kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: 50,700

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it, but set parallel to TSFS and TVH.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III.

A/N: And here it ends, folks. Hopefully all questions answered with at least as much credibility as time-travelling with humpback whales by guesstimated slingshot maneuvers around the sun, or being able to be shoved out of a warp bubble with a hull breach by the Vengeance and not instantly be shredded into atoms. Gotta love the flexibility of Star Trek science. Thank you again to all you lovely people who have come along for this crazy ride; your support is very much appreciated and I hope you enjoyed.


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III. Basically, the AOS version of The Search for Spock, with obvious plot adjustments.

A/N: So close, I was so close to hitting my original plan of ten chapters! Ah well, everyone likes a little fluff to wrap up with, y/y? Also, the obvious lines you come across later on in the chapter are taken from STID; anything you recognize belongs to Paramount, etc., etc.


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III. Basically, the AOS version of The Search for Spock, with obvious plot adjustments.

A/N: The beginning of the end here, peeps. And take the science behind the Nexus with a grain of salt, btw, since we know very little about it and what we do know makes very little sense; I've twisted my creative liberty a bit to fit what I need here.


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III. Basically, the AOS version of The Search for Spock, with obvious plot adjustments.

A/N: Sorry for the chapter length here, guys, but I don't want this to turn into an epic so I am trying to keep myself on track to wrap up in just a few more. Also, if you really really hate Uhura for some reason, poor girl, you may just want to skip this chapter, because she's a main character - but she's essential to this part of the plotline, I promise.
 


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III. Basically, the AOS version of The Search for Spock, with obvious plot adjustments.

A/N: I suppose this would be the time to reassure everyone that I have no intention of leaving anyone with an unhappy ending in this story? It may not be the perfect ending for everyone, but it won't be unhappy. *evil grin* Also, while there are obvious similarities just due to circumstance, I will not be ripping anything else off of The Voyage Home, just FYI. Sorry to the whale lovers.


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III. Basically, the AOS version of The Search for Spock, with obvious plot adjustments.

A/N: So here we have what is basically the last of the major sap, people - the action picks up in the next chapter and from there it's a steep slide to the bottom. But given the fact that we all know there's no real way to actually have both Jim Kirks alive in this universe by the end of the story, I had to let them have a reunion of sorts, you know.

 


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III. Basically, the AOS version of The Search for Spock, with obvious plot adjustments.

A/N: I operate under the head-canon that AOS Spock's characterization in the movies is actually accurate in regards to the fact that he is characterized as more emotional than TOS Spock. I personally see him as adopting more of his human side than TOS Spock as a sort of tribute to his late mother, and I think he's more comfortable with that balance at a far earlier age than TOS Spock (for example, I don't see AOS Spock ever considering Kohlinar). So if my AOS Spock comes across as too emotional for my TOS readers, that's intentional, and just personal opinion. To each his own, of course.


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III. Basically, the AOS version of The Search for Spock, with obvious plot adjustments.

A/N: As is probably evident to TOS fans by now, I will be pulling from some elements of The Search for Spock, as it chronologically parallels STID with TWOK, but it won't just be a ripoff of that. So any elements you recognize may be inspired by TSFS but if I intend to take and quote anything directly I will footnote it. No knowledge of TSFS is necessary to read this story.


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III. Basically, the AOS version of The Search for Spock, with obvious plot adjustments.

A/N: Thank you very much to all you lovely people who have reviewed; I am very, very grateful.


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III. Basically, the AOS version of The Search for Spock, with obvious plot adjustments.

A/N: I hope I'm not going to bore anyone with these preliminary chapters (only these two, I promise!), but they are necessary to get the setup out of the way and to lay down the groundwork for the crew exploration I intend to do. I think there were probably a lot of lingering issues from STID that would have taken a lot of time to get over, and I think the strong, cohesive crew we see in Beyond was a direct product of those events. This will be slightly more crew-inclusive than just Kirk and Spock centric than some of my fics have been, so take it with a grain of salt as my own personal head-canon where the others are concerned.


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kcscribbler: (Default)
 Title: Shades of Darkness

Characters: AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Spock Prime, AOS Enterprise crew; TOS movie-era Kirk, Spock; TNG Picard, various from all three universes
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Final Word Count: TBD, about 3000 per chapter

Warnings/Spoilers: Primary plot spoilers for Star Trek: Into Darkness and Generations. Various other spoilers for various other movies and Trek universe canons, footnoted where needed; no in-depth knowledge necessary to understand story. Could be categorized as a Generations fix-it.

Secondary Warning: this is technically a WIP, though most of it is already in rough draft form, so updates will be slow but consistent. Feedback is not necessary but very much appreciated.

SummaryNo one is more surprised than the newly-resurrected James T. Kirk, when he opens his eyes on an unfamiliar Starfleet Medical bay and a crew nearly forty years his junior. Meanwhile, young Jim finds himself trapped in the ghostly spirit-world of the Nexus, trying to find his way home as his crew desperately search for a way to reach him before Captain Picard can convince a confused Enterprise captain to leave that elusive Valhalla to face a premature death on Veridian III.

A/N: It's been a long time since I tried another wacko off-the-wall crossover, something just for fun, so enjoy my particular brand of madness with me if you like. No knowledge necessary of TNG really to understand the story, just review a brief summary of Generations and you should be good to go. And do remember, I am a firm believer in happy endings.


Chapter One )
kcscribbler: (STBB universal constants)
Reacquaint yourself with fic information, art, fanmix, etc., in this MASTER POST.

If you remember everything, Epilogue is below. 

(Yes, I am aware that I left it for ten months unfinished due to RL being uncooperative and just flat forgetting it was sitting on my hard drive half-done.  I have no excuses, just apologies to anyone who enjoyed my last STBB.  Here is the epilogue, such as it is, and my apologies for the delay in completing that enormous fic.)




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kcscribbler: (TREK KS TOS/2009)
Title:  The Games We Play
Author:  KCS  ([info]kcscribbler)
Series:  AOS/TOS/TNG  (Set in the Rebootverse, with elements and characters from both TOS and TNG)
Characters/Pairings:  No pairings (though if you want to read as pre-slash I suppose you can).  AOS Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Chekov, Sulu, various; Q; little bit of TOS movie-era Kirk, TOS movie-era Spock
Genres:  Friendship, h/c, angst, character study
Warnings:  (apparent) major character death, on a massive scale but not really graphic.  Trauma, mental and emotional, surrounding that.  Basic spoilers for ST:XI, ST:TOS basic canon, and for my last year's STBB, Second-Best Destiny.  A working knowledge of the history and playing rules of chess will be helpful (and slightly spoilery).
Rating:  PG-13 for trauma and CD
Final Word Count:  59,055
Beta:  [info]protectorgf
Summary:  Five years after the first appearance of the Q continuum in the Rebooted universe, the refitted Enterprise has set out on her second five-year mission.  With the new mission comes new fame, and with that, new confidence – overconfidence, for one still very young starship captain.  James T. Kirk, now-veteran captain but still not even thirty years old, is on a fast track to potential self-destruction, and not even his closest friends aboard can seem to convince him that as captain he is not as expendable as his crew.  While the sentiment behind his self-sacrificing actions is admirable, it is extremely foolish – and it seems to those who love him that nothing short of Omnipotent intervention will convince him of that fact.
 
Fortunately, there is one particular Omnipotent who is only too happy to interfere.


Personal Notes:  Definitive sequel to Second-Best Destiny, though this can most likely be read alone with very few unanswered questions.  Initial plot bunny suddenly inspired by this.  This fic is something different for me; while I normally focus on multiple character interaction and had intended to do so with this, the fic would not permit it and turned into a character focus on James Kirk.  It's a departure from my usual, but I do like it even if it's not my original intent.
Second Personal Notes: I would never have made it to the finish line of this fic without the cheerleading, encouragement, and sometimes kick in the pants from two very special people and fandom friends, [info]protectorgf and [info]writer_klmeri.  Both are spectacular writers in their own right, but have always taken far more time to review, comment, and otherwise encourage me than my own piddling efforts deserve. 

Also I was privileged to have the same fanmixer as I did last year, [info]wyntreaurora, for the prequel to this - and both mixes have been spectacularly perfect, exactly what I wanted.  My artist this year, [info]yawmin, was kind enough to keep me updated as the artwork progressed, asking my input, and it was fascinating to watch an artist at work from start to finish, to produce such lovely art as you see above and below.

AMAZING Art (A King in Check) by yawmin:  HERE  |  Also on the artist's DeviantART HERE
ALSO AMAZING Mix by wyntreaurora:  HERE


I.  Prologue
II.  Opening Gambit

      En Prise
      Blockade
      Development
      Counter-Play
      Equalize
III.  Middle Game
      Forced Move
      Bad Bishop
      Fianchetto
      Exchange
      King Hunt
      Sharp
IV.  End Game
      Promotion
      Swindle
V.  Bonus:  Epilogue 
kcscribbler: (Default)
Exchange:  simple capture of material by a player; specifically, can refer to the exchange of a rook for a minor piece
 
The better part of an hour later, they came over a rocky hill to see a plume of smoke dissipating gradually into the air of the valley below.  A smallish crater lay before them, white-hot but now cooling debris lying wedged into the ground in its epicenter. 
 
“No life-signs, Captain,” Anderssen said quietly, tricorder whirring.
 
“Right.”  He took a deep breath and set off down the hillside, careful to not dislodge enough shale to cause an avalanche and break his neck from sheer stupidity.  Slithering gravel and various grunts behind him told him that his decimated crew were doing the same, and within moments they were on level ground headed for the crash site.
 
His heart sank into his shoes when he got close enough; the glint of smooth metal and shattered transparent aluminum was enough to tell him it was a crashed escape pod and not mere shrapnel from the Enterprise’s explosion.
 
He swallowed, slowing.  And then the smell hit him with the force of a photon torpedo.
 
The acrid, scorching odor of electrical fire, sharp and biting – and the even more nauseating smell of charred flesh.
 
Behind him, he heard Greco’s quiet gagging and Sulu’s murmured Japanese invective.
 
“Spock,” he managed, gesturing helplessly, and silently begged the Vulcan to understand.
 
The Vulcan nodded without hesitation.  “Your tricorder, Lieutenant,” Spock said quietly.
 
Anderssen surrendered the instrument without a word of protest, making no move to draw nearer the wreckage.  Spock moved, silent and intent on his readings, toward the wreckage, circled it, and stood for a moment, peering at the still-smoking heap of shrapnel, most of which had been burned away on entry or shattered upon impact.  He then crouched beside a large piece of metal, and after examining it from inches away then shrugged his sleeve over his hand.  Thus protected from the heat by the flame-retardant material, he reached out and in one smooth tug yanked the portion of metal upward, flinging it a foot away from the rest.
 
