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Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

Glancing down at the various buckles and straps that held together the necessary gear over her jumpsuit for their little adventure, Enyd pondered her mortality. She did not have a death wish, and neither was she a thrill-seeker, yet Enyd could not help but notice the number of times her life was put on the line, and not just for a mission, was ever-growing.

Partially because of that, in her time onboard the Theurgy, she’d come face to face with old demons after similarly living through life or death situations. And her way of dealing with said demons had shifted. Whereas before Theurgy, Enyd had assumed only living through similarly dire circumstances, like the Forge on Vulcan, was what it took to get her head on straight, now, after meeting Zark, reuniting with Victor, and spending time with Drauc, Enyd realized there were other ways of dealing with stress and anxiety than risking her life and limb. Which made it all the more ironic that she now stood minutes away from willingly tossing herself out of a moving flight vehicle to plummet through the clouds over Qo’Nos. All the while calling it “fun.”

“Did you ever jump off Stratos City?” Enyd asked of her companion, the handsome dark-haired Ardanan, Callax Valin. It was not lost on Enyd that the last time she’d spent significant time with the blue-eyed pilot, she’d been kidnapped by Romulans after nearly getting blown up outside the opera house. “This sort of thing isn’t my typical preference for destressing, but I have to admit there is a certain allure to leaping from a precipice at great heights. I’ve never been to Stratos, mind you, but I’ve seen vids and pictures a plenty, and suspect I’d be similarly enticed to leap if I ever visited.”

As she waited for his reply, Enyd pushed a few stray strands of hair from her face, checking that the thick plait still held integrity against the future rush.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #1
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
“I have actually lost count how many times I jumped off Stratos,” the Ardanan said from the passenger seat across from Enyd, a wry grin flashing in her direction as the shuttlecraft descended through the turbulent atmosphere of Qo’noS. Except for the fact that he was not the one flying, the young Starfleet officer looked completely at ease. Leaning back against the seat, his hands rested comfortably on the straps securing his skydiving equipment to his body and shoulders.

“Before we were allowed to fly powered spacecraft,” he continued to say, “we first had to learn to fly with gliders using the anti-gravity wells that surround the city. Part of that was learning to get comfortable with falling—especially falling against our own free will and in turbulent air.” As if to embellish that particular point, the shuttle began to shake as it cut through some atmospheric turbulence. For his part, he seemed to enjoy the rough flight.

“Luckily for you, we will not have to deal with anti-gravity wells here. Just strong winds and updrafts,” he noted having checked the current conditions on a PADD which now rested on the chair next to him. “Have you jumped much? If you enjoy it, you will have to come with me to Ardana sometime. Come see the jewel that is Stratos City… and then jump from it. They exclude that bit from the tourist brochures,” he added with well-meaning laugh.

Piercing blue eyes considered the woman then, attempting to read her current mental state from her posture and demeanor. He had been surprised when she agreed to go skydiving with him although it was such a spontaneous request he could not recall if she had been the one to make the initial offer. Who asked who did not seem all that important now. He was just thrilled to be doing something he enjoyed and he could not hide that excitement.

“So if throwing yourself out of perfectly operational spacecraft to plummet potentially to a painful death is not your idea of a de-stressing activity, what is?” He asked with a teasing tone and that ever present pearly-white smile. "What does the diplomatic corps get up to in their downtime?"

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #2
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

Enyd gripped at the harness when the shuttle hit a pocket of turbulence. She didn’t mind it overall, but a surprise was a surprise, and her response was instinctive.

“I’ve always wanted to do a glider experience! The closest I’ve gotten to skydiving was parapont…or…what is it called…oh yes, paragliding. It was tandem, of course. Intentionally running down the slope of a mountain and hurling ourselves into the clouds off the precipice was quite a thrill! Rather felt that would be the closest feeling to being a bird one could get without actually growing feathers.” She released her grip on the harness when the shuttle evened out again. “But that will be as nothing in comparison to intentionally tossing myself out of a moving shuttlecraft.”

One of their Klingon guides drew Enyd’s attention. He used hand gestures to signal they were a few minutes out from the drop zone. A fresh rush of heat flooded her veins, the pump of adrenaline filling her with energy. Callax’s question brought Enyd’s focus away from the coming plummet, and she smiled. She didn’t know if he’d done it on purpose, to ease any potential nerves, or if his friendliness was just a natural response.

“Well, I am attracted to very non-diplomatic activities. Aside from the likely expected gymnastics and cultural dancing, I love bladed martial arts. I’ve found that dance and martial arts are two avenues through which to connect across cultural differences. When you make an effort to learn how they express themselves in movement, be it on the dance floor in an arena, they tend to give you more of their time and attention.” Enyd gave a half shrug, her smile denoting a bit of a novice jumper's typical nervousness as the inevitable drew nearer. “I grew up on a ranch in Montana, so anything outdoorsy, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, and horseback riding.” She laughed. “I only sit still if my brain is running ahead of me trying to solve problems and I’m left paralyzed in thought. Near literally.”

An overhead alarm sounded. Enyd’s eyes widened. This was it. Looking over at the Klingon guide, she couldn’t help but note the gleeful gleam in his eyes. She wouldn’t fault the man for taking sick pleasure out of tossing people out of a shuttlecraft for a living, or for the added pleasure of being able to toss Starfleet personnel out on this run.

“Are you ready to tumble?” Enyd looked across to Callax, her smile again shaky but the set of her jaw determined.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #3
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
“You still get to be a bird with skydiving, you know. Just a bird that forgot its wings. Or one who ate one too many bowls of bird seed,” he replied with a chuckle. “It’s brave of you to go skydiving solo, especially for your first time. Normally I would insist we go tandem for your first time but you seem determined.”

“I know, I know,” he continued to say, waving one hand somewhat dramatically. “Such a shame you won’t have a fighter pilot strapped to your back but it is a lot more fun when you’re falling solo. Just don’t pass out, yeah? Or you will have to deal with me rather harshly grabbing you middair to deploy your chute.”

Realizing his words might not have a particularly calming effect, he attempted to lighten the mood again. “You know you just explained how you were attracted to very non-diplomatic interests while explaining how those allegedly non-diplomatic interests are actually diplomatic interests, right?” Callax teased while yet again flashing that pearly white smile. “They do sound rather engaging though. Have you ever tried Ardanan dancing? I am told other cultures find it one of the more difficult to learn. We try to imitate in one dance the elements that influence our planet the most: air and rock. An Ardanan dancer must be as light as the wind and as immovable as a mountain. As swift as the coursing river with all the force of a great typhoon. It is rather difficult to explain without getting almost poetic but I would be glad to demonstrate it for you sometime when we return to the ship.”

The man sounded sincere in his words, a touch of pride even when he began to explain one cultural feature of his homeworld. Despite being a Federation member for some time, his planet still seemed to be one of the less prominent member worlds. If all went according to plan, he would change that.

“I cannot say I had much opportunity to be ‘outdoors’ on Stratos,” he said over the hum of the engines and rush of wind. “At least, not in the true sense of being ‘outdoors’ like your Montana. We had some gardens and arboretums but nothing like what you described. It was not until I attended the Academy that I saw a temperate forest in-person. One of our survival classes took place amongst the redwoods north of San Francisco. They were beautiful. The scenery almost made up for the fact we were starving and left to fend for ourselves. Maybe the scenery of Qo’noS will have a similar awe-inspiring effect.”

He glanced out the viewport to see only sparse clouds and a hazy almost green atmosphere. Hopefully visibility would improve the lower they got.

At the sound of the overhead alarm he rose almost instinctively. Another pearly white smile flashed in Enyd’s direction as he held out a reassuring hand to hold before the jump. “Do not worry. You will do great. Remember to keep an eye on your altitude and to use your comms. I will be with you,” he added as a second alarm went off, the light in the cabin turning from red to green as a door opened at the rear of the shuttle revealing fast moving clouds and a thick atmosphere.

Stepping to the edge, he glanced back at Enyd. “Together? Now!”

He jumped.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #4
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

“I’ve a feeling this bird is going to be the flapping, potentially screaming kind.” His encouragement was not lost and Enyd smiled her thanks, “I don’t know if ‘brave’ is the right description. Perhaps we should go with ‘determined’ as you already said. I have never lacked determination. No one in the Madsen family has, as I’ve been told.”

Callax’s flirtatious jest worked to calm her, though the image of a potential reality was less than calming. Choosing to focus on the mirth, Enyd smiled and outlandishly waggled her eyebrows at him, “Whose to say I don’t want you grabbing me midair?”

His question on Ardanan dancing had Enyd shaking her head even as she mentally filed it away for further exploration should they survive this outing intact, and she could look it up back on board the ship. His offer to teach her interrupted Enyd’s mental thought of finding time to teach herself, and she eagerly nodded with a smile.

