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How Far Can One go Into a Cave?

Posted on Sat Mar 16th, 2019 @ 8:50pm by Lieutenant Commander Mel Torma

Mission: Jarland
Location: Holodeck
Timeline: Backpost


Marina was excited to get off her shift, and the second she did she headed for the lift to get to her quarters to change. One of her friends had suggested a program that involved venturing deep into a cave system, and ever since her inner thrill seeker was itching to try it out. She got to her quarters and quickly changed into a black tank top and a pair of tan cargo pants. While she liked the pockets, she would replicate the supplies she needed in the holodeck. Attaching her badge to her top, she put her hair back into a french braid and strapped on some sturdy hiking boots before heading out. She was most of the way down the corridor when she stopped suddenly to avoid two beings that had appeared from seemingly nowhere, likely around the corner. "Whoop, sorry about that," she said, pausing to take a better look at the two. "Oh, I recognize you from the briefing..." she frowned as she tried to remember her name. She did remember reading up on her medical file, because of the uniqueness of two bodies to one mind, but the name escaped her.

Mel was semi-lost in her thoughts as she walked down the hallway, one of the forms was watching where the pair was going while the other was almost buried snout deep in a PaDD. The latest publication of Atomic Mass Monthly had just made its way to her, and this was a publication she had quickly grown to enjoy in her brief time out in the Alpha quadrant. It was utterly fascinating what had been achieved with the practical application of low-yield magnetic fields and gallium atoms. It was so...

Whoa! Person!

"Oh no, it's entirely my fault I was completely engrossed in the latest scientific publications." the one paying attention started, while her twin now pulled her snout out of the PaDD, and looked a little ashamed. "I really should have been paying more attention to where..."

"... I was going." and at the mention of recognition, the pair smiled, "I do tend to stand out in a crowd, I suppose." the pair giggled.

"My name's Mel Torma, it's a pleasure to meet you, miss...?" one began the ritual of friendship, while the other offered her hand in the Universal Goodwill Gesture.

"Mel, that's right," the brunette responded, her face showing the recognition as her mind made the connection. She accepted the woman's hand with a smile, "I'm Marina Ellison. Never apologize for your interests. I don't apologize for mine. Which publication, might I ask?"

"Pleasure to meet you, Marina. Or do you prefer Miss Ellison?" she sought to clarify.

"Whichever you are more comfortable with," Marina assured.

"Oh, it's Atomic Mass Monthly. I guess the first few issues will eventually reach Dalacar in the next seven thousand years or so." the speaking figure giggled, then the other form started to speak, "Delta Quadrant species and such. In my short time here in the Alpha Quadrant I've kinda taken a shine to it. It's a scientific journal, but written in a ..."

"... form and format that's easy for everyone to understand. I like the prospect of putting science and knowledge in the hands of everyone, not just people with five degrees."

Marina raised her eyebrows with interest. "That's good to hear. Not many scientific journals do that. I might just have to find a copy." It was a breeze on her bare shoulder that reminded her of why she was dressed as she was. "I was just about to go spelunking, cave exploring, whatever you want to call it. Would you like to join me? We can also learn more about each other," she offered.

Each of the pair smiled, "Oh that sounds great! I'd love to thank you very much." a pause, "Though, I just got off shift, so I don't think I'm properly attired for proper cavern spelunking."

The pair paused as they collectively considered something, "Oh..." the other one started, "I could just have the Holodeck fabricate the appropriate footwear. Should be interesting because..." she pointed down at her divergent feet.

"... Dalacari are a digitigrade species. I left most of my really nice boots back home BUT I have some on file." she giggled. "Walk a mile in someone's shoes, right?"

"Really whatever you would go hiking in. Although technically you could do it in the standard Starfleet uniform, but whatever you're comfortable moving around in. As for shoes... I would say you could borrow mine but they would be rather uncomfortable for you. The holodeck can replicate some, for sure," Marina said with a smile. "Meet me in holodeck two?"

"Holodeck two." one of the twins repeated to confirm. "I'll be right there."

It was about fifteen minutes later, but the twins did in fact make their way to Holodeck Two. Each was wearing essentially the exact outfit, very comfortable with lots of range of motion for each of them. They had very comfy, very stylish, and very solid looking boots.

