*Episode 2-3: Wild Kingdom

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OOC Date: August 08, 2011
IC Date: March 21, 2128

After an uneventful first (30+ hour) night on Chrysalis, the landing party finds itself between a pack of the planet's diurnal predators and the lake.

Corona Solaris 2 - Base Camp

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. Two large white tents have been erected a short distance from the lake; three shuttles flank them, as do a row of generators.

The first nightfall brought with it a number of interesting revelations about the planet and its wildlife. First of all, the little jelly ants glow in the dark, probably as much for their own protection as anyone else's. Little trails of sickly yellow light lit up the grassland as soon as the suns fell behind the mountains, which at least made them easy to avoid for the rest of the night. Several types of fish in the lake also seemed to glow beneath the surface of the water, though whether this is because they, too, are acidic isn't yet clear as they aren't exactly easy to catch, preferring the deeper waters to the shallows. The herd animals, those strange, boxy reptile creatures, came back out at night in much larger numbers than the previous stampede during the day, but at night they seemed more relaxed as they languidly grazed on the grass in slow roaming packs. In fact, many creatures came out of the forest at night, including massive flocks of small birds of various types and gray furred rodent like creatures that seem to live beneath the ground during the day. None of the creatures were hostile, and in fact the large herd animals were quite docile and seemed to pretty much ignore their strange new visitors. Mostly empty during the day, the grassland plains became quite the wildlife habitat once the suns had gone down and the moons come out.

Now it is nearing morning of the second planetary day, the first night almost passed and the glow of the suns returning over the tree line of the forest.

Spending a whole day - and change - in darkness is going to take some getting used to for those who hail from a 24-hour Earth rotation. It's as bad or worse as the 40-plus hours of daylight, though the delayed landing of the shuttle and the amount of time required to set up camp certainly ate into that. Eisley approached darkness like she did daylight, organizing the little landing party into shifts more so than watches, and narrowed the radius that people were permitted to stray from camp to the thin nimbus of light spilling out from the tents, light-posts, and shuttles. Half a mile shrank right down to less than fifty yards, but with the return of those dual suns that is liable to widen up again, given how uneventful the night was. She emerges from one of the tents the moons sink and the suns begin to rise, threading color over the gray horizon. Lack of uniform, for once, does not seem to indicate lack of duty, more practicality for the nature of the terrain. She is, just now, in the process of braiding her hair, though she stops outside, clear of the doorway, to survey camp.

Ivan wakes up only to find that he has no feet (!!!). It wasn't all a terrible dream, he really did step on jelly ants full of acid yesterday. There's a groan from the Marine as the realization sinks in and given how there's not much that can be done to change his situation, he scrunches his eyes closed and tries to force himself back into an unconscious state. It doesn't work so well. Tired, pained and already cranky, he reaches for an imaginary cigar, lights it with an imaginary lighter and puffs away, blowing imaginary smoke rings up at the ceiling of the tent. "Aaaah. This is living."

Jet comes out of one of the tents that they've set up, wearing the tank top, shorts, and boots combo that seems to have served her well for the time spent on this critter-infested planet. The redhead appears behind Eisley somewhat groggily before she yawns to make her presence known. "Peaceful, isn't it? As compared to last night, I guess. Just feels sort of nice to touch solid ground." She puts her hands on her hips and then reaches up to secure her hair into a low ponytail with a rubber band that was previously on her wrist. There's a moment of silence for the morning before Jet takes in a breath. "Shevchenko seems to be doing well."

"Commander," one of the scientists addresses Eisley as she emerges from the living tent. "We've revised one of our theories, given what we've learned overnight. You know how we thought that the predator the local wildlife likely hides from is nocturnal, given the camouflage that several of the species exhibit? Well, seeing how relaxed all the animals were at night, and how so many of them came out and wandered about, we think we were wrong with our initial theory. The way the herd animals stampede during the day when they come for water, and the more relaxed behavior at night now has us thinking that their predator moves in the daylight and probably has poor eyesight. We think that we haven't seen them yet because the noise our shuttles made on arrival probably scare them off for some time. My point is, Commander, that it's been awhile since the shuttles made noise, so we might actually see them soon. Thought I would give you a heads up."

