*Episode 2-4: What To Do About Roctopodes

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OOC Date: August 14, 2011
IC Date: March 31, 2128

Several members of the landing party gather for a teleconference with personnel still aboard the Genesis. Various findings and theories about the tentacle things living in the cave are discussed.

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.

Captain Ramesh has called a videoconference of several key crew members both on the planet and aboard the Genesis following the arrival of two more Marines sent down freshly out of stasis. The list of those to be in attendance was very specific - Commander Eisley, Dr. Graves, Lieutenant L'Anse and Seaman Shevchenko, of those currently on world. On the other end of the video feed is Captain Ramesh, Lieutenant Commander Bharti and Lieutenant Commander Kurokawa. Shortly before the meeting is to began, a fourth shuttle touches down delivering the aforementioned two more Marines, Sergeants Sisti and St. Clair, the latter a specialist in counterintelligence. The rest of camp on the planet remains largely oblivious to the rapidly developing situation.

"I hope that your two newest colleagues will be of use to you down there, Commander," Ramesh offers grimly over the video feed. "I've discussed the situation with medical staff up here, and it's been decided that in an emergency you may return to the ship under quarantine in the shuttle bay. Miss Kurokawa has isolated the air lock and filtration system to keep the air contained and prevent exposure to the rest of the crew. This is the best that I can offer at the moment. I hope you understand. I do believe Miss Shevchenko has managed to glean some information from the video feed taken by Santiago. Miss Shevchenko, if you could share with us what you've learned?"

Thumbing through her datapad while the captain speaks, Illyanna looks up only upon hearing her name mentioned. That's right, Illyanna, you're on. Smile! "Right. Yes, sir." She clears her throat. "Display enchanced image index 4500212 on main screen." And with that, a 3-D reconstruction of the wall carving caught by Xavier's camera is shown in a slow rotation.

"Thanks to the Tripods' photorealistic renderings, we got a pretty good recording of their history." Illyanna starts, leaning forward with her fingers steepled together on the table. "First of all, they record with pictures because they don't have a written language. See this here?" She points to some alphabet-like carvings. "These turn out to be their numbering system, not letters. We gather from their records that these Tripods are not native to Chrysalis; they arrived here approximately 8000 planetary years ago, roughly equivalent to 24000 standard Earth years. They were apparently defeated and hunted to almost extinct by another alien species… some sort of 'Giants'…"

Yes, even on the planet's surface, surrounded by hostile aliens, the Genesis crew is liable to die in committee. Eisley is characteristically grim and silent, her favorite metal mug nowhere in evidence; apparently when the Captain calls you don't show up with coffee in her book. She listens through the presentation, expression showing a flicker of surprise when Illyanna mentions 'Giants.'

"Glad to hear about the quarantine, sir. I'm doing what I can to check the crew over for signs of contaminants, but when we're dealing with an environment this alien, nothing's certain." Then Harry goes quiet to listen to Illyana's briefing.

Dominic is, too, in attendance at the meeting though he does spend most of his time scanning the surrounding area that he is able to see while he listens to the others speak, his rifle resting in arms reach. He remains silent as Illyanna begins her report. As the images are displayed, his attention turns to them for a moment as he studies them before glancing around them again. He's still got some Marines and Navy personnel working on the walls while other Marines train some others on weaponry as ordered. As Harry speaks, Dominic glances back to the man before looking back to Illyanna to hear the rest of the report.

Sgt. Sisti reaches up to flick a few strands of dark hair out of her eyes, and her gaze goes immediately up. There's something about stepping off of a shuttle that demands a moment to find physical bearings—an ingrained urge to find the sky just as soon as boots touch ground. She squints a bit, the very beginnings of laugh lines crinkling the corners of her eyes, attention drawn to the moons hanging between two suns. Two suns, three visible moons. An alien sky. She shakes her head slightly and moves on. The gathering in the tent isn't hard to find. She takes up a place at the back of the meeting in short order, quiet. Her gaze flicks between speakers, attention slowly roving.

