This is my first foray into Star Trek fanfiction and my first fanfic in a long, long time. It has not been beta-read, so I apologize if it's a little rough around the edges. Quick note: my degree is in chemistry, not physics, and my grasp of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is limited to what my courses have taught me. This isn't meant to be taken as a discourse on quantum mechanics and you won't need to know much about it other than what is written in the fic. That being said, it's a fic that couldn't decide whether to be funny or dramatic, so it's a little bit of both. It started out being Kirk-centered but then Bones went and hijacked it.
Rating is for language.
McCoy is fairly certain that there is some regulation out there somewhere forbidding captains from participating in away missions—or there should be, given that his captain attracts dangerous situations with an inexplicable degree of regularity.
This was supposed to be simple—Jim was taking young Chekov for one of the latter's few away missions on a planet that, according to their sensors, was completely devoid of life. Then again, McCoy thinks wryly, this is Jim we're talking about here. He could turn breathing into something dangerous.
Sardonic eyes flick around the small area and the doctor's brow is creased in a disapproving manner. Everything in his body language speaks, 'Why am I not surprised?'
"What seems to be the problem?"
There are three people in the transporter room: himself, Mr. Scott, and the Vulcan. Spock is standing before the transporter, staring at it in that particular way of his which McCoy is hesitant to label 'inquisitive'. The chief engineer, McCoy notices, is making a point not to look anywhere in his direction. McCoy can hear him replying haughtily to the Vulcan's accusations, insisting that yes, he followed transporter protocol correctly. No, he did not enter the coordinates incorrectly. Yes, he was perfectly sure that the captain was not floating lifeless in the vacuum of space . . .
McCoy's eyes narrow at this last comment. Just as he is going to voice his question again, Spock ceases his interrogation of the chief engineer and turns toward him. Not that McCoy can say for certain, but he thinks he can detect a modicum of a frown on the otherwise stoic expression.
"It appears there has been a problem with the transporter, doctor. There has been no response from ensign Chekov or the captain."
It takes McCoy a moment before his brain absorbs the implications of this statement. At first he is incredulous. "Excuse me?"
The Vulcan stares, obviously with no intention of repeating himself. His eyes travel slowly, deliberately, to the chief engineer so desperately attempting to remain invisible in the corner. "Mr. Scott?" he offers.
"Aye, ah..." Scott is very careful in choosing his words. "It was a very routine transport, but we received word from the bridge that they er... can not reestablish communication with the captain."
The doctor drags a heavy breath. "Meaning?"
"It's possible, though highly unlikely," Scott directs the latter portion of this statement to Spock, "that something happened to them during transport."
McCoy laughs uneasily. His stomach does a very unnerving flip-flop as his mind wanders to places he never wishes it to go. He calls it back with a vigorous shake of his head. There are some aspects of this technology that he swears will haunt him in his dreams. He regards the chief engineer with narrowed eyes. "You're telling me that Jim might be lost out there as a bunch of friggin' molecules?"
Scott coughs. "Well, I wouldn't put it quite that way..."
McCoy's shoulders stoop and he shakes his head, chin nearly against his chest. "Why are you telling me this?" he asks, rhetorically, as one hand reaches up to pinch the bridge of his nose.
"As the chief medical officer, it is pertinent that you are informed as to the status of every member of the crew, especially in a situation as unusual as this."
"I know that, commander," McCoy replies weakly in Spock's direction. "But dammit man, I'm a doctor, not a . . ." he is suddenly at a loss for a competent noun and shakes his head wearily. "I can't put people's molecules back together!"
Scott is unsuccessful in hiding his grimace. He pretends to busy himself with data streaming on the screen before him, but there is nothing useful to be seen.
McCoy tries to ignore it, but is suddenly overwhelmed with concern. Jim Kirk, his captain, his friend... he can mend broken bones, can staunch a bleeding wound, can cope with an innumerable amount of diseases, but he can not fix this. If there truly was an accident during beaming and there were now a million Jim molecules scattered throughout the vacuum of space—McCoy swallows hard, tries not to shiver.
Damn it, he sneers in his head, don't these things have safety regulations?
Spock turns slowly to the engineer and opens his mouth to speak. If he has made a brilliant deduction it does not show on his face. "Mr. Scott," he speaks with no hint of question.
"Are you certain that the Heisenberg compensator is functioning properly?"
Scott's face twists in a manner that suggests that he sure to hell hopes it is. "The readouts are normal, but I suppose I can check it manually."
"Do that, Mr. Scott."
