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Paws and Claws

Posted on Wed Apr 5th, 2023 @ 11:06pm by Captain Björn Kodak & Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai & Lieutenant Margarar & Lieutenant JG Gwenwyn Marwol & Ensign Mei Ratthi

Mission: Predators and Prey
Location: The West Room, Abandoned Complex
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1150

[The West Room]
[Abandoned Complex]
[Shaddam IVa]
[MD 1: 1150 Hours]

The creature landed on Booth, its jagged maw of teeth ripping into the man's neck and then pulling. The security officer's half-scream was silenced into gurgles of blood that spit from what had once been his throat. Using its massive paws and claws to brace the man's body against the floor, the six-legged panther analogue then mouthed Booth's head and pulled it free, strands of bloodied tissue dangling from it as the creature spit the head away. It bounced three times with sepulchral squishes before coming to rest -- eyes pointing upward and frozen in fear -- at the base of a child's school desk. The animal then ripped into Booth's stomach and began slurping on the man's intestines, nuzzling into the gore as it -- for now -- ignored the others, content to focus on a meal that, for once, did not have wings.

Margarar's blood began to boil as she pulled out a phaser. "I need another thirty seconds!" she called out anxiously as she looked upwards from her hatch. "Phasers had better work on that thing!"

Mei shrieked and stumbled backward, eyes wide, clutching her tricorder close and aiming it toward the creature almost instinctively, as though a scan would protect her from it or the gruesome sight before them.

Gwenwyn stood in horror, his jaw had dropped to the ground. But he unfroze himself. "Don't fire," He whispered to his teammates. "It's not interested in us. Yet. Don't piss it off."

The Antican was not certain what Gwenwyn's basis for that determination was; however, all she knew was that she needed to complete retrieving the data. "Twenty seconds," she called out. "I need twenty more seconds."

Like Mei and Gwen, Emni stood carefully still, her face a mask of stillness; the type of calm that belied a cold fury. In truth, she felt cold. She'd felt the death of a person plenty of times before--doctors in the trenches rarely got to avoid it. Nonetheless the experience was always unpleasant, as if a vacuum had opened up within her dragging with it the entirety of a person, the edges threatening to pull her in after.

Forcibly she drew in a long breath and then blew that breath back out in a slow quiet hiss between her lips. Once. Twice.

The creature... whatever it might be... was still gnawing on the remains of Booth, the violent nature of his death somehow appearing more and more gruesome as the moment went on. "I agree with the Doctor," Emni said quietly, but with her voice pitched enough that those near her would hear. "Lieutenant, work quickly. We may not have 20 seconds to spare."

The low conversation was enough to garner at least some of the cat's attention. The beast interrupted its gorging to look back at the group, tongue flicking about its blood-soaked muzzle. As it cleaned blood from its mouth, the panther-like creature displayed an alarming amount of red-stained teeth meant for rending flesh. But as the group grew quiet again, the animal turned back to its meal and began ripping into Booth once more. With a sickening noise, it pulled a mouthful of intestines from the man's torso, paws and claws holding the body down to keep it in place. The cat then began to slurp, sucking up the entrails like crimson coated noodles. Head lowered, it paid the team no further attention for the moment.

From above, however, came the sound of scraping claws. Another of the panther analogues climbed down from a caved-in section of roof, its long, lithe body stalking along a wooden beam that clicked as its claws made repeated contact. The big cat had one of the large avians in its mouth, clearly returning from a food gathering sojourn. But as it saw its mate ripping into the body below, the creature jumped down, landing nearby in a large puff of dust. It dropped the bird from its mouth but, instead of goring into Booth as well, the panther stared threateningly at the group of Starfleeters. It opened its mouth in a soundless hiss of warning.

Hurry up a download? Like I can make a computer go faster? Margarar silently scowled. Hearing everything from above, the seconds ticked away as slowly as sap from a tree in winter. The download, however, did indeed end and Margarar heard nothing that sounded like anyone was in anymore imminent danger than they had been before, unless of course, they were already eaten, which would be quite the problem. Tucking the isometric chip into her suit pocket, she climbed up out of the hatch to witness the scene.

Instincts kicked in. There was nothing more disgusting than a feline creature. Sure, the Federation made certain that she understood that Caitians were friends, not food; but, looking at her comrades fearful of a panther left her torn. Certainly instinct wanted her to tear after that panther but she was "on duty," and had responsibilities to her crew. Regretfully, Margarar instructed everyone, "Let's back away slowly. Keep your eyes on the felines and spider thing. If they pounce, you have the authority to fire."

Mei felt like she was somehow disobeying order when her eyes dropped to her tricorder, which was still dutifully scanning the area. She might find the information about the creature interesting later. If they made it to 'later'. A graph caught her attention, and somehow, through all her fear, an idea hit her. "I think," she whispered, "we might be able to get our tricorders to emit white noise to hide our footsteps? To help cover our retreat?"

"What about their sight? Or smell?" Gwenwyn remarked, being an M.D. he knew senses were even on animals. "You going to fart and through the curtains over their head? This isn't a Scooby Doo episode." By now he was looking around the room for an open window or something he use in his and his team's escape.

Emni chanced a sharp glance in the direction of the engineer when she advised everyone they had the authority to fire. Normally that wasn't a call the engineering lieutenant was authorized to make when the XO was in charge of the party, but now was clearly not the time for an Academy reminder on the chain of command.

