Jade Imperium - One Small Step

e of pi 2007-05-01 02:24:59
Luis is the first to react to the odd sight, "Umm, captain? I think they think we're somebody else, and from the sound of this, not so friendly, because I think they're offering us slaves in tribute if we go away."
fanchergw 2007-05-01 06:39:08
Once they make it back to camp, Semo goes straight for the MREs, then fills up his Camelbak. Can't afford to run out here, and he's going through it at a prodigious rate.

Fortunately, there are no more away teams and evening draws close with relatively little activity. The scientists are the busiest, and the rest of them simply dig in and watch the perimeter.

Eventually the gateway re-energizes. Almost immediately, command asks about their progress on charging the gate. Not wanting to be blamed for it not being done, Semo ducks his head and stays well back.

The captain and nerd herd take the heat, responding that they decided to wait until they were sure of the perimeter. Command seems happy enough with the data and samples, that no shit hits the fan this time.

Semo has just found a cozy spot in the near brush when a family noise appears. The hairy bastards are back, strolling into camp in a group. The biggest one is decked out in what must be some kind of leadership garb. Interestingly, he doesn't carry a weapon, but others are and are obviously guarding him. Three of the aliens are painted, with symbols that look similar to those on the portal.

Captain Verrill goes to meet them, with translational help from Doc Kilgore. It's hard to follow the conversation, so Semo keeps his eye on the guards from his spot in the bush. Still, he sees the three painted aliens kneel before the cap and the head nerd. What the hell's that about?!

Then Luis speaks up, and Semo can just stare. Could he be right?
Dieter 2007-05-01 20:50:13
Max puts on his best "let's lobby for a $10 Million grant from the NSF" face before asking for some further explanation from the locals.

"My leader questions your offering. Explain again why we should take it?"
Gatac 2007-05-01 22:19:41
Hugh waves Max aside and gives everyone a supportative glance.

I got this.

He turns to the alien leader and starts signing.

"We can not accept your offer. We are not who you think we are. We apologize for the confusion."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-01 23:08:41
With a bit of split-second assistance from Max (Hugh was about to sign some gibberish there), the aliens get the message... and it causes quite a stir. Hair cycling different colors, grunts and barks, they run the whole gamut, but at least it appears to be internal confusion rather than "let's get 'em!" Finally the Chief motions for the painted aliens to rise, which they do, and then signs to Hugh and Max, Who are you? The ("Gruhnnht" word that you now associate with the not-humans) come with the Thunder but carry Lightning. You bring the Lightning but carry Thunder. Who are you?
Gatac 2007-05-02 11:53:43
"We are explorers. We found the gateway on our planet. Who are the (not-humans)?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-02 14:29:02
They come to Whiirr not often. They are cruel, but make good trade. Your height, but they have no eyes/mouth/face. Hard-skinned, like... Chief says some things nobody can piece together, probably referring to animals or objects you haven't gotten a translation for. He sees your confusion, though, and with a curious look, thumps the Humvee's fender. Yes. Hard skin. Ghost skin. The Others make trade for our Chosen (here he refers to the painted aliens). Other times, this be honor/pride/duty, but our tribe small. Many fights.

Is this what you ask?
Gatac 2007-05-02 15:05:58
Yes, that is what we want to know. Thank you. We would like to hear more stories about the Others. We will make you a good trade for the stories, if you wish.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-02 19:01:53
We will make trade with you, but not now. Night jumps and stories long. When the sun announces, this one (he motions to One-eye) bring you to place make trade.
Gatac 2007-05-02 20:33:54
We agree. We will see you when the sun rises again.

(Assuming the ETs leave)

Hugh turns to the assembled crew and lets out a long-held breath.

