*One Small Step For Man

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OOC Date: July 31, 2011
IC Date: March 07, 2128

A small unit of Marines is dispatched to the planet's surface to secure the landing zone in advance of the Genesis science team.

Corona Solaris 2 - Planet's Surface

A wide field of red-gold grass, miles across and miles wide. At the center is a vast lake of serene blue water. Forest-covered steps protect the plateau on one side, while steep mountains rise up on the opposite side of the lake.

Three people board shuttle two, Xavier, Dominic, a grunt named Jensen. Not even a pilot is risked on this, the first ever trip to the surface of an alien world outside of Earth's solar system. Adam has the shuttle on autopilot and is responsible for delivering the three members of the advance recon team to the landing site on Chrysalis. Once the three - fully armed and equipped with power suits - have settled in, the air lock opens and the shuttle launches into the blackness of space.

Two out of three in power armor, anyway. If there was one take-home lesson from the field trip to the mess that was the Devourer ship, it is that power suits blow big messy chunks when it comes to agility maneuvers. While those big moving shells might have been recommended for this trip, Sergeant Santiago has obviously declined, forgoing the use of an exoskeleton. For this trip he dug out his MARPAT, or whatever awful digital pattern they last used on Earth prior to the launch of the Genesis. Compared to one of the robosuits he's even lightly armed: Two-Tech energy assault rifle, Earth-made handgun, a pair of knives. His face is painted up in the same blacks, browns, and greens that color his clothes, and under that fearsome war paint, the Marine actually looks *happy* to be going somewhere.

Dominic is the last to board the shuttle and gets himself ready. He checks the weaponry and functions of the power armor he wears, making sure everything is working properly. In addition to the weaponry on the armor, he carries an energy rifle provided by the Two. After he's satisfied, he glances towards the other two. "You guys know the plan right? Secure the LZ and parameter. We'll start scouting the area from there." He seems focused on the task considering the risk of going into unknown territory.

As the shuttle arcs away from the Genesis and turns towards the planet below, the blue-green sphere comes into view. It's roughly a third larger than the Earth, and like their home planet is predominantly water. Two large continents and a plethora of islands cover the surface, almost entirely filled with rainforest and jungle, similar to Earth in its early days. Swirls of white clouds spiral and stretch around the globe, obscuring it in places. Soon, the entire view out the front of the shuttle is dominated by the planet's surface as the small craft prepares to breach the atmosphere.

"Touchdown in 2 minutes, 45 seconds," states the automated voice of Adam over the com. "Prepare for turbulence."

Happy, and yet contained. Mostly. "Oo-rah, Lt.," volunteers Xavier. He wears a little silver cross along with his dog tags, and as that big, blue-green sphere looms up to fill the screen his fingers close around the whole lot as though it were a good luck talisman. "What level of hostility should we be expecting? Shoot first, or…" New planet, new protocol. His knuckles whiten a little bit as vapor begins to break over the little ship.
Dominic looks back to Xavier as he asks his question. "We're not expecting any hostility as there's no signs of sentient life. But I still be prepared for any. If there is life that we don't know about, hold your fire until I fire first. I don't want to cause any trouble if we can avoid it." He turns to look at the planet as it comes into view, watching it grow larger and larger as they get closer to the surface. As the announcement for the turbulence is made, he grabs onto something to steady himself in his seat.

Jensen, in full power armor, grabs ahold of the overhead railing to steady himself as the shuttle pierces the atmosphere and begins to vibrate. All round the three Marines the shuttle rattles loudly from the friction for roughly a half a minute before it fades and all becomes smooth once more.

The surface can be seen quite clearly, now. Mountain peaks covered in red-tinged jungle, beaches of black sand, and water as crystal blue as any of them have ever seen. The shuttle streaks along towards a distant series of plateaus that stack up upon them selves like giant steps of earth carpeted in dense rain forest. Atop the highest plateau is a field of red-gold grass at least 25 miles wide and 15 miles long, at the center of which is a serene blue lake roughly 3 miles in diameter. The forest covered steps that lead up to this grassland clearing protect it on one side, while steep mountains protect it on the other. It's a perfect pocket clearing with natural fortifications. Quickly, the shuttle draws near.

