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Camp

Posted on Sat Nov 7th, 2020 @ 9:04pm by Captain Osegan Trenna & Ensign Geoff Martinsen & Petty Officer 1st Class Finnegan Siosifa & Lieutenant Commander Arthur Talbot & Lieutenant Kahona A’Shan & Lieutenant JG Evaad Hessen & Ensign Atyhle sh'Paveress & Chief Petty Officer Juliana Nuñez & Staff Warrant Officer Bryan Itajime

Mission: Searching for the Lost
Location: USS Altai/Alpha Remidian IV
Timeline: Mission Day 5 at 1445

Previously...
As soon as the security detail had settled on their positions, Artie started to gather the group together. "All right everyone, let's move out. Miss Waverly, take us to your runabout."

Allison took a deep breath and began toward the entrance of the caves. She was hungry. And sore. And need desperate need of a shower. The prospect of a rescue was welcome. But she still doubted their ability to avoid the creatures that had chased her team into the caves originally.


The journey the the mouth of the caves was uneventful. Now, however, Allison stood just inside the caves, looking out at the surrounding landscape. She was frozen, unable to continue.

While Alison stood, the rest of the survey and away teams began to hold in place. Artie checked down the line, seeing nervous glances from the surveyors. The Altai's team had had a few surprise experiences of their own since arriving, and Artie knew that the worst thing they could do right now was to stall.

He moved up to the front of the line and stood beside Waverly. He didn't look at her, but gazed out with her beyond the cave entrance. "Which way to the runabout, Miss Waverly?"

She heard Talbot's voice, but couldn't make out the words. "Huh?"

Artie's initial reaction was a puzzled expression. "Are you doing all right, Waverly? Do you remember the way to the runabout?"

"Sorry, Commander. My brain isn't processing auditory inputs properly it seems," she explained. She scanned the horizon with her eyes and then pointed off to the right. "That way."

For a moment, she didn't...couldn't...move. Come on Al! she told herself, you've got to put in the effort. God helps those who help themselves.

"Let's go," she finally said, more than a minute later. "Follow me."

Leaving the cave for the first time since being chased there, Allison Waverly couldn't help but smile at the fresh air and sunlight. The smile faded quickly when the rustling of some leaves to the east reminded her of where she was.

"What was that?" Waverly asked, concerned. She looked at the female security officer from the Altai who was by her side. "Can you check it out?"

Artie gave Nunez a nod as he drew his phaser. "We do need to keep moving. The longer we remain in one spot, the more likely we'll attract attention."

“Aye, sir,” Juliana said, mostly-fixed rifle drawn. She moved East toward the disturbance, eyes ready to catch any odd shapes or motion. She was in daylight and stood in a dark uniform against light rock. Stealth was not possible. All she could do was hope to catch any threats quickly.

Allison watched as the security officer headed off to clear the area. "I'm sorry Commander," she said, turning to look at Talbot. "After our last encounter with those.....things...well, I guess I'm a bit skittish. More than normal at least."

"No one can blame you for that," Artie said, his British accent thicker than usual. He rarely tried to soften it, but in moments like these when his eyes were scanning the horizon, he paid little attention to anything else, including the inflection on his speech. "The security detail can more than take care of what's out there. Why, just a few days ago, Nuñez and Siosifa were part of a team that had to take on dozens of Glurone, an unfriendly species. I'm sure they can take care of a spot of fauna."

"Glurone?" she said slowly. "I hope they are as good as you say, Commander." Waverly took a deep breath. "Let's go. This way."

She headed off, looking over her shoulder to make sure Talbot was following. She thought his accent was charming, as there was something alluring about his surety in the ability of his team.

"Been on Altai long?" she asked, seeing that he was close.

Talbot was following Waverly, keeping to about three paces behind her. He tried to keep an eye on Nuñez with every other step, just to make sure they weren't leaving her behind or alone, as well as another eye on Pierce and his walking wounded near the middle of the pack.

