Topic: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine  (Read 12298 times)

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Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« on: July 15, 2009, 03:26:55 pm »
Starring a familiar face from several previous stories by a couple of writers, I give you the start of a story I've been working on quite consistently (if somewhat less frequently with all my other projects) for many months now. Let me knw what you think. :)



Introduction


Lieutenant Commander Lathena, after six months’ leave on her home planet of Beta Hydri IV, returns to active Starfleet duty and is assigned to an Okinawa-class improved frigate (FFG) as Executive Officer in March 2276. Her ship, the USS Falklands NCC-2309, is assigned to the quiet Federation-Tholian border on routine patrol based out of Starbase 27. The border is quiet because the Tholians are highly territorial and defend what they have tenaciously, but only seek to expand every 50-or-so standard years, according to a “realignment cycle”* that no one really understands, but seems to have something to do with the rotation of the galaxy in relation to their homeworld. It has been only 21 years since their last expansion phase (in 2255) so the border patrol is really only to keep an eye on the Tholians, and assist any civilian shipping in the area.

* From the aborted Marvel 'Star Trek: The Early Voyages' comic series
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Offline Scottish Andy

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Quarantine - Chapter One
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2009, 03:28:35 pm »
Starring a familiar face from several previous stories, I give you the start of a story I've been working on quite consistently (if somewhat less frequently with all my other projects) for many months now.



Chapter One


Lieutenant Commander Lathena looked steadily at her captain over the tri-D chess board and raised a fine, snow-white eyebrow in an enquiring gesture copied from him. “I know you like to consider all possible moves and stratagems, Captain, but this is supposed to be a friendly game,” she reminded her CO. “You really don’t need to bring grandmaster-level play to the table.”

Commander Sotok spared her a few seconds of dispassionate regard before returning his dark eyes to the board before him. “Commander, if one does not perform to the best of one’s abilities regardless of the situation or rules of the game, then one is, in effect, lying.”

The Andorian rolled her celery-green eyes at the ages-old rehash of the archetypical Vulcan conundrum and let out a short sigh.

Her captain glanced at her again, returning her raised eyebrow with one of his own and successfully conveyed his own understated amusement at their conversation without actually moving a muscle.

Lathena saw it and smiled herself. “That’s as maybe, Sir,” she replied, “but taking so long to move without engaging in conversation does tend to spoil your opponent’s enjoyment of the game.”

“That is unfortunate,” the Vulcan returned agreeably, making no move towards making his move.

Lathena sighed again and felt gratified that she knew her captain well enough by now to know he was just teasing her. He was remarkably free in adopting such activities – in his own understatedly Vulcan manner, of course – and while she was heartily glad of this, as his X.O. she knew that most of his more ‘proper’ Vulcan crew didn’t appreciate it.

“Fine, next time I’ll bring a book,” she retorted good-naturedly.

“Very well, Commander, we cannot have you being bored,” Sotok rejoined, and moved one of his queens to the second level attack board on her side.

Lathena’s antennae flattened backwards in surprise at the boldness of the move and, in a Human mannerism adopted from her last X.O., whistled low to indicate she was impressed. “That’s… a risky move, Sir,” she commented as another raised eyebrow was sent her way.

“I have often found from serving with Humans – and indeed from playing this very game with several of them – that the element of surprise in performing the unexpected is often as valuable as employing carefully-planned and considered moves as part of a larger strategy.”

Staring at the completely changed dynamic of the game that had just been instigated, Lathena couldn’t help but agree. That queen now directly threatens three key pieces of my defence – two of which are the lynchpins of my planned offensive! she noted, still a little too surprised to be annoyed at the upset to her ‘carefully considered’ plans.

She looked up at Sotok from her analysis of her next move what seemed like seconds later when she noticed the expectant air gathering around them. “What? she asked, a little defensively.

He again smiled his not-smile. “Why Commander, I was merely contemplating the six-point-two minutes you’ve spent examining the board without speaking a single word.”

Lathena groaned and dropped her head into her hands. “I thought Vulcans didn’t make jokes,” she stated in martyred tones.

“Indeed not, Commander,” he agreed mildly. “We merely make observations that are sometimes construed as amusing to those around us.”

Lathena looked back up and grinned at him, sweeping her long, silver-white hair back behind her ears and over her shoulders. “Riiiight,” she commented sarcastically. “You’d be great as the star of a British situational comedy.”

She smiled widely at the ‘nonplussed’ flavour of his blank look and just waved it off. “Just something my old X.O. used to say on occasion.” Changing gears and refocusing on the game, she settled in to play her next move. “Right, so, here we—”

She as cut off by the paging whistle of a shipboard all-call. “Bridge to Captain and First Officer.”

Activating his wristcom, Sotok answered, “This is the captain. The First Officer is with me. Go ahead, Lieutenant.”

“Aye, Captain,” Lieutenant JG K’Nomi acknowledged. “We’ve picked up an unusual reading from the planet we’re scanning, and Lieutenant Cha’Doth requests your presence on the bridge,” she continued.

“Very well. We are on our way. Captain, out,” he said, getting up to leave.

“Computer, record positions and save,” Lathena instructed before following him. The game bleeped its compliance at her departing back. “I wonder what they’ve found?” she asked rhetorically as they entered the turbolift.

“Speculation is pointless as we shall find out what they know in approximately seven seconds,” Sotok replied, on form for rhetorical questions.

Lathena rolled her eyes again and six seconds later stepped out onto the bridge so that the explanations could begin.

“Captain, Commander,” Second Officer and Chief Science Officer Cha’Doth greeted them as they approached her at the science station. Gesturing to one of her auxiliary monitors, she said, “This screen shows the details of the anomalous reading. It seems to be some sort of energy signature, but ship’s sensors can detect nothing in the area. In fact, we cannot even locate the source of the signature but by comparing signal strengths we have localised it to this ten square kilometre area on the western continental mass.  Previous scans from one year ago do not show this reading.”

Both newcomers looked at the second screen as indicated by the Ur’uth’uul female and took in the nature of the signal and the topography of the area it apparently emanated from.

“Short range scan?” Sotok asked.

“Inconclusive, Sir,” Cha’Doth replied. “We can find no artificial structure in the designated area, nor is there evidence of intelligent life forms; only flora and fauna detected. The region does impinge on the base of this mountain range, however, so it is possible that some natural formation is housing whatever is generating the energy signature.”

“It’s equally likely that the mountains are interfering with the scans, Captain,” Lathena contributed. “Depending on their composition they could radically affect the signal strength and throw off our localising efforts.”

“That has been accounted for, Commander,” Cha’Doth rebutted the X.O. with a slight edge to her voice. It was quickly smoothed away as the science officer continued, but Lathena clearly heard it and wondered at it. “The sensors have been set for maximum sensitivity and narrowest scan focus.”

Lathena hadn’t meant to call their science officer’s competence into question, but the Ur’uth’uul seemed a mite sensitive on the topic. Before she could respond to that, however, the captain made his position clear. 

“Yes Lieutenant, we can see that from the console settings, but the First Officer’s point is still valid,” he stated blandly. The mild emoting he’d allowed Lathena to witness in their “friendly” was not in evidence here. “Your competence is not being called into question, Lieutenant, this is a mere stating of facts.”

The jet black-skinned woman with a cloud of long, candyfloss-pink hair stiffened and her solid silver eyes flashed. “Aye, Sir. My… apologies.”

“Are not necessary but are accepted regardless,” her captain returned evenly. “Recommendations?”

“Records indicate this planet is unexplored, Captain,” Cha’Doth replied, her voice and bearing still stiff as if in anger or embarrassment from her rebuke. “Previous charting and scans have been orbital in nature. While many species of flora and fauna have been detected and deemed worthy of further investigation, no vessel has been detailed to follow up on this. Suggest I lead a landing party with two objectives: investigate and discover the source of the signal, and general scientific investigation of the planet’s wildlife, Sir.”

“Very good. Commander?”

“Captain, we are on an anti-piracy sweep. While the energy source definitely needs to be investigated, we are on a schedule and need to resume our patrol. I don’t believe we have the time nor the qualified science personnel to perform an in-depth botanical survey.”

Cha’Doth looked like she wanted to object to that – and angrily too – but held her peace. Her forbearance was rewarded when Sotok responded to his X.O.

“Commander, I am surprised at you,” the Vulcan stated in an inflectionless tone. “As the exploratory arm and a prime scientific body of the Federation, Starfleet always makes time to ‘stop and smell the roses’, even if our planetary science department is weak,” he chided the Andorian. Addressing Cha’Doth, he stated, “Your suggestion is accepted, Lieutenant. Assemble and equip a botanical survey expedition, which you will lead.”

