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Thread: Star Trek RPG - Mission #7: "The War-Brotherhood of Irkhuit"

  1. #1001
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    Graham nods at Nia's order...request.

    "Doc, as soon as you've got anything, let me know."

    He approaches the group. "Mr. Kylah, Mr. Rawlings -- god willing this is the welcome wagon or the rescue bus or whatever...I'm going to step out into their path. If their response is...." He pauses a second. Marala. You shouldn't have to lose two husbands. "...fatal...Then this is the Alamo, Rawlings hit them with maximum fire."

    He raises both hands. "But--anything less--the fact is that we're in a bad way." He lowers his voice. "Rangin, per the Doc, Nia..." He sighs. "Mr. Kylah, if I am incapacitated by anything less than an obvious intent to slaughter us all in the moment, do your best to talk them down. Or talk us up. We need warmth and shelter."

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    A few precious seconds pass before Nia takes in Booker's words and actions. When she does, a wave of horror washes over her. Does he think--can he actually believe that she intends for him to sacrifice himself? For him to stand alone in front like the subject of some deadly test to see if whoever's out there will attack?

    When she said she'll need him to take the lead, she never meant like this.

    The idea of telling Vargas how his ACoS was sacrificed... telling Lizzie how her father was sacrificed... They'll think her the worst of cowards.

    Her mind's working poorly, that must be it, she must have phrased it wrong, he must have misunderstood her words. He must have misunderstood her. Maybe he always did.

    But she told him to make the call. So, dazed and silent, slow and stupid, she moves closer to the others. Her benumbed hand again reaches for her just-fired phaser and she stands beside Rawlings. Nia winces into the wind and toward the snowy hill where the approaching vehicle is likely only seconds away. It will be help. Mother of us all, let it be help.

  3. #1003
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    A tricorder scan shows that the approaching vehicle is slightly longer than the sunken Tesla, and a meter lower but twice as wide. It carries a single human being, is unarmed, and is powered by a small onboard fusion plant which apparently generates electricity to drive its six caterpillar treads, three on each side. It draws closer, and its bright headlights now sweep across the members of the Starfleet party.

    Dr. Mäkeläinen determines that, given Rangin's Coridanite physiology, the young xenobiologist will probably be out for ten to fifteen minutes from being phaser-stunned, unless given a stimulant.

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    Dr. Mäkeläinen announces the scan results. He adds, "They are alone and unarmed, and we do not want whoever it is to think twice about stopping to let in a uniformed squad brandishing phasers."

    Rangin (and Onn!) really need some active heating at this point, not just left to shiver underneath a thin blanket, and Rangin is not even capable of that. Depending on what happens in the next moments, if his own tricorder readings show that Rangin is not already hypothermic and they are let into the crawler (he knows how to shift an unconscious Lt. Rangin by himself but would not mind a hand) and it is toasty warm inside, he will let him warm up and recover naturally. Otherwise, he will administer a stimulant. With Onn, he is more loath to administer a stimulant because all of the stress to her system, not least of which from the significant amount and types of medication she has taken recently, would make it a dangerous strain. Besides, she is still (barely) on her own two feet, and, while it would warm her up, the same amount of stimulants may warm her less than they would a warmer-blooded individual, and a more powerful dose would be even more risky.

  5. #1005
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    Graham nods gratefully. "Thanks, doctor." He turns to the others. "Weapons down."

    Holstering his own, he raises his hands disarmingly up to either side and steps forward further into the headlights.

    "Hello in the vehicle...we are Starfleet officers. Our shuttle crashed. We'd be grateful for assistance," he shouts into the cold.

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    Kylah squeezes Velir's hand again before rising, very slowly, to her feet and walking up a few steps toward Lt. Onn. She murmurs a pardon me, ma'am to Lt. Onn but the other woman says nothing as Kylah passes slightly in front of her.

    She stops, behind and to the right of Lt. Graham, and looks at the vehicle. Small as she is, Kylah hopes she will be seen as nonthreatening. And perhaps as a result of her trusting them, she might seem trustworthy, as well.

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    Mäkeläinen's findings about the approaching stranger are a relief, at least it seems like it should be, and Nia hugs her blanket still closer to cover the phaser still in her hand. She thinks it's still there. Too cold to feel now.

