Day Four: The Woman In White
– I –
Bright light was causing her to squint open her eyes and she immediately regretted the decision when her mind was pierced with sensory overload.
She raised an arm to try and shield her face and found that her muscles were stiff and bruised.
Only very slowly did she recall her last conscious thoughts.
A planet where none should have been, losing control of the runabout and watching on helplessly as they plummeted towards the planetoid’s surface. A crash landing.
She was lying in a cot in the compact crew compartment and bright sunlight streamed through the small viewport.
Deen tried to stand but was unsuccessful at first when her limbs chose not to respond to her own requests. It took a few seconds before she managed to will herself to sit up and ultimately stand.
She was sense her uniform jacket or golden shirt and she quickly noticed the bruising and cuts on her arms and shoulders which apparently had been recently treated with a dermal regenerator. She also felt the presence of two small medical devices attached to her forehead which likely had helped her recover.
She removed them and then found her shirt and jacket nearby. It took some effort to get her stiff joints to bend enough to allow her to fully dress again.
Next she stepped up to the viewport to get a look at their surroundings. At first look it appeared they had crashed in a canyon of sorts and she could see steep cliff walls any way she looked. The ground looked sandy, amber-colored, like one would typically expect from a desert planet. The sky—the little of it she could see from the small viewport—was mostly gray and white, the few clouds she could spot appeared to be pulsing with energy.
Deen stepped away and left the cabin to head for the cockpit.
“Dee,” Srena immediately exclaimed euphorically when the young pilot saw the woman enter. “Are you alright?”
She offered a little smile in return. “My head still feels as if somebody detonated a photon torpedo inside but otherwise I think I just might make it.”
She saw that Xylion and Leva were also back on their feet. The former was working on one of the few operational computer consoles why Leva turned to look at her. “You may thank the ensign for your recovery. Turns out she’s quite useful to have around. Pilot, part-time medic and astrophysicist. She treated my broken arm with little effort.”
The Andorian blushed, her face turning dark blue. “It’s just what I managed to pick up at the Academy, is all.”
“And to think you only spend three years there,” Leva said with a smirk. “Had you stayed a full four years, you’d probably make us all look superfluous.”
Srena didn’t have words to offer to that.
But Deen smiled. It wasn’t very often, in her experience, that the half-Romulan made new friends. Apparently he had really taken a liking to the perky Andorian and she couldn’t blame him.
“I can’t say I remember much from the landing but it looks like we managed to pull off a minor miracle keeping the runabout in once piece and us along with it,” said Deen and stepped closer to the forward viewports which offered her a better view of the outside than the one in her cabin had.
“It is unlikely that a miracle is to be credited for our fortunate landing,” said the Vulcan without pausing his efforts to work on the computer.
“And we won’t be going anywhere soon, either,” said Srena, now sounding a lot less enthusiastic. “From what we can tell so far, both thrusters and the impulse engine didn’t survive the crash. We’re also without communications and the emergency beacon is damaged.”
“Figures,” said Deen.
“We won’t know the full extend of the damage until we’ve been able to make a full visual inspection,” Leva added.
“What about this rogue planet?” said Deen. “Have we been able to learn anything about it yet?” She could see the canyon stretch on for another few hundred meters until the ground slowly sloped upwards and towards what appeared to be mostly open terrain. But interestingly, she could now spot sparse vegetation growing in various patches along the canyon floor and even what looked like a small stream of brownish water. The exo-biologist in her was immediately intrigued. “There is life here,” she said.
“The planet actually registers as Class-M. There is an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere out there. It’s a little thin but breathable. The current temperature outside the runabout measures at thirty-four degrees Celsius and gravity is only slightly higher than standard,” said Leva.
Deen turned to look at him. “That’s remarkable.”
“I think we should get out there and have a look for ourselves,” said the eager pilot.
But Xylion appeared less fond of the idea. “There are still questions I would prefer answered before we expose ourselves to the environment. It is unlikely that a rouge planetoid within a nebula would be able to sustain life.”
“And yet here we are,” said Deen and walked up behind him to look over his shoulder. “Toxicology is negative, air is breathable, there are no signs of contagions in the air or soil and no higher life-forms according to sensors,” she added, as she read the latest report he had been able to collate. “I say we go and have a look for ourselves.”
“It may not be wise to rush such a decision.”
“I don’t think we’re going to learn a great deal from just sitting in here,” she said.
Xylion stood. “You may recall that your previous insistence on altering our planned arrangements has led us into our current predicament.”
“Guilty as charged,” she said. “But now we have to find a way to get ourselves out of it.”
