The Dead Are the Dead
Posted on Mon Feb 27th, 2023 @ 7:02am by Crewman Jayden Booth & Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai & Lieutenant Margarar & Lieutenant JG Gwenwyn Marwol & Ensign Mei Ratthi
Predators and Prey
Location: Abandoned Complex
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1130
[The Abandoned Complex]
[The East Room]
[MD 1: 1130 Hours]
Crewman Booth edged through the doorway to the East Room -- as they'd taken to calling it -- with the nose of his phaser rifle preceding him inside. Sweeping the weapon slowly from right to left, the light from its connected torch mixed with the natural light coming in from the broken skylights and windows, splaying across several rows of desks and computer terminals, all in various states of disrepair. He guessed that the room must have been used as some sort of community computer center or classroom given the arrangement of the broken down desks and their cracked or otherwise busted terminals. Everything in the room was coated in a thick layer of the grayish-brown dust so prevalent on Shaddam IVa.
Not seeing or detecting any kind of threats lurking in wait, Booth motioned the two officers trailing him into the room as well, stepping forward to give them plenty of room to enter. With the threat assessment complete, he was free to look around with more of an eye for observation. His gaze traced the walls, which looked as if they might have once been white, though now Booth noted how stained they were with grime and dirt, likely blown inside due to the broken windows and the like. Moving further into the room, his eyes were caught by something sticking up out of a mound of blown dust in a corner. Bending to pick it up, his eyes goggled and he immediately dropped the object.
"Got a bone here. Looks like a humanoid femur, maybe?" Booth said, toeing it with his boot and uncovering even more bones in the dust pile. Turning to Marwol, he said, "Afraid my biology isn't good for much beyond knowing the best places to land a punch or stun beam. Care to take a look, doc?" he asked, gesturing the physician over. He then saw Margarar looking around and wondered if the Antican was debating trying to get one of the computers to work. "Anything look functional?" Booth asked, eyes drifting back the way they'd come and keeping an ear out for t'Nai and Ratthi.
"Glady," Marwol replied wanting to be of some help. Kneeling down beside the bone, he expressed "You shouldn't have kicked it, could have cracked it or at the very least gotten fingerprints. Xenobiology is not my speciality by the way" His brown eyes peered over the bone. "To us, it is a femur but whoever it belonged to must have had a different name." Withdrawing his medical tricorder and scanning it. "I'll data store it, if we find more bones then I'll be able to make a skeleton, add muscles then skin tissue and get us a local... But given how intact this single bone is. Maybe I could make a basic voice print."
Margarar took no interest in the bone. Whatever it was could not reveal any of the secrets of this place. Computers could, if she could get them working. Maybe it would explain something about the technology and contain data of whatever was here before. The Antican huffed in her spacesuit, not enjoying the momentary fogging of her mask. "If there's anything to be made functional, I will know soon enough, though this appears to be a terminal center, not where the main computer core was. But if I can make a terminal work, that would mean that the central computer is operational somewhere in this place." She started going from the left most computer terminal, trying to see if any power source was active or whether she could supplement with anything she had to get it working.
Crewman Booth looked at Marwol and shrugged. "You're the expert, doc," he said, flashing a cheeky grin at the medical officer. Outwardly he was jokey but, inside, the security officer felt a little disquieted by the bones. Something about their arrangement didn't sit right with him. "Was this a body that's just been laying here for years? Weird that the bones are in a pile rather than spread out..." he trailed off, eyes flicking to Margarar, who'd been looking around at the broken consoles and musing aloud. "Yeah, these computers don't look very promising...everything is smashed to bits. But there is another room back there," he gestured back the way they'd come. "Maybe the computer core is in there? Might be worth checking out."
Margarar growled, cursing herself for not seeing it. "It is this helmet. Interferes with my vision," she explained. "I'll go and check it out. Just don't stay outside the sound of my voice, OK?" With that, Margarar went to the other room.
Gwenwyn's mind was elsewhere, letting out a simple "Mhm," the bones had him interested, all the different shapes, some like other species while others were ones he hadn't see which questioned "what was it's purpose." Creating mental notes for himself, jigsaws weren't always his strong suit.
Booth watched Margarar depart and sighed. Why wasn't everyone sticking together when he was the only security officer? "Doc, I hate to do this," Booth said, "but I think we should rejoin the others. I can't protect everyone spread out like this," he said, face grim. Truth told, he was pretty perturbed about everyone splitting up but t'Nai was in charge, so Booth had done as he was told. But with Margarar now going to join the half-Romulan and Ratthi, he couldn't justify staying in this room just to protect one person who was just scanning old bones. "C'mon, let's meet up with the others," he gestured back the way they'd come.
