I'm not sure how far I'm going to go with this, but the idea popped into my mind the other day and would not let me be. Enjoy, and remember, I own nothing. Set a year or two after the movie, everyone's in their element/no first-mission awkwardness. Kind of new to writing Star Trek though I've been a fan for ages.
It was perhaps the most desolate stretch of space the Enterprise had come across. It wasn't that it was devoid of light (there were plenty of stars. As they slid through space, they weaved between the stars of Kasterberous);
It was that there was too much. Bits of planet floating by (with wreckages of buildings still attached). The bridge crew had to turn their collective heads more than once at what remained of what seemed to be once prosperous planets. An obvious thought passed through the crew, and each of them hoped another would not speak it.
It was obvious there had been a terrible battle here. But that was not why they had come. Similarly scarred expanses of space littered many different galaxies. Not far from Earth (at least, celestially speaking), there was a dark, jagged space where Vulcan had once been.
They came for the barely-detectable distress signal from the planet below.
"Uhura," Kirk isn't leaning his weight on the arm of the captain's chair; another bad sign, "can you pinpoint where the signal is coming from?"
Slim fingers pass over the controls, glancing the console's surface. She nods.
"Coordinates on screen."
"Spock, where is this?"
There is a long stretch of silence from the Vulcan--longer than usual. He looks up, face unchanged.
Kirk arches an eyebrow.
"They are not part of the Federation, Captain," Chekov interjects, "as they have a strict non-interference policy"
He gains a few blank stares. The ensign shrinks, face growing red. Quietly, he explains.
"I did my thesis on time-space mathematics. Gallifreyian histories---what they have available--are full of theories on the subject. Remarkably precise theories...," Chekov's voice trails, unnoticed but for Sulu, who offers a smile. The crew of the Enterprise are given to their own hobbies. Sulu still practices his foot and bladework in his cabin, McCoy keeps memorbilia of home in his. First officer Spock's cabin is predictably bare, but for some Vulcan texts and meditative candles. He's never seen Uhura's cabin (and never will, if certain people have anything to say about it), he's not sure he wants to know what is in Scott's (but the Scotsman is always asking him to try his cooking), and Kirk's...
Well, everyone knows Kirk's hobby.
Soon, the typical landing party is awaiting transport to the surface below. All data shows it rough and ragged, but safe. A few probes sent ahead make sure of this for them, but the landscape is horrifying--all charred and destroyed. Montgomery Scott bites his lip, frowning at the images of the surface.
"It looks brutal," he sighs, "are you sure someone's down there?"
"Not entirely. It may be that the signal was broadcast some time ago, and we are only now just reaching the planet," Spock replies. Exact. Like always.
But this is not like always. The crew is too serious. Kirk shifts uncomfortably on the transport pad. Something's different.
McCoy shifts his belt, double checking his tricorder is there. A few more crewmen accompany them. The doctor doesn't like this--something feels off.
They reach the surface, and the cold is a shock. The land is absolutely barren of any life; trees seem scorched to the roots, rivers once abundant are dry. Spock scans the surface with his tricorder.
"There's something alive up ahead," and he is stepping carefully over the charred surface. Every step he takes, the ground crumbles a little under his feet, like charcoal. Before them, a citadel lies in ruins. Columns spiral halfways and quarterways up before dissolving violently into nothing. Glass litters the crumbling steps.
It looks like it was a beautiful city. Once.
The further into the building they go (at least, once they have convinced McCoy that no, the building will not fall in on them), the more Kirk becomes convinced that perhaps they shouldn't be there. Spock points out the glittering, curving script on the wall. One of the fellow crewmen takes a few pictures for Lieutenant Uhura to look at later.
Kirk is just about convinced they should leave when they start to find bodies--both humanoid and more grotesque. But the persistent beep drives them forward, letting them know someone, something...is still alive here.
They find him a little later, nearly naked and covered in blood. He has numerous wounds, but he is breathing. Bones jumps over the remnants of the room's ceiling and shifts into full doctor mode, checking vitals and seeing if anything is broken. Kirk has always been amazed by this--how McCoy, rough, obnoxious McCoy--has such a strange precision and gentleness to his manner. His fingers do not jab for a pulse--they feel lightly, and do not move the survivor's neck at all. He completes his preliminary check over.
"Is he alright for transport?"
"Yeah, yeah..fine, he's just... the heartbeat is weird," his brow furrows, but he does not leave the man's side.
"Kirk to Enterprise. We've found the survivor. Prepare to beam aboard."
The unknown survivor's neck arches as he gives a great shuddering breath begins to cough violently, expelling blood. McCoy is quick to turn the man's head (now that he is certain there are no neck injuries) so that he does not choke on his own blood. McCoy wonders to himself how someone could lose this much blood and still be alive.
A troubling, cold thought strikes him.
Perhaps it's not all his. He looks at the man--damp, cold blood matted against his skin, in his thatch of dark hair. His wounds are deep, and bones are broken, stretching beneath the skin. Whatever happened, it had been brutal. McCoy steadies himself against a piece of rubble, making sure the man does not move.
In swirling light, they are brought back to the ship--artifical light jarring to the eyes. The unknown man groans, and McCoy springs from the pad, making for a backboard at the wall. Scotty finally sees the lone survivor.
He is silent.
McCoy calls for assistance in moving the man to the backboard, groaning at Scotty's silence.
Something is definitely not right if Scotty is quiet.
It's a blur as they whisk the man away to the medical bay. Machines clean his wounds with astonishing speed, but McCoy is still troubled at just how pale the man is once he is cleaned up. As he sets the bones (which gains him a low, disturbing groan from the man) and double-checks the machine's sutures, he is reminding himself that he needs to start up a transfusion.
The man looks to be steel and sinew beneath the skin, which McCoy knows to be false (This man is very much human....or, well, as human as he could be). But there are features that betray this appearance--the eyes are deep, sunken, and he is thin as a rail. The computer tells McCoy that the man has two hearts, to which the doctor replies with a few choice explatives. Not that a binary vascular system was unheard of.
McCoy just had never encountered it. But they were beating soundly, if weakly.
"What happened here?" he sighed, brushing a hand through his hair. The decimated planets, the scorched one they'd just left...
He was starting to remember why he didn't like space in the first place when he hears the man shifting about. He's concious. Eyes stare blearily up at him (he is still sedated, to prevent him from injuring himself further).
"Well, good morning," and despite himself, McCoy smiles a little, "thanks for joining us. I'm Cheif Medical Officer McCoy--you're on the Enterprise."
The man's eyebrows knit together as his mouth works around the sedation and the damage there. It takes a moment, but he final spits out, "d...Theta Sigma"
"Nice to meet ya," he responds, then turns to page the bridge. A lone survivor has got to have one hell of a story, and he's sure the captain will want to hear it.