Chapter 2 - Episode 1, Scene 2 - The Cnidarian
Multiple alerts were letting Cadet Zoe Pride know that the flight control was blind. The computer was out, and the storm outside meant that visuals were a bust as well. She tried to envision what leveling off might be based on their last vectors, but she couldn’t get thrusters to respond so her efforts stayed imaginary while she listened to the eggheads from engineering and science calling out technical computer stuff about base entry manual value reset something or other. What she gathered from it all was that somehow the lightning strike on the shields had been at a particular harmonic resonance that made the computer wink out. They were trying to do a hard boot without going through the typical start up processes. Which was smart, seeing as they probably didn’t have time to cycle through them while the Midnight Hunt was dropping like a brick. Zoe didn’t need her blanked out instruments to tell her that much, as the SIF was straining and she could feel herself pressed back into her seat while gripping the flight harness. Gravity had them in a spinning nose dive.
“C’mon guys,” she said between gritted teeth, staring at a glossy black mirror where her control board should be. “Let’s see some lights.”
“Got it!” someone behind her shouted, and she already had her fingers on the board where she anticipated the thruster controls would highlight again, which they did a split second later, taking her command, first countering spin before getting a reading on their angle. There was no clear reading on distance to ground and although they were no longer spinning, the Midnight Hunt was still dropping. Leveling off the spin, the shuttle happened to be top side down but Zoe didn’t waste time trying to correct it first, instead counter intuitively pushing nose forward into an upsweeping loop.
When the ship twisted back to level and the alarms ceased blaring, Xaiko let out a breath she had been holding for too long. “Okay.” She said. “Okay.”
The worst of the cloud cover seemed to clear and the visuals came back on line, supported by very scattered sensor readings on the displays.
“Are the sensors damaged?”
Gaffer tried to bring the sensors back online, they rebooted with the computers, “No” he said, “But they are being affected by the discharges, I am only getting intermediate reading at best. Landmarks i can do!” He didn’t like the way the sensors were acting, fleet technology was meant to have shielded against this kind of thing!
”Are we near the colony’s center?”
The big Bolian shrugged, fighting with the sensors to return something useful, he switched to the visual scans and ran them through the database for landmark recognition. He got hits and thus a location. “Ah” he muttered “Not really, we got blown off course while we were crashing” he added “I am sending bearing and distance to the helm.”
“Getting a fix on our location now, ma’am.” Zoe said, referencing the navigational records on file for the planet below. It was mostly a like, but there seemed to be some changes in the ground readings. Probably from all of that volcanic activity. Plate tectonics and stuff. She wasn’t interested in getting a lecture from a whiz kid, so she didn’t bring it up.
Gaf glanced out the window as they cleared the clouds and descended towards the colony proper. He frowned and smiled, he was never bored in the Fleet and today was going to be no different. His view was dominated by a… he guessed a shoal of sky jellyfish, he checked the record and discovered that they hadn’t been entered, that suggested that they hadn’t been encountered before.
They were small, no more than a meter across and around two tall, they had the classic jellyfish shape that had been seen on dozens of worlds, a mushroom like top with long tendrils below. They all glowed a slight blue and if the sensors were right they were pure energy, they were feeding on the electrical discharges created by the volcanic eruptions. He wondered if this was a breeding cycle? Maybe they lay dormant or maybe even in another life stage, then when there is volcanic activity or a threshold of electric activity in the atmosphere they morph into the next life stage. He would have a better look once they were beyond their current mission, it could be an interesting paper to write.
“What the– are those sky jellyfish?” Zoe exclaimed.
“You see all kinds of strange new things when you’re in Starfleet.” Xaiko told the awestruck cadets. “I don’t suppose we can get any good scans of them, under the circumstances?”
“Not really” Gaf said “They are energy beings and are feeding off the discharges and static in the atmosphere, but beyond that. Not really. I think i’d need the Wabi Sabi to do any real scans.”
“What about our bearing? Are we seeing the colony?”
“Yeah, we’re on course, just a few more kilometers and we should see it on a rise.”
“Are we getting any life signs?” Xaiko wasn’t able to parse anything out from her console in the center chair, and she doubted anyone else was doing much better at their stations. The signatures were confusing.
“Many yes” he said knowing that wouldn’t be enough and tried to convince the shuttle’s overwhelmed sensors into giving me some more data… like anything.
“…are they the colonist life signs?”
He shrugged at her, “Sorry”
“…do we recognize the life signs?”
“Oh yeah, they are… um” he wasn’t sure how to word it “They appear to be Jellyfish fry, an earlier life stage of the larger ones we have been seeing, hundreds and they are feeding off the energy of the atmospheric storms, but these ones are not energy life like their older cousins, they are carbon based… kinda.”
Gafer frowned, “Oh, I get it now” he said, turning to Xaiko. “This is a breeding ground, it make sense now, when there is enough energy in the atmosphere, static energy such as a volcanic eruptions or maybe an Ion storm in nearby space the Jellyfish emerge from wherever they spend their down time and come here and breed, the little ones leave somewhere and grow into the energy beings and the cycle repeats.”
Xaiko frowned at that. The settlement seemed to have had a most unfortunate turn of events. Nothing like this had been on record. The world was supposed to have been fairly unremarkable and nothing short of dry. Things had really shaken up with the volcanic activity, and Xaiko wondered why the settlers hadn’t conducted more surveys that might have anticipated it. Nature seemed to be unconcerned and doing her own thing.
“We need to check for any survivors. Find us a nice place to land in town, Miss Pride.”