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Cmdr Baul, Lt Ryan, Lt. Shran, Lt. D'Gracefull, Lt. Sha'mer | "Snow and Ashes"

Posted on 02/06/2021 @ 2:47pm by Lieutenant Una Ryan & Commodore Rochelle Ivanova & Lieutenant Commander Dex D'Gracefull & Lieutenant Ra'lin Sha'mer & Lieutenant Anaxar Shran

Mission: Genesis
Location: Arizona Crash Site

The orders had come quick, sharp, without warning from a man who had seen brighter and better days. His logic seemed sound enough, but his mind troubled most. Like a ghost, Dahe'el had drifted in a triangle from bridge to ready room to his personal quarters ever since the news of the Commodore's death had broken. Rumor and speculation about the intensity of their relationship had been a good source of entertainment, but the vast majority of the crew were crestfallen.

That morning, Starfleet had laid Commodore Rochelle Andreevna Ivanova-Irelle to rest. By afternoon, a select few of the crew had been chosen to go down and secure the crash site. Ethel had been chosen to go along for the sake of morale and emotional support. It made little sense, but it was something to do and worth the observation experience even if it was frigid cold on that remote ridgeline somewhere in the middle of Arizona's version of nowhere.

With Security and Science and whatever it was that Ra'lin was doing all preoccupied with the crash site, Ethel took the chance to stand and watch the way encroaching snowfall began to swallow the deep canyon and mountain peaks around them. It was a bizarre, eerie sight. A blanket of silver and white turning the world from a place of color into a monochromatic... Tomb. Pulling up her parka's hood, the Counselor refused to succumb to shivers.

Lieutenant Ryan was so new to the Vindicator, she had barely had time to put her bags down in her quarters before being called to form a security detachment for an away team. She glanced around at the mustard collars as they fanned out, sticking close to the science and engineering teams they had beamed down with. Una didn't have a clue what anyone's name even was and discreetly used her tricorder to scan the commbadges around her, repeating names in her head.

Una Ryan looked around the scene, her hair being tossed around in a cold wind that had formed, the skin on her ears feeling the brunt of the weather. She loved the cold, loved the feeling of a crisp wind that made her breath visible. She felt alive in this weather. It looked like they may even get hit with snow, it might be the last time she got to experience that for a while.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Commander D'Gracefull was having a bad day, not as bad as the XO, Dex had actually grabbed the unlucky Engineering technician that had spread the rumor that the Captain had grabbed the XO's shuttle by mistake, that if she had taken hers, she would have been fine. Dex realized he had the screaming crewman with their feet up off the deck and was shaking him like a rag doll when he had blinked and four engineering crewmembers were trying to pry his hand off of the unlucky man's coveralls. After releasing the aforementioned person and telling him to get lost, a shaking Dex had turned to Chief petty officer Laconsai and told him, "Any Mission Critical watchstanders are excused, but I want all other personnel not actually on watch in the hangar bay, ready to launch on the first or second shuttle. Chief, you stay here and make sure nothing sneaks upon us."

First, the heavily altered shuttle - with not just one but two class one sensor packages 'space duct taped' to the hul -l took almost 3 hours to get everything ready to launch. The facts that they were being sent down almost a week after the crash - that there even was a crash - were unacceptable. Dex was sure that Starfleet intelligence was responsible somehow. Shuttles did not just fall from the sky, there were backup systems and redundant backup systems and the coms system was isolated to keep a system problem in another area from crashing that system as well. Something stunk and it wasn't greasy engineer stress sweat.

Dex had a communications officer run a check on all comm traffic in the area where the shuttle crashed. Nothing... Which was odd in and of itself. Someone was always talking about something, and suddenly no one in a 100-kilimeter radius was emitting any electromagnetic signals of any kind. Talk about the right hand of Starfleet not knowing what the left hand was doing. That violated several protocols, but the investigation was not even being held properly. Someone was covering up something and he was going to get to the bottom of it. Even as he pushed his people hard, most of them did not even voice a complaint or hesitate, everyone leapt to help in any way possible.

One of their own was gone, and heaven help anyone who got in their way.

His original 45-minute promise had turned into 6 hours before the search was even starting to show progress. The huge area had little pieces everywhere. His preparation did not even come close to making the job easier, each time the sensor pinged on a part of the shuttle, one of the crash teams had to document and scan the area and recorded precisely what parts of the missing shuttle were located where. So far they had parts of the crashed shuttle scattered over 16 square kilometers.