“I’ll hold you to that offer, Callax. And in return, I’ll teach you something unique from Montana.” She was curious how he’d feel about square dancing but pulled her lips into a firm line as they readied themselves for the jump.

His last encouragement brought another smile to her face, though her stomach was once more in knots. Enyd was beginning to wonder if she was addicted to chaos or if she somehow just managed to find it. Or if it was sentient and sought her out instead. She’d faced the reality of her mortality over a dozen times in the past week, and for fun, she’d chosen to face it again as she plummeted through the clouds above Qo’Nos.

Callax jumped through the open door, his body swallowed by the thick clouds just outside the shuttle. Knowing that it would be harder to jump if she waited any longer, Enyd gritted her teeth before taking a running leap out the back. For the first few seconds of the fall, Enyd found it hard to breathe. Her stomach felt lodged in her throat, with her heart drifting somewhere above her head. Likely still in the shuttle. But as her body adjusted to the free fall, Enyd released the breath that had backed up in her lungs and opened her fists as if to catch the clouds.

“Whoo!” Enyd yelled, only remembering the comms after her shout. “Sorry, Callax. Can you hear me?”

Turning her head, Enyd looked around, hoping to spy her skydiving partner through the thick atmosphere. After catching sight of a dark form drifting just below her in the clouds, Enyd angled her body as Callax had taught her, to draw closer. She was just about on it when she realized two things:

  • It was not Callax.
  • This feathered creature of Qo’Nos did not look happy to see her.

“Oh, bother.” Enyd immediately began to adjust her body in an attempt to veer away from the creature but only succeeded in moving into the path of a few of its friends, with Enyd realizing she’d just managed to find the one area of the sky with a traveling flock of Klingon birds.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #5
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
In silence there is peace.

As Callax leapt, the cacophony of the shuttle was replaced by nothing but the sound of air whooshing past as the pilot fell. In that brief moment he considered the bizarre circumstances that brought him to this moment. An Ardanan Starfleet officer skydiving through the atmosphere of Qo’noS. A fugitive Starfleet officer. That part could not be forgotten and only seemed to add to the absurdity of it all.

His peace was broken by the excited shout of his companion. Wincing momentarily from the sudden disruption of his thoughts, he shifted his arms to redirect the airflow and rotate him onto his back.

“I can hear you loud and clear.” The smallest amount of emphasis was placed on the word ‘loud’. Whatever additional retort, no doubt something very clever in his mind, he had intended to make was cut short by the sight of Enyd barreling towards what appeared to be a fast-moving black cloud.

“Look out for the–!” He winced for the second time this jump as Enyd redirected her fall to avoid one winged creature only to head towards another.

From his vantage point it was difficult to make out exactly what the animals were. Kraw’za perhaps? Whether they were or not one thing was fact: weak animals did not survive on Qo’noS.

As the woman fell straight through their formation, the birds dived to give pursuit. The elongated beaks were no doubt powerful enough to pierce through the protective material of their jumpsuits. They attempted to do just that, nipping at the legs of Enyd as the woman and black wings descended at speed.

Witnessing this, Callax extended a part of his jumpsuit to reduce his velocity. With the two fast approaching, he keyed in his comms. “Keep going. I will attempt to distract them. Do not pull your chute until you have no choice. They will try to tear us to pieces as we descend if they do not leave.”

To say he had a plan at that moment would be generous. He had a thought which could be just as good a plan if given time to think on it. Unfortunately, that was not the case and so instinct kicked in. Devoid of a better idea, he flailed his arms and legs as the black cloud approached, hoping to provide distraction enough to pull the birds off Enyd and onto him.

He was not attempting to be a martyr, per say. While he was acting on a thought it was a partially calculated thought that considered which of them would have the better chance to survive while falling with a flock of hostile avians. In this situation, experience named him as the obvious sacrifice.

“What did you do to piss them off?” He managed to weakly tease through comms as the birds redirected their ire to the Ardanan. He winced for the third time on this jump as the birds began to peck at his jumpsuit, stripping away small pieces of material and tiny bits of flesh with each bite. At least they could not peck through the firm material housing his primary and backup chutes.

A small consolation.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #6
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

Enyd was too busy swatting at the kraw’za nearest her helmet to process Callax’s words. Two of the feathery fiends had already cut through the seal of her jumpsuit, one slice on her arm and the other near her ankle. Only the slice on her arm bore evidence of blood. So far. Another of the black birds seemed hellbent on ridding Enyd of her left eyeball but had so far been thwarted by Enyd’s hands and her helmet. It wasn’t until Enyd twisted in the air, tucking into a ball to further her efforts against the attacked avian, that she caught sight of Callax’s flailing form. After another moment of watching his aerial dance, she realized what he was doing. For as ridiculous as he looked, his efforts were proving useful. At least in saving her hide.

“I exist.” Enyd called back to him through their com link.

Being freed up from the feathery fight, for the time being, Enyd moved her hands over her jumpsuit and looked at the various controls on her arms. She recalled one of the Klingon’s mentioning a flare attachment to the suit, used for night jumps. Perhaps…

“CALLAX!” Enyd’s voice erupted through the coms, her eyes wide as the flare erupted from her suit at barely the press of a button, already zooming straight towards her jump partner. “LOOK OUT!”

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #7
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
This would be the moment in a television series where the scene would freeze and the camera zoom in on the face of the protagonist who says, ‘You might be wondering how I got here.’

Unfortunately for Callax, this was not a fictional situation and he was not surrounded by underpaid actors. Instead, he was surrounded by incensed kraw’za that seemed hellbent on tearing him to shreds as a powerful flare rocketed towards him. A less than ideal situation.

The situation did not get any more ideal as it quickly became apparent he had no time to dodge out of the path of the incoming flare. With only a moment to react, the Ardanan turned his body as to allow the flare only a glancing blow across his suit as it impacted upon his left shoulder.

The force of the impact was enough to put him into a dangerous spiral but luckily not a coma. Using a technique he learned in his advanced piloting courses, he was able to after a few rotations return to some semblance of a controlled fall. To his relief, the kraw’za seemed to have had less luck with the flare and whether by collision with one of their own or pure fear, they had dispersed leaving only the pair of battered Starfleet officers in their wake.

“Now would be a good time to pull our chutes,” the calm voice of Callax transmitted over their comms. “Less we startle any other local wildlife. With our luck, we will land amongst a pack of targs or something worse attracted by blood. I don’t know about you but I’m fairly cut up.”

Despite the velocity of their fall, Callax could see the streaks of red on his suit as he caught up to Enyd by accelerating his dive. “Looks like a clearing over in that valley. Seems as good a place as any.”

He pointed to the area in question and pulled his chute, his momentum immediately slowing to a safer rate as his chute expanded. It was only then that he could take full measure of his injuries. While his suit was liable to come apart and expose bare skin in places, he was largely intact. Whether he could say the same for his companion was up in the air. Pun intended.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #8
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

“I’m starting to think I should come with a warning label, in all honesty.” Enyd sighed over the comms. “Chaos has a habit of finding me no matter what precautions I take. I’m so sorry, Callax. Once we’re on the ground, I can help with the cuts. I remember they tucked a med kit into one of these pockets.” She sighed again. “I’d say count on targs or sabre bears waiting for us at this point.”

Enyd followed Callax’s lead and pulled her chute. Only, unlike Callax, her chute did not deploy. Immediately reaching for the backup, Enyd sent a prayer to whatever gods were listening before pulling. A head-wrenching jerk later, and Enyd was drifting alongside Callax, her secondary chute working.

“Small favors,” Enyd murmured as they drew closer to the valley. It no longer looked like an average valley. No, it was starting to appear more akin to a bog than a valley, and Enyd knew the minute they landed, they’d likely bury themselves at least up to their knees if not their hips, perhaps even over her head knowing her luck. “At least it’ll be a soft landing,” Enyd called out to Callax as they made their final descent.

It was at that point that it seemed enough was not enough for at least one of the kraw’za, and with a screeching cry, the malicious bird flew overhead and slashed through her chute. Thankfully it was not such a grievous tear that she’d fall the remaining feet to her death, but it did make maneuvering more tedious and her landing, once it happened, was far less graceful than it otherwise could have been. In fact, jerking her face out of the muck she’d landed in, Enyd realized she’d basically just executed a chute-assisted faceplant into Klingon goo. Blinking through the congealed brownish mess now coating her entire front, Enyd reached up to unhook her head from the chute, all the while looking for Callax.

“Callax? How are you doing?” Her fingers continued to tug and pull at the various cords keeping her strapped in to the now worthless chute as her body bobbed and partially sank here and there into the quivering mass of mud and plants that made up this valley’s floor. Only as she internally celebrated the last lever flipped that signaled her complete freedom did Enyd become aware of the sound that had grown in intensity ever since they’d landed. “Is that…chanting?”

