You want me to go where?!
Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Desert Arches, Typhon's Creation
Timeline: Following Campfire Meeting
A scorching hot wind blew past the group's perch, hidden in the shadow of one of the largest arches. The sun was beating down on the reddish-tan colored stone, so much so that the heat could be seen radiating off the stones. It was a small wonder that their injured Andorian friend hadn't held up well here.
Several hundred meters away, across a labyrinth of precarious and less-than-sturdy archways, the metallic frame of the rail system was visible. It was in bad shape, having visibly fallen a hundred or so meters from the rails old perch atop one of the largest arches. Where it hung now, the train was draped over one of the thicker arches. None of the cars was flat, but they weren't at all surprised to find the control car they needed was essentially perpendicular to the ground, hanging straight down over the edge, with nothing between it and a thousand-meter drop to the ground below. Saying it looked intentionally placed in the worst location was an understatement.
Dante had removed his survival jacket as the temperature had steadily risen, and stood now on the top of the ridge with it slung over his shoulder. Every part of his skin that was exposed was beaded with sweat, and he looked thoroughly exhausted. As he took in the view before them, and the ridiculous position of the train he sighed. "Well, shit...", he said.
"Honestly, that's just rude," Claire said, gesturing vaguely at the train. "I mean...you make a whole planet as a puzzle. Is that not enough? You need to put the train like that?" She looked over their path. "I think it should be steady enough though. As long as we avoid any sudden shifts in weight, we'll be alright. Shall we?"
With yet another sigh Dante nodded, "Why not, it isn't going to get any easier just looking at it.", he replied.
Niamh walked quietly behind the pair. No-one seemed particularly stressed for the moment and she needed some time to process so she could provide her best support. Something about this planet unsettled her. She put it down to the anxiety she had been feeling since the start of their predicament. That or fatigue.
As they drew closer to the carriage, Niamh checked over the inventory of her Medkit. Hopefully, she wouldn't be called to use it, but she needed to be ready in case.
Ian took up the rear of the party. Heights didn't particularly bother him, nevertheless, he had an uneasy feeling about what was going on. Things seemed a little too convenient, too laid out.
"I have a theory," he said. “Is there something familiar about this place to anyone. You know," he thought for a minute to think of the right term. “Does it give any of you deja vu, or make you feel weird?”
“Doesn’t seem familiar to me,” Claire said, looking around as they passed across the various narrow passes. “I definitely make it a point to avoid places like this. But...it is weird. I mean, we know he made this planet as some sort of puzzle. Maybe he drew on memories, past experiences, and the like?” She stepped across one more bridge, arriving on the one that housed the train, and turning back to address Ian. “Why? You think you’ve been here?”
"Not exactly. There's no place on my homeworld like this. Not even close. Except for maybe the heat. I think we share the same theory. It just seems to me that the different realms or regions, or whatever you want to call them have to be part of a pattern. I don't think he'd just come up with it randomly or on his own. So I thought he might be drawing on our memories."
Ian moved out on the bridge with her. "Hell of a view isn't it?"
"It is," Claire said, looking around. She began idly retrieving a rope from her suit belt. "Not particularly loving that it extends below us though. I think we should keep moving. You guys mind lowering me into that car?"
Dante hesitated at first, worrying about letting Claire go into such a precarious situation. Logic kicked in a few moments later, however, and he realized her smaller size, and lighter weight, made her the best choice to lower into a dangling train car without risking it falling. Reaching out he grabbed the rope she was holding out and wound it around his forearm as securely as he could. "Go slow, and at the first sign of trouble let us know so we can pull you up.", he said, looking into her eyes so she would see how serious he was.
“I’ll be careful. Believe me, I’m not loving this idea either.” She secured the rope around her waist, before giving him a quick peck on the cheek. “For good luck,” she said with wink.
"Try to stay relaxed," Niamh offered in words of encouragement.
And then the descent began. Lafayette began to calmly, gingerly climb down the rows of chairs. The train moved more than she’d like it to, and her cord rubbed against the sharper edges of the train car. She hoped the Starfleet engineers who designed it knew what they were doing.
She was about halfway down when the train suddenly shook violently, to the point that completely lost her grip. Her fingers, despite the extra grip gloves, slid off the slick metallic covering of one of the cross beams as the train car vibrates rapidly. A brief scream escaped her lips as her foot came with it. The sudden rush of air and movement happened to quickly for her to fully comprehend.