    She sees the blurry figure of Kylah by her side and then ahead of her, treading so carefully it's almost in slow-motion. The young woman excuses herself but Nia doesn't bother reacting. She can only watch and concentrate on three things: staying upright herself, remaining prepared to use her phaser assuming she can lift her arm fast enough, and above all waiting for the response to Booker's request.

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    The crawler crunches to a halt a few meters away and the driver's door opens. An older, very large Human woman drops down, surprisingly light on her feet as she lands on the snow, and gruffly says, "I figured ya might be. Need a lift to Freetown, I hear." She sees the creatures on the snow and adds, "Ah, run into some icevamps, did ya?" She chuckles. "There's a warm welcome for ya, huh?"

  9. #1009
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    Relief washes down Mäkeläinen's spine. He tries to meet the woman's gaze. "Well met! Speaking of warmth, I don't mean to be rude, but our friend here is down, and he needs to get inside to recover before he freezes to death. The rest of us are not much better. Any chance we can go ahead and put him in the back?"

    "I'm Dr. Bizhi Mäkeläinen, by the way," he adds, "Starfleet Medical Corps."

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    Kylah exhales in gratitude and she swivels back to take a look at Dr. Mäkeläinen and Velir, relieved that the doctor is prioritizing his patient. About to introduce herself, she hesitates and takes in first Lt. Onn, then Lt. Graham. She does not know which of them should be speaking. The former is impossible to read now, and the latter is right in front. Uncertain, she just turns back to the newcomer with a grateful nod. "Yes ma'am, we are from the USS Yorktown. If we may take our injured party inside soon...?"

    Out of force of habit, she takes a very brief measure of the stranger's emotions, hoping she is as generous as she seems.

  11. #1011
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    A rush of much-needed adrenaline, brought on by the friendliness of the new arrival, revives Nia somewhat. She tries to stop hunching over to stand up straight, rather than disgracing her uniform and presenting a poor representation of what's supposed to be her command of the mission.

    "The--the icevamps we could've done without, but--" Out of breath, she takes in another. "But you're a s-sight for sore eyes. And for--for everything else that's sore." Nia attempts what she hopes is a smile, and totters a step or two ahead. "Lieutenant--" About to introduce herself, she stops for a few nanoseconds of thought, and then defers, instead nodding toward Booker. "This is Lt. Graham, madam. Assistant Ch-chief of Security of the USS Yorktown. We called for help--our injured need attending ASAP."

    Again she runs out of breath and, rather than use any more than necessary, shuts up and wills herself to step out of the way for Rangin and Rawlings.

  12. #1012
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    "Yeah, yeah, sure," the woman says, still gruffly. "Go ahead, put him in. How many of you?" She counts. "Six? Yeah, shouldn't be a problem."

    Kylah gets the psi impression that the crawler's driver is not friendly, as such, but is, rather, brisk and businesslike. Indeed, Kylah senses that there is an undercurrent of distaste and... hostility? She can't be sure. What the woman says and does, and how she feels, seem to be somewhat at odds.

  13. #1013
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    "Give me a hand with him?" Mäkeläinen asks Graham. "Help me get him comfortable, lying on his side, not right on his back."

    The doctor savors the warmth coming from the vehicle. He will keep monitoring Rangin's core temperature periodically, to make sure he is recovering normally. It was not too bad a jolt, but obviously painful, and enough to scramble one's brains and knock him out---just as designed, in other words. Not that it is likely with a hand phaser and by accident, it is absolutely possible to kill someone with a phaser set to 'stun', with enough power at close range, or with repeated shots.

  14. #1014
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    Graham's a little surprised Nia introduces him rather than her--but, on the other hand, she's clearly not feeling well...and misdirection as to who is in command?

    In any event, love him or hate him it's not acceptable for Rangin to freeze solid on the snowy ground, and Nia unquestionably needs to get out of the cold.

    He listens to the back and forth among his colleagues and the woman, then adds "Much obliged, uh, miss---?"

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    Taken aback, Kylah is initially rooted in place while the others move around her. She darts a look at Velir--he is the only one who might confirm her impression of the stranger, and could do so without fear of uncovering a secret. But obviously that is not an option. She considers telling Dr. Mäkeläinen of her doubts... yet how could she possibly explain? Besides, the doctor is busy dealing with his two... maybe three patients, if one counts Lt. Onn who seems a likely candidate. He will not likely be moved by anything she must explain away as mere intuition.

