Phaser fire lit up the dark sky above them like a 4th of July celebration of old. Debris, large and small, rained dangerously down around them from buildings hit by large blasts. Amazingly none of the landing party had more than scrapes and bruises- yet.
Commander Spock and his landing party were pinned down inside the planet's capital city of Rindour. The team had beamed down from Enterprise to ease tensions prior to the arrival of the Clara Barton, a medical ship due within five standard days to assist local medical personnel with lowering infant mortality rates due to an unknown maternal viral epidemic. Since the Riindi so closely resembled humans in appearance and physiology, Federation doctors and scientists felt they stood a better than good chance at helping solve the current crisis.
The 'tensions', and their current predicament, however, were caused by a violent faction of the planet's population who felt that the rising infant death rate was divine punishment for leaving behind the ways of the Ancient Ones and only divine intervention was going to evoke change. To try to interfere with the plan of the gods was sacrilegious; and they were willing to kill anyone who disagreed. The irony that the T'maatu, as they called themselves, were also interfering in the gods' plan for others was apparently lost on them.
After arriving in the capital city, Spock, Dr.'s McCoy and Chapel, and their security detail, which included Lt.'s O'Connelly and Redstone, met with the Riindi planetary leaders and were in the process of being escorted to the city's premier medical lab when the terrorist assault on the city began, trapping them outside in the open during the barrage.
"Dammit, Spock, get us the hell out of here!" yelled McCoy, trying to be heard over the din. He was crouched down between Spock and Chapel behind a low wall surrounding what had been a lush and peaceful courtyard.
"Something is preventing our contacting the ship, Doctor. I suggest we find adequate protection until we are able to do so," Spock briskly responded.
"Over here, Sir," Lt. Spike O'Connell y called as she came around the corner of a nearby building. "There's a tunnel connecting two streets about forty meters beyond this structure that will provide us with some cover."
"Amen! Let's get the hell outta here!" McCoy yelled, his eyes wide as the detonations seem to grow louder and closer.
"Follow closely and keep your heads down," Spock commanded. "Lt. Redstone, cover our retreat."
Rapidly, Lt. O'Connelly turned and headed back in the direction from which she had come, followed by Spock, Chapel, McCoy, and then Redstone. They rounded the building and hurried down a flight of steps into a pedestrian tunnel just as a huge explosion went off nearby. Training kicking in, the Starfleet personnel dropped down and covered their heads with their arms to ward off any flying rubble. A full minute or so later, the shaking subsided and dust swirled around both entrances to the tunnel. Both sides were still miraculously clear.
Dr. Christine Chapel couldn't hear anything yet, but she could certainly see Leonard McCoy's mouth moving. He was pissed that they were still here although Spock was doing his utmost to contact the ship. She rose and saw that the security guards had taken up posts at each end of the tunnel. Christine could see that Spock was fiddling with his tricorder and looking, for Spock, pretty irked.
Finally, her hearing started to return, and she turned to McCoy. "Len, I don't think you're helping here." Frustration with her friend and mentor was affecting her tone more than a little.
"What the hell is going on? Why does this always happen every time I go on an away mission with Spock? Huh? Why?" McCoy asked, rolling his eyes. "You know, you'd think I'd have enough seniority to turn these missions down, but, no, here I am again."
"Jeez! Enough already! "Christine was ready to throttle him herself. "Damn. Don't you ever read the mission briefs?" It was her turn to roll her eyes; McCoy was notorious for his ability to avoid mission briefings, debriefings, staff meetings….the list went on.
Sensing that he had made his point, McCoy wisely shut up. Glancing away from Christine, he noticed the Vulcan approaching.
Spock took in the appearance of his shipmates before speaking. Christine was dusty but otherwise relatively calm; McCoy was—well-McCoy.
"There seems to be some sort of planetary shield in place. I would speculate that the rebel faction has somehow gained control of the planet's defensive grid in order to prevent any outside interference from the Federation." He paused, looking at them, and continued, "It would not be in our best interest to be caught by the rebels. Our capture would no doubt provide them with useful bargaining tools. Heading out of the city proper would give us the best opportunity for safety until beam out by Enterprise. According to my tricorder, it is 2.45 standard hours until sunset. If we can hold out here long enough, we may be able to use the cover of darkness to make our way to the surrounding countryside."
"Sounds like a plan to me," McCoy said. "The faster we can get out of here the better, I say."
Christine Chapel spoke up, "Spock, is there a limit to this defense shield? Does it have any weaknesses we may be able to take advantage of to get off planet?"
"None of which I am aware. Our ship's scans detected nothing of note, but I will require further time to study it."
McCoy twisted his mouth and raised a brow, "Really? Well, I hope we don't have enough time for you to study it—here—I want to get off this little piece of paradise—ASAP!"
"Really, Doctor McCoy, I would never have known how opposed you were to our being under duress. You have been so reserved about our situation thus far."
