Haumea Colony

A Play-by-Nova roleplay game.

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Triangular Discoveries

Posted on Sun Jan 30th, 2022 @ 4:20pm by Jason Bray & Lieutenant Alan Harrison & Caithlin t'Leiya & Lieutenant Gunnar Arnason

2,474 words; about a 12 minute read

Mission: Roll With It
Location: Forest Outskirts
Timeline: MD -05 : 2016 Hrs

With everything settled with the drama created from missing children, it was Jason Bray who suggested they keep pressing onward. Scientific breakthroughs did not make themselves, after all. His words did not fall on deaf ears, but most of his staff seemed content to stay in their labs. Even his daughter, rattled from the experience, suggested that he stay put.

Which was exactly why he recruited this little team to do the opposite. The forests of Haumea had to have been teeming with life, and what better time to go look but in the midst of a beautiful, quiet night.

So, equipped with only the finest biological detection devices his company had to offer, as well as a little liquid fortification in case they found themselves in need, Jason excitedly gathered said group and hurried them into the woods, chatting their ears off along the way about what he hoped to find. Predators? Dangers? Maybe, but if danger stopped science, then there would be many fewer discoveries being had.

"Did you say you found yourself a predator a few months back?" he asked, giving one of his 'recruits' a grin. "The one with the venomous saliva?"

"Yes..." Gunnar replied, a little uncertain how to take that level of enthusiasm over a potentially dangerous predator. Of course, he'd enjoyed exploring the area when he'd assisted with environmental surveys over the winter, so probably it was just scientific excitement over new discoveries (but hopefully not the kind an engineer he once knew displayed over new explosives). "Though it was more anesthetic than venomous - an adaption to allow it to take down Daucin, we think."

While the two men were talking, Caithlin was shifting around quietly to one side...Until the phaser and one of the knives she carried, usually all concealed, were suddenly now worn openly hanging from a thin belt around her waist. At the look she got, or perhaps was anticipating given recent other human reactions to an armed civilian, one eyebrow crept up slightly with a wry tone: "What. If it's venomous predator, not a recalcitrant corporation, I don't think it will stop if I just sue it..."

Gunnar laughed. "Probably not. Which reminds me..." He opened his pack and withdrew a short-barreled phaser rifle, a model not much different than what he first used to use a boy to stun injured or frightened animals so they could be safely treated. "Just make sure it's on stun - we're here for specimens to study and tag. This is their home, not ours, so killing is a last resort."

The raised eyebrow became even further raised. "If whatever this creature is warrants you to bring out such a weapon, perhaps I should have brought likewise." Caithlin flicked a glance at the hand weapon on her belt, suddenly dubious of it comparatively; especially given the source of the longer-range version: Gunnar had a tendency, the few times she had seen the children manage to rope him into a contest at the range, to be only a middling marksman for the most part, and usually found himself eventually beat out in the end by Ieliene (to his credit, he still beat Arenn and Telek so far, but that was perhaps partially her fault; she'd had precious little time the earliest years of their life to teach them, or anyone she trusted enough to have do so in her stead). If he felt this creature was worth bringing out a rifle for, it was probably worth taking seriously indeed; in 92 years of life to date, she had come to the conclusion that there were two types of threats deserving notice beyond the average even: Those that could rattle the skilled and experienced who were otherwise hard to shake...and conversely, those that could drive a reaction even from those otherwise prone to a lack of decent survival instincts.

Gunnar mentally chided himself for not seeing that reaction coming. "Don't worry. The stun on this isn't much stronger than on your phaser," he assured. "I think you know I'm a mediocre shot at best with a hand phaser. I brought this because I'm lot better with a rifle."

Alan had enjoyed the first expedition to the caves (before the one where they had to rescue the children) and jumped at the chance to do some more exploring. He was something of an amateur explorer at heart, with an interest in, among other things, archaeology, so he tagged along whenever someone asked him to. "Well, I hope we'll at least see something else interesting this time. If one thing's for sure, it's that this planet never fails to surprise us." Just in case, he made sure his phaser was still securely attached to his belt. He wondered if Gunnar had brought a spare phaser rifle - Alan was no marksman, but he would feel safer with some more firepower at his disposal if it came to that.