Jim saw the blinking lights of singed but still-functional emergency electronics, and his heart sank.  Up until now, he could just delude himself into considering it an accident; ten seconds before self-destruct all the escape pods launched themselves automatically.  If it weren’t for the smell of burning flesh, he could happily ignore all else and hold to the hope that it had just been an empty pod which had malfunctioned and crashed beyond recognition.
 
But that horrible blinking red light told him that the computerized functions of the pod were still in working order, built as they were for records to withstand even the most violent of crash landings.
 
Spock’s eyes watched him, as he moved slowly forward to crouch beside his First.  The Vulcan said nothing, waiting for his decision.
 
Without giving himself time to think about it, he shot out a hand and pressed the retrieval button.
 
“Escape pod XXIC, U.S.S. Enterprise, ejected Stardate 2264.6, the flat computerized voice intoned.  He belatedly realized he wasn’t breathing, and inhaled.  “Reason for ejection:  internally-triggered shipwide self-destruct.  Time of jettison:  twenty seconds before destruct.  Status of pod: navigational system malfunction, resulting in premature forced landing.  Status of occupants:  No survivors.”
 
From his peripheral, he saw Spock’s lips tighten in what had to be the same sick anticipation which was threatening to deprive him of control over his stomach’s contents.
 
The computer’s drone continued.  “Occupants of pod:  Ensign Petra Xanthos.  Ensign C. J. Pha’ast-Movato.  Lieutenant Lucia Marcella.  Medical Assistant Tanya Bodine.  Lieutenant-Commander Leonard McCoy.”
 
Gravel skittered under his feet as he lost his balance and sat, hard, staring at the steady red light which indicated the recording had finished processing, glowing evilly at the end of the gray tunnel which had suddenly become his field of vision.  Weird, but now that he knew, he somehow wasn’t feeling much of anything, just a sort of numb sickness that spread from the inside out, turning his heart and then everything else into a kind of icy stone, dead weight within him.  He wasn’t crying, wasn’t screaming, wasn’t really feeling much of anything, wasn’t even hearing or seeing much, either, for that matter…just this nauseating nothing which encompassed him in a grey cloud, thick and smothering and thankfully blotting out all else for just a few blessed moments…
 
A sharp pain, a jarring slap to the face, threw his body out of its comfortable limbo, and he gasped, choking on shards of stench-permeated air…when had he stopped breathing?
 
Blinking, struggling helplessly for oxygen, he saw the worried face hovering in his immediate vision and finally recognized it.  Sulu.  Of course; Spock had never again, since that day over five years ago, raised a hand to him – refused categorically, even under medical circumstances.  It was all he could do to get the Vulcan to spar with him, and even after five years he still hadn’t convinced Spock to not ‘go easy’ on him.
 
“Captain.  Jim.  Seriously, man, snap out it.”  Filtering the words through the cotton-packed tunnel in his ear, he finally registered the conversation, and fought his way back to full awareness.  Sulu’s creased forehead slowly relaxed as comprehension dawned, and the young navigator sat back an inch or two out of Jim’s personal space bubble.  “That’s it – you with us?”
 
He nodded, realizing he’d come close – dangerously close – to zoning out on what could be his last remaining crew.  “Sorry,” he rasped, struggling back to his feet.  He pointedly ignored Spock’s outstretched hand in doing so, and refused to feel remorse over the fact.
 
He drew up to his full height, breathing out a slow and measured breath to calm his nerves and try to banish the reek of charred flesh.  At least now he knew.
 
He hoped, oh how he hoped, that the crash had been quick, or that her occupants had been unconscious from the force of entering the atmosphere too quickly.  Bones was scared enough of being in space with nothing but a sheet of metal separating him from the void – if he’d been aware of what was coming…
 
He caught himself just in time before his stomach, roiling unpleasantly, decided to rebel entirely against his strict orders to remain where it was.  Firmly forcing the wave of nausea back with a scrape of fist across his mouth, he looked up, and met the worried, equally grief-filled gazes of his straggling team.
 
“Sir, are you all right?” Chekov asked quietly.
 
“No, Ensign,” he answered, hands clenched, because he’d never yet lied to his crew and he wasn’t about to start now.  “No, I am definitely not.  But…I am going to make whoever is responsible for this pay, and pay dearly.  Commander Spock.”

”Yes, Captain.” Spock’s manner was all business, a reassuring presence at his elbow, one constant in a chaotic mess of variables which his brain was struggling to process.
 
“I want to know what happened here,” he said, jaw clenched, tone stony-calm.  “Because we both know there’s no way the Enterprise self-destructed without internal sabotage.  It simply isn’t possible.”
 
“But, sir!” McDonnell protested.  “That would mean one of us blew up our own ship!“
 
“Improbable as it sounds, Mr. McDonnell, I cannot conceive another explanation for the bypassing of two voice-only authorizations and at least three dozen failsafes to prevent this exact eventuality,” Spock replied with a calmness which slowly seeped into all of them as he spoke.  “I cannot countenance any crewman deranged enough to even initiate the self-destruct, nor of one genius enough to be able to carry it out – even I would have struggled to counteract all the internal failsafes – and yet, there is no other way the self-destruct could have been triggered.”
 
“Perhaps remotely?” Chekov suggested.
 
“It would still require knowledge of both the captain’s and my security codes, and the ability to override the voice or retinal recognition requirements.”
 
“Is there any possibility it was just – well, just a freak accident?” Anderssen asked.
 
“None,” Spock responded promptly.  “No such accident has ever been recorded in star-travel history, and certainly never with this class starship; much less with a newly refurbished flagship.  The failsafes are, as I said, too numerous and too complicated to be overridden by anyone other than…” he trailed off for a moment, just a moment, but it was enough to raise the hackles on Jim’s neck. 

He knew that look.  Spock had an idea.  A horrible, wonderful, awful idea – and one which he wouldn’t share with the class until he found evidence to back it up.
 
“Anyone other than a considerable technological programming genius with an ability which exceeds even my own, coupled with years of experience aboard this ship and under this command team,” the Vulcan finished after only that fractional pause.
 
“I can’t believe that of anyone in my crew,” Jim protested faintly.  “Such a computer rating would have shown up in records, and I know my crew’s records.  I would have remembered that, given that you and I, Scotty and Chekov, are the only people on board with an A-7 rating.”
 
“Nevertheless, it is the only solution possible, based upon the facts as we know it.  We have no way of verifying its accuracy until we discover the identity of the being behind the self-destruct trigger.”
 
“And if we find out who it is, I can guarantee you won’t be short of volunteers to see he doesn’t live to see court martial, Captain,” Greco interjected, his honest face flushed with heat and anger.
 
Jim shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose to stave off the headache.  His skin crackled.  Awesome, alien sunburn.  It was the least of his worries.  “We can’t dwell on that now,” he said quietly, hand dropping back to his side.  “We’re going back to that unscannable area, and just hope and pray there’s something there which will help us locate the survivors, or at least help us pinpoint where Lieutenant Uhura’s party is on the surface.  At the least, we will set up a base camp and make plans for immediate survival tactics.”
 
Murmurs of agreement sounded from the semi-circle, and he nodded, swallowing forcibly on the lump in his throat brought on by another look at the remains of the crashed escape pod.  “Anderssen, tune your tricorder to pick up signs of vegetation and see how close we are to one of those rivers; what field packs you all had won’t last us more than another day and we’ll need water at the least.  Keep checking in with Lieutenant Uhura and see if you can get a better idea of where we all are topographically.  Greco, McDonnell, I want you to take over the transmitter, keep replaying my recorded comm-loop and see if we can eventually make contact with someone.  The escape pods, if they were able to jettison before the explosion, will be coming to rest on the planet in the next six hours.  If Scotty’s out there, I know he’ll somehow be able to rig an escape pod or something into a transmitter as well as a receiver.”  The three men nodded.  “Sulu, work with Chekov and his tricorder, using your botanical knowledge.  We’re going to need food.”
 
“Aye, sir.”
 
“Da, keptin.  We will confer with Lieutenant Anderssen.”
 
He nodded.  “Right, then.”  After casting one more glance at the smoking ruin ten feet away, he then turned his gaze resolutely back toward the jagged hills beyond.  “Let’s move out.”
 
His men moved into formation, tactfully leaving him behind for a moment with Spock.  The Vulcan was standing silently at the side of the obliterated pod, head bowed.
 
Biting his lip, Jim risked one more look at the wreckage, and saw a shred of charred blue cloth caught on the edge of a nearly-melted shard of metal.  He sucked in a wet breath of foul air, blinking to clear his vision.
 
“Captain, I…I am sorry,” he heard sound gently in the stillness, and the sheer stilted humanity of the expression as opposed to the usual Vulcan phrase touched him more than an embrace would have.
 
“You have an idea of who could be behind this, Spock, I know you do,” he responded in a low tone, brittle with grief and pain.  “You had better decide here real quick to tell me your suspicions.”
 
“I give you my word, if I had more than a…I believe you would say, a bad feeling about the matter, I would.  As it stands, I would prefer to investigate the possibility further before asking you to again relive this ordeal in excruciating detail.”
 
Ah.  He hadn’t thought of it like that.  He gave the Vulcan a thin smile.  “Granted.  You have until tonight, Spock, and then I want your hunch.  I have more confidence in your guesses than in anyone else’s facts.”  Déjà vu flickered through him like a chill, and then vanished.  He shook his head to rid himself of the sensation.  “I’m flying blind here, Spock, and I need something to work with.”

”Agreed.  I simply need a short period of time in which to review the facts and correlate missing details.”
 
“I’ll see what I can do to get you space to meditate when we make camp; you have to be needing it by now.  Spock, do you…what should we do, about them?”  His voice cracked on the last word as he gestured at the smoking remains of the escape pod, but not until then; he was quite proud of the effort it had taken.
 
“We will return when we are stronger in number, and in more control of our surroundings,” was the calm reply, delivered with infinite gentleness.  “We can do nothing for them without resources, and it would be the wishes of the crew that you make the living your priority rather than the deceased.”
 
He nodded sadly.  “Of course you’re right as always, Mr. Spock.  Let’s catch up with the others.”
 
At the top of the rise, he looked back at the wreckage, and wished for just a few seconds that he’d at least apologized about the last Sickbay incident, even if he didn’t think he was really to blame.  Though now, he’d be only too glad to be back in that cubicle, being yelled at by an irate Chief Medical Officer.
 
Now, never again.  He’d lost his ship and his best friend, in addition to his most important mentor and twelve hundred other crewmen – all in the space of a few hours.  Was this what Q had meant, when the deity had said he’d lose everything he held dear, at an incalculably high price?
 
Did that mean he’d failed his tests before he even realized he was taking them?
 
Clenching his jaw, he turned from the smoking wreckage, and moved with resolution to the top of the hill.  Spock was waiting patiently for him just over the rise, and studiously refrained from commenting on the solitary tear that scorched its way down his sunburned face.


