Back on the ship, Riker, Data, Geordi, and Worf were getting last minute instructions from Picard. "We know nothing about this society, Number One, so be careful, and try to minimize contact with them. If they're as primitive as their weapons would indicate, this could be a Prime Directive issue."
Riker nodded. "Understood."
"The infrared scans provided us with several likely targets," Data informed the captain. "We will start with the ones closest to the station."
""Once we're on the planet, our tricorders will help locate her," Geordi added. "Unfortunately, their range is pretty limited."
"Good luck," Picard said gravely.
"O'Brien, set us down about 100 meters from the largest stationary signal," Riker ordered.
The chief nodded, then proceeded with the transportation.
As soon as they materialized, Data took out his tricorder to try to get a fix on Latham. The others looked around, dwarfed by the enormous trees.
"And I thought redwoods were big," Riker commented to Geordi.
"This area is perfect for an ambush," Worf warned darkly. The trees blocked most of the sunlight, and hanging vines obscured their path.
"I am reading a human 150 meters away in that direction," Data informed them.
"Phasers on stun," Riker said, "and let's keep our eyes open."
"How do you say 'cultural exchange'?" Mia wondered aloud, staring back at Uunka. "Wouldn't you rather be showing me how you make umu?"
Uunka's reply was interrupted by three young Meewops who scrambled onto the platform and rushed over to the chief, chattering excitedly. "Huma, huma!" they screeched, pointing towards the ground.
"Humans? Below us?" Mia interrupted. "Now?" She dropped to the platform floor and peered between the logs. "Commander!"
On the ground, the four men's heads jerked up.
"I'll be right down!" Mia turned to Uunka. "Uunka how do I get down there?" She motioned to the ground and chirped.
Uunka indicated a nearby vine, and Mia grabbed hold of it. After a quick tug to make sure it would bear her weight, she shinnied down it, thumping to the ground in front of the Away Team. The entire tribe followed her, but remained at a wary distance from the men.
Though her first impulse was to give hugs all around, Mia limited herself to a heartfelt, "Commander, I am very glad to see you!"
"The feeling's mutual," Riker replied. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, sir. The Meewops were very hospitable."
"Meewops?" Data asked, looking around at the tribe who returned his gaze with curious stares of their own.
Mia nodded. "That one is Uunka, their chief."
"I take it this is a sentient culture?" Riker asked.
"Oh, yes! Their language skills are still pretty minimal, but they're definitely sentient. Uunka demanded some pretty specific explanations about our presence here, but I think I satisfied him. For the time being, at least."
"What did you tell him?"
"That we came from far away. That was about all my Meewop vocabulary could manage, although I think Uunka wanted actual directions."
Perhaps attracted by the sound of his name, the Meewop chief came forward. "Uunka!"
"Uunka, this is Riker," Mia explained. "He's a friend of mine -- mapau."
"Rika huma," Uunka said, then pointed to Worf and Data and chirped. "Huma?"
"Uh... " Mia looked at Riker. "He wants to know whether Worf and Data are human, sir."
Uunka reached forward and touched Data's hand lightly. "Huch huma!" He moved towards Worf, but a low hiss from the Klingon halted him. "Huma?"
"Tell him the truth," Riker ordered, "but don't elaborate."
"Yes, sir. Uunka, Data -- " she pointed to him " -- android. Worf Klingon."
"Data, Wauf Federasha?"
"Eesh," Mia confirmed.
Uunka turned his attention to Geordi for the first time. "Ah!" Growing excited, he turned back to Mia. "Ahhcha!"
"Yes!" Mia stared at him, surprised. "Geordi was there when I flew."
"What?" Riker demanded.
"When you flew?" Geordi echoed, bewildered.
"Remember how you lifted me up with that anti-gravity beam of yours? And remember how I saw one of the Meewops while I was in the air? Well, he reported back to the tribe, telling them that I could fly, and they decided to bring me back here for a demonstration."
Geordi stared at her. "You're kidding! What happened when you told them you can't fly?"
Mia glanced back at the tribe. "They needed to be convinced."
"You obviously managed that," Riker observed. "But our orders are to keep contact to a minimum. Our presence on their world is a mistake, and we don't want to compound it by interfering with their development any more than we already have. Are you ready to go?"
Mia nodded. Turning to Uunka, she took his hand in hers. "Uunka, Riker rataa neesh. Mia poona."
At her words, the tribe began to chatter and screech.
"Looks like they don't want you to go," Geordi commented.
"Eeka!" Uunka ordered. The tribe immediately hushed. "Mmma Meewop mapau. Luata Uchama."
"What did he say?" Riker asked.
Mia sniffled back tears. "He said I'm a friend of the Meewop and I should visit their land again. Eesh," she replied, patting Uunka's hand. "Luata Uchama."
After one last wave to Haataa and the rest of the tribe, Mia joined Riker and the others. They walked away, waiting until they were out of sight of the tribe before transporting back to the ship.
"One lost lamb returned to the flock," Riker reported to Picard, escorting Mia off the transporter platform.
"You seem to attract adventure, Cadet. I trust you're none the worse for wear?"
"I'm just fine, sir, thank you. Although I don't think I'll ever go parachuting -- I've developed a marked dislike for falling from high places."
Picard's eyebrows rose. "I look forward to reading your report."
Mia sighed. "I knew that was coming. Yes, sir; it'll be on your desk by this afternoon."
"Was there much damage done to the native society by our unintentional intrusion?" Picard asked, turning to more serious topics.
"I don't think so; I didn't see any evidence of changes in their society brought about by our presence. They seemed to take it all in stride, treating us as a new and interesting neighbor."
"The Meewops were impressed with Mia," Geordi added. "They practically made her an honorary member of the tribe."
"I don't think that the botanical station poses a threat to the normal development of the Meewop society, Captain," Mia said. "Do we have to evacuate Dr.Towers and his group?"
Picard nodded. "Star Fleet regulations are very clear on this point, but I imagine a full hearing into the matter will take place. Perhaps the station will be reopened after further study of its potential impact."
"We should be able to break down the station for transport in less than six hours, Captain. There are only three small buildings," Geordi reported.
"Make it so, Mr.LaForge. Stow the materials in Cargo Bay 4; we'll drop the Towers expedition off at Magellan along with Cadet Latham."
"I'll go get my team together."
"Cadet," Picard turned back to Mia, "I think that report can wait a few hours. Why don't you get some rest?"
Mia grinned. "Thank you, sir, but first I'd better write down as much of the Meewop language as I can remember. It's easy to forget all those gestures!" Smiling, she took her leave.
Picard glanced at Riker. "Impressions?"
"I think she's right about our not having had too much of an effect on the natives, but she minimized her accomplishments in establishing a rapport with them. If Star Fleet decides to reestablish an outpost on the planet, I think Mia should be considered for the spot of team anthropologist."
"Isn't she a little young?"
"She'd have to finish at the Academy first," Riker agreed, "but after all, no one has more experience among the Meewop."
"That sounds like an official recommendation, Number One."
Riker shrugged. "I'd be willing to make it so, sir."
The captain smiled. "As would I, Will. It's an excellent suggestion."
Riker grinned back at him. "After this, the Academy will seem dull to Mia."
Picard nodded agreement. "After this, a Romulan war would seem anticlimactic to her!"