One Sacred Moment
Kirk felt the heat of the planet's climate before the dry desert terrain materialized in his line of vision. He cautiously drew his phaser as he scanned the area, as did Sulu and the others. McCoy activated his tricorder and quickly scanned the area.
"It's just us, Jim. There's a good 2000 meters between us and the nearest life readings."
"Alright good." The group relaxed a little and waited for direction. "Any human life signs, Bones?"
McCoy shook his head. "No, nothing."
His gaze on his own tricorder, Sulu spoke up. "The shuttle is about one hundred meters in that direction, Captain. Just over that ridge."
Kirk cast a glance at the small embankment Sulu indicated, and then led the team that way. After a brief, easy climb they found themselves looking down into a small valley. The Bishop, Alliance's shuttle craft, sat a short distance ahead. Debris surrounded the small craft. The main door, torn from it's supports, lay broken on the ground. A seat and part of the master control panel littered the ground a few feet away.
Ensign Flynn was the first to verbalize what they were all thinking. "What the Hell happened here?"
"My guess would be the Alliance crew met up with the locals," McCoy muttered.
Kirk looked over at him, but said only, "Let's go down and check it out."
The made their way down the edge of the embankment and approached the shuttle with caution, not sure what they might find inside.
The damage inside belied a struggle, but none of the crew remained. Kirk couldn't be sure if he was more relieved or disappointed not to find them. He wanted to find them alive and unharmed, but the condition of the shuttle overshadowed his hope.
He turned to Flynn, who had followed him into the craft. The fear in the young man's eyes caught him by surprise. He ignored it and gave him something to keep him busy.
"I want you to check things out in here and give me a complete damage report."
Kirk started to say more but a voice from outside demanded his attention.
He ducked out through the low door and squinted in the bright light. "What is it?"
"Footprints, here...look." Sulu pointed out large, foot shaped indentation in the dry soil. Their shape suggested human, but their size indicated otherwise.
Kirk looked over at Lt. Kir as she knelt next to one of them.
"What do you make of them, Lieutenant?"
"They're large, and deep...whoever made these was probably at least eight feet tall and by the depth I'd guess at least 250 to 300 pounds. Judging by the pattern here in the instep and toe area, I'd say they were made by a bare foot, which goes along with my primitive culture theory." She stared into the imprint and then let her eyes wander across the ground, and fixed her gaze on the shuttle craft
She didn't say anything more for a minute and Kirk waited. Finally she looked up at him. "There are no human footprints here. The Alliance crew never even made it out of the shuttle."
Kirk looked back at the crumpled door and other debris. "They were taken."
"It sure looks that way."
Sulu joined them a moment later and nodded toward the other side of the valley. "The tracks go off in that direction, Captain."
"Toward their camp." Kirk followed Sulu's gaze then looked at McCoy as he walked up. "We have to follow them then."
"Follow them? Jim, are you nuts? Look around you."
"We can't leave until we rescue them, Bones." They stared into each others eyes a second, both thinking the same thing. "Or, until we're sure they're dead."
"Poor bastards. They didn't even have time to do anything to provoke an attack," McCoy grumbled.
Lt. Kir shook her head. "If this is a primitive and violent culture, just landing here may have been enough."
Kirk watched her a minute and saw his own concern for their safety reflected in her expression. She met his eyes briefly, then looked away. He looked over the scene once more, then turned to Sulu.
"Sulu, you stay here, and help Flynn with the damage report. Keep an eye out around you, and keep scanning for their positions. Warn us if they're coming our way. We're going to follow these tracks and see if we can find out anything at all about the Alliance crew."
"Bones, Kir...let's go."
They followed him across the valley and up the step like series of ledges to the top of the opposite side. They paused there and scanned the terrain ahead. Dry, rocky hills rose and fell as far as they could see.
"Bones, which direction?"
McCoy nodded toward the readings his tricorder provided.
"All, right, let's go. Keep scanning, let me know if they start moving our way or you pick up anything at all."
They didn't get far. From the crest of the next hill, a crude structure, a scaffold of sorts, caught Kirk's eye. He held up his hand to the others.
