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Pod 3, Part 2: Survival Instinct [PLOT]

Posted on Wed Dec 5th, 2018 @ 10:24am by Captain Malcom Llwyedd & Ensign Ashralle Sh’shrytral & Jillian Mox & Lieutenant JG Soto Gantt

Mission: Mission 4: Riding A Pale Horse
Location: Planet ZP0442
Timeline: 11 July, 2394 - 0800 Hours


Turning from the narrow slot canyon, Gantt peered around the monotonous landscape. Not monotonous in that it was lacking features but so crowded with the same feature that the image. Dull red stones and soil were heaped in squat domes like the ancient temazcal--sweat lodges. The tops were nearly as tall as he.

Thousands of the rust-colored domes dotted the land for as far as he could see. Around the mounds the ground was paler as though worn out by the passing of countless feet and hooves. They had walked past so many Gantt began to fear the shape was burned into his eyes. They had finally reached the start of a range of mountains where their path ended above a shear cliff.

Gantt hopped down from the stone and trudged towards the small cave entrance. Ash had a knack for finding things they needed. "There's a dust cloud down in the canyon. If it's locals and they know a way up then we have a couple hours."

Ash looked up from the water re-processor she had been fiddling with. That was not good news. After landing in the wastes, the three had quickly grabbed what they could (including her handy bug out bags) and sought out the high ground, hoping to find another escape pod. What they saw quickly clarified the exact situation they were in. Oddly shaped vehicles and horses zeroed on the pod, coming from all direction. Dust swirled and fighting broke out as the tribes clashed where they had landed. The trio of Starfleet personnel had watched it all from a distance, suddenly aware that they were in not just a hostile environment but had to deal with a hostile populous.

She stood, "We should go down and check it out. Maybe they are patrolling." Or coming here to kill and capture them. She grimaced and strapped her helmet on, "We might want to pack things up just in case we need to bug out of here. Jillian, do you mind staying here and putting things together? Gantt and I can venture out and see what the situation is."

"I hate breaking up the team, but that seems like the best idea." Jillian squinted against the bright sun. Looking around Jillian could see possibilities as well as risks. "I will also work on a shelter in case we can stay here awhile. Be careful my friends."

"There's a pile of drying bat guano. It's there on purpose to get potassium nitrate," said Gantt. "We won't take risks we don't have to take. Stay safe, Jillian. Do you think the high ground would let us see more, Ash?"

Jillian's laugh caught in her throat and snorted through her nose as she looked up at Gantt. "No worries, I will work on a saltpeter bed and gun powder as soon as we have some shelter." While surprised at his survivalist knowledge, Jillian was thankful that he lightened the mood a bit. "Both of you should also put on some sunscreen before going on watch." She tossed the small squeeze bottle from one of the pod's emergency bags to Ash.

Ash quickly slathered on lotion over the bridge of her nose and buckled her helmet. She hated how exposed her blue skin made her feel in a landscape of reds and oranges. She nodded to Gantt, "Let's go." The pair quietly made their way up and out of the cavern. Reaching the base of a ledge that jutted out towards the valley, the trail of red dust was more obvious. Ash squinted into the sunlight. The cloud indicted a smaller vehicle, if she had to guess. No more than a four seater. But something else moved towards them.

Jillian rested her foot on one of the smaller red rocks and breathed deeply. Facing this vast desert, she faced the fact that the equipment wasn’t working, and she wouldn’t hear from Emily anytime soon. She reached out across the nothingness trying to feel her daughter’s life force, her energy. A small wave of peace washed across her face in the warm breeze and she believed for that moment that Emily was okay. That would have to be good enough for now. Turning to their supplies she pulled out three emergency thermal blankets and looked around for a good place to set up a shelter.

She lifted the group's binoculars. The high sun made it difficult to see. Following the vibrations, she angled to the left. There...the vehicle, a beat-up dune-buggy racing toward them with a green flag. It was definitely headed in the direction of the cavern. Cursing, she began to lower the binoculars until something else caught her eye. Someone else was out there too, so close she almost missed it. The pair was almost to their cavern. Angling her head, she could see a set of individuals. Wastelanders from their clothing, but moving slowly. One seemed to be half dragging, half carrying the other. Ash blinked and turned towards Gantt. "There's a buggy heading this way but I think they're chasing someone...a pair. What do you see?"