<<Master Post>>
kcscribbler: (Default)
Fianchetto:  Italian, meaning “on the flank,” and referring to the placement of a bishop in the position where it controls the longest diagonal
 
After four hours of straight hiking over rocky, dry terrain, with only one brief stop at a small mineral spring, they were all exhausted, and were still a good sixty-minute trudge from the site of the crash, whatever it had been.  Radiation was distorting the long-range scans from a tricorder, and they would have to be a lot closer to be able to determine life-signs or not.
 
It was Spock, surprisingly, who finally called a halt to the trek, suggesting a brief period of rest.  The other members of the party besides the captain only shot the First Officer a grateful look before collapsing into so many weary heaps of dusty uniforms.
 
“We don’t have time,” was Jim’s clipped reply, delivered through a jaw clenched against the stark knowledge that no one else from his ship had managed to contact them or even let them know they were alive, other than Uhura’s scheduled check-in to let him know she and her people were walking toward the nearest signs of water.  At this point, this many hours after the crash, if they hadn’t even detected any signs of incoming escape pods or shuttles, that pretty much meant he could give up hope.
 
“And if you do not make time, you may lose more crewmen, sir,” the Vulcan replied in a respectfully undertone voice, but no less stern for its quietness.  “This terrain is rough, the temperature quite warm for such exertion, and our water supply will remain scarce, to the best of our knowledge.  In addition to this, you are yourself not close to top physical or emotional condition; your crew are faring little better.”  Spock indicated Chekov, who was slumped against Sulu’s back in the shade of an overhang, eyes closed.  McDonnell and Greco were talking quietly, but Anderssen looked like he was dead on his feet and close to crying; no wonder, if the chances that his girlfriend had survived were so slim.  “Humans require time to assimilate loss and tragedy, as well as to deal with grief; not to mention the physical exertions.”
 
Yet he bristled at a Vulcan reminding him of human emotional weakness, and rebelled at the idea of wasting any more time in rest.  “Believe me, I understand your concerns, Mr. Spock,” he said coolly, not about to start another argument in front of his exhausted ragtag team.  “But if that debris is an escape pod, that means it crashed on the surface instead of remaining in space or safely landing itself.  Delay could cost more lives than this disaster already has.”  He wiped his forehead, absently wondering why he felt so cold and shaky if it was really that hot.  “Contrary to you Vulcans’ belief, we humans are also capable of putting off our emotional collapses until more important matters have been dealt with.”
 
It was a low blow, and he wanted to bite his tongue off the moment it slipped out – but he was exhausted, and shocky, and still couldn’t quite wrap his human brain around the idea that his ship was just gone, along with her twelve hundred crew, and Old Spock and Kirk, and Bones…
 
Gods, Bones.  No way would the man have left the ship safely without being sedated, not while there were young kids scrambling for escape pods and transporter pads.
 
Spock’s jaw was set belligerently, in that particular Vulcanly stubborn way that only Jim ever picked up on.   He felt his lips tighten; he so didn’t have time or patience for this – but Spock wasn’t taking no for an answer, “And contrary to your apparent belief, Captain, no human – no being – is invincible, or incapable of being affected by the knowledge that twelve hundred crewmen just died in nothing more heroic than a freak accident.”
 
Don’t,” he warned, teeth clenched.
 
“A warp engine explosion without sufficient trigger is unheard-of,” Spock pressed, and couldn’t he see that Jim was about to crack and that just was not a good idea in front of a crew who needed an anchor?  “That such a thing should happen to the flagship of the Federation is not only highly suspicious but also a pointless way in which to end one’s life and career – utter destruction, over lack of a security protocol.”
 
Gravel slithered down his throat as he tried to swallow.  “You think I don’t know that?” he whispered.
 
“No, sir,” Spock replied matter-of-factly.  “I merely question your current lack of reaction to the idea of your entire crew complement being, quite literally, liquefied via the radiation from a warp core explosion.”
 
A red haze threatened to shrink his vision into a tunnel; sure signs of a stress-induced migraine complete with waves of nausea.  But…Spock, seriously?  “My lack of…reaction?  Are you serious?”
 
“Always,” was the dry reply.
 
“Then what –“
 
“I question your true feelings regarding your crew, if you are willing to risk the health of the insignificant half-dozen you have left in pushing them beyond their physical and mental capabilities.  Sir.”
 
“You’ve overstepped your bounds, Commander,” he said in a low tone of pure ice, fists clenched.
 
“Have I?” Spock’s annoyingly smug head cocked to one side as if in tolerant question.  “What portion of my statement do you have issue with – that you are risking your straggling crew’s healths, or that you care so little for their murdered comrades that –“
 
“Keptin!”
 
“Captain!  Sir!”
 
Jim had slugged him.  Without intending to, without planning to, without even realizing he’d just decked his First Officer with every bit of strength at his disposal, until Spock staggered back three steps, raising one pale hand to his face to wipe away the blood from a split lip.
 
He just hit his First Officer.  (Not to mention his friend, but there weren’t really regulations against that.)
 
And Spock looked like that had been his exact intention…oh.
 
What had he done.
 
“I…” Nearly doubled over, hands clenched against the knots in his stomach, he struggled to pull in a complete breath, and realized that Spock had moved to block him from his horrified crew’s looks of worried astonishment.  Their eyes met for the briefest instant, and he saw apology and sympathy – no, empathy, because this was all too familiar – in the silent gaze.  “I just hit you,” he managed dully, and rubbed a dusty sleeve over his mouth.
 
“You did,” Spock agreed simply, as if corroborating that the sky was blue.  “I believe…the provocation was sufficient.”
 
Words thrown gently back into his face, from an apology years past when he’d intentionally provoked this unique and amazing person into nearly choking him to death, to save a world and perhaps their sanity.  Staring at his hands, he realized just in time he was so close to sobbing that he’d destroy his command image forever if he stuck around.
 
“Don’t think I don’t appreciate the irony,” he gasped finally, sick at heart, “but I believe I’m emotionally compromised, Mr. Spock.”
 
--
 
He didn’t wait for Spock’s agreement, didn’t need it to know it would be given reluctantly but truthfully, and instead bolted for the nearest stretch of cliff face around which he could slide to the ground, heedless of the shale digging into him, and bury his face in his arms across his upturned knees, trying desperately to not completely lose it.
 
Sturdy bootsteps across the loose rocks alerted him to the fact that the person he was most ashamed to see right now had – bless his ridiculously patient heart, wherever it was in that wacked-out anatomical structure – come after him.
 
A body settled gingerly on the shale beside him.  He ignored it.
 
“I suppose it would be superfluous to point out that we are all, to some extent at least, compromised by recent events.”
 
He choked a laugh into his sleeve.  “Just a little,” he replied, words muffled.
 
“I regret –“
 
“Don’t,” he whispered, finally raising his head and meeting the disconsolate gaze.  “Please don’t regret anything.  This is exactly why I wouldn’t trade you for any other First Officer in the ‘Fleet, Spock – you have to call me on things like this.”
 
“I do believe that, as the Terran expression says, I owed you one?”
 
Okay, he was teetering on hysterics enough without Spock’s deadpan not-humor-because-Vulcans-are-too-cool-for-humor pushing him over the precipice.  “Yeah,” he snorted, scraping a hand over his eyes.  “One good turn deserving another and all that.”
 
“Indeed.”  Warmth filtered into the Vulcan’s dark eyes, and Jim automatically relaxed at the sight, feeling more in control for his outburst than he had in hours.
 
“Thanks, by the way,” he said, bumping the thin figure with his shoulder briefly.  “Probably postponed my real breakdown for a while at least.”
 
“That was my intent,” was the honest confession.
 
“How’s your lip?”
 
“Your human strength is negligible.”
 
“Yeah, I think I broke my hand.  Bones is gonna…” Bones.  He closed his eyes and lowered his head, willing the panic to settle back into the pit of his stomach rather than lurching up into his throat. 
 
“Jim, do not assume the worst,” Spock said quietly.
 
“You know the exact odds better than I do.  Don’t try to bolster my faith with fake hope, Spock.  It isn’t you and I don’t need that from you right now.”  He looked up, pleading with the Vulcan to understand. 
 
“What do you need, Captain?”
 
It was a simple question, uttered in a tone which indicated this amazing being would do anything within his power to see it happen.  Glimpses like this, of a relationship which was beyond being friends and brothers-in-arms, were the moments for which he tolerated all the bickering and knocking antlers between them – because he had seen enough from the older version of Spock to know that such unwavering loyalty was not easily given and when received, was the greatest gift in the universe.
 
And nothing in the cosmos scared him more than the idea that Spock might decide soon to accept his own command posting, leaving Jim with a void in his life he knew he’d never be able to fill again.
 
“I need…I need you to keep me grounded, for now,” he admitted, feeling more lost than he’d ever had before.  “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
 
Spock nodded. 
 
“And I need you to...take care of the crew.  What’s left of them,” he added with a bitter, choked noise of despair. 
 
“Emotionally compromised though you may be, you are still the better option to lead and assist.  They are your crew, sir; not mine.  Survivors will require your assurance and leadership, not mine.”
 
“Mine got them killed,” he whispered.  “Q was right, Spock; I disregarded regulations and it ended up costing me the most important thing in the universe.  I just wanted to see this planet, that’s all – just walk around and enjoy my eyesight for a few minutes.  And in those fifteen minutes something happened aboard my ship that ended up destroying her.  Now look at me and tell me that’s not my fault, that I shouldn’t have been on board her instead of goofing off down here.”
 
“It was not, and not necessarily,” Spock returned, eyes flicking from his face out to the sky and back again.  “Even had you been aboard, you would not have been able to abort the self-destruct nor find out why or how it had been activated.”
 
“But at least I’d have gone up with my ship,” he murmured, head drooping over his arms.  “That’s how it’s supposed to be, Spock.”
 
He would have sworn Spock snorted, except that Vulcans don’t snort.  Incredulous, he looked up.
 
“Q was correct in one particular; you do possess what is referred to as a minor hero complex.  The only thing which is ever accomplished by such a supposedly heroic act, is to deprive the galaxy of a stellar leader and that leader’s family and friends of a close relationship.”  Spock’s eyes were drilling a hole into his aching head, and he could only blink, mesmerized like a rodent before a reptile…not a flattering analogy, now that he thought about it, but accurate.  “Unnecessary heroics are simply that – unnecessary.”

Jim heard clearly the unspoken a lesson which you have yet to learn, obviously
 
“You are not expendable; it is more than fortuitous that you were not aboard the Enterprise at detonation, as your crew needs you, Captain, far more than the knowledge that you, as you say, went up with your ship.”
 
“You’re treading on thin ice there, Mr. Spock,” he said warningly, posture stiffening.
 
Spock inclined his head in acknowledgment.  From the first day they had left spacedock on their first five-year mission, they’d had an unspoken agreement to never again use dead parents as a weapon against each other, but there were times when the topic was brushed.  It had been slightly over-used in the past, but then again their very beings, their futures, and their personalities had been directly altered by events surrounding the deaths, and so it was only natural.

