Author's Note: (Spoiler: At one point you might think this is a death fic. It is not. So don't stress!)


Malcolm Reed woke with a start, the smell of earth everywhere, wet, mouldering, and sharp. Cracking open his eyes, he quickly realised why it was so strong – he was lying on his side, his face half in the dirt. With a push and a groan, he managed to roll onto his back. His vision swam, and then came to focus on dark walls shooting up to the grey sky above. He squinted as the light caused a headache to flare, so he closed his eyes for a moment, trying to manage the overload.

Not on Enterprise, obviously. And not on… Suddenly unsure, his breath caught. He had no idea of where he was, or why he was there. Fumbling at where his pocket should be, he felt for his communicator, then his weapon, and found nothing.

Heart beating madly, he eased himself up to sitting, taking inventory as he did so. His leg was stiff and painful. His head hurt. Wiping dirt from his face, he let his gaze span the long, narrow space: he was in an alley of some sort.

Alone. He was… Why…?

He tried to get up, but as he did so, his leg spasmed, and he hissed a pained breath as it collapsed beneath him. He sat there a moment, the cold from the damp earth coming up through his trousers. He'd been injured, obviously, but how? Slowly, he slid backwards until he rested against one of the stone walls, and then gingerly felt his leg through the dark cloth. He had a second of panic when he realised he was out of uniform, but he calmed his breathing, and shrugged that off for the moment.

One area of his thigh was tender even to the lightest of touches, as if it had been recently injured, but he had no memory of it. Where that memory should be, there was a conspicuous nothing, as if something should be there, but... No. Not quite. More like a slithering nothingness, an oily darkness. The more he tried to focus on it and bring the memory forth, the quicker it seemed to slip away.

Reed swore his frustration. It was almost as if that memory was there, just out of reach. Perhaps if he…

He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, calming himself as T'Pol had taught him. He tried again. Still nothing. No, wait, something… He tried to push through to it.

There was a sudden pain in his head, and he winced with a sharp intake of breath. He felt something warm trickle down his lip. His eyes flew open and he squinted against the light. Bloody hell.

He wiped a shaky hand across his nose, and it came away red. Impatiently, he wiped it on his trousers. Whatever it was – whatever was wrong – he hadn't the time for it. He needed to figure out where he was, and why; and most importantly, find a way to contact Enterprise.

If they were even here.

Pushing aside that unwelcome thought, he used the wall to keep the weight off his bad leg and levered himself to standing, steadying himself against the dizziness with a hand on the stone. Once up, he rested his head on the arm he'd propped against the wall.

He'd been… What? He pushed himself away from the surface, staring at it blankly.

"Enterprise," a voice said from beside him.

Heart in his throat, he looked to his right – nothing. "Right," he whispered to no one, unnerved. He was obviously injured. The voice must have been a figment of his imagination, perhaps related to the injury. The voice didn't reoccur, so, with the wall as support, he limped his slow way across the muddy ground, toward the end of the alley.

Finally reaching its end, he saw the backs of buildings surrounding a paved lot, but no people. He found himself grateful for that small mercy. His head was spinning and his leg was killing him, and he was ill equipped to deal with the natives. Staying here might be safest on that front, but this was no time to stop. If anything, the weather had grown colder since he'd woken, and he, dressed only in unfamiliar trousers and shirt, was hardly prepared for it. He had to keep moving.

He tugged the sleeves of his shirt down over his hands, then tucked his hands up under his arms for warmth. There were some containers behind one of the buildings, maybe ten metres from where he stood, so he headed in that direction, tracing his hand along the buildings as he went, to keep himself steady. He was hoping he'd get lucky and find something he could use; perhaps even something to help identify where he was. As he came closer, his interest peaked. Placed in front of one of the containers – now clearly a skip full of rubbish – was a bag, as if someone had purposefully not tossed it in with the rest of the trash; and if this planet was anything like Earth… Reed looked into the bag and smiled. Yes. The bag appeared to be full of books and clothing, obviously being discarded, but placed outside the skip to give first shot to any trash-pickers. Supporting himself with a hand on the skip, he dug through the bag. The books, he paid no attention to, but the clothing, that he wanted. Most of it was obviously for a child, but there was a shirt, somewhat faded, which he first used to wipe the dirt and blood from his face, and then pulled on right over what he was wearing. Then, luck smiling upon him, there was a long, dark, cloth coat, only somewhat the worse for wear, which he put on as well.

He might look a bit down at the heel, but at least he'd be warmer. After all, clothes were clothes, he'd always felt as much. His sister had told him several times that he could use some help in the fashion department, but he'd never really paid much mind. He'd hate to think what she'd think of him now. Still, even dressed in cast-offs he probably looked better than Tucker had on their last shore leave. Between the brightly patterned shirt and those horrible yellow shorts…

A voice came from beside him, causing him to jump.

"That was God awful, wasn't it?"

"Commander?" he asked, turning to where the voice had come from. Again, nothing was there, but the voice – that bloody accent – it was unmistakeable. This time he whispered, "Trip?" but there was no response.

Reed felt an uncontrolled laugh bubbling up, and let it come, figuring it was easier to let it come than to deal with whatever the alternative might be. The sound rose above the background buzz of the urban area and filled the empty lot. He tried to stifle it, knowing it was a bad idea. Too loud. Someone might hear. They might look out one of the blank windows staring down at him, and then what? See some nutter standing here, ill dressed, laughing to himself. And if they came here, if they… God, if they caught him, he'd… His laughter fell away as he sank to a seat on the rail that surrounded the skip, careful of his leg as he moved.

"Are you all right?"

"No," he replied before he could catch himself. And he wasn't all right, not at all. He was hurt. He was… He was hearing voices, because, "You're not here," he said, sotto voce. "Go away."

Something was most certainly wrong with him.

He stood carefully, trying not to jar his aching head, using the movement to distract from the fact of his anxiety, the fact that his breath was coming fast, his pulse was pounding, and that he stood there with his eyes shut tight, waiting for that voice to come again. When it didn't, he looked around the lot. Now what? He had no idea of where he was, or why he was on this planet. He could wait here, near where he'd woken, hoping that Enterprise was on his trail and coming for him; or he could take what control he could of the situation.

He was about to turn and retrieve one of the books from the bag, hoping it would give him a hint as to where he was, when the decision was made for him. A vehicle pulled into the lot. He immediately started walking, coat flapping about his legs, trying for a casualness he didn't feel.

He needed to figure out where he was, and why. Then, most importantly, find a way to contact Enterprise. And maybe, if he limped away fast enough, he'd leave that voice, or whatever it was, behind.


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