"One of them looks injured. Maybe the buggy is on a rescue mission." This was the first sure sign the planet was inhabited. He was the people here were hunting them but maybe he was affected by Ashralle's paranoia. He turned to his companion. "Maybe we shouldn't stick out nose into local life until we know who is after who?" said Gantt, hopefully, adding a small shrug.

That would be the smart thing to do. But as Ash lifted the binoculars again to watch the buggy sped towards them, she had a creeping sense that there was no hope of rescue for the injured couple.... unless... "We need to get closer either way, just to see what is happening," Ash started back down the cavern, "I think I know where they are going anyway, that large opening close by. There is a divot we can hide behind with being seen. No way that buggy can make it through, so we will be able to watch without threat of vehicular homicide." Ash started back down the ledge, muttering to herself.

Do the right thing here, said Gantt to himself. "Hold a minute, please." Entering the cave he found a couple primitive canteens made from thin bark strips and pine glue. He draped them over his shoulder and added a length of yucca rope. He admitted that the three of them made a pretty good team. Given time the would turn this cave into a proper home. "Please don't let there be time," he muttered to himself. "Okay, Ash, lead the way down."

Cocked her head and reaching her hand out to touch a sand covered wall, the rumbles of the dune baggy vibrated up from the right. "This way, stay quiet." she whispered, before crouched and then shuffling her way towards the cavern entrance. The buggy noises had stopped but her antenna still picked up on the faint voices echoing. Once her and Gantt reached the entrance, they had a clear vision of the visitors. The sight wasn't pretty.

One of the dune buggy gang (the bright green scarf signaled his alliance) had what looked like an old six-shooter trained on the head of a young clearly distressed woman. Closer to Ash, the woman's injured companion arms were raised in submission before the other buggy member, a Terran with a dark mustache and a bald head. His machete gleamed in the afternoon light, as he held it to throat of the wounded wastelander. "Should I have you beg, Talon? Beg for your life and maybe I'll let your pretty daughter see the sunset." He leaned in closer, his smile cruel as the kneeing man's breath became more labored. "Did you really think you could steal from me and mine? Did you really think that I would allow for that."

Ash breath caught and then released. She hissed to Gantt, "Brigands."

"We have to do something fast," said Gantt. Which side was Ash calling brigands? One side, the green scarf group, accused the other of stealing while looking much more like outlaws. Trial and punishment was about to be delivered. Gantt couldn't watch that happen. His hand sought blindly for a few stones he could throw. He wished for a phaser. He wished for Jackson to appear, knives in both hands. "I have one batch of black powder that may or may not work. What do you have?"

Ash pulled out her ushaan-tor, a wicked-looking blade that looked like an unholy union between brass knuckles and an ice pick. She flipped it casually, feeling the familiar weight in her hand. A family heirloom, her mother had said, proudly presenting it to her upon her graduation from the imperial academy. Use it well and bring your family honor. She glanced at it, suddenly imbued with purpose.

Whispering to Gantt, "Stay here but be ready to distract. Throw the powder when I get in position and I'll jump the guy with the gun. Four vs Two is good numbers." And with that, Ash took off.

Startled, Gantt fumbled for the pouch of black powder. He always ended up around people with knives. All she needed was a hidden street-fighting past. "Where was I when all this hand-to-hand combat was being taught? Oh, that's right, in engineering," muttered Gantt to himself. He made a wick from unwoven pieces of the rope and waited, a survival fire starter in his hand, watching Ash. His eyes kept darting to the knife held at the wounded man's throat as though the cold edge was pressed against his own.

Good thing I've got experience street fighting, Ash thought as she maneuvered her way into position close by. The gun was trained on the woman's head. With a good distraction and some luck, this shouldn't be that hard. She looked up at Gantt and gave him a thumbs up.

