Canopus Station
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Posted on Mon Feb 18th, 2019 @ 1:21pm by The Narrator & Lieutenant Commander Meilin Jiang

Mission: S1E2: A Temple To New Gods
Location: Cradle Facility, Civilian Annex
Timeline: MD3 15.00PM

"Your nose looks funny."

The question was asked with the guileless innocents only youth could achieve. Kisbeck made a face and patted a hand on the head of the small Xilosian that sat in his lap, and gave an apologetic smile to Bahat.

"You'll have to forget Kix's here. She takes after her mother in being very forthright in her questioning," the Philosopher said. "I try to instil a little decorum and manners, but at this age she's more interested in jumping around the world than understanding it."

The Bajoran woman smiled understandingly and gave the child an encouraging nod. "My firstborn was just so."

Kle's second in command, Aux Leader Kuffle, stood outside the civilian commons area that had been sealed off the Federation team to use. The look on the soldier's face made it clear she did not like having a child in that room, but Kisbeck had made it clear he was in charge.

The small Xilosian child's wide golden eyes looked from Bahat, to Meilin, and then to the other's of the landing party. Precious curiosity indeed.

"She looks like she molting," Kix declared in triumphant understanding.

"Only in a manner of speaking," Meilin said. She let her hair down and shook it free to drape over her shoulders and halfway down her back. "In many subcultures among my people, and over various periods in history, we used hair to signify various things about ourselves--personal beliefs, social status, even occupations and professions." She pressed her hand over her face and then rested it under her chin. "Most females of my species do not grow facial hair, but there are some who do. Many men prefer having smooth faces, while others will have beards both short and trimmed or nearly as long as my hair."

Kyril-Ma, biochemist and Aurelian member of the survey team, shivered at the reference. "I am not molting... I AM NOT MOLTING!" The ensign's eyes darted to and fro, eyeing everyone present as potential threats.

"Ensign..." Meilin furrowed her brow at him, then caught Riya's eye. "Take a breath, Ensign. We are safe."

"THEY'RE AFTER MY FEATHERS!" Kyril-Ma shouted back before turning to the crowd. "YOU CAN'T HAVE MY FEATHERS!"

Meilin maintained eye contact with Riya and pinched her wrist, simulating a hypospray. "Ensign, I am ordering you to stand down. You're alarming the children."

Bahat gave the scientist a tiny shrug of her shoulders and considered what she could possibly do to help. The Aurelian had half a meter, a sharp beak, and a pair of wings on her. Again she lamented that they'd been forced to give up their equipment.

Kisbeck had stood up, ushering Kix and the others behind him. The other civilians back up as well, some of the older Xilosian's had a dawning appreciation for what was coming. The door to the dorm chamber opened, and Kuffle and two of her troopers stepped in. Unlike the tall, streamlined Kle, Kuffle was broad shouldered and angry looking. The small angry looking slugthrowers in their hands were levelled at the Starfleeters.

"What's the trouble," Kuffle said in a basso rumble.

Doing her best reassuring smile, Bahat spread her hands wide to show how unarmed she was, while making a gentle step to make sure she was firmly outside the potential line of fire between the soldiers and the agitated Kyril-Ma. "Please excuse our ensign. As an avian, Kyril-Ma finds it difficult to be in a contained space like this." This was an on-the-spot fabrication, but it provided an excuse while she tried to figure out how she could help.

The Bajoran rotated halfway away from Kuffle to make eye contact with the hulking ensign. She barely knew him; an appeal to duty, then. "Kyril-Ma!" she said in her sternest mother-who's-done-with-your-nonsense voice. "Remember why we're here. Put on your first contact face, now."

Kyril-Ma squawked at Riya. "You're siding with them! I know your mind, traitors! You think to save yourself by handing me over to THEM! I won't let you! TRAITOR!!!"

At the last outburst, Kyril-Ma used his wings to lurch upon Riya like a vulture seizing a carcass.

Kuffle made a chuffing sound deep in her throat, the other Xilosian's in the room reacted to it. The troops stepped forward allowing the civilians to stream out hurriedly, with Kisbeck handing a now scared and frightened Kix off to someone else. Then the door behind them sealed, with the sort of reverberating clang that spoke of thick metal teeth sliding into locking bolt.

Then Kuffle fired her gun. The single discharge of the slugthrower went into the foam mattress of a nearby bunk bed, but the weapon was then trained on the grappling pair.

"Freeze now!" Kuffle barked. "Or the next shot's go down range and on target."

Realization settled upon Meilin as she watched an ostensibly crazed Kyril-Ma lash out against everybody else in the room, Riya in particular.

"Tóngzhì Kuffle, our team member has been infected..." She turned to Kuffle with an imploring calm. "Quickly, please prepare a treatment!"

The buzzsaw shriek of the slug thrower's filled the air once more, and something odd happened to Kyril-Ma. They shuddered, staggering a little as their left leg bent at an unnatural angle. There was a startled little shriek as Kyril-Ma fell to the floor, a crumbled mass of limbs now stained with blood. Kuffle's two troopers spread out along the back wall, their guns still aimed at the Starfleeters as Kuffle stepped closer to stand over the mewling body.

