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The Last Star Trek: Chapter Twenty-Two - Capture

...Cautiously, he lifted his head above the foliage that had protected him during the attack, and looked around the camp. What he saw left him relieved, but puzzled. He had dreaded, but half-expected, to see the bodies of Kirk, Spock and Sulu lying somewhere, but from his present position they were nowhere in sight...

McCoy goes in search of his three surviving colleagues who have been captured by alien creatures who are the stuff of nightmares.

Read Brian William Neal's breath-stopping space adventure from the beginning by clicking on The Last Star Trek in the menu on this page.

After a few moments, Kirk raised his eyes from the bodies of his friends and shipmates. “Come on,” he said, “we’d better not hang around here. Those creatures will soon be back, and there’ll be more of them next time.” He began to move away from the others, although he had no real idea of where he was going. Then Spock’s voice stopped him in his tracks.

“Captain, I believe there may now be a way off this planet.”

Kirk turned slowly and stared at the Vulcan, who had made no move to follow. “A way off? What do you mean, Spock? The Enterprise is….”

“Not the Enterprise, captain. I agree, the ship itself is completely non-functional. I was referring to the shuttlecraft.”

Kirk stared uncomprehendingly at his friend for a moment, then realization began to seep into his grief-numbed brain. The shuttle! Of course! Aloud, he said, “Spock, you’re a genius! Of course the shuttle!”

“But captain,” said Sulu, “the shuttlecraft only has room for two.”

Kirk rounded on the Asian, his excitement growing. “No, Mr. Sulu, it can only sleep two. But we could alternate, two asleep and two awake.”

McCoy stared at them, then said, “What are you talking about? What good is a shuttle going to do us way the hell out here?”

Kirk looked at Spock, and the Vulcan said, “Doctor, the Enterprise’s shuttlecraft was modified for this mission, and its engines were given limited warp capacity. While it can only achieve a maximum velocity of standard warp two, which means it would take more than twenty years to reach earth from here, it does have two hypersleep chambers. What the captain is saying is that two of us could sleep in the chambers and not age for half of the trip, then the other two could do the same for the second half. Therefore, the journey will seem to have taken only ten years, rather than twenty.

“However, since my lifespan is far greater than yours, I myself would of course remain awake for the entire journey, thereby giving you and the others even more time in the chambers. In this way, it is conceivable that we might survive to reach Federation space.”

McCoy stared at Spock, the turned to Kirk. “Why didn’t someone say something about this before? Chekov, Scotty, Uhura…. God dammit to hell, Jim. We might have been able to….”

“Bones,” Kirk interrupted gently, “there were too many of us before. Essentially, Sulu’s right. The shuttle really is only supposed to hold two. We couldn’t all have gotten away. Would you have liked to have been the one who decided who would leave and who would stay? Even now,” he said, including the others in his gaze, “we’re going to have to be very careful with our oxygen and food; even if we load the shuttle to bursting with O2 bottles and supplies, there’s no guarantee we’ll make it.” He looked at them all again, hope in his eyes. “But it might be done! Now, we’ve at least got a chance!”

For a moment, no one spoke; then McCoy said, “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get the hell out of here!”

They began to gather up the weapons of Scotty and Uhura, and were about to leave the camp when Spock suddenly straightened, staring off into the distant gloom. The others followed his gaze, and a moment later, another, larger force of aliens swarmed out of the trees heading straight towards them.

Immediately, the four survivors began to bring what weapons they had to bear on the approaching creatures. The aliens were more heavily armed than before, and began firing weapons of their own. McCoy aimed his phaser and fired one blast, then was lifted off his feet by a massive shock wave. Dimly, he heard the sound of fighting drifting away, as though in a dream. Then the dim world went black; consciousness fled, and he knew no more.

Slowly, McCoy dragged himself up from the depths to which he had sunk and into the half-light of the planet’s day. Carefully, he raised his head and looked around; he had fallen into a shallow depression within the hollow of their campsite that was covered with a canopy of shrubs. That explained why the aliens had missed him.

Cautiously, he lifted his head above the foliage that had protected him during the attack, and looked around the camp. What he saw left him relieved, but puzzled. He had dreaded, but half-expected, to see the bodies of Kirk, Spock and Sulu lying somewhere, but from his present position they were nowhere in sight. He could see Scotty and Uhura lying where they had left them, side by side, the Claymore still in the ground between them, and for a moment, his grief threatened to rise and overwhelm him. With an effort, he fought it down, and clambered out of the hole that had saved his life.