Spock saw the warning in his eyes, but continued.  “You believe I am denigrating George Kirk’s sacrifices at the time of the Kelvin’s destruction.”
 
“Pretty much,” he retorted with a small twinge of heat, the first emotion he’d really felt other than an overwhelming grief in hours, now.  “You seem to be especially good at that, by the way.”
 
The Vulcan winced and shook his head.  “There you are incorrect,” he said.  “One noticeable difference remains between your father’s death and your declaration that you would prefer to have been on the Enterprise when it was destroyed.”
 
“And that is?”  And you’d better make it good.
 
Spock’s gaze pinned him in place.  “Your father had no choice.” 
 
The simple, bald fact slapped him across the face. 
 
“In order for the crewmen of the Kelvin to escape, the ship was required to crash into the Narada; manual control was then the only option available to Acting Captain George Kirk.”  The Vulcan looked at him pointedly.  “Do you for a moment believe that if the auto-pilot had been in working order your father would have stayed aboard just so that, and I quote, he could go up with his ship like a captain should?”
 
Biting his lip until he could taste blood, he rocketed to his feet and strode to the edge of the rocky ledge, where he stared unseeing out at the rough terrain below.  Footsteps crunched patiently behind him.
 
“You know there are times when I think I could hate you so much,” he said, only half-joking.  “And somehow I never can bring myself to.  Why is that, do you think?”
 
“I would not know, sir,” was the gentle reply.  “Perhaps because sentient beings only grow by conflict; and those who lose much, feel much, have the capacity to become much through such conflict.”
 
Surprised, his eyes slid across to the thin figure beside him, watching as the rough wind whipped the immaculate hair into disarray.  “Don’t tell me that’s Vulcan philosophy,” he asked, incredulous.
 
“Negative.”  Spock looked down off the rocky bluff, and then with a barely-perceptible shudder which Jim instantly noticed, stepped back to a safe distance away.  “It was something my mother once told me.  I do not know its origin.”
 
Crap, the guy’s mother fell off a cliff and here he’s balancing on the edge of one.  He shuffled backward, and didn’t miss the tell-tale relaxing of the Vulcan’s stiff shoulders.  “Well, it’s true,” he sighed.
 
“Indeed.”
 
“I just…” Something exploded in the upper atmosphere; they saw the miniature fireball pop into existence and then streak across the sky toward the far side of the planet.  He wondered if it was a tiny warp bubble collapsing or if was just debris impacting the atmosphere and being pulled into the planet’s gravity.  “I can’t believe it,” he whispered, as his throat closed up.  “She’s gone, Spock.  And everyone, or almost everyone, on board.”

”I grieve with thee,” the Vulcan replied softly.  “However, Jim,” and his voice took on a stronger tone of urgency, “you must now think of the future, and those few crewmen who are waiting back in the ridge for your direction.  What is done, is done; it cannot be changed.”
 
“You don’t get it, do you?” he cried, waving a hand at the sky, where the particles which were the remains of his ship and crew were scattered, sparkling like deathly diamond-dust.  “I can’t just shake it off just like that!”  He snapped his fingers to illustrate, before raking the hand through his hair in grief-fueled anger.  “That was my whole freaking world, Spock!  Can’t you understand that?”
 
“Yes.”
 
One word, but it hit him with all the subtlety of a brick to the head.
 
Of course he understood.  There was a reason they had never talked about, why Spock hadn’t called the Enterprise for beam-out before crashing Ambassador Spock’s ship and the red matter into the Narada – and it wasn’t because he knew they would do it automatically.  The guy had lost his whole planet and six billion people.
 
Jim hid his face in both hands, struggling for composure.  “I’m such an idiot,” the muffled groan filtered out from under his hands.
 
“You are not,” was the calm reassurance.  “You are human, and you are grieving.  Both are suitable reasons for not functioning at your peak leadership capacity.”
 
“And neither of them is a good reason for using my First Officer and my friend as a punching bag – literally and verbally,” he added, rubbing his eyes.
 
“I have said multiple times; the honor is to serve – in any capacity, in any need.”
 
Jim couldn’t help it, and in retrospect it was good that they were both in shock because it probably saved him from a nerve pinch – but he thought the cause was sufficient, and so he flung his sense of self-preservation to the wind and gave his shell-shocked Vulcan First a monster of a hug.  A very manly, very bro hug, in which he certainly did not sniffle a little into the dusty blue shoulder, and in which he pretended not to notice Spock’s small squirm of discomfort before one hand came up to awkwardly pat his back.
 
Finally he stepped back, scrubbing a hand across his face.  “Sorry,” he said impishly.  “You look like a cat who’s just been petted when it didn’t want to be and now its fur’s all sticking out everywhere...”
 
Spock’s eyebrows told him exactly what the guy thought of the simile and of the emotionally-charged physical contact; words weren’t necessary.
 
He coughed.  “Right.  So, anyway – thanks.”
 
The tension in the Vulcan’s eyes melted, and Jim received a small not-smile.
 
He patted Spock’s arm as he passed, stepping around him toward the path which led back to their waiting group of straggling but not daunted crew. 
 
“Okay, my Vulcan friend.  Let’s do this.”
 

<<Master Post>>
kcscribbler: (Default)
Bad Bishop:  when a bishop has little or no mobility due to being hemmed in by pawns positioned on squares of the same color
 
Sulu and Chekov high-fived each other as Jim let out a whoop of celebration, diving for the instrument.  He saw Spock’s pale face regain a tinge of color, and shot the Vulcan an encouraging grin as he skidded to a halt next to the instrument.
 
“Uhura, I love you!” he fairly shouted into the instrument once he’d cut the feedback loop.
 
A snort sounded through the channel.  “Save it, Captain.”
 
“Uhura, are you okay?  Where are you, who’s with you?  Have you heard from anyone else?  I’m flying blind here, gorgeous.”
 
“I’m perfectly fine, so you can tell Spock to stop hovering over your shoulder,” was the dry reply, and he turned a smirk up at the chagrined Vulcan who was doing just that.  Even though they weren’t dating any more, they had some weird symbiotic friends-with-not-really-benefits-but-way-too-much-knowledge sort of relationship.  It was adorable, and a little scary, when they worked in tandem to run circles around him and his unsuspecting crew.  “I’m with Lieutenant Riley and Ensign Vro-Hathwa; we were repairing circuitry near Transporter Room One when it all went to hell, and we beamed down together.”  His eyes burned in relief at the knowledge that Kevin Riley, at least, had survived.   “I had a communicator on me because we were buried in the Jefferies Tubes where there are no wall comm-panels.  I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t know of anyone else’s whereabouts; Lieutenant Kyle wasn’t doing more than verifying that the coordinates were on the ground surface somewhere before he was transporting people out as fast as he could.”
 
His eyes stung at the knowledge that his gallant Assistant Security Chief had stayed by his post and possibly saved many of his crew in the crucial two-minute countdown.  “Lieutenant, do you know what happened up there?” he asked soberly.  “There’s no way in the universe that the self-destruct could have been activated without my and Spock’s authorization codes; and we were both on the surface.”
 
“I have no idea, sir.  I’m so sorry.”  Grief and horror were evident in his comms chief’s lovely voice, and he lowered his head, hoping against hope that these three people were not all that was left of his crew.
 
“You have nothing to apologize for, Lieutenant,” he replied quietly.
 
“Sir, I am a superior officer; I should have –“
 
“You should have gotten out of there as fast as you could,” he snapped back with emphasis.  “We all know protocol.”
 
“With all respect, sir, you and your father don’t have a monopoly on heroics.”
 
He blinked.  “Your ex-girlfriend just lectured me, Spock.”
 
Spock’s innocent expression was entirely guileless.  “Why do you think the lieutenant is, as you say, my ex-girlfriend?”
 
Chekov inhaled a passing insect, setting him off in a violent coughing fit.  Anderssen dropped the wire coil he was holding in dead shock.  Sulu looked like he was wavering between running from an insane Vulcan or falling over giggling like a girl.
 
Jim stared at his First for a moment, and then, stress and emotional turmoil rampaging to the top, collapsed against the rock, howling with nearly-hysterical laughter.  His wonderful crew let him laugh until he cried a little, and then he managed to pull himself together to answer the squawking comm.

”I heard that, Commander,” Uhura’s icy voice sent a chill down his spine, which he covered by another nervous laugh.  “If I didn’t think you were trying to perform some weird Vulcan therapy on your crewmates I’d switch the text in your next treatise for the NVSA into urban Orion innuendo, see how that livens up the Scientific Council!”
 
Spock’s eyebrows did his speaking for him, leaving Jim to bite the bullet.  He could seriously hug the guy for relieving the tension like that; it had been so very necessary and he was so very grateful.
 
“Uhura.”
 
“Aye, sir.”  Amusement was clear in her tone; everyone knew she knew why Spock had uncharacteristically ‘made a joke’ at her expense.  “Do me a favor and slap Mr. Spock for me?”
 
“Not a chance,” he said with an elaborate shudder.  “Hel-lo, getting choked over a console?  Not happening again.”

Spock’s ears turned an interesting shade of sage.
 
“Uhura, do you know your location?” he finally got down to business.
 
“Negative.  We had no time to check coordinates and I don’t have a tricorder.  We’re on a sort of prairie, or plain; basic flat land and grass, a ridge of low mountains or foothills to the…well, the opposite of whatever direction the sun of this world is; it’s shining directly on to the sides of the mountains now.”
 
“Not within the range of our scans, sir,” Anderssen said without being prompted, examining the tricorder.  “And the topography of the planet showed us in our mapping that there is only one ridge of mountains, which runs oddly continuously around almost the entire planet.  Literally, they could be anywhere.”
 
 “It will take days to find one other if we do not find some sort of rapid transportation,” Spock observed.  “Still no response on a shuttle frequency, Lieutenant?”
 
“None, sir.”
 
“Two minutes isn’t enough time for the bay to decompressurize, much less let a shuttle take off,” Jim said dismissively.  “Look, Uhura, I hate to do this to you but I need you to pick a direction and just start walking.  Try to find some landmarks, or barring that, keep yourself and your people hydrated.  Find a water supply and food if you can, and shelter.  We have no idea what kind of freak weather this planet might have.”
 
“Makes sense, sir.  We accomplish nothing by standing here in the middle of a prairie.  You’d love it, farm boy.”
 
He smiled at the familiar teasing, knowing by this point in the game that it was her way of helping him relieve stress, rather than borderline disrespect as it had been during the first unstable months of their first mission.  “Keep checking in with us.  If we figure out a way to locate you we’ll be in touch.  If you come to some sort of landmark, or a water source, stay there; at least you’ll still be alive when help comes.”
 
“Acknowledged.  Uhura out.”
 
