PHD #238: EVENT - Gone, Baby, Gone!
Gone, Baby, Gone!
Summary: A Marine fireteam attempts to find out what has become of the missing Marine XO.
Date: 22 Oct 2041 AE
Related Logs: Nothing yet.
Crowe Lysander Madilyn Vandenberg 
Ewe Aerilon
Sceneset Below
Post-Holocaust Day: #238

Missing persons. Or in this case, a single missing person. Word has been spread around the Marines that someone did not report for duty this morning on the surface of Aerilon. Someone obviously important. With the ship left at minimal security, anyone that could be pulled for this has been flown down to Ewe Aerilon to aid in the search and rescue. The sun is hovering towards late afternoon at this point, a thunderstorm brewing off in the distance and heading in the direction of the encampment with the steady march of an approaching army. Thunder rumbles in the distance while gentle breezes roll through the trees surrounding field, touching the tops of some of the taller areas of grass. Most of the Marines have gathered around a single Raptor that Lieutenant Vandenberg, clad in her combat gear with a rifle over her shoulder, has taken to standing on the wing of. When she speaks up, the small woman's voice carries with force and a serious tone. "Listen up!! It looks like the last Raptor has landed. Let me get everyone's attention over here for a quick briefing before teams move out!"

Sergeant Lysander listens to the idle crunch of pebble, dirt, and grass underfoot as he comes to join the others at the impromptu briefing. He inclines his head to the side, briefly, breeze wrapping around his face and near-smothering it but he catches the subtle whistle of the air while squinting and wrinkling his expression. The wind passes. He relaxes. Posture lax and without much conviction, he stands to the far right with helmet in left hand. His right hand is lifted and holding onto the strap belonging to the bolt-action rifle there at his side. There he goes, listening.

Being the Platoon Sergeant for Vandenberg's platoon, Staff Sergeant Uriel Crowe is one of the first off of the Raptor and lined up in front of the Lieutenant. His posture is marine trained perfect. Shoulders set back, head directed towards Vandenberg, rifle held at his side as he gets ready to listen. Afterall, who doesn't love listening? The only thing not picture perfect? The smoldering cigar that's got about an inch left between his lips off to the right side.

A chance to stretch the legs a bit. And to find the wayward ship's XO. And to let the S3 take operation planning detail. For this one, Madilyn's just about. If the CAG gets to fly CAPs, then the marine CO gets to go looking for her AWOL XO. Mission planning rests in the hands of Vandenberg, and Madilyn is taking a fireteam out - one of many - to play hide'n'seek with a grown-ass man. Relish this sight gentlemen (and gentlewomen): your CO in combat blacks, rifle and all.

Waiting for a few people to cease conversation before speaking again, the Lieutenant places her hands on her hips as she looks across the small sea of faces, nodding to a few. "This morning at zero-five-thirty, Captain Kellan Archer, the Marine Executive Officer, failed to report for PT. At zero-eight-thirty, he failed to report for duty. He is currently listed as AWOL and nobody has seen him since last night. His last reported sighting was by a Raptor pilot who spoke with him. The Captain mentioned needing to use the head and broke security protocols by travelling into the woods without a partner. He was last reported walking into the trees directly behind me. This took place at roughly twenty-two-forty. That means that by my watch, Captain Archer has been missing for more than sixteen hours. He was last seen wearing his combat blacks and carrying a rifle. The Raptor crewman reported that he also had a radio. There has been no radio contact with him despite continuing attempts. After he failed to report for duty, Raptors began a sweep of the area with heat sensors. So far they have come up empty so its up to us to put boots on the ground. I will be coordinating search efforts from here. Keep in contact with me via callsign 'Able Actual' on channel three. Anyone from Charlie I want you with at least one from Able! Our rules of engagement are yellow-hold. Do not open fire unless you are fired upon. Nobody is cleared to take offensive action without explicit permission from myself or Major Willows-Cavanaugh. Any questions? If not, let's got on this before it starts pissing all over us like Zeus' private vengeance!"

Lysander lets go of his shouldered rifle in order to comb fingertips through his hair as he listens to the talkity-talk. He keeps up on being despondent, all things considered. It's hard to do. The marine presses his tongue into the side of his cheek and then glances over his shoulder, patting himself down and giving a low nod of his head. He's got no questions, yet. Instead, he's quietly moving off if no one else speaks up. Up, up, and away and all that.