"Eleven, forward to image index 4500219." Illyanna notes, and the image shifts to a carving that shows the tentacled beasties landing in spacecraft. "A group of 30,000 or so Tripods arrived here initially and created a subterranean civilization under a mountain top as a bottle cap. They systematically wiped out all native animal life within a six-mile radius of their lair, right up to the edge of our little lake. They also have a device that drive animals away by inducing some sort of primal fear within them; the Sailfins were originally part of their defense system, but the device drove them away too as a side effect."

"Forward to image index 4500223." She adds, and the image changes to a picture where a lot of the aliens seem to be dead. "These guys suffered a massive plague about 2000 planetary years ago, reducing their population to about 2000 individuals. The metal spider robot Sgt. Xavier saw was their caretaker, designed to engineer their breeding to resist future strain of the plague. As you all know, 2000 is below the critical mass to sustain a species, so they rely entirely on their robot buddies to keep them alive. As a result, they're pretty inbred and if I were to guess? A bit crazy. All the thinking and technology are run by the robot spiders now, while the Tripods themselves are pretty primitive. They evidently still live in fear that the Giants will find them, and… uh, their current population base is about 6000."

Somewhere toward the end of Illyana's opening statement, the second of the aforementioned Marines arrives. A man of middling height, and what could be a faintly swarthy look about him, if he hadn't been in stasis for god knows how long. He ducks through the shuttle bay door as if he's tall enough for the motion to be necessary, and finds a spot near the back, a few paces from the other Sergeant. A pair of dark-rimmed glasses are dug out of his uniform pocket, breathed on a couple of times, and wiped clean with his sleeve while he listens.

Harry's got a permanent frown on his face through all of that. Perhaps not surprising. He listens carefully. "I suspected something like that. The fact that they have a tripartite body structure, eliminated the animals around a perimeter and live underground where the temperature is warmer all suggested a species not well-adapted to this environment. I didn't suspect the crazy inbreeding, though. That's problematic."

Eisley considers all of this, attention sliding to the shuttle ramp as new faces appear but not lingering. "The enemy of my friend's enemy is not necessarily my friend… particularly if he might be paranoid, psychotic, and lives under a rock," she intones without so much as a droplet of good humor. It isn't helped at all by Harry's contribution to the analysis. "Anything else, Shevchenko?"

"So basically what we're looking at," Lieutenant Commander Bharti, the Chief Science Officer, sums up over the video feed, "Is the remnants of a once advanced civilization alien to this world that has degenerated to near barbaric, primitive existence due to a massive plague invent in their distant past that has rendered them inbred and seriously devolved. They seem to be highly paranoid and extremely volatile. While they appear to still have a connection to the sailfin creatures that they once engineered and brought with them as servants and watchdogs, they no longer have any control over them. I would have to suspect that it is the silver spider robots that actually receive whatever signals the sailfins are sending, and that they then interpret them for their alien dependents."

Dominic listens silently to the report, his eyes moving to each person in turn as they speak. As the new arrivals step in, his attention turns to them, raising a finger to his lips in a signal for them to remain silent for the moment. He looks back to the others when Bharti speaks up, listening to her. "What would the repercussions be if we took those droids out of the equation somehow?"

Never's eyes return to Illyanna as she says something about a 'massive plague.' That's always the thing you want to hear just after you've stepped out of stasis and onto the surface of an unknown world. Little of her thoughts are betrayed on her face. She notes the other Sarge out of the corner of her eye, and reaches up to pat a pocket, quietly searching for her own sunnies, eyes still dazzled by non-artificial illumination. Belatedly, her attention returns to the grey-eyed scientist. Did she just say the words robot and spider in the same sentence? The sergeant plucks a mint leaf out of a small pouch in her vest and tucks it into her mouth. As her teeth bruise the tiny leaf, the sharp scent of mint might be caught by those closest to her position. When the head of sciences reiterates plague and spider robots, she clasps her hands behind her back, abandoning the search for eyewear. It's probably not the robots that prompts the move. It's probably the signal from Dominic.

Jeremiah finally slides his glasses on, adjusts the bridge atop his nose, and taps two fingertips lightly to his temple when Dominic looks his way. Acknowledgement and comprehension, though not so much as a smile makes its way across his faintly dour expression. Rather the opposite, as the Chief Science Officer draws the concluding statement on this alien species. His brow furrows slightly, but he remains silent.

