New Boots, old Ground
Location: USS Zambezi
Summary: Four Black Hawk offers take a runabout to Sadoria and explore a military airfield.
Timeline: Mission Day 21 at 1600
Charlie sat at the helm console of the USS Zambezi and tried not to fidget, he'd already run through the checklists and brought the runabout to readiness for departure, he was simply waiting for the rest of the away team to show up. There would be intelligence, science, and medical personnel coming down on the first trip. and Lieutenant Ryler from science would be the ranking officer. He was just fine with that, being in charge of the away team was a responsibility that he was quite happy to not have to deal with, though he was surprised to discover there was a part of him that was faintly disappointed.
Zayna wandered over to the Zambezi and glanced in. "Afternoon, Lieutenant. Why did I agree to be in charge here?" She smirked but honestly was okay with it. "Though of course I only have half an idea of what is going on. That's what I get for trying to hunt down something else happening on the ship. Who else do we have again?"
Petty Officer Klim Sokamin entered the cockpit in full Zakdorn disdain. "What a waste of resources this is," he muttered, not minding at all that he entered a room with two lieutenants. "We should be out searching for pirates, not studying a dead world." Being the least senior by terms of rank, Klim sat down at a rear console and began to probe the computer in order to get a better feel for the sensors.
Charlie looked up at Zanya, giving her a smile, her honest candor put him at ease. "Good afternoon, ma'am. We've got petty officer Sokamin here, and, uh... Lieutenant Blake is coming from medical, I think. I guess we're going looking for, uh... stuff." He leaned over to get a look at the petty officer sitting in the back and thanking his stars, yet again, that he wasn't in charge. "If there's any evidence of pirates being here, I'm sure the petty officer will find it."
Dani boarded the Zambezi with her gear and took a quick look around. She didn't recognize anyone already inside, but had a feeling that would change before this was all over. "Sorry, I'm late," she said, quickly taking a seat after securing her gear. "Are we waiting for anyone else?"
Charlie got started with preflight, the engines were ready and the checklists were done, all he needed was the go-ahead. "I think that's, uh... everyone. Permission to depart?" He asked Zanya, deferring to her senior rank.
Klim looked back and forth between the science officer and the pilot. Though Lieutenant Ryler technically outranked the pilot, wasn't Lieutenant McCullen higher on the Black Hawk's chain of command? Still, this was not a matter for him to decide. If anything were up to him, he'd still be back in the comforts of the intelligence center, shifting through the morning's new information packets.
Like Klim, Dani looked between the pilot and science officer. As a department head, McCullen outranked Ryler, but if he wished to allow to defer to her, that was his call to make. For now, she planned to sit back and enjoy the ride down to the surface.
Glancing at the others, Zayna smiled. "Technically, Lieutenant, you get to handle most of this. Remember," she said as she took her seat, "I'm only an assistant chief."
Well, shit, Charlie held back a grimace, twisting it into a wry grin instead. He had hoped to get away with his little scheme to put Zanya in charge, but she'd dropped that potato right back into his lap. "I suppose I do," he told her in leu of anything intelligent to say, finishing the prep for departure and then hitting the comm button, "Zambezi to Black Hawk, we're departing."
Charlie got the affirm from the 'Hawk, ran his eyes over the status panel once more looking for problems, came up with none, and then initiated the launch sequence, lifting the runabout up off the pad and backing her out slowly from the shuttle bay. He mentally squared his shoulders, glancing across at Zanya. If he was going to be in charge... "Lieutenant Ryler, could you keep an, uh... monitor the stratospheric conditions, please, I'd like to avoid any surprises, on, uh... the way down." For a moment the young helmsman had a memory of his mother sitting in the captain's chair, dolling out orders. It was a bit of a shock to hear a shadow of that same commanding tone echoed in his own voice. "Chief, please keep a lookout for any indication that anyone has been here before us, a dead planet would make a pretty good pirate base. Lieutenant Blake, if you could keep an eye on the atmospheric composition as we go down, that'd be, uh... great."
"Understood, Lieutenant," Dani acknowledged.
Zayna smirked and nodded, "Not a problem." She set the sensors to monitor the conditions and then went over to McCullen, "I'll help all I can, if you do truly want me in charge I don't mind. I have command experience in the past." Smiling, she went back to the seat she was in before and adjusted the sensors a bit more.
