“This hardly seems like a two-ship job,” Lieutenant Carter grunted through her nose, shifting on her feet. The soles of her boots squeaked on the shining floor, leaving dark tracks that drew Jim’s eye. Carter didn’t even notice, clenching her rough hands behind her back, clenching her round jaw. The three of them had been standing at attention for almost a half hour now, so Jim didn’t really blame her for her restlessness.
In fact, in the last few minutes he’d found his own attention wandering, gaze shifting around the Enterprise ’s shuttlebay, more advanced than that of the Farragut , everything glinting as if it were brand new. This may not have been a two-ship job, but Jim was glad he had the opportunity to board the Fleet’s flagship all the same. He’d practically begged Garrovick to assign him.
Doctor Taigen, standing on Jim’s other side, cleared her throat and shot a glance at Lieutenant Carter. Taigen was an older woman, hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, dark skin creased with lines deep as canyons. She had never been overly fond of Carter, if only because Carter frequently “forgot” her safety gear while tinkering with the warp core.
“I needn’t remind you, Lieutenant ,” Taigen said, “that the Farragut is in no position for a rescue mission. We haven’t had shore leave-- or maintenance-- in months. We’re just lucky the Enterprise was in this sector to help us out.”
Carter’s pale face flushed red as her tunic, and she glared openly at the doctor.
Jim didn’t want to butt in, but he felt as though adding his own two cents might ease Carter’s ire a little. They weren’t exactly friends, but as junior officers with a lot of responsibility they got along well enough. “And it’s not like they’re taking our mission,” he supplied. “Three of us, three of them. Seems fair to me. Garrovick made the right call bringing the Enterprise in.” Jim knew half the crew already thought he was the captain’s pet, but it suited him just fine. He could admit that he kind of was.
Carter rolled her large blue eyes, dropping formality entirely to look at Jim. “Well that’s the last call he’s going to make on this mission. I hear Captain Pike’s a real harda--”
It was then that the shuttlebay doors slid open and the Enterpris e’s half of the landing party strode in. The three Farragut officers straightened, eyes forward.
Jim knew Christopher Pike’s face from the news holos and mission reports he’d been devouring since joining Starfleet. He had a strong jaw, wide shoulders and dark hair, which was peppered at the temples with premature gray. The way he moved was self-assured, arms hanging controlled at his sides, each step falling like a drum beat. The man was a walking recruitment poster.
Beside him strode Commander Spock, just as recognizable from the same mission reports-- the first Vulcan in Starfleet. Jim had seen images, of course, but nothing he’d seen had captured the green tint to the Vulcan’s skin, nor the harshly focused look in his dark eyes. He walked straight and sure as the Captain beside him, a tricorder slung over his shoulder. His hands sat clasped behind his back as though he was ready to jump to attention himself at any moment. Jim found himself staring, wondering vaguely if pure, base attractiveness was a requirement to join the Enterprise crew.
Following Spock and Pike, a nervous yeoman with a sad flop of brown hair hanging over his eyes clutched a datapad with white knuckles. He looked out of his element, which made Jim venture a guess that this was his first landing party. Carter was going to complain later about them bringing a greenhorn along.
Luckily, it looked like she was going to give the Enterprise crew their due respect while they were here, despite her attitude. Thank goodness. She was a brilliant engineer, and Jim would hate to see her kicked off the mission.
Captain Pike wasted little time and crossed the expanse of the shuttle bay, turning on the pivot of his heels face them. He dragged his eyes over each of them, a scrutinizing gaze.
“Doctor Taigen, Lieutenant Kirk, Lieutenant Carter. I am Captain Christopher Pike, this is Commander Spock and Yeoman Nelson. Thank you for joining us. I assume you have been briefed?”
“Yes sir,” they said in unison.
Pike nodded, “Well you might want to forget everything you’ve heard. We had a chance to analyze the transmission further, and details have changed. We’ll go over it on the way.”
The Farragut crew shot furtive glances at each other. That certainly explained why it had taken them so long to meet them, but what did it mean?
“Now take your seats,” Pike continued, holding out his hand to the shuttle doors, which welcomed them with a familiar hiss as they slid open. “I assume you know from the ride over, but just a warning-- It’s going to be bumpy.”
The three of them had endured some turbulence already on the brief trip between ships. Each of them had seen an ion storm or two, but traveling by shuttlecraft during one was different.
