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Landing Party

Posted on Sun May 3rd, 2020 @ 11:28am by Commander Jacob Kane & Lieutenant Kevan Dash & Lieutenant Noah Reed M.D. & Lieutenant Ausra Danton & Senior Chief Petty Officer Mason Malone

Mission: In the Family
Location: Third Moon of Paratus IV
Timeline: MD-4

The five figures materialised into a rocky cave beneath the surface of the third moon of Paratus. After beaming into a new environment, Kane always felt like he needed to take a moment to hold his breath - that strange paranoid habit of not being completely sure the air was breathable or going to be some toxic poison gas. Thankfully, nothing untoward happened and the atmosphere was perfectly fine.

The cave around them was a fairly ideal beam-in site due to it being a dead-end section of the network; an open space with only one way out, which was deeper inside. Kane flicked on his flashlight and glanced around the landing party. "Tricorders. Picking up anything unusual?"

Mason felt on edge as he looked around. There being only one way out felt like an ideal trap for him, so he pulled out his phaser just in case. He peered down at the tricorder in his right hand, then shook his head. "No lifesigns just yet sir," he commented, "or much of anything. Is anyone else seeing anything?"

Ausra opened her mouth to reply and sucked in some spittle. She couched, sputtered, hacked and then gradually began to breath in the air again, in gasping, raspy breaths and that everyone on the landing party looking at her. "Sorry," she mumbled. "But I really can't see anything . . . . of interest . . . . sir."

"Are you alright ma'am?" Mason asked, looking at her with mild concern, "there shouldn't be anything in the air to cause any kind of reaction..."

Doctor Reed focused his attention on his medical tricorder as it continued scans of the surrounding environment and looked up briefly to confirm what the senior chief had stated. "So far, so good: a nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere. The ratio is a little off but nothing to be concerned about."

"Yes, fine . . . . I just swallowed wrong." Ausra said, turning pink.

Kane glanced at his new Science Officer momentarily. She was pretty different from her predecessor, but just as nervous it seemed. His eyes scanned the darkness around them, relying on wrist-mounted flashlights was their only option for now aside from using tricorders to map things out.

"Let's move out. Carefully. We don't know what to expect here, and if the ships that attacked us did truly originate here then we can expect them to be unhappy with us dropping-in." He took the lead himself; not typically protocol, but then he'd never been the sort of leader to let others take the risk before he did.

A few minutes' walk into the cool air of the cave structure, the tunnel opened out into a wider chamber. No sooner had the group arrived when bright spotlights lights flickered on, momentarily blinding them.

"Who's there? Identify yourselves!" a voice barked in the darkness.

Kane held out one hand to stop his group from reacting, the other palm-forward to indicate he wasn't threatening. At least not yet.

"Commander Kane of the USS Athena. We're not here to start a fight."

There was shuffling from somewhere beyond the lights. Boots on rock, from the sound of it. One of the lights fell dark, allowing them to see the half-dozen weapons trained on them. And a dark-haired, handsome-looking man in what might once have been a formal uniform of sorts. Despite his handsome face he looked tired, and his clothing was tattered.

"My name is Alonso. Formerly Duke of Paratus, now...well, I am the Duke of all of this." He motioned around himself.

Mason already had his phaser drawn from the moment of appearing in the cave, but at Kane's held up hand, he lowered his weapon. Still he remained alert, eyes darting from one armed person to the other. "What is... this?" he asked slowly, moving carefully so he could protect the captain if needed. "Why former duke?"

Ausra swiveled her head around as much as she could to look at all of them without moving her body. She kept her hand on the tricorder and glance down at it once in a while to see if it led to any interesting facts, it was better than thinking too much about the weapons pointed at her. And if it revealed something well then maybe it would help. She'd already made an idiot out of herself once today, she needed to make up for it.

"Former, as-in no longer current." Alonso smiled, flashing a somewhat charismatic-looking grin in spite of himself. "My brethren and I are exiles. Undesirables. Rebels."

The last word stuck in Kane's mind. Rebellion usually implied trouble for those in power - and those working with them.

"As I said, we're not here to start a fight," he explained, motioning to the multiple barrels trained on him. He was quite ready to respond, but this was tactically disadvantageous. Seeing the look, Alonso waved his men to stand down. "Perhaps you'll do us the favour of explaining what sort of rebels you are. Especially since I'm led to believe you already conducted a raid on a Federation Starship."

Alonso blinked, surprised. "If insult has been taken, Commander, I must apologise, of course. Your mighty Federation Starship is still intact, is it not?"

"It is."

"Then you have more ships left than I do, it seems," Alonso replied with a smooth grin. He motioned for them to approach. "Please, come. Join us. Let us talk some more."

Kane nodded, looking over at his landing party. "Take a look around. See what you can find."

"Why did you attack us and risk the life of the pilot?" Mason asked as he put his phaser away, "surely you must've known it was no match for us?" He still remained close to the captain -just in case - but did move off a little to look around. "What did you do to get exiled?"