“Keptin, sir,” Chekov’s excited voice made him turn, to see that the young navigator had taken his tricorder – the one which had not been dismantled – and had converted a map into a 3-d projection.  “I am making a scale model of this planet based upon the completed scans, and look.”  He sketched a diagram with his finger.  “Is a wery strange planet, topographically.  Here, we are,” and he indicated the rocky area, full of ridges and mesas, in which they stood; just outside the area which their scans could not penetrate.  “And there is really only one grassy plain area on the planet.”
 
“Well, then we know where they are!”
 
“That’s the thing, though, Captain.  It basically covers the entire planet, sir,” Anderssen interjected quietly as he began to replay the captain’s recorded transmission loop.  “This planet has no apparent water supply except for a river or two; the land mass is 85% of the planet’s area, and the majority of that land mass is grassy prairie.”
 
“See, it wraps around the planet like so,” and the young Russian sketched a rough area out.  “They could literally be anywhere.  But, at the edges of the plain and intersecting nearly in the middle, run rivers, so they vill eventually come to water.”
 
Jim nodded.  “Good work.  What else can you show me that might be useful?”
 
“The debris seemed to be heading in this direction, toward the highest of the mountains; I presume that is where the…the wreckage of the ship landed, sir.”  Chekov swallowed briefly.  “Is the most elevated and impenetrable part of the planet; no one could get up there vithout a shuttlecraft; cliffs are too high and steep for free-climbing.”
 
“Then we shouldn’t even bother.  Spock?”

”I concur.  There would be little productive value in making the attempt without rappels and proper cliff-scaling equipment; our only gain from such a risky venture would be if certain systems in the wreckage were still in working order, which is highly unlikely given the nature of a warp core explosion.”
 
Jim was pretty proud of the fact that he didn’t wince or even bat an eye at Spock’s matter-of-fact discussion of what remained of his baby.  “Is there any way we can pinpoint any other escape pods or shuttles, outside this communication loop, Anderssen?”
 
“I doubt it, sir.  It took all the juice we have to jury-rig this; and there’s no way I can get a good scan of anything outside our immediate area with a tricorder on a good day, much less through all the radiation bombarding the atmosphere right now.  And the escape pods won’t have landed for another half-hour yet, probably; they’re programmed to test atmospheric conditions for toxicity to occupants, and the radiation in the upper atmosphere will slow them down considerably.”
 
“Right.  Then first we go find that chunk of debris to the west of us, figure out what it is and if we can salvage anything.”  Or anyone, he refrained from saying.  “Then we’re going to come back here and explore this chunk of unscannable land.  There’s something fishy about the whole setup and I have a bad feeling it hinges on this.”
 
“It is certainly noteworthy, Captain, that there should exist one small land area which our sensors could not penetrate, on a supposedly uninhabited and uncharted planet.”
 
“One that popped up out of nowhere, according to Chekov’s navigation comps,” Sulu added, glaring at a chartreuse grass frond as if it were solely responsible.
 
“Right.  Anderssen, keep running that feed loop, see if you can get a signal to anyone who might still be listening, and keep a channel open for Lieutenant Uhura to contact us if she needs help.  Chekov, keep an eye on those radiation levels and let me know if anything changes; also watch for life-sign indicators.  It goes without saying, stay together and keep alert; we don’t know who’s behind this but if they took out the ship they won’t have trouble taking out us too if we’re careless.”  He looked around at his solemn crew – what was left of them – and then made a curt nod.  “Move out.”
 

<<Master Post>>
kcscribbler: (Default)
III.  Middle Game
 
Forced move:  a move for which there is only one reply; or if more than one possible reply, only one which is less undesirable
 
 
Captain’s Official Log, Stardate 2264.6
 
The Enterprise is still in orbit around the uncharted planet which popped up on our sensors two days ago.  Commander Spock and his Science teams are of the opinion that the unique physiology and topography of the planet bear further studies than were originally intended upon our orbital achievement.  As we have ample time remaining before we must reach the peace negotiations at Delta, I have authorized several additional science exploration teams to learn all we can about the mystery planet (classified hereafter in reports as Planet 3697-D; I wanted to name it something awesome like Planet Shouldn’t-Be-Here but Spock as usual nixed that idea with undue severity, so all you admirals can rest in peace about it) which, by all accounts, should not exist.  I have spent several hours with our library and research teams scanning the information we possess about this sector, with no positive results concerning the planet below.  It quite simply shouldn’t be here, and its appearance does not precisely match the scans the Science departments are performing regarding its makeup.
 
It does, however, appear to be entirely benign.  No signs of harmful animal or plant life, no signs of any intelligent life period, and carrying several as-yet undiscovered varieties of medicinal-like plants and herbs which the Botany labs are having a field day with.  As the planet appears to be harmless, and as we have had a dozen crew teams down without incident, I have authorized the Vulcan delegation to also disembark for a brief time, as they are as eager for scientific discovery as my own people are.
 
There have been no incidents worth reporting regarding our ambassadorial guests.  They have behaved admirably toward my crew and should be commended for their conduct.  Transporting civilians is rarely a pleasant task for a starship, but in this case a repeat performance would be more than welcomed.  Indeed, the Enterprise has become the primary ship of engagement between New Vulcan and the rest of the galaxy, which makes myself and my crew the primary, if unofficial, diplomats toward this still-endangered race.  It is my First Officer’s hope that the planet below may yield some agricultural knowledge which could be useful to the Vulcan culture, and who am I to stifle his scientific excitement?
 
Lieutenant-Commander Scott and Lieutenant Keenser assure me that the stopover has been beneficial to the Engineering department, allowing them time badly needed to perform engine maintenance and upgrades which cannot be done while the ship is at warp.  Efficiency in those departments is expected to increase by point-six percent due to the additions.  Evaluations will be attached with my next report.  Lieutenant Uhura’s report on Communications efficiency and experimental personnel shifting is attached to Dr. McCoy’s evaluations of the department as a whole.
 
For all other inquiries regarding Planet 3697-D, Commander Spock will be attaching a full and extremely detailed report on his departments’ findings.
 
As I am now certified to begin active duty with my regained eyesight, I will be beaming down with the final exploration party (also comprised of First Officer Spock, Lieutenant Sulu for his botanical expertise, Lieutenant Chekov because the kid hasn’t been planetside in over three months and needs to get a life, Lieutenant Anderssen from Spock’s primary Xenobotanical team, and Security men McDonnell and Greco) to oversee the last tests being performed on our mystery planet.
 
But regardless of the mystery planet and its secrets, we will be underway in no less than forty-eight hours for the peace conferences at Delta, as per Starfleet orders.
 
With regards to the incidents of a few days previous and my temporary incapacitation, Dr.  McCoy has pronounced me completely fit for full and active duty.  (See attached for his complete medical report and evaluation.)  Whatever lessons Q was attempting to teach me, I have apparently learned them, at least at this stage of the game.  As Mr. Spock has just comm-ed me to inform me that the landing party will be awaiting my arrival with finalized reports regarding the planet, I think I’m safe in saying this mission, while slightly mysterious, will shortly be concluded to our satisfaction, allowing us to proceed on our mission of transporting the Vulcan delegation to Delta.
 
--
 
He beamed down to the planet, still smiling over the simple fact that he could see the sparkle of the transporter beam as it dissembled his molecular structure.  Small pleasures, but ones that he would not take for granted after this.
 
From the looks on the faces of his waiting crew, it appeared that they were all equally glad to see him back to normal (or what amounted to normal for him, at least).  The two security men clapped him on the back, and even Spock’s studious science protégé looked up briefly from note-taking to offer him a smile of welcome.
 
“Welcome back, Captain,” Spock vocalized the sentiment with adorable formality, and he grinned.
 
“Good to be back, Mr. Spock, and hopefully free of Q’s interference for good since I’ve learned my lesson.  Now what’ve we got?”
 
“The survey crew in the shuttles have successfully mapped the majority of the planet’s surface for topological research and mapping purposes,” Spock reported, consulting his tricorder, “with the sole exception of the land directly on the other side of this ridge.”
 
“Why that area?”
 
“It appears to have some sort of dampening field overlaying an area of roughly three kilometers square,” was the somewhat puzzling reply.  “There is no indication of the interference being non-naturally generated, and yet the area is roughly square-shaped, which indicates that it is an artificially-generated phenomenon.”
 
“But the weird thing, Captain,” Sulu interjected, “is that all of our scans from the last two days showed that the planet was not inhabited beyond basic plant life, not even being a habitat to basic animal life forms, and that there were no indications of technological development on any scale.”
 
“So either we have a weirdly regular-occurring natural phenomenon in this area, or else someone’s here and is pretty good about hiding their traces, since they didn’t show up on any of our aerial reconnaissances either,” he summarized, cocking an inquisitive eyebrow at his First.
 
Spock nodded.  “Correct.  It may very well be simple magnetic interference from minerals in the deposits there, or it might be some sort of base whose occupants desire to remain cloaked from –“
 
“Enterprise to landing party, Enterprise to landing party – come in!” Jim’s communicator squawked frantically into life on his hip.

Scotty shouldn’t sound that panicked, ever.  His gut clenched in an indefinable instinct of sick fear.  In one fluid motion the instrument was at his mouth.  “Kirk here.  Report,” he barked.
 
“Captain!  I dinna how to explain it, or how to tell you this…”
 
He tasted blood; he’d bit his lip too hard.  “Spit it out, Scotty!”
 
The Engineer’s frantic voice was shot through with panic, heard indistinctly over the shrill wail of a blaring Level One klaxon.  “Sir somethin’s activated the ship’s self-destruct!”
 
For an instant he froze, his brain unable to process this in its sudden shock; then the instincts of a captain kicked in.  Ignoring the horrified looks from his crew, he latched onto the communicator with both hands, turning away slightly so they couldn’t see he was two seconds away from sheer panic.  “That’s not possible – it has to have my authorization codes and Spock’s to even initialize, much less complete the sequence, and neither of us are on board!”
 
“I DINNA KNOW HOW BUT IT’S COUNTIN’ DOWN!” the Engineer fairly screamed, and above the sound he could hear the mechanical female voice of the computer counting down from…oh god, from ninety.  The blood drained from his face, and he could see the mirroring horror on Spock’s.
 
There wasn’t time to wonder how or why.  “General Order Thirteen!  Abandon ship, all hands!  Do it NOW!” he roared.  When the self-destruct started, everyone should have immediately run for the escape pods or, since they were in orbit, the transporter room – drill or not, that was protocol…but there were twelve hundred people aboard, and only a two-minute countdown before an internally-triggered destruct… (1)
 
“Aye, sir!  But I just canna figure out what happened to the puir lady –”
 
His hands were shaking so hard they threatened to drop the communicator.  From somewhere behind him, he heard the murmur of a prayer in Russian. 
 
“Fifty seconds, sir,” Spock said softly from behind him.
 
“Shut up and get yourself to an escape pod or beam-out point, Scotty!” he shouted.
 
“Aye, sir…and, Captain.”  There was a short pause, and then a choked-out, “Ah’m so sorry!”
 
