Welcome to the Jungle
Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Heavily Jungled Area, Unknown Location
Timeline: Following “A Lukewarm Welcome”
There was a series of thumps and crashes followed by one noticeably larger crash. Amelia Redgrave felt a splitting pain in her head and opened her eyes to see a dense canopy of trees overhead. So dense, sunlight didn’t pierce the whole way through. She let out a drawn out groan from the impact, before rolling to her hands and knees. It was a this point she noticed her red uniform shirt and pants had given way to a survival suit, complete with red striping. With an alarmed start she jumped to her feet realizing, surprised to find a phased strapped to her hip.
A brief survey of the area revealed she was not alone. Several other officers had crashed here, including their Ledaran first Officer. She moved over to him as quickly as she could with the pain in her head. “Commander, are you alright?”
There was an old belief that cats always landed on their feet. That was obviously fallacious, Maralen reasoned, as he had most definitely not landed on his feet. He'd had no time to register his surroundings before bwing unceremoniously dumped squarely on his tail. He wanted to hiss, but that would have done nothing except to amuse the sadistic being currently imposing its power over his existence. So instead, he fell back on his training and took a moment to erect his Calm Shield around him, re-channeling the anger into determination.
As he did this, he realized something else. The sounds around him told him that he was in a forested region of some breed, though the animal sounds were alien. And the next thing to become disgustingly clear was that his fur was soaked. Rain. Just perfect!
His shield coming into place, he became aware of something else. Someone was beside him, asking him something. He opened his eyes and sat up, giving the officer -- her name was Redgrave, he reminded himself, and he had chosen her -- the once-over before sitting up. "I'm fine, thank you." he answered, standing and giving the area around them a look-over. And that showed him Isley and McBride.
There was a rustling in the bushes behind the XO and the quiet helmswoman came through the trees. "Sirs" She said softly. She held a pair of binoculars in one hand and clutched at a locket that hung down across her uniform jacket. "Sir.. Do you think it is only officers that the... person beamed down?"
Maralen studied the young woman for a moment before speaking. It appeared that this Typhon had at least given them their survival suits, if not the equipment to go with them. McBride had binoculars, Redgrave had a phaser, and he had a communicator. Isley was faced away from him, so he was unable to see what she had. It appeared, though, that Typhon had taken him quite literally with his statement of diversifying his team.
"I don't know, Ensign." he said calmly, letting a bit of his natural warmth seep into his tones to lend strength to those under his command in this situation. "I have only seen the three of you so far. But whatever he's done, it seems that we have no choice but to... play along, at least for the time being. Are all of you all right?"
Sam tucked the locket away and nodded. "Aye. I am fine sir"
Amelia twisted her head a little in either direction, trying in vain to loosen the muscles of her neck. "Had a bit of a rough landing, if you can call it that. But otherwise, I feel fine. Lieutenant Isley, you alright?"
Caroline Isley blinked a few times, as though needing time to process the question. Her expression was quizzical as though she didn't even understand what she was being asked. "Oh. . . yes. I'm fine." But she really wasn't. Everything felt wrong. She looked down at her tricorder, which was all she was carrying. At least she had that.
The blonde science officer took a few more steps and started to take readings with her instrument. But she was only half paying attention to it.
The trees were dense in basically any direction that they looked. Wherever they were, it was more than overgrown. Amelia set her phaser to high stun. She wasn't sure what to expect, but she definitely wanted to be prepared. She turned to their XO. "Sir, I can't really make heads or tails of this jungle. Every direction looks the same. I think we might actually need to go somewhere to figure out what's in that direction. What are your orders?"
Maralen considered their surroundings more closely now, listening, looking, scenting... basically using all of his feline senses and focusing on their input. Before, he had been half focused on that but more focused on his people first. Now, his attention was for the area around them.
The jungle was dense in noise as it was visually. Chirps, flutters of wings, insect noises, and the rustling of the leaves in the wind. It was as a lot. Aromas from the many animals and plants. And one that stuck out, ever so slightly. The faintest hint of smoke from a wood fire.
Maralen frowned slightly as he caught that scent of smoke. Instantly, he tried to focus in on it. Smoke was a sign of life, caused only by sentients... or lightning, but there had been no lightnig, only rain. So the smell was... anomalous. He tried, therefore, to pinpoint the direction from which it was originating.