McCoy pays little attention as the engineer scuffles toward the transporter and begins to make a plethora of noise. Spock steps back to give the engineer room to work and stands perfectly straight, arms clasped behind his back, watching with interest. Or perhaps just watching. McCoy can never tell the difference.
There is a metallic clang. Scott curses, apologizes to no one in particular, and continues.
McCoy visibly flinches at the sound and turns his eyes away from the infernal machine. "What the hell is he doing?" he offers vaguely in Spock's direction.
"The Heisenberg compensator is an essential component of the transporter. It assures that the uncertainty relation does not interfere with the energy particles during the beaming process. Mr. Scott is confirming that the component is functioning as it should."
McCoy is only mildly aware of the uncertainty principle. It is something that only half-stuck with him through the academy. Position and momentum of particles, something like that. Something far too nightmare-inducing for him to want to know any more intimately. He knew that there was something in the transporter that compensated for this uncertainty so that all your parts ended up in the correct places at the other end—not that he trusted that transporter as far as he could throw it, that is. Again, images of Jim's particles floating dissociated in space flash behind his eyes. McCoy instantly regrets asking the question and feels his skin crawl.
It takes the doctor a moment to notice that the Vulcan's unnervingly lucid eyes are fixed on him.
"Yeah?" he snaps somewhat irritably.
"You appear troubled, doctor."
"You're talking about something that, medically, I can't fix. It's more than a little unnerving, alright?"
"There is little cause for concern," Spock assures him. "If the Heisenberg compensator is functioning properly there is no other logical reason for the transporter to have failed."
McCoy guffaws. Logical. Like there's something logical about having yourself broken down to itty bitty bits and flung across the universe.
"What do you propose then, commander?" McCoy can not hide the ice in his words.
The Vulcan abruptly turns his attention to Scott as the chief engineer returns to their line of vision. One of his eyebrows is cocked inquisitively. Spock mirrors his expression, though on the Vulcan it seems taunting, almost menacing.
"It's working fine, sir." Scott returns to his station and drags his fingers across more lines of information. "I'll be damned if I know what happened."
Spock is about to reply when a transmission arrives from the bridge. It is Sulu, his voice tense. He pauses for a breathless moment. "We have contact with Chekov, sir."
The most surprising thing Pavel Chekov encounters when his body becomes solid again is that one foot is not where it should be. He dangles for a fraction of a second over a sheer drop of serrated stone before throwing his weight sideways with a groan of surprise. The action saves him from a fall and he clings to the edge of the cliff, scratches and drags himself up. He remains there on his knees, momentarily exhausted for a moment. After a few breaths he cranes his head about, searching for his captain. The landscape around him is completely deserted.
He pauses to think, pulls out his communicator. In a moment he is speaking with Lieutenant Sulu, who sounds absolutely relieved to hear from him and tells him as such. He can't help but return the sentiment with an unseen smile. After a minute the first officer is speaking back to him and Chekov rattles off an excited series of explanations before something hot and sticky and very large begins breathing somewhere over his shoulder. . .
"What has happened, ensign?"
Chekov laughs, but it is a fearful one, weak and thready. "Something has happened with the transporter. I have no idea where I am, commander." He takes a hasty breath. "Ah—it is on the planet, I think, sir! But... something did not go right." He adds this last sentence after a careful choosing of words.
"And the captain?"
Chekov hesitates as if startled. "I—I do not know, sir."
McCoy looks over at Spock, completely mute. If the Vulcan is effected by this disastrous news, he shows nothing of it outwardly aside from a gentle tilt of his head.
Spock is cut short as something that is not Chekov's voice suddenly resounds through the line. It is deep and guttural and the sound of heavy footsteps follows it almost imperceptibly. Chekov makes a startled sound and begins to curse vividly in Russian before the communication line goes dead.
It takes McCoy a startled moment to adjust to the silence. His head falls against his open palm in a mixture of anxiety and incomprehension. First his captain is—possibly, probably—torn apart by the transporter, and now the kid is . . . he stops himself before his flabbergasted brain can conjure any more horrible ideas. He feels the inexorable need to groan, perhaps grab a satisfying beverage of the alcoholic variety to forget about the horrors his mind has hence his duty as a doctor will allow him no solace, and he is following Spock from the bridge before his brain even knows what his feet are doing.
Flat ground, my ass.
However, considering his chief engineer's history with the transporter, Kirk is not surprised. At least he did not end up in the midsts of hostile Romulans. Scott had insisted that the transporter would place them on flat ground; instead, Kirk finds himself dangling precariously on the end of a damn cliff. Unfortunately, the law of gravitational attraction is universal everywhere, and as high as James T. Kirk may think of himself, he can not best a law of nature. The precarious ground collapses beneath him and he soon becomes more intimately acquainted with the local scenery than he originally intended.