The Staff Sergeant and Able Platoon Sergeant hoists up his rifle, hand coming up to grip comfortable on the barrel grip, barrel pointed at a 45 degree angle downwards. He double checks his safety and provides a quick nod, "Roger that El-Tee." And with that he turns and starts to move out towards the designated search area. An puff is taken off the cigar and Crowe taps it out against a tree, sticking the extinguished cigar into one of his many combat vest pockets. Time to focus.

The first fireteams are up, up, and away. Groups of four should be sufficient, but they are following the fire team compositions: two rifles, a grenadier, and an auto rifleman. Whether they're from Able, Baker, Charlie, or Dog, the fire team structure will remain the same. It's as much a chance for new marines, green marines, and everyone in between to mix it up as much as complete the mission. They've been heading out on pre-determined search vectors into the woods since orders were issued, each team striking out in lines parallel to the others as best they can into the wooded cover. Crowe and Lysander being two marines new to the ship, Madilyn joins with them and rolls out, rifle held high and tight across her chest.

Its only been two hours. Maybe a shade more. The forest floor is pretty clear in this area and most of the terrain is dirt and trees. Rolling ridges dot the terrain with a few rocky outcroppings near the tops. Normally visibility would be somewhere around one hundred yards. Unfortunately the storm has rolled in and began, as Vandenberg said, begun pissing buckets all over the search teams. Lightning casts eerie shadows across the terrain while thunder claps loudly, the sources close enough to rattle the lungs. In the past fifteen minutes the terrain has turned to thick clumps of forested fertilizer and mud. The going has turned slow. Even with a few hours of daylight left, the forest has already become a bit darker. While those six or eight miles through the search area might have taken around two hours or so to get across, the return trip will likely take longer. At this point it might put them back just around dusk as the fireteam approaches the edge of its search area: a steep cliff that drops into a ravine.

Lysander ducks his head as he walks at the fore of the group. Though his face does not connect with the branch he has ducked under the handle of the machete he carries over-shoulder catches and he forces a step further. His sniper rifle has since been placed into both hands as he treks deeper into the wilderness under the haze of rain. He squints into the darkness up ahead as lightning peals loudly overhead. No words have come from the Sergeant yet, just duty.

Being a few paces behind Lysander, Crowe manages to avoid that pesky branch all together and continues his path behind the other Sergeant. The long road hasn't really wearied the Staff Sergeant at all, he's used to long treks in the woods afterall, though the muddy terrain has slowed them some. A grunt is offered, "Well, I guess the mud will make tracking a bit easier." That's about all he says though, continuing his walk on through the woods.

It pours down and rolls off helmet, vest, and pack alike. Thouroughly wettened now, squelching through muck and mud occasionally a few inches thick - perhaps this part of the planet isn't ever dry long enough to see the ground get truly dry? - Madilyn is content to follow Lysander and Crowe. Or maybe it's just the pace and terrain that's kicking her ass and keeping her at the back of the pack: it should be said that she is probably not in the best of shape when compared to men almost (but not quite!) ten years or more her juniors. "Good luck following anything in this mud…it looks to be filling in as quickly as we step through this slop. Too runny, too wet now."

"Yeah, well," murmurs Lysander under his breath as he glances aside. He comes to a sudden stop and holds up a gloved fist with his off-hand before inclining his head to the side once again and turning. He takes a handful of steps from the makeshift path and leans forward, shouldering his rifle. A look is given before he bends at the knees. The lightning is good for something. He's spotted something in the brief flash of charged light. He finds a flashlight from his side and clicks it on. He has since picked up something. In his hand is a shell casing and it's illuminated by the light. He turns to show the others before turning the light down to the side, near to a tree, where a print hasn't been washed away just yet. The Sergeant looks up to the tree in thanks. "Someone with a Gee-Mar's been a bit happy."

And just as Madilyn makes her comment, Crowe seems to spot something, likely about the same time as Lysander. He moves off towards a deep boot imprint that's a few yards from where Lysander found that shell casing, "Another here." he states as he comes to a halt, picking up another shell casing and eyeing it for a few moments before scanning the ground ahead of him. He points towards the next print and casing he can see ahead of him, and speaks in his deep gravely barritone, "Whoever it was, he was running, and turned up there." He waves a hand indicating that the group should follow him in direction of the footprints he sees ahead of them.

