Kazon?" The Orion asked. "Who can we call to bring you home." He was keenly aware that the woman had said she was being hunted. It was hard to ignore. But for the moment he would try his hand at what the V'Draysh thought of as diplomacy. "You're far from your part of space." He added.
"The Rakar" she answered back immediately, naming the sect she'd originated from. "We are nomadic and have traveled far to find the resources we need." She said nothing more, waiting for the doctor to approach.
To his credit, Xex did pause long enough for Timmoz to nod him forward-- perhaps his sense of self-preservation was not so terrible-- but once the Orion did so, he was all motion. He pulled his respirator off, disliking its barrier between himself and his patient, and clipped it smoothly to his belt as he stepped closer to the woman. Both phaser and tricorder were back on his belt, leaving his hands conspicuously empty and open, held out by his sides in ostentatious illustration. Either he placed a surprising amount of trust in the injured Kazon's word, or he had observed enough of his fellow officers in their hasty pursuit to give him an enviable confidence in his fellows. "I am a doctor," he said by way of explanation as he emerged from cover, his limp slightly exaggerated by his recent exertions. It was regrettable that the thermal suit covered his recognizably teal uniform, but there was nothing for it. Words would have to do. He continued, "My name is Xex, and I--" he broke off as she sagged against the tree and rushed his last few uneven steps to her side, stopping just a few short meters away.
Up close, Xex could see what his tricorder told him earlier, both of her wounds and her armaments. The former caused him to disregard the latter-- if she could even lift that sword-type shape, he would be very much surprised. "You've already lost a lot of blood. We need to get that bleeding under control or--" He left that hanging. Whether she was medically trained or not, it was unlikely the woman didn't know what kind of shape she was in. Holding his medkit before him like a talisman, he said in his most soothing tone, "With your permission..." He only just managed to stop himself biting the words off, his impatience to get started warring his knowledge that some semblance of bedside manner might smooth the way for him here.
The Kazon pilot nodded her assent to Wang, permission given. Truth told, with her weapon now lowered, she probably couldn't put up much of a fight if she wanted to. Even the act of raising the rifle again would likely prove too taxing, the woman thought to herself. "Kaldri," she coughed out her name to the Doctor. She was about to say more when the security officer began to speak again.
“In truth I admire a race that seeks the answers hidden by the universe. Please tell us the name of those that hunt you.” Asked Charles. "What is chasing you, Kazon Rakar?" He asked. "Or hunting you, you said hunted." His eyes narrowed, "Trabe?"
"The Trabe?" The woman laughed and then spit on the ground. The resultant puddle of saliva was mixed with a concerning amount of blood. "The Trabe can barely sustain themselves, much less hunt down any of our kind. No," she shook her head at Bridgeport, eyeing Timmoz as well, "no I am hunted by the Kazon-Lidrum. First Maje Subrek and his men would not take no for an answer to their...invitation to life as a concubine. But surely," her eyes widened, "you encountered their warship in orbit? I am surprised they let you down here. This is sacred ground."
"Not yet," Timmoz said with a sober darkness. "But we will prepare. They may have broken orbit. But this planet being what you say, they'll be back. xex. Not to pressure your work. But hurry." Timmoz called to Charles.
"Bridgeport. Emergency. We may have Kazon raiders in the vicinity. We need to get back to the base camp."
Almost before the words of permission were out of her mouth, Xex had closed the short distance between them, a hypospray in his hand. He pressed it to her neck even as he worked to mould his features into something pleasant and reassuring. It hissed as he said, "A pleasure to meet you Kaldri, despite the circumstances. This is just a general anesthetic, and a broad-spectrum stimulant to delay you going into shock. Quite frankly," he added as he discarded the empty hypospray and helped her to a leaning seat at the base of the tree. As he glanced again at his tricorder, he muttered just loud enough for her to hear, "I'm surprised you're not already there. Adrenaline really is a helluva drug." He flashed her a smile, but it dimmed with distraction as Timmoz spoke.
Xex scowled at the pilot's urging, but his already-quick movements did increase in pace and he gave a quick nod that may have even been acceptance of the need for haste. Concentrating on stemming the steady flow of blood from her various lacerations and puncture wounds, he continued a steady description of his ministrations, seeming unconcerned whether or not she was actually listening to him. He worked methodically, triaging the wounds as he went to assure the most grievous received attention first: clear the flight suit fabric and debris from the wound site; irrigate with antibiologic solution; coat with regrowth plasma; seal with synthskin. Rinse, repeat, with additional pain-killers and stimulants liberally applied as often as he dared. While he worked and kept up his steady chatter, Xex continued to flicker glances up to the Kazon woman's face, alert for her inevitable crash-- he clearly thought her too close to shock for comfort, despite his medications.
"Not to be the bearer of bad news," Xex said, echoing Timmoz's tone but only glancing up briefly, "But I don't think Kaldri is going anywhere under her own power. There's only so many stimulants I can pump into her before they do more harm than good."
“Then, I suggest as a matter of urgency, we need to get her to the shuttle and ensure our crew are safe and secure. We also need to get a message to the ship if it’s not already too late!” Replied Charles
"We'll improvise," Timmoz said, deciding on a middle path. He too had stayed relatively close to the Medical Officer and the wounded Kazon, but not so close as to hover. "Bridgeport. Run back to the shuttle. Inform them of the situation. I'm putting you in temporary command. Get the shuttle up if possible. The safety of the Sojourner and the Away Team is priority one. I'm staying with Xex and the Kazon." He nodded once. "Get going."
“Roger that.” And Charles took off at a quick time!
=/\= A joint-post by... =/\=
Ensign Sheldon Parsons
Secondary Flight Controller
Lieutenant Nico Oliveria
Lieutenant Charles Bridgeport
Chief Tactical/Security Officer
Primary Flight Controller
Lieutenant Xex Wang
Chief Medical Officer