Even from this better vantage, his friends were nowhere to be seen. He had no accurate idea of how long he had been unconscious, but the red sun was only just up over the horizon, and McCoy realized that it was probably the morning after the battle, and that he had been out for nearly a full day. He moved gingerly across the camp, favoring his left shoulder, which seemed to have taken some shrapnel. He checked every dip and hollow in the sparsely tufted ground, but found nothing. Then he returned to where his two friends lay, and his eyes widened as he saw, glinting in the reddish light, a phaser still attached to Uhura’s belt.

Quickly, he stooped and retrieved it, unable to believe his luck; the weapon was fully charged! He remembered Uhura had been the first to be hit; she must not have had time to use the phaser. McCoy stood looking down at the two bodies lying together. Tears welled up in his eyes, and he felt an uncharacteristic anger beginning to build in him, an anger which he knew, if allowed to grow, could very well turn into a mindless fury. He pushed it down, unconsciously emulating Spock. There might be time for such emotions later, but right now his concern, as always, must be for the living.

McCoy clipped the phaser to his belt and, with one last look at his friends, turned away. He moved through the camp, and a moment later literally stumbled over his medical bag. He picked it and himself up, and looked inside. Everything seemed to be intact and undisturbed. McCoy frowned; how could this be? Surely the aliens wouldn’t leave something as valuable as this behind?

Almost as the thought was formed, he realized the truth: yes, they would do exactly that. Regardless of their potential for intelligence, these creatures were not very far above the most basic of life forms when it came to appreciation of technology. They might be able to learn to fly a spacecraft (the fact that they brought the Enterprise down testified to that), but that indicated the intelligence of a savant; they obviously had never seen a medical bag before. Therefore, not knowing what it was, they had left it behind. Just like chimpanzees, McCoy thought with satisfaction.

Which spoke of another power controlling them, he thought, as he treated and dressed his shoulder wound, picking out a few pieces of shrapnel and beginning tissue growth stimulation. They had no instructions to take the bag, so they didn’t. McCoy smiled grimly as he applied a field dressing to his shoulder and donned his tunic again. Stupid assholes. Maybe he would be able to find a way to make them pay dearly for that little oversight. The anger was still very much there, a tight knot at the center of his being. Leonard McCoy was not by nature a violent man, neither by training nor profession, but for these aliens, he felt he might be able to make an exception.

McCoy took one last look around the camp. In a small hollow, he found Spock’s tricorder, something else they had left behind. If his friends were still alive, it would help him to find them. He picked up Scotty’s and Uhura’s water bottles and decanted their contents into his own. With a sad smile, he found that the Scotsman’s bottle contained plain water, and not the scotch whiskey that Star Fleet legend had it that he carried on field trips. Pity, he thought. I could have done with a shot or two about now.

On a hunch, McCoy approached the two bodies again and, mentally apologizing, ran his hands over the Scotsman’s body. He was rewarded almost immediately. Inside Scotty’s tunic he found a small silver flask with the initials M.A.S. and which proved to contain three good swallows of the whiskey of legend.

McCoy drained the flask, pausing between each mouthful to glance around the camp, looking for anything else he could salvage. There was, however, nothing that he could use, and he finished the flask. Then he put it down next to its owner and straightened again.

McCoy took one last look at the two, man and wife, lying side by side, and his heart lurched as he realized that it was only the day before that he was standing beside them as they were married. He decided, regretfully, that he didn’t have the time to give them a proper burial. All he could do was to vow, if it were ever possible, to avenge their deaths, and this he swore to do. He turned away, then back again as a thought occurred to him. Kneeling down beside Uhura, he gently removed the ring that Spock had given her. It had belonged to the Vulcan’s mother and, whatever its ultimate fate, McCoy was determined that it would not be left here in this alien place.

Then he consulted the tricorder, and set off in the direction of the strongest life-form readings. To his surprise, he found that he was not heading away from the place where they had beached the ship, but in a line across the plain parallel to the lakeshore.

After he had been traveling for about an hour, McCoy noticed the tricorder readings indicated that his quarry had stopped, and he proceeded more cautiously. There was a small group of cone-shaped hills ahead, and he approached them slowly, constantly on the lookout for any movement around him. He had been lucky so far, but he felt that his luck could not last. McCoy moved around the base of one of the hills; the readings on his tricorder showed that there was a large group of aliens nearby, and continuing to advance was probably the bravest thing he had ever done in his life. Or the Goddam stupidest, he thought cynically.

There was a clump of trees directly ahead, and McCoy hurried into its shelter. He checked the tricorder again, and moved slowly through the trees to their edge, where he crouched down in some bushes and peered into a large clearing approximately two hundred meters across. It was dotted with small structures that looked like huts, and McCoy set the tricorder to register only human life forms. If Jim and the others were here, he would find them.