"Well, the gods apparently look down on us this day…for what that's worth," Madilyn says, looking up to the sky a bit. When those two start to reach down and pull out shell casings, she too steps foward to have a closer look…at mud. It's by luck then that her boot sinks down into the mud, and finds something not quite as squishy and wet and mucky. "It would appear that we now know why there's been no radio contact," she says as she straightens up and turns to the both of them: in her hands is a mud-caked though functional radio. It still faintly crackles with their own radio traffic, muffled such as it is by the sludge. She turns back and has their fireteam wireless operator call these finds back to Ewe Aerilon, along with the serch vector.

The rain seems to be filling the bootprints quickly and spilling over the sides. Inside an hour those tracks will be completely washed away to Aerilon's long memory. They seem to continue up what looks like a gentle slope towards another ridge ahead. Another bright flash of lightning, followed only a short few seconds later by a loud clap of thunder. Combined with the rapidly cooling temperature, its enough to raise goosebumps for some people. Its almost as if the forest has tried to warm them about continuing on, the Gods trumpeting their power of persuasion in accompaniment. Its hard to hear Vandenberg's reply over the comms: "Able-Actual copies, Team Four. Proceed at your own discretion and watch your six! Report in with further finds or a decision to return. We have your position marked. Able Actual, out." All the teams are operating on the same frequency. Everyone heard about their findings.

Lysander begins to stand as his attention drifts in Crowe's direction. He gives a nod of his head and the constant beam of his light bobs briefly, marking the path, and then he clicks it off after looking to the Major. "This is going to be great," is flatly stated by the marine after all of the radio chatter and he pockets the casing before moving his sniper rifle back to both hands and stepping onward to join the front of the search once again.

"Frakkin perfect." Crowe states as he sees the radio, but doesn't waste any time standing around there. These tracks are going to be hard to see as it is, and every moment they wait, they'll get harder to see. Luckily, Crowe doesn't get goosebumps. Geese get Crowebumps. Bam. The Staff Sergeant begins to move double time, following the tracks. Visibility is low, thirty to forty yards really, and yet Crowe manages to find four points where the footprints turn, all at even intervals. He keeps his rifle trained infront of him as he continues to follow what tracks he can find, expecting the worst for the moment.

"Poseidon appears to derive his pleasure in our struggle today," Madilyn comments dryly. The weather might be soaking wet, but at least her Caprican wit remains as dry as gin. The collar of her uniform blacks is tugged a little tighter as she looks up to the sky at the bright flash and the chest-rattling clap of thunder. The radio is left free, lashed to her own gear, gradually growing cleaner as the rain washes the mud covering the device away.

Moving ahead, the team will continue to find shell casings. Every dozen yards or so the slammed bootprints appear to turn, the single brass case tumbled to the dirt not far away. Then the tracks stop. At just about head level is a large branch that sticks out horizontally from a tree, dried blood slowly melting off in the rain and a tooth stuck in the center. And as if that may not be disturbing enough, the boot prints seem to stagger away, towards the crest of the ridge backwards before they turn and run again. Here, shell casing litter the ground in a slowly snaking series of arcs that follow the upward travel of the bootprints. There must be nearly thirty of them..and not far after they turn into a dead run again is an empty magazine discarded against a tree. Through the driving rain one can almost make out a large, craggy outline of rocks near the top of the hill.

"I was waiting for this part." This is said by Lysander and once again to himself over anyone else with regards to the change from semi-automatic to fully blown someone trying to kill the frak out of something. He glowers under the constant rainfall. The Marine raises the barrel of his rifle and tucks its stock against his right shoulder, bracing it there as he slows his walk and watches the continuing signs of struggle and conflict. After more walking, he turns with a short step, rifle lowered, his gaze jerking away from the rocks and to the others expectantly and wordlessly.

Well clearly this craggy outlining warrants further investigation…At least it does in Crowe's mind. With his rifle barrel he points up towards the rocks, and then starts to move. He's gone silent at this point, primarily to keep the element of surprise, but also because he doesn't need to say it, they all see where this is leading, or hopefully do at this point. And so, the Platoon Sergeant leads the way towards the rocks, eyeing the bevvy of shells on the ground as he passes them.

