Leonard H. McCoy glanced up at the strange lavender sky, his eyes instinctively squinting in the bright light of the foreign sun. He turned around slowly, surveying a dry, brittle landscape he had never seen before. It shimmered in the heat, reminding him of the old American southwest in midsummer.
Where the hell am I? he wondered.
Even more disturbing than not knowing the where of his location was not knowing the how of it. He had absolutely no memory of coming to this planet, wherever this planet was. In fact, the last thing he remembered was--
He frowned in deep thought, unable to remember what he had been doing prior to his arrival on this desolate world.
"Damn transporter," he muttered. "Scatter people's molecules all over creation--I'm surprised I'm not missing a limb instead of just a few memories." He reached for his communicator. Jim's gonna owe me for this one, he thought, pulling it off his belt. He was about to flip it open and call the ship to give them a piece of his mind ("what little is left of it," he grumbled), when a plaintive voice from behind froze him in mid-motion.
"Daddy." It was the sound of a little girl in distress.
He hadn't heard that voice in years, and, in spite of the heat, it sent a chill up his spine. He turned slowly. It was impossible, he reasoned, that this could be happening. His daughter was a grown woman, and lived far from wherever this strange place was. He was hallucinating, he decided, either due to the transporter malfunction, the heat, or a combination of the two. He confirmed his diagnosis when, upon turning around, there was no owner to the voice he had heard.
"When I get back to the ship, I am going to personally dismantle that damn machine myself," he said, turning his attention back to the communicator in his hand.
"Daddy, help me."
McCoy's head snapped up at the sound of his daughter's voice. His breath caught in his throat as he saw her step from behind a dry, withered bush. A part of his mind noted that she had not been there a moment before, but that scientific fact was completely ignored as he stared at the sight of his little girl. It was her, he told himself, but something had happened to her, something terrible.
Most of her face had been eaten away by disease. Only one hand still had all five fingers, and her legs ended in stumps, not feet. Her shining chestnut locks that once reached down her back were reduced to a few straggly hairs. And her eyes--
Even though they were bleak and unanimated, they were still the same blue eyes that he loved more than anything in the world. As he stared at her, he saw them fill with tears.
The world around him began to fade away to darkness. He wanted to help her. He wanted to take her in his arms and bring her back to the ship and heal her. But he couldn't move. He couldn't speak. With every tear that dropped to the barren earth, he felt his heart break. He wanted to go to her, but he physically couldn't move. He tried, straining to make his muscles work, but to no avail. He was losing her. The darkness was winning, and he was losing her.
"Daddy, don't go!"
The last thing he saw before the darkness claimed him was the image of his little girl, holding her diseased arms out to him, crying for him. . . .
McCoy bolted upright in bed, drawing in a deep, ragged breath. He broke into a cold sweat and began to shake. The dream was so real, he could still hear her small voice calling to him.
Joanna. Her image burned his mind with guilt. Even in a dream, how could he have abandoned her? He started to sob, his tears mingling with hers in his mind until he fell back into a fitful sleep.