Posted on Sun Oct 6th, 2013 @ 3:54pm by Commander T'Vel & Lieutenant Darenth Rayoon (Viscount Linosi) & Lieutenant JG Korvin M'Rowl & 1st Lieutenant Alierin Javindhra III & Staff Warrant Officer Bartholomé 'Bart' Davon
Location: Shuttlebay, USS Nimitz
Timeline: 1300 Hours, Day 1
"Murrrrrr... well then if you'll excuse me, I need to go replicate a suit. It's not the kind of thing we have just laying around." Korvin flashed another grin and made his way out with suitable haste.
The XO inclined her head towards Darenth. "Doctor, how long will it take for you to prepare your various equipments?"
"Roughly an hour. If the planet's going to be hell on our bodies then it's going to be hell on the equipment, too, so I'll have to dig around for some extra durable things. I can be in the shuttlebay at 1300 hours." He turned back to the medcart to replace his medical tricorder but stopped short, looking back at the XO. "Will you be leading the mission, then, sir?"
"It's true, the absolute worst thing I've ever seen as a doctor was a shuttle crash," Darenth said, setting down his medkit to check out the EV suit he'd have to squeeze himself into. "You'd think the entry would just incinerate the body, but Starfleet engineers build these things so well that they don't just burn up like that. It's the unregulated changes in pressure and the impact that kill you. Or mangle you and then kill you. I'll never figure out exactly how that guy's vitreous humor actually ended up inside his foot. Inside it!"
The technician going through a pre-flight checklist rolled his eyes and muttered something about needing to check a portion of the shuttle that happened to be far away from the doctor and his gruesome tales.
The shuttle bay door opened to admit the ship's only crew member with a tail, toting a tool kit and a phaser. "Heya doc," Korvin waved at Darenth and scratched his side absently while looking the shuttle up and down. "Murrrrrrr... so this is the bird eh? Not bad. Is everyone here?"
"Yes," came a voice from inside the Type-11, "just wrestling with a piece of science equipment so heavy, it would cause its own earthquake if someone dropped it to the ground." Some more grunting was heard from the inside before latches clicked into place. A few seconds later, a tanned and stocky man appeared in the rear hatch. A Staff Warrant officer as indicated by the rank on his flight suit. Close-cropped black hair, and a small beard accented his face. There was a certain ageless quality to him, like you couldn't quite pin down how old he was.
"Ah, the doctor and the security. The two scientists were here for a bit to drop off the first of their load, but went back for more. That leaves the team leader, I think." Bart cast a quick glance over their appearance and the kit they had brought, mentally calculating what to stow where. "The name is Bart Davon, or 'Trucker' if you ask the flight crew. I'll be your pilot today on the Lawrence. Up front is our agreeable Tellarite co-pilot Shor (NPC)." He ignored the indignant snort coming from front seat.
"Pleased to meet you, Trucker," Darenth replied. He peered into the shuttle and didn't see Shor's chair moving to face them, so he assumed the Tellarite wasn't in the mood for conversation. "I'm Dr. Darenth Rayoon; Darenth will work just fine outside Sickbay."
Korvin grinned as the human pilot emerged, flashing fangs. "Hey there Bart. Haven't seen you since that night in the lounge with Ravi. Trucker, eh?" His grin grew wider as though something incredibly amusing had just happened. "Well you know what they say: If you can't ruck it..." It was an old marine call. The prescribed response was 'Truck it!' although marines being who they were, saltier replies were not at all uncommon.
Bart rolled his eyes. Life in the ECS had been pretty rowdy as well, but most were close to family businesses, which kept the level of profanity down. But he had spent a six-month period shuttling Marines between various training sites across the Sol system, so he was well aware of the saucier responses.
"Well, this truck needs to be loaded and on its way as soon as possible. From what the upper red and blue shirts tell me, time is a'wasting." He glanced at their gear. "Need any help with that?"
"Nah." The tactical officer patted his toolkit with his freehand and his phaser with his tail. "This is all I've got. Be happy to give you a hand though if you've got any heavy stuff to move still."