"We don't know anything about their senses," Emni said levelly, with the sort of calm that belied an afternoon tea party instead of a life or death scenario. "But we'd be foolish not to try something. Ensign Ratthi rig the white noise. The rest of you be prepared to retreat back to the corridor. We need to get to a more contained area and then out of this building if we can and right now we're too spread out to properly protect ourselves."

Margarar silently agreed, as she took another small step backwards, keeping her eyes on the creatures.

Mei forced herself to take a deep breath and did her best to focus on the tricorder. Her hands shook so badly she wasn't sure if she'd be able to enter to commands to make the thing emit enough sound to hopefully hide their footsteps. She closed her eyes for a moment and blocked out as much of her surroundings as she could, then opened them again and started tapping away. Soon, a hiss of staticky white noise filled the air around them. "There it is," she breathed. "Now what?"

The low rumble of conversation from the team hadn't triggered either of the cats to spring on them. In fact, the second of the pair had begun nuzzling into Booth's blood-gored corpse as well, finding the security officer a much better meal than the bird it had caught. As the white noise began to hiss, however, both of the panther analogues looked up from their lunch, crimson rivulets dripping from their half-open maws. Their ears pricked up, moving around as the cats tried to train their hearing on the source of the noise. After a few moments of this, however, the pair seemed to give up on the distraction, turning back to their meal and lowering their heads to continue eating.

Emni watched the cat-creatures carefully as they responded to the low level hiss of static. Raising her voice barely high enough for her group to hear she spoke, eyes never leaving the cats. "Back up, slowly. I'll go last. Once you're in the corridor bet back to the main room and then back outside as quickly and quietly as you can."

One of the Romulan's hands slid slowly down her flank until it rested on the butt of her phaser. Carefully used one finger to flip open the loop that held it to her belt, popping it as gently as possible. Painfully slow, she pulled the phaser from its holster and held it at the ready in front of her, thumbing the controls to a maximum stun. She felt certain Booth had shot the creatures to no effect, but then even a failed shot might be better than nothing at this point. Settling onto the balls of her feet she took a deep breath and then, still not checking to make sure her team was following her orders, she said, quietly. "Go."

Margarar confirmed that she had the isolinear chip on her and backed away more quickly, all the while keeping her eyes on the creatures. As soon as her feet hit the corridor, she turned on her feet, got on all fours and ran like there was no tomorrow.

The hastened Antican retreat -- faster than the slow backing off t'Nai had ordered -- seemed to have drawn the attention of the first cat. It lifted its head to intently watch Margarar back away into the main room but did not give any kind of chase. The creature began to lower its head back to Booth -- content to enjoy its meal and leave the Starfleet team alone -- when the engineer suddenly bolted away on all fours like a wild animal. Hunting instincts kicked in and the creature took off after Margarar, forgetting its lunch in favor of chasing new prey. With six limbs, the beast clocked an impressive land speed as it tore in tow of the Antican.

The second cat -- hungrier than the first -- ignored Margarar's flight in favor of bingeing on the already-slaughtered-and-available Booth. Its eyes, however, were trained on -- and stayed on -- the rest of the team, no longer ignoring them. Instead of attacking the group, who outnumbered the panther-like, the beast decided to take its meal somewhere apparently safer. Lowering its head, the cat grabbed Booth's body by the shoulder with its teeth and began to drag the corpse back towards the shower room, leaving a blood-smeared trail along the way. Its eyes did not leave the team until the cat and the corpse disappeared into its dark lair.

Irony was not lost on Margarar. A feline was chasing a canine. She growled in frustration, daring a quick glance behind her as the beast tore after her. It left the others alone? They did not even try to assist? What is wrong with them? I thought they were part of the pack. No time to think about that. We have to get this thing to somewhere it will be disposed of. Let's see how long it can run. Those Earth felines wear out quickly after a burst of speed. What are they called? Cheetos? We'll try that first. With that thought, Margarar started running in a zig zag pattern, all the while able to maintain her steady fast pace.

Gwenwyn began to run, boldly and quickly before these cats could strike from behind, Crewmen Booth already a distanced memory. He had lost so much already, he didn't want to lose like Booth but as a surgeon, he could see that he was far gone.

Mei stuck with t'Nai, less from a desire to follow orders and more out of an instinctive reaction that she'd find safety in numbers, even if those numbers were quickly dwindling. She at least had her tricorder with its white noise and the commander with her phaser, and neither beast was paying attention to them. "Now what?"

Emni, having watched the entire tableau unfold even as she continued to inch slowly backward, hadn't been able to resist uttering a string of curses in Rihannsu when the first cat tore out of the room after Margarar. Marwol wasn't far behind and the Romulan was more than a little torn between getting the last of her team out of the room and rushing off herself to see what, if anything, she could do to assist the Antican.

The other cat, though attentive, seemed happy to take its kill and leave, and so as soon as the creature was out of sight, Emni picked up pace, half turning to move toward the corridor, waving Mei along with her.

As she went she opened her comms, broadcasting broadly to the team and hoping she was still within range to reach Margarar. "Lieutenant Margarar," she said, urgency in her tone, "Make for base camp. If we can't take care of the creature before that we'll find reinforcements there. We're right behind you."

And then, without another thought, she nodded her head toward the ensign, and rushed out of the room, the only sound left lingering was the white noise as they moved through the space, and the pounding of their boots across a floor built by long dead Kazon.

=/\= A Joint Post By =/\=

Lieutenant Commander Emni t'Nai
Executive Officer

Lieutenant Margarar
Assistant Chief Engineer

Lieutenant Gwenwyn Marwol
Assistant Chief Medical Officer

Ensign Mei Ratthi

Crewman Jayden Booth


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