This is really going to happen, thought Gantt, flashing the sign back to her. The image of the weapon firing into the woman's head played on repeat through his head. He bent back to the small emergency fire-starter in his left hand. Sending a silent prayer to the Prophets he tensed his finger and waited for Ashralle to... do something.

Ash took a deep breath and let it out. Feeling the slight vibrations under her feet, she felt her body center. Ten feet. That was all that stood between her and the gun. Sending up a prayer that Gantt would distract the machete man for enough time, she took off running. Time slowed. Mere seconds seemed to last hours as she barreled towards the six-shooter. With his back turned, he didn't notice until she was almost upon him. Even then, his reaction was too slow. Ash slammed the ushaan-tor down on the gun as he turned towards her, eyes widen with surprise. The downward force sent the gun off, just missing her feet.

Behind her and to the right an explosion sent dust and rock fragments flying outward. A smaller blast than Gantt hoped for but when he looked up the area was clad in thick, clinging smoke. Less bang, more smoke. He needed to alter how he processed the... Gantt shook his head. Time to worry about that later. He couldn't see what was happening inside the smoke and, his body coiled like a spring, he waited to see someone he could attack. Or save.

With a large bang, smoke covered the area, stinging the eyes and the nose. Still able to locate their position through those vibrations, Ash knew she had the advantage. Suddenly blind, the man in front her flailed. She grabbed his hand, twisting it with a violent wrench sideways. The gun dropped and he screamed. Ash threw a sharp jab into his solar plexus, abruptly cutting of his scream and dropping him to the ground. Yells echoed from the smoke and she scrambled forward to meet the noise.

Visibility was near impossible through the cloud of smoke and dust that seemed to be clinging together with tenacious determination. Gantt circled around. Time was short. He saw a blur of a shape with long hard. Hoping it was the woman who had been at gunpoint Gantt plunged forward. "Let me help you," he yelled as he grabbed her arm. The arm jerked away and a man growled back at him. What he thought was hair must have been a loose bandana.

A fist glanced off Gantt's forehead. He dropped to a knee and caught the toe of a boot across his temple. Leaning backward Gantt saw the man's stomach dead ahead. Gantt drove his fist straight ahead. He connected somewhat lower but the blow was just as effective. Maybe more. Nearby Ash cried out in pain. Or anger. Gantt had trouble separating those in her.

The machete man had almost caught Ash off guard, coming at her from the right rather than the left. It was only the tiniest of echoes that allowed her to get the ushaan-tor up in time to meet the incoming blade in a battle of strength. The odd angle sent unpleasant vibrations down her arm as he bared down, causing her to yell out in pain. But her block had clearly surprised the man and his hesitation was all the opportunity she needed. Sidestepping, she allowed his momentum to carry him forward, machete glancing off of ushaan-tor. Ash than "helped" his progress by sticking out her leg and catching his ankle. Machete flying out of his hand, the man's face met the ground in sickening crunch.

Gantt barely had time to react to a wild haymaker thrown by a man built more like a bear. They switched between the man throwing punches and Gantt dodging away. Suddenly the man grabbed Gantt's tunic and pulled Gantt into a neck hold. Gantt's breathing was being slowly squeezed off. He slammed his elbow back again and again. The arm loosened accompanied by a roar of pain. As Gantt slipped away a kick smashed him in the back. Gantt went down.

From his back Gantt saw the bear of a man looming. The man kicked Gantt twice times in the ribs. Once in the head. Gantt writhed on the ground, fumbling for anything. He cried out for help. His hand, scrabbling in the dirt, closed on something hard. The bear-man pulled Gantt up by his tunic and pulled back his giant fist. Gantt swung hard. The blade of a machete struck hard, dull side first. He followed as his assailant pulled away, striking again and again until the man dropped, the skin around his head split open in several places. Flipping the machete to strike edge first, Gantt looked around for Ash.

Gantt's cry of pain stopped Ash as she advanced on the prone man. Running into the smoke, she pulled up when she came upon the young woman, now in possession of the six-shooter. Surprised the her sudden appearance, the woman leveled the gun at Ash. Praying to whatever god that was listening, Ash threw her hands into the air in submission. "Peace, I am friend," she yelled.

