Scattered Among the Trees
Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Jungle, Typhon's Creation
Timeline: Immediately Following "Welcome to the Jungle"
The branches slapped against her as she ran through the trees. The weapons fire had left her behind some several hundred yards ago. But Amelia kept running, further into the trees. Had she just seen that? Had her entire crew just been crushed by that giant tree, before her eyes?
She knew for a fact that Isley and MacBride had been under the tree when it landed, but she didn't know if they'd made it away or not. She didn't even know where the First Officer had been. It was happening all over again. She felt a panic attack hitting her. She was losing her crew. And here she was, alone and trapped on some god forsaken world.
What she couldn't get out of her mind was the thing that had frozen her in her place. One of the pirate's faces. She'd seen it before, the last time she'd lost her commanding officer. But it couldn't be. That man was dead.
She'd been running blindly when she ran headlong into someone, knocking them both prone.
Alexander had only moments ago gotten to his feet when Amelia slammed into him. He still hadn't oriented himself, all he could remember was that he'd been in the Astrometrics lab one moment, then next he was careening through the sky. His landing had been muted but not enough to prevent an ache he felt to his bones.
"What the hell!" he yelled out as his body met the floor again. He scrambled away from Amelia panicked, "What's going on?" once he realised his 'attacker' had been another human.
"Son of a...!" Amelia cried out as she doubled over from the impact, aiming her phaser pistol on instinct. However, she opened the eye she just hadn't slammed into him and spotted who she'd hit. "Lieutenant McConnell. Sorry...I was trying to get away from...are you the only one here?"
Alexander took a few sharp breathes after Amelia referenced his rate, "I believe so..." Alexander said as he ambled to his feet. Following his intincts, he reached for the tricorder he always he kept latched to his belt, "where even is here?" Alex asked as he began taking scans with the tricorder, frowning due to the odd readings he was getting.
"You don't know? Typhon making a planet, kidnapping the crew and dropping is into some sorta bullshit challenge?" Amelia said, looking at him incredulous. A moment later, a realization hit her. "Oh my god, you were off duty, weren't you? You weren't on the bridge."
"I was" Alexander answered, his breathing calming, "I was in the astrometrics lab mapping spatial disruption for review" he explained, still focussed on his tricorder, "I think the sensor is out of alignment, probably due to the fall", Alex explained, his face a mask of confusion.
"What can you tell me?" he asked, putting the device away. He'd repair it when he'd been brought up to speed.
She shook her head. "I don't think anything is wrong with your sensors. Same thing was happening with Isley's tricorder when we first arrived. My guess is this whole place is messing with sensors. We were at least able to get the life sign readings working." She got to her feet. "As for what's happening? Defiant went to investigate that weird distress call. And on the way there, this...thing showed up on the bridge. Called himself Typhon. Next thing we know, he makes a whole damn planet and teleports everyone off ship. Seems he pulled more than just the people on the bridge."
Alexander frowned as he processed what Amelia was telling him, "If I'm here we can assume the rest of the crew is too" the physicist deduced punctuating it with a sigh, "If I can recalibrate this, I could possibly take some quantum level readings, matter doesn't just appear. This planet came from somewhere" he carried on, talking to himself just as much as he was to Amelia.
She nodded, holstering her weapon. "Sounds reasonable enough to me. Some higher level readings might do us some good."
"Are there any dangers I need to be aware of?" Alexander asked finding himself feeling vulnerable with only the tricorder, "What were you running from?"
A ghost, she thought, seeing the face of the man in front of her again. However, no version of the sentence made sense, especially since she knew for a fact the man she’d seen was dead. She’d killed him, with her bare hands, and there was no ambiguity. Yet she’s seen him, among the men chasing her. But there wasn’t a way to say that without terrifying the science officer, so she opted for simple. “There was a group of pirates. I think I lost them, but they outnumbered and outgunned the group I’d been with.”
Whilst Amelia had been bringing Alex up to speed, the Science Officer had made the short work recalibrating his tricorder. The interference had actually been the device attempting to get an accurate reading on the planet. Shortening the range of the device seemed to have done the trick, for now.
