Obsidian Command

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Milk Run: Squawk

Posted on 16 Feb 2022 @ 11:01am by Commander Calliope Zahn & Commander Thaddeus Zayne & Commander Bruce Kensforth & Major Declan Finn

Mission: M2 - Sanctuary
Location: Obsidian Caverns/ SFMC Cerastes
Timeline: MD12 ~0730
1642 words - 3.3 OF Standard Post Measure

The walk in the caves seemed to have been ascending, here and there necessitating a steep climb. The kindness of others had allowed Calliope intermittent rest over the hours of forced progress and she managed as best she could on her own feet now, scrambling on hands and feet with others grasping to lift or push her along. The group was loathe to leave any of their number to fall behind. Before Calliope had been awake to witness it, they had seen the harsh and final cruelty dealt to stragglers once and that had been enough. Even if they believed they were on a march to death, they seemed to be trying to forestall the inevitable until the last. Calliope admired their fighting spirit and knew she was drawing from it as much as any.

The air seemed to be changing. She felt as if it had less of a sulfur tinge to it now and seemed drier. As the march came around a bend in the passage, she saw a beam of light striking the black volcanic wall ahead and her heart skipped. There was a chance her plan might work. She felt renewed energy and pressed head towards the beginning of the line, stretching her hand into the warm ray of sun.

If the sun could shine in, her signal could get out. She’d been trying to decide if a low signal for a longer period would suffice, or if it might be worth frying the powercell to get a single beacon signal out. Besides the ionized atmosphere that always played havoc with signals, the mountains were filled with magnetized ore that confused sensors. On any typical day, there was little chance of anyone picking up on her signal. But if Bruce had gotten the word out and they were actively searching for her signal, that certainly would improve the odds. She decided on signal bursts. If they were intermittent, she could get more out over time than with one sustained squawk. But it would still only be over a few minutes. She tucked her hand into her shirt and looked as though she were holding her heart as she switched on and whispered the desired settings to her comm unit.

“Silence all alerts. Incoming radio silent,” as she didn’t want the thing chirping or yammering and getting her throat slit. She couldn’t help but remember the icy glare of instructors when she’d neglected to silence her comm unit in classes. “Universal Translator off,” again, to keep suspicions down. “Unidirectional, emergency band, high-energy half second chirps, SOS and ID bearing, thirty seconds apart.” Based on her experience with Comm unit power cells, she was fairly certain it would burn out inside of five minutes. But it was the best she could hope for to beat the interference. Again, she hoped she’d made enough of a stir by going missing that the station had dedicated some satellites and shuttles. From her experience with communications tech, she knew they would need at least two signal pickups to hone in on her location. Three for exactitude. Just one would give them too large a search area to be very much use in the mountains.

The galactic quadrants seemed small when you could slipstream from solar system to solar system. But in reality, Calliope knew she was no more discoverable than one lost coin at the bottom of an ocean. The Taragi-Shar mountains were expansive, jagged things. There were complete topographical maps but with the sensor interference, actively searching through them would take weeks.

As the passageway ahead opened into the blinding morning sun, Calliope closed her eyes reflexively while stretching out her neck and basking in the warm glow. She kissed two of her fingers and pressed them to her comm unit to activate.

The glowing orb of Obsidian rotated slowly in its holographic form, floating above the large holotable in front of them. Commander Zayne frowned at it, staring at the orb and hardly noticing the slowly scrolling list of data points being fed from the orbital scanners, and from the near surface scans of the four shuttles he had making slow laps around a five hundred mile radius from where Commander Zahn had gone missing.

Of all the people to go missing on Obsidian, it had to be Commander Zahn. Not one of the Science or Medical teams. Not any of the diplomatic personnel or even one of the religious icons. It had to be the station's former XO and resident cripple that went missing. Not to mention the wife of one of the station's senior staff - a man he’d practically had to order to stay put and not come down to the surface himself on a crusade.