Ausra started thinking about the things that would get someone exiled such as breaking a law or going against the current regime of government but she said none of this out loud of course, it wasn't her place to speak, she was not in charge of this investigation, she was just here to collect evidence.

"We, ah-" Alonso smiled ever-so-slightly, catching sight of Ausra as he did so. "We were born as brothers, you see."

"Brothers?" Kane asked, eyebrow raised.

"The great equaliser among my people, Commander." the Duke motioned to the various men positioned all around the cavern. "No matter our class, our skills, indeed anything about us - the fact that we were all born as men."

Kane's eyes narrowed. He'd read the reports from the Ambassador and the briefing from Lt Commander Taeler. Paratans were a matriarchal society. But were they so matriarchal that they would exile their males? "You were exiled for your gender?"

Alonso just flashed a roguish grin. "Do you see any women around here, Commander? Aside from the very pretty young lady by your side?" He winked at Ausra. "Hello my dear."

Ausra looked like a fish out of water. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was open. She glanced at her Captain and finally said, "Hello," just because she thought it would be rude not to say something when addressed directly.

"You say you are born as brothers..." Mason frowned. "Do you mean to say that along the way some men turn into women?"

Silence hung in the air as almost every eye in the room looked at him. Kane stiffened, looking between Mason and the Duke, before Alonso led the raucous laughter that followed.

"Forgive me, my friend! No!" Alonso wiped a little tear of laughter from his eye. "Perhaps a little slip of the tongue. You misunderstand: where I come from, being a man is, well, it is an unfortunate part of life. A curse that we all share, regardless of our birthright." His smiled faltered just slightly. "I can see why someone might want to change that. Indeed, a few most likely have tried, but no. We are not that way." His grin flashed again. "We must be men. And we need to make ourselves heard."

"Surely there are more peaceful ways than attacking people?" Mason couldn't laugh. "In Earth history, people like me were second rate for a long time. I understand your predicament, but not because I am a man... But violence just isn't the way to be heard."

Kane turned and gave Mason a look. He understood the man's convictions, but his penchant for speaking up hadn't necessarily helped their cause.

"And if people do not listen to you? What then?" Alonso asked. "For some people, violence is all they know. And the only language that will truly make them listen."

"Perhaps so..." Kane interjected. "Starfleet exists to keep the peace, and there are times when we must use force to protect others. I understand that mindset," he explained carefully. "There are plenty of races out there that do respond better to violence than talk. They see it as a sign of strength and commitment to a cause." He looked back at Alonso. "But I am also a Starfleet Officer. And we believe that peaceful negotiation is the best path to coexistence. Not violent overthrow."

Alonso paused. Then he smiled again. "Of course. Please, take your time here. Speak with my brothers here. Share a drink. Understand their perspective. Then you make your judgements upon us, yes?"

Not really having any intention to talk to anyone, Ausra pulled out her tricorder again and began to scan the area even going so far as to the point the device at the men around her and seeing if it came up with anything interesting. She was so busy paying attention to the screen that she didn't notice the small rock in her path that didn't move when her foot hit it. She toppled over face first towards the ground and landed with a thud on the sandy soil.

"Oh, watch your step." A hand descended towards the young Lieutenant. It belonged to Duke Alonso himself. He grinned at her, not laughing at her misfortune but comforting. "Can't tell you the number of bumps and scrapes we've had here, milady."

"Now if you had just said something twenty seconds earlier," Ausra replied though there was no hint of anger in her voice. She was back on her feet quickly and brushing the dust off her uniform. "Thank you," she mumbled since he'd half picked her up.

"It's my pleasure, milady." Alonso bowed regally, that trademark charismatic grin still present.

Mason had walked off into the opposite direction, occasionally glancing up from his tricorder. He wasn't sure what exactly he was looking for, but he made note of everything he found with his tricorder, certain the security chief would want to know as much as possible

Kane approached the investigations officer, he himself prowling around and looking with his eyes rather than the sensory input of a tricorder.

"Anything of note, Mr Mason?"

"Depends on what you consider of note sir," the younger man offered cautiously, "I'm reading quite a weapons arsenal, even if it's not enough to take on the Athena they could do considerable damage if they wanted to. I think there's more going on than they're telling us and I'd advise caution in giving them any information about us."

"Log it. Maybe get friendly with a few of them, see what you can learn about their plans for those weapons," Kane said. "This Duke is friendly enough. Maybe too friendly."

Mason's eyes widened a fraction. "Just how friendly sir," he asked, not quite sure if he was understanding right. He looked over his shoulder at Kevan, then back at the captain. "Just friends friendly or uhm... more?"

Kane gave him a curious look. "Friendly, Chief." He glanced over at the Lieutenant, following Mason's look. Whatever unusual tension was going on between the two, he needed them on their toes. "As-in nothing your mother would disapprove of. Pick them for information, not dating tips."