"It's actually an unusual story," Artie told Waverly. "Of the current crew, I've been on the ship the longest, though I haven't been assigned to the ship the longest. A few months ago, the ship was docked at Starbase 375 for a warp drive overhaul, which I designed for the class and using the Altai as the first testbed for the procedure. I was about a couple weeks away from finishing the procedure when Starfleet decides to relaunch the ship to handle a situation in the Bardeezi system. Naturally, I got shanghaied as Chief Engineer to finish my refit and ensure that the ship wouldn't fly herself apart."

Artie smiled and exhaled a bewildered sigh. "I didn't even get to finish the mission as Chief Engineer. Before long, I found myself in the center seat and had to find a way to get Captain Osegan and her Away Team out of a jam and avoid a political crisis. To this day, I'm not even sure what I did. All I know is that I impressed the Captain enough that I became her first officer."

"An engine designer forced into Command. Like an exobiologist left to lead a cornered survey team," she mused. "Have you tried asking your Captain why she promoted you? I mean, maybe you don't care, but I would be curious."

Artie grunted. "It may be fifteen years since the Dominion War, but Starfleet still isn't back at its pre-war levels. There's a shortage of experienced command officers, and those that become available are shifted to the front lines. Captain Osegan herself was pulled from another assignment to command the Altai. Besides, Starfleet wound up cancelling the Steamrunner Warp Refit project, deeming it too costly for this time. If I'd refused the Captain, I don't really know where I'd have wound up. I figured the red collar was worth staying as close as possible to my pet project."

"I came on this mission because of Commander Ishi," Allison explained. "We served together years ago and have kept in touch. I'm not much into atmospheric chemistry, but he's brilliant and so engaging about his work. He asked me to join his team. The initially assigned exobiologist caught a nasty parasite and was still going to be in isolation when this mission started. So, here I am." She sighed. "I regret saying yes."

"Do you regret the decision just because you were temporarily trapped here?" Artie asked Waverly. "Compared to some of Starfleet's other exploits around the galaxy, I'd argue that it could be worse. I'm not trying to dismiss what you've been through, but surely there's something of value that can come from all of this. I, for one, want to work on hardening smaller electronics that will function in environments like this."

"Yeah, getting hunted by silent predators, chased into a cave, and facing death by starvation or dehydration has really soured me on this mission," Waverly replied, sounding exhausted. "It's been a lot. And for what? So the Federation can expand it's footprint? Expand the empire, I guess."

Artie's eyes widened slightly, realizing all too late that he touched a nerve. He had never been in a situation like Waverly and her team were just coming out of, so he did his best not to judge. "So, you and Commander Ishi knew each other before coming together. Where'd you serve together?"

"My first assignment out of grad school was the Hypatia," she explained. "I had no ship experience, outside of my cadet cruise, years earlier. Renyo took me under his wing, even though he worked in a different section, and helped me get acclimated. We've been friends ever since."

She fell silent and slowed her pace. Her head pivoted as she surveyed the horizon.

He couldn't help but notice her pause. Artie knew she was nervous, yet that nervousness could be useful in an environment like this. He tightened his grip on the phaser and scanned the horizon himself, wondering if he could see what she could see. A clear path lay ahead of them, but that disappeared into a thick treeline. "Perhaps we should hug the treeline," he said, pointing to the outer edge of the clearing. "That way we're not caught in the open should something happen."

"Familiar with the adage 'the shortest distance between two points is a straight line,' Commander? Because following the treeline will add...maybe as much as a kilometer."


*****

The shuttle continued it's descent towards the surface of Alpha Remidian IV. Geoff was determined to rescue Captain Osegan, but he was still concerned about Hessen's plan to use the ship's phasers. "But he's in command of the ship now, so I guess that's what we're doing", he said to himself. One of the benefits of being on this mission alone was that he could talk out loud without anyone looking at him crazy, which is what often happened in the corridors of the ship.

"Martinsen to Altai, I'm approaching the atmosphere."