Thaddeus hadn’t left the surface since they’d picked up Kensforth. After rescuing him and treating him in the runabout, they’d scuttled the leftovers of the Delta Flyer shuttle and taken Major Finn’s advice that the best place to be right now to look for and be prepared to extract Commander Zahn was SFMC Cerastes, the Marine training facility that had newly come online. They would have resources aplenty to help them on their search and their extraction when they found Zahn.

“Colonel just put two more birds in the air,” Major Finn declared, joining Thaddeus’ silent vigil by the large holotable. “No more storms expected for the next forty-eight hours so he was confident enough to send out the Albatrosses,” he explained, meaning the Marine Corps more modern replacement for the aged Wyvern. It didn’t do warp or anything fancy, but it did its job putting Marines on the ground and clearing the area to do so very well. To do that it came with a pretty impressive sensor package which they would need to find the Commander.

“That makes six low-flying craft, a garrison vessel in high orbit and an entire station scanning for any sign of her,” Thad sighed, shaking his head. “And still nothing,” he said, still just staring at the glowing orb.

Finn shrugged, “I still think we take a fire team into town and go door to door. We’ll find her.”

“And kill decades of Diplomacy in the process,” Zayne answered for what seemed like the hundredth time. “The Admiral will have our asses for shish kabobs.”

“Impressive cultural reference,” Declan smirked.

“You think I’m joking,” Thad deadpanned.

The sound of footsteps turned both of their attentions to the left as Commander Kensforth joined their vigil. Physically, he looked no worse for wear but the look on his face was that of a man who’d just been pulled through hell and was somehow still upright.

“The hell happened to you?” Finn asked.

He cleared his throat, “Commander,” he began formally, “Captain Hawthorne asked that I pass along that he’d like a word with you, when you’re back on station,” he said, heaving a sigh and coming closer to give him a data PaDD. “When it’s convenient. I’ve been summoned back to the station and… expressly forbidden from flying anything else until the Ardeshir’s back online. He’s asked you issue a ban on my access.”

Finn winced quietly while Thad raised an eyebrow, caught between surprise and awe. On the one hand, it seemed a bit overkill, but then again Kensforth had crashed and destroyed two shuttles in less than a week. Granted, both were out of his control and his skill had helped him and his passenger survive both incidents. But the facts were what they were.

Thad took the data PaDD, “I’ll check in with him when I get back,” he sighed, setting the device on the edge of the table, “But unless you can get a solid transporter lock, we don’t have a shuttle to sp-”

The holographic orb of the planet froze suddenly and zoomed into the mountains while the terminal chirped loudly, showing a fifty mile stretch of desert and the words: ‘signal lost’.

“What is it?” Bruce asked quickly.

Thad was immediately going back to the scrolling feed of data and digging deeper to answer that question, “Possible Starfleet signal in this area. Weak but stronger than anything else we’ve seen. I’m diverting the nearest air assets,” he answered, ordering the Arrow runabout Nineteen to divert.

“Damn. So close,” Finn sighed as they stared at the holo for the next fifteen seconds, desperate to see it chirp again. “Damn.”

“It’s a lead, at le-,” Thad started.

The terminal chirped again and once more the holographic interface zoomed in a little closer, twenty-five miles in. Thad was right back to the scrolling feed and dug in once more, parsing data together as quickly as he could.

“It’s a commbadge,” he declared, “Starfleet. Emergency-band signal. It’s almost impossible to catch through the interference,” he explained, looking back at the two of them. “Orbital sensors aren’t even seeing this,” he added. “I’m diverting all air assets to this area. She’s there. She has to be.”

Finn nodded affirmatively. “I’ll get the team ready. Send one of the Albatrosses back for us, we’ll load up and be ready to go when you get the final location.”

Thad nodded, in this instance not about to question the need for Finn’s Marines to go in. This wasn’t them dealing with civilians. If Commander Zahn was sending an emergency signal through her commbadge, she wasn’t in a diplomatic situation. She knew the implication of sending an emergency distress and she had to know who would be coming. “I just need one more ping,” Thad said, “Load up, Declan. I’ll have the location shortly.”

“Oorah,” Finn grinned.


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