Swarming and Storming
Predators and Prey
Location: Coral Forest, Shaddam IVa
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 1055
[MD 1: 1055 Hours]
The forest of above-ground coral had, at least initially, been a peaceful scene. The dust-laden coral structures had proven home to large insects that served as a food source for the moon's predominant avians. But, for whatever reason, the insects had become sufficiently riled when the Starfleet officers had begun their scans and examinations of the coral and taken to the air, swirling in and around the away team in a black cloud of blurred bug bodies. Despite their flurried flight, the locust-like creatures made no sounds aside from the whine of their wings as they descended upon the team.
Ensign Davies had been the first to be set upon, with one of the insects trying to chew through his protective glove. He'd tried shaking his hand to dislodge the bug but its mandibles held firm. Before the entomologist could grab the insect with his other hand, it had bitten through the glove and sunk its teeth into the ensign's finger. The resulting exchange of venom had sent Davies to his knees, though he did manage to grab and throw the bug off his hand. "Holy hell that hurt," he said loudly.
Jyl-eel's frame tried to prop up Davies as he started to crumple. "No. No no we need to keep going," she said as she felt odd movements on the back of her own clothing.
Andrew almost collided with Jyl-eel and Davies, having been too occupied with the bugs to notice him stumble. Then the swarm seemed to get a lot thicker. He swatted at them ineffectually as he felt dull impacts across his back and legs. Grabbing Davies's other arm, he ducked under it to position his shoulder in the man's armpit and used his legs to lift, reducing the load on Jyl-eel.
As Munro and Tor helped the entomologist back to his feet, Dravor looked through a helmet visor besieged by bugs and lifted his phaser to fire at the swarm. It wouldn't help the bugs already upon them but, he thought, the blast might down a big chunk of the swarm and give them some breathing room. The phaser beam glowed a vibrant orange as it fanned out in a wide cone of energy, encompassing a large mass of the flitting insects. Rather unexpectedly, however, the bugs did not drop from the sky. In fact, the opposite seemed to happen: the swarm intensified around them.
"We need to get back to camp. Now," Dravor urged, using his free hand to dislodge a bug that was trying to chew through the right arm of his suit. "Can you walk?" he asked urgently of Davies.
"Yes, I can," the entomologist nodded back, untangling his arms from Tor and Munro. "Thank you, friends," he said to the two as the group began moving forward again. "I don't think they can get into our helmets," Davies conjectured, "but they can definitely chew into our suits. Take it from me," he breathed heavily, "don't let them do that." The last was said as he reached forward to grab a bug from Munro's shoulder and then threw it aside. "Why didn't the phaser beam affect them?" Brian wondered aloud.
It was a question for the entomologist himself to suss: and Tor, struggling to support her part of the carrying weight, just redoubled her efforts. They had already responded to the Em signatures of their devices. Perhaps they fed on such as well. "Almost there," Tor asked as much as stated.
While it was true that the team's steps had carried them closer to base camp, there was still some distance to cover. Davies -- now walking under his own power -- suddenly pointed ahead in the direction they were walking. Through the thinning mass of bugs in front of them, a wall of russet-colored clouds was visible at ground level in the distance. "What is that?" he asked even as more of the insects dived at them. He brushed his shoulders to dislodge two of the insects who'd settled on him, only for three others to take their place.
"Storm front maybe?" Tor tried before she too yelped, spun and almost seemed to drop. She hissed air through her teeth, eyes clenched as one of the persistent insects managed to find purchase in her elbow nook.
"Oh perfect," Davies had managed to get out before an insect took a bite out of Tor. "Are you alright?" he asked, moving to offer aid if he could. If wanted, he'd allow Tor to drape her arm around his shoulders to help bear her weight. He knew how hard those bites hit. To Dravor and Munro, the science officer looked up and gestured to the dust storm ahead. "We can either head into that, where I'm guessing the bugs won't follow, or," he stressed, "we stay here until the storm dissipates. But I don't think the insects are going to let up any time soon," Davies said, brushing yet another of the bugs off his right thigh.
Dialing up his phaser's setting, Dravor fired another cone of energy at the swarm. The cascading orange light flared into existence but, unlike the last time the Trill had fired, the insects seemed now to be affected. Those at the forefront of the cone fell, dazed and barely moving on the ground. They hadn't been killed -- though the new phaser setting should most certainly have done that -- but at least Dravor had found a setting that could give the team a little breathing room. "Orders haven't changed. Back to base camp," he replied, moving to the group's rear to fire yet again. "Stay together in that storm," he ordered.
Ahead loomed the southern edge of the storm. As ordered, Davies strode forward, the first to disappear into the dust. It amazed the scientist how quickly the climate changed within the dust cloud. Temperatures dropped by a good 10 degrees and visibility had become reduced significantly. He could barely see as he kept trudging forward, his tricorder indicating the bearing to maintain back towards the base camp. Turning, Davies looked to see if his companions had entered yet.
Tor, visibly showing the pain on her face, shakily bobbed her head. "Base camp. We can't fight every insect out here." she felt. She kept trying to move, her bitten elbow now oddly warm, clumsy and numb feeling.
Andrew stumbled into dust cloud, checking his arms and legs for insects as best he could. One remained on his lower right leg, biting into the fabric of his suit. It took three forceful swats to dislodge it and it immediately disappered into the dust. He held his breath for a moment, convinced that the swarm was about to appear. Nothing broke through the swirling dust. He sank to his knees as he exhaled, suddenly aware of the energy he'd spent fleeing. Visibility was poor, but he could see a large shape moving in the dust that could only be Davies. Despite the protests from his legs, he managed to get to his feet and start to close the distance between them.
With a parting phaser blast behind him, Dravor brought up the rear, the last to disappear into the storm front. Making his way towards the dust-blurred forms of Tor and the others, the Trill grabbed one of the insects off his shoulder and threw it into the wind. He was satisfied to see the bug blown away, the rest of the swarm apparently deciding not to follow them into the storm, EM signatures or whatever else that caused them to swarm forgotten. Lifting a hand to shield his helmet from a sudden blast of torrenting sand, the security officer trudged onward.
After several long minutes of staying close while navigating the storm, the hulking shape of the Waverider came into view. Its ramp was lowered and Davies could see figures walking up its length, a stretcher of some kind held between them. Other figures walked behind, waiting for the first pair to disappear into the ship before striding up the gangway themselves. "We made it," the entomologist cried out then to those huddled close behind him. He then waved his arms at the people on the ramp, hoping to signal them to his team's presence.
Instead of an answering shout, however, a pair of disruptor beams pierced from the dust clouds to the right and struck Dravor right in the chest, throwing him backward. Several figures emerged into visibility but they were not Starfleeters. They bore heads covered in wild clumps of black hair, their skin the color of potatoes. To anyone who'd studied the races of the Delta Quadrant, it was immediately clear who'd crashed the Starfleet party: the Kazon.
=/\= A joint post by... =/\=
Ensign Brian Davies
Doctor Andrew Munro
Ensign Tamblem Dravor
Ensign Jyl-eel Tor