"I'm traveling light myself," Darenth said, holding up the medkit in one hand and another case containing small equipment for his own experiments.
With the trademark sound of heavy-duty Starfleet doors parting, light from one of the Nimitz standard corridors bled into the shuttlebay before the confident striding form of Commander T'Vel revealed itself, already garbed in her environmental suit but with the helmet clasped under one arm.
Reaching them deftly, her blue eyes darting about the gathered equipment and crewman, she gave a quick nod to Darenth and Korvin. "Doctor, Lieutenant M'Rowl," she said curtly before looking to Bart. "Have you piloted under these sorts of conditions before, Mister Davon?" The half-Vulcan asked, face unchanging.
"Not on a Type-11, ma'am. At least not outside of training simulations. It's not a situation that pops up often in a pilot's career. I _have_ flown a class-F through a storm on Pacifica during the early colonization, before there was a decent weather control. That was one hell of a bumpy ride," Bart replied simply. He could understand a little why the team leader would be asking, but it still stung a little. He was proud that Lieutenant Endron had chosen him for this job, and having the XO poke at that riled him a little.
Once again, T'Vel gave one of her nods to the answer, but she was seemingly pleased. "I am certain you would not have been chosen unless you were suitable for the role," she said, but it was hard to tell whether there was actually approval or admonishment in her very Vulcan tone. "And what of our scientists?"
Bart shrugged. "They were here a bit ago with some gear I've stowed already. They could be back here any minute."
The commander's brow creased with a slight visible annoyance, breaking that firm Vulcan façade that had previously been so settled. After a glance to the chronometer, she began to utilise her suit's communications system to call them to the shuttlebay, but the parting of the doors caught her short. Instead, she turned her full attention to the newcomers.
"You have everything you need?" T'Vel asked, although it sounded slightly more like a threat with the way she voiced it.
The two scientists returned from their trip to retrieve equipment and last minute supplies. It was quite apparent that the mission was waiting on them, and one of them seemed more than a little self conscious about the fact; the other was more or less indifferent.
An androgynous looking Andorian Shen named Imaru sh'Evien was the one who seemed indifferent about the situation... as if the EVA suit she was stuffed in was something she happened to wear every day. Like several of the others, she had yet to don her helmet, and it was not hard to imagine why: her antennae were probably not looking forward to it. Barely visible under the suit was her teal uniform collar, which sported junior grade lieutenant's pips. As a biologist, she would probably not be much help in determining the specific cause of the planet's troubles, but if there was any life on the planet she was eager to document it or collect samples before the planet's seeming demise.
The other scientist was anything but indifferent. Ensign Lillian Mezira had practically been dragged, sans kicking and screaming, to the shuttlebay to suit up. Normally Lillian was the dark and mysterious type, owing to her Middle Eastern heritage, but at the moment she was anything but.... she was obviously apprehensive. Her specialty was alien anthropology and archaeology, but she also had a background in planetary science... in order to be able to understand the conditions that shaped a people and culture, and in some cases, led to its destruction. Lillian was eager to study calamitous events long after they'd transpired; as they were taking place... not so much.
"Looks like we're ready to go." The Andorian said, with the enthusiasm of one going on a routine shopping trip.
Korvin slung his toolkit and took one of the heavier looking pieces of equipment from the two scientists, carrying it to the shuttle whilst murmuring to himself in naitive Cait. It sounded quite pleasant to hear, but then he could have been cursing a blue streak and it would have still sounded quite pleasant to hear.
As he passed, T'Vel stood stoically with her hands clasped behind her back, her eyes following him so far as they could without her head turning, before then looking directly upon the two scientists once again. "Then if we are all prepared, I believe you are correct, Lieutenant," she said to the shen, "we should depart."
After gesturing for the pair to enter the craft before her, the part-Vulcan followed them in. T'Vel gave one long look to the shuttlebay before the shuttle sealed shut with a reassuring hiss, yet she inwardly wondered about what was awaiting them on the surface below - if 'surface' was even an adequate description for what was occurring on the now aptly-named 'Shaky'.