Illyanna sniffles a bit and shakes her head at Eisley. "Aside from the fact that we're pretty relieved these tentacled Tripods aren't looking for human women to mate with…. Chief Stanwick and I were wondering whether it's possible to actually communicate with the robot spiders, somehow." If Jet is here for this, Illyanna defers to the communications expert to answer that part, before turning a backwards glance to Never. "Yeah, robot spiders. Eleven, return to image index 4500217." She says to the datapad, and the screen rolls back to exactly that: A mechanical spider scurrying along the cave wall, while Xavier's shakey camera follows it like it was the Blair Witch.

Jet is perhaps somewhat late to the meeting. Late enough to have been absent for the briefing she was supposed to give. The redhead enters in and salutes everyone present, then tries to slink quietly to a corner where she won't be noticed, hoping perhaps that she can remain unseen and unheard. She tries to pretend like she's not late, giving whoever is talking her full attention and trying to avoid gazes of anyone else in the room. Jet does glance over to Illyanna and offer an apologetic glance, but that's it in the way of actual interaction before she turns to the other woman's reshowing of the video footage with a slight grimace.

Eisley folds her hands together, all but her index fingers tangling. Those tap together at the tip three or four times in slow succession as she looks around and listens, measuring out her thoughts… or possibly her frustrations. "Assuming we could find a way to eradicate the spiders and not the tentacle creatures - which live over a mile into and beneath those mountains - then at best we'd succeed in robbing them of intelligence. At worst we'd likely cripple them to the point of irrecoverability, which would be tantamount to xenocide. Somewhere in that scale would be them deciding we were the Giants come in soft pink form and come after us." She considers. "So what happens if we avoid their dead zone? Better yet, what happens if we pack up and move to the other side of the planet?" These are -not- rhetorical questions, class; she looks around, clearly soliciting ideas.

"I couldn't begin to guess," Bharti replies to Dominic. "I would imagine that it certainly wouldn't have a positive effect on them, but whether or not it would bring about their downfall and if so how quickly is impossible to say without knowing just how many of the robots there are and just how extensive the assistance they provide is." She shakes her head in reply to Eisley. "We could move to any number of other locations on the planet, but none would be as ideal as this. Other locations might lack the immediate danger of this alien species, but they more than make up for it in other dangers."

"I must ask you, Commander," Ramesh begins as the video feed switches back to him in the conference room, "Is this world, absent this alien species, worth a serious look? Given our own circumstances, I am loath to bring about another race's extinction, but it sounds to me like this race went extinct in all but the truest sense some time ago. Whatever once proud race they might have been, it is long gone now and will likely never return. As it stands now, they are little more than a festering tumor hiding under a mountain. They are clearly of no benefit to this planet, and indeed by their own history have proven to be a threat to its ecosystem. If those of you on world really believe that this planet is worth fighting for, there are options we can explore that would deal with this obstacle."

"Sir," Oh here comes Mr. Moralizing Doctor. "…with all due respect, it shouldn't be our decision to wipe out the tripods just because they're in our way. I mean, didn't we learn anything about the colonial attitude that devastated native populations? Just because they're a bother to us, just because they've hit an evolutionary roadblock doesn't mean we can be the hand of the gods and just wipe them out to put them out of their misery." Harry lifts a hand, then drops it, "Didn't anyone watch Star Trek?"

Jeremiah looks over as the Captain speaks, and his dark eyes linger on the man in the video feed. The thoughtful expression remains, and there's something he nearly says, but which is subtly bitten back. Again his glasses are slid off, breathed on, wiped clean with his sleeve.

Never closes her eyes only briefly after the image of the mechanical spider skitters about on the wall. While the science-slash-officer types dither on about ethics and definitions, she glances down at her boots. They could be shinier.

Dominic nods his head in contemplation of the answers his question brought, looking up to the Captain as he speaks. He nods his head in agreement, apparently still on the side of nuking the squids from orbit. He looks to the Doctor as he speaks, raising an eyebrow slightly. "What's Star Trek?"

"Ahem." Illyanna waits for the officer-types to discuss morals and possible relocations, but finally interjects. "I don't want to leave the communication option off the table just yet. I mean, we know exactly how the Tripods and their Spider-Friends write, through pictures - we could whip up a batch of CGI ourselves showing us and them peacefully coexisting. Maybe even fighting their Giants together. Maybe they'll respond favorably."