With his single question answered Xavier falls quiet and sits still to ride through the rattling of the shuttle as it hits that worst spat of turbulence. He slides around a little bit where he sits, sliding left and right, but as soon as it evens out he falls into an almost ritual final inspection of his weapons, checking both the ammunition level and safety factor of both firearms. The knives require less attention, but each gets a passing, fond touch anyway: one on the calf, one on the body harness. This eats up most of the approach, which he actually appears to ignore by some supreme act of willpower.

Dominic releases to what he was holding onto as the turbulence subsides. He watches the clearing as they approach, scanning the area to get an aerial view to see if there's any signs of life that wasn't picked up by the Genesis. As they are about to land, he speaks up again. "Alright guys, here we go." He says as he gets ready to leave the shuttle as soon as it touches down on the planet's surface.

The shuttle slows, then shifts to hover in place as it lowers down towards the surface in smooth descent. In less than a minute, a slight rattle can be felt as the shuttle touches down and comes to rest only a few hundred yards from lake. Water samples are the first priority for the science team, so the viability of that lake is the single most important factor there is. So important, in fact, that the recon team has been tasked with collecting a sample to bring back before any scientists are sent down. If the water isn't drinkable, there's no point in sticking around at this location.

The hum of the engines dies down and the rear loading doors slide open as the ramp deploys. A new world awaits them just outside. Jensen has point, so he makes his way to the ramp first and begins to descend.

"Holy Mother… It's like Mars, if Mars had vegetation."

The system is a binary one, two suns hang high in a sky of faint blue much like the Earth's. It's a clear, sunny day at the landing site, no clouds to be seen. Even as they descend the ramp and stepped out onto the golden red grass the Marines can already feel the slight difference in gravity - it's just a touch lighter, here, making them feel just that much stronger. It isn't a huge difference, but it is noticeable after months on the Genesis with its replicated Earth gravity. The shuttle has landed facing away from the mountains and lake, so it is the mountains and like that they see first. Unlike the plateaus that lead up to this clearing, the mountains are not so densely forested. Red-black earth spotted with greenery extends high into the sky on the other side of the lake.

No wildlife is immediately visible.

"Don't go kissing any little green men, Jensen." Jensen can have point, but Xavier isn't far behind. He unshoulders his rifle almost as soon as he's on his feet, sliding it into a loose firing position, muzzle pointed mostly downward. At the bottom of the ramp he fans off to the left a few steps to look around, looking left and right and then up at the two-sunned sky. There is a whole lot of looking around in all of this and it's wary but slow, careful visual scanning looking for anything that moves that is not merely a ripple of the grass itself or a stray cloud streaking in the sky. "Left flank appears clear," is of course the initial immediate observation, but a lack of visible wildlife is not quite enough to get him to shed that watchful quality.

Dominic stands as the shuttle comes to a stop and follows the others out of the shuttle, moving to Jensen's right. He scans over the area for a moment before he speaks. "Right flank clear." He says before he looks in the direction of the lake. "Let's secure the immediate area before we head towards the lake to collect samples. Anything else that needs to be collected, do so. Plants, dirt and whatever the brains on board need to study. Let's spread out, but remain in eye sight."

The air, it should be mentioned, is slightly warm and a bit thin at this elevation, like an early summer afternoon in the mountains. A faint scent similar to cinnamon hangs in the air, although those in power armor would not notice this. A gentle breeze blows over the grassy plateau, that golden red carpet rippling faintly. The soil is apparently rich in iron according to preliminary scans, accounting for the reddish tinge to the earth and vegetation, but it's not believed that the concentration is high enough to pose a problem for agriculture.

Across the lake is more grassland and eventually the mountains which are said to contain a massive cavern system accessible from this area. The first sign of life comes in the form of a large bird flying overhead the direction of the water. Easily larger than a condor.