“Aye, Captain!” the Ur’uth’uul woman acknowledged enthusiastically, with a triumphant glance at the X.O.

Lathena suppressed an urge to get annoyed. Her own objection was really just pro forma, and she too was eager to explore the unknown planet above them. As X.O., though, it was her duty to offer alternatives and not just be a ‘yes woman’.

“Commander, you will assemble and equip an expedition to locate and investigate this energy reading. Since the area seems to be a sensor dead zone, you will determine the reason for this as a priority. If you find a way around this your search will go much faster.”

“Understood, Captain,” she acknowledged crisply.

“Lieutenant Cha’Doth, what is your estimated time to complete our scan of the whole planet?”

“Sir, we were 63% percent complete when this reading was detected. Estimate another seventeen minutes to complete our deep scan, assuming nothing else unusual is detected.”

“Very well. Lieutenant, you and the Commander will work together to assemble your teams once you have someone relieve you to complete the scan. We will make sure the planet has no other points of immediate interest first then return to investigate. Have your teams ready to go by point-three-seven. Carry on.”

“Aye Sir,” both women chorused, and Sotok assumed his position in the centre seat.

“Lieutenant, join me in Briefing Room One when your relief arrives,” Lathena instructed.

“Yes, Commander,” Cha’Doth responded, somewhat smugly to Lathena’s ears.

Damnit Cha’Doth, what is your problem? the Andorian zhen wondered with mild irritation.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2012, 09:57:07 am by Scottish Andy »
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The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Commander La'ra

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2009, 09:18:05 pm »
Nice.  Lathena, plus a smart-ass Vulcan captain who actually doesn't seem stuck up, and the hints of Jerry Springer-like dysfunctional crew interactions to come!
"Dialogue from a play, Hamlet to Horatio: 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Dialogue from a play written long before men took to the sky. There are more things in heaven and earth, and in the sky, than perhaps can be dreamt of. And somewhere in between heaven, the sky, the earth, lies the Twilight Zone."
                                                                 ---------Rod Serling, The Last Flight

Offline Scottish Andy

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Quarantine - Chapter Two
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2010, 03:12:53 pm »
Hello all;

I'm thinking I need to start posting what I've written to get me back in the mood for more writing. So, here we go. Enjoy. :)

Comments and critiques are welcome and encouraged.



Chapter Two


The silver haze of the transporter effect faded from her vision as her optic nerves were reconstructed from the matter stream along with the rest of her body, and once again, Terilathena zh'Aetheris stood on another world.

She breathed deeply and took in the scent of the alien air, savouring the moment as she had done thirty-eight times before. The air was hot and humid, as if the late afternoon sun was now drying up a heavy rainfall from several hours ago. Already she felt beads of sweat forming and she looked forward to exploring the presumably cool caves she expected to find at the base of the mountains.

The air itself smelled damp, earthy, and full of life and growing things, and she caught sight of several startled animals resembling primates and antelope disappearing into the more dense foliage at the edge of the clearing, no doubt in response to the noise of the transporter effect. It was a truly exhilarating moment, and the twenty-eight-year old Andorian zhen was never more glad to have joined Starfleet than at moments like this.

Pulling herself back to the task at hand, she started scouting the area around the beam-down point and ordered, “Okay people, let’s get the base camp set up and a perimeter established.”

Her eleven crewmates nodded anyway at the unnecessary order and continued in their assigned tasks as Lathena finished her critical assessment of their selected base camp site.

Flipping open her communicator, she hailed the ship.

“Falklands, Ensign Hawke,” the Beta shift comm officer responded.

“Ensign, this is the X.O. Kindly inform the captain that we’ve all arrived safely and the beamdown point checks out. It seems to be the only clear area for kilometres around, so we’ll have to be wary that there’s a reason for that.”

“Commander, this is the Captain. First impressions?”

“Sir, the orbital imagery does not properly convey the actual experience,” Lathena commented in slightly awed tones. “While it is as we expected from the imagery, the true scale of these gigantism-stage plants did not really impress upon me until I was standing among them. Outside our perimeter I can see single-flower plants as tall as I am, with stalks thicker than my legs and flowers that stretch from my antennae to my knees!”

“Acknowledged, Commander. Any further observations?” Sotok enquired.

“Yes Sir. This planet feels incredibly… alive!” she continued. “The air carries a scent of life and growth and there are so many vibrations from living things… Sir, I believe it’s having something of a euphoric effect on me!”

“We had noticed, Commander,” Sotok observed in another of his not-jokes and cautioned, “However, be careful. A planet in gigantism offers many more unexpected hazards than the usual Minshara-class.”

“Understood, Captain. We will stay alert.”

“Very good, Commander. Keep me appraised – and enjoy your shore leave. Falklands, out.”

Lathena stared at her communicator before closing it slowly and replacing it on her belt. “Shore leave” indeed! she groused bemusedly to herself. He is correct though. If we’re not careful this planet is likely to end up killing us in more ways than things a Tellarite can argue about. She smiled one last time at the lush garden planet around her before settling into a ‘work’ frame of mind.

“Lobsang, Greene, perimeter status?” she called out, moving back to the centre of the camp site where the returning security detail stood watch over Lieutenant J.G. Rozen K’Nomi as the Caitian set up the powerful and portable subspace communications relay. It was a necessary precaution to amplify and extend the power and range of their personal communicators in the face of the sensor interference evident in the mountains.

“Commander, we’ve scouted the opposite perimeter and it is clear also,” Security Lieutenant Lobsang Nyima reported, his Federation Standard slightly corrupted by his lyrical Tibetan accent. “The sensor barrier has been set up and is now active. Anything comes through it, we’ll know about it.”

“Excellent. That was fast work,” she commended them.

“Thank you, Sir,” Lobsang replied with his ready, infectious smile.

Lathena returned it and ordered, “Take your detail and perform a longer ranged sweep. Make sure there are no oversized… ‘creepy-crawlies’… too close in.”

“Aye Sir,” the security officer nodded briskly and both stepped away to gather the other two guards.

Lathena strode up to the science contingent, who were busy setting up their heavier analytical equipment and data uplinks to the ship. The scientists were really loaded for bear. Not knowing when they might be dragged kicking and screaming back to the ship, they’d assembled an extensive array of scanning tools and computational power for their excursion. Almost the entire officer and petty officer complement of the Science department had accompanied Lieutenant Cha’Doth to the planet – even though some of their specialities had nothing to do with the Life Sciences – and the X.O. couldn’t fault them for it. The admittedly tiny science department on a frigate rarely got the chance to do much exploring and when the opportunity did arise, the normally placid scientists would wrestle a mugato for the plum assignment of landing party detail.

“Lieutenant,” she greeted the Ur’uth’uul scientist agreeably.

“Commander,” Cha’Doth returned with barely suppressed excitement. All trace of her earlier snide attitude was long gone, and the Andorian was pleased at its absence. “Can you believe this?” Cha’Doth continued, her wonder-struck gesturing encompassing all the sights, sounds, and smells around them. “We’re almost done here and within minutes we’ll be recording and analysing… all this!” she practically bubbled.

This was a side of the normally dour woman that Lathena hadn’t ever seen in the six months they’d been serving together. Maybe she’s unhappy at her posting to a border patrol ship and this is how she normally is? Lathena wondered, her curiosity definitely aroused. Either that or the planet has us all space-happy…

The thought began in jest but tailed off as she remembered Lobsang’s wide grin and her own feeling of euphoria.

“Lieutenant, I want one of your people intensively analysing the atmosphere and air quality in this area,” she ordered seriously, a frown tugging at her features. “It may be nothing, but…”

“Sir?” Cha’Doth queried, puzzled.

“We’re all really happy to be here,” Lathena stated, and at the second officer’s pitying look added, “No, really happy. It may just be that natural high but I want to be sure that nothing in the planet’s biosphere is contributing to it.”

Understanding dawned in the Ur’uth’uul’s body language, if not her eyes or expression. Solid silver eyes with no pupils and solid, deep-black skin which hid the contours of her face made her expression practically unreadable in the visible-light spectrum.

Which is why her species’ eyes see in infrared, Lathena knew. “Look into sound and vibrations as well, Lieutenant. Leave no plant unscanned,” she finished with a slight smile.

“Aye-aye, Commander!” Cha’Doth acknowledged her orders with relish. “We had planned to do so but it is pleasing to have official orders to point to,” she clarified with a smile of brilliant white omnivorous teeth.

