Running, Gunning, and Rumors
Predators and Prey
Location: Various Locations
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1130
[Waverider Landing Zone]
A matter of urgency:
Bridgeport had his breather open full. He knew how important his new mission was. So he distanced himself from the rescuers, he was abundantly aware that the hunters could be anywhere. He remembered his training and continued at a very quick pace. His distance to the shuttle was getting less and less. Charles stopped dead in his tracks, kneeled and took in the ambient noises. Upon hearing an appropriate noise that he could recognise, he headed at the run in that direction.
The shuttle was coming into sight. He made a beeline for it. As he stopped in its vicinity, Bridgeport gasped for air.
The ship was, thankfully, right where they had left it, seemingly undisturbed. With such a small team, there'd been no extra security officers to leave behind to guard the ship, so the away team had been forced to leave it behind and hope for the best. But just because the Waverider hadn't yet been accosted didn't mean it would remain that way, especially now that it was known that the Kazon had given pursuit to Kaldri and were likely in the area.
Bridgeport had been tasked with getting the shuttle up in the air and attempting communication with Commander t'Nai and the Sojourner. Before he could even lower the Waverider's entry ramp to board, however, a glowing beam of white-hot energy lanced the air in front of him, barely missing the security officer and leaving a scorch mark on the vessel's hull. Haggard voices came from the forest's edge -- in the opposite direction Bridgeport had pantingly arrived from -- and, as had been the case with Kaldri, their words were translated with ease: "Kill him and take the ship!"
From what was visible in dark shade of the trees, at least four Kazon were striding forward, heading in the security officer's direction and firing their weapons.
Military tactics were pretty much cut and dry. Charles was a product of his environment and his training. The time for talking had swiftly passed. Charles went down like a very large bag of shit. He rolled under the cover of the dust, low crawled to another position and came up shooting. The first two Kazon never knew what hit them. However Kazon three and four had him cold. But they miss judged the situation and went for cover when they should have returned fire. There was an old saying for those who worked in combat arms. Move Shoot and Communicate. And you did that until the threat was eliminated or you were. Charles went to ground again. This time they grazed him. The dust cloud rose about four feet from the deck. They had a general idea as to where he went down, but true to form, that’s not where he came up. Charles changed the setting on his phaser to-a wider beam. And he twisted and fired again. “Shit, I can’t believe that worked..” as he headed toward the wave rider at the gallop..
But had it? Oddly the four Kazon who'd so easily gone down were now getting back on their feet, somehow shrugging off the stun setting the security officer had used on them. Interestingly enough, the beam that had grazed Bridgeport -- decidedly not set to stun -- had also not done near as much damage as it could have. What was happening here? Was weapon effectiveness somehow being impacted by some environmental factor of the moon?
The Kazon drew closer, using large boulders for cover as they once again began to fire at Bridgeport. This time, they'd learned their lesson and moved themselves from cover to cover in a pincer formation, spreading out so they could not so easily be hit. Their goal was clearly to come at the Starfleet security officer from multiple directions, perhaps aiming to pin him against his own vessel.
Having noticed the effects, or lack there of. Charles prioritise and decided he could take a few hits to gain control of the shuttle. So having sprayed the Kazon one last time, he concentrated on getting inside as quickly as possible.
One of the Kazon was hit by Bridgeport's beam and fell to his knees. He tried to rise but was clearly dazed by the beam's effects and ended up falling completely prone as a result. He'd not been rendered unconscious as expected, though, and began trying to crawl -- phaser still in hand -- towards the security officer and his vessel, lifting his arm to fire a couple of blind blasts.
Meanwhile, the other Kazon had taken cover once again, the wild spray of phaser fire unable to get at them. When Bridgeport made himself vulnerable with intent to lower the Waverider's entry ramp, though, they wasted no time in ducking out of cover to fire off a few quick shots at the man. Unlike the standard Starfleet stun setting, however, their weapons were set high enough to kill. And so it was that, when one of their shots hit Bridgeport directly, they expected him to die in a fallen, crumpled heap of mangled humanity.
Alas, that was not what happened. Owing to an as yet undiscovered reason, the beam hit Bridgeport with enough force to knock him off his feet, yes. The energy discharge even vaporized the section of thermal gear it had hit. But was it enough to kill the man? Not as such, it seemed. Swearing in angry confusion, the Kazon continued firing, unable to hit the now prone Bridgeport but well-covering the shuttle's entrance ramp, which had -- despite the hit Bridgeport had taken -- been successfully lowered.