"Incoming," calls Xavier, ever helpful. "Try and look less like a stranded crab, Jensen; that seagull might be hungry." However, having been given permission to move away from the shuttle he does so, making his way slowly in a line straight out from the shuttle itself. It is a wary progression, taken one step at a time: it sends him parallel to the lake and to the mountains but presents a field of view that takes in both fairly easily. Samples from that side of the shuttle can wait, apparently; he is far more interested in looking than taking thus far, but for all of that he almost looks like he's out for a stroll. In face paint.

Dominic starts out in the direction heading towards the mountains, letting the others take the other directions. His eyes mostly scanning over the area with his weapon at the ready. As the large bird flies overhead, he pauses to watch it for a few moments. At least there's animal life here. He continues on, looking for other signs of animal life, making sure to step carefully. Who knows what could be hiding out here.
Long distance to Cassiopeia: Xavier tries to be more proactive than anybody was on that ship. -.-

"I think you'll want to use some different colors next time, Santiago," Jensen snorts in reply over the com. "I bet that you look more like a snack than we do."

The bird is too high overhead to make out any detail, appearing as more of a silhouette than anything. It makes a warbling call as it descends to the edge of the lake and lands. Up close, the creature would probably come up to mid thigh on an average man, but it's still 100 yards or more away. It walks along the coast with the stilted steps of birds back home, wading out into the shallow water.

A good study of the ground suggests that there are plenty of animals here, trampled paths can be discerned in places that are likely highly trafficked, the alien grass bent or compressed. By the looks of it, fairly large herds of something come through here quite often, in fact. What those might be, is anyone's guess.

About 300 yards out Xavier about half-disappears as he crouches in the grass to examine one of the trails worn through the grass, though his presence remains audible across the link. "Remind me later and I'll borrow your lipstick and rouge." Brown and green were probably not the ideal colors to choose for this field trip, but he does blend in slightly better than the suits of power armor do. He is at least much smaller, a less conspicuous target particularly when he stops moving beneath the ocean of slowly rippling red-gold. The tracks there are examined, the tangle of grasses carefully pushed aside for a look at the ground itself and the impressions left behind.

Dominic isn't trying to blend in. He studies the tracks for a few moments before he looks up and down the trail's path seeing where it was coming from and going to. If there is as much traffic as is suggested, camp might need to be moved away from the trails. He he continues to move towards the mountains, looking for anything he can collect for the scientists. "Jensen, head to the lake and get the water sample from there. Santiago and I will continue moving out in our directions until you get there and then we'll return and regroup."

Xavier comes upon the remains of a dead animal, some kind of small, rodent-like creature, though there is hardly enough of it left to get an idea of what it might have once looked like beyond grayish fur. There's also the matter of all of the ants feasting on it's carcass. Ants, of course, being the first thing that comes to mind when the insects are seen rather than an exact match for them. These are about the size of the large, red variety of ants back home, but they are a translucent yellow that makes them look squishy and see through, as if they were made of jelly. Their trail disappears off into the grass.

"Roger that, Lieutenant."

"Hey Lt., think the brains would like some bugs?" The bird is not portable, but these little ant things might very well be. With precious little else to do Xavier starts tracking the line of ant-things back in whatever direction they were headed, which is close enough to where he was going to be the right direction anyway.

Dominic continues to move, looking for plants and animals to collect. "Collect a few, but make sure they're secured. I don't want these things getting out and then Adam & Eve start freaking out and end up killing us all." Though the likelihood of that happening is slim, there's always that chance, no matter how small that chance is. He kneels down, pulling out a pair of collection tubes and opening it to collect some dirt and the grass. Once both samples are collected and the tubes secured, he returns them to their storage spot. He stands once more before he moves on to look for another sample on the list.

The trail of insects, these gummy ants, does indeed extend off in the direction that the Marine was intending to go. It takes about 20 yards to finally come to the source, a small patch of the grass cleared away to reveal red-black dirt that forms a very slight mound with a hole at the center. This would appear to be their home.