“Well, just be careful where you step, Lieutenant,” Lathena cautioned half-playfully. “Some of these plants are undoubtedly carnivorous.”

“Understood, Commander. We’ll be cautious,” Cha’Doth assured her superior.

“Very good. Carry on, Lieutenant. Enjoy yourself – but not too much.”

Cha’Doth grinned one last time at Lathena before turning to her colleagues to create a plan of investigation.

Lathena returned to her own team with a smile still on her face.

“Sir, something amusing?” Lieutenant LG Grace Kim asked as she approached.

“Yes, Mr. Kim. Your fellow scientists over there. They’re all practically enraptured with the opportunities this expedition is offering them,” she commented archly, her white, feathery eyebrows raised.

“Like kids in a sweet shop,” the geologist agreed with a grin. “I’m kinda feeling it myself, I have to say.”

Her too. Damn, Lathena thought with mild apprehension. I really want the results of that environmental scan. Opening a com channel to all her team, she cautioned, “Everyone, a warning. I don’t know if we’re all just exceptionally happy to be off the ship, but something on the planet may be subliminally boosting us into a mild state of euphoria.” At the suddenly surprised or thoughtful expressions of those within eyesight, she added, “I’m having the second officer’s team investigate the possibility, but we may not know quickly enough. Just keep your senses sharp and don’t be lulled into a sense of security, false or otherwise.”

“Understood, Commander. We’ll stay alert,” Lieutenant Lobsang responded from his perimeter sweep. “Just to let you know, I’m not feeling any different than I normally do.”

“Very well,” she acknowledged. “Anyone feeling… an inflated sense of happiness?”

“Greene here. I’m feeling pretty good, Sir, but it doesn’t feel… odd or anything.”

“Na Tchuto here, Sir. I do not notice anything out of the ordinary in the way I feel,” the security man from Guinea-Bissau reported in.

“Thia here, Commander. I too have noticed some kind of... effect. It… it seems to me to be sonic, based in vibrations. I can almost physically feel it on my antennae, but it remains an intangible sensation.”

“Thank you for your input, everyone. I want you to contact the science team and relate this information to them for their investigation.” She shut off her comm channel while they did that to puzzle it over.

Why only some of my crew? Could it be that we are all feeling it regardless but some of us are not aware of it? Lobsang is a naturally happy and exuberant person. He might not notice it as unusual.

Taking stock, she continued her analysis. That’s me, Thia, and Kim on my team, and Cha’Doth, Okeild, MacAllen, and… K’Nomi, who look slightly space-happy in the science team. What’s the common factor? We have Andorians, Humans, Ur’uth’uul, Caitians, and Daenaii in that list and Humans, Vulcans, and Efrosians in the ‘unaffected’ list, so it’s highly unlikely that it’s species-related. So, what…? It defeated her for the moment so she let it go for the scientists to figure out.

“Lieutenant Kim, are you ready?” she enquired next.

“Yes, Sir,” the geologist nodded. “My tricorder checks out, its databanks are loaded with local data, and I’ve confirmed the feed to the relay is active and steady. Let’s go find out what these mountains are made of!”

Even though its possible cause did worry her, Lathena couldn’t help but smile at the geologist’s enthusiasm. “Okay, Lieutenant. Just let me check in with the ship again and we’ll get going.”

Kim nodded her understanding and occupied herself with staring at an unusual egg-shaped plant about half a metre tall just outside the base camp perimeter while her superior drew and flipped open her communicator.

“Report, Commander,” the even voice of Sotok ordered from geosynchronous orbit.

“Base camp has been set up, the immediate area declared clear of immediate danger, and both teams are ready to begin their missions, Sir,” Lathena stated concisely.

“Very good, Commander. Since the sensor dead zone may interfere with communications despite the booster relay, I require you to exercise extreme caution. That is an order, Commander,” he intoned seriously.

“Acknowledged, Captain. There is another item, however…” She went on to outline the ‘Euphoria Situation’ and her orders on it.

“That is interesting, Commander, and possibly cause for concern. In this case, we shall decrease the interval between check-ins and the ship will monitor the landing party closely to ensure nothing unexpected will remain undetected for long.”

“A sensible precaution, Sir, even though it will no doubt annoy the scientists among us down here,” she replied, half-seriously.
“No doubt,” Sotok agreed evenly. “Ensure the entire landing party now knows to check in every fifteen minutes, Commander. Falklands, out.”

Her mouth twisted into a half-grin, half-grimace at her last orders, but signalled Cha’Doth to pass them on. As expected, the scientist wasn’t impressed by her captain’s concern.

“He does realise that in the pursuit of science, time becomes irrelevant, doesn’t he?”

“You mean you’ll lose track of time while ruining your eyes staring at tiny tricorder screens for too long, if I'm not mistaken?”

“I believe I just said that,” Cha’Doth retorted playfully. “Understood, Commander, I’ll pass it along. Good hunting.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant. X.O., out.” Switching her com channel, she ordered, “Lobsang, Thia, you remain with the science team and keep them out of trouble. That may include physically checking on them when they inevitably fail to adhere to the fifteen-minute check-in rule. Na Tchuto, Greene, you will accompany Lieutenant Kim and myself. Form up and let’s go exploring.”
« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 10:48:09 pm by Scottish Andy »
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The Senior Service rocks! Rule, Britannia!

The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Tus-XC

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2010, 04:44:10 pm »
Nice.  The euphoria thing kinda reminds me of when I did training in an altitude chamber, to learn my physical response to low O2 quantities.  If you don't train to recognize it, you never realize how you are being affected.  For example, when you looked at a color wheel for the first time after being O2 deprived you don't notice anything wrong.  But when you put the mask back on you almost instantly see the color just 'pop' into clarity. 
Rob

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Offline Andromeda

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2010, 12:49:32 pm »
Yay!  Stuff to read, and that reads well.
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Offline -E

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2010, 02:56:34 pm »
Nice.  The euphoria thing kinda reminds me of when I did training in an altitude chamber, to learn my physical response to low O2 quantities.  If you don't train to recognize it, you never realize how you are being affected. 

Boy, I sure noticed it at FL450!  As soon as I took my mask off, my entire body went instantly numb!  (that's what I get for volunteering to "demonstrate" at that height!)  Euphoria is not what I felt. *grin?* (however, when everyone else went off masks at a lower altitude, they described the euphoria, etc.   ...I don't recall anything in particular about subsequent chamber card renewals)

However, the (depth) pressure chamber was much more fun... at about -120ft everyone sounds like Donald Duck (due to air density). Never did figure out if I experienced being narc'd (nitrogent narcossis).  The two guys having a serious discussion in Donald Duck voices cracked me up too much to notice anything else.  I'd think the laughing was being narc'd, except I start giggling just thinking about it while typing this over a decade later. (*ack* I might be permanently narc'd! *grin*)  And the Donald Duck syndrome continued up to around -80ft on ascent. Think... a room FULL of helium. *grin*

Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2011, 04:24:29 pm »
I'm in a generous and giving mood, and since I have almost completed the writing on this story (then comes transcription, and technical editing, and more creative content editing, and integration with previous chapters, etc) I thought I'd post more of the stuff that is set in stone.

Comments are, of course, begged for.

Enjoy!



Chapter Three


“Report, Mr. de Vreij. Have you been able to obtain any further data that could aid Commander zh’Aetheris in her task?”

Petty Officer 2nd-Class Joop de Vreij looked up at his captain from the science scanner and gave a serious, “Negative, Captain. The mountains continue to block our sensors and defy our attempts to retune them for clearer readings.”

Sotok regarded the Dutchman dispassionately. “That is unfortunate. Mineralogical analysis?”

“Inconclusive, Sir,” the squat, sandy-haired sensor specialist answered. “The interference is so strong that we cannot get a clear reading on even that. However, the interference effect does superficially resemble that given by kelbonite.”

“Indeed,” Sotok offered with a raised eyebrow. “That would be even more unfortunate if the two materials are as similar in other properties also. Send this data to the Commander, Specialist. She will require it.”

“Aye, Captain. Downloading to their tricorders now,” de Vreij replied, sweeping his almost-longer-than-regulation blonde hair out of his eyes.

*****

“Data coming in from the ship, Commander,” Lieutenant Kim announced as her tricorder lit up in a new way.

“Yes Mr. Kim, I have it too,” Lathena replied, her own tricorder out and running.

“Damn… similar to kelbonite?” Grace muttered, sentiments which Lathena couldn’t help but agree with. “Great. Our sensors can’t get around that no matter how much we retune them,” she groused. “How are we going to locate any caves in all this soup, Sir?”