"Acknowledged, Martinsen," said sh'Paveress. "We're reading your telemetry loud and clear with minimal packet loss. We are, however, starting to lose our sensor lock. It must be the localized disturbances."

Losing sensor lock? he thought, knowing the comm channel was still open. God, I'm going to die out here.

“You’re not going to die out there, Mister Martinsen,” Evaad told him. Despite the distance, the telepath heard the young pilot’s mind screaming. “You’re a professional and you have this in hand. If we lose sensor lock or comms, your orders remain the same: drive off the approaching forces and then land to pick up those on the ground, but pull up and come back if you experience power loss. Initial stun phasers will be fired in five minutes. You have the coordinates, stay outside our firing arc and you won’t be hit.”

“Phasers are ready,” reported Tactical Officer el-Pirani. “Awaiting your orders to fire.”

Dammit! Geoff thought. He reads minds, you moron! His self-chastisements made him shake his head. "And he can hear you thinking that," he reminded himself out loud.

He continued on towards the surface, broaching the atmosphere. "Entering the atmosphere," he called out, having unmuted the audio pickup in the cockpit. "Continuing descent to await your phaser assault, Altai."

Evaad moved to the middle of the bridge to watch the viewscreen. "Sh'Paveress, keep a close watch on those hunters. El-Pirani...fire."

The ship's phasers activated, and a stream high energy particles was fired down toward the planet. Evaad could see from the beam's colour that the phasers were set to lower settings, exactly as he had ordered. He hoped that the stun phasers worked and incapacitated the swarm of creatures without causing permanent harm.

*****

Finn had watched Jules head off to investigate something. He didn't like her going alone, not because she wasn't capable but because he wanted to be there to get into trouble with her. Instead, he was with the rest of the team, following the senior conscious member of the survey team. "What's your story?" he asked of the lithe, blue-haired woman from the survey team.

"My story?" Kahona asked with a flick of her right ear, "I came on this mission as a last minute transfer. The conditions here on the surface were supposedly going to be such that I could conduct some research I was working on... But it didn't work out the way I had expected it to..."

The half-Caitian gave the Security crewman a sad smile as she continued, "If I hadn't been here, I don't know if the team would have made it this long. But I think we would have made it out better if I had been a full-blooded Caitian. My mother was always a much better hunter than I am."

"Your mom sounds great. Love to meet her sometime." He paused momentarily. "I haven't seen my folks in years. Saw one of my sisters, Rongomaiwhenua, when she was passing through Starbase 19 when I was stationed there just before joining Altai. She's the only family I've seen recently. One of my brothers got married last month but I couldn't attend. Such is the Starfleet life."

Juliana rejoined the group, a small ball of fur on her shoulder. "Such is indeed the Starfleet life. But he has us to watch out for him." She matched their pace and looked to the ship's XO. "The disturbance was just this little guy, Commander." She gestured to her shoulder, where the ball of fur was revealed to be something resembling a small weasel. "I think he thought we were predators, but made the mistake of making noise when he tried to hide in a bush. I don't suppose the Expedition gave this species a name?"

Allison looked at the small creature on the woman's shoulder. "I never saw anything like him," she said, excited by the find. "Dr. Fenn," she called to the survey team's zoologist, "look at this."

The Bajoran scientist approached. "If only we'd seen this animal sooner," she said, pulling out a scanner. "A monotreme. There are only two hundred or so known monotremes across the Alpha and Beta quadrants. And the Federation has only catalogued four species of monotremes in this quadrant." She looked at the senior officer. "Can we bring it with us, Commander? For obvious reasons, I don't want to stay here to study it. But if we can take it back to your ship for study, we can return it to the surface before we leave orbit."

"Of course," Artie replied. "The Altai has several labs that are perfectly suited for exobiology and zoology. As soon as we get back..." Suddenly, something in the sky above caught his attention. He looked up to see a thin orange lance fall from the heavens off into the distance, but not in the direction of the runabout. That blast could only mean one of two things. Either someone was in trouble, or they were trying to be directed somewhere.