Jensen nears the lake's edge, about 30 yards from the bird which is now watching him quite astutely, clearly curious about the strange guest. It keeps its distance, however. Careful to keep an eye on the bird, Jensen fills a small container with water and watches it for results.

"It's drinkable," Jensen states with a bit of relief. "It turned the indicator blue."

Once he finds the source and destination of the bug trail, the mighty hunter Xavier pauses again to collect three of the insects in individual tubes. After a few seconds of contemplation, he also scoops up some of the soil from the mound itself, scraping both gently and shallowly so as to not disturb fragile tunnels underneath. These are secured before he rises to his feet and roams outward again, still heading almost exactly and directly away from the shuttle proper. He has no more comments to offer up though, apparently quite content to move off through the strange red-tinged grass. From time to time he looks off toward the mountains, apparently finding that more broken horizon more interesting than the flatter field that serves as the landing zone.

Dominic audibly lets out a sigh of relief of Jensen's report about the water. "That's good news, Jensen. Any signs of life in the lake that you might be able to collect?" He pauses for a moment before he speaks to both of the other Marines. "Let's also get some rock samples. Different size rocks and, if possible, different types. Let's get enough to keep the eggheads busy for a while."

After a brief and minor disturbance of agitation among the ants, they return to their patterns and paths as normal, clearly not missing their three comrades.

"I'd have to go out into the water to be able to tell," Jensen replies. "It's really clear, but I'm not seeing anything here at the water's edge. You want me to go out and see if I find anything?" The power suits are airtight, of course, having been designed for the vacuum of space. Water poses no threat.

"I thought they were coming down later to collect their own samples. … Sir." That last is almost an afterthought; so far Xavier's sample collecting has been… lacking. "There doesn't appear to be anything playing in the field today. Might come out after those suns set… if they set …but I'd like permission to head for higher ground." After months and years in space, the recon Marine is clearly chomping at the bit to go do some actual recon. While the field might be flat and idyllic, there isn't much in this patch of grass.

Dominic thinks about it for a few moments. With the water visibility clear, the chance of spotting danger is raised slightly but there's still the unknown. "Yeah, but if you feel like anything isn't right, get the hell out of there." He continues to move towards the mountains. "They are but if we can get them more data before they come then we can raise the chance of survival." At the request, he turns to look in the direction Xavier is heading before scanning the area. "Granted. Be careful, Marine. We don't know what predators call this place home." If there's herbivores, then there's definitely carnivores that feed on them.

"The planet Chrysalis makes a complete rotation every 3.6 Earth days," the serene, melodic voice of Eve provides over the com. "It makes an entire orbit of the primary sun every 423 earth years. Therefore, seasons last roughly a century, and during the spring, such as it is now, daylight hours number as high as 41."

"Roger that, sir. Will do." Jensen begins to make his way out into the water, wading slowly. The bird continues to watch him."

"Muchas gracias, Eva," replies Xavier almost out of habit as the computer fills in the details, answering at least one question. This brings another one to mind, asked of the same. "What is current estimated planetary time?" It might help to establish a baseline for what time 'now' is. "Aye, sir," he adds for Dominic's benefit, even as he changes direction to begin heading off toward the mountains. That will be a hike, but it would seem that he does in fact have all day (and then some) to get there. The pace he sets is chosen for ease of maintenance, probably helped along by the slight variation in gravity and the general pleasure at having real ground and sky to move under instead of the belt of the treadmill and the full-spectrum light on the Rec Deck.

"It is late morning, relatively speaking," Eve replies. "I estimate roughly 40 hours of sunlight before night falls."

In order to get to the mountains, one will have to skirt around the lake as they lie on the other side. At a decent pace, reaching the mountains on foot will take an hour or so. Luckily, Monoko already has the small team in Engineering building two small transport vehicles similar to dune buggies.

"I'm starting to see what I guess you'd call fish," Jensen reports, now waist deep in the water. "Lots of different kinds, ranging in size from little guppies to several feet long. I've never seen anything like them."