"Sumo, help me hook up the generator trucks and charge the gateway. Doc, I want you to assemble a dossier on our new friends - everything we know. Luis - go through our supplies. Make a list of everything you think we could give away. Everybody else - it's been a hell of a day. Get as much rest as you can. Sarge Taylor will assign guard shifts. That is all."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-02 20:42:22
"All right, ladies," Taylor barks. "I want everyone on alert for the next four hours. Just 'cause it's nighttime here don't mean shit to us. It's only 1700 hours Earth time, so if you're sleepy, call me over there and I'll kick your ass into gear. Those trucks are gonna be noisy, so if they're callin' to any critters it'll be sooner, not later. Sumo, you and me have first shift after that. Riviera, you and Stanhill have second. Wake up Dietrich and Mellish for third. Greene, you've got breakfast."
Dieter 2007-05-02 20:53:52
"Finally, some real work." replies Max, not enjoying the role of diplomat.

"Kitty, Andy...gather up your findings and dillute down to something intelligible for the folks back at Mesa Negras. I'll be working on a cipher for the gibberish language and kinesics these people are using."
fanchergw 2007-05-02 21:07:01
Once the ape-men leave, Semo rises out of the bush and rejoins the team for Verill's orders. "Yes, sir!"

As he moves towards the trucks, Greene calls out watch shifts. First shift, not bad. Better chance of undisturbed sleep that way.

Semo launches into hooking up the generators. From what he remembers of the briefing, it didn't seem too hard: connect the wires, fire up the generators. How hard could that be?...
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-02 21:52:25
(OOC: I see you mentioned truckS, plural. Disregard my OOC thread question)

It turns out to be as easy as pie. Semo pulls the thick insulated cable over to the Gateway and wraps the connecting collar around the ring. Hugh does the same with the second truck. The trucks cough to life, then they engage the generators.

There's a snap of electric current, then just the trucks' happy rumbling. Dr. Tupolev checks the current and everything seems to be on schedule. He attaches the simple red light/green light device with some duct tape and gets back to collating his data for Mesas Negras.

The sun dips lower and is barely visible above the treeline when Mesas Negras activates their Gate.

Mission Time 00:07:45

*Hope we didn't keep you waiting. We've been throttling back from the power plant, took us a little longer that we thought. What's your status?*
Gatac 2007-05-02 22:01:31
"Well, we've had a bit of a development, to say the least. The natives have apparently had prior dealings with another alien species - and they mistook us for them. That's to say, there's another sentient species out here, they're at our tech level or higher, and they look like us. The xeno-humans apparently have a bit of a slave trade going with the natives, though we haven't been able to find out details yet. That said, we've been invited to a longer conversation with the natives tomorrow - and, well, we've had a few thoughts on how to go about that..."

Hugh explains to MN what kind of trade goods they'd like sent over and gives further details on the natives; he also invites the MN staff to come up with a list of what they want to know about the natives and send it before the meeting so Hugh can ask the right questions.

"One more thing. We're about to shut down for the night and get some rest - only dial in every four hours until further notice. We're charging the gateway from our side now, and we should be able to do an emergency evac before sundown if the situation calls for it."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-03 06:24:54
*Copy on the... sentient life and, um... slave trading. Hold please.*

A few valuable minutes slip by, then the old man's voice squawks in your ears:

*Captain. Continue as planned. Under no circumstances are you to trade -anything- for slaves. As for this other species... they sound nasty, but it could just be your sentients' misconceptions. The hairy bastards ARE used as slaves, correct? It'd cloud my view if I were them, I can tell you that.*

You can hear General Sanderson shouting at someone at this point. Something about "I can see the goddamn timer!" or some such.

*Hugh, if you can, initiate negotiations with this second species. Find out what they've got that we don't, and figure out how we can get it. Good luck, this is a momentous day for -*

Sanderson runs out of time. The portal collapses and blinks out, leaving your eyes to adjust to the sudden darkness. The alien planet's two tiny moons, like Mars' Deimos and Phobos, hang low on the horizon like gray-white marbles. There are so many stars, though. It's a near-pristine planet. No light pollution. No smog. Only a few scattered clouds. Dr. Tupolev and Kilgore do some calculations with the probe's instruments and pinpoint Sol. It's just a twinkling pinprick against the great big black.