I'm so sorry for how long this took!

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #9
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
“Chaos would make a damn fine callsign,” Callax managed to say over comms as he braced himself for impact, bending his knees slightly and preparing to roll with the momentum upon landing should he find the odd rough spot amongst the bog. Luckily, that was not the case and the impact with the ground was far softer than he was used to.

The mud came up to his waist making it difficult to ascertain the extent of his leg injuries. Attempting to stand upright, he found that his legs were able to support him. A promising sign that nothing was broken more severely. Once on his feet he began to untangle the chute but did not even try to retract it. Under ideal circumstances that would be one of his first steps but the mud made it impossible. Instead, he cut the cords with a small blade and began to walk through the knee-deep mud towards Enyd.

“I will be fine. I will have some explaining to do to the medical department though. You still have that first aid kit?” He asked, pausing to put his weight on the opposite leg. In the brief silence though he could hear a low chant growing louder. “It would indeed appear to be chanting. With our luck we ended up in a sacred bog.”

After a brief moment of silence he flashed a mischievous grin towards Enyd and began to wade through the muck towards the source of the sounds. Thick undergrowth and foliage provided  ample coverage for the Starfleet officer to make a stealthy enough approach, although he reckoned anybody with half a brain could have seen them during their descent. Still, this added a measure of excitement to it.

A slight incline provided the perfect spot for Callax to go prone and ease up to peer over the edge. In a shallow valley, he saw a number of Klingon men and women seated around a lit brazier. On top of the brazier a large pot boiled with an unseen liquid from which the Klingons poured cups for themselves.

“If my eyes do not deceive me, it would appear they are drinking tea,” Cal said softly to his companion. “Not particularly good tea,” he added as he witnessed one of the Klingons seemingly grimace in pain after taking their turn with the liquid. “I am not much one for crashing tea parties, perhaps we should return to the sh—.”

As Callax reached to tap his combadge, a coarse leather boot pressed his arm into the mud.

“Well, well. What are two humans doing crawling around my house’s bog?” A gruff but youthful Klingon voice said, sneering at the pair. In his hand, a disruptor pistol was leveled at both of them.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #10
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

Enyd patted the various pockets on her suit until she found the kit Callax referenced. “Yes,” she patted the pocket over her left breast, “right here.”

They were both far too distracted with investigating the chanting to bother with taking care of the various cuts and bruises—mostly—Callax had. Enyd sighed at his jest, knowing that that was exactly what had happened with her luck. It had a bit harder for her to pick her way through the brush, though she was no less stealthy. She’d had to learn how to approach prey back in Montana quietly. But that stealthy approach was ruined—at least by Enyd—when, after getting caught up in a bush, she tugged herself free, pivoted, and landed nearly on top of Callax soon after he’d lain prone on the slight incline.

“Oomph!” Enyd rolled onto her stomach after a few seconds of swallowing pained winces, pushing her hair from her face to see what Callax was whispering about. She managed to register both the meaning of his words and the scene before them when the Klingon adolescent appeared near Enyd’s side. Something vaguely familiar about the youth’s face had Enyd tilting her head as if to tip the memory into place.

“In truth, if you venture just yonder into the bog, you will find the remnants of our parachutes.” Enyd kept her hands visible as she slowly pointed back the way they’d come. “We were on a skydiving tour when we encountered some fiendish avians who tore through our chutes and landed us here, in your family bog.” She glanced back at the gathering before offering the youth a genuine smile. “We mean no offense and pose no threat.”

“What is is, Anik?” An older male voice, again pinging on the familiar for Enyd, carried up from the little gathering below.

Anik, as the youth was now known, called back, “I found two off-world intruders. They claim to have come here by accident.”

“Are they armed?” It was an older female voice this time.

Enyd shook her head, “I certainly am not. And I believe if my friend has any weaponry, it is purely for survival or defense.”

“Why don’t you bring them here, Anik,” the older male voice directed, “we can all take turns interrogating them in person instead of calling through the bushes.”

In response, Anik gestured for the Theurgy officers to stand. Enyd glanced at Callax a moment before she did so, her joints stiff from the earlier tumble through air and muck. Still keeping her hands up and in view, Enyd turned to look back at the gathering. The earlier sense of foreboding melted away, however, when her eyes fell on the older Klingon male that he mind had assured her of knowing.

“Rik’evet!” Enyd’s lips pulled back into a smile. “I certainly didn’t expect to land in your life again so soon!” Turning to Callax, Enyd nodded towards the Klingon, “He was on the Kajunpak’t with me. Doctor Rik’evet helped piece me back together after a few sparring sessions I had with Pa’Qis, one of the engineers who’d taken a shine to me.” With Anik pushing at them from behind, Enyd dropped her voice to whisper, “I THINK we should be okay with this group, but definitely keep on your guard.”

Once they were closer, it was Rik’evet’s turn to speak. “I was hoping to see you again, Madsen, but assuredly not here, and not now.” As if to punctuate his comment, a shrill animalistic cry came from further in the undergrowth, eliciting a sigh from Rik’evet. “It is too late now, though. You’re in it now. If you try to leave now that you’ve interrupted the ceremony, if anything goes amiss tonight, you and your households, perhaps even your ship, will be held liable.”

The rest of the family gathered undressed around the makeshift camp as the chanting resumed. Her eyebrows shooting near into her hairline, Enyd remained mute as Rik’evet also began to undress, though he thankfully began to explain as he did so.

“During this moon cycle, our clan hunts the trigok, in the traditional fashion. You just missed the tea ceremony, but the first of the trigok have been sighted and now we must commence the hunt. I’m afraid,” he gestured to their state of dress as he received two ceremonial spears from Anik as the youth passed by, now equally nude, “you’ll need to divest yourselves of clothing before joining.”

Enyd opened and closed her mouth, equally curious and confused. Part of her desperately wanted to join this ceremonial hunt, just for the experience, but another part was very aware that this was her first-time off-ship with Callax and that poor man had already nearly lost his life because of her. And while she felt keenly the responsibility to protect the reputation of the ship to avoid a potential diplomatic incident, Enyd did not know whether Callax had the same drive. Glancing at her companion, Enyd offered a half smile of question, curious how the man would respond to their new predicament.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #11
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
Pose no threat?

That comment out of all the things the woman said caused Callax to perk a brow, likely unseen under the veneer of dirt and mud that now caked much of his exposed skin. Granted, in their current situation they would not be much of a threat but the comment chafed nevertheless.

Assessing the situation and in consideration of his now immobilized arm, Callax opted not to put up a struggle and simply listened. At the gesture to stand, the Ardanan did so but not without some struggle and an effort not to groan in pain. The mud was heavier than he remembered moments earlier and his injuries certainly did not help the situation.

Now out of the mud, Callax raised his arms slightly and showed his palms to the youth to indicate he was not armed as he followed Enyd towards the gathering of Klingons.

“I think we should be okay with this group, but definitely keep on your guard,” Enyd whispered to him and with a cheeky grin he whispered back. “Considering your luck? My guard has not been down since we left the shuttle.”

“I was hoping to see you again, Madsen, but assuredly not here, and not now,” the Klingon named Rik’evet began to say having recognized Enyd. “It is too late now, though. You’re in it now. If you try to leave now that you’ve interrupted the ceremony, if anything goes amiss tonight, you and your households, perhaps even your ship, will be held liable.”

As if that statement was not alarming enough, the scene that unfolded next with each of the Klingons fully undressing certainly was. Callax lowered his gaze out of courtesy to the others. While Starfleet prepared its officers for dealing with different cultures, some traditions and customs were still, for lack of a better word, alien to him. This certainly was not Ardana.

“During this moon cycle, our clan hunts the trigok, in the traditional fashion. You just missed the tea ceremony, but the first of the trigok have been sighted and now we must commence the hunt. I’m afraid you’ll need to divest yourselves of clothing before joining,” Rik’evet continued to say, two ceremonial spears now in his hands.

Callax’ eyes widened slightly at the Klingon’s words, mouth half open. He turned to Enyd to gauge her reaction and only found an expression that tossed the baton back into his hands.

“Well,” he began to say having taken a moment to consider the options. “It is not like my jumpsuit qualifies much as usable attire anymore.” Indeed, the man’s jumpsuit at this point could more aptly be described as tattered strands of Starfleet issue fabric than a standard article of clothing. The full extent of the damage was made clear by how easily the suit fell off of him as he began to disrobe, peeling off mud caked fabric until he was left bare.