"Marina, good to see you again." one said, as though it had been ages. She wore a smile though, to show she was in good spirits. "So, you mentioned a cave?"

"I haven't been caving in ages. One of the lunar colonies had a cavern experience, though I don't think this is going to be the same." the other said with a nod.

Marina smiled at the twins as they entered. She had gotten some equipment for them, thanks to the holodeck. In addition to three helmets with mounted lights, three pairs of gloves and three pairs of kneepads, she also had three packs, each with some rope, carabiners, food and water, folding multi tool, and a spare flashlight. She had replicated a table to hold everything and offered the two helmets. "Glad you could make it. Here are yor helmets. There is a cave system on Mars that extends for hundreds of kilometers, but thanks to holographic technology we can explore it without the bulky space suits. These have supplies in them," she handed the twins two of the backpacks, before gesturing to the gloves and knee pads. "... and if you want gloves or pads, go for it. I got your size from your medical file." Marina had slipped the knee pads on over her pants, and was putting on her gloves before putting her helmet over her braid and clicking it shut.

The twins were rather awestruck. A cavern on a foreign planet!

"Oh yes, packs." something pulled her from her reverie, and form by form the Dalacari suited up. Gloves and knee protection? Yes ma'am. Helmet with luminator? Make it two!

A snap, and the helmets were on and in place. A quick safety check from each form, and Mel gave a nod. "Thanks, and thank you for thinking about the pads. Though, they're a little snug. Guess that's what happens when Dalacari wear human gear." a few flexes, and a nod from each. "It'll work, it's not..."

"... too snug, not to the point of being dangerous." the other twin confirmed. "Dalacari prize personal safety. There's always a tricky balancing act between allowing an individual to pursue their ambitions and..."

"... maintaining safety, and while I'm all for personal freedoms and pursuit I'm just as much a fan of not getting hurt." she almost sounded like some ancient after-school special.

"So, tell me about Mars." she asked, "Was it always this... red?"

"They're supposed to be snug enough to stay on, but without cutting off circulation," she explained. While the Dalcari was getting ready, Marina had set up the program, the gridded room transforming into the red and dusty terrain. "Actually no, it used to sustain life and it had water, as evident by the ice caps, but eons ago the planet was stripped of its magnetic field, leaving the surface exposed to the sun's radiation. It made the temperature drop, which in turn eventually cooled the core enough to solidify, water that hadn't frozen over evaporated or went underground. It was like that until the first colony was sent from Earth in the late 21st Century."

As she spoke, she led the way to the cave opening, enjoying the crunch of the ground beneath her feet. "Also, gravity is about 38% of what it is on Earth..." To test it, she jumped into the air, joyful when she discovered that the holodeck had included the proper gravity and she easily went a little over 2.5 meters into the air. Landing, she laughed at the experience, "oh, how I missed that."

The pair giggled in unison, "Oh, then THAT explains that weird feeling. Divergent gravity." the pair took a few tentative steps, "Dalacar has a high gravity. If I were to compare it to the ship standard, it's about 1.3 times..."

"... the ship's normal. Which is fine by me, instant weight loss plan." the quiet Mel gave a little laugh, while the talker just continued, "Though this much of a shift... it just feels weird."

A few more steps, "Like walking on gelatin. I'll adjust, just need to get my gait in motion. So, it's a dead world?" she asked as she continued to get her walking straight. "No magnetosphere, no..."

"... rotating core, no life. Wow, that's pretty intense really. Ever find any ruins?" she asked, now confident in her stride.

Marina nodded, staying with Mel as she adjusted to the gravity. "Pretty much. There have been attempts to terraform the planet, but the lack of magnetosphere has had a major impact on the progress, or lack of. We live in the city domes, and in there gravity is closer to Earth's, about 8.6 meters per second squared. Otherwise we likely wouldn't be able to walk unaided on other planets. Even though I've been living in standard gravity for a while, I still occasionally get out of breath.

"As for ruins, really the only things are the cave systems and whatever valleys and canyons that were left behind after the water evaporated. It's hard to know for sure without going back in time, but the scientists who have studied the planet seem to mutually agree that live never got the chance to evolve past single-celled organisms, which unfortunayely means no ancient sites." She came to a stop in front of the cave entrance and grinned at Mel. "You think the Mars surface is awesome, just wait until we go in there."