    Instead she finally detaches herself from her standing place and walks as hastily as possible around the other side of Lt. Graham, keeping herself shielded by his frame from the newcomer. "Sir," she whispers while placing her trembling hand on his sleeve. "She is clearly not the assistance sent to us. We cannot know her intentions yet. It may seem ungrateful or--or overcautious, but perhaps..."

    She bites her lower lip, frustrated. "Perhaps one of us ought to check her vehicle first, just a security sweep to see if there is any danger in there? Such as..." Her uncertainty weakens her delivery and she ends on a hesitant, "Weapons or... traps?"

    Not believing herself very convincing, she steps out from behind Lt. Graham, hoping she will buy him enough time to make a considered decision. Once the woman has responded to his question, Kylah blurts out, "We are grateful and sorry to keep you from your destination, madam. That is such an unusual vehicle, too." She smiles into the twilight brightened by the snow around them. "What do you use it for, if I may ask?"

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    "Maude, that's my name," the woman says. She cackles. "'Mad Maude' to my friends. C'mon, let's mount up. I'm not getting any warmer out here." In answer to Kylah's question, she says, "Oh, all kinds of hauling and errands around Freeport and the area. I'm on contract to the Port Authority; they send me out on emergency calls like this now and then."

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    Nia's eyes are focused--to the degree they can focus--on the crawler. Right now, it's as welcome a sight as a warm inviting bed swathed with furry blankets and down comforters.

    "Good to meet you ma'am. I'm Lt. Onn. Shuttle pilot." She nods stiltedly and her gait is even stiffer. When she looks at her wrist she can see why: her scales are in a sort of mid-change state, neither able to perform their function nor fully retract. They're pulling her skin taut and she's losing what little flexibility she's maintained through this icy environment.

    Kylah's moved to whisper something to Booker, because yeah we have time for dawdling conversations, but Nia vows not to be distracted from her goal. "Ensign Kylah, get going," she manages while trudging forward. She does her best to stay out of what might be a direct path for the Doc and Rangin. Once she's close enough to Maude, she makes the effort to reach out a hand in greeting, hoping if nothing else to have it grasped by the other woman's strong and probably warm fingers.

    Otherwise she'll continue to the crawler, which is well named because that's sure as hell what she feels like doing.

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    Maude is in a worn, stained winter coverall, including gloves which she does not remove, but she takes Onn's hand just the same, giving it a perfunctory shake.

  19. #1019
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    Graham decides the best he can do is be the last to board: Ens. Kylah's warning is a fair and fine point, although insisting on a Security sweep with their only current hope of avoiding serious consequences for at least Nia and maybe others is perhaps one too many risks to take vis a vis alienating their rescuer.

    "OK, onboard folks," he say. Then adds "Mr. Rawlings, a moment..."

    He gestures for the others to move along, then approaches his extra large Security colleague. "Board last but for me," he says quietly. "Give me a sit rep. If something's not right, 'condition green' means exactly the opposite, OK?"

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    In the meantime, Dr. Mäkeläinen is not waiting around for Graham and everyone else to finish chit-chatting. Most of his attention is still focused on Lt. Rangin, who is moved in a fireman's carry and placed in the not-so-freezing-cold crawler in a recovery position. He spares a look at Lt. Onn, to make sure she is coming. Another couple of minutes and he will end up having to move her as well; in fact, he steps back out to give her a hand and help her climb in.

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    Everybody clambers or is loaded into the crawler, Graham last of all, a watchful Rawlings not having given him any warning sign.

    The crawler interior is a bit roomier than the Tesla, other than the lower ceiling, but it is a lot more worn and dirty. There are eight seats in two rows of four each, including the driver's at the front left. Each of the seats is low, rugged, scuffed, fitted with a seatbelt and covered in dark green plastic. There are tie-down brackets and cargo-securing hardpoints here and there on the floor, and a roomy cargo space, currently empty, behind the seats. It is much warmer in here than outside, but it's not exactly a sauna, either.

    Maude climbs into her seat, straps herself in and fires up the engine. "OK, everybody ready? Let's get this show on the road."
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 26 Dec 2022 at 11:37 PM. Reason: Minor grammar fix

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    In the crawler, Kylah tries to ignore her doubts.

    Earlier, once Lt. Graham had made his logical decision, she had wrung her hands and fingers into virtual knots. She then went forward--no choice, as she could not argue her point with anything cogent. Perhaps she was wrong; it would not be the first time.