There's a guffaw, or maybe just a cough, from somewhere at the back of the room.

Stanwick opines quietly, "We move to another part of the planet, we find something much nastier waiting for us." The redhead falls silent after that and reaches up to run a hand through her hair, biting her lower lip. When Illyanna speaks up, Jet waits for her before giving her two cents worth. "With all due respect, I agree with Shevchenko. They're intelligent enough. I think that if we worked out some sort of communication method, it could be beneficial to both parties. There's still a lot more than we could learn from them and they could provide to be something of a useful ally. After all, you've seen their technology."

Eisley listens to the lot of this, impartial blue gaze sliding around the room as comments and questions are offered, up to and including that sound interjected from the back of the shuttle. And if she happens to give one of the Marines back there a slight loft of one eyebrow… well, what of it? "If you want to explore this from a purely evolutionary standpoint, classic Darwinism clings very tightly to the concept of survival of the fittest. I lean more toward a live and let live mentality; if they want to leave us alone, I would be quite content to let them be. As to whether this planet is worth getting into that age-old struggle over, however…" Her fingers tap together, just once. "We have not aggressively explored it yet. The climate is idyllic now, but in a few hundred years when winter comes that might change for the worse. The air and water are clean, but if this one plot of land is the only stretch suitable for habitation on the whole ball of rock, we'll run into problems in a few generations. The more pressing question is whether we would be able to do better somewhere else."

"Am I to understand that you are arguing in favor of leaving a paranoid, borderline insane species of primitive psychopaths which number roughly 6000 on a planet that was never theirs, doctor?" Ramesh asks in mild curiosity. "I would happily share a planet with any species capable of rational negotiation and diplomacy. This species lacks those capabilities. You do understand that the likelihood of finding another planet as similar to ours as this one is not in our favor, do you not? Are 6000 questionably sentient creatures worth more than 100,000 of our own people? I am aware of the ethical dilemma, Dr. Graves. I am also prepared to make those decisions if necessary."

"The robots may be worth attempting to communicate with," Bharti allows with a small nod in reply to Illyanna. "I highly doubt the aliens themselves would be open to discussions, but it does not seem that they are really in charge anymore. It looks to be the robots that make all of their decisions now. If you could find a way to communicate directly with the spiders without running the risk of encountering the aliens themselves, it might be worth a try."

Ramesh cuts back on screen after Eisley speaks. "It's not that this is the only stretch suitable for habitation, it's more that this is the easiest stretch to begin with and establish a foothold. More difficult environs would be easier to move into with a stable base to grow from. As for whether we would be able to do better somewhere else, we have yet to find somewhere else."

Dominic looks to each person as they speak, looking to Ramesh as he speaks again. "How are things doing with our Cousins? We still have that avenue. We might still have the chance they'll welcome us." He says simply before he falls quiet again.

Jeremiah is busy flipping through files on his datapad while the others speak, though his attention returns intermittently to the faces on the video feed - Ramesh in particular.

Never's gaze flicks to the intel guy only briefly. Though her expression betrays little, she certainly watches Ramesh as he queries the collected. Her attention remains there the longest. At Dom's words, her eyes go to him briefly, then return to her fellow fresh meat. She could be thinking any number of things. Whatever her conclusion, she drops to take a knee and retie her boot, cinching the laces extra tight.
Dominic pages: We should have gone in with the shock and awe approach.

"Sir. We have no right to wipe out a species. We don't know that this species lack anything. And I think living here for 8000 years gives them more rights to this planet than us. We haven't tried to communicate with them." Harry frowns and rubs at his forehead. He opens his mouth to say something, but then quite literally bites his tongue.

