A/N: Sorry for the long delay. Hope you enjoy this next installment!
Half a world away, the sun was just rising over the unhappy plains of Siberia when retired physicist Sergei Rachmaninoff's search finally came to an end. The elderly Russian often complained of insomnia and took long walks across the darkened countryside with just a flashlight, returning in time to make his family breakfast and, after eating, settle down to sleep until noon. Tonight, however, was different.
Sergei had been walking along the road in the wee hours of the morning when the sky had lit up and something big and black had come screeching and tumbling through the atmosphere and crashed several miles away. Now, Sergei knew quite a bit about space since he'd been up in it once after all, and he knew quite a bit about meteorites since they were his main area of interest besides nuclear fusion, and so he knew that what he'd seen wasn't a meteorite in the least.
He also knew that his historian wife wouldn't want to be woken up in the middle of the night to hear his alternate theory. So he walked and it was just a bit after dawn when he found himself on the edge of the crater.
The trees in the area had been flattened, the ones closest to the center practically pulverized, and in the center itself, half obscured by the dirt its impact had thrown up, lay the thing, whatever it was. Even at this distance there were two very important things that Sergei noticed, things that had him dialing one of his old space program friends almost before thinking: it was huge and it wasn't like anything humans had so far built.
His friend picked up after the second ring. "Hello?"
"Chris," Sergei began, "you are not going to believe this, but…"
Afternoon sunlight was streaming through the window when Jim grunted awake, still in the chair next to the guest bed. At first he wasn't sure what had woken him, but the answer came quickly in the form of a volley of raps on the front door. Jim jolted out of his seat and hurried to the front of the house, rubbing his stiff neck.
He opened the door to find McCoy standing outside on the porch, wearing an old blazer and a sour expression. He had his first aid kit with him—one of those old-style black doctor's bags, which Jim knew he had gotten as a gift from his daughter some years ago.
"Bones!" Jim cried, coming outside and putting his arm around his friend's wiry shoulders. "You came!" He felt inexplicably fond of the man.
"Yes, much as I may come to regret it." McCoy extricated himself from Jim's grip. "So where's your 'little green man'?"
"He's not that little, actually. Guest bedroom." He led the way.
"Has he regained consciousness yet?"
Jim shook his head. "No and I'm actually kind of worried about that…he doesn't seem to be breathing much."
He reached out to open the guest room door, but McCoy grabbed his wrist to stop him. "Look, Jim, let's get something straight: I'm a doctor, not a veterinarian, so this better not be too weird. And don't expect much because they don't teach xenobiology at Old Miss. I don't know anything about this guy's insides, I have no baseline of what's normal for him, I don't even know if 'he' is the right pronoun because god knows how they reproduce on other planets? Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Jim nodded, meeting McCoy's eyes with an earnest expression. "I know, Bones. Just do your best."
The older man sighed and let Jim open the door. "Right. Yeah."
Jim frowned to himself. McCoy was often moody, but never without reason. His curiosity would have to wait, however; there were more pressing concerns.
McCoy pointedly ignored Jim's scrutiny, focusing on his patient. The alien wasn't half as strange on the surface as he'd panicked it might be on his way here. Hours of driving past darkened scenery had given his imagination plenty of time to go wild, conjuring up images of everything from a huge grub with an inch-thick exoskeleton to an unholy cross between a jelly fish and a banana slug. He suspected this was caused by some combination of a lack of coffee and the crap music on the radio that was the only thing keeping him awake. As it was, however, this alien looked pretty human. Sure, he had elf ears and unfortunate eyebrows, but if it weren't for the very green blood, McCoy would have been fooled on visual alone.
He took the alien's pulse and temperature, finding both to be unnaturally high, possibly indicating a fever or possibly perfectly normal. He resisted the urge to just throw up his hands and instead felt the alien's long bones and torso carefully. Nothing seemed to be broken and besides the clear pounding of a heart located where a human's liver would be, everything felt remarkably familiar.
As far as he could tell, the worst injury the alien had sustained was the cut on its forehead. That, at least, was something he could deal with. Jim watched as he carefully stitched up the gash, being as sanitary as possible but probably exposing the being to every type of infection out there and more: it would have no immunity to Earth diseases, just as European explorers had not been immune to malaria when they'd first traversed the jungle. It would be just his luck if this alien, the first alien to visit Earth as far as he knew, died of a cold.
Finally he finished and straightened up, his back protesting the action stiffly. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. "Well?" Jim asked expectantly.
McCoy shrugged. "I've done what I can, for what it's worth. Our best bet would probably be to get him cleaned up and make sure he's not cut anywhere else. Then just…let him lie there. Him or it. That's really all I can do." He glared at the wall. Giving up on people seemed to be a trend of his lately and he hated himself for it. After his father's death, Kate had made him stare her in the eyes. It's not your fault, she'd said. It was, though. She didn't know the whole story.