“Not to mention that we will have to carry out external repairs if we want any chance to get her back into the air,” offered the Andorian.
Xylion seemed to consider this for a moment, studying the faces of the three officers around him who all seemed united in their opinion. Deen knew that he was the ranking officer and his pragmatism did not generally caused him to change his mind because the majority did not share his view. It didn’t stop her to offer him her most insistent look. It had, after all, worked the last time.
“Very well,” he finally said. “We will carry out a cursory survey but we will remain within visual range of the runabout at all times.”
Deen offered a large smile. “You got it.”
As the current tactical officer and former security guard, Leva’s first instinct had been to retrieve four phasers from the weapons locker.
The Tenarian frowned at that. “Is that necessary? There are no higher life forms out there according to sensors?”
But the Romulan was not to be swayed. “Standard procedure, Dee.”
Xylion nodded in agreement and the four officers quickly strapped on the weapons before retrieving a set of tricorders as well and then stepped into the airlock.
“Somebody remind me why I volunteered to step onto a hot and humid desert planet?” said the ensign as soon as she had stepped outside and felt the dry heat hit her skin like a brick wall.
Deen sympathized with the younger woman. As an Andorian she was naturally more sensitive to extreme heat than the others, hailing from a planet which was mostly ice and snow. It was a few degrees higher than she found comfortable as well and even Leva seemed to suffer a little. Their standard-issue Starfleet uniforms were made of material which was supposed to keep their bodies warm when the temperatures dropped and allow their skin to breath in hot weather but even the intelligent fabric had its limits and apparently it had just been reached.
Xylion was the only member of the team who seemed entirely unaffected by the climate. Not surprisingly, she thought, considering that this almost felt like being on Vulcan.
Deen’s first order of business was to take a soil sample by opening her tricorder, taking a knee and then run the sensor close to the ground. She did the same for the small stream which trickled along the canyon floor and then the few bushes and grasses she could find. “Truly remarkable,” she said again and then looked up at the sky. “There is sufficient air and water here for life but what I can’t quite account for is the light.”
Srena shot her a puzzled look.
“Did you happen to see a star on your way here?”
The Andorian shook her head. “Right. No star, no light.”
“The nebula is fairly bright,” said the Romulan. “Perhaps it’s what allowed this planet to thrive.”
Srena had stepped further away from the runabout and was closely studying some of the ragged cliffs around her. Something it particular seemed to have caught her attention. “Sir,” she called out suddenly.
The others turned to look at her.
“I think I saw something.”
Xylion raised an eyebrow. “Could you be more specific, Ensign?”
“Something's up there,” she said and pointed at a rock dais further up the cliff. “I swear I saw something move.”
“Maybe a tumble weed,” said Leva.
“I don’t feel any wind,” said Deen.
“Sensors show no indication of any higher life-forms,” added Xylion, “it is unlikely that what you saw was any kind of actual—“
The Vulcan stopped in midsentence when he spotted movement as well.
Deen and the others saw it too. There was something behind the rock and as if startled, it had suddenly moved away from them. It had only been a blur but it had certainly not been a tumble weed.
Srena had instinctively jumped backwards.
The tactical officer raised a hand towards the others, indicating for them to be silent as he freed his phaser and slowly began to move down the canyon and parallel to the movement above. He indicated for Srena to follow him but for her to stay closer to the cliff wall.
Xylion and Deen in the meantime moved towards the other side of the canyon, drawing their weapons also, and hoping to get into a better vantage point to find what was lurking above them.
Whatever it was had clearly been startled and judging by the sounds of skipping rocks above, was now moving at a faster pace, as if to get away from the curious Starfleet away team.
Leva matched the increasingly furious speed and when he spotted a break and sharp turn in the plateau above, he leveled his phaser, expecting to see whatever they were chasing to come into the open for perhaps only a moment.
It did. But it failed to make the turn and slipped instead, causing it to tumble off the cliff and towards the canyon floor some five meters below. It uttered a very human-like shriek before it landed harshly on the ground.
Leva was the first on the scene but the others were there moments later.
“By Utzvah, it’s a person,” said Srena as soon as she saw the humanoid shape, dressed in a long white dress of sorts.
Deen immediately went to her knees to turn the body and find that it belonged to a woman. She appeared young, no older than herself and with admittedly attractive features, fair skin and long flowing black hair. She was clearly still alive judging from the small groan that escaped her lips. When Deen pushed that hair out of her face to get a better look, her hand brushed against her ear and she felt the distinctive shape. She drew her hair back further and then looked up to give first Leva and then Xylion an astounded look.
Her ears were shaped exactly like theirs.