He swallowed hard, which did nothing to ease the obstruction in his throat or the sick flare of nausea which was creeping up from his stomach.  “Mr. Greco, Mr. McDonnell,” he said, turning to fix the stricken Security guards with a look, “get on those communicators and see if you can locate anyone who’s beamed down to the planet.  Arrange rendezvous.”
 
“Yes, sir!”  The two men snapped into immediate work, obviously glad to have something to take their minds off the nightmare happening all around them.
 
“Time, Spock?” he whispered.
 
“Twenty-one seconds,” the Vulcan answered bleakly.
 
“Two minutes isn’t enough time for twelve hundred people to evacuate,” he said flatly.
 
Silence.  Then, “Negative,” was the soft reply.
 
With an inarticulate howl of rage, he whirled around and drove his fist into the nearest small tree, which thankfully was young and pliant and so only bent under his force rather than breaking all the bones in his hand.  “There are a hundred security protocols to prevent a freak malfunction like this – how can it possibly be happening?” he shouted, shaking the young tree trunk with both hands before resting his head against it, eyes burning.
 
Spock’s shake of the head, and his crew’s still-stunned expressions, were no answer.
 
“It should not be possible,” Chekov spoke up, his young face paper-white.
 
“I believe that’s what I just said, Ensign!” he snapped, whirling on the navigator.  Some small portion of his brain told him it wasn’t the guy’s fault, and he shouldn’t be taking his hurt and rage out on the poor kid, but at this point he was past caring.  His ship was going down, and he hadn’t even been aboard her when disaster struck.
 
Chekov’s wide eyes just looked at him, understanding rather than hurt in their depths, and he averted his gaze, ashamed, to plant his back against the solidity of the scraggly tree-trunk and lean with a hand over his eyes.
 
Then the sky erupted.
 
His head jerked up, everything else in his vision tunneling out into fuzzy gray until all he could see was that so very precious fireball streaking across the planet’s sky, looking like a grotesque parody of a shooting star.  Smaller fireworks exploded, dotted across the atmosphere as debris impacted each other or detonated from the self-destruct programming, punctuating the wake of the fireball as they watched, like tiny baby novas following the grandmother of all nuclear explosions.
 
That was what was left of his ship’s saucer section.
 
His Enterprise.
 
His world.
 
Vision swimming into a spotted, murky gray, he didn’t realize he’d slid down the small tree to the ground until he felt Spock’s hand on the back of his neck, gently pushing his head toward his knees.  He complied numbly, willing himself to not give in to shock.
 
“Radiation report, Ensign?” he heard the quiet inquiry over his head, Spock’s voice muffled, like he was speaking into a drum of cotton-wool.
 
“Acceptable levels, sir,” was the shaking reply. 
 
His crew was scared; he heard it in the quiet voices.  They were scared petrified, and in shock, and they needed him – needed a leader.
 
Even if now he was leading a few dozen people instead of a shipful.  If that.
 
He lifted his head, to see the landing party looking down at him with concern mingled with delayed shock as the realizations slowly set in.  Taking Spock’s offered hand, he hauled himself back to his feet, firmly forcing back his horror and grief and utter terror at what had just happened.  There was no time for his breakdown, not now.  He could give in and let it all out later, when no one but Spock and Bones –
 
Bones.
 
Medical was always the last to evacuate unless there were critical patients in Sickbay – and in this case there hadn’t been.
 
“Do we know who made it out yet?” he asked hoarsely.
 
Spock’s science lieutenant – Anderssen, his numb brain supplied – gave him a half-scared, half grief-stricken look.  He remembered that the young man had a girlfriend on board, and winced.  “Not yet, sir,” the lieutenant replied quietly, looking to the Security men for confirmation.  Both shook their heads, trying other frequencies on the communicators.  “I’ve picked up one signal which indicates either an escape pod or large debris incoming about two and a half kilometers west of us.”
 
Ice started through his veins instead of blood, turning his extremities freezing cold.  Shock, his mind supplied not-helpfully.  “Just the one?”
 
“Yes, sir.  Captain, I’m sorry – this basic tricorder won’t pick up signals farther away than three kilometers.”

”There could well be more pods which would land on the other side of the planet, as that would follow the trajectory of the ship’s remains,” Spock pointed out.  “If so, then one of the communicators should be able to contact them; it is a matter of finding the proper frequency and boosting the signals to cut through the radiation from the explosion.”
 
Jim cringed along with the rest of them at the calm terminology of a horrific accident, but the motion went unnoticed by the Vulcan as he gathered up his lieutenant with a nod and proceeded to begin dissecting both tricorders and a communicator on the nearest flat surface.  He could only hope that their combined talents and high-tech Starfleet engineering would be able to give them some indication of how high the casualties had been.
 
The sheer number of people who would still have been on board when she went down was enough to make him sick.    The Vulcan ambassadorial party; his older self, and the one person in the galaxy who had trusted and loved him at first sight – Ambassador Spock (that alone made him want to cry like a baby right now, far more than when his own grandparents had died).  Bones, oh Bones…he couldn’t let himself dwell on that possibility too long if he didn’t want to crack up in front of his crew.  Scotty, faithful, loyal Scotty, who had cheerfully taken command when Jim had beamed down a quarter of an hour ago – what could have happened in fifteen minutes, to do this?  Uhura…and Jim knew his First well enough by now to see the rigid tension which had entered the stiff shoulders, and would not be released until they knew the fate of their closest friends.  Nurse Chapel, who was his favorite buffer between incensed CMO and reckless Captain.  Security Chief Giotto, whom he still hadn’t had time to commend for increasing the Security efficiency by four percent in the last month. 
 
His new yeoman, Marlena Moreau.  Spock’s favorite protégé in Xenobio, Lieutenant Br’tho.  Comms lieutenant Kevin Riley.  Engineer Charlene Masters.  Nurse Tanya Bodine.  Beta-shift navigator Bailey.  Their new Xenobiological specialist, Jorge M’Benga.  Bones’s gorgeous if brief fling last year, Yeoman Tonia Barrows.  Quartermaster’s assistant O’Dell.  Security Lieutenant Garrovick.  Recreational Programming Ensign Liesel Anderson.
 
Andrews, Kathryn, Engineering.  Ansel, Doran, Xenosociological Development.  Ans’shrkt, Bor-da’kn, Communications.  Apley, Craig, Engineering.  Apoca, Melina, Library Databasing.  April, Louden, Maintenance.  April, Logan, Experimental Biology.  Arat, Boris, Communications.  Arcadia, Dei, Security.  Archer, Patrick, Historical Databasing.  Ashton, Robert, Security.  Astrosa, Pietro, Botany.  A’tar, Doa, Political Sciences.  Attison, Ron, Maintenance.  Averi-
 
“Captain.  Captain.”
 
The single word, delivered in a tone of command close to his ear, struck through the chaotic jumble of names in his head, driving back the clouds of guilt and panic and horror and a mind wanting to shut down under the impact.  He knew them all, each of his crew by name, every single last solitary one of them –
 
He couldn’t breathe.
 
Jim. 
 
He jerked, startled, as the word fluttered unspoken against his consciousness, and in that instant of clarity realised he wasn’t breathing, or at least was gasping shallowly.  Cold reason cleared his head in a matter of seconds, and he came back to himself with a start, realizing that Spock had his head in both Vulcan-strong hands and was trying to mentally pull him back from the hell his mind had retreated into, one his own mind and his own decisions had blindly led his people – and they had paid the price, not him.
 
My God, what have I done?
 
“Captain!”
 
Air like broken glass struggled into his lungs, and the resulting flood of oxygen cleared his head.  Spock’s eyes were pinched, forehead creased with both anxiety and tension, and the sight reminded him that he was not – or rather should not be – shouldering the burden of the tragedy all alone. 
 
“…Right.  Thanks,” he managed to stammer sincerely, hoping his voice wasn’t shaking as badly as he was.  “Thanks, Spock.”
 
Sympathy from shared grief, stark and bare, shone out of those dark eyes.  “Are you…” Jim had the unaccountable urge to give in to hysterics as he saw the words all right form and die on the Vulcan’s lips in the knowledge that they were all anything but, “…functional, sir?”
 
He nodded, inhaling through his nose and out through his mouth in a familiar breathing exercise Bones had long ago trained him on as a method of dealing with migraines.
 
Bones.  Tamping firmly down on the thought, he shook himself, visibly, in an effort to do the same mentally.  “Report, Mr. Spock,” he said briskly, slipping back into command mode, a tried-and-true coping mechanism.
 
“Tricorder readings show radiation levels consistent with those of a controlled warp engine implosion as would be seen in a shipwide self-destruct, Captain,” the Vulcan reported quietly.  “While transmissions will be distorted in such radiation, the levels will not be fatal to humanoid life except in lengthy exposure times.”
 
“Lengthy meaning…?”
 
“Months, at least.”
 
“Good.”  Survivors would be all right for the present, then, and that meant that they wouldn’t have to quarantine the sector due to fallout.  “Status of communications?”
 
“I believe Lieutenant Anderssen and I have sufficiently modified the communicator, aided by components of the transmission properties from our combined tricorders, to enable a broadcast signal of considerable strength; meaning, anywhere on the planet, though not above the planet’s atmosphere due to radiation.”
 
He blinked.  “You mean the signal will reach anyone on the planet who has a communicator?”

Spock nodded.  “While this will not enable us to contact those in escape pods until said pods reach the surface of the planet, it will at the least be able to be received by any shuttles or those who beamed down to the surface prior to the…explosion.”
 
“I could kiss you,” he said with enthusiasm, elbowing the Vulcan in a friendly fashion as he passed.  He felt Spock’s tolerant mental eye-roll practically bounce off the back of his head.  “Let’s see it, Anderssen.”
 
“Aye, sir.  As Mr. Spock said, in theory if any survivors are in possession of a communicator, that communicator will be able to receive our signal, sir.  Using the analyzation transmitter circuitry, and boosting the power gain using the tricorder’s recording cell relay, we were able to amplify the transmission signal to a power of four, from the usual comm-channels.  This enables us to blanket broadcast to any receiver of size within in a distance of, oh, at least several hundred kilometers, though not vertically above the atmospheric shell of the planet due to the widespread effects of radiation in the upper atmosphere at the present time.  Any transmitter on the planet’s surface should, in theory, receive our transmission, though only those with a sufficiently-powered relay loop such as a comm-unit will be able to respond to it.”
 
He stared at the young man.  “Do you train them all to talk like that?” he finally asked, shooting an incredulous glance at his First.
 
Spock’s eyebrow went up a half-inch.
 
Anderssen blushed slightly.  “Do you want to send out an automated beacon, sir?” he asked with remarkable tact; Jim appreciated the thought.  Frankly, he would definitely rather just send out a homing signal.
 
Biting his lip, he glanced up at Spock, who regarded him solemnly; obviously deferring to his judgment.  And that tore it; he owed it to his remarkably patient and loving crew.
 