Given that Artie had no contact with the Captain, but had contact with the Altai, he had to assume that the ship above was trying to get the Captain's attention. "Across the clearing it is," he told everyone. His tone wasn't hurried or panicked, but firm in its direction. "Let's pick up the pace!"

As the line started to move, he looked around for Anninaray. "Anninaray, can you reach out to Mister Hessen and request an update?"

The ecologist nodded before closing her eyes and reaching out with her thoughts. Lieutenant?

*****

Geoff saw the phaser beam through the cockpit window. "Here we go," he said to himself. He throttled the shuttle's engines, pushing it closer and closer to the surface. "Computer, stand-by with phasers."

The computer chirped in response.

The shuttle continued towards the surface.

"Shit," he exclaimed when a collision warning sounded. He quickly checked his displays. There was nothing nearby that he could collide with. "Martinsen to Altai. The shuttle is acting up."

There was no response. Just a dead signal.

"Dammit!" he shouted, realizing rescuing the Captain's team was on him now. "Stay on mission, Geoff."

Flight controls were still working, so he proceeded closer to the surface. He was now approaching the troposphere of the planet.

*****

"Lieutenant, we've lost contact with the shuttle," sh'Paveress announced from her station. "We're still showing it on sensors, but the friction from the atmosphere on entry has disrupted delivery of telemetry and communications. It is maintaining course and speed."

“He’s a bit frustrated,” Evaad observed, “but he’s in control. Any word on the creatures threatening our people? Has the phaser blast had any effect?”

Ensign sh'Paveress struggled with the sensor grid, doing her best to compensate for the interference caused by the planet below. "We only grazed the target area, sir. I think we hit two lifeforms, but I can't get a fix on how many are left."

He heard a signal in his head from Anninaray Franze. How are you proceeding, Doctor? he asked.

Commander Talbot has us returning to our runabout. Lieutenant Waverly is leading the way.

Good. I have more people on their way with evacuation craft.

*****

"Captain!"

The sudden sound of Itajime's voice startled Osegan. "What?"

"Look," the security warrant officer said, pointing at something glinting in the sunlight.

She turned to look where he was pointing, seeing for herself the reflecting light. "It's reflective, that's for sure. And it's moving. What do you think it is?"

"Maybe Commander Batchelder is sending another team down via shuttle," Itajime offered.

Trenna stood there, following the object...whatever it was...across the sky. It was possible that the Chief Engineer had elected to send a team to rescue the initial two rescue teams. "Let's keep moving. If that is one of our shuttles, we're going to need to have all of our folks and the survey team ready to go."

Bryan nodded and continued forward.

They continued on for another couple of minutes, passing some waist-high foliage.

The only sound Trenna heard was Itajime's scream of pain, which was quickly silenced. Then, nothing.

"SHIT!" she shouted, trying to see what where the security officer had gone. No blood. No tracks. No evidence that Itajime had even been there.

Movement caught her eye about thirty meters into the bushes and tall grass. She froze, squinting to try to get a better look.

"RUN!" she told the rest of the team as soon as she realized what must have happened. The team bolted and Trenna followed them. As they put distance between themselves and the shrubbery, a four-legged beast came dashing towards them from about where Itajime had disappeared.

I'm not going to die here! she reassured herself. And neither is another of my crew.

The beast was joined by another, this one seeming to materialize out of thin air, it moved for quickly and quietly.

Trenna was in pretty good shape, and not just for her age, but she was starting to get a bit winded. Their pursuers showed no signs of slowing, so she worried that her fate, and that of her team, was inching towards inevitable.

A familiar sound filled the air. The whine of a phaser. She glanced over her shoulder and saw the predators were regrouping.

She heard the whine again, this time she slowed down and looked around for the source. She caught the tail end of the beam and followed the trajectory.

"A shuttle!" she exclaimed.