“Range trade-off, Lieutenant,” Lathena responded. “If our subspace sensors don’t work outside a certain range—”

“—Use E.M. spectrum and atmosphere sensors in their place,” Grace finished for her superior officer. “I guess we fall back on good old-fashioned radar sweeps then,” she commented, no longer sounding as put out as before.

Lathena’s brow furrowed. “’Radar’?”

“Oh, sorry Sir. Old Earth term for E.M. bounceback systems,” Park explained, and Lathena’s face cleared. “And if that doesn’t work – which might happen, as, far too often for my tastes, subspace interference spills over into the E.M. bands – we go for even less capable echo-ranging.”

“Quite,” Lathena commented archly, using another word from her former X.O.’s arsenal.

Grace bobbed her head and grinned. “Sorry, Sir,” she offered.

“Carry on, Lieutenant,” the Andorian zhen said with a smile, then changed her mind. Addressing her whole party, she ordered, “In fact, let’s spread out some. When the interference gets too heavy set your tricorders for a ‘radar sweep’, and perform a subspace scan every five minutes just to test. Na Tchuto, you’re with Park. Greene, with me.”

“Aye Sir,” they all chorused then split as directed.

*****

“Be careful, MacAllen. You’re so close to that flower you’re practically touching it,” Cha’Doth chided the botanist.

“Sir, my tricorder’s having trouble seeing the plant’s internals,” Christine MacAllen protested.

“And you think that moving in those last few centimetres will make all the difference to a tricorder?” the second officer replied sardonically.

“As a matter of fact, yes, Lieutenant, I do. I think this and have been proven correct by the additional structural data now appearing on my screen,” the junior science officer replied smugly. She looked up at her superior officer and grinned on noting body language that – on a Human – would have been accompanied by eye-rolling. Cha’Doth’s space-black skin and pure silver eyes with no irises made reading her facial expressions difficult at best and usually impossible, but her body language was roughly analogous to Human norms.

“Fine, you’re a genius, MacAllen. Congratulations.” The Ur’uth’uul sighed and turned away.

Just to needle her boss, Christine added, “It’s just a matter of signal strength, Lieutenant. The closer the instrument—”

“Ensign MacAllen…” Cha’Doth stated warningly, pinning the Scot with a narrow-eyed silver glare.

“Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir,” Christine replied meekly, ducking her head and unsuccessfully trying to swallow a smile.

Cha’Doth’s glare melted into a wry smile of her own. “If you’ll excuse me, Miss Genius Scientist, I’m going to examine something that’s farther away from you. I wouldn’t want my merely mundane intelligence interfering with your giant intellect’s ruminations.”

Remaining stock still and not taking her eyes off her tricorder, Christine replied seriously, “Thank you, Sir. I’d appreciate that.”

A choked sound of surprise emanated from her superior officer and Christine had to physically restrain herself from shaking with suppressed mirth.
She therefore immediately lost her balance and fell over when Cha’Doth smacked her playfully upside the head, having returned stealthily to her side amid the various noises of a living forest.

Silver eyes crinkled up in amusement and bright white teeth shone out of a space-black face as Cha’Doth regarded the surprised form sprawled on the greenery before her. She playfully chided, “Stop teasing your superiors, Christine. It’s career-limiting.”

At MacAllen’s outraged look Cha’Doth burst out laughing, the botanist joining in right after. Offering her hand, she pulled Christine back onto her feet, both of them still grinning.

The Ur’uth’uul’s smile faltered as she realised something. “This planet is really getting to me,” she said slowly. “I’m acting like a youngling in a school playground.”

Christine’s smile faded too and she looked around uncertainly. “I think you’re right, Lieutenant,” she agreed, suddenly realising that such easy-going and playful behaviour was quite out of character for the chief science officer. She was further shocked at her own temerity in teasing Cha’Doth as if they’d always related to one another in that way. Soberly, she asked, “How is K’Nomi’s research on the sub-harmonics theory coming?”

“I’m going to go ask her now, Ensign,” she replied slowly but decisively. “I don’t think this is harmful, but we’re here to do a job, not play like younglings.”

“Aye Sir,” Christine nodded firmly. “I’ll… remember to keep my distance. Just in case.”

Nodding to each other again, they set about their respective tasks.

*****

Ensign Skora Okeild methodically ran her tricorder over the egg-shaped plant in front of her and grimaced at the superficial data being displayed for her. It’s odd that I have to practically touch the thing with the sensor grid before it will give up any of its secrets, the Daenaii biologist grumbled to herself. She pulled back and pecked at her tricorder’s settings, routing more power through the sensors at the cost of draining the power source more quickly, and tried again. As hoped for, the sensor’s range increased, but not as much as expected. Something in the plant’s outer shell or perhaps its whole structure resists or dampens my sensor probes, she reasoned.

Rocking back on her heels, she mulled that over. It’s possible that the sensor interference in the mountain rock may be an environmental thing rather than solely limited to the rocks. It could be an element that occurs naturally in all products of this biosphere: rocks, trees, flowers, even insects and animals. Fascinating!

Using the increased sensor power, Skora moved closer again to get clearer readings of the egg’s internals. She noted that the space within the shell was densely packed with more vegetable matter; so much so that there wasn’t any free space in there. They were so densely packed that even so close and at extra power the tricorder couldn’t offer a definitive readout. The tentative conclusion was that they were more stalks of some kind; long, tubular structures as thick as her wrist. It’s got to be some kind of enticement. Some kind of visual and olfactory display vital to its pollination process. Otherwise, how does it reproduce?

She looked around her little area – it was too densely crowded with knee- and waist-high plants to be considered a “clearing” – and noted another seven of the “plant-eggs” within a twenty-metre radius. So, what does it look like when it’s opened up to attract insects? And with the size of insects in this region, I think I’d better be a good three metres back when that happens!

Flipping open her communicator, she hailed the ship. Through the subspace relay, the reception was crisp and clear.

“Falklands, Ensign Hawke here,” the Beta-shift comm officer replied.

“Put me though to the Biology lab please, Edmund,” she asked distractedly.

“Hold, please,” the Englishman replied sarcastically and started humming a very bad rendition of some 22nd century Andorian jazz he knew she liked.

That got her attention, but before she could say more than “Edmund—!” he’d completed her call.

“Biology lab, Specialist Lautrec here.”

I should apologise to Edmund when I see him next. He’s probably been getting calls like that all morning, she thought guiltily. Focusing back on the reason for her call, she addressed her researcher.

“Lautrec, I’m uploading scan data from my tricorder on an egg-shaped plant I need some computer modelling on,” Skora said as she transmitted her findings. “It seems to be completely enclosed and tightly packed inside, so I’d like some extrapolations on what it looks like once it’s opened up.”

“Receiving it now, Sir,” the science specialist acknowledged. ”I’ll start inputting the data now and I’ll let you know when we come up with something.”

“Very good, Claude. I look forward to hearing from you again.”

“Aye Sir.”

Signing off, she reset her tricorder to factory defaults and was intrigued to see a new life-form reading had entered its range. I wonder what that is? She straightened from her crouch and, keeping in mind Cha’Doth’s warning, sent a brief update to the second officer before heading off in search of this new creature.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 11:02:39 pm by Scottish Andy »
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The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Commander La'ra

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2011, 01:53:10 am »
Interesting.  So far, there's not much, other than the possible (but not confirmed) euphoric effect to indicate anything all that weird going on here, and I'd almost suggest you move things along a little faster, but I'm reminding myself you might be slowly giving us puzzle pieces before anything happens, so I won't.

I also won't suggest a scene where the embattled science team has to fight off giant bumblebees with their phasers amidst a forest of giant plants, for while I like the surreality of imagining it, it might not fit the tone you're going for.

Post more.
"Dialogue from a play, Hamlet to Horatio: 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Dialogue from a play written long before men took to the sky. There are more things in heaven and earth, and in the sky, than perhaps can be dreamt of. And somewhere in between heaven, the sky, the earth, lies the Twilight Zone."
                                                                 ---------Rod Serling, The Last Flight

Offline Scottish Andy

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Quarantine - Chapter Four
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2011, 03:06:59 pm »
Curious that you happened to mention that, Larry...  :D



Chapter Four


“Commander, we’ve found something!”

“What might that something be, Mr. Kim?” Lathena responded over her communicator to the excited geologist.

“Our radar sweep has located a large cave 600 metres at bearing 347 from our current location. Shunting the details to your tricorder now,” the Korean scientist elaborated.

Examining the data, Lathena responded, “It’s a kilometre from where we are now, but we’ve detected nothing yet. Make your way to it and we’ll meet you there. Investigate as much as you can but do not go into the cave until we arrive. Understood, Mr. Kim?”