[The Main Room]
In the large conference center, things had gotten quieter with the departure of Booth, Margarar, and Marwol. The eerie silence was broken only by the sound of blowing wind, which carried more dust into the cavernous room through its broken windows and partially caved-in roof. The dust hung heavy in the air, motes aglow in the torchlight beams t'Nai and Ratthi were using to help examine the various tapestries and murals on the walls.
"You know," Mei said almost absently as she checked and double-checked the readings on her scanner, "I can't decide if it's utterly unremarkable that all I'm finding are the usual sorts of elements and chemicals that make paints and dyes, or if it's sort of mind-blowing that no matter where you go in the galaxy, everyone uses the same sorts of elements and chemicals to make paints and dyes. My dad's an artist-- an oil painter to be exact-- and you'd find all these colors in his studio. Cadmium red, cobalt blue. There's even lead white." She pointed at each of the colors in turn, then tapped at something on the device in her hand. "Looks like the first set of scans are almost done. Another thirty seconds or so should do it. Then we can move on to the next set."
She looked up from her work and smiled back at t'Nai. "Thank you, Commander, for letting me stay up here to record all this. I do mean it. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the engines and computers of technology that we forget the stuff that seems simpler. But these tapestries reveal as much about these people as their machines will. But they do seem kind of familiar. Like I saw them in a class or a briefing or something. I'll probably remember where I remember them from when we're half a dozen lightyears away."
Though Emni had not been running scans the same way Ensign Ratthi had, she had been visually evaluating each tapestry trying to scratch the growing itch of familiarity in the back of her head. "They look familiar to me too," she commented as Ratthi's tricorder trilled confirming the completion of the scan and the two moved to complete the next. "Maybe it is something from a class..." This, she delivered almost absently, her voice trailing off as she stepped a bit closer to one of the wall hangings, moving to within a few inches of the piece to inspect the unusual hair of the race depicted.
"And, of course, you're welcome," she commented, moving back again to stand next to the ensign. "There's much to learn from the simplest of artifacts in my experience." She backed up further to take in the remaining hangings. There were only a few and a quick calculation suggested they wouldn't be too much longer. "Perhaps we should go look at the other room when we're done?" she inquired.
"Absolutely," Mei answered, still focused on her scans. "I've got about ninety-five percent of this wall scanned, so it should just be another minute or so. I'm even starting to get some basic conclusions from the data we already have. According to this- and it says it's a seventy-two percent match- the people in the murals," she looked up and gestured to the figures depicted, "are Kazon." Mei turned to t'Nai, a puzzled look on her face. "I'm afraid I don't know much about the Kazon. I got a description of their current societal structure and cultural identity in my briefings when I was assigned to Sojourner , but that's all. These depictions of friendly gatherings weren't part of what I read about them. I don't like making assumptions about an entire people based on a small amount of data, but am I missing something, or....?"
Emni's features shifted quickly toward the careful neutrality she learned as a doctor. She didn't want to alarm the ensign, but then she also didn't want to leave her unprepared and suddenly the crashed shuttle loomed large in her mind's eye. Perhaps this region was more heavily populated by Kazon than they had previously anticipated. "No," she said carefully, "you're not missing something. The Kazon are a fractious species and are generally considered a danger to Starfleet exploratory missions like ours. Of course we don't know as much about them as we could. They aren't exactly welcoming and willing to share their culture with us."
"Think they'll be interested in this place, then? Or would their knowing about it potentially cause more problems than it would solve? I'd like to have as many parts of my people's heritage as I could find, but I realize I'm a sample size of one, and not everything thinks the same way I do." Mei looked up at the tapestries and murals, then back at the table and the rest of the room. Her expression grew thoughtful, and even a little sad. Then her tricorder let out a loud beep, and she jumped. "Looks like everything's done here. Where to next?"
"It's honestly hard to say," Emni admitted, catching the the wash of emotion that flowed out from the other woman like gentle surf meeting the beach. "There is, surely, a reason this place was abandoned, but we've no reason to say with certainty that the Kazon are unaware of it."
The shuttle was again in the back of her mind. She found herself wishing she'd gotten a better look and hoping that the team she'd sent to help weren't in any trouble.