Having done as instructed, Callax extended a hand for one of the spears which Rik’evet handed over without comment or discernable reaction. The Ardanan had a lean body with defined muscles and more than generous endowment. Dirt and dried blood covered most of his body with barely healed lacerations and newly formed bruises beginning to show on an otherwise well-cared for body. On his left thigh, a deep scar was mostly concealed by a dried patch of blood and dirt.

“See? I can be a diplomat when I want to be,” he teased in a whisper to Enyd before following after Rik’evet towards the rest of the hunting party. “Coming? We have a trigok to hunt. Whatever that is.” He added, flashing a cheeky grin in her direction.

Any embarrassment Callax felt was quickly hidden behind a facade of confidence as he joined the rest of House Konjah who were already making preparations for the hunt. Each carried a ceremonial spear similar to his own and looked concentrated on the task at hand. Some flashed inquisitive looks in their direction but Rik’evet just grunted and pointed his spear towards the forest in the direction of the shrill sound heard earlier.

As if on cue, the group dispersed into the forest, moving slowly yet confidently as each family member went their own direction though not out of earshot. Callax, too, followed suit and began to follow what he assumed to be a game trail with his limited tracking skills. Truth be told, he chose it as it offered the least amount of foliage to maneuver through as much of the brush and plants painfully bit into his exposed wounds.

“Do you have any idea what a trigok actually is?” He asked in a low tone to Enyd who he had remained closer to than others in the hunting party. “Is there any guarantee that we are not trigok?” He added, only half-serious. “Normally I would not mind being hunted by nude warrior women; but, under the circumstances and considering our luck, I doubt the ending to that thought would be the preferred one in this situation.”

Minutes that felt like hours passed as the group continued to stalk its prey. Insects attracted by the scent of blood added another layer of discomfort to the already wounded Ardanan who managed to keep pace with the others. It was only when the snap of a branch was heard that he, and the others, stopped to listen.

“Did you hear that?” He whispered to Enyd as another branch snapped closer to them. Using the techniques he learned hunting on Ardana, Callax lowered his body to an almost crouch and couched his spear securely against a small boulder, spearpoint aimed upwards in the direction of the approaching sound.

Another branch snapped. And then another. Closer and closer. Then nothing with only the sound of his heart beating heavy to break the silence. Was it gone?

A moment later the bushes erupted with noise as a creature leapt forth directly towards Enyd, snarling and rabid.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #12
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

Enyd beamed at Cal, thankful he was far more of a diplomat than others in his department. She was polite enough to turn away as he disrobed, if one could call it that, considering the tattered shape his jumpsuit was in. Enyd was quick about her own clothing, or at least as quick as she could be. After watching her half-clothed shimmy dance, Rik’evet ended up using the tip of his spear to cut through a few cords that had gotten tangled, nearly trapping Enyd in her clothes instead of letting her out of them.

Her body svelte from years of gymnastics and dance, Enyd retained soft feminine curves that could often mislead someone into thinking she was as demure as she appeared. But she was no stranger to the violence of hunting and was resilient to a fault. If it were not for the marvels of modern medicine, her body would have been riddled with the myriad scars from her numerous near-death experiences from her daring ventures outdoors. As it was, however, the only scars she bore were the ones leftover from the shackles The Directorate had lent her ankles and wrists, and these she’d intentionally kept.

Looking at what she could see of a deep scar and naught else in the general vicinity, Enyd glanced back at her companion in chaos, “Is that the type of scar you share the story of?”

Rik’evet led the way to join the rest of the hunting party, Cal’s teasing comment about diplomats bringing a smirk to Enyd’s face. She shrugged at the mentioning of a trigok. She assumed that it was mammalian and probably something that could kill them. The group soon took to the thick foliage, many disappearing completely from view. Enyd kept close to Cal, appreciating the old trail he’d found nearly as much as he since she had no interest in getting more cuts from the thick fern leaves.

At his question, Enyd again shrugged. She truly had no clue what the creature looked like. Cal’s additional comments about nude warrior woman had her biting back laughter before she whispered playfully, “I’ll be sure to gift you a special holoprogram for your birthday now that I know your preferences.”

All around them, they heard the call and response of the clan of warriors, their voices mimicking the sounds of the forest creatures but altered enough to track. The spear, longer than Enyd was tall, grew heavy in her arms. But onward, they continued. Through the pressing heat of the forest, the buzzing attacks of the bugs, and the growing sense that this was an elaborate joke on them. Enyd halted in her steps, ears already attentive to the movement of something, or someone, close by when Cal mentioned it. She shifted to crouch just parallel and partially behind Cal, her spear at the ready.

Enyd exchanged a curious glance with Cal, wondering if the creature had retreated when suddenly a furry form was flying at her face. Falling onto her rear, Enyd pulled up the spear point just in time for whatever the creature was to impale itself on the end. Her arms, already tired from hauling the weapon, shook from her effort to keep the still wriggling mass from falling to the ground and potentially dragging her weapon away.

“It uh-“ Enyd’s voice warbled as she fought to remain steady, the creature’s mass, not much larger than a mid-sized dog, just enough to interrupt her words as she continuously readjusted her grip on the spear, “looks like a hairless monkey.”

Only this monkey was foaming at the mouth and had what looked like a stinger on the end of its tail that it kept trying to stab into Enyd.

“That is a qa'put.” Anik caught her attention as he emerged through the ferns. “A young one from the looks of it.” With nay a warning, he thrust his spreadhead out and back, decapitating the qa’put. Glancing down at Enyd with a sneer, the young Klingon sighed, “You have shed first blood on this hunt, but it was only a qa’put. Come. Stop playing. The trigok are waiting.”

Enyd huffed out a sigh at Anik’s retreating back. Turning her gaze to Cal, Enyd used the bloodied spear to pull herself to her feet.

“We should stop playing, Cal.” She mimicked Anik’s broad-shouldered walk as she intentionally pushed against his shoulder on her way past him. “The trigok are waiting.”

Enyd managed four more strutting steps before the ground gave out from under her. With a squeal, Enyd latched both hands on her spear as her body began its uncontrolled plummet. Only her teeth jarred in her mouth as it clapped shut, her drop halting, for her spear rested on the firm ground on either side of the unseen pit, the hole just wide enough for something of her size to fall in. Dirt still falling about her head, Enyd blinked to get the muck from her eyes only to find that her spear had saved her from falling atop similar spears at the bottom of an old trap.

“Cal?” She called up to her companion, her grip on the spread growing uncertain. “Would you mind rescuing me?”

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #13
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
“Is that the type of scar you share the story of?”

“With proper enticement.” He beamed a pearly white smile in her direction but turned away soon after leaving her to fill in the meaning of his comment.

For his part, Callax actually seemed more comfortable now that he was liberated from his tattered and mud caked clothes. Nudity did not phase him although with each crunching step through the thick foliage his desire for proper footwear grew exponentially. If he was in pain though he did not show it. The Ardanan remained focused on the task at hand and his expression, one of intense awareness, did not waver.

Minutes felt like hours in the hostile swamp where a wrong step meant brushing bare skin against a poisonous plant or worse. Idle chatter was kept to a minimum although the pair of Starfleet officers did indulge in some whispered banter drawing the occasional disapproving gaze of a nearby klingon.

“I’ll be sure to gift you a special holoprogram for your birthday now that I know your preferences.”

“I would rather Thea not knowing what I may or may not fantasize about.”

The monotony of the hunt was finally broken by what the klingons called a qa’put, a sort of hairless monkey that had the misfortune of thinking it could take Enyd unawares. It was only once Anik had finished off the creature and resumed the hunt that Cal broke his stony visage to stifle a laugh.

“We should stop playing, Cal,” Enyd mimicked. “The trigok are waiting.”

It took a good measure of resolve and self-control to not break out laughing right then and there. A smirk was the best he could muster in place of an outright outburst. “At least the qa’put is kaput.”

They continued albeit for only a few seconds before Enyd found herself dangling by her spear above an old spike trap. It was only by sheer luck that it had not been more shallow and her not taller or the rust tipped spears at the bottom would have no doubt pierced her feet.

“Cal?” Enyd called up, her grip on the spread seemingly growing uncertain. “Would you mind rescuing me?”

“Do I mind? Probably, although Starfleet protocol and common decency dictates I should,” he teased softly as he couched his spear into the ground for support with his left hand and reached down towards the woman with his right. A firm grip found the woman’s forearm and with relative ease he lifted her up and out of the pit, the pair falling to the ground beside the old trap.

“Although, it could be argued that in our current situation decency has been all but discarded,” he added with a cheeky grin.

As if on cue, Anik appeared from a nearby bush and cast a disappointing gaze on the two naked humanoids laying together on the ground.

“Your mating ritual can wait. The trigok is near. We have it cornered.”

