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Part of Starbase Bravo: Sundered Wings and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

Into the Woods

Near Crash Site of USS Fairbanks, Planet Unknown
June 2400
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“This could have been worse!” Hargreaves tried to sound perky as they ducked into the sea of greenery beyond the wrecked runabout. Trees boughs leaned down from above, sunlight twisting between the leaves to criss-cross patterns of shadows over them. In the distance came the tweeting of birds, faintly indignant as they returned from where the crash must have startled them away. But the woodland was thick, the air humid, and they struggled to see more than twenty metres beyond the crash site before the greenery became too dense.

“I mean, we could have not crashed here,” she continued, flipping the tricorder open and beginning to scan. “But the atmosphere’s breathable, there’s life out here, and it’s not ugly to look at.” She glanced at Horin. “What do you think, take a quick look to make sure the area’s secure? Though for all we know, this planet could be home to a swarm of humanoid-eating lizards as big as shuttles and they’re headed this way.”

“It could be much worse; we could be trapped on the Northern Wastes on Andoria,” Horin remarked back as he closed his tricorder. “I’d prefer an unknown forest to the freezing cold.” Looking around, he tried to see if he could sense anything. “Besides some small local wildlife, I’m not sensing anything else; heading back to the runabout wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

“Maybe.” Hargreaves clicked her tongue as she read the tricorder. “But there’s a lot of wildlife, even if it is all looking small. Kind of an unusual amount. Underground, too…”

“I hate to sound suspicious, but you don’t think all of this is some module around survival training? Perhaps some last-ditch effort to test us.” Horin suggested. The humidity of the planet felt thick in the air, so he was mildly pleased he wasn’t wearing his full-blown uniform jacket. “That said, I’m not sure our instructors will be happy with us with the state of the runabout.”

“Yeah, I wondered that, but at this point I think our instructors would be giving us a complex. If this turns out to be fake, I’m reporting to the counsellors so they can help me distinguish between illusion and reality.” Her frown deepened. “Okay, so not to go all biology nerd in the middle of a crisis, but these readings are kind of wild. Look.” She turned so he could see the tricorder. “There’s the biosigns of the wildlife you mentioned, but also weaker readings stretching underground, up in the trees… kind of like plant-life, but different? Is this one of those… more-than-just-plants, living ecosystems?”

Peering around them, Horin tried to sense if the plants around them were ‘alive’ in the manner Hargreaves was considering. “If it is, then I’m not having any luck in connecting it on a telepathic level.” 

“I don’t want to get eaten by a living shrub, but it’s really weak lifesigns. I think this might just be neat.” She turned to him, a stubborn tilt to her chin. “More importantly, it’s so thick we can’t really see much. So I think we want high ground to at least get an idea of the few miles around us, and to see if there’s a water supply. Survival 101 there. Which means I’m gonna climb that tree over there and hope I don’t offend it.” Hargreaves jerked a thumb over her shoulder.

“I’m all for a bit of site-seeing, Nia, but I’m not sure how much you’ll see if you do get to the top beside a canopy of tree-tops,” Horin remarked. Sensing she wouldn’t pay much attention to his concerns, he shrugged his shoulders. “That said, you may get the chance to be the first cadet of the twenty-fifth century to make first contact with a tree!” 

“It’s a big tree,” she protested, and he was very plainly right; this tree was going to be climbed whether it was sensible or not. “Now give me a boost so I can go where no one has gone before.”

Helping her up, by holding his hands together under the tree, Horin pushed Hargreaves up onto the nearest branch. “I’d imagine this isn’t quite the normal team bonding activity that Starfleet plans for its cadets.”

“I think team bonding should include much less risk of death,” Hargreaves called as she scrambled up. At the very least, the adventure seemed to be cheering her up, or possibly pretending she was doing something useful. But she was still capable, and very soon disappeared from immediate view through the lower branches – but she could be heard, and was plain enough to Horin’s senses.

Perhaps it was the distraction of Hargreaves. Perhaps it was the density of life in the immediate area, or the stress, or something else entirely, but barely a moment after Horin, stood waiting at the foot of the tree, sensed a different presence, a voice rang out from behind him.

“Hold it right there, Cadet.”

The Romulan – the other Romulan – did not look in the best condition. He’d clearly taken the landing hard, and stood leaning against a tree. Possibly his left arm was injured, and green blood was smeared across his forehead from a shallow cut. But he also held a small, hold-out disruptor pistol that was levelled straight at Horin. “Did that whelp Noreel finally put two-and-two together?” he croaked.

Slowly turning around, Horin faced the Romulan and raised his arms up slowly to show he was not going to fight the Romulan. Squinting his eyes at the injured soul, he wondered if he could make a dash for it and disarm him. Sensing the mixed level of anxiety and aggression forming underneath the man who held a weapon at him, he decided not to do anything for now. “What do you mean? And why are you holding a weapon at me? We were sent to ferry you to safety.”

“You weren’t meant to be in this region of space at all; a damned training ship full of children…” The Romulan spat this out with more indignation at the inconvenience than outright aggression. “I can’t have you getting that ship airborne and slinking away with Noreel.”

While the Romulan spoke, Horin attempted to send some sort of telepathic warning to Hargreaves. It was a long shot, but sometimes Betazoids had been known to share a brief sensation/feeling/though with a non-telepath. Trying to warn her about the danger, he didn’t know if she was aware of it. He carried on chatting to the Romulan. “I’m not going to harm you, so drop your weapon. We’re not getting off this planet anytime soon, so can we try and find some middle ground and workout what your issue is?” He pleaded. 

“My colleagues in Imperial Naval Intelligence will be along soon to find us, and that traitor,” the Romulan warned. “As was originally -”

Stop worrying, I’m not gonna fall!” came the distant yell from above. “I can hear your brain freaking out from up -”

Bzzt. Startled but not reckless, the Romulan heard Hargreaves’s shout from above and snapped a blast into the treeline. It was not exactly at from where the shout had originated, a warning blast, but it was enough to singe trees and get a yelp from above.

“Get down from there, Cadet,” the Romulan called briskly. “Or my next shot will not miss.”

It took a moment of scrambling and breaking branches, and down Hargreaves came, much less smoothly than she’d gone up. A twig was in her hair, and her eyes were as big as dinnerplates as she stared at the Romulan and the disruptor. “Oh, no,” she breathed. “I really hoped you weren’t going to be one of those lying Romulans.”

Keeping his hands up, Horin gave an assuring look at Hargreaves, making sure she was okay. Turning back to the man that held them at gunpoint, Horin turned back to him. “If you’re planning on leaving this planet, why don’t you just leave us be? We’re no harm to you. We’re just cadets.”

The disruptor flicked between the two cadets, but the Romulan was poised, calm, despite his injuries. “The last thing I needed was you stumbling across me when I wasn’t ready. And the last thing I need is for a Starfleet ship to show up and rescue you. I don’t know if you’ve called for help, but if you have and it arrives before the intelligence team does, I will need… leverage.” The disruptor came up half an inch to focus on Horin. “So, for now, we wait.”