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On the trail

Posted on Thu May 9th, 2019 @ 12:33am by Ensign Sienna Nora & 1st Lieutenant Christian Rogers

Mission: From the ashes...
Location: Gharousda Three, several kilometers outside of the colony



Ensign Nora hefted the strap attached to her science kit onto her shoulder. A sense of excitement filled her as it wasn't often she got to go on Away Missions and yet hiding behind that excitement was dread. She knew full well the dangers Thalaron Radiation proposed to organic tissue. It was light, easy to spread over large areas and instantly deadly--damn the person who ever thought up the idea to use it as a weapon. Entering the Transporter Room, Nora spotted Lieutenant Rogers and several Marines already present. "I'm ready to go, Sir."

Rogers glanced up as he was addressed. The woman before him, attractive in a Bajoran kind of way, wore the right uniform and rank pips. "Ensign Nora, what defenses do we employ against Thalaran radiation?" he asked as he finished dressing for the change of assignment.

"Very little, I'm afraid," the woman admitted. "We do have specialized haz mat suits on board if needed but at the concentrations we're detecting, we should be safe. EVA Suits should also offer sufficient protection but the suits would have to be destroyed immediately after use and I wouldn't recommend prolonged exposure as the radiation can eventually overcome any protection a person is wearing."

"Thank you, Ensign," Roger said. "Hear that gentlemen? Pack the EVAs." He waited until the groans died out. For most of their equipment they could get away with the smaller transport buffers, but EVAs would require packs. Rogers turned to one of the larger men in the room. "Aday, you're with Nora, close protection, anything happens to her and all our asses are ash, clear?"

"Crystal," the sergeant said as he moved to step next to the science ensign.

"You, Ensign, have two jobs. First, you follow every order or command Steinman or any of these other Marines give immediately, no questions and no complaints...until later. We'll listen to those later. Second, you're to keep us constantly updated on the thalaran dangers. That for you is priority one, nothing else comes before it. We're in the slightest danger and you do whatever you have to do to make sure I'm informed. Clear?"

"Understood, Sir," Nora replied before she grabbed an EVA Suit from the storage closet in the transporter room, packing it into a back pack." A moment later, Nora slung the pack onto her back. "I'm ready to go, Sir."

A moment later Nora, Rogers, and the Marine Away team dematerialized on the surface of the planet. Nora immediately whipped out her tricorder and scanned the area. The sky was a soft blue with thin clouds and a warm sun shining down. Hills and mountains could be seen in the distance, filled with trees and foliage. "I'm picking up traces of Thalaron particles...and they seem to increase towards the Northwest," she reported.

"Towards the mountains, makes sense," Rogers said. "Contacts?"

"Negative," Kawolski said, continuing a scanning sweep. "But we could have interference, or some form of cloaking. Who knows what the Romulans have developed while they were working on planetary genocide."

"Okay, then northwest is it," Rogers said, as he reviewed the telemetry from the ship's scanners. "That seems to correspond with the encampment. Kawolski, on point, Steinman middleguard."

Rogers waited until the orders were acknowledged before taking step next to the ensign. They would be limited on her ability, but he also wanted to make sure he could get her out of the way in case of danger, but make sure she could do her job and keep them safe. "Bear in mind that I'm very concerned with all our safety when I ask you about a hundred thousand times what you're scans show."

Nora grinned. "I understand, sir. Trust me, if I find something dangerous, you'll definitely be the first to know." She kept her eye on her tricorder as they made their way, setting the tricorder to emit an alarm should the Thalaron particles greater than two millisieverts. The walk was a rather pleasant one, considering their surroundings. The Romulans and Vulcans had done a remarkable job in terraforming the planet. She wondered what sort of wildlife was present as she watched a four-winged bird-like creature fly overhead and land in a tree. It wasn't long before they came to the mountains. She checked her tricorder and they were bordering two millisieverts. "We're close to our tolerance of exposure. Any higher and we'll have to don our EVA Suits, sir."