Shaking herself from the temptation to turn inward with her thoughts Emni scanned the space. "The rest of the team went down the corridor to the east, so why don't we review the west? We can meet them back here in a few moments." The last was said as the Romulan XO started into motion, leading the way across the main room in the direction mentioned.
[The West Room]
As the women entered the third room and began to explore, it was immediately obvious that this cavernous room served as the main living quarters for those who'd once called this complex home. Along two long walls were banks of what had once been bunk beds; a quick count of the triple-stacked beds came in at least 75 along each wall, all in various states of disrepair. The bedclothes had all been left behind and had molded and decayed over the centuries.
Another wall seemed to indicate what must have been a schooling area for children: the wall itself was painted with faded, dusty rainbows, a large sun, and stick figure drawings of humanoids all interconnected by held hands. There were also pictures of what looked like large cats, though they bore six legs and seemed to have antennae. The remains of desks and tables with chairs, some in better shape than others, also graced the space. Wooden crates were scattered throughout the area, containing what appeared to be old toys made from various different materials.
The fourth wall contained banks of what appeared to be group shower and bathroom facilities, though these were inset into the wall. The light coming from the broken windows and caved-in roof sections did not reach far inside them but tricorder scans showed evidence of plumbing throughout the area. The same plumbing led through a dining area not far away, which was in and of itself set alongside what had served as a large kitchen for the facility, hence the plumbing that ran to what could only be sinks.
Finally, in the center of the room was what must have been a lounging area. The remains of couches, armchairs, coffee tables, and other furniture graced the space though, like the rest of the complex, everything was in broken disarray. Interestingly, the dust on the cushions seemed to be smeared and recently disturbed. Large dust piles that were easily ankle high sat in front of those couches: bits of something yellowish protruded out of the dust.
Margarar, having left the East room, strutted through the main room and headed to the west room, hoping that there was something more interesting in here. As the Antican arrived, she saw the cavernous living quarters. She called out to t'Nai and Ratthi, "Please tell me that there's a computer somewhere in here. Something that I can make work so that we can get a better sense of this place. What are you scans showing?" the Antican asked, half demanding and half begging for something interesting to her.
Mei jumped at the sound, nearly dropping her tricorder. She fumbled and caught it, managing to not pause the scan or otherwise interrupt the flow of data. "Um. So far, sort of? There might be an old core under the floor, but I'm not sure if it's functional or not. Also, it's, you know, under the floor, which is sturdy enough that it hasn't collapsed or anything after all this time. This whole space was a communal living and teaching area. But now it's, well, it's more like a cemetery. There are bones over by those couches, so watch your step. We don't want to disturb them. Or break them. I think we should watch out in general, too. Someone-- or something-- has been here recently and smudged the dust over here." She gestured toward the cushions, then gingerly stepped in that direction. "I'm going to check to see if there's any DNA or some other evidence to see if it was a person or an animal in here."
"The dead are the dead. They cannot complain any longer as to whatever happens," Margarar replied logically. "And if there's a computer core under the floor, I need to get to it to find records." She paused when the last part of Mei's statement came out and walked slowly over to Mei. "What do you mean, something was here?" Margarar asked ominously. If only I didn't have this damn suit on, I might be able to smell something. "If there was something there, how did it get there?" Margarar continued to wonder. "Shouldn't there be other signs of it?"
"That's one of the things I'm looking for." Mei directed her light at the smeared dust on the old cushions. "It looks to me like someone was here recently. Unless an animal has been taking advantage of the shelter. But I haven't seen many signs of animals other than bird actually being in the building, so I'm more inclined to think it was a person. Maybe they're gone for good, maybe not. I can't tell yet." She adjusted the settings on her tricorder, biting her lip as she read the results. "Analysis of the bones confirms our earlier visual analysis of the murals. These are Kazon remains in an old Kazon settlement. The bones won't care what we do, but their descendants might take issue with us if we start digging things up." She looked over at t'Nai with a questioning look that seemed to ask 'what do we do now?'.
"The Kazon are semi-nomadic, so having a settlement does not make a great amount of sense," Margarar told Mei. "And again, a person makes no sense unless there were prints or something more. Maybe it was the bird," she concluded. "It matters not. I have to get to the core."
Emni had abandoned the mural she was studying to come over to stand next to Ratthi and Margarar. "No prints is a good point, but it doesn't eliminate everything--people or animal." Her neck craned, looking up as if she might suddenly see the creature above her. "Plenty of animals travel overhead rather than on the ground. It's reasonable to assume a person," she emphasized the word more to try to point out that person was a generic term in this instance, "could be too."
