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Planetfall

Posted on Sun Apr 12th, 2020 @ 6:11pm by Petty Officer 1st Class Finnegan Siosifa & Lieutenant Commander Arthur Talbot & Chief Petty Officer Juliana Nuñez

Mission: Searching for the Lost
Location: Alpha Remidian IV
Timeline: Mission Day 5 at 1145

The blue transporter beam disappeared almost as quickly as it began, depositing Artie and his team at the base of a rocky hill, covered with golden grass and purple weeds. It was very clear by the grooves that had chiseled channels around them that it had rained quite a bit. Artie frowned, knowing that any chance for proper visual tracking would be about useless. "All right, everyone, let's get to work."

Artie pulled out his tricorder, opened it, and found quickly that it seemed inactive. "Odd," he muttered, opening and closing it again, wondering if the sensor was simply stuck. Artie knew the device had been properly charged before leaving, so this made little sense. "My tricorder's not working."

Finn, upon materializing, defaulted to his training and lifted his phaser rifle to his shoulder, planting his feet in a shooting stance. Visually, he scanned their surroundings, sweeping left. "Looks clear," he offered. The scenery was nice, very colorful. But he knew better than to get sucked in by that. Until the survey team was found and everyone was back on Altai, he had to assume they were all in danger.

“Check your weapon, Finn,” Juliana said as she also surveyed their surroundings, rifle in hand. “I’m getting nil power from the battery to the phaser coil.” She checked her sidearm and scoffed as she saw it was also powerless.

Artie pulled out his own phaser and tapped the standby button to verify that it was still set for stun. Not a single confirming light shone from its indicators. He opened it and checked the power cell, also to no avail. Artie quickly tapped his badge. "Talbot to Altai."

No one replied. Now that Artie thought about it, he didn't hear the badge chirp. A second tap confirmed that the badge was certainly inactive. "Comms are out too," he told the team. "What do you think? Some sort of naturally occurring duonetic field?"

"You'd know best about that, Commander," Finn answered after checking his own weapon. As Juliana had said, his phasers were both dead. "Can still use this thing as a bludgeon," he chuckled, grabbing his rifle by the barrel. He gave it a swing. "Like my war hammer, Jules?"

Juliana rolled her eyes. “I’m not fixing that thing when you break it in half.” She held her rifle backwards, ready to use the stock as a bludgeon. “What we really need are bayonets.”

"Bayonets aren't going to help us find the lost survey team," Artie pointed out to the security officers. "Nor is it going to help us contact the Altai. Are either of you two handy with tracking? Where's a good place to find cover around here? We can start our search there."

Pierce checked his tricorder, nothing. He looked up at the security officers. “Careful children. I came down here to treat malnourished scientists not foolish away team members.” He flashed a smile at Finn before addressing Talbot.

“I can treat some medical needs without a tricorder. How are we going to find them?” Alan asked.

"Children? Did he just call us children, Jules?" Siosifa asked heatedly. "Nothing rubs a working man wrong like an officer who thinks he's superior."

"He did call us children, Finn," Juliana answered, shaking her head. But then she couldn't hold back a grin. "But we'll keep him alive anyways. That's the job. And besides, I think of you as a kid sometimes, too." She looked back to the XO. "I'm not an expert tracker, but I can find some high ground and see if I can spot anything?"

"Go for it," Artie said, nodding to the security officer. He took that moment to survey his team. One medic, two security, and himself. The command side of him found Artie momentarily grateful. Their team was small, so at least the Altai would be able to find them more easily. But that also meant the Altai was without her Captain and her First Officer. If Batchelder was looking for a moment to relax, he certainly wasn't getting it today.

Hopefully it wouldn't take the Altai long to figure out what had happened. Artie also planned to let the Captain know later how he felt about this. To Nuñez, Artie also added, "We'll follow you. Until we can figure out what happened, we need to stay together as much as possible."

"I'll take up the rear, Commander," Finn said. He was a bit jealous that Nuñez got to take point, but she was more experienced so he understood the decision. There were also few people that he trusted as much as the Chief Petty Officer.

For a second, Finn thought he heard something. He froze and listened intently. His eyes scanned, first the close space, then the horizon. Seeing and hearing nothing, he started walking again.