The dessert’s lifeless silence began to feel oppressive to Jillian. “Please come back,” she whispered to the only two people she knew should be there. In the distance she heard an explosion. She hadn’t heard that sound since her childhood and knew it couldn’t mean anything good for her companions. She squinted her eyes and scanned the horizon for smoke. “Where are you? Oh god, Where are they?”

"I don't know you!" cried the woman. She kept blinking her red-rimmed eyes "On the dirt or I'll earth you right now."

Lowering herself to the ground, Ash maintained steady eye contact with the panicking woman, "I am a friend. I am not here to hurt you. My name is Ash. My friend Gantt and I are here to help." Please don't shoot me. If I get shot by some idiot earther I'll never live it down.

When the gun waved towards Gantt he dropped the machete and joined Ash on the ground. The gun remained pointed across them rather than at them. "Where are you from? And what did they do to you?" she said to Ash, moving the gun side to side as though expecting more of them.

Confused, Ash glanced at Gantt. Aside from a couple of bruises, he looked OK. Looking back at her, Ash commented "We are members of Starfleet. Our ship was attacked and we crashed on this planet. We are looking for our crew members when we came upon you. It seemed like you needed help."

"Starfleet? Which gang is that?" said the woman. Suddenly she collapsed to the ground and the gun skittered out of her hand.

"Sarah? Is that you?" A man loomed out of the dust. He stared from the Firefly's crew down to the gun at his feet, and then over at the woman on the ground. "Sarah!" He hobbled to the fallen woman's side. "Don't lie there eatin' dirt. Help her if you can."

Unsure of what to do, Ash leap to her feet and helped Gantt to his. "Grab the gun and watch the perimeter," she whisper slowly to Gantt before walking over to the pair. Kneeing down, she placed a hand over the woman's heart and listened. "Vitals are strong, no obvious wounds,...

Gantt stood slowly and took the gun. It was awkward and heavy in his hand, balanced in all the wrong places. Holding it might make someone pause if they saw him. Gantt was more interested in what Ash was doing. The whole scene, from Ash sneaking up on the strangers to now, had been so strange he felt trapped in a glitched Holo program.

"Maybe you can tell us who were you two running from?" said Gantt.

"To. Running to our own kin for protection. Never figured we'd run across,..." the man looked Ash up and down. "Help. You must be from those ships that fell from the sky."

"Yes, that would be us. I think your...daughter will be fine as long as we get her some water and shade." It was hard to know what was an appropriate temperature for terrans. Their physiology was oddly fragile and needed constant supervision. Just thinking about it sounded exhausting.

While talking, the smoke had slowly cleared, casting a haze over the cavern. Ash looked around but there was no sign of the other two men, only a lonely buggy. They must have fled. "Have you seen others like us?"

"Strange ships crash time to time. Never saw anyone like you," he said with a fleeting smile. He wiped a streak of blood from his daughter's face. "One might as fell in our territory. I'll drive us there and help you look. You doctor the girl and tell me who you are. Deal?" He stuck out his hand.

Ash looked down at the hand. She usually wasn't quick to trust new people. But the crash had left her few other options. If she wanted to get off this cursed rock, she needed help. Offering him a crooked smile, Ash shook on it, "Deal."


Lieutenant Junior Grade Soto Gantt
Structural/Environmental Specialist
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Ensign Ashralle Sh’shrytral
Assistant Chief Security/Tactical Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298

Jillian Mox
USS Firebird NCC-88298


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Comments (2)

By Cadet Freshman Grade Gianna Djokovic on Thu Dec 13th, 2018 @ 8:27pm

You guys do such great fight scenes. Can't wait til we're all back together! -Liam

By Lieutenant JG Murril Na on Wed Dec 26th, 2018 @ 9:30pm

The fight scene was well-written, but what really caught my eye was how Soto wasn't quick to assume which side were bandits and which side were victims. It was a realistic touch, and thankfully it didn't cross the line from realistic into mercilessly cynical as too many similar t.v./movies would do. The Starfleet characters were still interested in peace rather than domination, and it seemed ingrained into their beliefs. Well done!