It was then that Booth and Marwol entered from behind the trio. The security officer nodded to the Commander and then said, "Thought it best to regroup, since the three of you were in here and it was just the Doc and I in the other room. We'd pretty much finished there anyway," he explained, the smashed monitors having proved useless. Booth began a standard security sweep then, eyes peeled for potential threats. Most of the huge room was illuminated from the light coming in from the partially caved in roof and broken windows but there were places the light did not reach, such as the communal shower area across the way from where they'd entered. Darkness awaited in there so Booth let his feet carry him in that direction, intending to check it out. "I'll be back shortly. Just making sure everything is safe," the security officer called back before hoisting up his torch, phaser at the ready, and heading inside.
Knowing that security was here now, made Margarar feel secure in seeking the power core. She started talking aloud, wondering if someone else might have an idea. "If the power core is below us, there must be an access point." She then looked at her crewmates and half shouted, "Has anyone seen one? It would be a really poor design for people to try to have to phaser into the power core every time that they needed it." Pacing the floor, she started looking for irregularities or hatches that might show an entryway.
"I haven't found anything that resembles an access point, but we really should leave this place as undisturbed as possible. Especially the bones," Mei said. "Nomadic cultures don't wander aimlessly. There are patterns to their movements, whether they run across months, years, or decades. There's every possibility that one Kazon faction or another could come back here, and if it's soon and they discover that someone's been pulling up the floors, they're going to be angry at whoever did it. If this place has enough cultural significance to them-- which I think it might-- they might try to track us down. And I, for one, don't want to be on the wrong end of Kazon weapons."
Gwenwyn had indeed entered with Booth, standing beside him with his medical equipment stored in the first aid kit, he took in the room basked in natural light while dealing with the difficult environment. Moving forward, he looked downwards and began to study the floor, peering over the sofa he witnessed another collection of bones. Walking around the sofa, kneeling down to the bones again he placed his kit beside him and withdrew the medical tricorder and began to work away, harvesting knowledge from it until his tricorder began to light up.
Gwenwyn began to make some primal noises towards his tricorder and the bones. "Interesting... These match with the other pair we found, there are some DNA fragments here... It's Kazon in origin, yes, but there's more here." Pushing buttons on his device, he tried to match the other fragments. "This is very interesting... The dominant DNA here matches those large avians we saw outside."
Gwenwyn stood up, leaving his device on the floor and looking around at his colleagues. "Were these people an offspring of the Kazon and then just devolved?" He asked out loud.
As Margarar searched around, tricorder trilling, the Antican eventually found a hatch under a rotting rug. While there wasn't an apparent handle on the door, scans did indicate the presence of an access junction just underneath, though the hatch probably hadn't been opened in centuries. There were seams, however, that looked as if something usable as a pry bar could lift the hatch and allow access to the machinery beneath.
Margarar called out, "Over here! And bring something that can pry open an ancient door," she ordered to nobody in particular. "And it is a good thing that I probably can't smell any of this with this suit on," she half-complained and half-sounded relieved.
It didn't take long to find something that could pry up the hatch. With the core interface now exposed, Margarar would be able to link her tricorder to the core and begin downloading its data. It was unknown what information was there or even if it would be useful but, perhaps, the data would give the team a better picture of the complex's purpose and what happened to its denizens.
Margarar looked at the computer portal. "Great. Just great. Duotronic circuitry. IF only it was isolinear, I could pull the chips and we would be done here. This is going to take a few minutes to download." She plugged in her tricorder and started the process of downloading the data.
As the Antican worked, the rent of a phaser blast sounded from the shower room. A second whine filled the air and then, suddenly, Booth came running back into the main room. "We need to run. Now!" he hissed, adjusting the setting on his phaser and turning to fire behind him once more, the beam directed at something that had followed the security officer out of the showers. The phaser's directed energy dispersed against the onyx-black carapace of a six legged panther-like creature who shrugged the blast off as if it were nothing. The cat opened its mouth as if to roar but no sound came out. Long antennae extending from its head waved in random motions before the creature pounced toward Booth.
The security officer fired another ineffective beam but it was too late...
=/\= A joint-post by... =/\=
Crewman Jayden Booth
Commander Emni t'Nai
Lieutenant JG Gwenwyn Marwol
Assistant Chief Medical Officer
Ensign Mei Ratthi