"It's no mystery what happened here, at least," Madilyn says of the branch. "Ran headfirst into this thing, and then staggered off. May not have even been able to clearly see what he was shooting at." There's no bodies in sight, his or any others, so…apparently that fire did something to keep him alive, but not enough to make the other thing or person dead. The rocks being the logical place, maybe the /only/ place one would seek out while fleeing, Madilyn hurries up in the group to be behind Crowe. When they get to the rocks, she wants to be the first one to peek around there; if they're going to find the XO's body, it should probably be her to make the discovery.

If the team turns to look back, the evidence of shots fired is even more obvious. The trunks of the surrounding trees are littered with splintered holes. The patterns are wild, almost like the shooter could not see what all was surrounding him - if anything. There is no sign of anything else even in the immediate area. No prints. No other shells. Not even a hint ahead of someone shooting at the runner. Moving further up the hill, though, it would appear this runner was just chewing through magazines. There is another long series of arced brass as the boots turn once more just before the rocky outcropping. At the base of it is another magazine. Where the bootprints turn into the crag is a fresh set of scratches and a large chip taken out of the granite. Brass is scattered all over this area. At least another magazine's worth just on this side. A bloody handprint is still evident, swiped across the surface as the runner tried to make their way over it. The pile looks easily scrambled and not that far around to the other side. Maybe twenty yards or so. Either the runner could not see it at all or had some purpose to climbing.

Lysander doesn't budge from his position and instead gives their team's wireless operator time to skulk forward after Crowe and the Major. He turns in place and looks under the veil of shade and rain, watching the surroundings with his rifle trained lazily upon them. There's nothing to report in checking their wake but after a pat to his shoulder is given the marine drops his guarded stance and turns to follow after the others. He's thus been bumped to the back of the group but his keen sight is still there in full.

So, the Major wants to take the lead? Crowe doesn't fight it. She's the CO after all. He slows his pace as he moves up the rocks to the jagged opening area, and slows further as they get closer, allowing the Major to take the lead. He slows near the bloody handprint, eyeing it for a moment and then looks to the Major, indicating the handprint with a tilt of his head and then points to the best path up the rocks he can see, offering her the lead if she wants it.

"I don't like this, one bit. Not from the start, and even less now," Madilyn declares as she lets her rifle hang by the strap and pushes it around to her back. With a grunt, she gets one foot up onto the first bit of rock and starts to haul herself up following Crowe's path. It's a relatively clear-cut route up, which means that if it had to be done in the dark of night, or in the very early morning, it wouldn't be inconceivable by touch alone. "Is there anything on the other side there? Any signs that something happened over there? Or that the climber came down?" Madilyn asks of Lysander.

Moving up the outcropping is slow going as the team prepares to find..nothing. At least, not at first. There's no more tracks. Bloody handprints litter the handholds of a hurried scramble and disappear at the top. Though more than a hundred empty brass cases and four more discarded magazines can be found in a neat circle all the way around the top of the rocks. It is as if he simply- With vision coming around to the complete opposite side, though, there is finally more evidence. A heavily battered GMAR, its flashlight smashed and magazine fired to empty is dropped into a wedge between two large boulders. At the base is a Colonial Marine Combat Vest, complete with two more full magazines strapped to the chest. It is discarded on the side of the rocks as if tossed away like trash. Moving closer, the driving rain is pelting it mercilessly and causing blood to drain from it with frightening speed. Some long-dried spots where the blood built can still be seen around the undone zipper and at the creases of the pouches. A few meters away, rolled down the ridge a bit is the helmet but any detail is unclear from this distance. It would appear the man vanished from this very spot minus a LOT of blood and some very important items.

"Frak it all…" mutters Crowe as he hoists himself to the top of the rocks, just to find shell casings, GMAR, vest and complete lack of evidence regarding where the runner went after this. He stands there, crouched down, rifle at the ready as he continues to scan and sweep the scene. It's several moments before he even notices the helmet and begins to make his way towards it slowly, in order to get a better look, and hopefully find some clue regarding where the runner went next.

Lysander gets all of the difficult questions. He looks to the left and then to the right before lifting his head and shielding his eyes with his off-hand. "Not in the least, sir," and that's just with his cursory glancing now that he remains down here while the others investigate the area beyond. He mutters an apology to the lack of any good evidence.