She carefully aimed at the head, and fired a single shot with practised precision. Kyril-Ma went boneless.

"There," Kuffle said, a note of disappointment in her voice. "one treatment administered. Been a few years since I had to administer it, but it's nice to know you folk die just like us. Don't act offended, your officer there was as good as dead the moment he got the crud in his head. Ain't no digging it out once its in."

Kuffle looked over her shoulder at trooper standing outside the door.

"Get me a box of test patches. Let's see if we got a few more turners in this bunch," Kuffle grunted. "

The sudden brutality made Meilin gasp. She knew it was one of two likely approaches, but that foreknowledge did not take away from the tragedy of the moment. "Kuffle..." Though she would not willfully harm another being, neither would she suffer harm to be done to another. She spread out her arms as if to cover Riya and the remaining members of her survey team like a mother hen. "We will comply. Lower your weapons."

"Thats kind of you to say, but I ain't got no intention of doing something so foolish," Kuffle muttered. "See, I'm was manning the blast door's to this Cradle when the order came down that the rocks were falling. Gotta button up, they said, storms a'comin'. 'cept there were still crowds of refugee's out there, all of'em needing testing, all of them wanting safety. So we shut the door, people bangin' on it right up until the pressure wave vaporised'em. That when we found the slow burners in the crowd, the folks the fungus had gotten into but hadn't turned. This place held twice its number once upon a time. And all it takes is one to get it all bloody."

She sapt on the floor between them.

"Test kit's will be here soon enough. We'll test the body, make sure the test works with aliens. I promise you, any of you fail this test it'll be quick. You can trust old Kuffle on that," the Aux Leader grumbled.

The kit's arrived, and one of the trooper's gingerly walked to the freshly minted corpse and placed one of the pale grey patches on some exposed skin. Within seconds the material seemed to blister, turning a bright lurid red.

"Well, that doesn't seem so ominous now does it, tests work just fine," Kuffle grunted. "Trooper leave the box there. Rule's simple: you all take a patch, and you all apply it yourself. It turns blue you step to my side of the room for further testing to make sure you're not pulling a fast one past old Kuffle. Test patch turns red, it'll be quick."

"Seems simple enough," Kitcher said with as much mock bravado in his voice as he could muster. He walked over to the box, picked up a patch and stuck it down over the back of his hand. For a moment nothing happened, and then the grey of the patch deepened to blue. Samson and Deliah came next, their tests all turning positive. One by one the rest of the team tested out until Jiang stood alone.

"Come on boss," Kitcher said from behind the like of Xilosian soldiers. "Easier than a Vulcan sudoku puzzle."

Meilin felt more at ease, seeing that the rest of the away team was uninfected. So far, at least. The human PO3 research tech and Tellarite WO, on the other hand, couldn't take their eyes off of Kyril-Ma's body.

"Do not worry," Meilin said with more calm than she felt. "Neither of you went inside the structure as we did. Go on."

The Tellarite went first, followed by the human PO3. Both of their patches turned blue. Now it was down to Meilin and Riya.

"We will do it together," Meilin promised.

She took two patches, and then smirked as Riya insisted on selecting one herself. Dropping the extra one on the floor, Meilin tore it open and placed it on the back of her hand along with Riya. The two of them stared at each other, waiting for the results.

Meilin breathed a sigh of relief when both were blue.

"There you have it, Huīxià Kuffle," she said coolly. "Perhaps now you may put away your weapons and order your guards to do the same."

"As likely as not, ain't gonna happen," Kuffle muttered. "But we're gonna move this little speaking circle somewhere an infection risk ain't. Dead body tends to mould up pretty quick."

Outside the dorm room more soldiers stood, as did Kisbeck and a handful of the other civilians. Kix was nowhere to be seen, no doubt whisked away from the danger as soon as possible.

"Aux Leader Kuffle? We have a report from the support group, they say the radiation source in the water tank has gone. Something about a bright light...and then nothing." A trooper said, jogging up to them from down the corridor. "And the air attack system went active. There's an incoming vert, biggest they've ever seen. Looks like it's come in for a landing."

As if on cue the combadges of the away team crackled to life.

=/\="Ingram to Surface Team. Pursuant to the results of independent command decisions, the USS Resolute will be touching down near your location shortly. To any and all Xilosian's present, we come in peace and mean you no harm unless it is meted out in kind. We're here to render aid. Commander Jiang? Speak up."=/\=

"I am glad to hear your voice, sir," Meilin said with a tap to her combadge. It was mostly true. "We have suffered one fatality," she said carefully, casting a wary glance at Kuffle. "Environmental hazard. Otherwise, the rest of us are safe, accounted for, and ready to return the Resolute and initiate First Contact protocols."

=/\="First Contact Protocols, yes very important those. We'll be planetside in a moment, and then we can begin to work through the logistical implications of this mission. Ingram, clear.=/\=


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