Observing the Unknown
Posted on Wed Jun 24th, 2020 @ 3:51am by Captain Nycolas Temple & Lieutenant Commander Mindo & Lieutenant Ziara Rrareth & Lieutenant John Sandoval & Lieutenant Krysia Kaleri-Smith & Lieutenant JG Vecon Fick
Edited on on Fri Jul 10th, 2020 @ 6:03pm
The Evils Within
Location: Hesiod Green
With the Pandora suddenly out of communications range with the shuttle, the second Away Team was left with a difficult situation. They had just discovered a sentient, indigenous species living within the rocky mountains of Hesiod Green, but with no way of knowing for sure if the aliens were aware of the Federation facility which had been built on their planet. The Pandora crew had identified some details of their culture - a massive, above-ground cemetery in a nearby crater, the signs of some forms of primitive technology, and their ability to survive this barren world by burying themselves within the landscape - but it was completely unknown if the Prime Directive had been breached. It was decided, therefore, for the shuttle to land in a safe location nearby the inhabited mountain and observe the species from afar. Fick had brought the shuttle down on a plateau that overlooked the mountain, and the rest of the team hid from sight as they awaited some movement.
It hadn't taken long for the Away Team to get their first glimpses of Hesiod Green's population. About half an hour after the earthquake, a small group of aliens emerged from the base of the mountain, dragging along with them a two-wheeled cart. The aliens were shrouded in heavy cloaks, with hoods drawn, and masks over their faces. They appeared humanoid in physical features - two legs and arms, generally around 5 to 6 feet tall. The group communicated in basic hand signals, as two of the aliens picked up the pulling bar at the front of the cart and used their own physical strength to move the vehicle. Two more stood at the front, while two trailed behind at the back, as if guarding the cart. Inside the tray of the cart was a large mass, covered by a blanket, but could have only been a body. One of their own had died and the aliens were going to dispose of the corpse.
Krysia observed the goings on with interest, this was more or less a first contact situation under the worst possible circumstances. "Why would these people believe us if we did make contact with them. As far as they're concerned we're destroying their civilisation!"
Mindo furrowed his brow in thought. "You think our research station has something to do with the earthquakes?" he asked, looking down as the rest of the landing party was observing the unknown funeral tradition.
"Anything possible, but this isn't merely a research station, too many secrets. We are here to observe and report. If they see us, then we'll need to kidnap them for a quick memory wipe so we don't breach the prime directive. If things really go south, Sandoval gets to talk for us. Can we scan them, see if they have any oddly advanced tech?"
"Agreed," John said to Ziara's plan.
Fick sat down at a console and started to tap across its surface. "We can scan them... and unless they've got some oddly advanced tech they really won't even be aware of it happening. Want me to do that?" He looked around at the gathered group.
Ziara nodded, "Do it, we need as much information as we can."
As the procession continued, one of the aliens at the front of the cart began to talk. He was reading aloud from a sermon, his voice carrying through the valley of rocks. "We commit you, brother, to the winds of this world. Your soul has been uplifted and your possessions have been repurposed to sustain the lives of our community. Your body will become one with the planet, in the hopes that it will live again."
"One with the planet." The others murmured in unison.
Krysia watched with interest, observing the rituals of the planet's natives.
"Interesting ritual. Not unlike so many others of its kind," Fick commented. "Lots of people bury their dead... some even set them on fire."
"My people fire a coffin into the void to wander the stars forever. However, this feels different from just a burial." Ziara commented.
Meanwhile, back at the entrance to the mountain, a larger group of aliens slowly appeared. They were all wearing robes with hoods, and masks over their faces. Most were full face coverings, but some just had a respiratory, breathing mask over their mouths. It was apparent then that the aliens were not immune to the toxic air of the planet, but were seemingly equipped for it. The group swelled in numbers until there was at least fifty of them standing together, before they too started to follow the dirt track in the same direction of the cart. These were the mourners; evident by their audible crying and quietly sung hymns. Every now and then, they would all murmur, "One with the planet" together.
Krysia looked to the others. "Perhaps some of you could disguise yourselves and go down there? I'd volunteer to go but I'd stick out like a sore thumb!"
Hearing this, Mindo sighed. "I'd be a pinky." He added then, "If one of you is thinking of disguising me as a child, I won't do it!"
Fick was laughing softly. "I'm not going to pose as a child either... so there. That makes two of us." He held out a "high-five" palm toward Mindo.
Mindo looked up at Fick's outstretched hand and made a jump for it, missing, then another, missing again. Mindo grunted. "Really Fick? A high five?"
Fick stuck his tongue out at Mindo, playfully. "It's not my fault your aim is bad..."
John couldn't help but smile as he looked at the assembled members. "I think we all stick out in our own way. Ziara most of all, I'm afraid. If we can fashion a disguise, maybe I go in with one or two more? We say we were part of a group from another community, but my leg slowed us down and we got separated?"