"Okay, we'll take a break here for ten so we can don the suits. Warren," he said to the fourth Marine member of the group. "Send out a drone for some recognizance. Keep it low if you can, I'd rather we still go unnoticed."

"Yes, sir," Warren said, "full scan?"

"Affirmative," Rogers said, as he kept scanning the foothills rising into the mountain. They were still a couple good klicks away from the encampment but he didn't want any surprises they couldn't overcome. There were too many draws and ravines that could conceal combatants. Plus, if the bomb were still there, and they set it off...they were all dead. "Steinman, give a status report to the ship, make sure to highlight that we have nothing substantial to report and we'll start on two hour checkins."

"Sir," Steinman said, in the midst of donning his EVA suit.

"Ensign, you going to be okay? Some squints get kind of claustrophobic in these suits," Rogers said, scanning her with both eyes and mind for her true feelings.

"I'll be fine, Sir. Not a fan of them but you don't have to worry about me freaking out," she replied as she finished donning her suit. The suit was bad enough in zero-G but in a gravity environment, she felt clumsy.

"Okay, move out," Rogers ordered, now moving toward the point of the group. If shooting were going to start, they'd have to get through him before they got to his men or the ensign.

****
An alarm went off on a small console in the dimly lit cavern. Nolos jumped up and checked the alarm, turning to his assistant. "We have movement in Section 54. Prepare the weapon for transport to our secondary location. I will notify the others of what's happening." His assistant nodded and hurried off down a side tunnel. Nolos sighed--they could not afford to fight anyone--especially the Federation. The quicker the Klingons made the buy and got the weapon off planet, the better.
****

The going was slow due to various factors: the terrain, the need for use of EVA suits for what protection they could give from the radiation, Rogers's desire to move from cover to cover to remain as hidden as they could be. He had a bad feeling they were on an intersection with some bad people. It was a feeling, only, and he couldn't back it up with anything other than just an old grunt's hunch, but since he was that "old grunt" and in charge, he got to indulge in it a bit.

When they finally crested one of the ridges and looked down into a high valley, he called a stop in a sheltering lee of a rockface that rose for about a thousand meters to their side, Rogers called a halt for a ten minute hydration break. He also wanted to make sure to get current readings from his team and telemetry from the ship. His own personal mental map told him they were close to the coordinates scanned from the ship.

"We've got contact. Can't tell you much more than it's a smaller structure, well hidden back in the valley. They've got some scatterers that's preventing good scans so I can't tell you about lifesigns or weapons," Kawolski said to him, huddling close to keep their voices from carrying. Rogers looked around the side to the valley.

Wide, open with dotted stands of what Terrans would call trees, a slight breeze blew in, rustling the purplish grass. Toward the other side, a heavy falls cascaded down another cliff face, throwing up a wide misty fog toward the other side. It also helped to obscure the other side of the valley. It didn't help that the planet's sun was on the other side of zenith, casting long shadows across the meadowed valley. While there were the dotted stands of trees, none of them were close enough to provide adequate concealment while they approached the structure.

"Ensign, give us a reading on radiation levels," he ordered as he considered options. Three quarters to a klick away, it would be a long crawl if they wanted to try to get across the meadow unnoticed. There were other ways and, he grinned as he considered it.

His team was prepared and trained for it, but what about the Ensign Nora? "Got any fear of heights, Ensign?" he asked as she read her scanners.

"Radiation levels are remaining the same, Sir. And no Sir, I don't have any fear of heights....why?" she asked with curiousity in her voice. She hoped it didn't involve anything crazy.

"These thalaron particles...are they three dimensional? I mean, is there a height level to them or will they flow out in a bubble regardless?" He began contemplating their gear. "And what are your physical hobbies?"

"They are similar to normal radiation particles, Sir, in that they can penetrate unshielded objects and areas but are more dense than typical radiation. As for my hobbies, I enjoy reading, 3-D Chess, and playing the flute."