The braiding finishes and Eisley pushes the whole thing over her shoulder. Jet's comment gets a nod of acknowledgement first, less idle than it is thoughtful. "Good," she answers. "I would hate to be down a man for the duration of our vacation." The comment is dry, though it shifts toward pensive as yon scientist gives his report. This is enough to make her frown, or at least sends her expression toward somber; her mouth thins out like the little bit of quiet that follows as she considers that. "Diurnal predators? I suppose that would not be entirely unforeseen, given the ratio of day to night. We'll need to raise our general level of alertness then."

Illyanna finally makes an appearance. Rejoice! Rare is the sight of the computer geek with dirt on her hands, but there she is, entering the large tent while patting dirt from her hands. Yup, she's been working on the equipment outside, and once back inside she snags a cloth somewhere to wipe down hands and face. Considerate girl that she is, she goes over and pours a glass of water for herself to chug down, before refilling it and heading for Ivan. "Hey, you ready for ballet practice yet?" She quips as the water is offered to her brother.

Ivan has feet. He might wish he didn't, but he does. No sympathy stubs for him. He ignores Illyanna in favor of smoking his pretendy cigar, until she asks him a question at least. Then, well, he tosses the stogie aside like it's yesterday's news and sits up in bed to consider his readiness for ballet. "I think… yes… maybe…" He moves the toes of his left foot, "…no. I need my vodka ration. Then I dance!" He basically yells that last part, because dancing is awesome and he must do it, and all must no of his love of dance.
or know.

Jet snickers quietly at Eisley's comment, but she understands all too well and nods in response. She listens raptly to the scientists' report, eyes widening as the scientist mentions that they might see some more critters soon. She bites her lip and puts her hands in the pockets of her shorts, glancing to Eisley. "This planet really has everything, doesn't it?" She muses rhetorically before biting her lip again and furrowing her brows. "Is our official plan of action to be aware and alert? Shall I start rounding up the troops?" Jet asks. "I hope Shevchenko is feeling up to this today…"

"Exactly," the scientist agrees. "We can only assume that it has bad eyesight, since it would seem that night would be an opportune time to hunt given how much of the wildlife comes out. There could be any number of other reasons, of course, but that one makes the most sense. It's like how rodents back on Earth would go underground at night because cats and wolves hunt at night. Here, everything goes underground during the day. The herd reptiles venture out during the day, but as we saw they do so in stampeding packs. There's a pretty good chance we're going to find out what everything is afraid of sometime in the next 40 or 50 hours."

"Drink up." Illyanna reiterates and reoffers the glass of water she holds, but yes, she also offers a roll of her eyes. "On Chrysalis, ants dance you." She adds in her typical deadpan, but already she's picked up the science geek's report to Commander Eisley. "Sounds like we can expect an exotic breakfast. You want a self-propelled wheelchair?" She asks of Ivan.

Eisley crosses her arms over her chest and drums her fingertips against her biceps for a few beats, still listening. Inevitably she shakes her head though, dismissing at least one of those ideas. "No need, Chief," she answers to Jet. "That is far too wide of a window to require everyone to be up and about. It's better to leave them in their shifts, so some of them will be fresh should the need arise for everyone to roll out. Further mention of the injured Marine turns her attention onto that tent. "Let's hope we don't need him on his feet, or that whatever appears has the good sense not to attack us." There is no humor in that statement, nor in that which follows. "Let's hope that Dr. Graves' tyrannosaurus doesn't show up for breakfast."

Absent in camp up until now has been Dominic who returns, wearing his uniform minus the jacket. Slung over his shoulder is his weapon that he seems to always be carrying since he landed on the planet. Having checked on the other Marines standing guard away from camp and getting their status reports, he returns to camp, making his way towards the tents. He looks down at the ground in front of him as he goes over the new data in his head and trying to come up with a preliminary idea of their current situation.

Ivan takes the glass of water from his sister at last, and despite not grabbing it straight off he tips it back and drains the entire thing in one go. Whew, he whews once finished. "No. The worst part of this? Now I have to break in new boots with these feet." Suck. He swings those hamburger covered-in-fresh-pink-nanite-skin limb ends out into the open air to check out the damage for himself. They're a little better, but he won't be playing the piano with them again. The empty glass is held out and a thanks given. "I think what I need to be doing now, sister, is operating heavy machinery. This camp is very lacking in ditches and walls and spears that are coming out of the ground in these ditches in front of these walls."