Then there was also scanner feedback from some of the various mine shafts that crisscrossed the area.

Dex had first looked for the nacelles in the quartzite area of the Brown's Peak when sensors had a hit off of what he had thought were parts of the shuttle, but it was way too far away from the impact site to be the it. Irritated, he started recommending armed security personnel be sent with away teams anywhere other than the main crash site, just in case. So far he was learning way too much about quartz-mica schist and its effect on sensor readings. At first, he could not tell the Andesite from the Dorite, but that was easy now... After three hours of staring at sensors and comparing the readings with the geologist handbook someone had liberated.

Things had begun to smooth out 5 hours after they made landfall, now that everyone knew what they were doing, and most had developed a routine. But as he came upon the 12 hours mark, he had to rotate shifts and send half of the crew up to get rest, rotate watchstanders, and give people a break. People started losing efficiency if they were deployed in high-stress environments for too long.

Just when he started to relax, quartz-feldspar started causing interference with their suped-up scanning system. It was fixed. Then it was other meta-volcanic rocks or metamorphosed volcanic fragments making it look like 30 or 40 starships had crashed in this area. They had gotten lucky with some of the debris, the snow had blown around enough to make it easy to find. His estimate of four to five hours was 12 hours overdue. His engineering teams were constantly checking a false positive off, like a rock outcrop or strike /slip fault that brought high concentrations of rare earth minerals to the surface. Earthquake fault lines, or not, they were at least making it easy to perform a grid search pattern even if they triggered yet another false positive. Fortunately, his Engineering coveralls kept him warm, even if they didn't help him do his job and dispatch the harried search teams to yet another quadrant to check for yet another hit on the scanners. Dex overheard someone say they smelled snow coming. How was that even possible? and even worse if it was true. Great a blizzard was just what they needed. The good news was that they had 43.7 percent of the shuttle fragments found, labeled, scanned documented, and transported up to cargo bay three. The official accident investigation team was trying to assemble everything to look for sabotage.

The crash area was huge and Una Ryan took her time at each major site that had significant pieces of the shuttle. She was scanning and storing information. She had dispatched her security officers to assist with anything Engineering needed, including being mules and moving things if necessary, but also making sure the landing party stayed safe above all.

When Ryan got to the main hull of the shuttle her tricorder registered a weapons signature and she ducked into the inverted craft, scanning and capturing the scene on a recording. She didn't try to analyze what she was picking up at the moment, just stored all the information away. She glared at the straps on the harness and shook her head. It was a weird sensation to get assigned to a dream job, only to have the first assignment be figuring out how the CO perished.

"Commander D'Gracefull correct?" She asked the Chief Engineer. "My team is at your disposal to safely move or tag anything your engineers see fit. I just want to make sure everyone down here stays safe and I have to take into consideration our exposure out here. So anything we can do to push this along, we'd be happy to."

Dex stood in the temporary command shelter they had erected to use as a planet side command center and turned to the new face in the security uniform he did not recognize and said "Welcome, I have teams scattered over a 50-kilometer radius." Zooming in on the heads up holo-display, Dex showed the new security officer where he had the teams concentrated.

Una headed back outside, lifting her face and gray eyes to the cool swirling clouds above her that matched her eyes. The first bits of soft snowflakes fell, lofting through the sky as the wind died down for just a few moments of peace. Earlier the frozen ice pelts from freezing rain had been very unpleasant, even for those that liked being out in the cold. Taking her eyes from the storm above she scanned the landing team, looking for signs of hypothermia. Her hair was salted in snowflakes that were sticking, the ground was starting to pile in white mounds. The temperature had definitely dropped.

It was smooth sailing after Dex got all of the sensor packages to ignore natural elements in sub-surface formations. Dex had to yell to be heard over the snow and wind to Ryan, "Four more big pieces to go, take your teams and document them so that can be beamed up to cargo bay Three, then supervise the recall of all personnel, we don't want anyone left behind!" Dex handed the new security chief his oversize Engineering P.A.D.D. with the four remaining locations flashing and said "Heck of a first day, Welcome aboard! I'll buy you dinner when we get topside!"

