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PLOT LOG: Curiouser

Posted on 24 Feb 2024 @ 3:41pm by The Narrator & Crewman Apprentice Unknown 'Weirdo'

2,151 words; about a 11 minute read

Mission: Miranda

The crew had been given permission to explore the natural areas surrounding the camp "within reason," though it was a relatively flat and arid space. There were some trees and once you wandered a bit, there were even cave systems. Not much flora and even less fauna, but some intriguing geological formations for anyone who was curious enough...

The most recent addition to Odin's crew had not hesitated at all as soon as the permission was given. Since they weren't formally 'on duty' here he had chosen to wear the more sturdy Indiana Jones-like outfit instead of a uniform which was more suited for the indoors. Of course he did have the required gear with him: communicator, scanner, and a type 1 phaser 'just in case'. In addition to that he had brought some rope, thin but sturdy, a long knife, a lassoo and some basic survival gear. He didn't expect to need any of it, but it was still good training – kind of like holodeck survival training, but then on an actual world. He was humming a melody under his breath as he walked, a melody which someone might've recognised as the theme of the movie, had there been anyone close enough to hear it.

He studied the landscape as he walked. Something which looked like grass or moss, or a strange, sturdy blend of both. Low bushes hugging the ground, tightly woven and very hard to walk through. And some spindly trees here and there, clinging to the arid ground with great tenacity. When he looked back, the camp in the distance had shrunk. If he kept going straight ahead, he'd lose sight of it altogether within fifteen minutes.

The ground sloped up, though, and he decided to follow that rise, looking for a higher point which would allow him a greater view of the landscape.

At the top of the rise sat a small cluster of what looked like a (again, small) bush with black foliage. If approached, however, a smattering of insects with four black wings apiece and no discernable legs would release in a cloud of otherwise harmless annoyance and flutter off to form a new hiding bush somewhere else...

He studied them for a few moments, looking at the small insects taking flight and landing again, and waved a scanner at them to make the science department happy. Then he continued on his way. He looked over his shoulder again at the small camp under him. Such a small area where the crews of the ships were gathered together, such an enormous planet.

Far from terrifying him, the idea elated him and he continued on with a wide grin on his face and a spring in his step, resolutely turning his back on the camp and facing the wide outdoors.

It wasn't much later when he saw the dark holes amidst the rock formations. Recesses or caves? He resisted the temptation to speed up, only changed his course a little to the left so that he could study them more closely. Cave entrances, by the looks of it, they were too dark to be a mere recess. And… He frowned, intrigued. It looked almost like the opening he was walking towards to had been cut out or enlarged artificially. Again he whipped out the scanner and aimed it at those odd cuts.

At first the scanner didn't reveal anything. Yes, the edges of the cave could be cuts. They also could be just weirdly wind-blasted weather formations. This was his first time on a world as far as he could remember, he could hardly claim to be an expert in any sense of the world. Still, there was something, some kind of subliminal observation which insisted that there was more to this place.

He paused long enough outside to send a brief message to the camp. "Found a cave system at approximately two miles from the camp, south-southwest. Going in to explore." He strapped the pocket light to his wrist but didn't activate it yet, and stepped inside. The scanner murmured soft noises, reporting something about the height and width of the cave tunnel in which he found himself, the material of the rock, and… He slowed and looked down. Something grew there, on the floor. He knelt down, careful not to crush the delicate shapes, and waved his scanner over it. It looked like some kind of mycelium, in the fungoid stage, glowing faintly in the scant light which came in from behind him.

And – coincidence or not? It seemed to be in the shape of a footstep.

But if it was more than coincidence, that could mean there would be more, further ahead. He activated the wrist lamp, changed its output deeper towards the ultraviolet end of the spectrum to see if that would make the small lifeforms glow a little brighter, then held up his arm to look further ahead.

There were no further footprints, not that he could see. Maybe it was just coincidence, then, after all. But it was certainly intriguing.

He turned to look back, memorising the view from here so that he would be able to find his way back later without having to leave a record of his passing by making scratches in the walls or other signs. The small computer would also be keeping track of his route, of course, but he didn't want to rely on electronic equipment alone.

For now it seemed easy enough to continue. There were a few places where the walls of the cave narrowed or the ceiling lowered, but never to the point that he couldn't continue. At one point he saw a shaft on his left which seemed to go up, a chilly breeze came from there. When he stood under it and peered up, he saw no light. Either there was a bend in that shaft somewhere or he had gone deeper than he thought by now – the ground was sloping down, but the angle didn't seem to be very steep.

Now the walls receded so that the shaft he was walking in almost became a chamber, with smooth stone walls, and it was there that he saw something. Or thought he saw something. He stopped and whipped his head around, trying to catch a glimpse of what he thought he'd seen from the corner of his eye. Some kind of sighting.