The Kazon were starting to piss him off. Realising something was happening to cause the weapons not to deliver their normal punch, Bridgeport applied his full attention to the task he was given. As the ramp opened. He dove inside and began closing the door. Once the door was closed and he had complete control of the shuttle he would begin getting his people on board as soon as possible. He locked it down and began operating thrusters to get as close as he could to his team. Leaving the Kazon pissed off and shooting doing no harm.
The situation had become pretty cut and dry. Retrieve the shuttle, and make contact with his team on the surface as quickly as possible and then relay to the Sojo what was happening down here. That would take a minute to organise. He decided to use a probe that would go to the Sojo.
The probe -- now laden with an update on the situation on the ground -- burst from the Waverider's hull and blasted up, up, and away into the moon's dust-filled skies. Heading for the Sojo's last-known coordinates in orbit, the probe would hopefully update Captain Kodak on the situation on the surface and warn of a possible impending Kazon run-in. Meanwhile, with the probe launched, the Waverider turned to speed off in the direction of the crash site, where Bridgeport knew Oliveria, Irynya, and Parsons were dissecting the crash. Hopefully, Timmoz, Xex, and Kaldri would have made their way back there so that the Waverider could pick all of them up at once.
[Shuttle Crash Site]
[Concurrent and After]
At the mention of Kazon pursuers, Chief Oliveria had given a grim look and pulled out his tricorder in hopes of scanning the area for any sign of the mud-colored aliens. Unfortunately, the partially unshielded power conduits -- a result of the crash and their own clever but patchworked repairs -- interfered with the device's ability to detect anything beyond a few meters outside the downed shuttle. The Vegan had indicated he was going outside to get beyond the interference and see what he could pick up. Putting Irynya temporarily in charge and tasking her and Parsons with continuing to review the buffer data, Nico exited the remains of the ship and moved away, taking cover where he could along the way just in case any Kazon were indeed lurking.
Meanwhile, discussion had continued inside the shuttle itself:
"Why would the Kazon shoot down their own shuttle?" Parsons had asked incredulously, trying to get out from under the console he'd been wedged beneath. First came a thud, then a piercing cry of "Ow!" as the engineer misjudged the space and hit his head on the underside of the computer panel. "Damnit," he swore, rubbing at the spot that would surely turn into a large bruise in the next couple of hours. Shaking his head to clear the ringing, Sheldon interfaced his tricorder to pull up older sections of the buffered data for review. "Maybe this shuttle is from a different sect or something?" he asked, looking back at Iry as he scanned his memories for details about the Kazon.
Iry's fingers were moving at an alarmingly rapid pace across her tricorder, trying to make sense of the data as quickly as she could even as Sheldon was working on drawing forth additional data for review. "Or maybe they just don't like whoever it was that was piloting this ship? Maybe they stole something? Slept with someone's wife? I don't know. People do stupid things and I haven't ever heard of the Kazon being particularly reasonable."
In reality, Irynya's knowledge of the Kazon was limited. She knew, at least somewhat, that they were a warlike fractious people and that, by her own understanding, they were prone to high degrees of emotion. Not a bad thing in and of itself, but she didn't have a great deal of faith that anyone would be having a friendly sensible conversation over a cup of tea with any of them.
"Hmm, maybe," Parsons replied, feeding more buffered data over to Iry's tricorder. It was a bit slow going accessing the buffer data but it was coming in steady chunks now at least. "From what I've read about the Kazon, it seems like any little thing would set them off. Starfleet teaches us not to prejudge but, like, once a bully, always a bully?"
"We need to get out of here. Now," came an urgent voice from the rear of the cockpit. It was Oliveria, who'd returned from his scans outside. "Picked up several Kazon walking this way. They're coming from the same direction Timmoz and the others went." Unspoken was his concern for the group as a whole, but especially his worry for his paramour. "If we go now, I think we can make for the Waverider before they get here. I don't think we'd win a firefight with them. Not holed up in the wreckage like this. Come on," he ordered, gesturing Parsons and Iry out of the remains of the shuttle.
The small hairs on the back of Irynya's neck pricked at the mention of Kazon headed this way. It made sense that if the wrecked shuttle's pilot was being chased and shot down, they might not be simply happy with stranding their target on the surface, no matter how unfriendly it might be. Still, she had hoped that lack of any immediate sign of the shuttle's pursuers might bode well for them.
A surge of adrenaline sent her into clipped motion, closing files and ending programs she'd been accessing with rapid strikes of her fingers against the console. "Did you get enough?" she asked Sheldon, glancing first at her roommate and then up to Oliveria who was watching them with clear impatient urgency. Her mind told her to move, but she hesitated anyway unsure if they would want the Kazon approaching them to be able to access the same things they had. There wasn't time to erase their presence, though. At least not without destroying the entire console and all of the remaining data it held.