Klim assumed that the Chief the pilot referred to was him. It was an easy assumption to make, considering he was the only non-Lieutenant in the runabout. "We won't be able to get a clear picture of anything until we pass through the mesosphere. Early reports indicate that scanning range is limited. So far, everyone is gathering at a metropolis. We can either start there, or we can do some exploring and see how extensive this civilization was."
OOC McC: I thought we were the first shuttle down?
OOC-HG: technically, we’re the second: https://blackhawk.anurasims.com/index.php/sim/viewpost/1700
Charlie grinned at Klim, pleased to see the petty officer was getting into the spirit of the mission, "let's explore!" He declared boyishly, excitement overruled embarrassment. "Based on visual scans there's a large city on the southeastern coast of the second-largest continent, how about we start there?"
"I'm for bigger cities, though wonder if we can find some nice scenery to look at too." Smiling, Ryler double-checked the readings of the area. "Sometimes I do hate limited scanning range."
"Right," the helmsman agreed as the shuttle moved out of the bay into space, he spun her around to face the planet and set a course for entry interface. "I think we can do a bit of both if we land on the outskirts of the city, and... uh, we should probably wear tactical belts." He suggested, "procedure and all that."
"Quite appropriate," commented Petty Officer Sokamin. "Would you like some assistance in locating an appropriate landing site, Lieutenant?" The Zakdorn didn't particularly care where they landed, and assumed the pilot already had something in mind. Still, it would be inappropriate to not be ready with a suggestion if desired.
"Uh, yes, please Mr. Sokamin," Charlie responded, he had already picked out a couple of prospects, but he felt it was better to keep the petty officer involved as much as he could. He'd learned early, even before attending the academy, that very often senior enlisted people were the most knowledgable and experienced people in Starfleet and it paid dividends to respect that.
Zayna listened in while glancing out the window. "Long as it is somewhere stable, I honestly don't care too much."
A few seconds later, Klim sent three possible landing sites to the helm console. The first was on the city's coastal edge were several dock-like structures had been in long disarray. The second was an airfield with several strange vessels, a mix of possibly civilian and military. And the third was akin to a suburban area. "These are merely suggestions, Lieutenant," the Petty Officer spoke up. "You are under no obligation to accept them."
Dani kept relatively quiet as she monitored the atmospheric composition. As a nurse, much of this was completely out of what she normally did, so it was best to let those who knew what they were doing make the hard decisions. Now... if someone were to cut themselves open, that would be more in her realm of knowledge.
Looking at what the Petty Officer had suggested, Zay looked over at Charlie. "Might want to avoid the airfield, but that's just a thought. No way of knowing what we'd fly into with that."
The siren call of the airport and its various, interesting, fascinating flying vessels was hard to resist. The coastal area would give them the best variety of biomes and the residential area would tell them most about the people. He turned it around in his mind for a moment, trying to decide on the best course. It wasn't long before his heart won out, "we're aiming for the airport," he told the away team, adjusting the runabout's course to put it on the right flight path.
Klim nodded at the Lieutenant's decision. "The airfield, Lieutenant Ryler, may actually be the most stable and secure of all of the possible landing zones. Wide open spaces, few places for any dangers to hide. Plus, it will give us valuable insight into the technological advances of this civilization."
"Uh, yeah, that's what I was thinking," Charlie replied, looking up briefly to shoot a grin at Klim for giving him a legitimate reason beyond 'ooh! cool flying machines!' to choose the airfield. "Look out for energy signatures," he suggested as a thought popped into his head, "if it's a military airfield it might have, uh, automated defenses or something."
"And that's assuming that power systems are still active after more than a hundred years," Klim remarked. "But I will keep eyes open for defensive systems and measures regardless."
Dani wondered if she was allowed allowed an opinion, but kept it to herself for the time being, but she did wonder how they managed to get away without Security tagging along. One of their drones would certainly come in handy for scouting ahead.
"The defenses were my worry with the airfield. But, as long as we keep an eye out, we should be okay." Zayna glanced over. "Daniella? You're being awful quiet."
The petite woman turned her attention toward Zayna. Was she some kind of mind reader or something? "Am I?" She questioned. "I don't suppose I have much to say at the moment. Besides... landing locations are out of my realm of expertise. Though, it has been a century or more since this place has seen any kind of life according to reports. I seriously doubt any defensive systems or measures would be up and running without some kind of maintenance."