A couple of minutes passed.

SQUAWK

Artie spun around, looking for the source of the sound. He instinctively lifted his phaser, forgetting for the moment that it was nonfunctional. The sound reminded him of a bird, but the unusual surroundings and encounters with species like the Glurone had taught him to never assume.

Juliana, from the point position, surveyed everything as comprehensively as she could. That noise might be a threat. Or it might be nothing. Best to be safe about it. “That wasn’t anyone’s equipment, was it?” she called to her team.

"Not mine," Finn said, his eyes again studying their surroundings. Off in the distance, about 100 meters to the east, he saw movement. "There!" he exclaimed, alerting the others. He started towards the spot, which was covered with vegetation. I wish I had a working phaser, he thought as he closed in on the bushes.

As the large Polynesian got within a few meters, there was an explosion of noise.

SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK! SQUAWK!

A flurry of feathered beasts swarmed around Siosifa. "What the hell!" he shouted. He swatted his massive hands, trying to keep the animals from his face. "Go away!"

Artie quickly recalled his phaser was practically useless, but he then mused that the casing could prove effective here. He turned the weapon in his palm so that the firing emitter was in his grip and the curved handle swung outward. Artie leapt forward, rushing to the larger man. With his free hand, he grabbed the Polynesian's arm and pulled him backward while using the phaser grip to swat at the creatures. "Back off!" he cried at the creatures, swinging all the while at the swarm.

Pierce take medical bag off his shoulder and let out an incoherent cry of a aggression as he began swinging the bag at the incoming creatures. He was a tall athletic man, he abhorred violence so that combat instructors and security officers always seem to view this side of him with a mix of terror and amusement.

Juliana was using the butt of her rifle to push the creatures away as they got too close, and occasionally tried to knock them off of Finn. “Maybe the high ground isn’t the best place to be!” she yelled to her comrades and superior officers.

One of Finn's massive hands grabbed one of the creatures. He held it up, trying to see what the hell it was through all of the flapping. Between the beating of the feathered wings, he could just make out an avian face, beak and all, and down-covered feet, which ended in sharp talons.

"They're just birds," he exclaimed. He loosed his grip on the animal, realizing that they weren't likely in any danger. The creature flapped away, but not before leaving a large scratch on the Polynesian's meaty arm. "Damn it!" he shouted. "I was letting you go, you bastard!"

Finn stomped away from the bushes, wanting to put distance between himself and the bird demons. Fortunately, the little devils stayed put and didn't follow.

"Nothing like being rejected by the local fauna," Artie muttered, looking at the bushes and the clustered birds. "Doctor, let's take a quick look at the Petty Officer's arm."

Sighing, he looked next to Nuñez. "High ground or low ground, we need to find our missing team. We know there are potentially unfriendly animals now, which means our team could be somewhere where they've had to post watch for these things, or avoiding them altogether. We should be looking for a cave or some sort of rock slope that would provide a good covering. Thoughts?"

Juliana nodded. "Makes sense, sir. Something they can hide inside, or at least put their back to. Problem is, we can't exactly see the far sides of some of these hills. We'll need to keep moving." She looked over and saw the mark on the large Polynesian security officer's arm. "Walk it off, Finn. I've left worse marks on you after sparring sessions."

"That's different, Jules. I like it when you hurt me," he fired back, flashing a devilish grin. "Say, Commander. You were an engineer, right? Any chance you can figure out how to get our gear working? Do a little tinkering, maybe?"

Artie had considered attempting to repair the equipment, but as the ranking officer, he was first charged with leading the Away Team. "It's not exactly that simple," he told the security officer. "There could be a number of reasons why our equipment isn't working, ranging from duonetics to radiation to even some sort of radiant electromagnetic pulse. Not knowing the cause makes it almost impossible to make the adjustments."

He then paused, considering the different options before him. "Though... if we had a compass, I might be able to start ruling things out. Pierce, you haven't noticed any ill effects... physically, have you? That might rule out radiation."

Pierce looked up from attending Finn's wound, "there's compass in my F.U.B.A.R. kit. At the top of my bag." He nodded towards where his bag was open on the ground.