Deftly disguising the subconscious worry permeating her consciousness with a practised ease that came from years spent amongst her mother's kind, the first officer stepped to the front of the craft to where the two pilots were settled, both already entering the various appropriate commands, prompting the Lawrence to come to life.
Whilst she had confidence in those guiding the shuttle, too many missions throughout Starfleet's history had begun with something so straightforward (as straightforward as such things could be) as that now before them, yet had ended so tragically. Too regularly, as she had reminded Captain Moreno, did shuttles become slag in the interest of exploration and discovery. Yet that was their mandate, just as it was hers to not allow her commanding officer to put herself in harm's way.
Not for the first time, she found herself favouring those assignments in which she knew who the enemy was, and it was a simple case of out-thinking or out-gunning them. The same simply just was not true of scientific phenomenon.
"In your own time, gentlemen," she finally said calmly, stepping back from the cockpit to settle herself beside Korvin. Sighting Doctor Rayoon opposite her, T'Vel's eyes narrowed a millimetre, but that was the limit of it. Professionalism was key, after all. She decided small talk was not necessary.
Korvin opened the tool kit he'd brought and began to run through quick functions checks on the sundry contents therein all the while humming and purring snatches of one tune or another. At length, apparently satisfied with the state of his equipment, he snapped it shut and stowed it by the seat, flashing T'Vel and Darenth a relaxed smile as the launch sequence marched on in all its rigid predictability. Part of him wanted to start asking the doctor to resume the shuttle disaster story he'd caught the tail end of when he arrived, but he decided that probably ranked up with singing "Blood Upon the Risers" in the list of wildly inappropriate things to do at the moment. In the end he settled for observing his teammates with archetypically feline inscrutability.
"Nimitz Control, Lawrence. Pre-flight checklist complete. Requesting permission to launch," Bart spoke into the communicator. Next to him, Shor was keeping an eye on at least four different screens, showing the shuttle's status, their cargo (both live and mechanical), the shuttle bay's situation, as well as the flight plan and the latest weather information. =^=Lawrence, Nimitz Control. You are cleared for launch. Please proceed to launch position.=^= "Nimitz Control, Lawrence. Acknowledged." Bart gentle nudged the controls and the Lawrence lifted from the shuttle bay floor. He frowned as the shuttle tilted a little, as one of the bay's magnetic clamps was slow to release. It was minor, but another thing for their technicians to check over.
As the shuttle slowly maneuvered into launch position at the far back of the shuttle bay, the two pilots could see the bay doors slowly opening. Slowly the stars were revealed. Bart 'parked' the shuttled above one of the two launch pads closest to the doors, waiting for the doors to fully open.
=^=Lawrence, Nimitz Control. Be advised the Science department requested a live telemetry feed in hopes of getting data about the weather conditions. Uplink showed be showing up about now.=^= Shor snorted in annoyance. "Looks like we're going to be performing in front of an audience today. And probably, they're going to tell us afterwards all about how 'they' could have done it, and what we should have done different." Bart smirked. "Well then, the thing to do then is to show them we're the best there are." The Tellarite grinned and nodded.
The doors had fully opened, and Bart could barely see the forcefield that held in the bay's atmosphere. =^=Lawrence, Nimitz Control. Doors open. Ascent path clear. You are free for flight.
Imaru the Andorian promptly followed the pilot's advice, donning her suit helmet before fastening the safety restraints. She had to nudge her colleague into doing the same, as Lillian seemed to be engrossed in recalibrating her tricorder for what seemed like the fifteenth time since boarding the shuttle.
The Lawrence smoothly slid out into space, and gracefully turned it's nose towards the planet 'Shaky'. Though the Nimitz was in high orbit, they were close enough to see even with the naked eye that the planet was tumultuous. Roiling cloud patterns crossed the day side, while on the night side heavy thunderstorms could be seen due to the large lightning flashes. Here and there a dark plume, or a dull red glow could be seen, indicating active volcanism.