    Once in the vehicle, entering just ahead of Ens. Rawlings and Lt. Graham, she has fought her concerns to sit up front as close to Maude as possible. Maybe if she 'monitors' the older woman's feelings now and then, she will be able to sense if the driver...

    If what? Why ever would she harm us? Why did I even think her so resentful, before?

    Besides, even if Maude is annoyed, that does not necessarily mean anything malevolent. Indeed, it could be as simple as having planned to finish her work so she could go home to a hot dinner, and once the Port Authority called, she took the assignment grudgingly. Almost anyone would be irritated by a delayed meal after a hard wintry day.

    Kylah buckles herself into the third seat of the first row, leaving a space between her and Maude out of courtesy. Again she smiles and nods that she is ready, at least, and quite grateful to be here. "Do you see many Starfleet officers here, ma'am?"

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    Once the somewhat warmer temperature of the crawler reaches Nia, she begins to shiver, with pins and needles prickling her peripheral limbs. She sits with a thud beside Rawlings assuming he's sitting beside the doctor and Rangin, if it matters and shuts her eyes. It's all she can do to keep from leaning against Rawlings's considerable frame, but she's aware his arm may still hurt and doesn't want to exacerbate it. Besides, she'll make him colder even as she gets marginal body heat from him.

    She forces a reply to Maude. "Once Lt. Graham gets in we can l-launch." Her back curves into a hunch as she hugs herself and tries to be as compact as possible. Then she belatedly corrects her words. "I mean 'drive.' Not used to land transportation," she mutters, which is true enough but her mind's not 100% even if she were familiar with the lingo.

    It takes all her will power to avoid reaching for her inhaler to soothe her dizziness. She has to parcel it out. Plus, too many people around; there's no point in worrying the doctor. She'll wait until they arrive wherever they're headed before safely and discreetly reaching for the nebulizer.

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    Mäkeläinen addresses Lt. Onn. "How do you want to do this? There is nothing I would like better than to pass out someplace warm, get cleaned up, change out of these clothes. But Mr. Rawlings, at least, needs that arm seen to. Mr. Rangin, too---I am keeping track of his vitals, and he should be coming around in a few minutes, but he needs a quick follow-up. That means straight to a medical facility, at least for some of us. But then they probably want to run us through all the formalities, even without taking into account the crash and the paperwork on that. And I imagine Starfleet may want to hear what has become of us. Also, we may be on official Starfleet business, but there might still be a matter of arranging a transfer of credits. For services," he indicates Mad Maude with his eyes, "fees, and sundries."

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    Nia reluctantly opens her eyes, trying to focus on the spot directly in front of her in an effort to stave off the whirling in her mind. "Of course, thanks, Doc." She manages a sincere if weak smile. "Details are your specialty, I see. Usually Rangin's strong suit, but I guess..." There's a pause when she can't fathom how she's supposed to finish that sentence. She doesn't even remember starting it.

    She gives up and goes elsewhere. "Kylah. How're you doing on talking to the authorit..." No, what's it called? "... Port Authority? Keep trying. Maddie..." Is that even her name? Whatever. "We need help. Medical help. That should be our first stop if that's--if there's somewhere nearby. We also have to get in touch with our ship."

    A little thrill of exhilaration makes Nia smile again, 'cause she's pretty sure she actually made sense. "Is that possible? Book, you have other instructions?"

  26. #1026
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    Graham shakes his head at Nia's question. "Medical is the right top priority, lieutenant. For..." he pauses and glances from Nia to Rangin to Rawlings. "Ah, several of us."

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    Maude fires up the crawler and, with a grinding of gears and an abrupt starting lurch, drives it along the snow-covered road. With a worn plastic joystick in each hand, she retraces her tracks down the gentle slope. The dark woods loom above and to either side of the trail, just beyond the reach of the bright twin headlights at the front of the squat vehicle.

    Kylah senses an impersonal and relatively low-key hostility from her. She doesn't want to kill you, but she certainly doesn't want to do you any particular favors. In response to your question, Maude snorts and says, "Sometimes more than I want to, honey, but a job's a job." She tabs a comm key and says, "Maude to OPA. Yeah, I've got the Feddy crashers and I'm on my way back."

    "Understood, Maude, and thanks," comes the reply after a few seconds. "See you soon."

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    Nia is clearly on the verge of passing out, Dr. Mäkeläinen notices, and, frankly, so is he now that he is seated in (relative) comfort rather than doggedly slogging through snow and fighting for his life.