"Weather's only going to get worse," Ethel muttered to nobody in particular. The veil of white and silver was nearly completely upon them and the wind had steadily begun to pick up, moaning through the smaller slot and box canyons that spread out from the ridge like veins. It was one hell of a place to have crashed and one hell of a place to try and make a life. Arizona, by all respects, was a land of extremes and it wasn't aiming to disappoint the herd of visitors that had descended upon it.

“Thank you.” Ryan nodded with an appreciative smile to Dex, her gaze turned to the Counselor, thinking it was an odd thing for a counselor to say. Wasn’t she supposed to pick up the mood among the crew? Ryan didn’t know their former CO, but she had definitely heard of her and the way the crew was acting; she had made a large impact on them all. The mood was sober and they almost moved around like zombies, just processing everything. This weather certainly wasn’t helping any and she found that her gaze at the counselor was becoming a judging stare. Una rolled her head on her neck and hit her commbadge to check in with her dispersed team giving them new orders so they could get this debris moved and ready to beam. She concluded, “More concerned about everyone’s safety at this point, keep watch on all the personnel in your area. You’ve had first aid training and know the signs to look for, but consult your tricorders for any species you’re not familiar with. Please inform me of any issues immediately. Ryan out.”

Una was still a little bothered by what Ethel had said and let a plastic smile spread across her features, “Have you been a counselor long?” Her inquiry seemed like small talk. “The weather isn’t too bad yet, just a little wet and cold.” Her feet shifted and Ryan heard the accumulating snow crunch under her boot.

Looking up, Ethel's eyes squinted against the bitter wind and bits of graupel that had come as a herald to the snow following close behind it. "Long enough to know that this isn't exactly a morale booster and we're not going to be able last for much longer out here." The smile she flashed was fleeting, though a winning one even when she truly wanted to roll her eyes and pick a place to wait for them to be done with the entire process. None of it was particularly organized, and she truly wondered exactly what it was they hoped to find that hadn't already been found. What was it that encouraged them to explode forth like ants from a stick poked hill? A peek in the other direction revealed teams coming back from over the ridgeline, empty handed and forlorn as they trudged through the gusting frozen precipitation and the already existing snow pack.

"Still no body... Not even a hint of a body..." She didn't quite catch herself in time, and her gaze immediately refastened on the Security officer beside her, "Doesn't that strike you as odd? I'm not a scientist or a member of security, but it just seems... Off. Even if there had been predation by whatever lives around here, you'd think something would have been found."

"It's odd." Ryan agreed, "There's a lot of odd things that have been noted cataloged. As soon as Engineering says they have all pieces abroad the Vindicator we can do a personnel check-in and beam back to the ship." She was not coming to any conclusions, refusing to dive into an easy and temptatious answer. They would all collaborate on their finding after reviewing everything they had gathered and as a group to come to a conclusion. Right now the freshly minted chief was holding back on causing an undue hope in this devastated crew. There were a million questions that were floating around and she made notes on a Padd on things that needed to be followed upon.

Dex exited the command shelter and approached the security chief "Lt Ryan, the last Search team has been beamed aboard, my people are packing up the tent now, give us 2 minutes and were out of here." saying that Dex turned and walked back in to make sure everything was going according to plan. Not that the plan had worked so far, but no major injuries were reported so far.

“That is fantastic new Commander.” Ryan smiled, helping them disassemble the tent and get it packed away. “Well Counselor, I guess we can go warm up again.” Una carefully scanned the personnel that had already beamed back to the ship, checked in with her security team to make sure they had done a physical headcount and did her own with those around her, satisfied with the roster.

Dex'EL looked around at the pile of equipment and noted that all of his people were there and more than ready for beam out. Looked at Lt. Ryan as she nodded then hit his comm badge, "Vindicator, commander D'Gracefull, I show that the last 12 people are ready for warmer weather, after verifying we are the last group, beam us aboard, Please."

"Warm is good." The Commander nodded, casting one final look over her shoulder at the now empty, gaping site. Snow was rapidly reclaiming the scarred bits of Earth, shrouding it all like a bandage and working to heal the damage that had been done by the so-called 'accident'. It would be the last thing she saw before being reclaimed by the Vindicator in a whirl of shimmering light.

Lt Una Ryan
Chief of Security/Tactical
USS Vindicator

Lcdr Dex'EL D'Gracefull
Engineering Officer
USS Vindicator

Cmdr Ethel Baul


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