There's no faint disappointment at Eisley's words. If nothing else, Jet seems relieved. She lets out a breath and nods her head. "As you wish, Commander. "I'm sure that as long as keep to ourselves and do nothing suspicious, everything will be alright. Right?" She asks, possibly rhetorically once more. "I mean, it can't be as bad as the tree fiasco…" That is said underneath her breath. Jet looks over at Eisley when she mentions the tyrannosaurus, seeming on the verge of a smile before she realizes that this was probably not actually a joke and manages just to look worried instead.

"No, you should rest up and get those pads healed up. If you handle heavy machinery like you handle ants… you should stay the hell away." Illyanna accuses Ivan mercilessly, even giving him a slap upside of the back of his head. "Just get ready for breakfast. We might need you to shoot at it when it shows up." She quips, moving off to a nearby bunk to retrieve her data tablet. Switching it on and sitting down, she spends a few moments on it. Checking email, maybe? Someone from a couple galaxies away from a destroyed planet might have sent her email. You never know.

No, it looks like they may have visitors for breakfast, after all.

The last of the wildlife that had come out at night made their way back into the forest about an hour ago, leaving the grassy plains empty aside from the human visitors. Until now. From the edges of the forest comes movement, roughly one creature every 10 to 15 yards, and as they emerge it becomes easy to see why everything goes into hiding when it does. They're spotted like cows, white and black, and in some bizarre way even resemble them just a bit, but only just. From the ground to the highest point on their body, their shoulder blades, they stand about 8 feet tall on all fours save for a spike like protrusion that extends up and back from between the shoulder blades and has a thin yellow membrane like a sail stretching from the spike to their back. Their heads are like bulls, broad and heavy and with a large snout, their mouths featuring rows of razor teeth, and bullhorns extend from the sides of their head. Their eyes are small and squinty. They sniff at the ground with those massive snouts, stopping here and there to dig furiously at the ground with nasty clawed paws, digging up and flinging into the air the gray rodent creatures that live underground before snatching them midair in their horrible jaws. Perhaps their eyesight really is bad, as they don't seem to notice the humans some 500 yards away.

There are Marines on watch; one of them will probably notice those first and radio back to camp, but word will spread pretty quick. In fact, that report will probably chase Dominic back, leaving Eisley to hunt him down - visually at least - to offer precious little more than a Look, complete with one slightly lofted eyebrow, just… so. Alas for Jet, it is the CPO who must endure her thoughts on those critters, even as she lifts her own wristband to communicate more generally with the rest of the camp. "I think we may have to explore a slightly wider band of definitions for bad, Chief." And, "All hands on deck. Possible hostile life forms incoming." She really had planned to let people try and sleep through the early morning hours, but -that- plan has gone to hell on the horns of… carnivorous sailfin cattle?

"This camp needs walls made of spears and ditches full of ant juice, and towers with spotlights and sandbags against the tents and gun emplacements and all of these things." Says Ivan, which means he has to get out of bed onto his brokeass feet and build them because he has the expertise. He's got the badge. "First boots." He'll need those, but in the meantime he can try to walk barefoot. It hurts. Then, what's this? Hostile incoming lifeforms, eh? He gives Illyanna a look. After that, he grabs his gun and starts hobbling for the door of the tent.

The moment the call starts going through the tents, especially the Marine area, Jules begins to stir. "Fuck…" She breathes out, trying to shake off sleep and tug on a shirt over her sports bra. She's mentally moving slowly, but physically she's trained to get her buttocks into gear. So, before she realizes it she pulls on her boots and tightly laces them, then goes for her gun. "What's going on?" She huskily rasps out.

It would figure that things start to go awry just as Jet's stomach rumbles. The redhead looks sullen at the first signs of action, wearing a visible 'aww maaaan' look on her face. "They couldn't even wait 'til I'd had my rations?" She asks, sighing. She squints at the creatures that haven't yet spotted them and grows very still. "Maybe if we take care of them before lunch, we could be enjoying a big spiky, toothy cheeseburger with any luck." She pauses as a thought comes to her. "But eating them would probably just make us die, right? Right." There's a shake of the woman's head. "No rest for the wicked." Jet glances to Julia, nodding toward the predatorial cow/bull things. "We've got some woolly, dangerous looking cheeseburgers on the horizon."