After a moment or two, he frowned. Turning, he glanced at Isley. "Lieutenant Isley, please scan at mid-range. I believe I smell fire." He wanted to be sure of what he smelled as much as anything else. And if it was caused by people, it would be good to know how many as well as anything else her tricorder could give them.
The blonde science officer looked at him for a moment and then nodded. "Yes, sir." She adjusted the range of the tricorder and then looked off in the distance. She raised her right arm and pointned. "I'm detecting some signs of fire and possible life in that direction. I can get a fix, but I can't tell much else about it at this range."
A high pitched whine filled the clearing, as Amelia brought her phaser pistol up in front of her. "I'm going to venture a guess that whoever is there isn't friendly."
Maralen frowned slightly. "We don't know that yet. For now, keep it on stun." he instructed. "But just in case, you take point as the only one of us with a weapon." He looked at McBride. "You go next, then Isley, and I will take the rear." The problem with a jungle this thick was that you never knew which direction danger would come at you from.
"McBride, I know those are not terribly useful in this thick foliage, but once we break from that, I want you to give me everything you can see through those." His eyes turned to Isley then. "Isley, you keep that tricorder taking readings... in all directions. I want to know what and/or whom is around us before I can smell them. The two of you coordinate so that each of you is looking at separate directions." That way, they would not be looking at the same direction at the same time. They would likely have different information to impart to his team at any rate, but looking at the same direction at different times might yield something that wasn't there when one looked but was by the time the other looked.
His eyes went back to Redgrave. "Keep your eyes and other senses open." He likely didn't need to tell her that, being Security, but he did anyway. "Now let's head out toward that fire and life signs, but be careful and watchful."
Samaire took a breath and began pushing past trees. "Maybe we can find more people." She said softly.
With a begrudging nod of agreement, Amelia powered the weapon down to high stun instead of a lethal setting. Keeping it raised in front of her, she took a cautious series of steps forward into the foliage, making sure not to leave the rest of the squad behind.
The trees were extremely dense. For the first several minutes of their deliberate walk, they couldn't see anything but the trees in every direction. Nothing substantial showed up on the tricorder, other than the lifesigns and large fire ahead.
After a few moments, Amelia noticed a bit more light passing through the foliage in front of her. Gesturing to stop, she stepped and found herself peaking through into what appeared to be a decently large clearing. Of course, only a bit of actual sunlight trickled through. Most of the light was caught and refracted through the trees. But it was enough to see what was in front of them. Several hundred yards away, a sizable encampment was visible, large fire burning in the middle with a series of makeshift lean-to shelters around it.
Maralen studied what he could see of the encampment, glancing to his team. "Isley, what do your scanners say? McBride, anything you can see would be helpful as well. I don't see any weapons, but there are a lot of places they could be hidden, and I'd like as much information as I can get before trying to make contact or sneak past them."
Isley suddenly stopped in her tracks. "I'm detecting a small group of life forms near us. Lots of different species. Humans, Orions, even Nausicans. And one or two that the tricorder can't identify yet." She looked confused, then concerned. "They are armed. Some with ranged weapons."
"Sshrral..." he hissed softly as he listened. "McBride, what can you see?" he asked. The list sounded like people they didn't want to get involved with, but he wanted as much information as possible before deciding that.
"Not much" the Ensign admitted "That said the foliage is moving definitely around us. Sir, with the Lieutenant's tricorder, we could be able to use it to find our way through the other groups, that said, some maybe crew to us."
Maralen considered. He could see one small group of the people in the clearing moving in their direction, and he was not keen on being observed. "Let's fall back a bit and try to skirt the clearing. With one phaser between us, I'm not in any hurry to get into a fight with them." He paused, a thoughtful expression shifting over his features. "Then again, they may have supplies we can use. I still don't want to fight them, but perhaps we can come up with another way to sneak in and nick some of their supplies." Generally, he was not a proponent of the five-fingered discount, but these were... unusual circumstances, and he had also been trained to waste no resource.
He motioned the rest of the team to follow him, and he moved back into the deeper cover of the jungle while he thought this through. What did they have? Between them, they had one phaser, one communicator, one set of binoculars and one tricorder... and their clothes. They also had their skills and natural abilities. Quickly, he reviewed their dossiers in his mind.
