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Then a Hero Comes Along

Posted on 10 Feb 2019 @ 9:28am by Lieutenant Gabriel Walker
Edited on on 10 Feb 2019 @ 10:30pm

Mission: Prologue
Location: Babylon planet
Timeline: prior to reporting

At mid afternoon, in a clearing of trees grown shorter and more stunted than where he'd made camp the previous night, Gabe stopped to have a late lunch. As promised, breakfast was the luxury meal where lunch was the major remnants of an MRE he broke open earlier as a means of 'snacking'.

He sat on a bed of last Fall's leaves, his nostrils filled with the smell of his heated lunch and the damp mulch of years of fallen leaves. The stream he was following was about a hundred yards away, but he still heard the gurgling of water over the increasingly rocky terrain. The sun bore down only a few yards away and then hid again across the clearing where he'd re-enter the forest and continued his upward climb toward the summit.

At some time close to noon he realized he'd finally left the foothills behind and reached the base of the mountains. Encouraged, he put off lunch in hopes of treading as much ground as he could before evening forced him to stop and make camp once more. Satisfied with his progress – where he felt maybe his pace would allow him to arrive at his plotted destination much earlier than planned – he stopped for the late lunch. The new, barely audible, sound came just as the time for cooking the hotpack of his meal ended. The first flyover of the shuttle coincided with him tearing open the pack and reminding himself not to look into the heated envelope at what the contents looked like.

MREs were always more appetizing when he didn't see what they looked like.

The shuttle came back this way only a few minutes later and much closer. Gabe watched its path, judging by it's pitch and altitude that it would land somewhere within ten miles of his current position. It wasn't ideal but still far enough away, he hoped, that it shouldn't bother his isolation. It shouldn't come as a surprise to see shuttles flying in the area. The planet was mostly unexplored but the Babylon station on the planet was full of over four hundred scientists, all working toward exploring the planet and unlocking what mysteries it held.

Gabe chewed without tasting as he stared at the general area he judged where the shuttle would land. He didn't know why but something about the shuttle seemed off. Some...small thing didn't seem right and he didn't know what that small thing was.

But it bothered him.

Even after he finished his lunch, packed away his refuse and continued his trek toward the summit his thoughts would occasionally return to the shuttle and the mystery of whatever the small thing was that seemed off. It continued to plague him as the sun moved across the sky and began to sink toward the horizon. He thought of it again as he pitched his tent and laid a fire in preparation to the darkness that was to come.

With the fire burning low, a bed of glowing coals mostly, and still half a pot of steaming tea by his side, Gabe stared up at the sky and the unfamiliar constellations in the darkness. While he lie in his sleeping bag, the cherry glow of the fire diminished to dull ash, a single mug of tea left to him until morning, he continued attempting to trace familiar shapes in unfamiliar stars he was finally able to determine what it was about the shuttle that bothered him so much.

As he watched the sky, he saw the dark shape of what had to be the shuttle rise up from its position, much closer to where he camped. It moved slowly across the short slice of sky he was able to see through the trees, preparing to go to its atmospheric cruising speed. It was because it was dark and the shuttle was taking off that it finally came to Gabe what the problem with it was.

That it was a dark blur against the bright gemstone chips that was the night sky. It didn't run with running lights. Nor, he recalled now only as he considered what it meant for a shuttle to fly without operating lights, did he notice registry markings on the shuttle when he saw it earlier.

“I just maybe didn't see them,” he rationalized to himself as he tried to linger over breakfast the next morning. It was a plausible explanation but he recognized it for what it was, a rationalization. He saw the shuttle long enough to judge its heading and possible landing site. It flew low enough that he was able to make out the panels, the windows, the doors. If there were a registry, then he would have seen something of it. Even if just a glimpse.

No registry. Running without operating lights at night.

Gabe shook his head as he drained the mug of tea. Again he made himself a big breakfast of eggs and bacon, hashbrowns, toast and a breakfast tea blend. But he wasn't lingering over it this morning.

He struck camp and packed quickly, forgoing the plan to heat water and sponge bath away the worst of a full day's trail dust and sweat. Instead he considered the realities of a shuttle without a registry and without operating lights.

It was a shuttle operated by people who didn't want others to know what they were doing. Which meant something illicit, most likely.

He shouldered his pack and buckled the waist belt, settling the majority of the pack's weight against his hips. He reached into a pocket and closed his fingers around his commbadge. His new ship, the Mark Miller, wasn't due to arrive at DS13 for a couple more days. If he were sure his assigned ship were in orbit, or at the station, he'd be sure he could connect to the ship and leave the line open in case things went south. But he wasn't assigned to a ship yet. A station such as DS13 had numerous issues happening at once, their security comms were constantly in use and tying up a singular line while he went to satisfy his curiosity would not be well appreciated.