    "Thank you for you help, Madame," he says to Maude. "Can't say we were out there for an evening constitutional. Or of our own free will. You can see that we are in no shape to do much talking, or standing up on our own power, tonight. I assume the port has a medical facility; could we head there first? Or, if there is a better one... where would you go with a broken arm, for instance?"

  29. #1029
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    Kylah relaxes and watches the scenery move past. It is not particularly unique, but this is a new planet and the first to have wintry weather since she left Elas. If they had more climate-appropriate clothing, this would be delightful to explore.

    Lt. Onn's order snaps Kylah back into a less touristy mindset. She gives a quick "Aye aye, Lieutenant" and opens her communicator again, hoping the reception might be better now--although she suspects that it might not improve until they are closer to the city.

    As she listens, she senses the concern of Lt. Graham beside her and Dr. Mäkeläinen behind. If Maude does not mention any distance or timing in response to the doctor's queries, Kylah will add, "How long a trip will it be, ma'am? Forgive my ignorance; we do not currently have access to your planet's maps. What details we have learned are mostly in--in Lt. Rangin's brain" She glances behind her to check on Velir with her own undisguised concern. "And accessing that must wait until he is conscious."

    While she is still looking over her shoulder, she adds a sympathetic smile to Ens. Rawlings to remind him that she is also aware of his discomfort.

  30. #1030
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    Pretending to check an issue with one of her boots--not a great distraction but it's all she's got--Nia murmurs something about a pebble annoying her and bends down ostensibly to massage the offended foot. This gives her good cover to reach for her nebulizer, as she planned earlier.

    The hit is almost blissful. Pure air, so deliciously clear and revivifying. There's nothing like it.

    In one early shore leave to Risa ages ago, Nia and a pair of game young men found an establishment that enabled them to try... not quite legal substances... including something from a hookah. It was pretty damn surprising how quickly it filled her mind with extraordinary images and her soul with supernatural peace.

    It didn't last, though. Nia's body quickly learns to filter out anything that resembles a foreign invader and essentially ejects it. (Which is why she can drink anyone under the table during pub crawls.) This illicit drug, whatever-it-was, only worked for a minute before Nia found herself choking for lack of even the nominal relief of 'normal' air.

    This inhaler is full of life, and it takes all her will power not to press the button again for a second dose. Too dark to see what number of doses remain, but it can't be more than two. What does that leave her, if she's careful not to expend much energy? Two hours? Three?

    Returning the inhaler's chain back under her uniform, she straightens and is happy to see her surroundings without the tunnel vision or blurry waves. Doesn't help the effect that the cold weather is having on her system, but she'll be content enough just to have her lungs full again. Looking at the Doctor with a reassuring smile, she cuddles inside the crinkly blanket and waits for Kylah's report. She'd lean against Rawlings if his arm wasn't hurt. What wouldn't she give right now, to have Double-T's huge arms wrapped around her while she buries her head against his massive chest?

    But, not gonna happen. Sighing, she tilts in the opposite direction to rest against the window if there is one and her seat's close enough for her to reach it. She shuts her eyes to concentrate on relaxing, which allows her to utilize one of the many breath control exercises she's learned over the years.
    Last edited by SidonianGal; 28 Dec 2022 at 04:35 AM.

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    To Dr. Mäkeläinen, Maude grunts, "Yeah, there's a hospital, but the Portmaster said I was to bring ya to him first." To Kylah she replies, "Should be about 20 minutes or so back to Freeport, assuming an avalanche don't sweep us off the trail." Then she cackles.

    Kylah hears much the same subspace traffic over her communicator as she had when the Tesla was first approaching Ollos, the key difference now being that nobody in the orbiting ships overhead is screaming at her or complaining. She is able to reach the Port Authority and hears the same female voice as had just responded to Maude: "OPA here. Who is this?"

    Maude, overhearing, is annoyed. "What the hell are ya bothering the OPA for? I'm takin' ya there, ain't I?"

    Onn does have a small window beside her seat, but she can see little in the darkness outside. Her breath control exercises seem to help a little.
    Last edited by Elendil's Heir; 29 Dec 2022 at 12:45 AM.

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    The threat of an avalanche--though it is quite possible Maude is simply joking (and equally plausible that she is not)--makes Kylah glance more warily at the sides of the road she can see.

    Then she hears the OPA connection and nearly answers before Maude snaps out her irritation. Taken aback, Kylah twists around to see if she can catch Lt. Onn's eye. But she cannot see much beside Ens. Rawlings, so she turns to Maude while replying briefly to the voice. "This is Ensign Kylah of the Tesla again. Just one moment..."