He struck paydirt almost immediately; the hut directly ahead of his position showed three human life forms inside. Quickly, McCoy re-adjusted the tricorder and swept the area for aliens. It showed just one sentry, and a moment later the creature appeared around the edge of the hut. Under normal circumstances, it would be a simple matter to pick off the alien with his phaser, but McCoy knew that there was a strong chance that the discharge of the weapon would be heard or sensed by its companions, whom he was certain, must be nearby. McCoy watched it for a moment, anger building in him, then opened and dug into his medical bag. Quickly, he prepared a syringe, his conscience even now giving him twinges that he fought down. Then, taking a deep breath, he ran from shelter and made for the hut.

Reaching the structure, he waited for the alien to round the curve away from him, then followed. If it turns around now, I’m a goner, he thought, but he continued to follow the unsuspecting creature. Then he hid himself in a clump of bushes close to the hut and waited for the alien to complete the circuit. It rounded the corner again; when it passed McCoy he slipped quietly out of his cover and, heart pounding, placed the tip of the pneumatic syringe against the alien’s thigh and injected its contents.

With a vicious hiss and a swipe of its tail, the creature turned on McCoy and started towards him as he backpedaled frantically out of its reach. Just as he thought he had underestimated the creature’s physiology, it stopped, and gave a short squeal. Then it fell as if poleaxed, quivered once, and was still.

McCoy approached it cautiously, then with more confidence as he saw that the creature was well and truly dead. Take that, you ugly son of a bitch, he thought. Good old cyanide, strychnine and a dose of potassium chloride will do the trick every time, even on something that has acid for blood. He began to look for a way into the hut, and found it almost immediately. The door was made of the same thatch-like material as the rest of the structure, and he was easily able to force his way inside. Once there, he stood still for a moment, to allow his eyes to become accustomed to the even darker gloom. Then he looked around.

The interior of the hut resembled, even more than the landscape of the planet and to McCoy’s physician’s eye, the inside of some great beast. The walls were curved, with rib-like stays joined together with what appeared to be some kind of resin. McCoy moved further into the hut, and almost immediately saw that which he sought.

In the center of the dome-shaped structure were three pod-like shapes suspended from the ceiling, all surrounded by a shell of the same resin that made up the walls. The stuff clung to them like glue, hard in some places and almost like mucus in others. McCoy went to the nearest pod; he could clearly see that it held Kirk, and he spoke to his captain in a low, urgent whisper.

“Jim!” he said, all the while casting glances around the hut, fully expecting the aliens to burst in at any moment. “Jim, it’s me, McCoy.”

At first, there was no reaction, then slowly Kirk raised his head. His eyes opened, and he focused weakly on the doctor.

“Bones,” he rasped, his lips twisting in a wry smile. “Glad you could drop by.”

McCoy drew his phaser. “Watch yourself, Jim. I’m going to burn through this stuff and get you out of there. Close your eyes.”

Kirk turned his head, and McCoy used the phaser on its lowest setting to dissolve the resin surrounding the captain. As he cut through the last of it, Kirk dropped to the floor of the hut.

McCoy reached into his bag and took out his diagnostic tool. He ran it over Kirk’s prostrate figure, and was rewarded with a groan.

“Come on, Jim,” he said. “On your feet.”

Holding on to McCoy for support, Kirk rose shakily, and stood swaying for a moment. Then he opened his eyes and said, “Get the others.”

With one final, doubtful look at Kirk, McCoy turned his phaser on the shells housing the other two. In a short time, Spock and Sulu stood beside Kirk. Spock took the tricorder from McCoy and studied it for a moment.

“Captain,” he said, “it appears that the creatures have moved away from this area for the present. There is, however, no way of knowing when they will return. We had best be on our way.”

Kirk rolled his head and stretched his neck muscles. “Right,” he said. “Sulu, you OK?”

The Asian nodded. “I’ll make it, captain.”

“All right then,” said Kirk. “Back to the Enterprise.”

They moved to the door of the hut and waited while Spock checked the area for aliens, but there was no sign of any. Kirk opened the door and peered cautiously out. “Looks clear,” he said. Let’s go.”

Quickly, the four moved out of the hut and across the clearing into the trees. There they stopped while Spock used the tricorder again. The Vulcan turned to Kirk. “There is still no sign of the creatures, captain. If you agree, I believe we should head for the ship.”

Kirk nodded. “I’m with you, Spock.” He looked at the others. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

***

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