"So, we're up the proverbial creek without a paddle?" Alexander quipped, looking up from the device in his hand, "It's going to take me a while to interpret this data. Nothing makes sense. I'm also picking up fluctuating levels of chronitons", the scientist all but rambled.
"I'm thinking we should go in the direction you were heading, that seems the farthest away from pirates, I also think it'll get us more answers regarding these readouts," he said.
"I'm not opposed to getting away from the pirates," she said, but paused. Were Isley, MacBride, and Seitha alive? "We did have a few more officers back there. I'm trying to decide if us going back could be a good idea. They could be hurt and need help....or maybe they escaped and we'd be walking into a pirate den for no reason."
Alexander thought it over for a few moment's, "then we need to stay hidden and take it slow. The tricorder should pick up anyone within 100 yards. With a bit of luck and skill we might just be able to find the three of them and skirt the pirates" Alexander decided. The pair of them could achieve a lot less than a team of five. Plus, it was their duty to protect their Captain. He couldn't return to the Defiant knowing he hadn't bothered.
Amelia felt a brief flash of panic at the face she'd seen in the crowd, but pushed it down. "It's settled then. We head back."
The two had been walking for a while. It felt longer than Amelia remembered, but admittedly, she wasn't in a blind sprint this time. They'd made it close enough that she could begin to make out the disruption in the trees a few dozen meters ahead. She could only tell because a bit of moonlight was filtering through the disruption. Night had fallen extremely quickly on the jungle and it was getting hard to see. Or wait...how long had it been night? She felt like only a few minutes but it was full fledged darkness now. As if the sun had set hours ago. Was that even possible?
Alexander had been considering things much along the same lines as Amelia. Whilst they'd been on the move, the tricorder has become much more responsive. Before he'd noticed that the day/night shift was skew-whiff, the device was telling him that the planet seemed to be functioning off of its own rules of physics. It was difficult for him to describe, but it was almost as though everything but himself and Amelia seemed to be marginally out of sync with what should be expected.
"This entire planet is anomalous" the scientist announced, "me and you," he said with a gesture between the pair, "A-Okay, your readings are consistent with what I expected. This planet, however," he gestured around them, "Is a fraction out of sync, or something like that, I can't be sure without more time" he explained.
"How long has the day/night cycle been off for you?" Alexander asked curiously.
Amelia tilted her head in thought. "I'm not sure. I didn't really give it any thought until it was suddenly nighttime. When we arrived here it seemed to be midday. And it stayed that way...well, I think until a few moments ago actually. But that doesn't make any sense. I'd say maybe I wasn't paying enough attention, but I think that'd be hard to miss. Also, correct me if I'm wrong but wasn't it daylight 5 minutes ago? Because I'd swear it's around midnight now."
"It looks like midnight," Alexander replied, "but I don't think the time is relative here, at least not to us," he carried on as they trudged through the forest, "there's something fundamentally wrong here, Amelia" he said, breaking protocol. Back on the Defiant, Alexander's job was easy. When nothing relevant to his specialization came up, he mostly spent his time mapping out spacial phenomena that the ship encountered on its travels. Away missions were rarely a part of his remit, and he felt it showed as they travelled.
All that considered, the Lieutenant was worried. If it hadn't have been for Amelia, he was sure that his situation would be much direr, "How much further till we reach the tree? I'll be much happier when our numbers swell" he asked conversationally as he pushed a large leaf out of his path.
"I'm not sure," she said, suddenly looking around a bit confused. "We definitely should have made it back by now. And I could have sworn this was not the jungle path I walked through. I..." She froze, looking at the ground in confusion. A disturbed patch of dirt, located directly under a disturbed series of branches. She recognized the area immediately. "No, no, no, no, no. This isn't happening. Alex, this...this is exactly where we ran into each other."
Alexanders heart dropped after a quick glance at his tricorder. Their current location was at odds with the data logged in the device which had them several miles away from their starting point. Yet all he saw around him was more of the same. He considered for a moment, that given the state of physics, that perhaps the planet was caught in some temporally related spacial phenomenon that had affected the whole planet. That said, he couldn't shake how unnatural the day/night cycle felt, he'd been considering it throughout their journey. The one thing that stuck with him was that despite there being warmth during the day, he felt no more heat exposed to the sun than he did in the shade.