"I wouldn't know what my mother would've disapproved of sir," Mason answered softly, "I never knew her.... But no dating tips, understood sir." Giving a small nod, he sauntered off towards the duke, watching him from a slight distance as he engaged the science chief. Body language went a long way and having an aptitude for language, Mason could tell a lot from someone's posture.

"What are you whispering about?" Asura came over, this time she was looking down at her feet to make sure she didn't trip again. "Oh yes, he's odd isn't he? Very romanticish but I'm not falling for it, don't worry Captain."

"Never doubted you for a second, Lieutenant," Kane nodded. "He's quite the rogue. I can see why he would encourage others to follow."

"Some people are eloquent. It helps them when they do things that people wouldn't normally approve of. And oh good," Ausra nodded to Kane. "I'm glad we got that settled. I'll just go do sciency stuff . . . .over there." She pointed in a direction and began walking that way.

Seeing Ausra move off, Mason slid up to the Duke's side. "Quite a home you've made for yourself sir," he said as he gestured around. "But why are there no women here? Surely you have partners? Children? Offspring, to help your cause?"

"No, no women here, friend. Aside from your crewmate there." Alonso nodded. "We left our partners and families behind to fight this battle. We protect them by leaving them behind." He faltered slightly, "And so they don't need to see us die, if it comes to that."

"What battle exactly are you fighting?" Mason asked carefully. "Do you have a family which you have left behind? Aren't they worried about you?"

" is a strange thing to hear that word again," Alonso mused. "I wonder what my sister would make of that word. Probably not much." He spotted the expression on Mason's face. "Sorry, I assumed you knew. I am Duke Alonso Noteuil, brother of Queen Sarissa of Paratus. Fancy title, no? Alas, titles mean nothing when you are born a man on Paratus."

"Ahh i didn't get that connection sir. I'm sorry to hear that, especially if relations are well....non-existent. I have four sisters of my own, all older than me." An expression of fondness touched his face. "My oldest sister pretty much raised me you see..." He paused. "Why don't titles mean much when you're born a man? If your sister is a queen, wouldn't that make you a prince?"

Alonso shrugged. "Maybe on your world. Not on Paratus." He seemed fairly casual about it. Like it was normal. "Titles are matrilineal. Were I to marry a commoner and have a daughter, she would not carry any titles."

"If your sister is queen, wouldn't she expect you to marry another royal?" Mason wondered, even in Earth history royals usually married other royalty, or at least someone of high class or standing. "Do please forgive the ignorance, I don't know a great many things about your people. I was married once, and I do have a daughter but she lives with her other father now."

"The original intent would have been for me to be married-off to whomever my sister decided, I suppose," Alonso replied. "For your daughter to have two fathers..." he considered. "I am not sure whether to feel sorry for her or not. On my world she would be treated with sympathy, of course. And likely the authorities would seek to have her placed with a role model."

"We adopted our daughter as she was an orphan, though in time I would love to have a child of my own as well," Mason explained, "do same gender relationships exist in your culture, or are they frowned upon? In Earth history, there was a time when it wasn't safe to be open about it. In some cultures, it still isn't safe." He tilted his head as his trained hearing picked up some muffled noises. "Do you have injured here?" he asked, briefly looking around to see where their chief medical officer had gone off too. "Do you need help with them?"

"We have a few. Our supplies are limited. We came with what we could carry," Alonso shrugged.

Kane, hearing this, moved forward. "We will provide you with humanitarian aid, Duke Alonso. But there is a question that I need to ask you: our ship was attacked by light attack craft when we arrived in the system. What do you know about that?"

Alonso broke eye contact, his arms crossing uncomfortably. "Brothers of mine. They...they felt that we had to make sure our voice was heard by your Federation. I didn't want things to happen this way, but-" the Duke stopped himself. "I fear my sister will no longer listen to anything but bloodshed."

"Some of your men turned terrorist," Kane concluded.

"They gave their lives for a cause. You call this terrorism. I call it freedom fighting. My sister calls them...absolutely nothing," Alonso explained bitterly.

Kane's jaw tightened at the notion. These men were motivated, and desperate. And apparently equipped for a fight.

"Athena to Commander Kane," his communicator chirped.

"Go ahead."

"Commander, detecting a number of small vessels approaching from Paratus IV."

Kane frowned again. The Duke simply smiled ruefully.

"My sister is not so foolish; she followed your ship."

Kane looked around at his landing party. "Back to the beam-in site. We're returning to the ship," he called. The safety of his crew was paramount now. The Duke just watched him, that same expression on his face. The men here were likely defenseless. And Kane would be left with a choice: defend them or watch them be wiped out by the Queen's forces.

He was suddenly struck by the thought that this might not be just another diplomatic mission after all.

:: OFF ::

Cmdr Jacob Kane
Commanding Officer
USS Athena

Lt Kevan Dash
Security Officer
USS Athena
(PNPC Kane)

Duke Alonso Neuteil
(PNPC Kane)

Lieutenant Ausra Danton
Chief Science Officer
USS Athena

SCPO Mason Malone
Investigations Officer
pnpc Savin


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