“No, Lieutenant,” he said hoarsely, moving to a squatting position next to the tricked-out tricorder.  “This is my crew, and this has to come from me.”  He cleared his throat, willing it to stay that way, and lifted the communicator carefully from the pile of wiring and heaven-only-knew-what-else his brilliant people had jury-rigged.  From his peripheral, he saw Sulu with an arm slung around a still-stunned-looking Chekov’s shoulders, and his two Security men standing on guard around them despite their evident grief.
 
These were his people, his magnificent people, and for their sake he had to be Captain Kirk right now.
 
And he had to start talking before he lost his nerve completely.
 
“Attention all hands, this is the Captain.”  Good, a strong and business-like tone, with an appropriate edge of grave sadness; much like the one he’d had to use when he spoke at the first-year anniversary memorial service for the fallen heroes of the Battle of Vulcan.  He saw his men stand just a bit straighter, look a bit less lost, just at the sound of his voice, and realized anew the incredible responsibility he held in inadequate hands. 
 
“All hands, this is the Captain.  I know what’s just happened, but I don’t know how.  And I…look, I’m sorry.  So sorry.  But we’re Starfleet, remember, and because we are there will be future time enough for investigation and remembrance.  Right now, we need to regroup for safety reasons, and for moral support during the next few hours.  Anyone within hearing of this communication please respond with your location and condition of health.”  He repeated the same basic message, a little less disjointedly, and then Spock did something logical and Vulcan and awesome and crap and set his statement on a loop to replay continuously.
 
“Well, that’s that,” he heard Sulu say softly, as the loop replayed for the fourth time.
 
No one’s answered, was what they were all thinking.

”Keep in mind, sir,” Greco spoke up hesitantly, and Jim turned toward him, “that Security regulations say all communicators are to be locked up unless they are in use – and no one’s going to stop to get one out of a locker if they’re evacuating via transporter.  Just because no one’s answering doesn’t mean that – that no one survived, sir.  And escape pods are equipped with receivers, not with transmitters, and just an emergency beacon.  They could be hearing us but not able to respond.”
 
He blinked, wondering why that had not occurred to him until now.  “Bless you, Mr. Greco,” he answered, giving the offering of a small smile.  “You’re quite correct, of course.”
 
“If that is the case, they vill still have been glad to hear your voice, sir,” Chekov piped up with almost unnatural cheerfulness, as if the poor kid (sheesh, he wasn’t a kid anymore except by comparison; he had to stop calling the poor guy that) was trying just a bit too hard to act like their world hadn’t just shattered around them.  “Is not in vain, at least.”
 
“What do we do now, Captain?” McDonnell asked, looking around them at the desolate countryside.
 
Jim honestly hadn’t thought that far ahead; his mind had gone down with his ship, crashing and burning.  He met Spock’s dark, determined gaze, and the Vulcan gave a slight nod of encouragement.  A thought-ghost, flickered briefly, wraithlike, and then dissipated.
 
What you always do.  Turn death into a fighting chance. (2)
 
“We move on,” he said, straightening up and brushing his tunic free of dust and twigs.  “We head for that thing your tricorder picked up, Lieutenant, and see if it’s a crashed escape pod.  And then we fan out and continue to do comb the countryside until we round up as many of our people as we can and organize ourselves for safety and tactical advantage.  Then we’ll come back to this unscannable area and search it for anything which could be of use to us while we wait for Starfleet to send a rescue ship.  And then, we will try to figure out what could possibly have happened in fifteen minutes which would trigger a self-destruct despite all security precautions and failsafes.”

”The ship’s logs should have been jettisoned before the self-destruct completed,” Spock mused.  “Given the nature of the current radiation signature, which should draw the attention of any passing ship’s sensors, it should not be long before Command Central realizes what has happened and sends a ship for rescue purposes.  We need only remain alive until then.”
 
And find out why she went down in the first place, Jim thought with a sharp stab of grief.
 
His spiraling thoughts of despair shattered on the instant when the rigged communicator sparked into life.
 
“Captain Kirk, we are receiving your transmission loop, please respond,” a familiar, calm voice, entirely accustomed to the intricacies of communications systems, sounded.

--

(1)  The TOS NCC-1701 only had a crew complement of 432, including Kirk and the command crew.  The Reboot movie looks like the ship would hold considerably more than that, and this story is set after a refit (The TMP refitted Enterprise looked to have expanded in the interim) so I've made the crew complement considerably larger.
(2)  Italicized lines in this chapter are from TWOK; they belong to Paramount, Roddenberry, and the writers of the motion pictures.


<<Master Post>>
kcscribbler: (Default)
Counter Play:  when the player who has been on the defensive begins aggressive action
 
Jim wasn’t a paranoiac, so to speak, but he did have instincts that had saved his life (and his crew’s) more times than he could count.  Plus, he’d had Bones as a roommate at Starfleet Academy and as such he was ready for any type of insanity that might leap at him out of the dark when he entered a room.  So, even blind, he could tell immediately when he entered his cabin that someone was in there.
 
“How, exactly, did you get in here?” he asked, not caring about the cross petulance in his tone.  He’d had an epically Not Good Day, all right?
 
“Voice recognition interface,” was the amused, almost tolerant, answer, from somewhere near his desk.  “Can’t lock yourself out of your own room, now can you?”
 
“Save it,” he muttered.  If he’d been able to see where the old man was he would have flipped him off, but it wasn’t worth the energy to risk looking like a blind idiot.  “Should have password-protected everything…”
 
“That wouldn’t really change anything, would it?  We’d choose the same one.”

”We wouldn’t, because you are not me!” he snapped, nerve breaking in the face of a confrontation which had been building for weeks.  His sensor net beeped angrily, telling him he’d gotten turned around and was facing a wall instead of his working area like he’d thought.
 
Silence.
 
“Well, now that you’ve gotten that out of your system…” The older man’s voice sounded tentative, but ever-so-slightly apologetic and…amused.
 
Jim chuckled despite himself – lol, pun – and the tension fled.  There wasn’t any real reason for him to be acting like this except that frankly it creeped him out, seeing what he – please no, God – was going to be like in several decades.  (He’d given up late-night snacking with an alacrity that had thoroughly shocked his CMO.)  “You know I still haven’t decided if I even like you or not,” he informed the unseen occupant, turning slowly until his sensor indicated he was aimed in the general direction of the small, low-slung sofa in his living quarters.
 
“That’d be a bit narcissistic, anyway.”
 
“True.”  He flipped a mock salute in the direction of his desk as he sank into the sofa’s cushions.  “Any particular reason why you’re here and not chilling with your Vulcan groupies?”  Obviously Spock was putting off inviting the man on the landing party until the very last second.
 
Amusement sounded clearly in the older man’s voice.  “My ‘Vulcan groupies’ are discussing something extremely complicated and logical and ambassadorial and just plain boring,” Kirk said dolefully.  “You know that feeling when your eyes start to glaze over and you just nod in what you hope are the appropriate places?”
 
Jim laughed.  “Totally, yeah.  Sometimes I think Spock and Chekov need to be chipped with a quantum and relativistic physics translation matrix.”
 
“Besides,” Kirk went on, the smile evident, “Spock – my Spock – told me what happened to you.”
 
“I don’t need your sympathy.”
 
“Good, because I’m not offering it to you,” Kirk retorted.  “However, if you’re anything like I am, you’ll die before accepting help from someone else right now.”
 
“Glad to see we understand each other,” Jim replied, words clipped.
 
He heard a tolerant sigh.  “My point was, I’m not just someone else, now am I?”
 
“Don’t start that crap.  You’re nothing like me.”
 
“Are you trying to convince me, or yourself?”
 
Jim’s response was not on the diplomatic side, but in his defense it had been one of the most god-awful days of his life.  His older self only laughed.
 
“Do you really feel that threatened by me?”
 
“Please,” Jim scoffed, glaring in the direction of the voice.  “You’re old enough to be my father.”
 
“And…is that why?” Kirk asked quietly.
 
He froze, hands stilling around his modified sensor net.  “You know, I think I’ve made up my mind,” he finally said through a clenched jaw.  “I do hate you.”
 
A slightly-amused huff, followed by a sigh.  “I shouldn’t be surprised; I don’t particularly love you either,” the older man retorted.  “You’re far more reckless and juvenile than I ever was.”
 
“Yeah, your Spock’s told me you were a major Academy nerd,” he shot back.  “I crammed a four-year into three, majored in Command and minored in Technical Programming, and still graduated with honors just like you.  Only I got a ship straight out of graduation.”  Okay, so he got the ship more because three-quarters of their Fleet had been annihilated and there weren’t many command-capable officers available, but that was beside the point.
 
“And acquired a criminal record before you ever thought about doing any of it.”
 
“I suppose you were the model child, farming corn and saving money and studying hard to make mommy and daddy proud.”
 
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Kirk said, obviously shrugging.  “Never had much luck with the corn at least, since we didn’t even have a garden.”
 
“Ever drive a car off a cliff?”
 
“No, actually I can’t drive anything with wheels, at least not safely.  Ask Spock.”
 
He blinked.  “You can’t?”
 
“Should have seen his face the one time I tried.  Carsick before we’d gone three blocks.  You think he looks greenish normally!  ‘Are you afraid of cars, Mr. Spock?’   ‘Not at all, Captain; It is your driving that alarms me.'“ (1)
 
Jim hooted, leaning back on the couch, arms propped aimlessly behind his head.
 
“Now, hovercars on the other hand…” Kirk continued, grin evident.
 
He tilted his head, eyebrow raised.  “They had hovercars when you were my age?”
 
The scowl nearly took his head off, even in the dark.  “Look, kid, you yanked me into this parallel universe, so you don’t really get off reminding me how behind the timeline I am.”

”Technically, Spock – my Spock – and Q yanked you into it,” he pointed out helpfully (2).  “And you are, so I kind of do.”
 
“You’re such a child,” the older man sighed.  Jim heard the creak of a chair as Kirk rose.  “Look, I just came to chat but if you’re going to play the hero and be above such common things, I’ll go find Spock and a chess set.  See you around.”
 
Lips tight, he momentarily contemplated apologizing, but decided it wasn’t worth the expenditure of effort.  He didn’t hate the guy, they just didn’t really get along.
 
“Rec Room Four has the most up-to-date games,” he offered by way of compromise.  “Not much of a chessmaster myself but I like watching Spock and Uhura play every now and then.”
 
A gentle draft told him the older man was leaving.  “Thanks,” came the call from across the room.  “And if you need to talk to someone…I’m sure you of all people always know where to find me.”
 
The pneumatic hiss of the doors indicated he was alone, then.  Exhausted and tense, he thought about trying to find his bed with the aid of the sensor net…to heck with it.  He’d gotten four hours’ sleep last night, and Q had wreaked enough havoc that it felt like ten times that.
 
He tossed the net onto the floor, kicked off his boots, and was asleep within minutes, trying to ignore the fact that the room was equally dark whether or not his eyes were closed.
 