"We got what we got," Parsons clipped back, closing his tricorder and crouching to reach under the console. With a descending thrumming sound, the power to the consoles faded as the engineer pulled out the power module he'd hooked up to them. "Whether it's enough or not, I don't know," he said to Irynya, stuffing the module back into his engineering kit and quickly exiting the remains of the shuttle. "Waverider sounds like a good idea to me," he nodded to Oliveria while drawing his phaser. He fell into line behind the Chief, following in the engineer's wake. "If we can make it back to the ship, we can fly over the Kazon and give the rest of the team a pick up? Could also further analyze the data we got," Parsons nodded towards Irynya's tricorder.
"You read my mind, Ensign," Nico responded as he dashed through the wilderness back towards their shuttle, voice growing icy as he continued, "We will find our people, and if they have been harmed these Kazon will pay." His tricorder trilled away as they ran.
There wasn't time for Irynya to say or even think more on the topic and so she followed behind the two men at a run, peering behind her from time to time as if the Kazon might materialize out of thin air and stop them from making it as far as the Waverider.
Parsons ran at full tilt, narrowly avoiding tripping on an up-ended root, but came to a sudden halt, his tricorder blaring an alert. "Wait?" he called out to Oliveria and Irynya; it wasn't so much an order -- he wasn't the senior officer, after all -- so much as it was a questioning implorement. "Picking up a craft approaching at high speed. It's...it's the Waverider!" he exclaimed, relief flooding his voice.
With a roar of its engines, the Waverider approached and then came to a shuddery stop overhead. Given the full-on forest below, there was nowhere to land to pick up the Starfleet officers. All Bridgeport could do was lower the craft's emergency ladder, which unfolded in self-erecting segments until it reached the ground, providing Oliveria and company a means of ascending up into the craft, back to safety.
[Forests of Shaddam]
[Concurrent and After]
Kaldri had been in bad shape when the man who'd named himself "Xex" had approached. She'd been reticent to engage with the aliens who'd followed her but the mention of the man being a doctor had made the decision for her. She was in no condition to keep going on her own given her various injuries but sometimes help came when you least expected it. "Thank you," the Kazon woman breathed at the silver-skinned physician, amazed at how quickly and efficiently the officer was patching her up. "You are quite skilled," she said with sincere admiration.
Xex grunted his agreement with her compliment and then, as though realizing what he'd done, he flashed her a smile. Unlike his distracted exhalation, this expression seemed entirely genuine. "As the humans say, you practice a lot, you get perfect, right?" In truth, though rough, on-scene trauma care was listed nowhere on his service jacket, he seemed perfectly at home without the trappings of a full medsuite.
The surge of drugs in her system were helping to ease the pain and keep her calm, though at the cost of slightly fogging Kaldri's thoughts. She felt sleepy but could not afford to let go of consciousness. She had to stay awake until they reached a safe haven, though that wasn't going to be possible if she stayed immobile at the base of the tree. "How far to your ship?" Kaldri asked of the veridian-hued man so obviously in charge before unsteadily rising to her feet. With a wobble, she took a step and tested her strength: she could move, but not quickly. "Little help?" she asked of Xex, reaching an arm out for support.
"Woah, woah woah," Xex cautioned as she pushed herself to her feet. He rose with her, and was already steadying her as she wobbled. His features set with a bizzare mixture of determination and disapproval as he tucked himself under her arm for support. His gaze flicked unmistakably to her near leg which sported a particularly wide swathe of bandaging, and then up to her face which had gone ashy under her dark skin.
Timmoz had stayed back enough to give Xex his space for ministrations to the Kazon. His phaser he'd kept out and ready- though not aimed at the Kazon. Instead he seemed to be monitoring the terrain. "It's a ways," Timmoz murmured. "Considering our situation." He added. He grazed the woman and Xex with a look to ascertain if they were ready to move. The Orion had an air to him of a predator sensing danger- not the weak and vacillating fear of prey, but of a hunter who was perhaps being hunted.
"How are we doing? Are you stable enough?" He asked.
"We are wishing we had that grav stretcher we left at the crash," Xex muttered through clenched teeth. Whether he was picking up on Timmoz's urgency or was acting on some arcane medical knowledge of his own, he shifted his weight to better support Kaldri and said, "We're nowhere near stable enough, but without a full medsuite, we're not going to get any stabler. We'd best move while we still can--" he shifted his gaze to the Kazon, "I can only stave off the shock for so long, and the longer I do so, the more you're going to pay for it later."