Madilyn, kneeling up on the top of those rocks, does her best to reach down into the wedge between the boulders to pull out the battered weapon. "Just what the hell happened out here," she mutters to nobody, and it's almost certainly not audible over the spattering of the rain on rocks and gear alike. When she manages to snag the strap of the rifle and haul it out, she turns it over and around in her hands, looking it over to any sign of anything.

"Looks like he fell with the helmet still on, took it off when he stopped tumblin'." Comes the deep gravely voice of Crowe as he starts to search the area around the helmet, looking for any signs of footprints, blood trails, hell even broken branches would do right about now. A glance back to the helmet and he moves over to it, picking it up to see if he can glean any new information from it, beyond seeing that the wearer likely fell with it on his head.

"Frakkin' hate life," is coughed up by Lysander has he stops counting the spent shells and looks once more to his surroundings at the base of the ridge. He then shoulders his rifle and approaches the rocks with the obvious intent on climbing up to join the others. It's not difficult, really, and he ends up standing in the rear. He looks around. His flashlight is plucked back free and patiently he steps in the direction of the vest. He bends down at the knees but the marine doesn't touch it, not yet; instead, he focuses the constant beam of light onto the surface in giving it a slight once over. Then there's another. The Sergeant reaches down while casting his gaze to the sides, looking over angles and the distance from the edge of the outcropping, all before further examining the discarded gear for anything beyond just blood.

"Those handprints…those were left handed prints, yes? I just want to double-check, to make sure I'm not seeing things," Madilyn says. At the same time, she holds the rifle up, sights down the barrel, seeing and feeling where the bloody print would be on the grip. The safety is engaged, and the rifle maneuvered back around to pull the magazine out. "Empty…not a surprise. But there are extras on the vest. Scratches all over, lens smashed to hell. Something pulled him away from this weapon before he got to use all his rounds."

Inspecting the helmet, Crowe hrms quietly and then holds it up, "It's Archer's gear…Whatever happened, he's probably got a head wound ontop of it." He drops the helmet after noting some scuffing inside of it, no need to keep carrying it around for now, and once more begins to inspect the area, looking for anything that might help lead to the XO. Unable to find any tracks or blood, he turns to look towards the Major, expectantly.

Perceptive, perceptive, perceptive, and all it leads Sergeant Lysander into is souring his expression with momentary disdain before removing his pack. He swipes it free of water, using his crouched body to shield it, and then opens a side pocket. It isn't long before he's fastening Archer's vest to his pack and placing it back on. The man turns in place and stands. "Don't know if they were lefties," he didn't pay that much attention and he doesn't take the time to recall if they all were. "It's his vest an' helmet though." He offers that much quietly, just above the incessant humdrum of the storm surrounding them, as he walks to the edge of the outcropping. "Tracks'll be gone by now," he checks to where he had placed his flashlight, pauses, and then looks down the way back where they had come from. The marine turns. "Where was the rifle at?"

"Rifle was up here…wedged down in between a few of these rocks. Ah…these two," Madilyn says, standing up on the top of the rocks, and dangling the rifle down into the beginning of the crevice where it was retrieved. "I'd wager that not knowing or expecting to find all these pits and cracks in the rocks, he could've just dropped the damn thing. She's staying put until Lysander either decides to come up and have a look, or to finish his line of reasoning out loud.

Crowe hrms quietly and shakes his head once, pulling out his radio, "Able Actual, this is Team Four. Acher's vest, helmet and rifle all found at our curren coordinates. We've got no tracks, but Archer is presumed injured at the very least. Transmitting current coordinates now." And with that, Crowe transmits the coordinates, picking the helmet up once more, since no one is making any movement forward for the moment.

The WIRELO watches Crowe take up the radio without any protestation. Crowe is like four and three quarters his size. It is not long before there is a reply. Maybe a few seconds. "Four, Able Actual," Vandenberg begins. "Was just about to call. We copy your last." Her voice shakes like she is motioning for something with the whole of her arm. "We've got a Raptor on standby. The other teams have already been recalled. If you- Standby." She pauses for fifteen seconds or so. "Four, if you hike roughly half a mile north along what looks like a should come to a clearing. We'll scramble a Raptor out there to pick you up. The weather should be clearing within the next hour. How copy, Four? Over." Tough to hear her. The rain is starting to let up a little more where the team is but it sounds like the storm is still raging at Ewe Aerilon.