--
 
Waking up abruptly with the knowledge that you’ve fallen asleep with your neck twisted in a painful position was bad enough; being startled into that wakefulness and realizing you can’t see a thing is ten times worse.  The ambassador was lucky to have quick reflexes for an old Vulcan, else he’d have been the recipient of a flailing fist to the jaw.
 
As it was, Jim was glad his undignified yelp hadn’t been heard by his Spock, as he embarrassed himself enough in front of his First as it was.  Plus he was pretty sure he’d been drooling on his sofa cushions, which he always did when sleeping on his side.  But anyway, he was sure that by this point Old Spock had seen it all, and he got the idea that the elderly Vulcan viewed him similarly as he apparently did Bones – as a cute little baby version of his own Jim, and spoiled him accordingly.
 
“Do I want to know how you got into my quarters without knocking, too?” he grunted, hauling himself upright.

The old man’s voice betrayed far too much amusement for a proper Vulcan.  “Bio-signature recognition software?”
 
“Ah, right. This could get real old real fast, you know.”  He sighed.  His door was programmed to open for Spock, because he got sick of the unfailingly polite chiming at all hours when the Vulcan had still been stiff-and-proper and would wait for ten minutes in the corridor if need be, not heeding the weird looks he got from passers-by.  Spock still refused to just pop through their adjoining bathroom unless it was late at night (rumors flew aboard a starship), and so Jim had finally given up and programmed the door to open to Spock’s bio-signature or unlock at voice recognition.
 
“I would not have disturbed you, young one, but for the fact that you are due for a debriefing with my younger self in fifteen minutes, and you have not been heard from since you left the Ready Room two hours ago,” came the gentle reply.  “I will summon McCoy should you prefer his presence to mine?”
 
Manipulative old busybody.  Jim grinned; he wouldn’t trade it for the world.  “Now don’t start, Spock, making me pick favorites.”
 
“I would not dream of it,” was the prim response.  “I believe we all are aware of who would win, were that the case.”
 
He snorted, rubbing useless eyes out of habit rather than necessity.  “So the shuttles have come back?” He scrubbed out a yawn before fumbling for his sensor net.  It had obviously fallen somewhere around his feet while he slept, because he couldn’t find it…until it landed in his lap.  He bristled but bit his tongue, mumbling a thank you which the elderly Vulcan kindly ignored.
 
“Ten minutes ago.  Spock decided to not page you from the Bridge, no doubt because he did not wish you to harm yourself in trying to locate the intra-comm and he knew you would have alarms in place should you oversleep the briefing time.”
 
“Nice of him.”  Spock was awesome like that.
 
“Indeed.”
 
“So how was the chess game?”
 
A pause.  “Your skills of perception have improved since your incapacitation,” the ambassador said, an inquiry obvious in the tone.
 
He laughed, standing up and trying to get his bearings without looking like a flailing moron.  “Not really.   Kirk was in here earlier.”
 
“Ah.  That explains his…overly aggressive playing style, this game.”
 
A smirk twisted his lips.  “Irritated him, did I?”
 
“You do seem to take delight in, as they say, winding him up,” Spock replied dryly.  “One would gather from your interactions that you suffer from split personality disorder; how else can you so completely exasperate your own self?”
 
“Takes one to know one,” he shot back, pointedly.
 
“Indeed.”
 
Jim stretched, arms as high above his head as they could reach.  Something snapped satisfyingly in his upper back.  “So, how does my hair look?” he asked, running his finger through the smashed portions of it.
 
“…Slightly flattened on the left side.”
 
He laughed.  “That’s going to be the worst part of this, I think, having to rely on a Vulcan’s sense of style instead of a mirror to see if I look my usual stunning self.”
 
“Truly a galactic tragedy to young hopefuls everywhere,” the ambassador replied dryly.
 
Jim was about to ask the elderly man to comm the Bridge when the door to his cabin opened – annnnd, right on schedule.
 
Footsteps halted abruptly.  “My apologies, sir,” came the cool voice of his First Officer, and Jim recognized the brittle, slightly irritated edge of I-do-not-like-being-caught-off-guard.  “I was unaware you were…engaged.”
 
“And you still have all the subtlety of a Terran tiger marking its territory, young one,” Old Spock sighed.  Jim sniggered silently at the vibes of mine that bounced off the occupants of the room.  “Captain, I will take my leave.”
 
“Unnecessary,” Spock began, obviously somewhat abashed.
 
Tolerant amusement was clear in the old Vulcan’s tone.  “I know my place, young one, and I also know yours.”
 
“And ne’er the twain shall meet,” Jim chimed in helpfully from where he was attempting to tie his right boot blind (he felt like a little kid again counting out rabbit ears and ‘round the bend).  Twin glares fairly set his hair on fire, he could feel it.  He employed his number one Spock defense mechanism, the innocent baby blues blinking angelically at his victim.  “What?”
 
The elder Vulcan’s voice sounded more pleased than anything else.  “You are more than welcome to him, young one.”
 
“Your unselfishness is commendable.”
 
“Indeed.”
 
Jim did like his Spock in surround-sound, and pouted as he heard the ambassador move toward the cabin door.  “Okay, one of you want to help me find my left boot?” he finally asked, trying to not snap in his frustration.  The stupid thing must have been knocked out of arms’ reach sometime during the last few minutes, he was fumbling around and couldn’t find it anywhere…
 
Until it plopped solidly into his hands.  “Thanks, Spock,” he muttered, ramming his left foot viciously into the leather.  Behind him, the cabin door closed behind the older Vulcan’s retreat.  “Where’s the briefing?”
 
“Your secondary ready room, as it is the most easily accessed from the turbolift next door.  Unless you would prefer another?”
 
Bless him, Spock was brilliant when it came to details.  Last thing he needed was to have to walk a half-kilometer of corridor looking like the blind man he was.  “Nope, that’s great.”  He wobbled back to his feet, attaching the sensor net to his belt so that he at least wouldn’t run into anything.  “Anything else happen that I need to know about?  What have you told the crew?”
 
“Nothing of note, and no indications of Q’s return,” was the reply.  “I have informed the crew only that we were visited by yet another deific being who intended to place us through a series of experiments to prove our supposed worth, and that you had been involved in the confrontational altercation.  That you were in no danger of death or serious illness, but needed time to mentally and physically recuperate from a slight injury.”
 
Jim nodded approvingly.  “Good.  No need to make the crew uneasy.”
 
“Nor to place you on anything but temporary medical relief, in case your command functions prove necessary in whatever Q has planned for the ship.”
 
“You, my friend, are brilliant.  So.  Aaack!”  He took a hesitant step, and tripped ungainfully over the blanket which was curling up round his ankles snake-like.  He barely had time to yelp and brace for impact before a Vulcan-strong hand caught his arm in one smooth gesture, hauling him back upright.  “Thanks.  Man, I’m tired of this already.”
 
“Perhaps Q will tire of his game?  He can hardly expect you to properly ‘play’ by his rules if you are handicapped in such a manner.”
 
“Yeah, but again both he and you forget one important thing, the best thing about playing games with me.”
 
“Which is?”
 
“I’m a cheater,” he said with a feral grin.  “Now, Mr. Spock, if you’d make sure I don’t trip over my own feet – or anyone else’s – on our way to the briefing?”
 
--
 
The next twelve hours were spent in the mundane but necessary boringness which characterized being a starship captain.  It wasn’t all glory and space battles and press conferences and looking hot and performing the impossible, being Captain – there was a darn lot of paperwork, and so many small details to be seen to that it fairly drove him crazy sometimes.  Thank God he had an OCD Vulcan First Officer who did a spectacular job of directing, re-directing, and mis-directing at least two-thirds of the minutae so that Jim didn’t have to wrap his brain around why he had to approve a request for more towels in the ship’s gymnasium, or report to Starfleet Command why the Enterprise’s hull needed refinished after a skirmish with an over-eager Orion freighter last month.
 
Discovering an uncharted planet was always exciting for everyone except those who had to do the paperwork.  Jim’s no-nonsense yeoman was a godsend, but even so he had been buried in a stack of padds (text translated to speech; annoying but he wasn’t about to shove off the paperwork on his already overworked staff just because he couldn’t read) for four hours by the time Spock’s secondary survey teams returned from the planet’s surface with almost complete topography scans. 

Now the fun began; once he and Spock had gone through all the reports to make sure there was nothing harmful on the planet below, they would drop a couple of basic eyewitness observation teams, take a look around, hopefully not get nastily surprised by invisible natives or carnivorous plants that deceived their scans, and then be back on board to warp out to the peace conference at Delta.
 
He was on his fifteenth scientific report and third apple core when the door to his quarters opened.
 
“Computer, pause transcription.”
 
“Transcription paused.  Waiting voice activation.”

”Spock, Captain,” his First announced unnecessarily, because Jim knew no one else would come near him when he’d been dealing with paperwork for hours – not even his slightly infatuated yeoman was that brave.  “Status report?”
 
“Arrrrghhhh, shoot me now,” was Jim’s eloquently mumbled response, accompanied by a clunk when his head hit the table.
 
“Voice command arrrgshoomeenaoh not recognized,” the computer chirped cheerfully.  “Please repeat.”
 
“Shut up, computer.  Why, again, do I have to sign off on these instead of you, Spock?”
 
“Because the planet is uncharted; it therefore is technically classified as an Uncategorized Risk by Starfleet regulation definition.  Any Risk is the captain’s prerogative and his responsibility to decide upon, as his crew’s safety is dependent upon his decisions.  Exploration of uncharted planets, however initially harmless they appear, are not required by starships on active mission duty, which we currently are.”
 
“In other words, I should have just ignored it popping up out of nowhere and saved myself the headache.   And the shipload of paperwork.”
 
“Or you could simply have pled temporary medical relief of duty, in which case the signatures would have fallen to me.”
 
He blinked, more out of habit than to clear his (non-existent) vision.  “And you couldn’t have told me that four hours ago?”
 
“I believe your ordering me to ‘butt out, and for heaven’s sake get Old You out of my hair for an hour’ was a more urgent order at the time?”
 
See, this was why he couldn’t stay irritated for long with Spock.  He laughed, leaning back in his chair.  Habit dictated the familiar pose, let him look upward at the height he reflexively knew Spock would be, but he had never realized until now just how much he relied on his eyesight to help him understand his Vulcan First as well as he did.  People insisted Vulcans were unemotional and undemonstrative – which was both true and untrue.  They were so by human standards; but, if you knew how to look and what to notice, they were just as demonstrative in their own ways as humans were in much more open ways.

Now he was fully reliant on Spock’s voice, and that gave him very little clues.  But it would have to be enough.
 
“Sit down, Commander,” he said with a sigh.  “And please tell me you have better news than Scotty’s ‘I still need twelve hours, sir, before we’ll be ready ta go anywhere.’”

--

(1)  Quote from A Piece of the Action
(2)  See this story's prequel, Second-Best Destiny

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