They filed in and took their seats, Carter in back near the engineering alcove, Taigen beside her. Jim sat beside Yeoman Nelson, who was nibbling the corner of one chapped lip, and he tried to give the kid an encouraging smile, which was only returned with a quick, nervous glance.
In all actuality, the “kid”-- Nelson-- was probably in his mid-twenties, same as Jim, but experience may have made Jim more sure of himself than the young man beside him. He wished he could’ve given some words of encouragement, but that wasn’t his place. Pike had obviously thought Nelson was up to the task if he’d brought him along.
Commander Spock and Captain Pike took the front two seats, Pike piloting. Jim shifted his eyes to the Vulcan, hoping to get a covert glance, but their eyes met and he looked away immediately. He’d seen a Vulcan or two in person before, but never Commander Spock. He was famous in a way, at least famous among Starfleet personnel, and Jim felt a little titter of excitement that he’d be working alongside him. This could be a good chance to prove himself to the Enterprise commanding officers, or to at least make himself known to them.
Jim’s mind occupied itself with those thoughts as Pike notified the Enterprise that they were ready to depart. Moments later, the shuttle platform pivoted.
With a few solid clunks as it disengaged from dock, the shuttle began to drift. Before them, the wide shuttlebay doors spread open to reveal the agitated space outside. It was alight with energy, flashes of lightning igniting ion clouds.
Jim couldn’t help finding the storm beautiful in its own way, with its bright, ephemeral light that recalled him of fireworks. That is, until they slipped out of dock and the energy immediately buffeted them. The shuttle rattled, a vibration that carried itself through the soles of Jim’s feet and made the Yeoman beside him sit straight as a rod in his seat, eyes wide.
“Compensating,” Spock said without being prompted, and he pressed a few glowing keys on the console. The shuttle settled a little, though a subtle vibration remained. “Shields at 100 percent,” Spock continued, “Ion storm reading force-2. Negligible, sir. ETA, 10 minutes.”
“Thank you, Mister Spock,” Pike said. He glanced behind him at the four other members of the landing party. “All right. We seem to have stabilized. You’re probably wondering what new information has come our way. Spock, you have the floor.”
Spock nodded in confirmation then turned in his seat to address the rest of them. Jim tried not to smile. The man was all limbs, tall and thin, and the twist of his waist was a little awkward, a little gangly. The Vulcans Jim had met had been so graceful, it was actually rather, well, humanizing , for lack of a better term. But the moment he spoke he commanded respect, voice deep and formal.
“As you are no doubt aware, this landing party has been assembled for the purposes of addressing a Federation distress signal, identified as originating from the planet below, Alpha Novus V. Due to the priority nature of the distress signal, it has been decided that we cannot wait for transporter functions to return before providing immediate aid to any that may be on the planet’s surface. The storm has interfered with our sensors and we cannot make out any life forms, but we cannot take the chance that there are none. What you do not yet know is that this signal is unique.”
Carter spoke up, and Jim almost put his face in his hands at her impulsiveness. “What, because we’re the only ones who’re supposed to be out this far? Garrovick already said.” Spock leveled his eyes at her, and though Jim couldn’t see without turning (which he was not about to do) he had a feeling she regretted speaking.
The shuttle began to shake a little more noticeably, but Pike took over Spock’s controls as Spock continued. “Incorrect, Lieutenant. The signal is unique because it is highly degraded. By our system’s estimate, at least two-thousand years old.”
“That’s impossible,” Jim heard himself saying, and immediately straightened in his seat, “Sir.”
Spock gave him the same hard-eyed stare and Jim swallowed noticeably. “Indeed it is, Lieutenant Kirk. We do not yet know what has caused the degradation, but our orders are the same-- investigate the signal and extract any persons on-planet. However, given the nature of the signal, extreme caution is advised. Upon landing, each of you must--”
Out the forward window behind Spock, a whip-like strand of light cracked against them, sending a brush of kinetic energy through the ship. It rippled through the metal, ricocheted through the rivets and twisted itself into Jim’s gut. He gasped at the feeling, hands fastening round the edge of his seat.
The moment they recovered their stolen breath, a second, more powerful smack of energy crashed into the their opposite side.
“Spock--” Pike shouted, but he didn’t have the chance to finish.
