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On Our Own

Posted on Thu May 11th, 2017 @ 11:20pm by Lieutenant JG José Muñiz & Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Sergeant Bella Zaltin

Mission: S1E5 - Unknown Territory
Location: Planetscape
Timeline: Mission Day 83; 0730-1140

Ground transport was not a regular occurrence in most away missions, but the Horsa's nav systems seemed to be affected by whatever was bringing communications down. The Argos was the only option to reach the higher altitudes. At least three more towers were needed in order to boost their triangulated signal, and it would take days to do so on foot. Supplies simply would not hold out that long.

"How's she handling?" Akiva asked.

José drove the buggy at speed but ensured he was doing so safely. It was the first time he'd driven the Vindex's buggy and it felt exactly the same as the Renown's - even though that one was a good few years older than the one he was driving now.

"She's running great Commander. I don't think we're too far from our destination either" José replied.

"Correct," Akiva said while studying his tricorder. At least that was still working. "We're coming up on the first position now. Our next stop will be another few kilometers up the ridge."

The ridge to which he referred was a roughly circular range of foothills that surrounded a large basin between it and the basecamp promontory.

José took his foot off the accelerator and gradually applied it to the brake to avoid throwing people off the back if he went about it more forcefully. Once the Argo came to a stop José unstrapped himself from the buggy and climbed out - reaching back in for his bag and taking out his bottle for a much-needed drink.

"Secure the perimeter, Sergeant," Akiva said to Bella. He added a terse, "If you please."

Bella nodded. "We do, sir," she simply replied, waving twice to the Andorian marine, first to him and then clockwise to his right. The two then began a spiraling ballet, always staying at opposite ends of the circle and expanding it outward until at the military crest of the large foothill that the group occupied.

Taking a knee, Bella surveyed 360-degrees around her, taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells of the area that she could. Satisfied and after counting to the pre-arranged number, she stood and continued circling until reaching the low ground between two hills. Usually, she would have immediately begun scaling the opposite terrain but the tall grass rustled with the breeze and the cool shadows of the morning had yet to be banished alongside the dew that still glistened atop the swaying reeds. The chillness caused her to shiver lightly as another breeze brushed the reeds together, its low, slow breath causing their crystal-like flowers to tinkle like glass. The moment sent quivers down her spine; the tranquility was nearly immobilizing.

"Hey, up!" she heard, the gruff voice snapping the Caliasian out of her unanticipated reverie. Looking, she saw Drex with knitted brow on the military crest of the hill opposite the one occupied by the Argo, his position allowing him a commanding visual of the valley. Cursing herself, Bella scrambled around the hill opposite him and took a knee, the two now dominating the area for hundreds of yards. Hopefully, they wouldn't need the overlapping fields of fire but as always, better safe than sorry.

"Good work, Jose." Akiva felt he could be more informal with a man he was sweating alongside. He had driven the stakes into the ground himself while Jose had pulled the tower segments out of the Argo's small cargo area. It was only a couple of meters tall, barely enough to clear the peaks of the hills surrounding the glen. The central position would break any strong headwind, as well as anchor better than at either elevated position currently held by the Marines.

"At this rate, we should be done and back to basecamp before lunch." Akiva often did not talk while he worked, but Jose had finished all that was really needed for him to do. Idle people tended to interfere, and Akiva already had enough interference to contend with.

"You wouldn't happen to be any good over a cookfire, would you?" Akiva grunted as he forced the tower segments together, one atop another, before running a data cable through them.
"Doctor Maddison seemed rather nonplussed about the rations this morning. A solid meal might do her and the others some good."

José nodded. "Are you kidding Commander? I love cooking over a campfire - just find me something to cook and I'll make sure everyone eats like royalty tonight"

"All right," Akiva said. "Let's connect the power cell to the base, and this one should be good to go."

The power cell snapped into place, sending a whirring sound up the tower to the transceiver overhead. Akiva scanned it with his tricorder.

"We're in business," he said to Jose. "Let's rally the troops and get to the next position."

The Spaniard cupped his hands over his mouth before calling to their colleagues.

"We're ready to move on!" José called.

Bella's ears perked at the shuttle pilot's call and began traveling the short distance down and back up the hill. She approached the valley with slight trepidation, though the feeling that she had experienced before was only fleeting as she quickly traversed the low ground and came up beside the rest of the team.

Akiva stowed his tools and gear in the back while the Marines returned to the Argo.

"Did you see anything of note, Sergeant?" Akiva asked. "Aside from a couple of birds, I haven't seen any wildlife."

Bella hesitated for a moment before shaking her head. "No., it's nothing," she said, looking back to the valley. Why was she unable to shake the feeling of both tranquility and dread that it produced? Shaking her head, the First Shirt mounted the rover's rear-facing phaser cannon while Drex sat shotgun. A short moment later, a tap on her shoulder interrupted her reverie.

"Everything alright, Sarge?" Drex asked, his face tinged with concern and hardness.

"Yeah...I've just got a bad feeling about this place."