The jungle isn't too bad at night for those inside the corral of idling diesel engines and armed commandos. For those walking perimeter, however, the jungle breathes like a living thing. Wind picks up suddenly, then switches direction. The sounds of animal life are everpresent. Something dies deep in the forest, its death-screams echoing into the canopy. The flutter of great wings snaps your weapon up every now and then, but there's no movement against the green monochrome nightscape.

Mission Time 00:10:36

Clouds that had been slowly gathering finally start to drizzle a steady rain on the camp. That proves to be a minor debacle, as the scientists suddenly snap alert, running lightning-quick tests on what proves to be (for the most part and as far as you need to be concerned) water. Angel finally spots that the red charge-lamp on the Gateway has flipped over to green. Mesas Negras should have your shiny beads ready to go in about 10 minutes.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-03 16:54:05
Mission Time 00:10:45

The Gateway opens with its typical whumph and Pit techs roll a second probe, this one little more than a flatbed with a remote control unit, through the portal. It's stacked high with the supplies you asked for. Nylon rope, water transport bags, an 8-man (or 4-yeti) tent, nets, an iPod with car dock (still in its plastic clamshell packaging), and a guitar in a battered old case. Additionally, there's some camo cloaks and netting for Angel, which he eagerly grabs up, as well as a satchel of six claymore mines. You hustle to get the gear stowed while Captain Verrill makes his report - some rain, some noise, the Gate's charged, nothing to worry about so far.

The Nerd Herd transmits their findings back to Mesas Negras and they get the "starter" list of questions to ask the aliens the next day:

How many nations/tribes are there?
What is their relationship with them?
Do they know the concept of, or do they have maps?
How many sentient species are they aware of?
Where did they come from?
Do they use the Gateway?
Do they know who built it?
What do they eat?
How do they camouflage themselves?
Would any of them be interested in coming to Earth?
Can they read the language used on the Gates?

With maybe 20 seconds left, Hugh gets a final order for the night. *Captain, send that UAV up. Do it whenever you like as long as it's done before you meet with this chieftain. Sanderson wants a better picture of the area than 'just jungle'. See you in 3 hours. Mesas Negras out.*
Gatac 2007-05-03 18:46:31
Hugh acknowledges the questions and further orders.

"Luis, help me with the UAV. It's eye in the sky time."
Dieter 2007-05-03 20:02:45
Max looks over Mesa's questions, trying to figure out how exactly he's going to ask the locals in a language that is based on grunts and hand gestures.

I'm surprised Command didn't ask for them to explain the meaning of life in ten words or less.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2007-05-03 21:39:38
While Max sits down in the tent, trying to formulate how to pass Mesas Negras' questions along through movement, grunts, and (lest we forget) color, Hugh and Luis climb into one of the Humvees. The rain pattering off the vehicle's roof is drowned out by the whirr of the drone's engines. Luis leads it upwards slowly, then starts a slow circle. He flips on the Cypher's FLIR sensors and the black jungle below resolves into a black and white jumble.

From above, the crash site does indeed look as if it's the culprit behind this lush valley where you've been camping. You can see the silver river snaking across the valley floor before it winds off to the east of the crash site. The landscape is jungle for miles. In the distance, the UAV spies nightvision-green mountains poking up to the north and west. Black, swollen thunderheads threaten a heavier storm from the south.

Luis flies higher and the drone's sensors pick out a gray-white concentration maybe 5-6 kilometers upriver. They appear to be stone or adobe structures, and the FLIR confirms heat sources.

BANG! Something heavy smacks into the UAV, disrupting the picture for a second. Luis tries to steady the drone's spin, but Hugh sees great black wings and a massive feathered tail when the image returns. One of the large avians seems to have chosen the Cypher as a midnight snack!