All at once the gravity of the ship gave out and a violent lurch lifted them, then slammed them down against their seats. A shrill alarm cut through the pall of their panic, and Nelson yelped, ducking his head against his chest and screwing his eyes shut. Jim wanted to reach out, to reassure the poor kid, but his own stomach lurched as the shuttle swelled and tipped against a massive crest of light. It felt like a toy boat breaking the zenith of a very real wave. Jim blinked past rolls of nausea and panic to raise his eyes to his commanding officers.
Something on the forward console began to blink and beep rapidly under the constant wail of the alarm, and Jim couldn’t even begin to tell which indicators were screaming. Pike and Spock moved deftly over the controls, their words to each other muted by the thumps of Jim’s own heartbeat in his ears. He took a breath and recentered himself, his senses rushing back to him. Pike’s voice was the clearest thing he could latch onto.
“Spock,” Pike barked again, “tell me what’s happening!” But Spock was already glued to his console, fingers dancing over the controls. The rest of them gripped their seats, Jim’s balance off-center, fear freezing him.
“Scans are picking up anomalous particles,” Spock said with quick, clipped words. “Attempting to identify.”
The shuttle began to quake more intensely, rattling the teeth in Jim’s skull. And the sound it was making-- it sounded like something was grinding against the hull, louder and louder with each passing moment.
“Forget identifying,” Pike said, hands hard on the steering mechanism. “Compensate and get us landed.”
Spock didn’t verbally respond, but immediately pulled up a new screen on the console and started pressing in calculations. Jim watched over his shoulder, enthralled as Spock input formula after formula, faster than Jim could even read them.
Unfortunately, it had little effect. The sound increased in volume, grating against the inside of Jim’s skull. Yeoman Nelson covered his ears, looking to Jim with wide, frantic blue eyes.
“Shields failing, sir. Fifteen percent!” Spock shouted over the din.
The shuttle pierced through the tight fleece of shimmering light and careened into the throes of the storm. A metallic groan overtook the clatter, seeping inside Jim and snaking up his spine. It waned, only to crescendo into a piercing snap of metal finally surrendering to pressure.
Jim ripped his eyes away from the forward screen to look back to the engineering alcove. Steam was seeping from one of the conduits in billowing tendrils. It began to flood the compartment, settling first along the floor, then rising.
Jim saw Carter move through the haze. She was a blur in the eddies of steam, a straight line of shoulders above a vague silhouette. Cursing loudly, she stumbled her way toward the back controls, shielding her eyes against the steam.
The vibration became more violent, sinking into Jim’s body and thrumming through him until the strands of his every muscle numbed completely. He flicked his eyes downward, seeing the screws of his chair shaking from their bolts. The steam built and swallowed his hands, his chest, until it licked under his nose.
A brilliant green light washed over them, shifting and shuddering like a flame against the wind. It cast shadows about the cabin in vivid streaks that danced, broken and distorted, against billows of steam.
“Ion storm registering Force-6, Captain; shields at ten percent,” Spock reported, and Jim heard something akin to emotion in his voice. Not fear exactly, but certainly confusion.
“Force-6?! Ions must be interfering with our sensors. Check again.”
“Captain,” Carter shouted from total obscurity in the alcove, “I can’t reach the conduit! The storm’s overloading our engines!”
It was Pike’s turn to curse. “Kirk,” he snapped, “Go help Carter--”
There was no mistaking the sick sound that cut Pike’s words short. Like paper tearing, compounded and multiplied, bursting from the walls and shattering their resolve.
Jim lifted his eyes, already knowing what he’d see. The hull was failing above him, a gash of rigid metal tearing, twisted networks of wire snapping dramatically as the wound grew wider.
“Force-8, Captain,” Spock shouted, “Shields at two percent.”
The breach moaned as a spiral of stream rushed to escape through its open maw. The air inside the shuttle dashed with it, shrieking as it cut past jagged edges of metal.
Jim had to act, it was all he had left to do. He was about to stand, to help Carter as he’d been instructed, but then the floor right behind his chair cracked, tearing the carpet to fibers.
“Carter!” Jim shouted, eyes wide as he glanced back at his crewmates, “Taigen, get up here!”