"Trepidation is either a sign of great weakness or great wisdom," the Trill retorted with a smug grin before turning back to face the front.

"Zip it and keep your rifle up, Corporal," Bella responded with more acrimony than she intended. Charging the cannon, she ran one last self-diagnostic just as Jose began the rover's forward movement. "Better safe than sorry" was a common saying in the Corp because nearly all the sorry Marines were dead.

The Argo rocked and bumped its way up the ridge to the next designated position. Akiva felt his ears pop with the altitude change, which gave him hope that their plan would succeed. Every little bit would help punch through the interference.

Bella's report from the first site lingered in his ears though. He scanned his tricorder again.

"Strange. Our comms signal hasn't improved any with the installation of the first tower. And... I'm detecting some sort of ambient radiation. I don't know what 'kinoplasma' is, but there seems to be an intense concentration of it nearby. Perhaps that is what's causing the interference."

The Argo came to a stop at the designated coordinates.

"The sooner we get these towers online, the sooner we can get back to basecamp." Akiva jumped out of the Argo before giving the order for the Marines to secure the area. He looked to Jose. "I could use your help in getting this one up faster. I have a bad feeling that we need to hurry."

Bella and Drex dismounted on opposite sides of the rover and simply walked out 150 yards from the position, as it was at the "peak" of a long, slowly descending point that atrophied into smaller rolling hills, ultimately fracturing into dunes and meeting the sea a couple miles beyond them. The sun was low on the horizon and blazed against the pristine waters, the low whitecaps lazily rolling onto the beach with a distant crash. As the breeze moved like an invisible wave over the now amber grass covering the hill, Bella again experienced nearly debilitating tranquility and calm. The only thing that shook her from her paralytic reverie was movement. Lots of it.

From the sea, dozens of shapes began breaching the surface. Rising and rising, they continued to emerge until their full, otherworldly forms were visible. Standing nearly the height of twenty men, the slick-skinned creatures moved on four legs with reversed hips, their haunches nearly visible through a translucent green and gray membrane. Their front legs were long and ended in spike-like appendages that forced them into a near-vertical standing position. A sunken chest gave way to a thick, muscular neck, long like a giraffe though curving 180-degrees back down at its peak to end in a "face" with two sallow eyes, an open nasal cavity, and a mouth shrouded by 4 tentacles almost 20 feet long.

A piercing, trembling moan came from the beach that made Bella shudder to her core as five of the creatures began moving in their direction at a speed that would defy their description.

"I think we're about to have company..." the First Sergeant yelled back to the XO as she slammed home the phaser rifle's power pack and thumbed the energy level to its highest setting. Turning, she began running towards the rover.

"Mr. Muniz, we need to hurry!" Akiva jammed the connections together and reached for the power cell. "We're going to have to live with 2 comms towers and pray for the best."

José nodded and ran back into the buggy - starting it up and preparing for the rest of the away team to climb aboard.

Akiva activated the base and ran to the buggy. "Fall back!"

With everyone aboard the Spaniard pressed the accelerator hard and urged the buggy to go as fast as possible. Rocking back and forth gently in his seat he felt the Argo buggy's speed slowly rise.

"Come on...faster" José commented.

Bella reached the rover only moments after Drex took his seat beside her, almost a reverse-shotgun, throwing her rifle to him. "You'll need it more than me!" she shouted as she powered up the phaser cannon.

"What the frak was that sound!?" he asked, checking both rifles for charge and output levels before slinging them over the opposite shoulder for maximum stability. Another moan, this one much closer, mixed with the trembling of the ground and the sound of massive footfalls.

"You'll see soon enough," she quipped, finishing the initial power up and setting the cannon's output to maximum.

The rover's rear wheels peeled out, sending black dirt and golden flax skyward as they fought for purchase. Suddenly, traction was gained and the Argo lurched forward, its occupants pressed against their restraints just as the first of the...creatures crested the hill.

"What are those things?" Akiva looked back over his shoulder while the Argo rocketed down the cliffside. Rather than take the roundabout way they had come, Jose plummeted them down into the basin straight toward the base camp promontory.

Bella shook her head as the rover heaved to the side, Jose doing his best to drive in a straight line to base while missing the largest of the obstacles between them. Looking up at the hill that they had just vacated, three of the creatures were outlined against the blazing sky, their heads raised and tentacles trembling in the air as their haunting warbles filled her ears. "I...have no idea, sir, and I'd rather not get close enough to find out"

"It seems we've outrun them for now, but we're evacuating back to the Vindex as soon as possible." Akiva heaved out his anxiety in a deep sigh.

His commbadge beeped. =/\=Command... there's ... awful... radiation ... about 15 kilom...way from ... location. If... recommend ... back to ...... prepare to leave ...Horsa=/\=

"It's the captain," Akiva said. He tapped his commbadge.

=/\="Acknowledged, Captain. There's atmospheric interference and we're unable to fully restore communication. Captain?=/\=

He looked to Jose and then the two Marines in the back. "We might be on our own."


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