Posted on Sun Mar 3rd, 2019 @ 1:54pm by Captain Elizabeth Ashcroft & Lieutenant Commander Vit Aran & Lieutenant Tasme Anan & Lieutenant Nathaniel Winters PhD & Lieutenant Li Ling Meifeng & Lieutenant JG Alicia Grierson
Edited on on Tue Mar 5th, 2019 @ 8:54pm
On the Horizon
Pulling his satchel up around his shoulder, Commander Vit stood in the shuttlebay as the maintenance crew did the last of the prep work to get the runabout Susquehanna up and running. He was equally excited and nervous for his first away mission as First Officer, and was doing his best to keep himself calm.
“You’re all set, Commander,” the Chief of the Deck said as he went on about his other duties.
The shuttlebay door opened, and in stepped Meifeng. Her usual sleek Lagashi uniform was covered by surprisingly elegant armor, Yorktown’s mission patch design and her Star Navy unit designation decorating her right shoulder, and her helmet was under her arm. Strapped to her back was the long form of a powergun. She offered Vit a respectful nod. “Commander. I’ll try to see to it that your ride is as smooth as possible.”
“If it’s too smooth, they won’t need us.” A couple of steps behind Lieutenant Anan, Alicia Grierson grinned at the Lagashi lieutenant, checking the emergency kit over her shoulder and the phaser at her hip without needing to look down. “But we’ll try not to let the boredom get the better of us.”
Tas flashed a winning Saurian smile as she activated her tactical tricorder. “Let’s set up a few ‘outside the box’ scans, Alicia. Things like electronic warfare, automated targeting, non-humanoid lifeforms,” she said as she poked a few macros into service on the device. “Our destination may not be teeming with life or civilization in a conventional sense, but there could be plenty of non-conventional concerns waiting for us there.”
“Aye, ma’am,” Grierson agreed, extracting her own tricorder and syncing it with her chief’s. “Special notice to anything with large teeth.”
“I’d rather go in prepared for any eventuality,” Vit replied. “But I don’t think heavy weaponry is going to be necessary, and I’d like to have a decent amount of scanning equipment as well. This could be an amazing opportunity to get some good data on a planet no one has seen before. Let’s not squander the opportunity the Prophets have presented us with.”
Grierson mimed making a note into her tricorder. “‘Leave the photon mortars and phaser turrets aboard.’ Wilco, Commander. All the same, standard survival kits and hand phasers for the whole team in addition to the scanning gear?”
“I don’t think there’s any harm in bringing along phase rifles either. Even out of combat, they have their use, if for nothing else but concussive force,” Vit replied. “Other than that, yes. Hand phasers, scanning gear, and survival kits. Let’s not go into this...what’s the expression? Guns blazing? But let’s also not go in under-prepared.”
“Understood.” Grierson pivoted on one heel and headed for the security storage racks at the back of the bay, humming softly as she went, like a woman who’d just taken a small load off her mind.
Vit gave himself another once over, and said, “Well, no time like the present. Preliminary reporting shows there’s a nice little clearing we can set down in, so that’s the plan. Meifeng, once we’re planet-side, I’d like you to set up a protocol to beam us back to the shuttle. We don’t know what the flora or fauna look like, and I don’t want to be caught unawares. That said, I also don’t want to outright kill anything down there before we have a chance to study it, so we’ll be setting phasers to stun, please.”
“Aye, Commander,” Tas replied, making the appropriate adjustments to her weaponry. She stood and walked to the flight control area afterward. “Lieutenant,” she said to Meifeng. “May I suggest a detailed scan of the landing site with this craft’s sensors prior to setting her down? They are more powerful and have more range than our tricorders, and may see things they cannot.”
“Agreed,” Vit said, stepping into the runabout, and gesturing for the rest of them to join. Grierson locked a rack of rifles to the charging plate as she came in, checking the settings for stun as she went, and as the crew settled into their seats, he continued, “I think preliminary scans showed some kind of odd ruin structure on the Eastern Continent. I’d like to set down there. I don’t know how much time we’ll have down here, and it could be a great architectural find. My understanding is that some Delta Quadrant civilizations pre-date my own. Should be exciting to find out. Take us down.”
“Scan is running,” Meifeng said, taking a brief moment longer to operate the unfamiliar Starfleet scanner than she expected. “And beginning descent.”
The descent was smooth, efficiently executed. Meifeng's face remained largely expressionless as the runabout pierced the exosphere and entered denser air, but even there her left hand on the controls for the inertial dampers kept any vibration from reaching the cabin. Effortlessly, she placed the runabout on the ground before tapping the control to activate her helmet and opening the aft hatch. “We have arrived, Commander. Routing a continual sensor feed from the runabout to my HUD and the away team's tricorders.”
As she rose to her feet, she took her powergun from its place behind her, strapping it over her shoulder.