But with one horrifying screech of metal, the back half of the shuttle split, gravity and weight pulling it clean off along the starboard side. Carter was lifted off her feet and slammed against the wall as the shuttle jerked against what little of the hull still held it. There was a crack of bone against metal, barely audible over the calamity, before Carter vanished into the slipstream. If Jim had blinked, he would have missed it. He wished he had.
Jim shouted, nothing intelligible, but he heard himself vocalizing as the force of the vacuum pulled him to the floor. He scrambled for purchase and grabbed the base of his chair.
Flashing his gaze to the side, he saw Taigen whipped like a ragdoll, her grip barely holding true to a loose cord. Jim reached out with his other hand just in time to brush Taigen’s fingers as she too slipped out the crack into the shuttle’s wake. Nelson screamed somewhere to Jim’s right just as a blur cut across Jim’s line of sight. Nelson was on his stomach, limbs desperate for a wayward life line. His scream fell to the shriek of the vacuum as the storm took him too.
The shuttle jerked upwards as the back half tore off completely, falling into the slipstream and disappearing with their speed. They were in the planet’s atmosphere now, he could tell from the clouds around them, but the pressure made it hard to breathe. Jim tried to get a better grip on the bottom of his seat, even as he felt himself slipping.
Someone was shouting. Pike, Spock, maybe even himself, but the din was deafening and he’d just seen three people fall to their deaths. He was frozen, heart hammering, feeling the bolts of his chair tearing from the floor and unable to figure out how he would avoid the same fate once it ripped completely.
It cracked, pulled, and suddenly the seat was in the air and Jim was flying backwards. His belt snagged on a jagged piece of metal, jutting from the fissure in the floor, and Jim felt a sharp spike of pain as it sliced him. He cried out, felt his belt jerk as it hooked on the metal and knocked the wind out of him. At that moment a hand shot out and gripped his wrist.
Through the cloud of fear, he looked up into the dark, piercing eyes of Commander Spock, whose fingers were fastened around Jim’s wrist, even as the man’s other hand began slipping from the base of his own chair. Jim saw it happening as if in slow motion. If Spock held on, Jim would take him down with him. The shuttle was plummeting, but they were likely still too high up to survive the fall.
“Let go!” he shouted, “Let go or we’re both dead!” Spock’s determined gaze was enough of a reply. The Vulcan wasn’t budging.
In a split second, born of frustration and fear and a strange, calm certainty, Jim pulled himself up and sank his teeth into the flesh of Spock’s hand. The Vulcan released him, and Jim immediately fell back, only his belt and the bloodied shard of metal holding him up.
It didn’t last long. Just as Spock made to reach back toward him, the shard that had been holding him sliced his belt, and Jim’s body followed the path of the back half of the shuttle, of Taigen and Carter and that poor yeoman. He felt something hard smack his back, his leg, his head. And everything went black.
When the darkness faded from the corners of his consciousness, pain was the first of Jim’s senses to return, and it came back with a vengeance. He felt as though he’d been chewed up and spit out, unnaturally contorted, shredded on his side where he felt the sticky pull of fabric on blood and on his leg where--
His leg . Jim tightened his eyes shut against the pain of realization, attempting to calm his frantic heart. He could tell he’d already lost plenty of blood, and panicking now wouldn’t help. He’d been through training for this. He could handle it.
Sharp, deep breaths through his nose and out his mouth served to soothe the worst of the fear, though the air was difficult to breathe. It was heavy with humidity, and boiling hot, but it worked. The mere action of breathing served to remind him that, in spite of his pain, he was at least still alive-- a damn sight nicer an outcome than he’d predicted when he fell.
So now it was all about survival. Step one: assess the damage.
Under some kind of shaky control now, Jim took one last breath and opened his bleary eyes to the world.
Sunset, or, what seemed to be sunset, colored everything in sight with hues of reds and yellows. Immediately, that told him the ion storm had passed. He could see the orange sky through a hole in the canopy where he’d obviously fallen, breaking branches along his way.
The trees, which grew thick as the dense Pacific forests he’d explored on Earth, were towering, covered in a rough, snow-white bark that looked more like stone than wood. The branches, thick as his thigh, each bore huge spade-shaped leaves, sprouting from them like spring seedlings out of snow.
These strange leaves had no stems that he could tell, rather they stretched sideways from their branches like awnings. Each was almost a meter in length at the canopy, getting smaller and smaller as they sprouted down to the trees’ bases. Were it not for the hole he’d broken through them, the shade they cast would likely leave him in near-darkness.