Zayna grinned, "A bit out of my expertise too honestly, but I am just going with the flow." She then looked to the others, "But she's right. Would be surprising if anything is still online."
A few minutes later, the runabout was approaching the airfield. It could be clearly seen from the forward window now, and sensors were finally able to start giving them some valuable information. Klim reported, "I'm picking up several small craft, more than six dozen. Definitely military. Looks like each craft is armed with mechanical weapons, traditional gunpowder-based systems. There's some projectile items as well, but I'm not getting any power signatures. No lifesigns either, but definitely getting a lot of biological decay."
Shifting where she was sitting, Ryler looked over Klim's information. "Biological decay is an understatement. Nothing has touched those things in who knows how long. Can't tell for sure unless we can get closer or get a sample."
It wasn't long before the runabout made its approach and touched down. The engines were soon powered down and the side hatch opened. Due to some unexpected mechanical issues upon landing, Lieutenant McCullen remained with the runabout to perform an inspection.
Petty Officer Sokamin was one of the first people out of the runabout. His tricorder was already active and recording everything it was reading. The airfield was both populated and desolate. Most of the aircraft was lined up nicely, save for a row of haphazardly parked planes. Several of the crafts had been reduced to rubble, yet none of the damage appeared to be caused by weapons. "I'm detecting several corpses," he informed the crew. "Some are seated in the aircraft. Others near ordinance."
His tricorder beeped intensely. "I'm picking up a cluster of radiation," he announced. "It appears several of these warheads are thermonuclear in nature, and several of the warheads are decaying."
"Decaying warheads? That is not a good thing." Zay flipped open her own tricorder. "And I don't think we're going to find anyone alive but ourselves here."
"I think your assumption is correct," said the Zakdorn with a heavy sigh. "We should try and find a command post. They should have enough information to help us determine what happened. We should also get a few detailed scans of these aircrafts and weapons to determine the stage and capabilities of this species at the time of their demise."
Zayna nodded. "Might be our best bet." She looked at the others. "And then maybe head back out once we have what we need?"
"I would suggest the command point," Klim stated. He looked around the airfield, looking for a building that might serve best for it. Most of what he saw were hangars or fortified bunkers, likely where the munitions were being stored. He almost suggested they try one of those, but if the other warheads were failing, then there would certainly be high concentrations of radiation inside those facilities. "There," he said at last, pointing to a building half a kilometer away that didn't look like any of the others.
"Then I say let's head up there, get what we need, and get going. Aircraft full of dead bodies gives me the creeps a little." Ryler started to head that way, looking back to make sure the others were coming too.
Klim started to follow the lieutenant. He wondered if it was worth observing that the building would likely be filled with dead bodies. In the end, he elected to keep slient.
Dani followed behind the others. She wanted to examine some.of those bodies, but it seemed the rest of the group had other plans. The petite woman kept quiet as she walked, wondering if they would find any answers to the many questions in her mind.
Zayna led them towards what they figured was the command point. This was somewhere she didn't want them to stay for long, but if they could get the information they were needing, it was worth the creeps. "I'm not sure what worries me more: the fact that some of them died in their aircrafts, or the still possibly active weapons."
"Based on the positioning of the weapons on the field, and the state of the aircraft," Klim observed, "it doesn't look like anyone was scrambling to fight. But a hundred years of weathering has destroyed any real clues. Hopefully the Command Post will have answers."
"Then lets get there and get back up to the ship. We'll get what we can, but we don't want to end up accidentally triggering anything." Zayna looked at the others and continued on.
It wasn't long before the team arrived at the command post. The building, once surrounded by glass windows, now allowed the wind to move freely through the building and down the halls. Plenty of skeletons had been strewn about, but all in chairs or couches. If there was a firefight here, there wasn't any evidence of it.
"We need to find the commander's office," Klim suggested. "Or a command station. And be on the lookout for any log books or papers that might give us some insight."
Zayna's eyes scanned around then, and looked at the skeletons, as they walked. "I think I'll need a relaxing time in the holodeck after this. But, it doesn't look like any of them did any fighting, they were just going about their day." She shook her head and looked for any books, papers, or stations that might help them. "More happened here than I think we realize."