"Everyone's so trigger-happy," Jason remarked, before tapping the side of his head. "And that's why I brought you all along. This colony has had too many close calls. We can't be too careful. But-" He paused, gaze falling upon two glowing, yellow eyes floating above the snow in front of them. A squeak followed, as the eyes, as well as the creature they belonged to, turned tail and ran off deeper into the forest.

Of course, the scientist in Jason haphazardly followed the creature, thoughts of self-preservation long behind him.

Oh boy, here we go again... Alan thought as he followed the absent-minded scientist into the forest, hoping he'd be able to keep sight of him amongst the dense foliage.

A very similar thought, though one prefaced by a curse, went through Gunnar's head when the scientist took off. "Hey, wait!" the medic called already heading after him, "Don't run off alone out here."

Caithlin sighed - not only Jason but also everyone who had followed him was rushing off with seemingly on forward-facing eyes. She followed them in short order briskly, but made sure to keep a watch behind them; no bear or sehlat - or whatever the local apex predators were that existed here - respected an 'only attack from the front' rule any more than an enemy did.

Oh, Jason heard them alright, but it did not stop him from continuing onward, recklessly and loudly. The cries from the others were not what would stop him, but what did stop him was the small gathering of eyes glowing in the dark, shaped in a formation similar to that of a coniferous tree, smaller than the plant life surrounding it. At the top of the formation settled the daucin, eyes upon the group of people.

And all Jason could think to say was, "... Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating."

Long legs let Gunnar close the distance to catch up with Jason. He was reaching out to grab the scientist when the man came to halt. Following his gaze, Gunnar skidded to a halt as well. He blinked and shook his head, but the sight was still there - a cone of fur and glowing eyes, topped by a daucin, seemingly playing King of the Mountain. "Fascinating, indeed," he agreed in stunned whisper. Though aware of Caithlin coming up from behind, he brought the rifle up across his chest, ready to bing it to bear if their presence provoked a hostile reaction.

Alan arrived with the group, a bit out of breath - engineering wasn't exactly a field that kept one in tip-top shape. At first he noticed the others standing rather still, then he noticed the creatures staring back at them from the dark. Seeing that the usually rather calm Gunnar had prepared for the worst, he followed suit and released the strap on the phaser at his hip and made sure it was still set to stun. He was still catching his breath, so he didn't feel that providing more comment on the creatures would contribute enough to the conversation to justify the light-headedness it would produce.

"None of the literature on these indigenous creatures said they performed such a mannerism," Jason continued, squatting himself down low to plop his bag down and rustle around in it. "Eating minerals, cave-dwelling... but to catch them in the forest with an organized habit such as this?"

"Eating minerals?" One perfectly manicured eyebrow on the lawyer's face rose in the darkness. "Like the Horta? I have to admit; my father said that when the Federation's discovery of the Horta was first learned of, there was...some question among the intelligence personnel as to whether or not it was a joke you were all attempting to put over on us..." She laughed softly.

"Nope, I can show you the bulkheads we had to repair if you'd like," Alan chuckled, relieved to see they had encountered some relatively harmless creatures, as none of those present were made of minerals.

"Fascinating." Jason kept repeating the statement multiple times over, now seated on the ground as he took readings from his scanner. His eyes were upon the group of Daucin, each of which has differing foci between the quartet of bipedal strangers. But they were unmoving, unwavering, and silent. "To have them so well-organized..."

Gunnar nodded, eyeing the mound of daucin. "Pack behavior? Most previous sightings were individuals or pairs, so we'd assumed they weren't social animals. Of course, they still may not be in the technical sense - there are a number of species, like the va'cha on Argillus V, that gather in numbers only for limited spans, typically for reproduction."