He followed the trees’ trunks downward, where the branches became twigs and the leaves stopped growing. In their stead, large green bushes sprouted from tree roots, bearing fern-like leaves that reached upwards a few feet before drooping with the weight of the pink and purple flowers that sprouted from them.
The ground around him, he noticed as he turned his head, was littered with debris-- branches and shreds of leaves that must’ve broken his fall. He dug his hand into the ground, noticing that it was more sand than soil, grains leaving pockmarks in his cheek, though that was hardly the worst of his discomfort.
Luckily he did not see any immediate danger. The forest was quiet but for the farway buzz of insects. This gave him time to analyze the rest of his predicament, which did not seem like a strong enough word to describe the hell of a situation he’d gotten himself into.
Steeling himself, Jim pushed up to his elbows, biting his lip against a cry, even as his eyes watered and his vision went white around the edges. A few more sharp inhales steadied him, and he looked down the length of his body.
The red tunic he wore was darkened and stiff around a shallow gash in his side. He remembered vaguely one of his crewmates joking when he got assigned security detail that Starfleet made security uniforms red so the blood wasn’t as noticeable. Now, at least, he knew that had been a lie. He could see his own injury clear as day. The metal had sliced clean through his belt and uniform, plus a fair bit of skin, but thankfully it looked to have stopped bleeding for the most part. It wouldn’t kill him.
His leg was another story. It bent unnaturally at the calf, throbbing and swollen from knee to boot. Broken, he thought as he fell backwards onto the ground. Of course.
Step two: consider possible solutions.
The ion storm had passed. This he knew, which meant communication would be back up. But he replayed the events of his fall in his mind. If his belt had been torn off, it would’ve taken his communicator and his phaser with it. It was possible his equipment was nearby, but unlikely. With quite a bit of effort, he sat up again, glancing around. He stared into the dense shrubbery at the base of each tree, eyes narrowed, but saw nothing that didn’t look as though it belonged out here in the wild. He allowed himself a frustrated sigh and closed his eyes for patience.
So, no communicators. That left one other option before he went into problem-solving mode.
“Hello?” he shouted, loud as he could, though his throat was surprisingly dry given the humidity of the place. “Captain? Commander?” Then, even though everything in him knew it was fruitless, “Carter? Doctor Taigen?”
Silence. Only the insects’ incessant hum answered him.
He narrowed his eyes, catching the metallic glint of bugs flitting through the leaves around him, Insects? Initial scans of the planet had shown minimal plant life and nothing else. This place was a dying desert. There shouldn’t have been insects here.
But, he supposed, ion interference could have messed with their sensors. That was the reasoning Spock had given for not picking up humanoid lifesigns in spite of the distress signal. It was possible, he decided, that they could have missed an ecosystem this lively. Possible, if improbable.
He shook his head absently, moving onto more pressing concerns. It didn’t matter what they’d scanned. What mattered was the reality of it. With no answer to his call, he really only had one course of action.
Step three: do whatever it takes to survive.
He shuffled to a sitting position, wincing and gasping with every movement, however small. It took him plenty long to get to the point that he could balance on his rear without pain shooting through his side.
Luckily, the branches and leaves that had broken his fall were close enough for him to reach without trying too hard, so he snatched two of the straightest sticks within an arm's-length and laid them on his lap, then he took up the largest of the torn leaves.
Testing its strength with a weak tug, he decided it was probably fibrous enough to work. He found a tear and shredded it into strips. That ripping sound made him swallow hard, mind flashing back to the way the carpet had pulled itself apart as the shuttle split. He closed his eyes against the memory for a moment, and returned his attention to the task at hand.
If there were anyone within earshot, they would have heard the cry he let out when he strapped his calf into the makeshift splint. That scream echoed through the trees loud enough to startle even him, which at least distracted him from the pain for a moment. His whole right side was throbbing from ankle to shoulder, the bruises, breaks and blood making him dizzy with lightning flashes of pain. It took a few minutes for him to regain his breath, to tenderly examine the straps across his leg and ensure they would hold.
He’d never used a splint before, having easy access to bone knitters for any injury that warranted one, but the only bone knitter in the landing party was in Doctor Taigen’s medkit, and Doctor Taigen--
Jim stopped himself there, closing his eyes for clarity and putting it out of his mind. He couldn’t. Not now.