Like Jeremiah, Jet turns to her own data pad when words fail her. She gives a nod agreement to Harry when it comes time for him to speak, but for the most part she stays silent and simply loses herself in her data pad. Which is to say, she fidgets as her eyes dart around at the small screen. She fixes her eyes on it (or around it), face turning a slow shade of red that might denote some vague measure of embarrassment rather than anger.
Eisley straightens up minutely; it's about a fraction of a degree, a squaring of the shoulders, a lift of her chin. "I believe our best course of action is to proceed with caution. Chief Stanwick, Seaman Shevchenko, see if you can somehow interface with the alien spiders. Lieutenant L'Anse, I would like you to organize an exploratory foray into the jungle on -this- side of the lake once our fortifications are in order." She looks at each member of the landing crew as she issues these orders, gaze moving last of all to the viewscreen and Ramesh. "We simply do not have enough information to proceed, Captain. It is time to correct that."

Lieutenant Commander Kurokawa finally speaks up when Dominic asks his latest question. "We haven't heard anything from the shuttle we sent in search of them," she answers with a faint frown of annoyance. "Navigation has been monitoring it."

"Then by all means," Ramesh answers simply and honestly, "Try to communicate with them as Miss Shevchenko suggests. See if the robots that assist them can be reasoned with. At the end of the day, Dr. Graves, it is my duty and responsibility to find our species a new home, and I will do what is necessary to do just that." He then returns his attention to Eisley. "I leave the next step in your capable hands."

Harry doesn't say anything else. He just rubs his cheek hard enough that he might rub the three days' stubble right off. He's also slouching quite a bit more in his chair.

"Sir, ma'am." Illyanna straightens in her chair and gives Ramesh and Eisley one of her dramatic salutes. "We'll start working on it right away." Yup, trying to contact the robot spiders is better than the alternative…

Dominic looks to Eisley as she speaks again, nodding after she gives him his orders, moving to pick up his rifle. "I'll get a team together and get things moving." He stands from his seat prepares to leave the meeting, ready to get this expedition going and get out of camp for a while.

Jeremiah still does not comment on the robot spiders, the tentacle creatures, or the moral dilemma brewing amongst the command contingent. He follows his orders — for the time being — and remains silent. Possibly, he's just out of sorts still following his recent departure from stasis. When Dominic speaks of getting a team together, he finally switches off his datapad and tucks it away into a pocket of his gear.

Never's belly gurgles during a brief pause in conversation. She purses her lips, but says nothing. She rises after securing both boots. She's certainly not wondering if robot spiders taste anything like sea spiders. The sergeant picks up her gear and slips past Jeremiah to move outside, perhaps to get a little air and wait for orders.

Jet nods over to Illyanna and then to the Commander. "As you wish, Commander." She glances over at Jeremiah with some curiosity, tilting her head before she takes in a deep breath, lingering in her same spot.

"Aye Captain," says Eisley. "Base camp out." Failing any other words of wisdom from the ship, that should conclude that part of the little get-together, leaving her to look around at the assembly gathered in her offi…shuttle. "You're all dismissed. Except for you, Dr. Graves." Poor Harry. She sounds calm and possibly even pleasant, but there is still that icewater quality to the statement which might shatter that illusion good.

Illyanna rises to her feet as the meeting is adjourned, snatching up her datapad before turning to go, filing out after the other folks.

Dominic looks towards the new arrivals and motions them out of the shuttle before he heads out himself, leaving the good Doctor to the XO. He doesn't even bother with salutes or anything.

Harry places one hand over his face, his eyes closed. He nods once to indicate that he heard Eisley, but doesn't otherwise look up as others file out.

Jeremiah shoves off the wall, turns, and angles for the shuttle's bay door close on Sisti's heels, once the dismissal is given. A brief glance is shot Dominic's way, but he doesn't clog the entryway to stop and chat with the man.

Once the shuttle has cleared out and things are quiet once more, Eisley turns the full weight of her attention on the doctor. Of course, now that everybody is gone she can let out the breath she's been holding, and if it sounds a bit like a sigh, so what? "If this wasn't the only habitable planet that we're liable to come across, I would pack up and leave this miserable place behind." That's the first thought. The second is, "I brought a bottle of scotch down with me. I'll trade you a shot for another dose of those lovely naptime pills."

Forgive Harry for looking a little surprised. "I think half the camp thinks you asked me to stay behind to chew me out for not saying 'yes sir' to everything the Captain said." There's a wry note to his words. He drops his hand from his face. "Deal."

