These are the voyages of the USS Burketown. Her mission: to discover strange new worlds, meet new civilisations and to carry out her Federation orders despite being cobbled together from two different vessels, having lost its Captain and being run by a skeleton crew.
The trail of footprints leads to a village in the jungle, but what dangers lurk nearby?
After tracking the footprints from the shuttle crash, the away team from the USS Burketown came across a narrow path in the jungle. It was little more than a game trail, barely wide enough for human feet to comfortably use. The footprints they had been following, belonging to the Bajoran Priest named Hiktok Mu, continued down the trail. The away team followed.
The path wound around large trees and rocks. Other footprints were also visible, some laid over those of the Bajoran they were following.
“These prints are probably animal life, quadrupeds,” remarked Lt Scates. His security training had included tracking, and his secret love of Botany meant he had spent time in a range of outdoor environments.
“Anything we have to be worried about?” asked Dr Lojika. She was carrying her Federation medical kit, as well as the Bajoran kit they had recovered from the crashed shuttle. Behind her walked the eight-legged engineer known as 421. Lt Scates simply shrugged at the Doctor’s question, and continued onwards down the track.
She didn’t know whether it was the thick vegetation or the uncanny calls of the jungle fauna, but something was agitating Dr Lojika. “I’m getting real sick of this jungle,” she remarked. Her tricorder was in her hand, but the dense foliage and insect biomass made it largely useless. It wouldn’t give much warning if some alien panther was poised to attack from the shadows.
“421, you’re an alien…” the Doctor began. The chirping of crickets filled the awkward silence at the end of the statement. “If I remember your medical records correctly, don’t you have polarised eyeballs? Or some ability to sense body heat? Can you see any better than us in here?”
“All I see is trees, plants and bushes,” the furry alien engineer replied, “and those wooden structures up ahead.”
“Structures?” said the Doctor, looking forward once more. She saw dim shapes further down the track. There was no sign of Lt Scates, who had been walking in front of her. “Where did he…?” she began, before a small hole was opened in the bushes to one side of the track, and the Lieutenant’s hand beckoned her to follow. She quickly ducked off the track through the path offered to her. 421 simply vaulted amongst the trees with a giant leap of its spindly legs.
The trio moved forward until they could make out the details of the encampment. The buildings were rough but functional, built from natural materials. Humanoid shapes could be seen moving among them.
“Are they Bajorans?” asked Dr Lojika.
“I doubt it, but I’ll need to get closer to make sure. You wait here,” said Scates.
“These structures look primitive. Isn’t it the Prime Directive of the Federation not to interfere with pre-warp cultures?” remarked 421 from behind a nearby tree.
“They won’t even know I’m there,” remarked Scates with a grin. He moved off alone, trying to circle around the village and observe them unseen.
After several minutes of careful maneuvering, the Lieutenant found himself a good vantage point to look down on the village. “A little closer,” he thought to himself, “Just a little closer.” He carefully picked his way forward over a fallen log, only to hear an almighty crack as he placed his foot down. Before he could react, a cord tightened around his ankle and he was lifted into the air to swing suspended by one leg.
Hidden nearby in the foliage, 421 and Dr Lojika could only watch as a crowd of humanoids began to emerge from the village to see what was now swinging, helpless, in their trap.