Leif didn’t like transporting. It was the utter bane of his existence and the one fly in the ointment of Starfleet service.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t get away from it. Particularly after every single CO he’d had had refused his requests to a) shuttle down to the surface or b) space/halo jump down to the surface. Not even citing cultural issues had gotten that one through. Although to be fair, he hadn’t even tried on the Resolute. He hadn’t been aboard long, and he couldn’t figure out if the captain was one of the boys, or perhaps the scariest SOB he’d ever met (currently, and with ship gossip about their last mission, he was leaning toward the latter, especially about the two llanarians aboard).
So he suffered transporting in silence. It. Was. Awful. It always felt like his skin was covered in spiders. Every. Single. Time. Hundreds of little spiders crawling all over his skin, wriggling and squirming and… yeah, it was uncomfortable to say the least.
He kept his expression level and neutral, not allowing a hint of his personal discomfort to show on his face. It wasn’t like he could tell anyone. Who would believe a six-foot-six blond behemoth like him was scared of spiders? It was embarrassing. Utterly embarrassing. No way was he admitting to that.
So he kept his face level as the away team materialized on the surface. Instantly he was on alert, scanning their surroundings to ensure the team’s safety. He wasn’t really expecting any trouble, given the nature of this mission, but he would never discount it. No one from the federation had contact with the Volar for years. Who knew what could have happened in the intervening years?
Commander Burton half turned to catch his eye and he nodded, unspoken communication passing between the two men. So far, so good. Now that his initial scan for threats was done, he allowed himself to take a moment to take in their surroundings. The surface of the Volar’s planet was like nothing he’d ever seen before and he was forced to catch back his sigh of appreciation.
Trees surrounded them in a circle, their silver leaves reflecting the pale lilac of the sky above. An archway of plaited branches marked a gap in the trees, the planet’s capital city just visible through it. There was the hint of white arches and platforms with colorful banners built into the canopy of the trees, playing peekaboo as the wind caught the branches between the away team and them, but then his attention was diverted as a group of Volar approached them along the path.
The group that approached were just as beautiful as the glimpse he’d gotten of their city. Tall and lean, they moved with the same inherent grace as dancers, and he found himself both fascinated and feeling a little like a brutish tank compared.
Their faces were marked with intricate patterns, no two the same, which gave them an otherworldly look.They all wore white, the garments simple, and made of a soft, white material that flowed in the breeze.
As they got closer, and aura of peace and tranquility emanated from them to surround the team. Out of the corner of his eye, Leif noticed the rest of the team relax as though they’d taken a deep breath and let all their worries go. It looked like an automatic reaction. One he didn’t have… but he did the same, forcing the tension from his shoulders, even though he felt less than relaxed. What the hell was that? Instantly he was on alert for anything that could have affected the rest of the team. Perhaps he was being paranoid, but Burton didn’t strike him as the sitting in a circle, holding hands and singing type, which was exactly the expression on his face right now.
The Volar stopped only a few feet again, smiling benignly. Leif smiled back, giving his best dumb blonde look. Something about the look in their eyes made him uneasy.
Burton took a step forward and offered his hand to a male Leif recognized from the briefing notes as Councilor Tarva, the current leader of the Volar. He was an older man, tall and lean, with broad shoulders and zig-zag markings down his cheeks. A younger woman behind him had similar markings. Given her features were also similar to Tarva’s, he suspected they were related. Perhaps father and daughter…
“Good morning. Councilor Tarva, I assume?” Burton smiled as he shook Tarva’s hand. “I’m Hale Burton, from the Resolute. Thank you for the invite to your lovely city.”
Tarva’s expression didn’t change from calm and composed. It was somewhat haughty if Leif was honest. Like he was looking down at the Resolute team (even if he had to look up to meet Leif’s eyes).
“I am indeed, Hale Burton. And you are most welcome. Welcome to Issilia, our primary city. Please… come. We have much to show you.”
Leif followed at the back of the group from the Resolute, smiling amiably as the Volar surrounded them. Fortunately for him, sometimes people assumed big meant dumb, especially when he gave them his best, blank poker smile and they looked away quickly as though bored with him already.
That’s right, don’t look at the big, dumb security officer. All brawn and no brains over here. Nothing to see.
The away team followed Tarva and his group through the forest, the path beneath their feet illuminated by bioluminescent flora.
“Oh, it’s beautiful,” Callahan breathed, looking up at the buildings on platforms above them as they headed to a huge grand staircase that wound between two massive trees. He kept his body language relaxed, with a look of wonder on his face as he looked around.
As they neared the staircase, which appeared to have been grown out of the trees themselves, he realized that guards in the crowds were watching them. They were good, appearing to be just members of the Volar population, and there were no uniforms or weapons that he could see, but he knew police when he saw them. A sense of unease coiled and knotted in his stomach.
The volar were supposed to be peaceful…