The pair gave a nod, following along as Marina led her to the cavern entrance. "That's incredible. Truly an amazing planet." and then one of them giggled while the other continued, "I had the same problem, but in reverse. My first few days in what the Federation considered..."

"... standard gravity, I felt like a noodle. I got used to it, though, but I try to have my quarters set for home gravity whenever I can. Hence no friends over at my place unannounced..."

"... or any impromptu wild parties. There's also always the holodeck, but I really don't know what to recreate. I mean, sure, home... but what then? The moons? A comet?" she asked, then all that stopped at the mouth of the cavern.

"Yeah, questions later. Let's go."

Marina nodded, glad she wasn't the only one with the gravity issue. "I haven't considered adjusting the gravity in my quarters, but I think if I did that it would make going anywhere else on the ship that much harder. My conditioning training is hard enough." She led the way into the cave, which started out at a slight decline before dropping off into a dark pit. Marina reached up and turned on the light on her helmet, taking a moment to look for her holds before beginning the trek down. "I guess once in a while wouldn't hurt, but I can always use the holodeck too." The interior of the cave was just as red as the surface, but as they got deeper they'd start seeing streaks of shiny black in the rock, as well as darker browns and streaks of white.

"Going from intense gravity to less intense is one thing, but going up is a chore. It's probably for the best that you keep yourself to the higher gravity levels, rather than risk medical..."

"... complications by resting in low gravity and then working in relatively higher gravity." Mel warned as the pair started their descent. It was weird watching the Dalacari climb, as each body seemed to 'spot' for the other. Blind leaps of faith were actually calculated moves as footholds that one body couldn't see were clear as day for the other.

"Hmmm... mineral deposits, streaks and veins, hints at a rather turbulent formation and history. Signs of volcanic activity, at least ancient volcanic activity. Fascinating."

"I agree. Besides, it's like I'm carrying an extra 20 pounds, so in a way I still get a good workout." Marina chuckled a little, "I remember at the Academy, that one survival class with different gravities in the first year? I was wheezing after about five minutes when they did that desert-y climate planet with the gravity at what, 1.6? Luckily they had special conditioning for those of us from lesser gravities." She watched as Mel moved, impressed and admittedly a little jealous of her two selves as they seemed to move effortlessly. "Ok I have to say it, I am absolutely intrigued by your... uh... two-ness. Especially while climbing. The way you move practically looks like you've been here before. Im simply curious, because I've read your medical file: does it get disorienting sometimes, receiving two visual perspectives at once?"

Mel actually offered a wide smile towards Marina, again careful not to show teeth. "Well, it's something I've had my entire life, so I think by now I'm used to it. It's a product of our evolution. A few thousand generations ago we used to be swarm predators. Nasty little..."

"... lanky creatures that form a sort of cloud empathy. One gets surprised, the whole swarm reacts. One finds food, the whole swarm attacks. It's really something to see." she went almost into Instructor Mode, sharing a bit of knowledge.

"Over time, we evolved into, well, the Dalacari. The swarm got smarter, and with each nudge in intellect, the swarm itself got smaller in number until it's down to two." She smiled. "And that..."

"... is where we are today. As for disorienting, I could almost ask you the same thing, just having the one perspective on the world. Though, it also means you only have one form to..."

"... defend. One form to watch for. No matter which of me gets hurt, I feel it." she said. "Dalacari are a very cautious and peaceful people, strictly because of that fact. We have a long..."

"... standing defensive pact with our closest neighbor, which pretty much entails us watching one of their borders, and them always coming to our aid."

Marina nodded, "wow, that's really cool. Humans never had that 'cloud empathy,' per se, but an ancient trait that's never seemed to die out... I guess you could call it a herd complex. Way back before automobiles, the wheel, and probably before the birth of language, our ancestors used to hunt alone. Even though there was a benefit to a solitary lifestyle, it made more sense to band together, because not only would you get more food, but also more protection and an overall strength in numbers. That's what led to the first governmental structure, an 'Alpha,' typically male, to lead the others according to what was best for the collective group."