"Full face masks, full gloves, with what they're wearing I think I could probably pass. Mindo doesn't have to be a child, he could just be a midget." Ziara playfully winked.
"For our circus act we're putting together. Which is what we're gonna look like if we go down there. We're supposed to stay in here, not mingle with the natives..." Fick said. He leaned back in his chair and continued to watch out the view screen.
“True,” John acknowledged, “but we do need to learn more.” He looked to Ziara. “And you’re right. With complete coverings, none of us should have a problem fitting in, unless this is the only community and any outsiders would draw suspicion.” He looked to the person in command. “What are your orders?”
Mindo took a look out the window at the crowd of people gathered for the equation. He let out a sigh and rubbed his eyes before answering, "Normally, I'd say get out of here before we're noticed and report back to the ship to avoid first contact with a pre-industrialized people. However, there has been a Starfleet presence here for some time. I think it's vital to our mission that we learn everything the people here know about us and why we're here."
Mindo continued. "We can't go out looking like this, and we can't take any kind of technology we don't need. We'll keep our comm badges hidden and Lt. Fick will take one tricorder to be hidden and used quietly when needed. We have masks for the six of us, and we can take the two spares as well. Their masks don't look much different from ours. I don't think they'll attract any attention. Lieutenant Kaleri, you'll be in charge of medical equipment. Bring conventional items, nothing fancy. I don't want them worshiping us as gods after seeing a hypospray. And no phasers, same reason. We can dirty up some of the backup coats in the shuttle's emergency storage to wear over our uniforms and blend in. Any other suggestions?"
"I, T'Kemi, and perhaps Sandoval should take a type one phaser, it's small size makes it easy to conceal. If we need to use a phaser, they'll already think we're gods, or demons. Kaleri should probably also have a medical tricorder. I've got some blank gold and silver coins we can use for trade if we have to. This getup gives us plenty of places to stash things." Ziara suggested.
"Coins are a good idea. I think taking some rations would also be a good idea. Food may be more valuable to them than money," said Mindo. "As for phasers, I'll defer to your judgment on that, Lieutenant."
Ziara and T'Kemi went to the bags they had packed. They had packed heavy, bringing more stuff then they needed just for a situation like this. Ziara reached into a pouch and pulled out a worn leather bag that clinked. She came back and handed the tiny type one phaser to John. "I don't think we'll need these, so concealment over access." She instructed him before starting to get dressed in the concealing coat and masks.
John hated the idea of carrying a weapon, but moreso he hated the idea of him or his comrades dying needlessly on an alien world. And, he thought with a smirk, if he died because he wasn't prepared, Emmanuelle would kill him.
Krysia looked towards Mindo. “Sir, Are you sure I’m not going to be more of a hinderance than a help out there? We have no idea if they have any children, or indeed if they carry a child the same way we do. I might stick out in a crowd in more ways than one.”
Mindo shook his head. "As Counselor, you've had medical training at the Academy and Starfleet Med. That's vital to our mission. As for your... physical appearance, I believe it should easily be hidden under your coat." He put a hand on her arm. "I'm sorry, Counselor. We need you."
Krysia nodded. "I understand Sir, I'll do my best not to slow you down."
Mindo nodded and turned to address the rest of the party. "I just want everyone to know I've weighed the possibility of this being a good course of action versus the possibility we're doing something really stupid, and I think we should do it anyway. Any further suggestions, comments, or much better ideas?"
John held up his cane. "I might lean on this quite a bit. For one because the terrain is rough, but also slowing us down helps explain why we were separated from others."
Fick looked up from the screen at the team standing around him. "I'm sort of in the "something really stupid" opinion. Maybe someone should stay here just in case you guys disappear or something?" He made no move to rise or get ready to go in any sort of way.
Mindo frowned and realized his situation. A Chief Engineer would be better to stay back with a navigator to keep the shuttlecraft in working order. Engineers weren't often meant to lead away teams. But Mindo was unsure he wanted to stay back with Fick. The two hadn't been ignoring each other since their last, difficult talk, but being there sitting around with Fick would be nerve racking for Mindo, even since they'd gotten closure on their issues. At the same time, Mindo wanted Fick around for this mission. Fick was a fast thinker and very resourceful. His quick thinking would be every bit as useful as his charisma and temperament with the natives.
He turned to Fick. "Putting safety measures on the shuttle shouldn't be too hard. Do you think you could conceal the remote device in your coat? If we need to get out of here, we can use that to call the shuttle and put it into position."
Fick looked for the remote and picked it up when he spotted it. "I'm sure I can..." He stood and stretched casually. "I suppose I have no choice, but to go, but I am going under protest." Even though his tone was serious, he smiled and started to prep what was going with him.
"Duly noted," said Mindo. "Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't choose this course of action either. But we must learn everything about this society and this world as we can. If you have a better idea, now's the time."
John shook his head as he finished getting into character. "Nothing from me, Lieutenant."
With that, the Away Team started their preparations in haste.