Dani continued to follow behind the others as she took in the sights around him. It was true that there was no physical evidence left behind that they could see, but that didn't mean there wasn't anything to be found. "Might I suggest taking fabric samples? There might be something inside that might tell us what happened here."
"Makes sense. Grab some from here and we'll grab some on the way back to the shuttle as well." Zayna knelt down and grabbed a bit of cloth off one of the nearby skeletons.
Klim continued walking, recording all that he could with his tricorder. Even with the building's windows absent, there were residual traces of radiation everywhere. He hoped it wasn't something that couldn't be treated. As he continued deeper into the structure, he found a closed room. One skeleton stood to either side of the door, the bodies laid in a heap, as if they were standing and just fell over. A scan of their uniforms revealed no presence of foul play. The soldiers, however, were armed. The rifles and pistols they held were projectile based, employing no electrical components at all.
The Zakdorn, based on this evidence, was led to believe that this room housed some sort of command center. He opened the door and was greeted instantly with a very bright light, coming from a series of high windows and skylights. The room was filled with skeletons, at least a couple dozen. Two banks of computer stations were laid out in rows on a lower level. The upper level featured different boards and maps, as well as a table with different bodies laying over it.
"Fascinating," Klim muttered.
Zayna came in behind Klim and her eyes went wide. "Wow. Get what you guys can get from the computer stations, if you can get anything at all. I'll try to get the tricorder to get a recording of these maps. Maybe we should have brought a holo-camera." She made her way through the skeletons towards the maps. To her, this was looking more and more like an unexpected and deadly explosion that no one had time to react to. But, from where?
"There might be a camera on the runabout," Klim suggested. Naturally, he wasn't too familiar with the craft, so he couldn't be sure. He figured one could replicate a camera, but that's a lot of time to walk back and forth.
His attention, however, was properly distracted. "This is interesting," he remarked, looking at one of the boards. A paper map was pinned to it, though it had aged and started to tear. Several pins had been placed in various points throughout the map, and strings connecting each one. "Something definitely happened on this planet, and the military knew." He followed the strings to a place where they all intersected. "Is this where we landed?"
While Klim and Zayna did their thing, Dani carefully pulled various sample of the fabrics and placed them inside sterile specimen containers. If there was anything worth seeing, then maybe these fibers would hold some kind of clues.
Looking over towards Klim, Zayna wandered over. "Pretty damned close." Her eyes skimmed all the strings. "They knew something was going on..."
"Yet they all died at their posts," Klim observed. "No sense of urgency. No sense of preparation. Maybe we should get a camera and report this to the ship. It might be worth exploring these different coordinates," Klim gestured at the different pins, "to see what evidence we can collect."
"Completely agree. This needs to be seen." Zayna looked at the map again. "We wouldn't have time to go to all of them. Maybe we should see if any of the other teams are near them? But we do need that camera."
It took Klim eight minutes to return to the runabout, replicate the camera, and return to the building. "Lieutenant Blake," he asked, "how are we doing with the radiation exposure? I don't believe the levels have intensified, but it is nerve wracking walking around knowing that radioactive warhead have been compromised."
Dani glanced at her tricorder after she stored her last sample. "We're still within safe parameters for the time being," she answered. "I'm not entirely sure how long that will last, though. My advice? Let's get what's absolutely necessary and leave before the levels have a chance to rise."
Klim took several images of the maps and boards. There was much left behind for them to study, especially since there wasn't any single item indicative of what had happened. Dozens of clues were in front of them, but nothing that provided complete clarity.
"Well, one bit of good news," Zay said looking to Dani. "But yeah, we need to get what we can here and get out. We can sort things best we can from the images. However, try to get the whole room if you can, Klim."
"Aye, Lieutenant. I'll need a few minutes." With that, Klim activated the recording mode and slowly began to move around the room.
Looking back at the maps, Zayna just took in all she could from them. "They knew something was going on, but maybe not how bad it would be," she whispered.
Dani replaced her tricorder and made her way toward the others. "Do we have everything we need? I would rather not stay here longer than absolutely necessary. Not without knowing what happened here at least."
"I've got what I need," Ryler looked to Dani then over at Klim, "Are we good?"
Klim deactivated the recorder and returned to the two women. "I've got everything I can get. Let's get out of here and back to the ship."
The trio left the room, leaving it almost exactly as they had found it. Hopefully, their findings would help the dead finally find peace.