It took him a long time to prepare himself to stand, so he spent the minutes going over equations in his head. Weight of the shuttle, halved before he fell, obviously. Speed and trajectory of their descent. He could guess the direction the shuttle was going based on the angle of his fall, which he could tell from the breakage of the branches, so that was something.
All told, he guessed (and it was a loose guess) that the front half of the shuttle was about a mile away, maybe a touch farther depending on how high it had been when he’d fallen. Knowing that, and the direction he had to go, well. There was nothing else for it.
As expected, whip-cracks of pain shot up his leg the second he dared to shift his weight. He sucked air through his teeth, hissing the whole way up as he gripped the rough bark of the nearest tree for support. Hand on root, hand on trunk, hands on the lowest branch. Somehow he managed to get his good foot underneath him, but by the time he was mostly upright, he was exhausted, breath coming in sharp bursts, face flushed with heat and effort, sweat already dripping down his brows and his back. Leaning against the tree for support, he tilted his head, staring upwards to the orange splash of sky.
“C’mon, Jim,” he said, trying to talk himself into moving. “You can do this. Even if all you find is the front half of the shuttle, you can call the ship. One mile then you’re home free.”
One mile. He could do anything for one mile.
He turned, patted the trunk of the tree that had held him up, and scanned it for a suitable branch for a walking stick. Finding none, he dragged himself bodily to the next trunk, falling against it as his vision went black for a minute, bright spots dancing at the corners of his eyes. He gasped for air, muscles already screaming from the strain, and blinked his eyes against the sweat that kept trying to drip past his lashes. It was going to be slow going. He looked back to the sky, hoping the light held out, at least. Days were longer here, he remembered from his briefing, so maybe that’d give him a fighting chance.
The consoles hissed steam, the sound of blaring alarms becoming white noise against the silent backdrop of the rest of the world around them. Everywhere Spock looked, metal split and crunched from the shuttle’s impact against the mountainside. The screens were cracked, sparking with the energy of broken wires. The forward-facing window had, miraculously, failed to shatter, but it was perhaps the only piece of the shuttle that wasn’t ruined. Excepting, of course, its two remaining passengers.
Spock dragged Captain Pike by the elbows away from the wreckage, into the fresh air where chemicals and steam wouldn’t get into the man’s lungs. Though Pike was unconscious, Spock felt an illogical swell of hope that he would be otherwise uninjured.
He knelt beside his Captain in the gray light of the storming sky, finally examining him where he could see.
Uninjured would have been too much to ask. A shard of metal stood stuck in Pike’s side like a stake, likely a piece of the front console that had torn off in the landing. It was deep, nearly all the way through his stomach to his back, and the gold tunic around already dripped red, blossoming with blood like a flower’s spreading petals.
Though the storm still raged overhead, he pulled the communicator from his belt.
“Spock to Enterprise , come in Enterprise .”
Nothing. He turned the dial.
“This is Commander Spock calling U.S.S. Farragut . Come in, Farragut .”
In a last ditch effort, he turned the dial again. “Commander Spock to landing party, come in landing party.”
Nothing. It was likely the rest of them were dead. Unless he acted quickly, Pike would be next.
Under the steering console, every Class-F shuttlecraft was equipped with one emergency kit, the contents of which could potentially be helpful. He made his way quickly back to the shuttle, waving his hand past the steam and slipping under his seat. When he smacked the crunched metal, it rang hollow, so he hooked his fingers into the worst of the panel’s folds, yanked once and fell backwards as the panel came loose.
Inside, he found a large plastic container, which he dragged back out toward his Captain’s prone form.
Two emergency blankets, 10x10, fire-resistant and insulating
One water purifier
Two canteens, one gallon each
One standard metal knife
One laser cutter
One standard-issue phaser
One length of cord, 50 ft.
One hypospray, preloaded with two doses each of Cordazine and Melenex, plus one dose each of Tri-Ox Compound and Masiform-D
One medical scanner
One collapsable distress signal transmitter
Spock did not allow himself to feel frustration.
He tore a strip from the edge of one of the emergency blankets, then wasted no time in yanking the shard from Pike’s side.
The man didn’t react. Concussed, likely, but Spock didn’t have time to scan him now. He wrapped the bleeding wound in the strip of emergency blanket, making sure it was tight enough to put pressure on it, but loose enough that Pike could still breathe. With any luck, the shard had missed Pike’s organs, and now it was just a matter of stopping imminent blood loss.
