Many things inspired this. It is set in the movie-verse, but will eventually draw on some TOS stuff. It is meant to be fluid and somewhat supernatural. Warnings for language, but especially for the gore . . .



He can taste metal in his mouth, and his nostrils are burning with the acrid stench of something acidic.

The first thing he sees is the roughened surface of the planet, and he can feel it pressing hard against the side of his face.

He is prostrate on the ground, and he cannot remember why.

Jim Kirk struggles to his knees, and the movement sends daggers of pain through his limbs. Every bone in his body feels like it is in a hundred pieces. He groans, falls onto his side, and stares into the distance.

His vision focuses on a large chunk of metal, a scarred piece from some sort of wreckage. The symbol NCC-1701 is plainly visible on the surface, even through the dirt and the ashes.

Realization jerks him into action, and he ignores the protests of his body as he staggers to his feet.

He stares, open-mouthed, at the charred and decimated remains of a shuttlecraft no more than a few steps away. One side of the hull is completely missing, and the internal wiring hangs loose like entrails. Debris stretches farther than his eyes can see. The craft is on fire, but the flame is an unusual color, and it belches a thick and oily smoke. Liquids of various colors paint a sickening mosaic on the dirt. He can identify only one, and it is unmistakable: the brilliant red of human blood.

There is a terrifying gap in his memory, and the void makes him feel empty, disoriented. Throbbing pain brings his hand to his hairline, and the feeling of smooth blood against his fingers gives him a explanation for his amnesia.

A heavy sigh rattles from his chest as his eyes scan the remainder of the crash site, and his blood runs cold as he finds something distinctly human-shaped among the metallic debris.

He stutters forward and slips on the liquid discharge from the gutted vessel, landing on his face with a curse. He rises again, spits out the dirt from between his teeth, and crosses the distance between himself and the body with leaping steps.

He discovers that it is a corpse.

Kirk falls to his knees beside the body, his hands hovering with indecision, as if the mere act of touching would make it disappear and swirl away like dust. At last he makes tentative contact, but the body is stiff and cold. He pulls his hand away and finds it slick with blood. It is tepid, thick, and sticky.

" . . . Scotty . . ."

He can barely force himself to speak the name, and it is strained, painful, almost inhuman in pronunciation.

His chief engineer's head is twisted at an obscure angle, and it is obvious that his neck is broken. The right side of his face is unrecognizable. An explosion has melted away most of the skin, leaving behind only blistered remains of connective tissue and an empty eye socket. The destruction has taken most of his right side, and he is missing the fingers on that hand, with only blackened and charred stumps of bone remaining.

The odor surrounding the man is horrifying, the cloying stench of burnt flesh and death.

Kirk tries to say something, but the words freeze in his throat. Without the energy to resist he flings his head sideways and vomits against the dirt. A blinding pressure forms behind his eyes, and his vision fractures as his stomach heaves.

"Scott to Enterprise."

"Uhura here. Go ahead, Mr. Scott."

"Aye. Er . . . I need to talk to the commander. It's important."

Uhura whirls in her seat. "Commander, we finally have contact with Mr. Scott."

Spock inclines his head in affirmation from the captain's chair. Uhura transfers the communication to his station.

"Proceed, Mr. Scott."

There is a moment of silence on the other line, perhaps static, before the engineer's voice breaks through again. "We have a situation here, commander."

"Please clarify that statement."

Scott lowers his voice until it is almost unintelligible. "I cannae find the captain."

The Vulcan makes absolutely no movement, save for his eyebrow.

"Do explain to me how one loses a starship captain, Mr. Scott," he replies.

"I don't know! We encountered some sort of interference upon entering the planet's atmosphere. It made all our sensors go crazy. The control panel exploded, and when all was said and done the captain was gone, sir. Into thin air, not a trace of him left."

"A human does not simply disappear, Mr. Scott."

"That's what I thought too, 'till now, commander."

For a moment, lines of deep thought cross Spock's face.

"What happened after that, Mr. Scott? Why was there such a delay in reporting back to the Enterprise?"

"Well, commander, after the control panel exploded, the shuttle lost all power. We must've crashed hard somewhere, because the whole thing is in pieces. I had to jury rig the communication system just to get it working again."

"Do you have a theory as to the identity of this interference?"

"No, sir. Never seen anything like it."

"Is the shuttle salvageable?"

"Only if'n you want the parts. They're scattered halfway across the planet, for all I can tell."

"Clearly an exaggeration, Mr. Scott."

"Not from where I'm standing, sir."

The Vulcan's eyes peruse the bridge, and he takes note of the conspicuous absence of certain personnel.

"Mr. Scott?"

"Aye, sir?"

"Where is the rest of the landing party?"

For a moment there is an intense, heavy silence.

"I don't know, sir. When I came to, I was alone."