"Wait, stop. Look...over there."
They all studied it, and unconsciously moved forward as they tried to see it more clearly. It appeared to be a heavy log, propped crossways across the high branches of two trees. Something hung from it but none of them could make out what from a distance. After a minute, Kirk urged them forward.
"Come on, let's check it out."
Only a hundred feet later they all froze in their tracks and stared up at six mangled, lifeless bodies.
"My God," McCoy said softly. Lt. Kir said nothing but her shock and horror were obvious as she looked away quickly. Kirk stared up at the bodies, still clothed in tattered Starfleet uniforms, and tried to reign in his anger.
"Damnit." He turned on his heels and took his frustration out on a nearby stone. He kicked it, and watched it stir up plumes of dust as it bounced across the ground. "Damnit, we're too late!"
"Even if we'd been here sooner there might not have been anything we could do." McCoy stared up at the bodies a moment longer then turned his gaze to Kirk. "They didn't stand a chance, Jim and neither do we. We need to get out of here before we end up just like them."
Kirk knew he was right but his blood boiled as he looked up at the six bloody corpses. Kir looked over at him too.
"He's right, Jim. There's nothing more we can do for them now."
He sighed. "I know, you're right. Let's … let's at least get them down from there, give them a little dignity. Bones, record their location, the exact coordinates, and we can beam the bodies up after we get back to the ship."
McCoy nodded, his expression somber. "Already done."
Kirk studied the structure and tested the strength of it, then climbed up the tree closest to him. Together he and McCoy lowered the first body to the ground. McCoy scanned it quickly, and shook his head.
"This didn't happen very long ago, Jim."
Kirk nodded but didn't answer as he moved over and tugged on a heavy piece of rope wrapped around the legs of the second man. None of them spoke for the next several minutes as they went about their grim task. They lowered the last of the bodies to the ground just as the beep of Kirk's communicator demanded their attention.
Kirk swung himself down from the log and dropped to the ground before to answer. "Kirk here, go ahead."
"Captain, our readings show several of life forms headed toward our location from the Southwest."
Kirk glanced around to orient himself, then glanced at Bones. "The encampment we read was that way, to the north, wasn't it?"
McCoy stared at his own tricorder. "Evidently there's an encampment Southwest of here too. I didn't notice it before because I was just looking for the closest group of them."
"Alright, let's get back. Sulu and Flynn are sitting ducks back there." He started walking quickly back in the direction they'd come as he responded to Sulu.
"Sulu, you and Flynn take cover, we're on our way back." He paused a second, then added, "Don't hesitate to use deadly force if you have to."
Kirk adjusted the frequency on his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise."
Loud static was the only reply.
"Kirk to Enterprise, come in Enterprise."
"They're still out of range, Jim."
McCoy's statement of the obvious annoyed him, but He didn't have tome to respond. The sound of phaser fire in the distance startled them, and Kirk rushed forward. McCoy and Kir hurried to keep up with him as he spoke into the communicator again.
"Sulu, what's happening?"
Sulu did not respond, but several more phaser blasts could be heard over the channel. Kirk swore under his breath as he swapped out his phaser for the communicator. Moments later they crested the rim of the ridge in time to see Ensign Flynn fire into a stand of trees on the opposite side of the embankment.
Kirk scrambled down the ledge and Kir and McCoy followed. For a moment no one moved or spoke, but the look of sheer terror on Flynn's face unnerved Kirk more than he cared for. He shook it off and took Flynn by the arm.
"I...I think we got them...them all..."
Sulu emerged from the rear of the shuttle, his phaser also drawn. Kirk saw the same fear in his expression, but he quickly masked it.
"There were four of them, Captain. Or five, possibly. I can't be sure but I think we stunned them all."
"Did they see you?"
Sulu nodded. "Yes, well...not at first, but they came down the ledge over there -"
Flynn interrupted. "I had no choice, Sir...I had to stun them before the got too close...before they could get to us..."
The picture of what had happened became clear, and Sulu nodded at the questioning glance Kirk cast him. Flynn watched their interaction, then confessed his hasty actions.