A small globe projected from the center console showed the intended flight path. Their goal: the outer foothills of a mountain range up in the temperate zone, in the middle of a continental plate. That way, they hoped to avoid the biggest lightning storms and surge winds near the equator, as well as the volcanic upheaval close to any fault line. If the projections held true, there would be enough activity at such a location soon enough.
For ten minutes or so, Bart and Shor worked in near-silence, only sharing a quick word here and there to keep each other appraised. But as they started to notice the first touches of the upper atmosphere, things turned more serious. "Ladies and gentlebeings. If you haven't sat down yet and strapped in, now would be the time to do so. We're about to begin our descent. Please have a last look around for loose objects, before they'll smack you on the head." Doing the same things himself, he pulled on his harness to confirm its fit, and he quickly glanced around FOD. Finding none, he glanced at Shor, before grabbing hold of the controls. "Down the rabbit hole we go." Slowly, carefully the shuttle started going down.
The pair of scientists were silent for the most part during the descent. Imaru said only a few words, adding commentary on some of the observations that were made by those up in the cockpit, and asking a couple of questions about atmospheric conditions. Lillian, who should have been the more observant and insightful one, given her fields of study, had taken one look at the hellish conditions below before she began whispering to herself. Anyone sitting close by, or with better than average hearing could tell that she was praying for divine favor.
It started with as usual with the low noise, more felt than heard, that always comes when a shuttle enters the upper regions of the atmosphere. However, soon enough the two pilots had to rely on their instruments more and more.
"Ash _this_ high up in the atmosphere? That must be some real gushers down there," Shor commented on some of the environmental readings. Bart merely grunted, keeping his hands on the controls, expecting the fun to begin anytime. The view out the windows had turned a dull grey, with the sun turning a deeper red as they descended.
It was when they entered the stratosphere that the real fun began.
First thing they noticed was the huge aurora's. With the planet in such upheaval, the magnetic field lines were constantly realigning themselves, resulting in these enormous aurora's. Due to the dust, they had a strange, murky color instead of the vibrant colors everybody thought of.
The magnetic fields also affected their flight, as the constantly changing activity pulled at their shields in random directions. Nothing serious yet, but there was definitely a feeling of turbulence now.
As they descended, the sky got darker and darker, as well as stormier. By the time they approached the troposphere they were pretty much shaking all the time, but control was still solid. But now they were approaching the atmospheric layer that contained the true weather systems. By now they were fully flying on instruments, trusting the sensors and HUD to provide them with all the information they need.
Breaking the tropopause, diving into the denser atmosphere, was a shock. Literally, as they were flung sideways. Bart quickly steadied their flight, adjusting to the new conditions outside. Now at cloud level, he also had to watch out for lightning. While the lightning strikes themselves couldn't be dodged, he could try and steer around the more obvious thunder clouds. Still, with the atmosphere roiling as it was, it was more hit-and-miss than a clear path. As a result, the interior of the shuttle was light up by nearby discharges, making everything inside seem to move so slowly because of the stroboscopic effect.
Whilst still conveying an image of absolute calm in the face of what was now before them, Commander T'Vel's eyes were nevertheless fixated upon what she could see of the chaos beyond the viewscreen. Whilst she had no clear line of sight, the various effects, noises and movements inwardly amazed her. She was surprised to find herself finding this beautiful in its own way, alarmed at her own awe at what transpired about them.
During her years in Starfleet, she had of course seen some tremendous and horrifying things, yet war and conflict had been the mainstay of her tenure. Whilst she had always been more comfortable in such situations, she had often wondered if she had been missing out on the splendour and mystery that renowned Starfleet explorers often spoke warmly of. Being here now, even with the inherent danger - or perhaps because of the inherent danger - she counted herself blessed to have had this opportunity... so long as no complications ended it all prematurely or badly.
Now bringing her helmet over her head, T'Vel turned to their pilots, putting aside her fancies and concerns as best she could to focus on the true matter at hand. "How long until we land, gentlemen?" She asked, unable to not note the ghastly effect of the discharges' light upon them.