Samaire McBride: Hobbies: Skiing, Golf, Orbital Skydiving, reading and Swimming. Not really any help there. Skills: Certified Pilot – Galileo Shuttle Class, Constitution Light Cruiser, Anton Escort Cruiser, Loknar Frigate, Remora Escort Destroyer
, Solar Patrol Cutter. Again, no help. Languages: Federation Standard, and Vulcan. Nothing there. What's in her history that might be useful? He reviewed it quickly. Nothing.
Amelia Redgrave: When she gives into doing off duty activities, she leans toward the physically active, such as sparring, rock climbing, jogging, and skydiving. Damn, nothing really except that she's fit. They both are. Anything I can use in her history? He reviewed that quickly. Also nothing. Sshrral!
He moved on to Isley, the last of his team. Caroline Isley: When not on duty, she enjoys the gym, reading English novels from pre-Federation Earth, and playing the piano. No help there. History? A quick review of her history revealed excelled in the Sciences and most academic coursework. However, her abilities were below average on other portions of the curriculum, including personal defense and team building exercises. That isn't good. Well, guess we've got what we've got... tricorder, communicator, binoculars and phaser.
He eyed the communicator. He had not used it as of yet because he had not been certain who might overhear. Now that they had spotted that camp, he was not inclined to try and call anyone and potentially alert that encampment if they had something to listen with. But...
"Isley, did the tricorder indicate any form of communications technology in that encampment?" he asked.
Isley's brow furrowed as she tried to make sense of the readings. "Yes . . . yes. There is some type of power signatures. Possibly a communications array. Maybe . . . no. Sorry. I can't get any more specific at this range."
Suddenly, from a few dozen meters away, a gruff cry cut through the air. "There!"
A mere moment later, a bright orange energy blast slammed against a tree trunk less than a meter to their right. The wood erupted from the blast, sending pieces of bark showering over them.
Amelia didn't have to be told that their position was compromised. Half on instinct, she returned fire, her red Starfleet phaser bolt lancing back at their attackers. Within a moment, she and the original attacker were engaged in an intense firefight, neither able to quite see the other through the brush.
"Sshrral!" Maralen hissed before his normal Cool shield slammed into place. Redgrave was the only one of them with a weapon, and she was Security, so he let her do her job for the moment. "Fall back into the woods. Circle around them." he said to his team, hoping to use the thick woods to at least partially shield their next move from their attackers. He hated being vulnerable like this and with no backup! "Redgrave, shift positions every few shots. Try to confuse them as to exactly where you are." he instructed.
“Aye, sir!” Amelia replied, varying up her fire angles. “Everyone, stay close!”
They’d made it a few meters, ducking behind trees for cover, when from inside the brush, another cry rang out. This time from a very familiar voice. A voice that sounded exactly like their captain. “They’re coming! Run!”
Sshrral! This time, the curse was only in his head as he cast his gaze about for the source of that voice. Wait! That had sounded like... "Charlotte?" he muttered to himself questioningly. Could it be? Or was Typhon playing further games with them, a game within a game? He frowned and started to move after his team. "Move it, people!" he called to the other three.
A half moment later, another one of the pirates' energy bolts slammed into a tree trunk near where the voice had come from, splintering the wood bark. With a resonating creaking, the towering column began to fall over toward the team's position, shattering huge branches as it did so.
Amelia kept firing, weaving to change the pattern. But that creaking of wood caught her attention quickly. She looked up and saw the towering trunk headed their way. And quickly. With a running leap, she dove at her squadmates tackling both Isley and MacBride into a ditch. A mere moment later, the massive trunk slammed to the ground, effectively crushing the area they’d just been standing in, and blocking their exit from the top of the ditch. They now could only proceed further away. In the rush, Amelia hadn’t noticed that their Executive Officer was not with them.
Samaire sat up and held her head which was spinning. She looked up and cursed under her breath. "Great, just great."
"Figured you won't want to be crushed under the tree," Amelia managed with a forced laugh. She looked around at the narrow crevice they'd found refuge in. There was only a single path of exit available. "I think we've been split off from our XO though. And from having much alternative on which way to go."
Isley stayed on the ground as the phaser fire flew overhead. She wasn't sure what was happening, only that Redgrave had pushed her into a ditch. When the firing stopped. She leaned up to look around and then nodded. "Thanks for that," she said to the petty officer. "Did anyone see what happened to Commander Seitha?"
Amelia shook her head. “No. But he was farther away from the two of you than I was. He might have been far enough away to avoid the tree.” She certainly hoped he was. Otherwise...