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Cold Silence

Posted on Tue May 14th, 2024 @ 4:03am by Lieutenant Percival Bálor Ph.D

726 words; about a 4 minute read

Mission: Standing By
Location: Priapus

Two hundred ninety degrees kelvin with a damp humidity level after the recent rainfall, Gregory Westfall was at base camp with two others of his team, a mixture of archeologist and geologist though the rest of his team were at the caverns. Base camp was quiet, a bit too quiet for Greg. He was no ornithologist, but they typically had the native avian species causing a ruckus in the treetops. There was nothing from them, not within the past several minutes. It was unnervingly calm. Even the bonobos or whatever the primates were had fallen to a ghostly silence.

Doctor Lorna McDougal came out from the tent with two mugs in hand, one of them she extended towards Greg. “Hey,” she said sweetly. Her voice was like the starlings back home. It will be nice to get back there he thought to himself. He had been off Earth for several months now, and his daughter was undoubtedly missing him dearly. It was times like these that he questioned why he accepted the job, tasked with leading the expedition on Priapus, placing him lightyears between himself and his family. “Greg,” McDougal said referring to him by name, an attempt to drag him back to the here and now. “Something to warm you up, take the chill off” she added.

The rain forests and jungles of Priapus where they were had subtropical climate, but it was as close to ‘winter’ as it got, and with the recent rainstorm over the past few hours that had finally passed, they were experiencing one of the coldest nights ahead. If anything, it was a bit welcome at some of the boiling days they had last week. There was by no means in danger of snowfall, but Doctor Gregory Westfall accepted the hot tea or rather what passed at tea. It was made with some local roots that were determined to be safe albeit bitter, nothing some added sweeteners couldn’t help. They had been without a functioning replicator for the past few weeks and had sent a transmission to Starfleet requesting a replacement next opportunity they got to send more equipment, maybe a physician to check them out and make sure everything was up and up.

Something destroyed their replicator unites one day when they were all gone from base camp. The likely culprit was suspected to be primates that were known to be a bit rambunctious in their youth, inquisitive. Some of the primate species were more gorilla-like, strong and a potential threat if not given a clear distance and respected. Still, even if it had been the gorillas, it did not explain everything, nothing else had been taken, just destroyed. It was almost as though it were a warning shot across the bow. Perhaps an attempt to starve the scientists, but they had enough emergency rations to stretch it until another Federation arrived to replenish their supplies.

A crackling came through the communications channel. Greg quickly handed the mug back to McDougal. “Base camp here. Gupta, is that you?” He thought he heard through the crackling white noise the voice of Doctor Gupta, one of the geologists. What he, McDougal, and Adams heard from base camp next was a blood curdling scream off in the distance. Mark Adams had emerged from the tent.

“Contact Starfleet,” instructed Westfall.

Adams quickly hurried over to the edge of base camp where they had set up a work area with their communication device. “I can’t!” he exclaimed. “Those damn apes. They must have smashed it and tore out the circuitry” added Adams.

“Phasers” Westfall said turning to face McDougall who already sat the beverages down and began rummaging for the weapons as instructed. Another shrieking screaming in the distance caused Westfall to quickly snatch a phaser from McDougal, and Adams quickly came scurrying for one as well as McDougal started handing them out like candy. The three of them were soon armed, but not at all prepared for what awaited them in Priapus’ thick foliage.

McDougal looked at Westfall and Adams, her face pale and terrified. “That was Gupta” he would know the sound of the geologist from anywhere. “He was at the excavation site.”

Greg nodded. “Then that is where we go. Let’s stick together, safety in numbers. Grab some torches, it will be nightfall soon.”


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