"How can I assist, Doctor?" Timmoz asked at the cerulean alien's words. "To help expedite." He eyed the Kazon, determining his Botchok-built body was likely not strong enough to carry her on his back.
"I can walk," Kaldri sneered, more at the idea of being a burden than the offer of help itself. "I'm just slow on my own. If I had something to hold some of my weight, it would be a lot easier. Can you find a fallen branch or something I could use as a walking stick?" she asked of Timmoz. The Kazon looked then to Xex, concern etched across her face. "If we get separated, I need to make sure I don't go into shock while alone. Can you load up that thing," she gestured to the hypospray, "with whatever drugs that will keep it at bay and let me carry it?"
Timmoz chuckled in his Cluros at the sneer, "I wasn't insinuating you were an invalid, Kazon," he said. "We can probably move more quickly if Xex and I are your support." He moved to help support the Kazon under the arm and around the waist. "We'll not be separating."
Echoing Timmoz' sentiments, Xex added, "Kaldri, I want to be crystal clear with you." He paused, meeting and holding her eyes, hoping that he got the tenor of his voice right, the right sprinkling of concern and approval. "The fact that you are conscious is a testament to your tenacity. However, the physiological facts remain." To emphasize his point, he ran another diagnostic on his tricorder, whose screen immediately dove deep into the red spectrum. He frowned accordingly. "You will not just be slow on your own, you will be dead, however many sticks we find for you. No medication will change that."
The doctor shifted his weight more firmly beneath her arm and nodded as Timmoz took his place on her other side. "So," he said by way of conclusion, his Serious Doctor Face giving way to a pleasant smile, "Shall we get a move on before your friends decide to finish what they started?"
Kaldri holstered her phaser and then allowed herself to be carried -- hoisted as she was between the two, her arms draped about the pair's shoulders -- but kept her eyes focused on the trees around them. "Moving sounds better than the alternative," she said, cognizant that Kazon pursuers might be hiding along their path or following in their wake. She hoped the green-skinned man would be able to operate his weapon while half-carrying someone, otherwise they could all be in some very real trouble.
"Not that I'm not grateful for the assistance," Kaldri breathed heavily as she walked with support, "but what are you doing on this moon? I crashed here because I had no other choice. But this is sacred ground," she repeated the words she'd used earlier. "First Maje Subrek and his people will not be happy you're here. And by 'not happy,' I do mean they'll want to kill you," the Kazon noted.
"Subrek can take it up with our phasers and torpedoes then. If they didn't want their moon landed on, they should have put up buoys,," Timmoz grunted, straining some to keep up his end of the carry. "We've clashed with the Kazon before and if he's a good Maje, he'll know the track record isn't in his favor." Timmoz eased more gently into the other question rather than the posturing of strength, "Moon survey. Its what the V'Draysh do. They are like tourists who have to stop at every stop on the path."
This revelation caused Xex's eyes to slide off his tricorder, which he had been checking regularly as they set out, past Kaldri to Timmoz, as much to follow the Orion's lead as out of actual curiosity as to what he would say. His eyebrow lifted, "They?" he said, with a pointed look at the pilot who was, after all, in charge of part of the landing team. He couldn't maintain the look for long before a thought occurred to him and his features dissolved into a grin as he added, "Does that make you the tour-bus driver?" The image of the lanky Orion acting tour-guide was more than enough to put a twinkle in the doctor's eye-- there was little enough humor to be found in their situation, but it appeared Xex had found it.
His inattention cost him however, and he stumbled over an outstanding tree root, and his instinctive flail for balance nearly brought the other two down on top of him. Although he hopskipped to try and reposition himself beneath Kaldri's weight, he was not quite fast enough to recover her balance and took the full brunt of their combined weights teetering into him. With a grunt, he was forced to a knee, steadying himself on the very same treacherous root he'd caught his foot on. He recovered as fast as he could, shoving himself to his feet, all amusement erased from his features as he surveyed Kaldri for any additional damage.
The Kazon seemed no worse than she had been before, at least physically. Kaldri's mood, however, was another matter entirely. "Are you trying to harm me further? Pay attention," she hissed down towards the root in question, an injured animal in no mood for the reckless endangerment of her person. "V-dray-sh?" she turned then back to Timmoz, sounding out the unfamiliar word he'd uttered. "Never heard of them," Kaldri said, looking questioningly between Xex and Timmoz while also remembering Bridgeport. "None of you are the same race, from what I can tell. But you all wear versions of the same uniform, so...I'm guessing it's some kind of collaborative group?"
