Another Step Closer
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own Star Trek or BTVS, and I earn no profit in writing this.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is set a few hundred years after Avalon’s Glory. If you have any comments or preferences, please don’t be shy. R&R.
It was always an exhilarating experience to be the first to set foot on a new world. Ensign Alex McClay wasn’t terribly upset at knowing that she would have to settle for being the first to set foot on the planet willingly. The cargo ship whose crew they had been sent to retrieve had actually been the first, thanks to a power systems failure.
The last report had indicated that most of the crew had survived the crash and were basically unharmed. Of course, that had been over a month ago, and Captain Picard was assuming that that was no longer the case as no one was answering their hails now. Hence, the security detail of which she was a member. They approached the ship cautiously, looking for any sign of life or of what had happened to the crew.
“I’m not picking up any life signs, sir, but the tricorders aren’t 100% here,” she reported to lieutenant Worf. The burly Klingon frowned, but nodded. He gestured for them to spread out.
“McClay, Torja, and Sakek, set up emitters at the perimeter, look for signs of anyone coming or going.” He gestured to each of them to take a different section of the clearing the ship’s forced landing had created. “The rest of you with me.” He led the last of the security detail and Dr. Pulaski into the ship. Alex nodded to the others and moved off to the edge of the clearing. Each took a different section and began scanning as they set up field emitters to keep the local predators at bay. There was little they could do in the middle of the night on an unfamiliar planet, where their own ignorance could easily kill them during the day.
Alex set her emitter and verified that it was operable. She tapped her combadge. “McClay, ready.”
“Torja, ready,” came an almost instant response from the Bolian. Both waited. “Sakek?” Torja called.
“Meet me there,” Alex called and started to run.
Both arrived at the center of the section Sakek had been assigned. The emitter he had carried lay abandoned on the ground. There was no sign of the Vulcan. “Where is he?” Torja asked looking around. Alex frowned, feeling an all too familiar sensation.
“Taken,” she answered with certainty.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Sakek is better than either of us. No way he could be taken unawares and dragged off without sounding some kind of alarm.” He played his wrist light over the surrounding vegetation, things that weren’t exactly trees and weren’t exactly bushes. “There’s no sign of a struggle.”
“You think he wondered off voluntarily? The man who never met a rule he didn’t like took a moonlight stroll?”
“Point,” her friend acknowledged. “So-”
“I’ll set up the field. You inform the lieutenant.” It would have been simpler if the Enterprise could have scanned for the missing Vulcan, but residual radiation from an engine damaged in the crash interfered with the ships sensors. Tricorders were operating, but in a somewhat diminished capacity. She couldn’t get clear readings beyond a dozen yards.
“Right.” He moved off slightly, and tapped his combadge. The conversation was brief and their orders were clear. Once the emitter was in place they moved off in opposite directions along the perimeter, scanning for the missing Vulcan. As soon as Torja was out of sight, Alex made a slight adjustment to her tricorder. It was still less efficient than her own senses, under the circumstances, but any edge was welcome. It didn’t take long to find what she was looking for.
Running through the forest at night on an alien planet was stupid, but sitting and waiting had never been her style. It took less than a minute to catch up with her prey. It hadn’t gone far. The first exchange of blows was fast and brutal, intended to end the conflict before it really began. That plan really never works out, she grimaced as she picked herself up and watched her opponent do the same. From the corner of her eye, she spotted Sakek. He was dead, as she had known he would be.
Her opponent was skeletally thin and wild-eyed with hunger, but still strong enough to be dangerous. “Rescue party,” it growled. “Took you long enough. I ran out of crew over a week ago!” The creature stiffened as it got its first good look at her in the moonlight. “You!” Alex took a closer look at her enemy. The face wasn’t familiar, but that didn’t mean much after so long a life. “You can’t still be alive! It’s been centuries!”
“And no ones gotten around to killing you yet,” she snorted. “Standards are slipping.” She knew she had to end this quickly and get back before they came looking for her. No banter. Without another word, she attacked, driving the creature back toward the spot she’d picked. A final kick to the chest drove it on to the end of the branch, hoping that whatever the planet used for wood worked as well as an Earth-made stake that she would have had a hard time justifying on an away team equipment list.
The ashes were still settling when she slapped Sakek’s combadge and contacted the Enterprise for a transport directly to sickbay. She was met at the edge of the clearing by Torja and lieutenant Worf. “Lieutenant Sakek?” Alex shook her head.
“I sent him back to the Enterprise. There was a lot of blood.” Pulaski called for transport herself, having already sent the bodies of the crew up. Alex knew that the doctor wouldn’t need long to confirm that Sakek was beyond her help. His throat had been torn out.
“Ensign!” the Klingon security chief barked. “Why did you go alone? That is a violation of protocol.”
“I picked up a faint reading. Sakek was still alive at that point, but… I had to try to reach him.” Worf was silent a moment, but nodded.
“The rest of the crew is dead. We will return in the morning to begin work on the ship.”
Pulaski ran the tricorder over her one last time. “You’re in perfect health,” she announced, as if that were news.
“I’m not sure why you bother,” Alex huffed, impatient as always with pretenses.
“Have to keep up appearances,” Pulaski reminded her, sparing a glance to make sure that they were alone. “Besides, I worry.”
“You know the terms as well as I do.”
The CMO nodded and sighed. “Terms laid down by an entity no one has seen in centuries. Who knows if any of them are still around, let alone one deemed an outcast and criminal?”
“You never met one of them, or you wouldn’t wonder. I’m fine,” she added in a mollifying tone. “Even without my…advantage, it’s been a long time since one half-starved vamp was a threat.”
“I know, but it’s a doctor’s, and a granddaughter’s prerogative to worry.”