Geoff had managed to miss the things that were chasing the captain with his first shot. They looked like a cross between a wolf and a panther, which was to say, terrifying. As they reengaged their pursuit of the away team, Martinsen let loose another barrage. This time he was successful. Both creatures stopped and slumped to the ground.

"Oh, thank God," he said as he moved the shuttle closer to the surface. He landed with a gentle thud.

"Captain Osegan," he called, standing in the open hatch. "Need a ride?"

Trenna smiled widely. "Nice to see you, Ensign," she said as entered the shuttle. "Glad Batchelder sent you."

"Commander Batchelder is in sickbay. Lieutenant Hessen is in command," he explained, closing the hatch behind the last member of the away team.

"What happened?"

"Not sure, Captain," Geoff replied, moving back to the flight control console. "He collapsed. Hessen was the ranking officer on the bridge."

She wasn't religious, but she did find herself silently reciting a common Bajoran prayer asking for the Prophets to look after the Chief Engineer.

"We should look for the other team," she said as Martinsen started the shuttle back up.

"I'm taking you back to the ship, sir. There wouldn't be room in here for Commander Talbot's team and the survey team."

She knew that Martinsen had a valid point, but that didn't change her mind. "I'm the Captain. We're going to look for the other team."

Geoff nodded and lifted the shuttle off the ground. "Of course, Captain."

*****

"There it is!" shouted Artie to the group he and Waverly were leading. They'd just stepped over a ridge, and they could now see the runabout at the bottom of the hill. From what Artie could tell, there was no physical damage to the spacecraft, aside from some dirt and sediment that had been kicked up around it from the recent storms. "Nuñez! Siosifa! Secure the perimeter!"

Finn stomped off to the north to keep lookout, while Juliana did the same to the South.

Artie led the group down the slippery slope, glancing back all the while to see whether or not anyone was having trouble following. Once he saw that the group would make it down okay, he rushed ahead to the runabout, phaser still in hand. He stopped first at the side entrance near the cockpit and found the opening mechanism. "Please work..." he muttered just before he tapped the button. Much to his surprise, the door responded immediately, opening the craft and activating the dormant lighting. "Let's get aboard!" he shouted to them all.

The Commander then stepped over to the port nacelle, which was on the side closest to the team. He climbed onto it, and then scaled the engine strut to perform a quick visual on the housing that protected the warp drive. He never did understand why designers put the access for such a critical piece of hardware on the outside of the ship, but this was not the time to think about it. His hands brushed across the entire housing, looking for anything out of the ordinary, including cracks and breeches. Finding none, he located an access panel and opened it. Located inside was a diagnostic panel which hummed to life immediately. Artie took note of its dim lighting, realizing quickly that power levels were low.

"It's going to be a miracle if you can take off," he muttered to himself.

"Unfortunately, we didn't bring an engineer," Allison said, wishing she could've been of assistance.

The Betazoid survey team member heard a familiar voice in her head. Our other craft is en route to your position. I haven’t restored comms with it but from what we can tell, they’ve recovered our Captain and those that were with her. They should be able to help restore the runabout more quickly. We’re keeping the creatures away from you with orbital fire. If you can relay that to Commander Talbot I would appreciate it.

"Commander," Anninaray started, "your Lieutenant Hessen said that another craft is on their way here with your Captain. Your ship is protecting us from those predator with phaser shots from orbit."

Artie paused, looking in the Betazoid's direction. His first thought was of the Captain. Part of him felt guilty for not trying to connect with her, as it was his duty as Executive Officer to keep the Captain safe from, and in, dangerous situations. It was not something he'd been able to do on this planet with any remote sense of ease, so he defaulted to the original mission. He was pleased that the Altai had managed to recover the Captain, and that the Captain was on the way.

He looked up in the sky to see another phaser blast from the Altai strike the surface, and that blast seemed to be several dozen meters away. The predators were getting close. Too close. He looked to the survey team, and saw that most were aboard. "Thank you, Miss Anninaray. Let's get this runabout powered up."