Cal rolled his eyes and stifled laughter as he lifted himself up and offered a hand to aid Enyd in doing so as well. “He is about as fun as a glider with training locks,” the Ardanan muttered, brushing off some excess dirt and grass that clung to his body.

A hundred paces or so further into the swamp would reveal a muddy clearing. Before they could step out of the dense foliage cover, Anik wordlessly raised a hand for them to stop and gestured towards the middle of the clearing.

Drinking from a sickly green puddle of what appeared to be acid was a four-legged creature the size of a fully grown bull elephant on Earth. Covered in dense patches of fur and countless scars, it was clearly a veteran–and victor–of many battles. Bright red blood coated its spiked tusks indicating it had not soon prior added another kill to its list of victories.

“Huh. So that is, uh. That is definitely a trigok. Yep,” Cal whispered with a hint of trepidation. The full reality of their situation had just now begun to set in. “I wonder why they call it a trigok.”

As if in response, the giant beast let out a series of bellowing noises that sounded phonetically like tri-gok.

“Ah, the Klingons. Ever creative with their naming.”

Unsure how to proceed from here, he awaited instructions from the native members of their hunting party.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #14
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

It was strange to feel so comfortable in a man’s presence whilst nude, and yet Enyd felt nothing except appreciation when Cal hoisted her from her predicament, and they sprawled together on the ground beside the pit. In any other circumstance, Enyd would have blushed crimson at feeling his flaccid penis press against her thigh or note the sticky press of her breast against the skin of his arm. Instead, Enyd laughed along with Cal, her laughter falling into girlish giggles when they were admonished by Anik for having an untimely mating ritual.

Accepting his offer, Enyd grinned as her friend helped her back to her feet, “Or a diplomat without coffee.” She spoke from experience on that one.

Both retrieving their spears, Enyd fell into step alongside Cal as they followed the others to the edge of the boggish clearing. Her eyes widened when she noted the size and state of the beast. She’d wrongfully assumed that given their own nude state and choice of weapons, they’d be going up against something more the size of a juvenile sabre bear—something she’d amusingly already faced. Instead, they were taking on what looked to be one of the Big Four of Qo’Nos. While Enyd heard Cal’s comment she was kept from making a reply when one of Anik’s companions began a series of silent hand motions from further down the clearing. Enyd leaned forward to look past Cal to Anik, hoping the surely Klingon would give them some pointers on how to proceed.

“Opak suggests that the ‘guests’ be the ones to lead the trigok to the killing zone.” Anik’s lips pulled down. “This is a high honor, humans, and one that only the greatest of warriors accepts and survives.”

Enyd let go of her spear to needlessly raise a hand, “Where is the killing zone?” A saner female would have asked what he’d mean by ‘lead the trigok,’ but Enyd already knew what he meant. She just wanted to know if she had it in her to accept the honor or not.

Anik used his chin to point across the clearing to where it tapered into a rockier area before falling away into a murky stream. The jungle pressed in as a type of funnel closer to the rocky area, offering some semblance of protection for the hunters. But there was very little if anything that could be protection for the “leader of the trigok,” except superior speed. For even if they managed to make it to the stream, it was not wide enough or deep enough to slow down the wrath of the creature and the climbing hill on the other side of the stream was further against the leader and the trigok for getting away.

“How does one lead the trigok?”

Anik smirked, “Get its attention and run. Or is that too much for you, humans?”

Rolling her eyes at the Klingon, Enyd turned her attention to Cal, “What do you think? One of us sneaks along the jungle edge and pops out in front of it while the other goes on further and pops out closer to the stream, armed with the spear to act as ‘backup’ for the leader?”

She was probably confirmed to the pilot just how many shades of crazy she was for not suggesting they drop the spears and run for it. But Enyd didn’t want her friend to lose face with his family for having vouched for them and neither did she want these Klingons to tell their friends or colleagues about the cowardly Starfleet officers who’d run at the first sign of danger. That could create a diplomatic incident all on its own.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #15
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
“What do you think? One of us sneaks along the jungle edge and pops out in front of it while the other goes on further and pops out closer to the stream, armed with the spear to act as ‘backup’ for the leader?”

It was a sensible enough suggestion considering none of this was sensible. In fact, it was pure madness. All of it. And yet there was a morbid pleasure from the adrenaline rush that Callax basked in. The same rush that he felt behind the control of his Valkyrie. Or in the bed of a woman.

“What do I think?” He said with a hushed tone, casting another glance at the trigok. “I think it is insane, it is dangerous, and we will almost certainly die.” Cal paused for a brief moment before cracking a pearly white smirk. “Let’s do it. I’ll take the jungle edge–you wait near the stream. When you see me running towards you… you turn and run like the fate of the world depended upon it.” He turned towards the klingons then, expression changing to one of stony resolve. “And you–you better be ready to slay that thing when it comes.”

Before leaving the Ardanan took a moment to feel the weight of the spear in his hand. It would undoubtedly slow him down in the jungle and more so when running through the swamp. Reluctantly, he dropped the spear and placed a surprisingly warm hand on Enyd’s bare shoulder.

“You be safe, yeah?” There was genuine concern in the man’s bright blue eyes as he said farewell to his friend. His tone was soft yet resolute, his Starfleet training allowing him to remain focused and determined despite his fear. “See you on the other side.”

And then with only a wink he was off.

Like a predator stalking its prey the man moved quietly through the jungle foliage, ignoring the barbs that bit into his exposed skin and flaccid member. Those were problems for after–if there was an after.

It did not take long before the fight pilot was in position. From his vantage point, he could easily get the beast’s attention and even a headstart in Enyd’s direction. Provided he did not lose his footing it was possible–just possible–he could make it.

Beginning his run from cover, the Starfleet officer launched forwards at a full sprint into the clearing. Shouting Ardanan obscenities, he covered almost half the distance of the clearing before the beast finally turned. A deep bellow sounded from the trigok before it began its pursuit.

Cal was fast but the beast was faster. Despite running at a full sprint the trigok was quickly gaining ground. Out of the corner of one eye he could see Enyd and hoped she too would be fleeing at speed. As much as he wanted to, he could not afford to turn his head in her direction less he sacrifice even the smallest bit of speed. Every little bit was essential if he hoped to survive this.

Seconds later the stream came into view. He accelerated towards it despite what felt like every muscle in his body screaming in protest. As his feet hit the swampy water he could only hope that the hunters would now do their duty before a barbed tusk got the chance to pierce and break his body.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #16
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

Enyd would’ve clapped her hands if they weren’t filled with both her spear and Cal’s discarded one. It was delightful to find someone else as keen on following through with a cultural experience as she was. Though Enyd knew, given his status as a pilot, he was probably looking at this whole scenario from a different angle. Where Enyd wanted to prevent a loss of reputation and encourage a build-up of camaraderie through this ordeal, Cal could very much be interested through the thrill of the adventure alone. And Enyd wouldn’t blame him for that. It was certainly thrilling and a welcome change in the reason for her life being at risk. Whereas all their old and upcoming missions had a certain life-or-death factor, much of that was out of her control. This intentional exposure to danger had a seductive element to it, and Enyd could very much understand why some people became addicted to this type of adrenaline spike.

Enyd hadn’t waited for Cal to start his way into the clearing before moving into their agreed-upon maneuver. Anik and the others kept their mouths shut, offering no encouragement or criticism for the plan. They also stealthily moved into position but kept quiet aside from their native animal-sounding calls for confirmation on position. Enyd had to be careful in her movement, already boasting a few cuts along her ankles and at least one puncture wound in her heel. No doubt, they would both need a thorough inspection from Elro once they were back on board to prevent parasites or infection. The length and weight of the two spears, while balanced to a point, were still cumbersome enough that Enyd began to worry she wouldn’t be in position in time to help Cal.

She was just moving out of the jungle, parallel to the stream, when she heard Cal first, shouting at the trigok, and then the behemoth’s angry cry in response. The ground beneath her shook as both Cal and trigok drew ever closer. Time was merciless, and Enyd couldn’t risk wasting it. Dropping one spear to her feet, Enyd hoisted the other and took two lunging steps forward before throwing it at the beast with all her might. Although the angle of the throw allowed it a fairly acceptable arc, Enyd doubted her strength was enough to have the spear do any significant damage even if her aim proved true. And so Enyd didn’t wait to see if it scored a hit or not before she pivoted on her heel, seized the other spear, and pivoted back around to throw the second one.