Kirk shoulders his way toward the remains of the shuttle, but the oppressive heat from the fire and the smoke drives him away. He stumbles backward, tripping over a large lump of cloth. It is a tarp, or at least part of it, singed on the edges. It must have come from somewhere inside the shuttle, but he has little other clue as to its origins. He stares at it, as if seeing it in this context is a violation of some law of nature.

He gathers it in one hand, churning up a helix of dirt, and carries it toward the engineer. He glances at the broken visage of his friend, feels the bile rising in his throat again, and tosses the tarp over the body. It settles silently, ethereally, blotting out the horror of death beneath a canvas of muted brown.

"Sorry, Scotty," he mutters, and his words are thick, almost unintelligible to his own ears.

Kirk turns away, his fists balled in frustration, and glares at the horizon. The atmosphere on this planet gives the closest star a reddish hue, and the entire landscape is bathed in the color of blood. He squints his eyes shut, feeling his emotions spiraling out of control, and still the vermilion burns through the darkness and threatens to drive him to insanity.

The wind, hot and sticky, blows against his face, and he can smell sulfur on the air.

He whirls frantically, feeling his bones threatening to jump out of his skin in a visceral reaction to fear of a degree he has never felt before.

A shadow of a figure is standing to his right, where previously there had been nothing but empty space.

"Who are you?" Kirk's instincts take over. He reaches for a phaser that, with a feeling of dread, he discovers is not there.

It is humanoid in structure, but there is something not right about the appearance of this entity, something that Kirk can not place. It is completely androgynous, and possesses the startling quality of being both there and not there at the same time. The edges of its form are hazy, indistinct, and melt into the halo of misty light that surrounds it. It is wearing a Starfleet uniform, the color of command, but there is something amiss, something unreal about it. Its eyes are perhaps a shade of blue that is too bright to be natural, its lips are slightly too pink, its skin is too pale, and its expression is completely neutral and immutable. It gives the appearance of a painting come to life, something without a soul made animate.

Hello, James.

Kirk's entire body shivers. He can feel the words as vibrations in his head.

"The hell?"

I have been waiting for you.

Kirk heaves a breath. An inexplicable and uneasy feeling is churning in his gut, and his skin crawls. He feels exposed, vulnerable.

". . . What do you want?" The question escapes weakly, childishly, but his tongue seems incapable of formulating anything else.

I want you to see.

Kirk laughs weakly, but it is more of an unconscious response than from humor. "See what?"

You must come with me.

"No," Kirk snaps without hesitation. In response to the constant stare he adds: "I won't leave him," gesturing pointedly in the direction of his deceased chief engineer.

There is no need for that. As you can see, he no longer has the capacity to perceive your presence. It is a wasted effort.

Anger flares in Kirk's chest with explosive force. He rears back his arm, his face twisted in a primeval snarl, and drives his fist toward the unknown figure.

No, James.

It is as if someone suddenly cuts his brain off from the rest of his body, and the limb falls, heavy and deadened. His eyes snap toward it, wide with amazement. He forces every ounce of his energy into moving it again, to no avail.

That will accomplish nothing.

"What the hell did you do to me?"

I have done nothing.

Feeling is returning slowly to the limb, and with it the sensation of a thousand pinpoints of fire crawling under his skin. He tries to move his fingers but can not control them, and he throws his head back with his teeth clenched to keep from screaming. As the agony passes his eyes fall on the entity, and it takes a moment for his vision to focus. It has remained completely still, watching him with those unnerving, immovable eyes.

You will come with me, James.

Kirk widens his stance and folds his arms across his chest. "Like hell I will."

You have no reason to stay here.

The image of the burned remains of Scott's face, like a wax mold half-melted, flashes behind Kirk's closed eyes.

"Get out of here," he all but spits the words, each dripping with vile acid. "Whoever you are, just go. Now."

I cannot do that.

Kirk turns away. "I don't give a damn."

There are many things you still must see.

Kirk's head snaps sideways and he glares over his shoulder, staring at the entity with an expression that, on a normal, feeling being, would engender a submissive response.

"You're telling me you know where the rest of my crew is?"

You will see.

"That's not the answer I'm looking for."

That is the only answer I will give you.

Kirk lets his eyes rest on the silhouette beneath the tarp, and he feels the molten rage swell in his chest again. It is eclipsed as reason reins in his anger, reminding him that there are other members of the landing party thus unaccounted for, and that it is his responsibility to locate them.

His gaze freezes on the entity again. He realizes, with a sinking feeling, that it is not going to give him a choice.

"If you don't take me to them, I'll kill you," he snaps in resignation.

The entity's face remains as impassive and immovable as a stone.

I can not be killed, James.

Kirk stops short at the words, staring at the entity as it turns and paces away without heed. A sudden force like a chain around his neck abruptly pulls him along behind it before he can protest otherwise.

To Be Continued.