He turned back to Finn, "the dermal regenerator isn't working, so I'm going to sanitize it and seal it with medical adhesive. This will hurt you more than it hurts me, do you want an anesthetic?"

"No need, Doc," Finn replied. "I'm tough."

Artie opened the medical bag and found the compass with ease. He stood and held the small object out to watch the inner dial. The point wavered from side to side, unsure of what magnetic pole or source to latch onto. Despite the Doctor not offering any comments on radiation, the engineer in Artie finally had something to work with. "Looks like we're dealing with some sort of magnetic interference which is disrupting power sources."

He paused for a moment to consider possible repair methods, most of which were limited since he hadn't brought any tools with him. "It might be possible to get the phasers working again if we bypass the EM regulators, but it'll drain the power cells quicker and limit our use. At least they'll be better than just being clubs."

Juliana offered the XO her phaser rifle. She took off the access panels and held it so Mr. Talbot could best get to everything he needed.

While the rifle had been freely offered and held for him, Artie picked up the rifle in order to look at a hidden crevice above the trigger assembly. It'd been a while since he had to work on a weapon, and he wanted to be sure he was grabbing the right modules before sticking his hands inside of them. He placed the rifle flatly back into Juliana's hands and pulled out the EM regulator. Artie was still tool-less, but he was able to open the regulator and adjust the smaller equipment inside it. He removed a couple small elements which were designed to function as a safeties.

Artie closed the regulator and reinserted it into the rifle. "Let's give that a try. You won't have the higher levels available, and what you do have could be more powerful than normal. You might keep to low stun or the lower disruption levels."

The large Polynesian man stepped forward, his bird scratch having been sealed. "Having our phasers back would be a good step, Commander. Give it a try Jules. If it works, mine's next."

The tall and lithe Latina powered on her rifle. She listened closely, and made a face at what she heard. “It’s online, but it doesn’t sound right. Even at low levels I’m not sure how many shots we have. Still, we do need to test it.” She held the rifle up, pointed it to a nearby rock outcropping, set the power level to stun, and took a shot.

The blast came out well enough and exploded on the rock. “Looks good, Commander.”

"Work your magic, boss," Finn said, tossing his rifle to Talbot.

Artie nodded, opening the panels in order to get to the EM regulator. It did not take him long to make the adjustments, and within a couple minutes, he tossed the working weapon over to the burly man. "Well, that takes care of our defenses," Artie stated. "But that doesn't help much for finding the survey team. Even if I got a tricorder working, it'd be useless. With the local fauna not being so friendly, I'd bet the team had to find a defensible location."

Finn hefted the rifle and, like Juliana had done, he fired off a test shot. "Awesome, Commander," he exclaimed with a giant smile. "We're back in business, Jules. What now Commander?"

Commander Talbot looked down at the compass he held, still wavering between multiple magnetic sources. He watched it closely for a few moments, noting that its oscillation didn't move in a full 180 degree rotation. He turned his body slightly to the left and watched the compass maintain its activity, but at least he was now in the middle of the oscillation. "This way," he said, pointing ahead of them. "We'll head for what could be a source for this magnetism and we should find the crew along the way."

"Here's hoping, Commander," Finn said, happy to have a working weapon again. "Let's just hope we don't run into more of those asshole birds."

Artie almost quipped something to the effect of using the Petty Officer as bait, especially since he seemed to attract the unwanted attention. Thankfully, as a Lieutenant Commander, there were other creative means of saying that. To which, Artie simply said, "Lead the way, Mister Siosifa."

Finn's grin disappeared. He wasn't afraid, per se. But he wasn't looking to get pecked apart by another flock of those winged demons. "If you say so, Commander," he replied. The thickly built man began trudging forward, in the direction Talbot had indicated. He kept his eyes looking for more feathered assailants.

The team moved on, with Siosifa in the lead. For nearly an hour they continued without issue.

A loud crashing noise rang out. Finn looked around trying to identify the source. "There," he said, pointing off to some trees. "A branch from one of those must have fallen." As he watched, an entire tree toppled, crashing to the ground. "Or an entire damned tree," he concluded. "Luckily, we aren't go that way."