"Well, that's bad news for one of my guys," Rogers said as he looked at his men. "Kawolski, you've got a pack." Rogers said as he indicated Ensign Nora. Kawolski pursed his lips but nodded and started to remove his pack.

"I'm going to presume you're not good at rock climbing then," Rogers said. "We're going to ascend this cliff face here, come around to the encampment from above and then," here Rogers got a wild grin. "Base jump down. Presuming we don't turn to ash on the way down. Now, since you're not a rock climber, then I'm going to have you tandem with Kawolski. Once we get going, we'll be moving fast, but I want you to try to be as still as you can, but keep monitoring for dangers. Understood?"

He checked Steinman and saw that he was ready to begin planting the ropes for their climb.

Great, how did she end up in this situation? she wondered to herself. 'Next time I'm staying on the ship,' she thought. "Yes Sir," she replied as Kawolski helped her to get ready.

"I like you, Nora," Rogers said with a smile, "you just may become my goto squint for away missions." He pulled a small sack out of a side pocket on his pack and offered it to Nora. "Just in case you get a little...well...pukey."

"Thank you, but I should be fine, Sir," she said, taking the sack anyways and stuffing it into a side pocket.

There was the low sound of 'phpppts' and four strong rope lines sailed into the air and then 'thunked' as they were buried deep into the rock face. "Move out," Rogers said, waiting for Kawolski to begin his climb with Nora attached to his back.

Nora and Kawolski began their ascent up the cliff with the others beginning theirs as well. Nora took a few deep breaths as they left the safety of the path below.

It took them just short of an hour to gain the edge of the cliff. That included several course corrections based on Nora's readings, as well as a brief stop so that she could be shifted from Kawolski to Rogers. Mostly to give Kawolski a break - carrying another person as near dead weight up a cliff face could be fatiguing. But also so that Rogers could make sure he got quick information and updates. Now, at the top, as the rest were pulling up and storing the equipment, Rogers was looking around, wary.

If it were his headquarters or base, he'd have a lot more security measures in place. "Okay, from here we go quick and quiet as we can. I want to hit that base in thirty, any problems with that?" He was looking directly at Nora as he spoke.

"I'm ready, sir," Nora replied, as she pulled her tricorder out and began to scan the area. She was getting alot of interference from the minerals in the rocks, making scanning difficult and slow.

"Eyes open," Rogers said to his team, indicating they should keep up full scans. If there were other surveillance devices out and about, he'd want to know as soon as they could, hopefully to avoid them, neutralize them or prepare for discovery.

Moving at a fast pace, they crossed the ridgeline in about twenty five minutes. At the edge, Rogers pulled them up again and they once more prepared. This time for the thousand foot drop from the crest toward the encampment at the bottom. Once again, Rogers figured the scientist wouldn't be proficient in the descent necessary so she was assigned to Kawolski again, he being the "smallest" of the four and therefore their combined weight would be the least. He considered leaving her behind, or sending her back to the ship, but they weren't as familiar or equipped to handle the radiation on their own. Which meant she was still needed. Despite that he was now beginning to expect a firefight.

"Report done," Kawolski said as he also finished prepping Nora for the base jump. He meant for it to be a straight up tandem though he wasn't unaware of the closeness necessary for that and how it tended to make others a bit uncomfortable. His orders, however, had to supersede his natural affinity for someone else's discomfort.

Nora was nervous as this was a dangerous part of the mission. She had partially hoped to be left behind but knew she needed to stay close to the Lieutenant. Letting out a nervous breath, she gave a thumbs up "I'm ready."

****
Nolos checked the security arraingements one more time. The Federation would soon not even fathom what would happen here until they were at war with the Klingons, he grinned. His mentor's plan was flawless and perfect to allow the Romulan Empire to once again be feared across the galaxy.
****

 

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