"Starfleet," Timmoz clarified though he was in no mood to elaborate on the byzantine tangle of Starfleet's ways while they were in potential peril. "Never heard of Admiral Janeway? Voyager?"
Xex had been in Starfleet long enough to find some cynical amusement in the 'collaborative group' description, but it was a small, distracted thing, playing second fiddle to his concentration on moving Kaldri forward with a maximum of speed and a minimum of jostling. His medkit and spare respirators bumped against his thighs as they struggled down the uneven slope and he frowned as an idea occurred to him. Just as swiftly, he dismissed it with a quick shake of his head. Fine dust billowed up from around their triple set of shuffling feet, choking the air with shimmering particles. For the moment, he left the talking to Timmoz, preferring instead to check his tricorder and breathe enough of the weak moon air in his lungs to stop him gasping.
"Voyager?!" Kaldri said in surprise, her ruddy-brown face scrunching up with disbelief. "No one's heard from that ship in decades," she said, allowing herself to continue to be half-carried while taking steps of her own. "If you're from Voyager, Subrek will be especially keen to attack, then. You all did a lot of damage to the Kazon power structure. After your culling of Culluh," she referenced the once-First Maje of the Kazon-Nistrim, "you and your ship became something of a legend among the sects," Kaldri explained. "But...why the sudden return?" she wondered, eyes narrowing at Timmoz. "Here to see if the rumors are true?"
Hearing Xex's exaggerated breathing, the Kazon turned to the Doctor. "Breathe from your belly and hold it for a few moments," she advised, demonstrating with a deep breath that contracted her stomach. Kaldri held the breath in for a couple of seconds before slowly expelling it, her belly once again expanding. Despite her annoyance at the Doctor's lack of care in walking, she did seem to genuinely want to help him.
"Voyager returned to the Alpha Quadrant safely," Timmoz said simply, "Travel to your quadrant has become easier for the V'draysh. They've returned because they can. It's their way. What rumors?"
"Wait," Xex said, giving them enough warning that they could all halt as one while Kaldri demonstrated the breathing. He paused, straightening a little beneath Kaldri's arm, to get a better look at his tricorder. Whatever he saw was not reflected on his features as he tucked it once again into his belt and gave them a nod of permission to continue. "Thanks, but I think I've got enough of--" he broke off, waving his free hand through the cloud of fine particles they were kicking up in illustration, "--this in there already. I'll manage." Timmoz's continued use of the third person earned him a sidelong glance from the silver-skinned doctor, but he held his peace, preferring instead to hear Kaldri's answer.
Kaldri nodded to Xex's deferment and then looked back at Timmoz as they continued to hustle through the forest. In answer to the green-skinned man's question, the Kazon's face grew grim. "The rumors that the Kazon-Lidrum have acquired advanced technology that outpaces anything the other sects have. In fact, if such rumors are to be believed," she breathed, "their technology outpaces even your V'drash's Voyager." She paused a moment to let that particular notion sink in. "No one knows how First Maje Subrek accomplished this but I was investigating when they caught me. They offered life as a concubine or death as a spy. I chose neither," Kaldri sneered. "Stole a shuttle and have been running from them since."
A roaring noise overhead disrupted further conversation. It seemed Bridgeport had been successful in reaching the Waverider as it now hovered over the canopy of the forest, a ladder unfolding itself from an open hatchway. Down, down, down the ladder dropped until it hung several feet from where Timmoz, Xex, and Kaldri had been shuffling, affording the trio a means of escape from the Kazon who were, no doubt, in pursuit. The ascension wasn't easy with a hurt Kaldri in the mix but the group did manage to escape up the ladder before bluish-white phaser beams came from the trees to the north, harmlessly splashing against the Waverider's hull.
With a blast from its engines, the craft rose higher into the air and surged back towards Base Camp, the ladder automatically retracting and the hatch sliding shut. The Kazon would likely return to their own ship and follow but the Starfleet team would have the time advantage here. And, thankfully, the Waverider had a miniature Sickbay to work on patching Kaldri up along the way...
=/\= A joint-post by... =/\=
Lieutenant Charles Bridgeport
Chief Tactical/Security Officer
Ensign Sheldon Parsons
Secondary Flight Controller
Lieutenant Nico Oliveria
Primary Flight Controller
Lieutenant Xex Wang
Chief Medical Officer
Shuttle Crash Survivor (NPC'd by Brad)