Unfortunately, she misjudged Cal’s speed and as she turned back to face the beast, Cal’s body swung into her peripheral view. Screeching out a warning, Enyd threw herself back to avoid slicing open his side. The charging trigok was near atop them. Scratching her bum along the swampy ground, Enyd held the spear up as best she could as she continued her scrambling, almost rolling, retreat toward the stream. The hot breath of the trigok fanned over her body as the battle cries of the Klingon warriors erupted from the jungle’s edges. Noting its new enemies, the trigok reared back on its hind legs, letting out a thundering bellow. Enyd was so stunned by the sound and the sight that she didn’t even think to roll out from under the inevitable crush of the creature’s legs…

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #17
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
It should have happened. The Starfleet pilot should be writhing in agonizing pain and drawing his last; and yet, there was nothing. Had the klingons done it? A spear had passed near his body so it was possible. Had there been others like it to fell the beast? Could their pseudo-nightmare be over?

The Ardanan would have kept running if not for the rapidly narrowing walls around the so-called killing zone. Preparing to dodge at a moment's notice he turned to face the charging trigok only to realize it was not there. The beast had ceased its charge to pursue a new target--an all too familiar brunette. Klingons were on the approach. Cal could see them rapidly descending from the defensive rock walls but with Enyd beneath the beast he doubted they would make it in time. It would have to be him. Having barely caught his breath, Cal began to sprint towards the beast shouting more Ardanan obscenities as he did so. If he could not kill the beast he could hopefully at least distract it long enough to avoid killing Enyd and give the klingons a chance to finish it off. That is if the beast did not kill him first. A less than favorable outcome.

A glint from the mud caught the Ardanan's attention as he approached the beast. It was the spear that just barely avoided killing him moments before. Cal grabbed it, slowing only a moment to secure the mud covered shaft in his hands as the beast came within range. It reared up onto its hind legs, no doubt in response to the klingon hunters surrounding it, a thundering bellow shaking the ground around it. A moment later its front hooves would return to solid ground--and Enyd.

"You will not!" Cal shouted as he jabbed the spear upwards, the sharpened tip finding unarmored flesh on the beast's underside.

The trigok let out another thundering bellow as it reared further on its hind legs. A moment later it fell to one side, a flurry of spears piercing its thick hide as native hunters took advantage of its injury. A death rattle sounded from its blood stained mouth, heavy breathing quickly becoming shallow and then no more. Against all odds they had survived.

Remembering Enyd, Cal looked down to find he was standing over her body. Standing over her head, to be exact, with both feet planted firmly on either side of it allowing for a less than flattering view of his flaccid member dangling an arm's length above her. His cheeks flushed, unseen beneath a thin layer of dirt that coated most of his body. Allowing for some decency he shifted to her side. Piercing blue eyes scanned quickly over the woman's naked body for injuries, allowing just a brief moment to appreciate the view and the woman's physique.

Offering a hand, Cal beamed a pearly white smile down at her. "Remind me to pack a phaser if you ever invite me skydiving again, Lieutenant."

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #18
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

Enyd’s body bounced from the immense weight of the trigok falling prey to the Klingon hunters, finally defeated. The immediate danger averted, Enyd took a moment to gather her wits and her calm her heart. She heard Cal’s voice from above her head and in glancing up, nearly for the first time, Enyd became distinctly aware of their nude state. His form was trim, his “equipment” well balanced between testes and penis, and the beaming smile added to his overall allurement as he spoke of bringing a phase for the “next time.” That he was even willing to speak of a next time spoke volumes of his own adrenaline-loving character. His emphasis on her title made Enyd smirked before moving to sit up. She felt debris crinkle and fall from her back and then her rear, and she rolled onto her knees then came to her feet.

“I’ve been informed by more than one colleague that my unacknowledged true love is chaos herself.” Her effort to brush off the various bits of rock and leaf was useless, but Enyd’s hands moved through the movements nonetheless as she spoke. “I would suggest both a phaser and an escape plan if things continue along these lines, Lieutenant.” Though he was a junior grade lieutenant, he was still not far from her current position, and if he felt the need to remind her of her position, she could fight fire with fire. “Now, how about we see what our cut of this trigok is? We were the ones to bring it to the killing zone after all.”

Enyd led the way to the Klingons and was the first to express disappointment when Rik’evet informed them that as non-clan members, they could not take any of the hide or meat with them back to the ship, but they were invited to stay for the feast if they wanted. As Rik’evet explained the process leading to the feast itself, Anik drew close to Cal and offered the pilot a bloodied piece of raw meat.

“That is a slice of the heart.” Rik’evet stared at Cal intently. “By taking in the heart of the trigok, in its raw form, you may imbue its power and tenacity.” Holding a hand out towards the younger Klingon, Enyd watched as Anik sighed and begrudgingly gave her friend a second, slightly small slice. Rik’evet turned to Enyd and smiled as he held the meat towards her. “Your efforts have earned this honor.”

Enyd wasn’t certain how Cal felt about eating raw meat, but she wasn’t about letting lingering concerns about food safety cause a diplomatic incident. Without further hesitation, Enyd received the meat with a head bow and slurped the bloody mess into her mouth. It was probably one of the toughest bits of meat she’d ever encountered, with thick tapioca-like blood gushing out with every bite. Fighting a gag reflex, Enyd’s eyes watered as she forced a smile and hummed her appreciation, her mouth working double time to reduce the slice to a swallow-friendly size. She had to pound her chest a few times to get her body to swallow properly without rejecting the meat back into Rik’evet’s face.

“Thank you for the honor and the invitation. What do you think, Cal?” She wasn’t aware of the smear of blood framing her mouth or the slight trail of bloody dribble that had worked its way out of the corner of her mouth before she turned to ask her friend for insight on their next step.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #19
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
“I’ve been informed by more than one colleague that my unacknowledged true love is chaos herself. I would suggest both a phaser and an escape plan if things continue along these lines, Lieutenant. Now, how about we see what our cut of this trigok is? We were the ones to bring it to the killing zone after all.”

“Knowing our luck so far, we will simply be honored for the honor of helping kill an honorable beast.” Cal allowed himself a good humored chuckle as he followed Enyd back towards the Klingons. “Honor makes for a shit wall ornament and my cabin is bare enough as is. Bet you they will not even let us take a single scale.”

Moments later as the Klingons explained they could not take any of the hide or meat, Cal cast an overly dramatic ‘told you so’ expression in Enyd’s direction complete with eye roll. Luckily, it seemed to go unnoticed by the Klingons in their company.

As the feast was explained, Anik approached Cal with a piece of the meat. “That is a slice of the heart. By taking in the heart of the trigok, in its raw form, you may imbue its power and tenacity.”

Cal reached forward to take hold of the piece of raw meat, doing his best to not grimace at the unappetizing morsel. “I always did want to add power and tenacity to my dating profile…” He said with a chuckle that turned awkward as the Klingon just stared at him with a blank expression. Cal coughed and quickly recovered by saying in a more diplomatic tone, “I would be honored to feast on its flesh.”

Cal leaned his head back and lowered the piece of meat into his mouth. It tasted as unappetizing as it looked, with blood gushing out of the tough and chewy meat with every bite. The Ardanan did his best to maintain a composed expression as he did so, giving Anik a thumbs up and nod after he with great difficulty managed to swallow the vile piece of meat.

“What do you think, Cal?” Enyd asked him, blood covering her mouth as much as it did his.

He considered a moment, mentally imagining what other creative dishes the Klingons might have them eat. He, for one, despised gagh. “As guests it would be rude to turn away an invitation to dinner,” he told Enyd before turning to address Rik’evet. “We will join you for this feast.”

The Klingon simply nodded. With a single gesture, the group began to almost in unison begin methodically butchering and dividing the beast. Larger pieces were impaled with long poles to allow for easier transportation. Others were neatly wrapped with the hide and secured to their backs. Cal assisted as much as they would allow and within ten minutes the group was ready to set forth towards the campsite.

With a pseudo-backpack of meat hanging from his shoulders, Cal caught up with Enyd and fell into step beside her. “Feeling alright? I think the adrenaline is finally beginning to subside and I did not know my knees had so many different muscles that could hurt at once,” he said with a soft laugh. “Hey, I was speaking with Anik and he mentioned there is a freshwater hot spring of sorts near the campsite. He said there would be ample time before the feast was ready to bathe. What do you think? I do not mind eating in the nude but I would prefer it without being covered in mud and sand. I hate sand. It is coarse and gets everywhere.”

As he waited for her answer, he reached up an idle hand to softly wipe at the corner of her mouth with a soft expression, blue eyes meeting her greens. “You had a bit of blood dripping there.”

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #20
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

Enyd chuckled at Cal’s sarcastic remark before following suit and eating the offered piece of meat. She noted the subtle indication of his equal discomfort with the meat’s texture but couldn’t resist giving him a thumbs up when he powered through the ordeal without throwing up. Once it was confirmed they would join the feast, Rik’evet assigned them both different tasks for dividing up the trigok until Cal walked with meat draped from his shoulders and Enyd carried a basket full of teeth that would later be converted into other weapons and jewelry.