The radio call from those on watch about the appearance of the creatures do chase Dominic who begins jogging towards the tents with the sleeping Marines, making sure they're up and getting ready for action should it come. He keeps an eye on the creatures in case they decide to start attacking, but he keeps his calm as the creatures hold their ground. After making sure all the Marines are awakened by the loud Lieutenant, he goes to seek out Eisley to see what her orders are for the situation.

Did she hear hostile life forms? Illyanna perks up and blinks. "Sooka." She murmurs, the data tablet is tossed on to her bunkbed and she's instantly on her feet. Where's she going? Scrambling to the storage area, grabbing a pair of spare boots for dear old brother. "On Chrysalis, breakfast eats you." She adds as she chases after hobbling Ivan, giving him a rough nudge in the shoulder before tossing the boots in front of him.

The beasts slowly make their way closer, possibly heading in the direction of the lake, still stopping occasionally to dig up an appetizer from the ground. If they've been staying away for the last planetary day, they're probably pretty hungry not to mention thirsty by this point, which makes the lake a predictable destination. They make the odd grunts and wuffling noises as they move, perhaps communicating in some way, but the foremost of them come to an abrupt stop about 300 yards away, their sails going straight up and signaling the others who also come to a stop regardless of distance. It would seem that the humans have been noticed, and for the moment at least, the creatures are trying to decide what to make of them.

"A few shots in the air might be enough to scare them off for the time being," the scientist notes to Eisley. "I have to figure eventually they're going to get closer, though. For all we know, we're keeping them from their only source of water."

Ivan looks down at those boots for a good long second, but he just can't will himself to shove his damaged feet into them. Screw 'em. Ivan goes barefoot but for bandages. After a few more steps, a better idea comes to him. "Illyanna, go get a buggy. Now is the time for cowboys and hostile local native creatures." Or at least him not walking so much cause man, is that ever not fun.

"They can damned well go around us," is Eisley's thought about the water, though there is little vehemence behind it. It's pensive even now, as is the way that her fingertips tap again, ever so very slowly. She hasn't stopped watching those things, even as they become more obvious, more visible, as they draw closer. 300 yards is still quite a distance - 900 feet leaves a wide swath of that red-golden grass between the perimeter of camp and the nearest of those peculiar creatures, and while they move slowly she is given the luxury of time to consider what to do. A breath gets let out as her gaze finally shifts again, sliding to Dominic. "Lieutenant, see if you can dissuade yon pack of peculiar predators from coming this direction. Do try to avoid killing them."

Julia finally steps out of the tent, double time fast, her rifle slung properly across her shoulder even though there was no time for morning abolutions. Who needs morning routine? She stares with slightly wincing eyes into the sunlight, quickly coming up behind the commander as she gazes over the crowd and out to the animals. "Huh."

Buggy - that's not a bad idea. Illyanna sprints off out of the tent preceding Ivan, but that also gives her a first look at alien killer cows, so the thought of getting a buggy is momentarily forgotten as she stands there to watch. "Uh." She almost echoes Julia's dumbfounded response, before remembering and runs off to get one of the buggies. It's quickly started up, and Illyanna steers it back to the front of the tent.

Jet glances to Eisley to listen to the woman, nodding over at Dominic in acknowledgment. She takes in a long breath at Eisley's orders and looks to Dominic again before turning to Julia. "My thoughts exactly. Well, maybe not exactly." Hers are a little more frantic at the moment. "I'm not sure if they understand 'going around'. Or if they do, that they want to. But I guess we're about to find out." The CPO simply hangs back and waits for something to happen.

Dominic returns the nod to Jet before he glances towards Eisley as she speaks to him, nodding his head once. "Yes, ma'am." He radios ahead to the closest watch unit and gives them the task of making the warning shot to try to scare the beasts away. He readies his weapon just in case the beasts don't have the desired reaction they're looking for.