She paused to sight her footholds before continuing, both in the descent and the conversation. "We should be nearing a flat area soon. As for visual perspective, the only way I could mimick seeing from teo different perspectives is if I crossed my eyes. But because my brain doesn't know how to register the visual input, it's like I'm blind. I can see the object in front of me, I just can't really interact with it because my brain can't quite figure out where it is. I can understand the cautious measures to take when having two bodies, though. But between your evolution and your experiences, you've learned to adapt for the... ah..." It was challenging for her to use a term that described them both without the implication of two separate persons. "Well, for your two selves. Here's a question, what terms do you use in reference to your two bodies? I think most of the human terms, like "twin," imply two separate entities, and saying "an extra body" just sounds funky in context." Marina wanted to learn, she wanted to know so she wouldn't refer to Mel in a way that could be offensive.

Mel gave her a pair of smiles. "I can cross my eyes too, but it gets disorienting if I only do it half." she commented. "I think that's more how my people discern it. You think of a Dalacari as two, but we..."

"... only see and think of ourselves as one. A complete Dalacari." she motioned to herself. "Now, if something only deals with one form, we call that something a half. I've been Half-..."

"... Drunk before, never fun. One thing no Dalacari enjoys is being Half-Tired. Every Dalacari does their best to balance and moderate, but it happens." she educated with a smile.

"We don't actually identify our halves. There is no Mel Torma Left or Mel Torma Right. There's just Mel Torma." the pair smiled, "Call my name, and I answer."

"It took a bit of care and concern when we first met the Federation races, since we were initially concerned that you were all Single." a pause, "Being Single is one of the most terrible..."

"... conditions a Dalacari can suffer from. It's the death of one of their halves." she was silent for a moment, then shook off the dour mood. "So, yeah, I mean you don't name your left or right hands..."

"... and if they could switch places, would they still be your left and right hands?" she asked, and then giggled, "You know what, that was a silly question."

Marina chuckled a little at the last bit, but was otherwise listening intently. "Fair enough. And I'll do my best to keep you whole, that's my promise." She saw the flat area and pointed to it before descending enough to hop down. Because of the lack of gravity, the dust kicked up into the air and hung out before beginning its slow and lazy descent back to the ground. She tilted her head up as she looked for Mel, so the headlamp wouldn't catch her in the eyes before shining her light on some of the tunnels. "I will say, this is much easier without environmental suits," she said with a smile. "So... which way?"

Mel smiled, each twin offering her own friendly smile, though at the display of dust in the air she was actually caught a bit off guard. Not in a terrible way with screaming, but in that childish form of wonder. One form ran her hand through the lingering dust, while the other observed. "That's amazing. I'm so used to incredible gravity. Seeing it's effects on the air in such low amounts is just..." she didn't switch focus. She actually ran out of words to say. When she finally returned to the here and now, she gave the question of direction some thought.

"Statistically speaking, the most efficient way to solve any maze is to take every left turn. So, let's go left." she said with a smile while the silent twin simply pointed. "And... thank you. It's very reassuring to know..."

"... that I'm being looked after. I know it's your job, but hearing someone take pride in their job is a rare and welcome thing."

Marina gave her a smile in return, watching her interest in the dust like a mother watching her child learn. It was hard for her to personally look at it from an outsider's perspective, since this was her life growing up, but it was always fun showing other people the world she knew. "Typically you'd probably be better off not breathing it in, but since it's holographic, it won't harm ya," she said before leading the way into the left tunnel. Once they were inside, any remaining light from the surface cut out, leaving just their headlamps to help them visually. "Also, if you were breathing it in, you'd have a bigger problem than lung issues," she added, remembering how it felt when her suit failed all those years ago. The thought made her smile fade a little as she recalled the harmless game with her friend that took a quick turn for the worse.

"Dust is a problem no matter where you go, it seems." one stated, while the other stopped playing with the light gravity. "Let's not think about all the horrible stuff dust can do. We're here to have fun." she reminded Marina, then one form put a hand on the doctor's shoulder. The topic of dust seemed to bother Marina, but Mel wasn't sure if bringing it up was a good idea.

"If you want to talk about it more later, we can. If you want." she didn't know the full depth of the issue, but at least wanted to avail herself. As they continued in, that's when things got interesting. "Wow..."

"... I guess they call it Cave Dark for a reason. Sheesh..."


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