Beside her the usual mirth had slowly drained out of Korvin's face, replaced by a look of intense focus. He still watched his teammates silently, but his attention seemed to be somewhere else. He glanced out of the shuttle's main viewport as lightning discharges threw the contours of his face into sharp relief, shrouding half his muzzle in flickering half-light. Then T'Vel spoke and he seemed to shake himself out of whatever reverie had occupied his attention. The smirk returned to his muzzle, almost in defiance of the danger of the mission.
"Close the shutters," Bart ground out. "Until there's actually something to see out there, the lightning is just blinding us." He vaguely noticed Shor's grunt of acknowledgement as the Tellarite polarized the windows. He needed his full attention on the controls, keeping the shuttle upright. Things were rocking the boat heavily, and without the seat belts he had no doubt they would have been launched from their seats at least a few times.
It was Shor who answered the XO's question. "We're about 6 km up, and 100 km out from the targeted landing zone. Flight time would be about 10 minutes. Landing time... Well, once there we'll first have to find a landing zone that's safe enough."
Leaving just a few seconds as she considered what now lay before them, T'Vel gave a small and unnoticeable nod. "I trust in your judgement," she said finally. Whilst the statement was not a lie, she nevertheless did not know whether their judgements - as well-honed as they may be - would be enough to save them from this natural terror and cataclysm.
As the altitude meter slowly ran lower and lower, the tension in Bart grew higher and higher. At height, there was some 'playroom' to recover from incidents, but the lower you get, the smaller that safety margin. And with the turbulence they were experiencing, he wanted as few incidents as possible.
Once they hit a hundred meters, he opened up the shutters again and turned on the floodlights. They had passed through the ash clouds, so visibility had increased, but the whipping winds and thunder still made things difficult. Occasional flurries of rain passed over them, drenching the windows for a few seconds before the winds tore the droplets away again.
"The positioning system puts us 500 meters west of the targeted LZ," Shor said. Up on the windscreen an overlay appeared, showing the major geographical features below and before them, with a marker indicating their destination. "Whomever in blue picked this site did have some considerations for us pilots," he continued with a slightly approving tone. "Those hills provide some sense of protection from the strongest winds, and there aren't too many trees we could fly in to. Also, those large boulders could provide some similar protection to the landing team."
Bart looked closely at the situational display. "Agreed. I suggest we set down here." He pointed at a small ledge. "With the back facing the ledge. It looks like the most protected site, and boulders on top of the ledge that could come down. It should give the team the easiest exit." He frowned. "But I don't think I can put her down on the ground there. It's going to be a combat drop; hovering above the ground and the team having to jump down. That'll be safer I think than being rocked around, and if things go south during the last seconds it'll be easier to get up again." Shor nodded.
"All right, ladies and gentlemen, we're nearly there," Bart shouted over the noise making it trough the insulated walls. "We've got our drop point scouted out. We're not going to actually put down, so it'll be a slight jump. There should be a ledge providing some protection right out the door. As much as possible, drop the gear first, then jump yourself last. We'll light the orange jump light a few seconds before opening the rear hatch"
Korvin unsnapped his harness and moved to the shuttle loading door at the rear, hanging on to a bar placed on the wall for just such a purpose. "Stand up, hook up, then?" He glanced back at the rest of the team, the toolkit hanging from its carrying strap and shuddering on against his leg with every minute motion of the shuttlecraft.
Carefully, slowly, Bart moved the Lawrence into position. Once there, he nodded to Shor. "Do it." Shor touched a control, and after a few seconds another one. Immediately, a howl could be heard from the back as the wind forced its way into the shuttle. Bart had to dance his fingers across the controls to keep the shuttle in place, but managed with only a slight sideways stutter.
The Caitian jumped, landing with a slight roll. It took him some effort to avoid being knocked off balance by the wind but the storms here were at least not yet so powerful as to be able to simply bowl him over. Good thing too, since the rock formation two meters to his left would have disagreed quite severely with his skull.
After righting himself Korvin looked over his shoulder to his companions still in the shuttle craft, tail swaying and smirk back in full force. "Well?" He grinned. "Are you coming?"