Jim was looking worried again, so he shook himself into action, taking out a pocketknife to cut the alien's clothes off. Not being a nurse, this was hardly his area of expertise, but with Jim's help he was able to undress the alien and sponge him-definitely him now- off. They found no more cuts in need of stitches, though there were a few shallow wounds which he cleaned and bandaged and also a number of bad bruises. Finally they put him in an old bathrobe of Jim's which almost fit and stood back to admire their handiwork, such as it was.
McCoy didn't realize he was zoning out and tilting rather dangerously to the right until Jim grabbed his arm. "Okay, Bones, come on, bed." It was a testament to how tired he was that he went without complaint.
As soon as he'd gotten McCoy to bed and looked in on the alien to make sure he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, Jim jumped in his pick-up and headed into town to get some groceries. While he could very easily subsist on apples, brauts, and the occasional pizza, he didn't need McCoy finding out and bitching at him for not eating very healthily, so making sure he had more in his house than the above plus crunchy peanut butter, beer, and a few jars of beets was the business of the day.
Twenty minutes later he was pushing a cart around the local Fareway. He was considering a bag of spinach leaves when someone called his name. He spun, recognizing the large, melancholy man who matched the voice. It was his neighbor Harve Kildegaard who farmed the half section across the road from his own. It was pretty easy to guess what he was going to ask about.
"Hey, Harve!" said Jim. "Missed you on Monday. You never know, those Cubs might pull through yet!"
Harve shrugged. "I was too busy to watch the game. I'll probably be there this week. Yesterday, though, what happened with your southwest quarter? I saw smoke over there. Was there a fire?" He spoke slowly and Jim took advantage of this tendency to think up an excuse. He hoped to prevent anyone from snooping around and seeing the space pod.
"No, no fire, just some sort of meteorite, I think. It's made a mess of the crops, but I'll get someone to get rid of it and salvage what I can."
"My brother's got a tow truck. I could give you the number to his business," Harve suggested.
"Sure, I'll look into it," Jim lied through his teeth. "It's been great talking to you, Harve, but I've got to run. A friend of mine's visiting, so I need to get back." He shook Harve's hand companionably, then escaped up the canned soup isle.
The crisis was averted for now, but Jim knew that someone was bound to find out about the pod sooner or later. He needed to get rid of it. Luckily, thinking about Gary yesterday had given him an idea. The only person Jim knew with any connections to the space program and possibly the government was Christopher Pike, his old marine commander. They'd kept in touch over the last few years, though he hadn't seen the older man since his term of service had ended and he'd moved back home.
Once he got the groceries out to the pick-up and was bumping back up the road, Jim dialed Pike's number.
It was late in Edinburgh, Scotland, but Professor Montgomery Scott was wide awake and excited. Five hours ago, he wouldn't have expected this evening to be any different from every other Friday evening since he'd started working at the University. His reputation as an electrical engineer and mechanic meant that people were always asking him to have a look at various broken things, so he'd figured he would spend the evening fiddling with molecular biologist and drinking buddy Doctor Kaehler's VCR.
However, a summons to the Dean of the Engineering College's office had put paid to that plan. Dean Craft had introduced him to Chris Pike, an older man with a distinctly military bearing, who had shaken his left hand without question and then had immediately launched into an explanation of his presence there.
Apparently, a retired Russian cosmonaut had discovered a strange vehicle crash-landed not too far from his remote house in Western Siberia. As Scotty looked over the pictures Pike had brought, he felt his excitement rising. Even from here, he could tell the vehicle was far more technologically advanced than even the most impressive space vehicle humans had ever built: the Romulus, which had disappeared, presumably destroyed, just as it passed Mars, and on which he had written his dissertation. He had given several possibilities for improvement, but none of the world governments had permitted their space programs to looking into them because of what a disaster and waste of money (as they saw it) Romulus had been.
This, though. This was the real thing, the opportunity Scotty had been waiting for since he'd built his first successful bottle rocket at the age of five. Dean Craft watched with undisguised amusement as Pike asked Scott to come with him to Siberia and consult on the workings of the vehicle and the normally somber and shy Scott practically bounced with anticipation, asking when they could leave.
Anyway, that had been five hours ago and Scotty was still in a state of blissful excitement as he and Pike entered Edinburgh Airport and headed toward the baggage check. As they stood in line, Pike's cell phone rang.
"Kirk? Yes, yes, go on…" As the tinny voice on the other end spoke, Pike's face progressively darkened. "Actually, I'm on my way to Siberia to see what may be a crashed space ship. If what you're saying is related, we could have a bigger problem on our hands than—yes, well, call me if anything changes. Pike out."
With a thoughtful look on his face, Pike replaced the phone in his inner coat pocket. Scotty waited until they had finished with their baggage and were walking toward their flight's gate before asking the obvious question.
"A complication," Pike answered. "An old subordinate of mine, James Kirk, thinks he's found one of that ship's passengers."
"An alien?" Scotty breathed.
Pike nodded in confirmation. "And, for now, he's alive. I told Kirk to call me if he wakes up."