The creature closest to the camp begins to work its sail up and down in rapid flutters, as if signaling to the rest of the pack. In unison, they begin to roll off to the right and work their way around towards the lake at a wide angle that would appear to keep some distance between them and the camp the entire way. Yes, they definitely want water, but no, they don't seem interested in fighting for it just yet. They seem intelligent enough to know that these new creatures came in the shuttles, the things that made the loud noises that kept them away this long, and so they show some concern that those loud noises might start up again if they get too close to the new creatures. The movement of the buggy makes them pause briefly, but they don't seem to be too afraid of it given its lack of size and lack of noise. The shot fired like ways makes them pause, this time hunkering down defensively for a moment before determining that what ever it was is not harming them, so they continue their circuitous path. The level of intelligence is both impressive and disturbing. As more come out of the forest, there are easily well over 50 of the beasts now making their way to the lake in their roundabout path that keeps them wide of the camp.

Julia falls into some sort of formation behind Dominic, "Here and awaiting orders, sir." The little blonde Marine states flatly, still waking up a bit, but mainly its her voice that's throaty and tired right now. Her weapon is ready and body tense and poised.

Buggy! Ivan gimps over and piles in kinda on the sly, like he'd really prefer if the higher ups didn't get wind of things. Not that the herd appears to need to be chased with the buggy and the two crazy Ukrainian siblings in it. Still, one cannot be too prepared to chase alien creatures with a buggy because the opportunity simply does not happen enough and one really must take advantage of every opportunity. "Drive over there some, incase they come back at this place." He directs, pointing to the edge of camp more towards the forest and the trailing end of the sail-beasts coming out of it. That's as far as he goes there; a just-incase deal.

Having given her orders Eisley stands by to watch the reception and result. It's very nearly a scientific experiment, with a hypothesis revolving around the behavior of every other critter encountered so far. Loud, scary noises send most animals running for the hills, after all, but when these skirt the camp on their own and seem aware enough to realize the noise isn't hurting them she frowns. Her fingers tap again a few times, the beat silent and erratic. The Siblings Shevchenko do not go unnoted either, and she devotes a few seconds to them, belatedly. "You'd think he would have learned after the ants."

"I really shouldn't be operating a vehicle in a sorta-combat situation. You know that, right?" Illyanna frowns a bit at Ivan, looking not entirely convinced it's a good idea. Still, she does drive that way, but lacking any sort of real speed. It's more of an idle roll to the edge of the camp.

Dominic watches the reaction of the creatures, not really making much more movements as he watches them. Since they're not acting in any hostile manner, he's content to observe. As he watches Ivan and Illy on the buggy, he smirks in response to Eisley's command. "He's a Marine. We don't always learn on the first try." He doesn't try to stop the two, letting them have their fun for the moment or unless Eisley decides to stop 'em.

"Whoa," Jet whispers as she watches the creatures. It looks like they're more docile than she'd previously given them credit for. She wraps her arms around herself, watching their behavior carefully. She almost misses the Shevchenkos entirely until Eisley points them out, a brief laughing rising in her throat. "Something tells me that stubbornness is one of Brother Shevchenko's more prominent qualities." Jet bites on her lower lip again and watches the entire scene unfold with some mixture of amusement and impending dread/doom.

At all times over the next three hours while the beasts drink and bathe at the lake, a handful of them keeps their attention on the camp, ever vigilant. They trade off on this duty, making sure that everyone gets some time with the water, but also making sure that the humans are always being watched by no less than five of the creatures at any given time. It's rather unsettling. Still, unless directly provoked, they simply keep their distance and go about their business. Perhaps in time curiosity will get the better of them and they'll venture closer to the camp, but today isn't that day. When they've all finished, they make the same way back to the forest from which they came.

"Ah yes, you have that precious brain to protect. I will find you a helmet for the next time, you will feel better. Safer. More stronger." Ivan nods thoughtfully at his hesistant to drive at hostiles sister. Obviously, she just needs the confidence a sturdy helmet provides. Once they've rolled up into a good spot, he hoists himself up to stand there on the passenger seat leaning over a roll bar with his rifle, watching the beasts watching the camp. They think they can watch, do they? He can watch too! No alien critters are going to out-watch a Shevchenko!

How odd. Not surprisingly, it's almost exactly what the camp does, given that they already have sentries posted. While Eisley drops the alert level a color or two she does not order anyone to stand down or to return to bed, instead leaving them to their own devices. Yes, even Crazy Ivan is left to try and menace them in his own unique way. "Intelligent predators are the worst kind. I need some coffee; I can tell it's going to be one of -those- days." Long and merciless.

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