The Star Collectors

Part 3

All the Pretty Monsters

May I just say, this story was meant to be a cute little one-shot. You know how people say that their muse just took their story and ran away with it? Well mine just turned up right in the middle and stampeded right through it, kind of like the creature that had just appeared in engineering….

"Get out've the way!" Scotty hollered as his staff threw themselves one way and the other, scrambling for the walls.

The huge and rather odd looking quadruped stooped low and rampaged through main engineering and out of the door at the far end.

It shouldn't have fit through the door, but physics didn't seem to mind, it didn't leave a single mark as tore off down the corridors of the lower deck, leaving the bewildered engineers behind it.

-O-

It was following their individual spectres that Spock and McCoy happened upon each other somewhere near the entrance to cargo bay 2.

To say that McCoy was happy to see Spock was an understatement, wandering the creepy corridors alone for so long had left the doctor so desperate for company he could have kissed the Vulcan on the cheek.

Spock merely raised one eyebrow and getting the distinct and rather unsettling impression that the good doctor was going to hug him, wondered why, of all the 431 personnel currently serving on board the Enterprise, it had to be McCoy he ran into.

"Calm yourself Doctor," Spock warned, unconsciously taking a step back into the safety of his personal space.

"What do you think is going on Spock?" McCoy exclaimed, not oblivious to the Vulcan's discomfort, "I thought I was going crazy back there. Where is everybody?"

"One question at a time…" Spock replied distractedly as his attention was drawn two ways. He reached for an unremarkable square panel on the nearest wall. He depressed it with his hand and it sprung out to reveal a small storage unit, no bigger than a shoe box. Inside: a laser saw, four ant-gravity clamps, three sets of breathing apparatus and a standard issue field medical kit. The container bore the words: EMERGENCY EXTRACTION KIT across the top.

"What do you need that for..?"

Spock, took the medical kit, strapped the laser saw to his belt and took two respirators, handing one to McCoy.

"I must return to the bridge" he stated, straightening as he did, "it is possible the fabric of the reality who's laws we are subject to has been denatured, congealed if you will pardon the use of metaphor."

"Proteins denature Spock…" McCoy was about to add 'not places' when Spock cut him off.

"Indeed, then imagine that protein is us and you may develop the sense of urgency that this situation requires," he replaced the panel on the wall, "Your tricorder, Doctor."

"Manners," McCoy snapped but un-shouldered the device anyway, "and what do you have to back up your little theory?" He probed.

"My own observation," Spock was adjusting the medical device to enable a wider spectrum of function.

"But that's a crazy conclusion to jump to!" McCoy argued, after all, he reasoned to himself, he'd been wondering the same corridor all morning and apart from being completely lost, he hadn't found himself accidently walking into last week yet, "and that's your best guess?"

"I do not guess Doctor, I merely state the facts as I see them" Spock replied irritably. He failed to see the point in debating the subject.

"Sounds a whole lot like guessing to me…"

"If you are of the opinion that formation of a hypothesis based on the available information is equivalent to random idea selection I sincerely hope your patients do not hold too much faith in your diagnostic skills." With that remark he turned and began striding the length of the corridor toward the cargo bay.

"Alright, don't get your pointy ears in a twist!"

Spock continued to walk away, determining that if events continued the way they so far had, it would not be long before his location changed.

"Now wait just a damn minute!" McCoy exclaimed angrily, "I don't know if you've noticed but places don't exactly stay put for that long around here. You just stroll off and we get split up…"

"Preferable, and ultimately more productive" Spock interjected pausing briefly to key open the cargo bay door before he entered.

A mist was gathering at the far end of the bay, intrigued Spock ventured towards it. The Doctor's grumbling followed him as he explored further forwards and into the purplish haze.

"HEY!" He heard the shout from behind him. "You think this is funny do you?"

-o-

On the bridge Jim Kirk gazed in horror at the scene unravelling before him, the cloudy haze of the nebular had gone, leaving a clear view of the stars before them. Not far off in the distance; no further than Jupiter is from the Sun, a swollen star heaved its last gasps before them, it was about to nova.

"Sensor readings, Mr Chekov?"

"Sensors remain inoperable Keptin."

"Any answer from the helm Sulu?"

"None Sir" came the solemn response. They were sitting ducks, then. Kirks Jaw clenched, no shields, no engines, no communications, no way out. If Spock was right and his ship wasn't all in one place (or time for that matter) then the majority of the ship would be spared disintegration by the supernova about occur ahead, but fractured and stranded in space, how could his crew survive long enough to find a way home?

The Star collapsed inwards on itself, shrinking in size as rapidly as it had appeared.

"Gentlemen, Ladies;" Kirk stole a moment to quirk a whimsical grin, "I know every time we've been faced with the impossible so far, fate and good fortune has pulled us through."