"Perhaps we got disorientated at some point?" Alexander suggested as much for Amelia as himself, he didn't want to believe what he was beginning to suspect, it was easier to focus on helping Amelia relax until he had another scientist to bounce theories off of. He leant down and picked a sharp-edged stone up before making his way to the nearest tree, "I'm going to leave a little symbol every couple of trees, something familiar, see if we can avoid making it back here again," he explained, scratching a Starfleet delta into the trunk.
Amelia's mind was racing. She'd dealt with weird phenomena before. They'd been on a planet filled with walking corpses once even. But those she could shoot. That's what she did. Trouble approached, she fired her phaser. This...what was she supposed to shoot here? "Ok...That will at least let us know if we make it back here again. We must just be walking in circles." She didn't really believe it. She could have sworn they'd maintained an almost arrow straight path for a some time. But maybe she was wrong. The started forward again. She was growing weary of this jungle. It was far too quiet.
Alex hoped she was right, but he couldn't shake the feeling that the pair had walked exactly the way they were supposed to. He struggled to recall whether he'd noticed anything odd on their route beforehand but having his head stuck in a tricorder made for poor observations; ironically.
"When I was younger," Alexander said, "me and my family enjoyed hiking. My favourite place was Sherwood Forest, I used to imagine that I was Robin hood, my Dad was a little john; we'd spend hours navigating Sherwood playing our games" he shared, hoping his anecdote would take Amelia's mind off of their situation, "Once, I got separated from him, ended up being lost for the better part of an hour. Turns out, me and Dad had been walking in a circle, almost parallel in search of one another. Everything looked more and more similar the more anxious I got, in the end, I sat on a rock until I could hear his voice"
"I never got to go off on my own after that, but it taught me that cooler heads prevail. This isn't anything we aren't trained to manage and between the pair of us I know we can make it back to the Captain," he said, almost believing himself, "but I need your eyes, what I look for requires tools, you're trained to be sharp about your surroundings" he urged, his hand running through his hair as he spoke.
"You're right. We can get out of this," Amelia said, looking around. "Ok...let's move out then. We'll have to get there eventually." She continued forward, trying to keep here eyes on the scenery around them. "So Sherwood Forest, huh? Where'd you grow up?"
"I grew up in village in Scotland, but my Dad wanted me to see as much of the UK as I could before I travelled around the world. For something so small, it's incredible how the climate differs from island to island. Cornwall's my favourite, very warm" Alexander shared conversationally, happy to have a small distraction from their current situation, "What about you?"
"Bounced between a lot of places. Parent's jobs kept us from really putting roots down anywhere. Briefly were in London, then Milan. Spent a lot of time over in Quebec. And then a few stints off-world," Amelia replied. "So I guess I never had any particular places I'd run off to. It was a whole new world for me every few years."
The physicist nodded as Amelia shared her history. They had both experienced polar opposite's when it came to their childhoods. He couldn't help but wonder how he would have had a similar experience, as he allowed himself to become lost in their idol chit chat. Alexander didn't normally find comfort in conversation, but he welcomed the distraction eagerly.
Once she'd finished, before he could reply, the sun rising unnaturally fast caught his eye. "I'd have clocked us at being about 30 minutes past midnight about 1 minute ago," Alexander commented distractedly, his Tricorder waving in the air as he tried to take some decent readings.
Amelia’s eyes were wide as she turned to face him. The sun had come so quickly, her eyes were still adjusting from the near-total darkness. “So would I,” she said gravely. They needed to get out of this place. Every single moment felt like a threat. “Wait...do you hear that?” The faintest sound of voices made their way through the trees.
Alexander did hear it and it made him tense. The optimistic part of his mind hoped it could be their crew, maybe they'd finally outpaced their 'circle' and had found the Captain. The more pessimistic part of his mind felt it could be the pirates the pair had done incredibly well to avoid. "I do, we should move towards it," Alexander suggested as he scanned their surroundings for something he could use as a weapon, "even if it's those pirates you mentioned, they could still lead us to the Captain," he said, settling on a large stick.
"Alright. But stay sharp. If this goes south, we're going to need to book it," Amelia said, charging her pistol. With a deep breath, they stepped through the brush toward the sound of voices.