“Aye, Commander, we’ll be careful,” Grace responded with a hint of long-suffering in her tone. “You’re not that far behind us anyway.”

“This is true – but do not go in thinking we’ll get there within a certain timeframe, Lieutenant! We will be there shortly.” Lathena flipped her communicator shut and turned to Specialist 3rd Class Michael Greene after consulting her tricorder again. “That way, Mr. Greene, about one kilometre,” she informed him, pointing in the appropriate direction.

“Aye, Sir,” the tall, wiry blonde answered crisply, moving in the direction she indicated. While not a humourless man, the recently-graduated security specialist was totally professional in this setting and offered no companionable banter to the second highest ranking officer of his ship. In the absence of a direct or acknowledged threat in the area, Greene’s Type-II phaser pistol was on his hip and not in his hand. Instead, a standard tricorder ran continuous rotating sweeps for life-forms and artificial objects. The frowns Lathena caught on his face indicated the mountains were still interfering too much with those scans for the young ensign to be completely happy with the situation.

“Commander… I’m detecting several animal life forms in the area; they seem to be in several groups of around five each, and…” He fiddled with the settings on his tricorder some more before continuing. “…and they seem to be at an elevation of eighty metres.”

“They’re in the lower branches of the trees?” she asked, looking up to try and see them.

“Bearings… 273, 290, 305, and 321. Just come into range and approaching quickly.” At this he drew his phaser but kept his eyes on this tricorder screen.

Lathena drew her own Type-I as well and scanned the massive trees in the direction Greene had read off. A cacophony of hooting and screaming became audible over the rest of the forest noises and it was indeed approaching quickly. A massive buzzing also became audible, like a whole armada of bees, and Greene called out, “Reading very strong insect-like life forces!”

Just then, several of the animal life forms literally swung into view; some very long-limbed primates tore through the lower branches at remarkable speed, far faster than Lathena could have sprinted. It was difficult to assess their size because of the distance, their movement and speed, but it appeared to Lathena as if they were about two metres tall. The hooting and screaming passed over them, the sloth-like primates not even acknowledging the presence of the two Starfleet officers. The buzzing was more enigmatic; it too passed over them without slowing, but neither of them saw what actually caused it.

After the furore had died down, Greene stared at his X.O. wide eyed. “Did a swarm of bees just chase a group of apes through the jungle?”
Lathena was less affected with awe, but she stowed her sudden alarm to answer her crewmember reassuringly. “It would appear so. Remember, animals our size are not likely to be the dominant life form on this planet. However, we have our advanced tools and weapons and our intellects to see us through. Good job in detecting all that before it got to us.”

“Aye Sir.” He acknowledged her praise but still looked apprehensive.

Looks like he’s having trouble believing that. He’ll just have to deal with it, Lathena thought philosophically, and they continued on their way through the forest. 

“Commander!” Grace all but shouted many minutes later as they emerged into a clearing at the foot of the dark granite coloured mountains. She looked like she was really desperate to start exploring and Lathena suppressed a smile any parent of a small child would have recognised.

“Lieutenant. Have your investigations revealed anything significant?” she asked the geologist.

Kim shook her head, causing her brunette fringe to swing merrily. “The mineralogical analysis is still underway, Sir, but we expect to have an answer shortly from the ship. I also took the liberty of informing the captain of our situation, Commander,” the willowy Korean woman stated, a touch apologetically.

Lathena gave an approving nod. “Very good, Lieutenant. Anything else?”

Her slight uncertainty immediately banished, Grace went on more naturally. “We’ve fixed our position, informed the ship, and set up a beacon so that all are informed of the entrance’s location. Standard scans have given us nothing but a hash of interference, and even radar is being heavily affected. From what we can determine, there are no other caves in the rock of this area, but this is one fair-sized cavern. However, as you can see, the entrance is not evident at all.”

“I was about to ask, Lieutenant. Where is this cave and your beacon?”

“Follow me, Sir,” was her answer, and all four strode eagerly towards a rocky overhang liberally festooned with vines, creepers, moss, and other vegetation. It looked absolutely no different from any other section of the escarpment they were near.

The party halted ten metres closer to the rock face from where they started but Lathena still could not see the entrance or the beacon.

Seeing the X.O. about to speak, Lieutenant Kim raised a hand and said, “Now watch this.”

She faced the vegetation-saturated rock face at a roughly 45° angle, took two steps forward…

…and promptly vanished before the startled eyes of the XO.

*****

“Lieutenant Cha’Doth, could you come take a look at this?

“Where are you, Ensign?” the Ur’uth’uul replied somewhat sardonically, a gentle chiding about proper comm protocol.

“Oh, my apologies, Sir,” the distinctive, furry contralto of the Daenaii biologist replied abashedly. “Ah, it’s Ensign Okeild here, Lieutenant, and I’m at bearing… 217 from the subspace relay, range… two hundred and thirty-nine metres. I have a fascinating creature I’d really like you to see for yourself, Lieutenant.”

Cha’Doth grinned into her communicator. She’d had several calls of this exact nature over the last hour, but after responding to the first there was no way she was settling for an image over a tricorder screen.

“I’m on the far side of the relay from you, Ensign, looking at someone else’s new pet. I’ll be with you in about ten minutes.”

“Understood, Sir.”

Flipping her communicator shut she looked back to her current companion, Petty Officer 3rd-Class Na-Foreteii, and motioned for him to continue.

“So even though this is definitely vegetable matter, its tensile strength is close to that of steel. It seems to be fairly flexible despite that; we can see it moving easily, almost as if the whole plant is breathing.”

“Yes, I had noticed that,” Cha’Doth commented, taking in the three-metre height and huge tangled mass of trunks as thick as her torso taper at the top down to stalks barely wider than her wrist. “It’s slightly unnerving to see a plant move against or independent of the air currents.”

“Really, Sir?” the lab researcher asked, surprise evident in his gravelly voice.

“To me, at least, P.O. What else can you tell me about it?” she asked, slightly uncomfortable with a personal question and diverting the Efrosian’s attention back to his plant.

“Only that it was quite hard to get a sample from it to analyse. It would be more accurate to state that I took a scraping rather than excised a sample. Also that doing so elicited only a minor reaction from the plant itself.”

“It reacted to you then?” she asked sharply.

“Yes, Lieutenant,” the Efrosian confirmed. “In fact, it moved towards me, though in a slow, almost questing manner. It was easily avoidable.”

Cha’Doth regarded the tangled dark green mass of stalks, leaves and tendrils that softened the appearance of the main bulk of the alien plant with narrowed eyes. Her home planet of Ur’uth had plants capable of independent motion – indeed, some were actually able to uproot themselves and ambulate to more nutrient-rich soil. Such plants had been the focus of endless horror vids in her society in much the same way as insects and spiders had been on Earth. As such, Cha`Doth had an instinctive, base level revulsion of them.

She let none of this show, though, and merely nodded to Na-Foreteii. “Carry on then, Na-Foreteii. Be sure to upload all your data as soon as you complete your scanning. Ensign Okeild now requests my attention on the other side of the camp.”

“Aye Sir,” the Efrosian lab researcher acknowledged and once again focused intently on the object of his investigation.

I think I’ll check the electronic perimeter of the camp, just to make sure nothing can creep up on us unexpectedly if we’re staying a while, she resolved on her way to see Skora.

*****

Lathena looked at the spot where Grace Kim had vanished and hurriedly moved to get a better vantage point as she called, “Mr. Kim, can we safely assume you meant to disappear like that?”

“Yes Commander, I did,” Grace’s muffled voice came back from reassuringly close at hand.

Lathena homed in on where the sound was coming from and positioned herself accordingly. Sure enough, the geologist’s deep red uniform jacket and black skirt were visible in the fissure through which she’d walked, and her Andorian superior’s slight alarm abated. “Come back out, Lieutenant,” she ordered.

She watched Grace wind her way back out, noting that the passage itself seemed quite large, easily accommodating the tall Korean’s frame, but that it was a very crooked path.

Lathena looked over at the science equipment set up beside the fissure. “How long before we get the results of the mineralogical analysis?” she asked an emerging Lieutenant Kim.

“The analysis is still running through the ship’s computers, Commander; I had hoped— ah, there we go,” she interrupted herself as the equipment bleeped satisfyingly. Taking in the results, Grace’s face fell slightly.

“It is kelbonite, then,” Lathena intuited.

“I’m afraid so, Commander,” she agreed, adding, “but not only that. Its molecular structure indicates it’s a more densely formed mineral. These mountains are composed primarily of standard kelbonite but there are vast areas where the material displays twice and even three times the usual sensor interference properties.”