Dominic continues to pick various specimens that he comes across and seems interesting. He listens to the reports given by Eve before he thinks and thinks. "Eve, can you make a request to the Captain requesting permission to camp down here until the Science team arrives. I think we'd all like to have more time to explore the area and keep the landing zone secured." His eyebrows raise at Jensen's report, though no one can see it. "Really? See if you can catch one of the smaller ones. If not, don't worry about it."

An hour or so will put Xavier out of easy contact range with the other Marines unless they hop in the shuttle and go after him but that doesn't seem to dissuade him at all. So long as nothing of interest comes into view or pops up out of the grass he'll be entirely occupied in jogging toward the mountains. It's hardly enough to keep him out of the conversation though. "Maybe you can have some real meat for dinner," he proposes. "Unless they are not fish at all. Maybe they are at the top of the planet food chain."

"Not this big, clunky suit. It's more agile than it looks, but still. As no way I'm catching fish with my bare hands in it," Jensen replies chuckle.

They can hear it first, then feel it. What starts as a low rumble is soon accompanied by a faint shaking of the ground. Is it an earthquake? The answer comes in the form of a herd of animals coming from the forest.

Somewhere between a turtle without a shell and a komodo dragon, the creatures are reptilian, covered in a pearlescent, scaly hide of dark green with red undertones, immediately obvious as an excellent camouflage for the forest vegetation. The creatures have broad, short bodies with four legs, a fat neck blunted turtle-like head and stubby tails. Larger than sheep but a bit smaller than cattle, they move with impressive speed considering their bulk, somewhere in the range of 15 to 20 miles an hour. Close to 100 of them stampede their way out of the woods the direction of the lake.

Dominic stops in his tracks as he feels the vibrations, looking around the area. As the creatures come into view and the course of their path is noticed. "Jensen, you got a stamped coming towards you fast. Get out of there." He calls into the comm, turning to rush back towards the lake as fast as power armor will let him.

By that point Xavier is some distance from the lake. Maybe not around it yet, but near enough to be in a good place to watch this wave of reptiles come charging toward the water. "Heads up," he sends over the com. The tremble of the ground is a good warning, but the sight of those strange dragon-turtles make their way toward the water is far more insightful. For him, the obvious solution is to veer away from the water, to get out of any possible line that even the fringe of the herd could draw from the trees to the lake. "High noon rush hour? Or…" His thought is left to hang in the air as he unshoulders his rifle again, though he continues to move mountainward.

The herd parts fluidly around the shuttle as it approaches it and then passes it, leaving it unscathed and indeed untouched. Whether they are afraid of it, or simply recognize it as an obstacle is unclear, but either way they seem to know enough to go around it. The lake is quite big, so while they're headed towards it in numbers there's no immediate risk to Jensen - there's plenty of room for everyone. They slow gradually as they approach the edge of the lake and go splashing in at the shallows. Jensen is well clear of them by the time they get there, now making his way out of the water and back up the shore. The bird takes flight before the herd of reptiles arrives, heading off into the mountains.

Dominic seems to slow to a job as he sees the herd come to a stop at the lake. "You alright Jensen?" He asks over the comms. He stops as he watches the heard at the lake, simply observing their behaviors. "What the hell are those things? Turtles?" He asks to no one in particular, not able to see them as clearly as Jensen can.

"I'm fine, sir," Jensen replies, water streaming off of his power suit as he walks up the beach and towards the grass field. "And no, not quite. Or at least, they don't have shells. They're kind of fat and squat, and almost as big as a small cow. Definitely herd animals. I wonder if we could ranch them?"

"They look like reptiles," provides Xavier. "Turtles. Iguanas. Komodo dragon." Fill in the blank animal time! "Should be herbivores or omnivores, but who can say?" Earth rules clearly do not apply on this planet and he, at least, isn't taking chances with the wildlife yet. The whole tromping, splashing herd of peculiar pearly animals is given a wide berth, though as they reach the water his attention roves in the direction they came from in case something else was herding them. "I wonder if they taste like chicken."

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