“Smooth landing,” Grierson said softly as she retrieved her own rifle and set about distributing them to the others. She sounded ever so slightly impressed.
As the runabout’s landing ramp extended, Vit stepped out into a slightly more warm than expected afternoon sun. In the distance, about 2 kilometers from where they’d landed, were a small set of ruined buildings that looked like they’d been in decay for longer than they’d ever been standing.
“Let’s go,” he said, excitedly.
“Not seeing any signs of powered technology,” Meifeng said. “Or humanoid life. But there is enough life here that it would take better eyes than mine on this data to say if any of it is sentient.”
Winters hefted his telefocals to sweep them in the direction of the ruins. “The buildings should give us some indication of the physiology of its former inhabitants. I’d recommend against any humanoid-centric presumptions as to the sapience of local life until we know more.”
“Any idea on the age of those structures,” Tas asked aloud as she moved from the runabout to join the others. “I’m afraid structural engineering isn’t my forte, though I’m a fair hand at demolition.” Activating her tricorder, she performed a tactical scan of the ruins, looking for any signs to indicate how they came to be in that state. Was it the passing of time… or something more violent?
“Older than the Republic,” Meifeng said. “Unless the rain on this planet is much more acidic than atmospheric conditions indicate... I would put a floor at six Earth centuries and a ceiling much higher. Runabout gives trace amounts of pigments on the stone.”
“Initial analysis of the ruins indicates damage from external sources. Explosive external sources… bombs. Very powerful bombs,” Tas replied, solemnly. “Trace energy readings suggest low-yield tactical nuclear weaponry. I think we’re looking at the remains of atomic warfare.”
“Not as atypical as we’d like it to be,” Grierson sighed.
Vit frowned, visibly, and replied, “That’s disheartening. Let’s see what other data we can glean from the structure. If this civilization wiped themselves out, we owe it to them to be their stewards, and tell as much of their story as we can.”
“I’m quoting that in my report to the Executor,” Meifeng said quietly as she started toward the ruins. “It’s the most Starfleet thing I’ve heard anyone say since I came aboard, and I mean that very much as a compliment to both you and the service.”
“Thank you,” Vit replied. “The nice thing about being sincere and truthful is that it has the tendency of always sounding good.”
“I don’t think we need to view this as disheartening,” Winters mused, letting his telefocals hang from his neck and pulling out his tricorder. “History is here for us to learn lessons. We knew this civilisation was gone. I think there’s far more to learn from a people who wiped themselves out than ones who were simply victims of a natural disaster they were technologically unprepared for. What would drive a people to eradicate themselves is always valuable knowledge.”
“That’s a fair point,” Vit sighed. He tapped his commbadge. “Vit to Yorktown. We’ve found some...rather depressing data down here, and in the interest of being humanitarians and adequate stewards to a dead civilization, I’d like to take a further look around, if we have the time.”
“Don’t know that I think it’s particularly complicated,” Grierson observed as she eased past her chief, tasking her tricorder with visual recording while she kept her eyes on the ruins and her tactical readout. If it troubled her, she didn’t show it. “Competition and violence are basic instincts for life forms almost anywhere you find them. Sometimes we rise above it...” she flicked a look over the rubble, half a smile on her lips, “and sometimes we don’t.” She paused, lingered, crouched down enough to spare a long look at the floor of one of the structures. “I think this might have been a mosaic art pattern before part of it melted. Recording for archival study. Maybe somebody in aesthetic sciences can make sense of it.”
Winters stopped at the outside of the ruins, running his tricorder over the remains. “The more data we gather, the more we can reasonably extrapolate a complete image of their architecture. Urban engineering is phenomenally useful in understanding social structure.” But he gave Grierson an almost guarded look, one eyebrow quirking. “And I believe violence is complicated. Evolutionary theory is, indeed, a potential cause. But not a universally accepted one. As sapient beings develop their culture, all manner of new sociological strains and pressures will have influence.” He gestured about their environment and, despite contemplating the violent demise of an entire civilisation, gave a wry smile. “And now we have a whole new landscape of physiology, psychology, and sociology to integrate into our understanding.”
All the away team’s comm badges chirped to life as a static-filled voice came over the comm, “Yorktown to… teams, evac... as soon... possible. Ships systems… mostly offline, and we’ve dete--” the comm abruptly cut off.
Immediately, Meifeng was fully alert, her entire posture shifting. Though her gun stayed strapped to her back, everything in how she carried herself said that wouldn't last past the first sign of danger. “Apparently, these questions get to wait for another day. Time to go.”
“Agreed,” Vit replied, hastily. “Back to the runabout, let’s get back to the ship. Whatever that is, I’m sure having several members of the senior staff planteside isn’t helping the situation.”
He turned wistfully to the ruins, and whispered a short prayer under his breath, before turning toward the runabout’s entry hatch.