As the last debris of his fall—which is a modest drop of at least ten feet—scatters around him, he curses and rubs at his shoulder. Nothing broken but his pride. He makes a mental note to have several words with Scotty after this. None of them are particularly friendly.
He searches about the chaos for his communicator, and his stomach hardens as he can not find it. He curses again, flings rocks away in his haste. Nothing comes to him until he finds a telltale scattering of debris. He rolls away a particularly large stone—just my damn luck, he thinks—and reveals the remains of his communicator, now reduced to innumerable shiny pieces.
Gingerly he gathers the mangled pieces and attempts to connect them together in his hands, but the communicator is lifeless. He scoffs and throws the pieces away.
McCoy's jaw drops wide at Spock's suggestion as the Vulcan stands before the transporter, a serious expression on his face. Then again, Spock always looks serious. But he can't possibly be serious about this.
"Are you out of your Vulcan mind?" he snaps, flinging his arms wide. "The damn thing swallowed our captain, and you want to use it to go look for him?!"
"It is the fastest way to arrive at the captain's suspected location."
McCoy can do nothing but stare. He guffaws twice. "This thing could put us three planets over with our heads on each other's bodies, for crying out loud!"
"That's highly unlikely, sir," Scott mutters behind him, a tinge of pain in his voice. "I checked every part of the transporter, nothing is out of place. If anything's to blame, it's something on the planet."
Again, half-maniacal laughter escapes the doctor's throat. These people are all insane.
"Doctor, you do realize that the captain's life could be in jeopardy? And the ensign's as well?"
Leave it to that pointy-eared bastard. . .
"Yeah, I know. Doesn't mean I like this idea."
"It is not logical that you--"
"Don't even try it," McCoy snaps. He holds up one hand in a mollifying gesture in response to the Vulcan's very serious eyebrow. "I swear that if this thing doesn't put me right where it's supposed to I'll haunt you from my grave, Mr. Scott."
There is a hesitant reply from behind him and McCoy can not detect the veiled laughter. "Aye, sir."
Defeated, McCoy turns his eyes to the ceiling. "You owe me big time for this, Jim," he mutters under his breath before staggering up to join Spock on the transporter with a medical kit in hand. The Vulcan snaps the word "energize" and McCoy visibly flinches as the effervescent white light surrounds him.
Kirk's eyes snap to the top of the landscape when he hears a distinct string of words in Russian. He throws himself against the face of the cliff beside him and begins to climb when Chekov's horrified face is suddenly looming above him. The ensign's eyes are as wide as saucers; he looks like he might lose the contents of his stomach all over the top of Kirk's head.
"Oh, captain!" Chekov does not have time to show his relief. "There is--" suddenly the Russian boy is gone, glancing quickly over his shoulder and rolling away from something. Kirk sees a flash of very large, serrated claws that grasp at the edge of the earth before scrabbling away, sending a fresh hail of stones down toward him.
"Chekov! Get over here!" Kirk bellows, continuing to drag himself up the cliffside.
"No, нет, нет!... I mean, yes, captain... ay!"
Kirk breaches the plane at the top of the cliff to see Chekov frozen in place about ten steps from his vantage point, locked in the gaze of something large and vaguely reptilian. The creature has obviously just taken a strike at the ensign, for its claws are buried several inches into the ground merely inches from Chekov's feet. A blue-black tongue lolls anticipatively from behind dangerous-looking teeth. The creature seems fixated on Chekov and the ensign is paralyzed in its shadow.
Kirk grips the fragile earth, braces his feet. He slings his phaser toward the creature, takes aim, and fires. The strike seems to bounce off the creature's flank, not enough to hurt it but more than enough to draw its attention. Kirk fires again and the creature snaps its head toward him, regarding him with eerily intelligent yellow eyes. It drags its claws free of the earth with an impact that knocks Chekov from his feet. Its attention is suddenly completely frozen on Kirk.
Kirk squeezes off another shot, taunting the creature toward him. "Hey, ugly!"
The creature responds to his challenge.
Kirk tosses his phaser toward Chekov. It spins in the dirt and comes to rest several feet from the startled ensign.
"Stay here, Chekov, and that's an order!" Kirk bellows before he vanishes beneath the lip of the cliff, churning up dust as he slides down. The creature clears the space between them with two heaving steps and pursues him.
To Be Continued