    She looks quizzically at the older woman next to her. "I--I believe we simply wished to know that we can communicate again. We have been without contact for a very long time. We mean no slight against you, ma'am. You have helped saved our lives." Eyeing Maude, she continues to the operator. "Maude has picked us up, and we are most grateful for her timely rescue."

    With a look back at Dr. Mäkeläinen and the other two men on either side, Kylah shakes her head in worry. "There is a slight hitch, ma'am. We have two injured parties, and others who could benefit from medical assistance as well. I understand that the Portmaster wants to see that we are safe, but I believe it is important that--well--I think our doctor would prefer a different plan."

    Covering her mic for a second, she redirects her attention to Dr. Mäkeläinen. "Sir, do you wish to explain...?"

    If he does, she will pass the device to him.

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    Graham makes a point of giving Kylah an approving nod.

    "Love 'em or hate 'em," he says to Maude, "we've got to live with rules and reqs. The young ensign was just trying to do her job as she's been instructed too, ma'am." After a brief pause he adds, "And, as she said, let's not let anything distract from the fact that we are indeed grateful for your help."

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    Bizhi feels it may be premature to put everyone on the spot like this, but he takes the communicator from Kylah. He was hoping to persuade Maude to take them directly to the hospital as a fait accompli before the authorities had anything to say about it, but with the Port Authority on the line again, any damage is already done. Maybe he can resolve this.

    "Ahoy Ollos Port! This is Doctor Bizhi Mäkeläinen. My colleagues here and I might all be able to climb back out of this crawler under our own power, but not much more than that, and I can't guarantee even that much. I understand that the Portmaster needs to talk to us urgently. Could we rendezvous at the hospital? I gather there is one on site."

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    Kylah casts a look of warm thanks to Lt. Graham. She tries to simultaneously listen to the doctor's conversation while engaging in one with the woman in the driver's seat, anything to distract her. "Speaking of gratitude, I would like to mention you by name to your supervisor... or client... whoever contracts you for these jobs. Is 'Maude' a first name? Or are your people customarily mononymous, like mine? Well, I should say, it is mostly nobles and royals who do not have a second name. We go by our Houses, but rarely; truly it is only in correspondence or in official--" She realizes she is going on too much, betraying some nervousness. "Forgive me ma'am. I must give you a chance to answer."

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    Maude seems mollified. She smiles thinly and says to Kylah, "Maude's enough. Everyone knows me here, but I ain't no damn royalty, honey."

    The OPA contact says to Dr. Mäkeläinen, "Stand by." After a minute or so, she comes back on and says, "Yeah, go ahead to the hospital, then. The Portmaster will meet you there. Same fare for each of you, even though it's a little farther into town. You catch that, Maude?"

    "I caught it. Will do."

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    Ah, yes; credits. Bizhi suspected it might come down to that. While Starfleet officers have access to some Federation credits [in case they need to impulse-buy some Tribbles], surely accepted at a commercial hub like Ollos, it is not that much for junior officers, even though none of the current expenses should eventually come out of their personal "pay." A 20-minute ride should not be a problem, but who knows how much things cost here? They still need supplies and accommodation, and who knows what will transpire at the hospital? Yet another reason to re-establish contact with their ship and get everything straightened out.

    "Sounds good," he simply announces. "Thank you sincerely, again, and good night."

    He would love to nod off for a few minutes, but with Rangin still unconscious that is out of the question.

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    The discussion feels like something indistinct reaching Nia through an echoing hallway. She's trying to stay awake, and it's working only barely.

    When they all entered the crawler, the difference in temperature was heavenly, a relief like... like... The Swaddling Sands, Nia remembers--a well-guarded retreat where due to some quirk of nature, the sand stays cool beneath the surface. Of course that was a place to feel relief from heat, not adding it, but Nia recalls the bliss of burrowing into the sand to escape the relentless sun. Cost her family a lot, but it was worth it. All households in their region--and even beyond, people making a dangerous trip from other settlements--made at least one visit to this Seht'dar-blessed oasis.

    So Nia had that same moment earlier, entering the vehicle. But time has passed and the temperature she perceived as a comfort before is now sneaking beneath her blanket. Cold surrounds and smothers her like some malicious entity.