And Eisley finally smiles. It's actually more of a smirk, but it has enough amusement visible in it to be a far, far distant thing from her usual stony facade. "I have to keep up appearances somehow. If you look properly hound-doggy when you leave, we should be safe."

"I will take a pretend chewing out and a shot of scotch over a real chewing-out any day," says Harry. He quirks a smile of his own. "I'll give you the pills. If you promise not to get them in your stomach via the scotch."

The XO shakes her head. "Ramesh is rather… zealous in his pursuit of finding a safe haven for humanity to dwell in. He has his reasons." If Eisley knows what they are, she isn't going to elaborate right now. "All I will say about that is that you need to pick your battles. He's a good man, and he really does intend to do the right thing, but ultimately that will be the right thing as he understands it." Two fingers come up in a makeshift Scout's salute. "I promise not to chase sleeping pills with scotch. I really do know better."

"See, my problem is, the human race got fucked by trampling over anything in our way. And we /are/ fucked, there's no doubt about that." Harry sits up, then leans forward onto his knees. "So. It seems to me that the 'claim our space at all costs and damn the natives,' attitude is just going to make history repeat itself."
Eisley nods, but only once. "Time and time again we've demonstrated that we are a vicious, savage race. We kill each other, and we kill everything that gets close enough for us to touch. I really -would- like to avoid that, but if it turns out to not be possible or practical…" Her gaze slides to the still-open door of the shuttle, awash in terrible sunlight. "All of us took oaths to protect and defend against enemies foreign and domestic. As near as I can tell, those oaths are even more critical now. If they come swarming out of the jungle bent on killing us, Doctor, I won't hesitate to have them killed."

"And if these creatures were being aggressive towards us, I wouldn't hesitate either." Harry's record indicates duty in a field hospital - and even a firefight or two with the enemy while transporting patients. "But the Captain was talking about eradicating them like a pest when they've shown no hostile intent."

"I know." Now Eisley shakes her head, not to dismiss the idea but maybe to express her disagreement with it. "He sees a worst case scenario and wants to preempt a strike. There is some merit in the idea, but not enough for me to support it here on the ground. As I told him, we don't know enough about the situation to act on anything other than basic instinct. Human instinct has always been to destroy things we don't understand or fear…" She sinks back on the seat and pulls her legs up, stretching them out across the bench. "We also can't keep waiting around and doing nothing, though."

"Our instincts don't seem like very good ones. And the Captain should consider that our numbers might seem small and inconsequential to some other alien race and that we're already doomed to extinction. And how he would like it if someone passed that judgment on us and decided to wipe /us/ out as pests." Harry leans back in his chair again. "All this moralizing is giving my a headache. You know, I signed onto this ship in the hopes of learning something from a wise and highly-evolved species. Instead I'm on a planet with engineered carnivorous cows with tripod-elois living underground."

Eisley smirks again, but this time the expression is devoid of humor. "Is that different from some alien race passing judgment on us and deciding that we were next on the menu?" Isn't that why they're all in this mess to begin with? That expression turns wry, briefly, and she turns the conversation abruptly elsewhere. "Do you play poker, Dr. Graves?"

"No one's right, but everyone should try to be better. If this is a new start for the human race, we should really stop being such assholes to each other and to other forms of life." Harry tries not to sound really bitter and fails. "Poorly," is his response to the poker question. "We all played in the field between rounds of wounded."

Eisley tilts her head slightly, then explains, "Lieutenant L'Anse and I have been trying to put together an officers' game. You're welcome to join us." The tentacle monsters are, however, not.

They'd have an extra hand to steal the cards. Not fair, anyway. "Might take our minds off things for a little," says Harry. "I should probably head out soon. Can't make this too long of a chewing-out."

"I know," answers the XO, nodding a little bit as if to indicate dismissal. "I'll drop by the infirmary later to make the trade; I'd like to be awake and refreshed when it starts to get dark. Just in case."

"Have I mentioned how glad I am to have a bunk in the infirmary? I'm happy to give up square footage for something more than a flap of tent between me and whatever the hell is out there," drawls Harry. It's also just kind of smart. If the trauma surgeon gets hurt, who's going to stitch him up?

Eisley can only smirk at that. "I'll see you later, Dr. Graves." Threat? Promise? A little from column A, a little from column B?

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