"Mr. Sulu told me to wait, Sir...to see what they would do, but when I saw them getting so close, I panicked, and fired -"
Kirk nodded to McCoy to take Flynn aside. "Alright, it's alright Ensign, just go with Dr. McCoy. Once they moved away Kirk looked back to Sulu.
I'm sorry, Captain. I told him to wait, but I guess the sight of them got the better of him."
"Did you get a good look at them?"
Sulu nodded. "They're huge, every bit as large as Lt. Kir speculated, and they look human but, their faces were...distorted a bit, and I believe they had large fangs."
Kirk looked around. "Well, that's just great."
He thought things over and then addressed the group. "Alright, let's get back to the beam down point and hope the Enterprise is back in range before our friends come back with reinforcements."
He turned back to Sulu. "So you said they all came from up that way?"
Sulu nodded. "Yes, sir."
"Alright, let's head out the way we came in. Sulu, you come with me."
Sulu followed him up the side of the embankment where they'd first entered the valley. A quick glance around the area revealed nothing but landscape. Convinced the area was clear, Kirk turned back to motion the rest of the group to follow them.
A sudden look of shock on Sulu's face caught him off guard and he turned back. A large man-creature stood directly in his path, and towered over him. Kirk raised his phaser only to have it instantly slapped away, by a hand twice the size of his. He scrambled backward but the Lyr caught up to him with one easy stride. He glared at Kirk with narrowed eyes, filled with aggression and something Kirk could only decipher as pure, unadulterated hatred.
He raised both his hands in a futile defensive move just as the man-creature lunged forward. The sickening sound of metal piercing flesh was instantly followed by excruciating pain, the likes of which he'd never experienced. A scream pierced the otherwise still air and he realized it was his own. His assailant roughly reclaimed the weapon and he caught a brief glimpse of the bloodied tip of a crude spear before his vision was obscured by a heavy spray of bright red blood. It burned his eyes and filled his mouth with a vile, almost metallic taste.
He fell backward off the ledge and hit the ground hard. Pain shot through his back and head on impact, but quickly paled in comparison to the inferno in his chest. A second later, the Lyr crumbled in a heap a few feet from him and he became aware of the rest of the team surrounding him.
He gasped for air and every breath burned. He reached out and McCoy's hands gripped his.
The pain in his best friend's eyes confirmed what he already knew. He tried to speak, but blood filled his mouth, and spilled across his face. He choked and coughed, and McCoy gripped his hands tighter.
"I'm here, Jim. I'm here."
The bright daylight dimmed as each breath came harder. Darkness replaced the bright sunlight of Lyros 4. Fragments of conversation made it through the haze of pain but he found it impossible to make sense of them. One voice rose above the din of the others, Bones...desperate to do something, anything to save him.
"...contact the ship...Enterprise...McCoy...read...no use...out of range...15 minutes..."
A memory toyed with him and he tried to pull it in closer.
She was the last in line, to the casual onlooker, their greeting was no different than the other new crew members. The subtle difference existed only for them. He met her eyes, and held her gaze just a fraction of a second longer, and squeezed her hand just a little tighter.
Voices penetrated the memory.
"We have to get him back to the ship." Bones again. "Enterprise, this is McCoy, do you read me?"
No reply...not even static.
"Damnit, they're still out of range."
'Space is disease and death, and darkness and silence', Bones had once told him. I guess you were right, old friend.
Lieutenant Kir addressed McCoy, panic in her voice. "He's bleeding out, we have to do something right now."
He drew on every ounce of strength he could muster to open his eyes. Their faces were partially obscured by the bright sun behind them. The familiar sound of a tricorder scanner distracted him.
"There's massive organ damage, and he's already lost too much blood." McCoy swallowed hard and his voice cracked as he drew the scanner away. "There's nothing we can do."
Kir looked out over the dusty landscape, and the bright sun glistened off the tears that streaked her face.
Too weak to keep them open, Kirk closed his eyes again. As the darkness swallowed him, he thought he heard Kir say, "I can help him."