“Fantastic,” Specialist Greene muttered disgustedly.

Lathena couldn’t help but agree. “Why is it that, whenever we develop new and improved sensors, the universe always manages to show us new and improved ways to thwart those sensors?” she asked rhetorically.

“To keep us humble, Sir,” Joao Na Tchuto spoke up. “To remind us that we are not gods and never will be, by showing us there will always be mysteries to investigate, challenges to meet, and obstacles to overcome.”

The security specialist from the United African State of Guinea-Bissau then ducked his head slightly as he became the focus of the rest of the landing party’s eyes.

Lathena broke the short silence. “That’s… a very good answer, Joao. I’d never really considered that question seriously before. Thank you.”

The sincerity in his commander’s voice seemed to embarrass the normally taciturn security man, but he met her eyes and acknowledged her words with a brief nod and a more characteristically short, “Aye Sir.”

Changing gears, Lathena stated, “Let’s begin then, shall we? Joao, keep your tricorder on the standard subspace sensing bands. You’re on rear guard. Mr. Greene, you are our echo ranger at the head. I will run the radar sweeps and place the comm relays to maintain our link to the ship through the beacon. Lieutenant Kim, you are our signal hunter. Our combined mapping efforts should create a half-decent picture of our routes ahead and available options.”

Heads nodded and tricorders were adjusted accordingly as Lathena made a final call to the ship to relay their plan and intentions.

“Very good, Commander. Be aware that if your exploration takes too long without yielding results we will dispatch another team to search for other cave systems in the areas you did not reach. Since we are quite likely to lose contact with you despite your precautions, that other team will have orders to come looking for you if you are out of contact for more than three hours. Understood?”

“Aye, Captain. We’ll be careful. Lathena out.” She closed her communicator and addressed her team. “Let’s go exploring.”
« Last Edit: March 12, 2012, 01:39:07 am by Scottish Andy »
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The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

2288

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Five
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2012, 01:49:53 am »
Hello all! I have great news. This story is almost finished! Just a few more additional scenes to add in, and all the editing and integration is already done.

YAY!!!!!

So to celebrate this, I have reposted chapters one to four with minor mods, so go read them first to remind yourselves what this is all about, then come back here to read...



Chapter Five


I’m so glad I came over to see this, Cha’Doth congratulated herself while telling Skora, “That’s quite an impressive creature you’ve found yourself, Ensign.”

“I know! Fascinating, isn’t it, Lieutenant?” the Daenaii rushed out excitedly. “There’s nothing quite like it in Federation records – though there are a few creatures with close similarities. But no one’s seen one exactly like this!”

Cha’Doth smiled at her subordinate’s enthusiasm, remembering how she’d felt at this moment in her career. “Congratulations on your first discovery of a unique, unknown life form, Ensign Skora Okeild,” she stated warmly, gripping the younger officer’s shoulder in a comradely manner.

“Thank you, Sir!” the Daenaii practically gushed, thinking, My name’s going to be attached to this find! I’ll get recognition! My family is going to be so proud!

“So, what can you tell me about your new friend here, Ensign?” the second officer asked next, bringing Skora back down to the ground again.

“Ah, as you can see, it is a gigantic form of caterpillar, most closely resembling actias selene in its fifth instar stage. It measures some five metres in length of body, with the prehensile pseudo pods around its mouth adding a further two metres,” the biologist began more calmly as her training came to the fore. “Much the same as the caterpillar it moves on paired pincer-like ‘feet’, which I can only assume are strong enough to hold the creature’s body weight as it moves over the underside of the vegetation.”

“Assume, Ensign?” Cha’Doth asked archly.

“Aye, Sir, understood. I have not observed a second specimen yet, and this one appears content to remain stationary in the shade of this massive tree.”

“One thing to remember above all others when cataloguing life forms is not to make such assumptions as you just have based on other species,” Cha’Doth warned.

Skora wasn’t thrilled about being lectured on basic scientific note-taking practices, but grudgingly admitted that she’d brought it upon herself in her excitement at her find.

Getting back to her briefing, she continued, “As you can see, the usual smoothly-curving segments of a caterpillar’s body are instead very angular on our friend here. Also, tricorder scans show more manipulator appendages tightly curled up inside the forward two metres of the creature’s body. They appear to be longer versions of the mouth tentacles. If I were to speculate, I’d say they would be to help the creature ascend a tree bole to reach edible vegetation higher up than it could reach from the ground, escape torrential downpours, predators, and other dangers of being on the ground.”

Cha’Doth’s momentary annoyance at the ensign’s blatant dig was banished by her own mental image of this monster caterpillar clinging vertically to a two hundred-metre tall tree, held scores of metres above the ground by one set of appendages while the other set plucked leaves from the lower branches.

Consciously shaking herself out if her mesmerised reverie, Lieutenant Cha’Doth stated, “Interesting proposition, Ensign. That would be quite something to see. Is there anything else you have on the creature?”

Skora’s face fell slightly at that. “Unfortunately not, Sir,” she replied regretfully. “To even discover the presence of the retracted pseudopods I had to practically straddle the beast and use my tricorder like a stethoscope! The sensor-deflection properties of these flora and fauna are quite remarkable,” she noted sourly.

“And annoying,” Cha’Doth agreed. “I’ve been hearing that a lot from all our party, Ensign. It looks like whatever is hiding what our first officer is looking for is prevalent through the entire biosphere and not just in the mountain rock.”

Skora was pleased to find her thinking mirrored in her superior, but also a bit deflated that she couldn’t bring it to the second officer’s attention. “That means that our investigation is not going to reveal very much data before we have to leave,” she voiced her dismay. “Damnit Sir, that’s not fair! How often does a frigate crew get an opportunity like this?!”

Cha’Doth’s own spirits fell somewhat at that, but she stowed it and encouraged her junior officer. “Then we’d best make efficient use of the time we do have, Ensign. 100% concentration on your readings now. We don’t want to miss a thing.”

Determination puffed out the Daenaii’s chest. “Aye Sir!”

Cha’Doth smiled and patted Okeild’s shoulder. “That’s the attitude. I’ll leave you with your patient then, ‘doctor’,” the Ur’uth’uul commented, and walked away from the biologist’s wry grin.

*****

“Ah, Hell,” Greene muttered almost inaudibly. In fact, it was inaudible to Human ears, but Lathena’s superior aural senses picked it up with little difficulty.

“Another closed passage, Specialist?” she asked. Which makes it our tenth, she griped.

Greene sighed. “Almost, Commander. Echo-ranging says this spur ends thirty metres ahead in a small cave. There doesn’t appear to be further tunnels leading from that cave, either.”

“Mr. Na Tchuto?” Lathena enquired next.

“Subspace scanning is still choked with interference, Sir,” Joao replied. “I’d have to proceed part way into the cave itself to confirm.”

“Understood. No need in this instance; my radar is confirming the echo-ranging,” she retuned. “It seems we cannot take the direct route after all. Mr. Kim, let’s retrace our steps to the main tunnel and try again.”

“Aye Sir,” Grace responded, looking unhappy in the light shed by the landing party’s combined hand lamps.

Lathena placed another beacon onto the wall and set it to indicate a no-through zone, then prompted, “Mr. Greene?”

“Aye Sir,” the lanky blonde acknowledged, and reconfigured the small device so that its audio system would emit an omnidirectional echo-ranging pulse. The youthful security guard was full of surprises. Having taken basic communications theory at the academy as part of his curriculum, Michael had hit upon the idea of maintaining a current map of the tunnels by having the ‘spelunking’ beacons emit repeated ‘sonar pings’ – which had necessitated another explanation of terminology, something Lathena was finding increasingly annoying. Why use ancient terminology no one else outside of your specialisation had ever heard of, never mind used?

Now, instead of mere bearings and elevations and distances between the beacons, the team now had an actual real-time – if intermittent – map of the tunnels they were exploring.

“Done, Sir,” Greene announced moments later, then took up point position again and led them back the way they’d come.

“Lathena to Falklands, come in please.”

“Falklands, Hawke here Commander,” the Beta shift comm officer responded, his voice already distorted by static but still understandable.

“Mr. Hawke, another progress report for the captain. Our latest route has resulted in another enclosed cavern. We are returning to Beacon Sixteen-Alpha to try another route from there,” Lathena told him, feeling rather annoyed at wasting the last twenty minutes.

“Understood, Commander. Please be advised that your signal strength has crossed minimum clear reception levels at this point. At this rate, your comm signals will be swamped with interference and unable to reach us in approximately ten minutes, including your backtracking.”