The Babylon station was mostly full of egghead civilians. He doubted they'd have the first clue on how to help him if problems became too much for him to handle. The hope he had to maintain was that he was just being overly cautious, allowing his imagination to run rampant without duty and routine to occupy his thoughts. It was the nature of Starfleet security to begin to see 'boogeymen' behind every tree. Perhaps it was the same here but...he also had to make sure.

He set out along the path the shuttle took away from the side of the mountain the previous night.

By mid morning he discovered that he was, unfortunately, not giving into flights of fancy.

He crouched inside a thicket of thick leaved bushes with small, fragrant flowers as he watched ahead. Through the screen of trees he saw the camp in front of him. Rough looking men and women moved about, their purpose unclear but their nature very much so.

Except for at least one of them. She slipped away from the camp shortly after he hid himself in the bushes and just about the time he prepared to slip away himself. He'd planned to hike about a mile back and then use his communicator to call in what he was seeing. It was still possible, he again attempted to rationalize, that the camp ahead of him was part of scientific experiments conducted by the Babylon station.

She told him she was an exobotanist and coming to the station for work. The operation before him could be legitimate.

His gut told him otherwise. Every instinct he honed since starting at the Academy told him otherwise.

When she sat at his table on the transport, he didn't get the sense of her as a criminal. But if her flirtatious nature was a cover for attempting to size him up, Anna could very well be part of some criminal enterprise.

That she was panicked as she tried to get away from the camp didn't help to cement the idea of her as part of some nefarious enterprise. Nor was her obvious inexperience in running away from rough trade.

A single misstep onto a dropped twig filled the air around them with a sharp snap. Anna paused only for a moment then broke into a run. Voices shouted from the camp and armed men raced out into the forest after the botanist. She ran, heading straight for where Gabe crouched. He doubted she spotted him, but it was among the easier way, old animal trails left their small, but perceptible pathways. Which was the same type of path Gabe followed on his way to the camp.

One of the pursuers, possibly overzealous, shoot toward the woman, one phaser blast slicing only inches away from where Gabe continued to crouch. A second stopped and grabbed for the man's rifle, in an attempt to take it away. The two were of equal height and weight, neither having the greater advantage over the other. Which left only one still chasing after Anna.

She continued running toward where Gabe hid. He waited until she was past and the pursuer committed to his chase before he stepped out of the brush, having already shed his backpack in order to save himself the bulk.

The tactic worked as the pursuer stopped for several moments. It was enough for Gabe to cross the distance and strip the man of his phaser rifle. The pursuer cried out and Gabe swore under his breath before reaching to the man and taking control of him. The use of the lateral vascular neck restraint wasn't banned by Starfleet but its use was definitely discouraged. Gabe used it now because of the sheer numbers.

“You!” Anna exclaimed, breathing heavily.

“Down,” Gabe ordered as he shouldered the rifle and let off four short bursts. The other two who pursued the botanist went down, slumping to the forest floor as they were hit with the double tap stun blasts from the rifle. “Move,” Gabe ordered as he grabbed his pack and slung it over one shoulder. He closed the distance to Anna and grabbed her arm, propelling her forward.

They managed only a few paces before phaser fire erupted around them, slicing through the forest and dropping limbs and crashing one tree across the path in front of them.

“Stop or the next volley will be in your back.” The voice was a rough hiss, the sound of a man used to his vices and no stranger to violence. The certainty of cold blooded murder was never in question. “Drop the weapon.”

Gabe glanced at Anna, her lips trembling and her eyes wide. Letting out a sigh, Gabe threw the phaser aside, allowing his pack to drop at the same time. Slowly, with his hands raised, showing them empty, he turned to face the voice.

The man, just over six foot with ropy muscles and long, silvering hair pulled away from a pockmarked face and flat, dead eyes. He glared at Gabe while others moved to surround them. Gabe heard footsteps coming up from behind. Anna screamed as she was grabbed and dragged bodily back toward the man who would be the leader of this rough group.

“You smell of security,” the leader said as he took a few steps toward Gabe. “How did you find us? Did she tell you?”

“No,” Gabe said, sure three or four were behind him, all of them were armed with phasers or disruptors. He had no doubt they would kill him without a moment's thought, he wasn't sure why he was still alive at the moment. “I didn't know she was here. I'm hiking,” he finished. That they needed her was obvious, but he was expendable.

Their leader took another couple steps toward him. “Is that so?” he asked. “Then I have no use for you, do I?”

The blow to his lower back came sudden, the result of a butt stroke from a rifle slamming just at the waist. Gabe cried out as he dropped to his knees. The leader closed the distance as Gabe's head was pulled up from behind.

“Some hero,” the leader said, before the end of his rifle smashed into Gabe's head. Blackness consumed him as he dropped to the ground.

Lieutenant Gabriel Walker

Starfleet Security (pending assignment USS Mark Miller)

On Leave


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