"It's probably a good thing my children and my nieces aren't here." Caithlin eyed the mound of Daucin. "They are, to quote the human phrase, 'furry and cute'...and I would prefer to complete construction on the house before the children get any ideas about making pets of the local wildlife..."

"This local wildlife would literally eat you out of house and home," Gunnar replied. "They nearly ate the whole colony out of existence by noshing on our generators last winter."

"They ate what?!?" Caithlin responded, incredulous, before her voice took on a dubious humor at the end: "In that case, glad we brought the energy weapons; for all we know their response to a blade would be to have it for dinner."

Jason crouched down in front of the creatures, frowning at the scanner in front of him. "We had a couple sneak into our stores of items before we could get our hands on the enamel we'd need to protect them. But the creatures managed to disperse before we could get a hold of them - hence why we're out tonight."

He stood up, eyes off the tree of creatures. "There's a few more life forms behind these creatures. Similar readings, but younger. Smaller. Children, perhaps?"

"If so, we should stay back," Gunnar said, acting his own words though stepping both back and to the side, almost unconsciously putting himself in front of Caithlin - a move that if he actually thought about it would be truly laughable. "In general, there are few creatures more dangerous than those protecting their young."

Caithlin slid slightly to the side, aborting Gunnar's attempt to move in front of her, and at his words flashed a truly unsettling edged grin that was more 'emphatic threat confirmation' than 'expression of joy'; no doubt recalling the many and severe instances and ways in which she herself had embodied that warning and tendency over the last nine years; then glanced over at Jason. "Are we...looking to take one home? Or simply recording scan data?"

As eager a scientist that Jason was, he did also have a bit of common sense to him. And he understood what could occur if they disturbed the nest in front of them. "We should look to take one that ends up a little closer to home, I think. The creatures in front of us seem to be less than enthused about being apart," he resolved. He looked toward their engineer tagalong, "Is there a chance we could have an enclosure made so that if we end up with a daucin or two, we can make sure they're comfortable?"

"Sure, we could probably either use an energy barrier or something without much in the way of minerals," Alan responded, designs already flashing through his mind, "We might even be able to make it appear much like its natural habitat here on Xaeprea." It would be something interesting to engineer, but without the time pressure of recent events on the colony. Regardless, he was also relieved they wouldn't be collecting one now.

"We used something like that when we caught the first one," Gunnar put in, though hesitant to encourage this idea. "However, we released it as soon as we'd worked out how to deter it from eating our metals. The animal was becoming severely distressed in captivity."

Jason's expression turned to one of mild disappointment, but he took a couple of slow steps backward. He was here to study the creatures, not keep them in a zoo. "I'd imagine it was. Something to work on when we get back to the colony." He grinned wildly, his earlier thought now vanishing with the prospect of another project. "Mr. Harrison, I believe we'll be in touch."

Whew. Gunnar smiled, relieved that wasn't going to be an argument.

"But!" Jason held up a hand, "I have kept all of you much too long. How about I treat you all to a dinner back in our main buildings? We have a whole test kitchen run by one of my nephews for his final semester at the Federation Culinary Institute, and I caught whiff of whatever it was he was concocting. I'm sure there'll be plenty for everyone."

Gunnar nodded. "Thank you. A nice meal sounds like a good way to celebrate a new discovery about our local wildlife."

"So long as there is something of sufficient quality on tap." Caithlin grinned; since taking the job as chief legal counsel for the Bray Foundation; she had spent a decent amount of effort on the side improving its refreshments and drink cabinets; though half of what she put in the conference rooms and such always seemed to end up vanishing rapidly, especially anything even remotely sweetened--she suspected the little ring-tailed engineer, but had yet to be able to catch him in the act.

"Then away we shall go!" Jason exclaimed, wincing when the pile of daucin all squeaked angrily at him; now disengaged, he has been officially deemed not a threat. "I'm sorry my fuzzy friends. We'll leave you all to your lives now."

He winked toward the trio, gesturing back the way they had arrived. "Shall we?"


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