An irritated frown crossed Lathena’s face at that. “Ensign, based on Mr. Kim’s best estimates, we’re barely half-way to the source of these energy readings, and that’s where we’re turning back from. We’re going to be out of communications with the surface and ship for easily the last third of this excursion. Quite likely more, based on how many detours we’re having to take,” she added with further consideration.

“Understood, Commander. The captain wishes you ‘good hunting’ and asks that you behave yourself once out of direct supervision.” Hawke’s voice was obviously suppressing a smile, even over the static-laced comm channel and tinny speaker of the comm unit.

Lathena felt her frown evaporate and she smiled herself as she answered, “Tell thavan Sotok that we promise we’ll be good. Lathena, out.” As she closed her communicator, Greene was looking back at her with a bewildered expression. “Yes, Mr. Greene?” she asked archly.

“I thought Vulcans didn’t make jokes, Sir,” the young Human told her.

“That’s what I’ve been told, Specialist,” she replied with a grin, but did not elaborate.

Greene realised that was all the answer he was going to get and resumed has trek along the uneven and dank tunnel. The widely flickering shadows cast by the bobbing of their hand lamps lent a somewhat surreal aspect to their procession, but at least the tunnel itself was wide and high, staving off Lathena’s sense of claustrophobia despite the utter blackness of the world outside the radius of their own lights.

At this rate we’ll be down here for days, she groused with a faint core of real worry. I hope we don’t run out of beacons or get lost. They’ll never find us!


“Signal strength increasing rapidly, Sir!” Grace Kim announced excitedly nearly two hours later. “It just jumped five-fold in the last ten seconds!”

“Nothing on sonar, Commander,” Greene put in from up front. “Just the same tunnel continuing.”

“Subspace interference clearing somewhat, Sir,” Joao stated. “Occurred roughly in time with Lieutenant Kim’s announcement.”

“I still have nothing on radar, so it may be that the ‘kelbonite-3’ density has decreased in the rock between us and the object,” Lathena opined. “Has the interference cleared enough for you to get a proper scan, Na Tchuto?”

Having been testing exact that, the Guinea-Bissau man was ready with his answer. “No Commander. However, subspace sensor range has increased to two hundred metres – no, make that between two hundred and two hundred and fifty metres; I’m getting extra range in some directions.”

Lathena’s spirits rose at that, but she carefully squelched them. “That has the subspace scan exceeding sonar and matching my radar ranges. We’re not going to instantly switch over to relying on you exclusively though, Mr. Na Tchuto,” the Andorian stated. “We’ll all continue creating a composite map for Mr. Kim.”

“Aye-aye, Commander,” both security guards acknowledged.

“Mr. Kim, estimated distance to our objective?”

“It now looks like another kilometre bearing zero-three-five mark three-four-one,” the lithe Korean geologist replied, absently sweeping her brown hair behind her ears. “We’ll have to hope the tunnel eventually sweeps down and to the right to bring us there.”

Lathena placed another beacon onto a stalagmite close by and Greene moved in without prompting to reconfigure it like he’d done for the others. While he did that, she checked her own tricorder map of the beacon network. All were still active, though the sheer weight of ‘kelbonite-3’ – as they’d taken to calling the new material – impregnated rock between her and the surface defeated their low-power comm units. Even their handheld communicators coupled with the beacons didn’t have enough power to maintain an open comm link to the surface. The last transmission she’d been certain had gotten through was a torturous, white noise-swamped status update over a hundred minutes ago.

Greene straightened and nodded to his superior. Lathena returned it and urged them onwards. Not long now!
« Last Edit: March 12, 2012, 11:40:49 am by Scottish Andy »
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Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2012, 07:25:44 pm »
Seriously?
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Offline Lieutenant_Q

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2012, 12:23:59 am »
yeah, sorry.  I've barely had time to write and post my own stuff this week.  I promise I'll go back from the beginning and read it through, it might not be until Wednesday that I get an opportunity to do so, though.
"Your mighty GDI forces have been emasculated, and you yourself are a killer of children.  Now of course it's not true.  But the world only believes what the media tells them to believe.  And I tell the media what to believe, its really quite simple." - Kane (Joe Kucan) Command & Conquer Tiberium Dawn (1995)

Offline Lieutenant_Q

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2012, 02:55:44 am »
Nicely written, I'm kinda curious as to what they are going to find here.

Still expecting Giganto-world to eat a crewman before the missions over, though.
"Your mighty GDI forces have been emasculated, and you yourself are a killer of children.  Now of course it's not true.  But the world only believes what the media tells them to believe.  And I tell the media what to believe, its really quite simple." - Kane (Joe Kucan) Command & Conquer Tiberium Dawn (1995)

Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2012, 11:34:27 pm »
Thanks for your reply, Q. :)
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Offline Grim Reaper

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2012, 11:01:32 am »
I didn't have the time to really read it, but speed reading gave me enough grounds to want to read it more carefully. And I really liked this one:
Quote
“To keep us humble, Sir,” Joao Na Tchuto spoke up. “To remind us that we are not gods and never will be, by showing us there will always be mysteries to investigate, challenges to meet, and obstacles to overcome.”

It really stuck out for me
Snickers@DND: If there is one straight answer in that bent little head of yours, you'd better start spillin' it pretty damn quick, or I'm gonna take a large, blunt object, roughly the size of Kallae AND his hat and shove it lengthwise up a crevice of your being so seldomly cleaned that even the denizens of the nine hells would not touch it with a 10-feet rusty pole

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Quarantine - Chapter Six
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2012, 07:23:38 pm »
Chapter Six


After running around and personally looking over everyone’s pet projects, Lieutenant Cha’Doth had finally settled on finding one of her own. Being slightly unsettled by the moving plants, and with the rarer huge insects already claimed by fanatical junior officers, the Ur’uth’uul woman had sought out a water-based plant to examine. The large lake offered some likelihood of this, and smaller pools leading up to the lake’s edge boasted some fantastically odd specimens to occupy herself with.

She’d found a small rock formation that held a pool at its heart, and its edges were choked with odd tubular plants. They were translucent in a variety of bright colours – grass green, sky blue, and maroon – and superficially resembled reeds. However, these ‘reeds’ were as thick as her upper arms and had odd globular segments that looked almost like joints.

Structural analysis by her tricorder was easier going than she’d expected from talking to her team members, but she deduced that it was due to the comparative delicacy of these plants compared to the massively fleshy variants growing in the rich, fertile soil of the forest around them.
 
Cha’Doth checked her tricorder was still linked to transmitter Lieutenant K’Nomi was tending back at the base camp, and ran another scan.

Hmm… okay, standard – if giganticised – nutrient-gathering system, but I don’t see any evidence of a reproductive system. No seed pods, flower buds, nothing that looks like a stamen or fruit to drop. Very odd. How to they reproduce?

Just then, she noticed her first arboreal life-form. Something bearing a passing resemblance to a Terran sloth loped over the high rocks and froze upon seeing her. Its elongated muzzle sniffed the air for some moments, but then it proceeded down to the water’s edge to drink, apparently deciding the alien posed no immediate threat.

For her part, Cha’Doth remained still but relaxed. It was actually bigger than she was, some two-point-five metres from head to foot, and its elongated arms gave it a reach of almost two metres, according to a nonchalant tricorder scan. Since they were on opposite sides of the rock pool from each other, the sloth-analogue apparently felt that it was safe in slaking its thirst even with her present, and she in turn felt safe from a sudden attack by an enraged animal.

Then Cha’Doth noticed something that gave her an irrational shiver. The nearest ‘reeds’ to the sloth-analogue reacted to its presence. It was slight and could have been mistaken for the gentle breeze sighing through the rocky hollow – except that plants don’t normally move against the wind. Reeds on both sides of the sloth-analogue leaned towards it. The movement was slight, slow – and deliberate. The sloth didn’t seem to notice and Cha’Doth was overcome with the urge to yell and scare it away.

However, some threshold must have been exceeded, as the sloth finally took note of the crowding and skittered away. It didn’t go far, just retreated up the rocks some before circling and returning to the pool a few tens of metres from its original spot.

Cha’Doth sighed in relief and the release of a little tension she hadn’t noticed gathering. Its dark eyes still focused on her, the sloth-analogue drank again. That’s okay then. The animals have developed an awareness of the plants’ apparently predatory behaviour. Both are part of the natural balance of this world’s ecology, she concluded from her observations.