Sighting of what? Of a person. Perhaps.

It was a flicker of light against the eyes, reflecting back at him from a roughly human height--a dim outline of a humanoid shape--before the shape and the eyes spun away behind another rock formation. A soft echo of footsteps trailing behind the vanishing person for just a few moments before the shape and the reflections returned. Was someone looking at him?

His eyes began to shine and an eager smile played around his lips. Another explorer, maybe from one of the other ships? Or-
Only one way to find out. "Hello," he called out in a gentle voice. "There's no need to hide, it's alright!"


The sound returned to him and might have been an echo...if not for the extra moments of delay and the distinctively feminine tone to the voice. It was more of a question where his had been a statement. The shadowy figure seemed to peek back around the stalactite… stalagmite? Stalagmite, he decided after a moment's consideration ("StalaGmite, G for Ground," yes, that was it.)

His light flickered again in the pair of eyes, but they didn't disappear again. "Hello?" the voice came again.

Was this someone from one of the other ships? Not likely, he would've heard it it someone else had headed this way to explore. Nice assumption, but maybe someone had decided to go for some spontaneous spelunking and figured it was easier to ask forgiveness than permission. However, if that wasn't the case, this could be a first contact situation, then. Maybe possibly maybe. Better to treat it as such and risk making a right fool out of himself than not doing so and botch it completely.

He smiled ('Never display teeth, it can be taken as a sign of aggression in many cultures'), tucked the scanner into his pocket and spread his hands, palms towards the stranger ('Show that your hands are empty, but keep your distance'). The scanner would continue to make readings and he'd take a look at it again as soon as he could. "Hello," he repeated. "Nice to see you!" He didn't move closer, just let himself be seen. I'm safe, I'm harmless, I'm nice, he tried to telegraph with both his body language and his mind.

There were a few moments of silence before the shadowy figure slowly emerged from the rocky edge. The dim light from the bioluminescent plant life showed, a few moments and a few steps later, that the figure was--by all visual cues--a human woman, and a young one. Perhaps an older teenager or in her early twenties. She stepped further into the light, tilting her head curiously. "What are you doing here?" she asked, but there was nothing to her tone that suggested she was upset or defensive.

"Exploring the cave system!" He gestured around him. His natural enthusiasm rose to the surface, his complete and utter fascination for everything new. And right now, not just the caves in general or the faintly glowing plants were the objects of his fascination, but his conversation partner as well. She looked human, yes, but so did he. He was absolutely certain he had never seen her before, at least never since he woke up on the USS Odin – everything before that had of course vanished in the mists which clouded his mind. She could still be from one of the other ships, a civilian researcher perhaps. But something – something he either registered through one of his more intuitive or psi-senses or some instinct, or both – told him that wasn't the case. "And what are you doing here?" he continued in the same tone.

"I live here," she replied simply. Her body language and expression all spoke of wary curiosity, but there was still no fear. Even standing in the middle of a dim cave with a total stranger, the woman was not afraid. "You don't live here," she added with certainty.

"That's right," he said, gesturing in the direction from which he had come. "I came from outside. My companions and I are camping here for a few days, but we actually live, ah, pretty far away from here." He turned to face her again. "Would you like to meet some of them? We hadn't really expected to meet people here, but we always like to make new friends."

She looked him up and down for a moment, looking uncertain, as if weighing the situation and her options before she nodded once. "Yes, I think I would like to do that." She moved closer to him, still a little wary but no fear.

He remained where he was, allowing her to come closer and to study him. She was as curious about him as the other way around, it seemed. "Then I'll ask a few people to come here as well. Do you have a name?"

"Yes," she said, tilting her head slightly as she walked toward him. "I am Maria. Who are you?"

"I don't really have a name, but people call me all kind of things. Feel free to make one up for me if you like." He smiled again. "Do you mind if I make a few pictures of you? So I can show my friends?"

"Aren't you taking me to see your friends?" she asked curiously. "Why do you need pictures?"

"To show them you as you live here. Or at least in this area of where you live. I'm sure they're all curious, but it might not be wise to bring everyone who's curious down here." He gestured at the delicate plants with one hand while reaching slowly into his pocket with the other. He took the scanner, touched the interface and held it out. "Here, this is you," he said as he showed her the images it made.

Maria looked at the image and made a noncommittal noise. If she was surprised by the technology (as one seemingly living in a cave might?) then she didn't show it. She simply nodded and offered a mild smile. "I have some friends who like to meet new people. Would you like to bring them to meet your friends too?"

"New friends are always welcome, and so are friends of friends," he replied with a smile. He typed a quick message on the device before he put it back in his pocket. It sent a simple message back to the camp, in one quick and coded burst: "Heading back, bringing friends," with the image of Maria attached.


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