As they traversed along the path back toward the original campsite, Enyd noted how various muscles along her sides and hamstrings were strung tight from the desperate run and various sudden stops she’d put her body through in a short span of time. Though she tried to disguise the slight limp in her gait with near-constant readjustments of her hold on the tooth basket, Cal displayed his powers of discernment when he came alongside her and asked about her state of being.

“Yeah, I’m in much the same state. Even before we took off for the trigok, my little tumble into the pit did a number on my shoulders.” She rolled her neck, shooting Cal a smirk of amusement. “Maybe we should recommend a trigok hunt as part of the standard survivalist training for young cadets.”

Enyd’s eyes took on a far-off look when he mentioned a hot spring nearby. The last time she’d been in Klingon hot waters had been with Drauc and that excursion had ended with them blowing up a sabre bear and his ending up in a medically induced coma in sickbay. Enyd inwardly winced at the memory. While he was releasing later on this very day, it didn’t stop Enyd from feeling the tangle of guilt, hope, and dread all mixed together when she contemplated the unknowns with Drauc.

The soft touch at the corner of her mouth had Enyd startling, head tilting to the side at the unexpected movement. When her brain caught up with her body, alerting her to what Cal had said and the reason for the touch, Enyd blushed.

“Sorry,” she readjusted her grip on the basket, “I got lost in thought for a minute there.” Her tongue darted out to touch the spot Cal had touched, finding a few more traces of blood left behind. Giving a quick snort of amusement, Enyd did her best to lick the rest of the blood away before answering his earlier question, “I think that sounds great. Just based on previous experience with Klingon wildlife around hotsprings, we need to remain armed and alert even when relaxing. The last time I was in hot spring-like water on Qo’Nos, I ended up bare-back sabre bear riding until my companion and I managed to blow him up.”

Enyd left it for Cal to ask clarifying questions if he wished in reference to her prior experience but fell silent as they drew closer to the campsite. No one expected them to do much by way of feast preparation anyway, not with Rik’evet there acting as a bridge between them, and soon after depositing their items at the campsite, they were given a pair of spears and pointed in the right direction for the spring.

“So are we going to return to the ship in the nude or are we going to try to barter a bit of trigok hide?” Enyd commented to Cal as they picked their way through the jungle foliage. “Either way, we should probably make some effort to write a report to warn or advise others interested in a similar excursion.” She stopped, looked to the sky in thought, then laughed and continued again. “Though I don’t know what kind of advice to give now that I think about it. ‘Always look on the bright side’ or ‘roll like a duck’ maybe?”

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #21
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
“Maybe we should recommend a trigok hunt as part of the standard survivalist training for young cadets.”

Cal grinned at the mental image of a class of nude cadets fleeing in every which direction away from a raging trigok. “Do not give me any ideas, Lieutenant. Should I ever take up a teaching position at the academy I might do just that. Can you imagine a class of first years doing what we just did?”

Now that his adrenaline had subsided, the Ardanan was able to come to terms with indeed what it is they just did. It was chaos. Pure madness. Yet, his heart had raced in a way comparable only to that as being in the midst of a low-orbit dogfight. It had been, in a word, exhilarating.

Before long the pair found themselves escorted towards an encampment overlooking a forested valley. Their Klingon hosts quickly set about their individual tasks. Tents were cleaned, trigok parts stored, and a large firepit lit providing the heat by which the meat might be prepared. While Cal offered his assistance, there was not much the Klingons wanted the Starfleet officers to do. Any assistance would have been more a hindrance than an aid, or so Anik seemed to indicate when he gestured them away from the encampment towards the spring. Cal, at least, was not one to complain.

The path to the spring was short but rocky, the path loosely defined by carelessly placed flagstone slabs covered with all variation of sharp brush and rocks. More than once the pilot found himself stifling a mutter of pain as his already sore feet found the pointed edges of sharp rocks.

“So are we going to return to the ship in the nude or are we going to try to barter a bit of trigok hide? Either way, we should probably make some effort to write a report to warn or advise others interested in a similar excursion. Though I don’t know what kind of advice to give now that I think about it. ‘Always look on the bright side’ or ‘roll like a duck’ maybe?”

“I think the takeaway is always bring running shoes,” he mused with that signature pearly white grin. “I suspect we will have some explaining to do with our report in any case. Luckily for me, that duty primarily falls upon the ranking officer, does it not?”

“We should try to secure some form of clothing but what would we barter? We are, quite literally, bare and without possessions and already lucky to not have to dance for our dinner… Funnily enough, this is exactly how my parents said I would end up were I to join Starfleet,” he said with a soft chuckle as he picked his way down the path. “Giving up a life of luxury for danger and destitution. At least the company is good.”

After rounding a final bend, the flagstone path turned into a makeshift staircase that descended towards a steaming hot spring that looked, at least in comparison to the land around it, a mini oasis complete with hanging trees and a small waterfall.

“A surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one,” Cal idly muttered as he descended the steps in slight awe, breathing in the steamed air deeply. It smelled of sulfur but that was an improvement compared to the smell of dried sweat, muck, and animal guts that caked the man. Wasting little time he stepped out into the spring, momentarily testing the water before submerging himself entirely. It felt like pure bliss.

When he finally reemerged, he turned towards Enyd and beckoned her in. “I am not dead yet so it seems to be safe. Even if it wasn’t I might not be inclined to get out just yet. The feeling in my muscles right now is otherworldly.”

He leaned back and spread his arms. Slowly his feet rose to the surface as he floated comfortably on his back, eyes closed as he simply enjoyed the cleansing waters.

“See any sabre bears yet? Lost lovers? My intuition tells me there may be a story there.”

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #22
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

“If they were anything like me, they’d probably laugh the whole time. While I wasn’t laughing while gutting the makra I had to kill on Andoria during training, and neither was I laughing when I shoved my Vulcan teammate inside and crawled after him, I laughed a lot afterward when Sonik asked how I’d been inspired to use the makra corpse as a shelter through the freak storm. At the time, it hadn’t even occurred to me that it’d been seen as odd to do that, but based on Sonik’s expressions and the way he asked his questions, the poor fellow thought I was just shy of crazed and had developed a deep respect for the crazy.”

Enyd laughed at Cal’s lighthearted retort about shoes. Glancing at her cut and dirty feet, she couldn’t help but nod in agreement. His hiding behind rank, now of all times, had Enyd rolling her eyes, hand reaching out to push at the man’s shoulder playfully.

“If I’m writing the bulk of it, then you best make nice with me before this is over. I get the choice cuts back at the fire, eh?” She wagged her eyebrows at him, fully in jest and not expecting any type of kowtowing. Without bias, she would write a thorough and honest report, including the good, bad, and ugly for her actions and his. She’d earned this rank for her professionalism despite circumstances and would continue along that route.

Enyd raised a single eyebrow at his dancing comment, “Funny you should mention that. I was stationed on Tellar at the time for my training, but I’d been led to believe that a tradition for certain meals on certain days was to give a song and dance in the mess hall. Idiot me believed the Tellarites telling me this, so keen on making a good impression and integrating with the notoriously difficult species. So come the night of full review by the head of our program, I started a round of singing a rousing rendition of the Terran anthem, complete with a hand-clapping and foot-stomping routine to get a beat going. Needless to say, I earned merit with both the program head and the Tellarites for giving my best shot and following through even when it came to light I’d been had.”

Chuckling at the memory, Enyd almost missed Cal’s flirtatious comment about good company. This earned him another playful swat against his shoulder.

“Why Cal, one might think you’re trying to flirt your way into a better report being written by the ranking officer.”

They rounded the bend and came into sight of the waterfall-fed hot spring before she could question his life of luxury. Enyd was aware of some facts governing the planet of his home but had never had the opportunity before now to really dig into the juicy truths of life there. Her curiosity was well and piqued now and no matter what rabbit hole of discussion they took now, she was determined to bring it back to that particular vein soon enough.

Enyd was slower about getting in. Memories of her past excursion with Drauc had her eyes scouring all the bordering flora, listening intently for any signs of creatures beyond the overhead songbirds. When nothing reared its dangerous head, Enyd moved the final few steps down the makeshift staircase to submerge herself underwater. She scrubbed at her face and scratched over her scalp briefly while underwater, coming up for air marginally cleaner. Cal was floating comfortably in the water near her. Enyd playfully pushed at his foot when the water current had it drifting within reach. She resumed her hand scrubbing over arms, torso, and one-by-one, her legs, her body bobbing up and down in the heated pool as she worked. Enyd had caught his comment and question and answered while she continued to work at getting clean, wanting to relax after she got the worst of the muck off her body.