It would do, but a dermal regenerator would be incredibly helpful. He made a mental note to add the device to the supply list of every emergency kit when he returned to the ship. Until then, there was little else he could do for the captain. He kept an eye on the makeshift bandage, simply waiting for the moment Pike beld through.
Though pain originated from a cut on his own head and from multiple bruises along the rest of his body, he deemed the injuries insignificant.
Pain, too, pulsed from his hand. He glanced down at the green and blood-puckered ring of a bitemark along the base of his thumb, where Lieutenant Kirk had sunk his teeth into Spock’s skin. He clenched his hand closed, took a breath through his nose and sat back on his heels to look at the sky. Anything to draw his mind from the prone form of his captain and the evidence of his failure to save another’s life.
It would take time, he knew, for the storm to pass, but he did not know how much time the Captain had. It was illogical to feel worry, or fear, but the helplessness of their situation was not lost on Spock.
His current responsibility was to alleviate that helplessness as much as he could. Part of that involved centering himself and taking stock of where they were. He folded one of the blankets and slipped it under Pike’s head, careful not to exaggerate any injuries, then stood. It was only then that he became aware of pain in his limbs, likely superficial bruising, but he pushed the pain aside. He was Vulcan, and duty circumvented comfort. He moved on.
Tricorder in hand, Spock began to scan the area around them. It seemed they had crashed into a mountainside, thousands of feet of near-sheer, black rock. It was peppered with greenery up to a point, so Spock could see the trail left by the skid of the shuttle, where it had burned a path through the sparse foliage and left scraps of shredded metal. It had collided, then, into a cluster of trees at the base of the mountain, where it now lay. The rest of their visible area was largely flat sand, intermittent trees, a few brief shrubs poking out of the ground.
His eyes wandered past the shuttle to the sparse trees here at the mountain’s base. They thickened farther off, a forest of sorts, though unlike any Spock had yet seen.
He moved toward one of the branches, broken from the shuttle’s impact, and examined it closer. The bark was thick, nearly three inches all around, which made for dense wood. It was also rough to the touch, white. Likely, there was some evolutionary purpose for this, and for the strange shape of the fan-like leaves that spread over the tops and sides of each tree, though Spock did not devote much thought to it.
He discarded the branch and ran his tricorder along the edge of the forest. Initial scans of the planet did not reveal an ecosystem this diverse. Now, his tricorder registered small animals, insects, complex flora-- though thankfully no large animals within a one-mile radius, nor did any of the insects register as dangerous. Caution was still warranted, but there was nothing toxic or predatory here. Only… strange. Unexpected. Fascinating.
The storm still raged overhead, and he was loathe to leave his captain behind, so Spock returned to where he’d laid him in the sand. He would assemble a stretcher from the trees’ debris. It was a small way he could maximize his time and prepare for the worst. Should a larger, dangerous animal encounter them, or should the storm not end before the planet’s long nightfall, he would need to protect Pike at all costs.
Approximately two hours and thirty-six minutes after bandaging the Captain’s wounds, the sky finally cleared.
He hailed the ships again. Nothing. That was illogical, incongruent with current facts, but it was what it was. It was possible the ships had left due to the sudden ion increase. If that were the case, there was little he could do but wait.
Spock did not relish the idea of waiting.
They had left the Enterprise at 4400 hours planet time, what amounted to early evening. Since the days here were 96 standard hours long, Spock estimated that he had five hours to find a suitable location to spend the night before darkness began to set in.
He would prefer to remain near the crash site, in case the ships sent a rescue party to their last known location, but it was illogical to simply assume any help was on the way. Besides, Spock understood that if they remained here, they would freeze to death as soon as total night sank in.
Scans had revealed that the Captain was, indeed, concussed. Until he could be brought to a proper medical facility, there was little Spock could do. Except, of course, keep him alive.To that end, he had to leave him for now.
Using his makeshift stretcher, Spock pulled Pike into the shuttle’s shadow. He checked his tricorder again, registering no threat-- nothing larger than a squirrel. Pike was as safe as he could be, so Spock set off.