It was true, he had spoken a variation on the words he was about to say before, and again as then, all eyes were on him, "But if this is as bad as it would appear, I want you all to know, that you are the best crew in the fleet, and I have been honoured to be your Captain."

The Star grew smaller still.

"The fact is; that fate and good fortune had nothing to do with it. It was your hard work and determination, your strength and character that has made us what we are. I'm proud of every one of you."

A stillness followed, the crew transfixed on the sight ahead.

The shrinking stopped, James Kirk held his breath, "Brace yourselves."

-o-

After their brief trip through the wardrobe Spock and McCoy found themselves on the crew deck.

"So suppose that you're right Spock," McCoy walked alongside Spock, waving his hand around animatedly as he spoke, "and reality is in fact more messed up than an inebriate doing his ABC's…" they rounded a corner, "Then we have no way of knowing which way is 'up' to put it simply, how do you know that the next turning won't lead to the offending side of an external bulkhead?"

Spock stopped to consider the matter and hopefully to put a cease to the Doctor's wittering.

"If you are referring to the risk of inadvertently leaving the ship…"

"Helluva wrong turning…"

"I had given thought to that eventuality, there seems to be little to be done by way of avoidance." Spock persisted, "I must return to the bridge."

"So you've said Spock, but don't you think that dying in the process might be a tad inconvenient?"

"Quiet Doctor," Spock's keen hearing focused in on an unusual sound, he definitely heard…

"Don't you shush me Spock!" McCoy flared, not understanding the sudden need for silence until he noticed the change in his companion's stance.

Spock held his hand up to the Doctor, "Listen."

Quite abruptly the hush was broken when the cause of the disturbance came bounding into view making an absurd amount of noise as it hurtled towards the stunned pair. The gangly legged creature knocked the cornered Vulcan off his feet and in a fraction of a second Spock got the impression that he would likely land somewhere else entirely.

McCoy lunged after Spock as the scene changed around them. Landing rather roughly in the uneven dirt, McCoy quickly gathered himself and helped Spock to his feet.

"You ok?"

"I am quite alright Doctor." Spock was ruffled, but unharmed; he began to take stock of their situation.

They were both standing on a dusty plain, a huge red sky hung above them. Though clear, there was no sun in the sky, a bright white moon seemed to spin and blink on the horizon.

Both McCoy and Spock got the impression that it was a lot brighter than they actually could actually perceive. Like it was just sitting outside of their chunk of reality threatening to blaze in and tear it apart at any minute.

The air was hot and dry and burned the back of the throat as it was inhaled.

"Where in God's Universe is this place?" McCoy breathed, eyes wide as they both surveyed the rugged landscape stretching out before them.

The scene reminded McCoy of Mars, red mountains rose in the distance but instead of a barren land the plains where littered with herds of tall, pale creatures. The distant crackling noises of the things calling to one another drifted over to the stranded officers. He wondered if this is what it could have looked like before the oceans froze and the atmosphere had thinned away…

"Your respirator Doctor," Spock offered as he reached for his own.

"What?" McCoy was broken from his thoughts as he gazed dreamily across the plain. He looked dazed.

Spock reached for the respirator pouch on the Doctor's belt and withdrew the small mask, which he himself was already wearing, placed it on McCoy's face and waited.

McCoy didn't realise he had been panting, his face flushed as his mind regained clarity.

"Thanks Spock."

"None is necessary," Spock had already begun scanning the area with McCoy's medical tricorder, "the atmosphere of this planet contains considerably less oxygen than those to which we are accustomed."

The creature's crackly clicking sounded suddenly quite close by. Like the sound made when one constricts their own airway and takes a deep breath; kids do it all the time for fun, they've never watched 'The Grudge' so don't understand why it gives Mom the willies, but think it's funny anyway.

The clicking became louder and more rapid. Spock and McCoy turned slowly to see the monster from the Enterprise corridor regarding them with intent. One could only guess that intent was not good by the way it seemed to lower its long neck and crouch menacingly.

It looked like a bald giraffe with two knee joints per long elephant-like leg and what appeared to be a huge opal coloured eyeball on its neck instead of a head. The 'eyeball' extended out towards them before opening from the centre into a perfect circle of row upon row of sharp looking spines. The creature lunged towards Spock.

In a blur of dust and motion Spock found himself knocked of his feet once again but this time by McCoy. Something sharp raked along his arm in the confusion as Spock hit the floor.

A huge elephant like foot stomped the ground at Spock's feet, covering him in dust and a fine shower of rock. When he looked up again the Doctor was gone and the creature had seemingly disappeared.

A searing white light sliced into the ground in the distance and the earth heaved. Spock stumbled to his feet feeling the ground rapidly heating up around him, scorching the rock.

He stumbled backwards and onto the bridge.

Please Please review! Tell me what you think so far, good bad or indifferent - I'm a new writer so I really appreciate the feedback :-)

AllTheSnakes and Zedoc - thank you! Hope you enjoyed the latest installment!