But why would the plants be moving towards animals in the first place? she wondered next. These reed-analogues don’t seem carnivorous and already have a nourishment system based on sunlight and water. She pondered further. Maybe that’s it? They see animals as a secondary source of fluids? The sloth-analogue moved away quickly enough. Not the reeds’ natural prey then? Smaller animals or insects instead? But how would the plant metabolise them? I don’t see anything that could even eat a grasshopper. Unless those globular joints are actually a fly-trap or mouth mechanism?

Thoroughly absorbed in her work with a frown of concentration narrowing her eyes, Cha’Doth picked at her tricorder, seeking    answers.

*****

“We’re close, Sir! Signal strength is now at one thousand times its original value outside the tunnels,” Kim stated excitedly.

“Mr. Na Tchuto?” Lathena asked.

“Getting something now, Commander,” Joao temporised, continuing to walk forward. “It’s at the edge of sensor range, but there’s something… Got it!” he finished triumphantly. Looking back to his CO, the Security man told her, “This tunnel leads us directly into a huge cavern in about three hundred metres. The closer we get, the more I can tell you.”

“I knew it!” Kim blurted. “This had to be the right tunnel. We moved from cramped, closed-in tunnels to something I could almost pilot a workbee down. These tunnel walls are too regular and obstacle-free to be natural. Either somebody bored this tunnel or they enlarged a smaller existing one.”

“Sounds reasonable, Lieutenant,” Lathena offered, “but the tricorders don’t agree with you.”

Grace’s face flashed a wry grin in the bright lamplight. “You’ve seen how easily kelbonite-3 messes up our tricorders, Sir.”

“True, true,” the Andorian grinned back. “Okay people, pick up the pace. We’ve been out of contact for two hours. This seems like the place so I want some preliminary scans to report to the captain when I send one of you back to beacon Eighteen-Charlie to tell him we don’t need rescued.”

Her party grinned, looking at each other with the light of discovery in their eyes.

“Okay. We don’t know what to expect. Phasers out and on stun, tricorders set to maximum sensitivity. If you detect something that could be dangerous or seems suspicious, call out. We are our own backup, so remember that. Greene, I want you to remain outside the cavern when we get there. Just in case.”

The security specialist nodded seriously. If he was disappointed at being left out of the cavern exploration, he didn’t show it.

“Let’s go.”

Moments later and they stood at the entrance to a vast cavern over one thousand metres long and two hundred metres wide, with an arching ceiling that disappeared into the darkness some three hundred metres above them. Their hand-lamps barely penetrated a hundred metres into the stygian blackness, but their tricorders were much more successful, finally being inside of all the interference.

“I’m reading refined metal alloys, a large power generator – though it’s operating at minimal levels – and a mid-sized multi-level building complex. Footing is somewhat treacherous; there are some deep crevasses littering the whole area,” Grace warned, altering her tricorder settings as she directed its sensors into the depths of the long, narrow cave. “There are stalactites extruding from the cavern ceiling all across its surface area so keep that in mind in case we need to fire our phasers. Outside our light radius there are stalagmites also but paths seem to have been cleared through them. No other life-signs present; not even bats among the stalactites,” the geologist finished with a smile.

“Good to know, Lieutenant, thank you,” Lathena acknowledged her report. “Mr. Greene, you’ll hold position here, still inside the tunnels. We’ll keep in regular contact and monitor signal strengths. If we start to lose contact I’ll place another beacon.”

“Aye-aye, Sir. I’ve already modified the remaining beacons to the same configuration as the ones already employed, should you need them.”

“Good work, Specialist,” she praised him for his foresight. “Mr. Kim, Na Tchuto, follow me.”

The majority of her party fell in step behind her as they made their way deeper into the cavern, threading their way though the waist-high forest of stalagmites. A brief glance backward revealed that Greene had set his handlamp up as an omni-directional lantern, giving himself a globe of light to wait in. A psychological crutch, no doubt, but Lathena understood and couldn’t fault him for it. Being left alone in a pitch-black hole several kilometres under a mountain, she wouldn’t want to turn her lights off either.

A short time later their handlamps finally found the building complex. It was conspicuously not made of the natural rock but instead of concrete with a reinforcement of light titanium alloy.

“Mr. Greene,” Lathena spoke into her flipped-open communicator.

“Here, Commander,” was the short, relaxed reply.

“We’ve reached the buildings but there is no immediate sign of an entryway. We’re splitting up to search; it looks like the buildings are all connected to one another. Lathena out.”

She nodded to her team and they each selected another building to examine then silently split up to finally begin their task.

Grace Kim’s eyebrows rose in surprise at her latest tricorder reading. Opening a channel to the whole team – including Greene – she told them, “My building is made out of the natural rock, Commander. The power signal readings are also strongest from this structure. I’m theorising that this is the generator building and that the generator itself is enclosed in a protective shell made of the kelbonite-3 rock to hide it from scans.”

“An interesting theory, Lieutenant,” Lathena returned, “but if this is the case, how do you account for us detecting the power source from orbit, and such strong signals in this cavern?”

Kim halted her exploration of the generator building’s perimeter. “I’ve just found the answer to that, Commander. A large stalactite or two has collapsed the structure’s roof at the southern wall,” she said, looking at the rubble. “There’s a hole I can fly a shuttle through here.”

“Good work, Lieutenant,” Lathena commented. “We can assume that the reflective properties of kelbonite bounced the energy emissions out of the tunnels like light through a fibre-optic cable?”

“Makes the most sense of anything else I can think of, Sir,” Kim responded confidently. “Sir, I’ve completed my sweep of this building and there’s no other way in except for a covered and sealed corridor linking this building to the rest of the complex. Shall I attempt entry though the collapsed section?”

A few seconds’ silence greeted that proposition as her CO thought it over. “If you go in there we may lose contact with you, Lieutenant. I don’t want to risk that, so scan what you can from the hole and wait for us to complete our sweeps,” the Andorian finally responded.

“Understood, Commander,” Grace replied, covering her disappointment.


It only took another ten minutes to complete the exterior examination of the whole complex. It had revealed a distressing lack of doors, and of the three they’d found none had any means opening them. No sensors, keypads, card swipes, or even good old-fashioned doorknobs and latches.

“Even tricorder scans reveal no apparent locking mechanism or circuitry,” Specialist Na Tchuto related, once the three had reassembled by Grace’s side. “Since the only alternative was to cut our way in – which could be interpreted by any security system or returning owner as hostile or reckless – we’re here to use your ready-made forced entry,” Joao stated seriously. He was not a man who smiled easily, but Grace could detect the undertone of humour and smiled back.

“Mr. Greene, we’re going inside now to see if we can find some lights to turn on,” Lathena stated over her communicator, and after getting his acknowledgement, ordered, “After you, Mr. Na Tchuto.”

“Aye Sir,” the African man nodded before carefully clambering over the destroyed wall and into the facility at last.
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- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2012, 07:25:29 pm »
Thanks for your comment, Grim! I really appreciate both yours and Q's replies. I hope you enjoy your in-depth read, and I'm glad a line has already stuck with you. :)

Q, it's funny you should mention what you did, and I'm glad it is reading well for you. I do try to ensure it is so. :)
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The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Grim Reaper

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2012, 03:23:36 am »
Scanned over the update as well and I must say it like the story thusfar. However, one small crit (and I'm not fully sure if I really feel this way or its just my current state of mind): I'd like for some more stress/tension/action...
Snickers@DND: If there is one straight answer in that bent little head of yours, you'd better start spillin' it pretty damn quick, or I'm gonna take a large, blunt object, roughly the size of Kallae AND his hat and shove it lengthwise up a crevice of your being so seldomly cleaned that even the denizens of the nine hells would not touch it with a 10-feet rusty pole

Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2012, 05:24:52 pm »
I agree with the stress/tension comment. There's plenty of foreshadowing, intentional or otherwise, with the moving plants. As far as action, seems like its 'winding up' at about the right pace, but I don't get the feeling of 'oh sh*t' from what's going on right now. I always worry about that with my stuff.

Of course, being that I may not have any clue where you're going with this tale, my comment may be completely useless.

I like the pace. Everything keeps right on moving, and we get to see dorks being dorks, playing with bugs and plants and being excited about such. (Not being derogatory about being a dork, btw. Am one myself. Am posting stories on a Trek site, after all... As I tell my wife, I like to get my dork on.)

Keep it coming, Andy. Sorry I am late in replying. I've glanced at the site twice per week since posting the last of Cleo 1, and saw little movement. Thus my earlier comments on lack of action.

Will be back.

--guv
"Jayne?"

"Yeah?"

"You wanna tell me why there's a statue of you here lookin' like I owe him something?"

"Wishin' I could, Captain. "