“I went on an excursion with an enigmatic man I met on the ship a few days ago. And I’ll be completely honest,” though Enyd’s skin was already pink from the warmth of the waters, her cheeks deepened in color as she spoke forthrightly with her new friend, “we were on the excursion for the express purpose of seeing if the palpable attraction between us was just that, overwhelming attraction, if it was one-sided, or if it was something else entirely. Until him, I’d not met anyone who’d knocked me off my rocker or even remotely tugged at that particular side of my psyche since my fiance died on Cardassia a few years ago, so to say that I was eager to explore the potential relationship is putting it mildly. And that can answer your comment about lost lovers.”

Enyd glanced at Cal and held up one finger in the universal sign of pause as she dunked underwater and finished off her scrubbing. Popping up again, Enyd quickly averted her eyes and paddled backward with a hastily muttered apology. The water current had again moved Cal’s body just enough that her head had popped up between his legs with a fairly intimate view of his genitalia. Not wanting to risk the same thing in return, Enyd anchored herself to the side of the pool by grabbing hold of one of the hanging vines and looping her arms over it, resting her chin on the middle. It allowed her body to remain underwater but kept her from floating into his personal space, or his hers.

“In any case, I share that background because it will help explain why he and I were very distracted from our surroundings. Enough so that the sabre bear happened upon us without any warning and the following fight for survival ended with the bear exploding. The man and I beamed back to the ship, immediately to sickbay, and that is where he has been until today. He is due to release later today, and hopefully, we can have a more thorough discussion on what happened tomorrow.” Enyd shrugged, gaze darting from Cal to their surroundings and back again. “That’s the story in brief. Sorry if it wasn’t as entertaining as you were hoping. Have you ever had a first date go epically south like that before? Or did your life of luxury cushion that from happening?” She winked at the last, hoping he interpreted the comment in the mirthful manner she intended it.

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #23
[ Lt. JG Callax Valin | Mekro'vak Region | Qo'noS ] Attn: @Ellen Fitz
“Why Cal, one might think you’re trying to flirt your way into a better report being written by the ranking officer.”

“Me? Never.” The sarcasm was thick on his lips as he directed a wry grin and wink in her direction.

After they had descended into the water and were given an opportunity to wash themselves, at least to the best of their ability, Cal finally allowed himself to relax. What tension there was in his muscles melted away as he floated aimlessly in the water. With eyes closed, he listened to the beginning of Enyd’s story about lost lovers, a warm breeze providing some comforting contrast to the hot waters.

“And?” He would eventually say with an unseen perked brow. “An excursion with an enigmatic unnamed mysterious man on the ship? Come now, is that all you are going to tell me? Dangle the daucon in front of me and then pull it away at the last second just when things were getting good. Redacted information above my security clearance level? Tsk tsk,” he teased playfully. “Who is the mystery man then? Did he live up to the hype? Have you still been unable to remount your rocker? Whatever that is…”

When Enyd’s head appeared between his legs, he had barely noticed. When he did notice he gave it little care. If she wanted to linger there she was welcome to, he was certainly no prude. When she eventually shifted away, he used gentle movements of his arms to turn his body so that he could see her face as they talked.

“So a sabre bear crashed your first date? Could have been worse. Could have been two sabre bears,” he teased. “See? Ever the optimist. And people call me a downer.” Nevertheless, the Ardanan cast a quick gaze off into the brush, surveying for any such creatures.

“Oh, I have had plenty of first dates go awry. Seconds and thirds too,” he began to explain, eyes closing again as he leveled off his head to look up towards the sky. “On Ardana, arranged marriages are common. For the usual reasons. Politics, status, et cetera. Especially amongst the city-dwellers. Anyways, I must have been 15 or 16 when I began a courtship with the daughter of an allied family. We planned to attend an opera for our first date.”

“Now, one thing you must understand about Ardanan opera is that some of the performances do not take place in a traditional indoor opera hall. Rather, they are performed on small anti-gravity platforms off the edge of the city. It is really quite breathtaking, especially with clouds as a backdrop for stage lighting, and the wind carrying voices in a way that no two performances are quite the same.”

He paused for a moment, reflecting upon the memory before continuing with a degree of homesickness, “This particular performance had gliders performing between the platforms. They were impressive; but, the wind currents can be unpredictable–especially in the evenings around Stratos. One of the performers lost control of their glider which buckled in the wind. A piece of it had the misfortune of landing right on my head. I ended up in the medical facilities for a week and she terminated our courtship saying she did not wish to be with someone so unlucky.” He chuckled softly, shaking his head. “Her loss. She ended up marrying some bore of a man who we all later came to find out had a gambling addiction. Maybe she was the unlucky one.”

“If you wish to dig further into my troubled dating history you are welcome to. It is amusingly tragic including this one date while I was at the Academy. Took a classmate up in one of the atmospheric fighters for a bit of adventure. She ended up getting sick as we were inverted and covered the entire cockpit in vomit. Needless to say I spent that evening cleaning out the cockpit and not getting laid,” he said with hearty laugh. “Not my finest hour.”

Cal let out a sigh then, stretching his arms back to rest behind his head as his body drifted to the edge of the pool. “I cannot say I have put much focus into relationships lately. I have been under three different commands this past month alone. Who is to say I will remain on Theurgy any longer than I did the training facility and the Oneida? I still feel like a passenger on a ship with a crew that has years of history. I have barely even unpacked my belongings from my dufflebag. It would not be fair to seek out a serious relationship with someone only to be gone the next day or week. A fling or a distraction maybe but a serious relationship? The future is too uncertain.”

He simply shook his head and shrugged, his legs dipping under the water as his body weight shifted. “Right now I am just along for the ride, living in the moment and enjoying life’s pleasures where and when I can. Sabre bears be damned.”

Re: Day 10 [1326] Chaos in the Clouds of Qo'Nos

Reply #24
[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen | Mekro’vak Region | Qo’Nos] attn: @Eden

Enyd snorted at Cal’s exaggerated protestations. Taking a moment to swipe the hair away from her ears, Enyd gestured to the almost Vulcanoid point at the ends.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the Vulcanoid aspect of my ancestry, so I have a justifiable ‘thing’ for pointed ears. That being said, a lady does not kiss and tell.” She stuck her tongue out at the floating man, her skin pink-tinged from the flush of her memories and the warmth of the water. “And I’m more likely ‘off my rocker’ than anything, so any type of mounting, so to speak, has yet to occur.”

She was glad he hadn’t been perturbed by the brief moment of near intimacy. Cal seemed very secure in his skin, literally and figuratively, and it was proving to be a reassuring foundation to their interactions so far. If this had been her and Drauc, she’d be a bundle of floating nerves at this point. With Cal, she knew he was good-looking, well-proportioned, and charming, but there was no pressure eating in her gut. It was fascinating that Enyd could find him attractive and yet not be preoccupied with mental images of ravishing him to smithereens like she had with Drauc. Enyd blinked. His optimistic statement drew her out of her thoughts and rendered a smile on her lips before he spoke of his own failed courtships of old.

His tale elicited more than a few gasps, nods, and chuckles. “Okay, so then, what was a not-failed date but an unexpectedly successful one? I’ll go first. My former fiance and I met on Vulcan at the seaside, and while on our first date, he was nearly eaten by a sea monster. Obviously, spoiler alert, we both survived, and that encounter created the foundation we needed for a very long engagement.” Enyd kept it to herself that, quite likely, Cal knew Victor or would soon know him. “So what about you?”

When he spoke of why he was shying away from serious relationships, Enyd nodded in understanding. On a certain level, Enyd rationalized that was why it had taken her so long to feel much of anything for someone else after Javec’s death. Until Drauc, Enyd had felt marginal attraction on a physical or emotional level. But somehow, the mere presence of the Romulan had cracked through the veneer of stoicism she’d covered her heart in and left her reeling.

“I’m with you with the whole ‘new guy’ syndrome. I was barely aboard the ship a few hours and Klingons were boarding us, and I was being sent to the High Council on my first away mission.” She shrugged, but the water masked most of the movement, causing only ripples around her head as Enyd continued to float near the pool's edge. “I am not intending one way or the other. I have never had a fling, as you call it.” She paused and drew her lower lip between her teeth. She realized how odd it might sound to someone like Cal, but there was no disguising the truth, and she had no reason to do so anyway. “I’ve been engaged to two men in my life, one died in my arms, the other miraculously survived more than his fair share of mayhem and is on the ship with us. I doubt anything will develop again between us, but there you go. That’s my official count. I’ve been on dates and kissed other men, but real intimacy, just the two. Well, actually, just the one. As much as I see your point about not knowing what tomorrow brings, I don’t think I have it in me even have a fling. And as I say that, I hope I am not sounding like I’m judging you, because I’m not.” Enyd sighed, dipped low enough in the water to blow a few bubbles, then bobbed back up again. “Am I even making sense?”

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