    No. The sensation of being smothered is not from the encroaching cold. Even warm air would suffocate her. And it will, soon enough.

    She forces herself to remain part of the conversation, even though she's only heard bits and snatches. "The Postmaster," she mumbles, then tries again. "The Postmaster... sounds like a good head on his shoulders. Do you get a lot of... castaways? From sea or sky? Just wondering how Ollos's weather affects travel here."

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    "I think you mean the Portmaster, honey," Maude says, glancing over her shoulder. "And no, not too many. This is only, uh, what? The second time I've had to go and get someone who crashed out in the sticks? Naw, lemme see... I guess it's the third."

    The crawler crunches on through the snow, heartstoppingly slipping to the right once on a slope before Maude regains control, but then still making its way along the trail through dense forest. Eventually you round a corner and there, below you and not far away, is a weatherbeaten town, lights blazing against the night sky. Its prefab metal structures and squat thermocrete domes are set alongside a large bay enclosed by jagged, snow-capped mountains. A dozen modern but beat-up boats are anchored in the bay. It all reminds Graham of the Norwegian fjords he once saw, although Freetown is much less quaint than the seaside villages he remembers.

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    The view--at least, part of it--entrances Kylah. "How lovely," she says in a hushed voice. "I have not seen mountains like this since... no, I do not think I have ever done so. Not--not blanketed by snow. Now I see what is meant in that Terran folk poem... 'mountain majesties.' Like kings and queens wearing ermine capes."

    She continues peering out. "Elas is generally plains, or woods. Well. Not all of the planet, of course other continents and regions have their own..." Kylah shakes her head when the word eludes her. "Landscapes, I suppose? I speak only of the places I've been."

    Which, she realizes, is not much. She is shockingly ignorant of the geography of her own planet. If asked, she could rattle off the royal Houses and noble family hierarchies of each minor realm, followed by relating their lengthy history. Music, art, theater, literature as well. But reality, the actual sights and scenery of lands other than the Capitol... Kylah has learned none of it.

    The embarrassing realization silences her. Probably for the best as she suspects no one else is enjoying the view, much less interested in Elasian topography. 'Topography'! That is the word. Kylah sighs quietly with satisfaction. Then at last she returns to the serious situation. She twists around toward the back, hoping for Velir's recovery. "Doctor... should he not have awoken by now?"

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    Dr. Mäkeläinen has been monitoring Lt. Rangin and, if after fifteen minutes he is not showing signs of coming around, he hypo-injects him with an appropriate stimulant.

    He would not mind a bit of stimulant himself; hospital coffee will have to do. He is starting to get cold again, too. Just a few more minutes, now that they are nearly in town. He appreciates the view but does not engage in conversation about it.

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    With the hypospray dose, Rangin comes to almost right away; he is woozy and disoriented. "What... what the...." He stops and looks around curiously. "Where am I? What happened?"

    Maude cackles again. "Rise and shine, sweetheart! We're almost there." She steers the crawler down the hill and into town. The streets are mostly plowed but are either gravel or crumbling thermocrete. The buildings look even dingier up close. She takes you to a long, low, somewhat more presentable building with a lit sign by the entrance, FREETOWN HOSPITAL. She parks the crawler alongside and takes it out of gear, turns around and says, "OK, let's see, six of you... that'll be 50 monits apiece."

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    Nia sits up enough to give Rangin a relieved but wan smile. "We crash-landed but we're all okay," she says hoarsely. "And damn glad you're up again. Good job, Doc."

    She huddles in her blanket, not in a rush to expose herself to the weather again even if the end goal is a proper habitat. "Thanks, ma'am. I'm not much at handling a land vehicle... or, turns out, a space vehicle either." Nia swallows back her bigger regret. This is one taste she'll remember as long as she lives--and hey, bright side, might not be very long. "But I could feel you working that wheel against the weather. Solid driving. We're all grateful."

    A few coughs interrupt her for a seconds until she can add, "Fares. Right. It'd be in credits, unless someone has... monits, is that right? Never heard of them but... some of the humans or frequent travelers here...?" Another wave of warm dizziness washes over her. She holds her breath, gathering herself, and then exhales, "Lt. Graham, can you... get us straight with Maude, find where we need to go, talk to the doctors...with Doc here..."

    That's about as much as she can handle on one breath. Nia lets her head drop against the cold window pane beside her. It's not comfortable, but lifting even her neck seems like too much at this moment.
    Last edited by SidonianGal; 03 Jan 2023 at 01:23 AM.