He was about to turn back and start moving again when something else caught his eye. Movement. He couldn't make out what it was, but something was moving at the treeline.

Then he felt it. The ground was rumbling.

He strained to make out the motion on the horizon. Eventually, he realized what was happening.

"We gotta move! Stampede!"

"Move!?" Artie shouted, looking in all directions. He trusted the security officer, but not being able to see anything was seriously hampering his judgment. "Where are we to move... there!" Artie spotted a series of fallen trees that appeared to be stacked upon one another. Above them was a hill that had been slowly carved into a ridge over years of water rushing through. "Up there!" he called out, leading everyone to higher ground.

Juliana, working from the back of the pack, helped make sure Dr. Pierce and Commander Talbot made it up the ridge before she did. "I do not like this planet!" she yelled as the rumbling got louder.

"Quickly!" Artie sounded, trying to direct traffic away from the edge of the ridge. Glancing quickly in the Chief Petty Officer's direction, Artie quipped, "You and me both, Nuñez! Everyone, away from the edge!"

Moving with more agility than he appeared capable of, Finn scrambled up to the higher ground. He looked towards the source of the thundering and watched as a tremendous herd of animals came into focus. "There's gotta be more than a hundred!" he shouted to the others, the sound of the beasts growing louder as they approached quickly.

Within moments, the first of the creatures was close enough to make out details. They were a smaller, both shorter and leaner, than domestic cattle from Earth. They were covered in a thick, woolly fur which seemed to range from a pale blue to lavender. Some had spots, but most were uniform in color. They had long, muscular tails, also coated with woolly fur. Their long ears flapped as they ran, meaning they were probably droopy otherwise.

"They are really moving!" Siosifa observed. "Ever seen bovines move that fast?"

Artie shook his head, wondering if they'd gotten themselves into a truly safe position. "I've seen a few herds in my day, but nothing ever like this!" He wondered if he was going to be straining his voice since he had to shout over the loud sounds of the hooves clamoring across the ground. "The real question is... why are they running? What are they running from?"

"Hell if I know," Finn offered. "We just waiting this out, I'm guessing?" He watched the animals charging past them. "Maybe two hundred of them."

"I think we have to," Artie said. "When a herd stampedes, they rarely do so blindly. And, they've more or less cleared a path in the direction we were headed. Might as well backtrack from whence they came to see if it'll lead us to the survey team."

"At least we have weapons now," Juliana offered. "If they were running from something, we won't be helpless. And who knows? Maybe they're just running from some rocks that fell. I mean, probably not, but maybe." She wasn't the sort to get her hopes up, but it also did not serve them to be unnecessarily paranoid.

Artie chuckled as the stampede finally moved past them. "We should be so lucky. Of course, if it is a bunch of rocks that fell, we likely would have some better luck finding a survey team that took shelter from a storm." He glanced down at his compass which still oscillated northeast to northwest. "And the stampede did come slight from the direction we were heading."

The last of the animals finally passed them. "I think we're clear now," Finn said. He started hopping down from their ridge. "Let's see what we can find."

Artie hopped down after Siosifa. "Mister Siosifa, you and I will take point. Doctor, stay in the middle, and Miss Nuñez, watch our backs as we go. Hopefully we'll get to where we need to go without any further interruptions."

The team continued on their journey, now following the path blazed by the stampede. "That really worked out for us," Siosifa called out. "Looks pretty clear."

So far anyway, thought Artie as he walked a single step behind the security officer. His eyes remained mostly fixed on the compass he held, where the oscillation had begun to subside. Earlier, it had been nearly a full 180-degree movement. Now, it was down to about twenty degrees. "We're getting closer," he reported to the group.

Artie looked up, spotting several large rocky formations ahead of them. "That's where the compass is leading us," he told the group. "Our best bet is to find a cave or some sort of well-protected opening."

"Understood, Commander," Finn said.

Having lost interest in chasing the herd, five fur-covered quadrupeds had begun silently following the strange bipeds. They had seen others like this before, though the beings had gotten away without any of the trio getting to eat. The leader looked at her lieutenant and, using pheromone-based communication, instructed him to take one of the others and make their way north, to head off the bipeds. As the two sprinted off, the leader licked her lips. A feast was in the making.

 

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