Christine didn't try to hide her smile. Len deserved a little Vulcan sarcasm. He deserved a smack if he didn't lighten up. God, she loved him, but he got worse every year.
Spock continued, "I need to check with the security team. I will return shortly. It will be safer here in the center of the tunnel." He headed for Lt. Redstone.
Christine turned to McCoy. "Why do you give him such a hard time?"
McCoy slid to the floor and extended his legs out in front of him. "Well, sit down, girl. I'm an old man, can't stay on my feet forever, ya know."
Christine sat down beside him, pulling her legs up and resting her arms on them. "Answer me, Len," she said tiredly.
"Ah, Chris, it's not just Spock. I give everybody hell these days; it's part of the joy of being old" he answered.
"Yeah, but you're still trying to get a rise out of him after all these years. Don't you think he's got enough to keep him occupied?" She closed her eyes, letting her head rest on the wall behind her as well. Dust from the wall lightly fell over her hair like talcum sprinkles.
McCoy didn't answer for a few minutes, and she thought he had decided to ignore her, until he finally spoke. Softly he said, "I suppose it's just a habit. It takes my mind off being scared out of my wits, I guess." He turned to her and gave her that lazy McCoy grin. "Still protecting him, Chris? After all these years?"
Christine didn't rise to the bait. She was mostly beyond McCoy's teasing her about Spock. She'd endured it for too long. "No, I guess, I'm just scared, too. Makes me feel better to attack you." She smiled back at him.
"Touché, ma' girl. Touché."
Approximately two and a half hours later, the landing party was able to make its way through the destruction. The once beautiful city had suffered terrific damage. There was very little movement, but in the distance, small arms fire could still be heard. Spike O'Connelly and Spock had point with Redstone again bringing up the rear.
For now, McCoy was quiet; they couldn't afford to draw any attention. Although they were armed, chances were they would be sorely outnumbered. Stealth was truly their best option.
Moving down one of the city's dark and deserted streets, Spock directed them into a small shop. "Rest here. It is unoccupied. Lt. O'Connelly, come with me. Lt. Redstone, stay with the doctors."
"Where are you going?" McCoy asked. None of his former acerbic tone was present.
Spock said, "I want to check some of these buildings and see if there is anything we may be able to utilize."
"I think that's called 'looting', Spock." McCoy said.
He could feel ,but not see, the withering look the Vulcan gave him in response.
Almost an hour later, Spock and Spike returned with an armload of what looked like blankets and several packs. McCoy had dozed off, but Christine and Redstone had rummaged around the building where they were taking cover looking for supplies as well.
"We need to move." Spock handed Christine what looked like a robe of some sort. "Put this on and cover your head. It should provide us with some disguise since this is what many of the locals wear. We also found some foodstuffs, but we need to go now. My tricorder picked up a group of five individuals moving this way."
By this time, McCoy was up and also throwing on one of the robes. "Are there many casualties?" he asked.
Spock said, "Unfortunately, yes, doctor, but most of the city's populace seems to have either fled or retreated inside whatever shelter they could find."
"Do you think it might be wiser to stay here than be on the streets?" McCoy asked again.
"I do not think so, Doctor McCoy. Lt. O'Connelly and I observed extremely primitive and violent behavior from the ones who did encounter other inhabitants."
McCoy said nothing else, but turned and looked at Christine, whose eyes he could not read in the darkness.
Spock stepped outside first and scanned the streets in all directions with his tricorder before motioning them outside. Taking Christine by the arm, he assisted her over the broken door and glass. Spike moved to the front, then McCoy, Redstone was next. Spock and Christine followed in the rear.
It was sinister dark in the city. There was no light from either of the planets two moons and only a few stars were visible. The streetlights were nonfunctioning. It reminded Christine of an old Western ghost town. All they needed was a whistling wind and some tumbleweeds. She suddenly shuddered involuntarily. Spock noticed.
He stepped closer and spoke softly, "Are you all right, Doctor?" Spock asked. Since their last away mission, the two of them had started to socialize more and even paired up to play doubles in the ship's tennis tourney. It wasn't exactly a romance, but they had formed a friendship. With McCoy along, he didn't dare allow any bit of special concern for her to show through. McCoy would be on him (as the good doctor himself liked to say) like 'white on rice.'
Christine reached out in the darkness and touched his arm lightly. "Just spooked. Probably some primal fear about being in the dark." She tried to make her tone light, but it was highly unnerving to move through so much threatening gloom. It was difficult to maneuver around the minefields of broken ground vehicles and other debris, and they didn't dare use any illumination. Also, there was the danger that one of them could make unnecessary noise or be injured.
"How much farther until we get out of the city?" she whispered.
"Approximately three kilometers. I am hoping there will be some type of shelter for us outside the more urban environs where we can orient ourselves."
"Hope?" There was an undercurrent of warmth in her voice.
"Yes. I would prefer that you did not tell McCoy." His tone was lighter as well.
"Get me out of this interminable ink well and you've got a deal, Commander."