"Frak that order," Lysander offers to the others nearby before looking in the direction of the rocks where the rifle had initially been, "No offense but I'm tired of finding signs of folk an' no gods-damn bodies." He holds up a hand in short gesture and then eases the breadth of his shoulders into a low shrug, walking from the edge of the outcropping and to Madilyn's spot amongst it all. He looks down at the flooring around them with a kick of his right boot before pointedly checking out the spot. The crevice is given a once over and then the area beyond. He's still thinking.

"Well Sergeant, if you've got any enlightened views on the matter which you'd like to share, I'm all ears. We have these coordinates now, and with the weather clearing, we may be able to concentrate Raptor recon." To Crowe, the other sergeant on the scene, she issues another radio instruction. "When that Raptor is headed this way, have them do a little recon work…maybe a circle a half-klick or klick in diameter. That shouldn't take them long. Maybe we'll get lucky on the trek to the el-zee, but I wouldn't count on it. This is all pretty frakked up."

Crowe has left.

The WIRELO takes the handpiece back and rattles off Madilyns instructions. He's quiet for a few seconds in the slowly petering rain before he calsl back to Madilyn. "Able Actual copies and will relay the instructions, sir. She says they've already been over the area twice but will make another pass." The handset is hung back on his vest and he moves over to look at one of the piles of shells.

"Well," Lysander rolls out his right shoulder and uses the momentum to point to where the helmet was found before lining up to the location of the rifle, and lastly the combat vest. He then turns around in place to look at the outcropping and the forlorn wilderness beyond. "I've got two mags in Archer's vest, that's not counting at least three-four spent ones all down there. We're talkin' at least fifty rounds of Aye-Pee's from the Captain, most likely a Gee-Mar to boot. No wounds to the torso, but plenty of blood, maybe one to the head, says the helmet, but haven't been Raider activity in the area. Predators don't walk in heavy ass armor." He looks over towards where the rifle was found, "Yeah, we're missin' something here."

"It seems to me that he got up into the woods for…something. It's not like he came out here to take a piss in combat gear. That's what concerns me. Why was he coming into the woods by himself, geared-up, armed with plenty of mags? Something got the jump on him, and off he ran. To this spot. Then he…disappeared, whatever that my entail. Down a ditch, or picked up by Cylons. With this evidence, either is equally-likely." With a crunching and scraping of boots on rock, Madilyn starts to climb back down, the battered rifle put over her opposite shoulder.

Lysander is still silently calling shenanigans if only because he really is tired of a lack of bodies. He follows after Madilyn but stops at the edge again in order to watch her climb down. The Sergeant turns away from the aforementioned edge in order to move back around the outcropping. He's scratching at the back of his neck, idly, thoughtfully. "Walked into the trees, alone, ran into something, and got all the way here with sporadic gunfire," he looks over his shoulder in the general direction of below where the others are headed, "Last stand with automatic fire at the base, injured, found up here, potential struggle, disappears… wounded and without half his gear." Lysander looks up the damn rocks for once before turning away and heading for the edge.

"Well, without a body, we can't say any more than that. All this shit, everything. Cylons, war, nuclear holocaust…maybe it just got to him. Maybe he just snapped. Went out into the woods armed to the teeth with the plan to survive out here on his own, and just lost it. Dinged himself on the tree branch there, scrambled his brain more, and then decided to go for broke sans gear." Striding along through the wet and muck, soaked through, water rolling off of every inch of wet gear, Madilyn just shrugs her shoulders. "I don't think there's any more we can do here right now. Not with dark coming on, and not with air transportation incoming."

"With all due respect, I think you all are talkin' out of your asses." Sergeant Lysander doesn't bother looking back or trying to stay around this time. Every other person is already down from the potential last spot that Archer had been at. It's all becoming waterlogged at that. He snorts roughly and moves to climb down, hopping the last few feet in order to loudly crash into mud and rock. His sniper rifle is adjusted and then the marksman is silently walking off to the extraction point. There's no rescue, no answers, not even a gunfight that the marine search and rescue teams could participate in. There's just Aerilon and a frakton of mysteries.

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