The Betazoid ecologist offered a simple smile and nod in response.

"Lieutenant Tal," Allison started, "the helm. Unless you have someone different in mind, Commander."

The Trill hydrologist was the team's pilot, but he would completely understand if Talbot wanted one of his own at the stick.

Artie turned his attention back to his diagnostic. The dim display came back with a few warnings, but the system itself was in the clear. He entered a command to restart the matter and antimatter injectors, as well as the dilithium matrix. They didn't need warp speed, but they did need the power it generated. The constrictors sprang to life, and the system began to produce warp plasma. A glance down the support strut told Artie that the bussard collectors had returned to life, and the controls themselves grew a little brighter.

The runabout had a heartbeat. It was time to get off this planet.

"Everyone aboard!" Artie called out as he closed the panel. "Siosifa! Nuñez! Let's go!"

"I'll cover you, Jules," Finn shouted, continuing visual sweeps of horizon. Sometimes, a phaser beam would lance down from the Altai in orbit.

Without a word, Juliana ran to the runabout, confident that Finn would keep her alive, either by taking a shot or calling out a warning, if anything came up. She got to the outside of the hatch and put her back to it, before calling out to Finn. "Your turn. I've got you."

Finn gave one last look around before ducking into the runabout. Once inside, he glanced back through the hatch and saw two creatures approaching. He slammed his hand on the door control panel, causing the hatch to slide closed. "We've got company," he announced.

*****

"There!" Geoff announced. "The runabout."

Trenna looked at the screen and saw it. She saw that there were several of the predators circling the runabout's landing area. The Altai was still using their phasers to try to deter and ever stun the beasts.

"Get us in there Ensign. I'm taking over tactical," the Bajoran said, pulling up the phaser controls on her console.

Martinsen closed the distance to the runabout quickly. "I don't want to get any closer until they are off the ground. Don't want to end up in their ascension path."

She nodded as she sized up the scene. Siosifa and Nuñez were keeping watch while everyone else boarded the small craft. "Let's give them a hand," she said as one of the silent hunters made a dash toward an unprotected side of the runabout. She took aim and loosed a phaser volley. The animal stopped in it's tracks and fell over.

"Nice shot, Captain."

"Thanks, Ensign. I did spend some of my time in the Militia as a tactics officer."

She watched as the two security officers retreated into the runabout. Right before the hatch closed, Siosifa looked up and waved.


*****

The runabout interior was crowded between the survey team, their wounded, and now the four crewmen from the Altai. Artie, however, wasted no time getting to the front of the craft. "Waverly!" he called out as he took one of the forward seats. "Lieutenant Tal, warp drive's back online. As soon as you're ready, let's get the hell out of here." The engineer's hands went to work across the console, quickly powering up all systems and blazing through the pre-flight checks.

All around them, lights and consoles sprang to life as power began to pulse through the runabout's EPS grid. Life support whirred back to life, circulating stale air for a brief moment until it all settled into a less humid atmosphere. Artie didn't bother with any of that. He glanced beside himself to see that Tal had taken position at the helm. "Take us up nice and easy, Lieutenant. As soon as we clear the tree line, you head straight for orbit. I'll take care of shields and power distribution."

The Trill officer nodded and set to work. A shudder rattled through the cockpit as the thrusters fought to push the runabout off the ground. Enough mud had settled around the runabout to begin swallowing the craft, but the thrusters fought off any attempt by the planet to claim the vessel. The nose raised up slowly, followed by the rear of the craft.

"I'm losing power on the aft port thruster," Tal reported.

"On it," Artie replied. "Just get us pointed upward enough, and fire the impulse engines as soon as you don't see trees."

The runabout continued to rise, and per Talbot's instruction, Tal fired those engines at the first opportunity. The craft shot forward into the atmosphere as the thrusters continued to push it upward. A few minutes later, the runabout cleared the atmosphere and entered a standard orbit, just behind the Altai.

Artie heaved a sigh of relief. The mission was accomplished.

 

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