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    Velir's green-brown eyes are far better a sight than anything outside the crawler. Kylah smiles and leans towards him, spontaneously trying to catch hold of his hand. Fortunately she stops before the others bear witness to her unprofessional, inappropriate affection. So instead she clutches the back of the seat next to her.

    Notwithstanding, she cannot change her expression of delight. "We fought those flying... ice-vampire things. Lt. Graham stunned the creature headed for you, and you were caught in the..." Kylah's shoulders raise dismissively. "But you are fine now. And we have arrived at the city. Town. It looks..." For the first time she notices how generally run-down this area seems. "It does not matter. We are at the hospital--oh! Dr. Mäkeläinen, forgive me, you should probably be the first to talk with him." She flushes and sits properly in her seat, facing forward again. To Maude, while they are waiting for the money situation to be dealt with, she asks politely, "Do you live nearby, ma'am, or are you farther out in the country?"

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    Dr. Mäkeläinen cannot suppress a smile at Kylah's energy. "It's all right. He can talk." He says to Lt. Rangin, "It's normal to feel a little light-headed; give it a minute. You caught the edge of that phaser blast."

    He looks at Nia with growing worry, but she hung in there, and here they are at the hospital. She can probably explain the fine points of Sidonian response to cold and stress, and particular physiological requirements, better than he can, and, if necessary and with her permission, he will share her recent medical history and medical tricorder readings with the doctors here.

    But, first... He looks at Rawlings... Graham... Kylah... for any indication that they have any monits. Rawlings, at least, has been here before. Mäkeläinen himself has no access to monits, or Romulan currency, or latinum at the moment. "How did the other rescued parties pay?" he asks Maude. "Can we make a conversion on the spot? We are certainly prepared to pay in credits, as the Lieutenant says. A little extra for yourself, of course." Kylah has a working datapad and is sitting near Maude, so they will probably try to get her help with the transaction, unless Maude has her own terminal that Graham can use to authorize a transfer of funds.

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    "Monits," Maude repeats. "Monetary units. It's the Ollos currency. The others I picked up had cash with them - not monits, but we worked out the exchange rate - and paid me with that."

    Kylah's pad does not have a subspace transmitter or a means to link, at this distance, to any Federation datanet.

    Two Tellarites, thickly bundled against the cold, emerge from the hospital and approach the crawler.

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    Kylah listens to this conversation, aware that Maude is (understandably) more interested in getting paid than conversing about her homelife with some stranger. With a glance at Dr. Mäkeläinen, who seems the most pragmatic of the group right now, she lifts her communicator. "We generally do not carry cash, ma'am. As you see in our uniforms, there is no place to keep it," she adds with an attempt at levity, which is not her strong suit. "When I last carried coins I was fortunate to have a bag, and even that was not--was not--"

    She falters and her face turns a burning pink. Shrinking unconsciously closer to Lt. Graham, she curls her fingers into the material of her blanket. "It was not wise," she finishes softly, and turns to the front window to look at the outside. Even the unsettling appearance of the approaching Tellarites cannot force the memory of the attack on Anubis from her mind, even months later.

    After a slight pause she recovers her more conversational tone. "Once we are connected to a subspace channel, I presume in the hospital or Port Authority building, I can transfer funds to your bank, if you wish. Or one of the others... the senior officers..."

    With a frown, she turns to Lt. Graham, still too awkward to meet his gaze after referring to the behavior that got her kidnapped and beaten. "Sir, I am not sure how this works in such a setting. I usually just pay. Does the mission commander handle these things?"

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    Graham nods. "Ens. Kylah is correct, Maude - we need a subspace connection in order transfer credits from our ship to your account. That's something I am more than happy to do at whatever the going exchange rate is, once we reach one..."He pauses. "Plus, say, 25 percent for the inconvenience and delay?" he offers. "If you have a recording device I'll state it for the record, as ranking Security officer."

    The latter is somewhat gratuitous, but hopefully lends his pledge more weight.

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    Maude says doubtfully, "We could do something like that, maybe. How are you going to pay for the subspace link, though?"

    The two Tellarites reach the crawler. One reaches up and pounds on the driver's door.

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    Kylah frowns slightly at Maude's question. "Forgive me, I do not understand. We would just pay with the credits once--"

    Her words cut off with a start at the sudden demanding noise from the Tellarite. Obviously the matter is urgent, so she remains silent.

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