With the sudden movement, Dante lost some of his grip on the rope and was very nearly jerked off his feet before he could react.
Ian grabbed for rope. He missed it the first time and had to reach for it a second time. The weight was heavier than he expected and he was drug towards the edge almost a meter, before gaining a foothold and at least managing to keep her from falling any further.
'Good catch!", Dante said through gritted teeth as he reestablished his balance and tightened his grip on the rope. He could feel where it had cut into the skin of his hands when it suddenly began to slip through his grasp and winced, taking a deep breath to steady himself through the pain. "Are you safe to continue?", he called down to Claire.
Suddenly, Claire was no longer falling, suspended precariously by the cord around her midriff. She had fallen about a meter before the rope pulled tight and caught her fall, secured mainly by Dante’s grip above. “Shit!” Her voice echoed back upward through the train, between deep relieves breaths. “Uh...I’m ok. I think I'm good to keep moving.”
She continued her descent. Honestly, the shake from before had rattled her a little. That had been a violent movement. Not the kind of thing that happened randomly. Some part of the train was likely breaking internally. Or worse, the archway they were on was giving way. If the latter was the case, it wasn't just her that was in danger.
A few moments later, she settled extremely gently onto the control panel of the train. It was odd, being perpendicular to the entire craft. The control chairs were basically handholds for her to climb on. The dashboard itself was the ground. She retrieved a small tool from her pocket and began to remove the fastenings from the main control panel.
"Is everyone okay?" Niamh asked as she scrambled to the edge, peaking down to Claire, "Especially you, how's the waist?" the counsellor asked.
Claire was finishing severing the last few cords for this panel. “I think my waist is fine. Might escape bruising if I’m lucky.” As the last cord came free, she placed it gingerly into her pouch and began work on the other piece they’d need. “I’ve got Panel One removed. Panel Two is underway.”
Dante was still standing ready in case anything slipped, his grip on the rope still strong, and hoping like hell it wasn't going to be needed. Glancing over the edge, down into the car he could see Claire at work, and seeing her in such a precarious position caused a spike of anxiety. "Understood. Are you feeling any further shifts, hearing any tell-tales down there that we might not be able to hear up here?", he asked, the worry evident on his face.
“Nothing that I’ve notic-“ Claire trailed off mid-sentence. Something thousands of meters down the canyon caught her eye. It was a glint of light she didn’t expect. And then a series of glints. And the entire cliff wall at the end of the canyon, already barely in her view was gone from sight, behind a strange haze. A haze getting closer. Fast. Thousands of meters away, the towering wall of a surging dust cloud approached, blotting out any sight of the canyon past it as it got closer to their position.
Still looking down into the train car Dante hadn't noticed the incoming storm. "What's wrong? What did you just notice?", he asked, managing, somehow, to keep an edge of panic out of his voice.
Niamh placed a reassuring hand on Dante's shoulder once she'd gotten to her feet, "Is everything okay, Lafayette?" The counsellor asked curiously as she too peered over the edge.
While Dante may have missed the storm and Niamh seemed preoccupied with what was going on with the train. Ian noticed what he had first thought was a roan colored cloud approaching. He gave his full attention to it and quickly concluded that it wasn't a cloud at all, but something far more dangerous.
"Everyone look out," he shouted, "we've got other problems. A big storm coming in. Whatever you're doing, you better wrap it up quickly."
"You don't have to tell me twice," Claire said, hurriedly removing the second panel. She was a little less interested in caution now. She didn't exactly feel like sending the train over the ledge, but if they didn't get out of here soon, the sandstorm would do that for her. She severed the last cord and slid the panel up safely and placed it in her pouch. "It's done. Reel me in!"
Ignoring the fact that the storm was bearing down on them for the moment Dante planted his feet as sturdily as he could. "Let's do this. We need to get off this ledge as quickly as we can.", he said, and then started to pull hand over hand to bring Claire back up out of the train car.
Niamh followed Dante’s lead and took up position behind Ian and began pulling at the rope.
Ian glanced up at the approaching storm which was noticeably closer than it had been just moments before. Time was definitely running against them He added his own strength in the effort to pull up the woman dangling below them.
With the combined efforts of the three officers, Claire was soon clamoring back onto the rock bridge. They had little time left though. The storm was closing in on them and there were only a few places that would provide shelter from the assault if they failed to get to the cave in time.
"Much appreciated, now let's get the hell out of here!" Claire said, as they began racing across rock bridges, going as fast as they could without ensuring someone would fall to their deaths.