The geological composition of the mountain was fortunate. An ancient, dormant volcano seldom had a shortage of caves, nooks and crannies. To escape the elements, they would require a deep one. The humidity on Alpha Novus V caused the whole world to freeze when the longest stretch of night fell.
It took him little time to locate a suitable cave, one that edged deep enough into the mountain that it would protect them from the worst of the elements. Though even here, it would take a great deal to keep them alive. Its opening was perhaps only 100 meters from the location of the crash. Not ideal, but doable.
Food and water, too, had been concerns, but he kept an eye on his tricorder as he walked and found a suitable amount of edible plants. The leafy shrubs that peppered their crash site contained enough protein to briefly sustain them, and the berries he found growing from fern-like, flowering plants at the edge of the forest would provide necessary carbohydrates. Tall, spindle-like trees with shingled bark like Earth’s palm trees bore round, purple fruit, nestled high in their leaves, but there was little time to harvest it. He marked their locations, just in case it became necessary.
Spock had removed his outer shirt to carry the berries and leaves he’d picked along the way, as well as the mushroom-like fungi he found in dark corners by the mountain slope and a few aloe-like cacti whose soothing properties may be beneficial for their injuries. There was also a spring not too far from the cave’s location. It spurt out of the mountainside in little more than a trickle, collecting in a small puddle before filtering back into the rock below. But it was water, and it was surprisingly clean. Filling the canteens while balancing the tricorder and sling around his shoulder, he decided these scant resources must suffice.
He tucked his small bounty into the mouth of the cave and prepared to bring Pike to their temporary shelter. Hopefully he could wake the Captain and convince him to eat. Barring that, he could at least clean Pike’s wound. There was little else to be done until rescue.
His mind was on the logistics of preparing a meal and a campfire when he returned to the crash site to find Pike undisturbed and still unconscious. The shuttle had stopped steaming and beeping, likely having exhausted its fumes and power, and now it sat eerily quiet in the deepening orange twilight.
He suppressed any emotional reaction to the sight, and pulled his communicator from his pocket.
Once more, he tried the ships. When there was no reply, as expected, he returned to the stretcher. There was no sense wasting time.
Packing up the emergency kit, Spock kept an eye on his Captain. That the man had yet to wake was unfortunate, as a concussion could be exacerbated by unconsciousness, but Spock decided he would attempt to wake him when they were safely secluded in the cave. Then, he would compose a plan to restore communications or otherwise leave the planet.
These thoughts distracted him for a time, until he heard a shuffling coming from the woods. His sensitive ears could pick up the minutest of sounds, and he knew just by listening that the drag-crunch of an approaching creature was not one of the small rodents the tricorder picked up, but another beast altogether.
Immediately, he whipped his tricorder out in front of him, standing between the source of the sound and his captain. He scanned the forest and nearly allowed himself an incredibly human emotion.
The creature was humanoid.
Taking the phaser from the emergency kit, Spock quietly approached the edge of the woods, straining his ears.
“Identify yourself,” he commanded into the trees. Luckily, the light was just bright enough that he could make out a form leaning against a far-off trunk, though they were in shadow. He raised his volume. “Identify yourself!”
The shadow’s head perked up, and it made its way closer, laboriously. When it emerged into a thin strip of dying sunlight, Spock could make out the bright red of a security officer’s shirt. He nearly dropped his phaser.
“Lieutenant,” a voice said weakly, seemed to pause for breath, then continued. “Lieutenant James Tiberius Kirk, U.S.S. Farragut .” Then, as if in afterthought, “Sir.”
With that, the young man collapsed, falling to the ground as though the bones holding him upright had melted. Spock rushed forward without a moment more’s hesitation, turning Kirk onto his back and resting the man’s head on Spock’s knees. He was in a bad state. Blood dotted Kirk’s temple where he’d hit his head rather brutally, and another splotch of blood stained the side of his shirt. His skin was pale, slicked with a sheen of sweat, clammy to the touch despite the air’s lingering heat.
Wrapped round the young man’s leg, Spock noticed a primitive splint. How Kirk had managed to walk on that leg was a mystery to Spock, especially considering the distance. If his tricorder hadn’t picked up Kirk’s signal when he’d last scanned, that meant he’d fallen more than a mile from where they were now.
Humans. Spock never ceased to be as fascinated by their determination as he was repulsed by their recklessness.
But if it meant one more of them had a fighting chance at survival, Spock felt illogically grateful.