Title: The Hunted
Category: TV Shows » StarTrek: The Original Series
Author: murphycat
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure
Published: 05-20-09, Updated: 06-01-09
Chapters: 15, Words: 28,577

Chapter 1: Chapter 1

I own nothing, not Star Trek, not a damn thing. Just ask my creditors.

Chapter 1.

Federation Starship USS Enterprise was nearing the planet, Rekidin. The planet, which was uninhabited by sentient life forms according to prior scans, was on the fringes of Federation space; the closest Federation station was Deep Space Station 5, three days away at warp 6. Enterprise, after dropping off the shuttle, Geminos, with its small crew complement for botanical and scientific research, would continue on to DS5, for repairs and resupply. James T. Kirk, captain of the intrepid starship, was estimating time away from the landing party at 12-15 days, and since there was such time and distance involved-not to mention possible communication problems due to solar flares from Rekidin's small yellow sun-he was taking no unnecessary chances. Assigned to the mission was not only First Officer Spock, but a small medical unit consisting of Dr. Christine Chapel and Nurse Cammy Fields, Dr.'s Jacob Lewis and John Lee, both medical botany specialists, and two of his best security people, John Redstone and Rebecca "Spike" O'Connelly.

Upon arrival the team would prepare a camp, survey the planet in a generally localized area for a few days, then move onto the next in a series of geographical areas. Needless to say, the samples would not be from extensively large planetary areas, but the small survey mission would be a dent in the nearly unstudied world's possible potential. After leaving DS5, when Enterprise was within range of communications, the ship would notify the shuttle's crew, and they would rendezvous with the starship.

In the shuttle bay, Geminos, was being loaded with the last of the gear needed for the landing party. The shuttle was one of a group of five new small ships assigned to Enterprise. Larger than most earlier shuttles, she could transport up to twelve people and a significant load of supplies. There was also a small emergency medical "bay" in the back of the shuttle. Commander Spock would pilot the craft, with Lt. Redstone as his co-pilot.

Dr. Leonard McCoy, CMO, was assisting Dr. Christine Chapel, ACMO, with carrying the last of her supplies to Shuttle Bay 1.

"Well, darlin', I know I'll miss you when we dock; I hear there are some mighty entertaining hotspots on DS5," McCoy drawled as he gratefully dropped his heavy load unceremoniously on the floor beside the shuttlecraft. The bay reminded him of a hive of bees, with everyone scurrying around trying to get things prepared for the shuttle's launch and Enterprise's subsequent docking for repairs.

"Leonard," Christine said, with a wry smile, "I doubt that you will notice for more than a millisecond that I'm not there while you are trawling through the bars for "base babes." In fact, without me there to "nag" you, as you so gentlemanly put it, you'll probably have a much better and uninhibited time." If the last time they put into a station was any indication, Chapel figured it would take from the time the Enterprise left DS5 til their rendezvous with Geminos for him to recover from his R & R.

"Dr. Chapel, are these the last of your medical supplies?" a deep, baritone voice interrupted her banter with McCoy.

"Yes, Commander," Chapel turned to Commander Spock, handing him her equipment and gesturing to the bag that McCoy had dropped on the floor at his feet.

Spock elevated an eyebrow as he eyed Dr. McCoy's rather pleased expression. "Doctor, I see you expressing your dismay at not being able to accompany us on this mission" he remarked dryly.

"Yes, Mr. Spock, the idea of not being stranded on an uninhabited planet with most likely plenty of blood sucking insects, no alcohol, and no entertainment to speak of with the exception of your ever rapier-like wit is causing me to almost tear-up," McCoy positively beamed.

"Likewise, I am almost experiencing an emotional reaction myself at the idea of not hearing your emotive ranting for nearly two weeks. But I suppose we all have our own burdens to bear," and with that Spock easily picked up the bag that McCoy had been carrying and proceeded with it into the shuttle without even glancing back.

Christine stifled a smile as McCoy realized that Spock had gotten in the last jab.

"Damn, Vulcan. No emotions, my ass. If that wasn't smugness, I don't know what is." McCoy turned serious as he looked at Christine. "You take care of yourself, girl, you hear me. This planet looks benign and all that, but you know as well as I do, that these "survey" missions have a way of turning into unexpected disasters."

Christine Chapel looked at one of her best and oldest friends, "Got'cha. I haven't served on the Enterprise for years without learning that." She grinned at him to lighten the mood. "Quit worrying, "Dad"; things will be fine. Two weeks of fun and sun, while you're stuck on an old space station with recycled air." She touched his arm. "We'll be fine. Spike" is going with us."

Leonard McCoy grinned widely, relieved, "Say no more. You're in the best of hands." He threw his arms around her for a brief hug, then looked back at Spock as he was exiting the shuttle.

"You better bring my best girl back in good shape or there'll be hell to pay," McCoy threatened in his Southern drawl.

Spock turned his head and gave McCoy a long suffering look, "I will endeavor to have all of the landing party return safely, Doctor, your "best girl" included."

"Damn well better," McCoy muttered as he exited the shuttle bay.

Geminos flew seamlessly from the starship, heading toward Rikidin. Spock sat in the left pilot's seat with Lt. Redstone on his right.

Behind him sat Nurse Fields and beside her, Christine Chapel. The two botanists took up the next two seats, leaving the rest empty, because "Spike" O'Connelly had opted for the back row.

Apparently asleep, the security officer had her head leaned back on the headrest of the seat. Barely thirty years old, O'Connelly was a master martial arts champion and possessed an aggressive nature that would put her on par with the fiercest Klingon warrior. Her security partner on this mission, Redstone, was the exact opposite. Laid back and spiritual, Redstone was a member of the Navajo nation, of the Southwest United States, but he was more than a physical match for Spike. Although Spike looked like an Amazon incarnate, strong, athletic, and over 5'11", Redstone still towered over her at 6'6".

Nurse Cammy Fields was on her first away mission as Enterprise was her first deep space assignment. Cammy was barely 22, petite and brunette. Her face was so dominated by the large, doe-like brown eyes that the first impression most people had of her was of an antique china doll. Beside Chapel's tall frame, she looked even smaller. Cammy had an exuberance and gung-ho attitude that was charming-for a while. Even so, Chapel had a soft spot for the girl and had lobbied with Spock for her attendance on this mission, insisting that Cammy would benefit from the away team experience. Obviously, Mr. Spock had agreed.

The trip to the planet would take 90 minutes, so that the starship could drop them without having to divert from her course to DS5. Spock had insisted that it was more efficient, and Kirk had agreed.

"How much longer Mr. Spock," queried Dr. Lewis, like a child on a vacation with his parents.

Chapel would have expected a question like that from Cammy, but not from the botanist, but then again, she didn't really know him all that well.

Lewis was a transfer from the Saratoga and had only been aboard for a few months. He looked around 50 years old with red hair, along with a short and stocky build. He was highly qualified for this mission, according to his records.

Spock responded curtly, "As we have only been away from the Enterprise for approximately 37.35 minutes, we have 53.7 minutes from entering Rikidin's orbit, doctor."

Christine Chapel cut her eyes to the first officer. The subdued light in the shuttle made him look even more handsome, though she quickly squelched that train of thought. To the others who hadn't served with Spock for as long as Chapel had, he probably sounded just as he always did. Christine knew there was just an undercurrent of irritation in his voice. For many years, Christine wanted to know him very well, but maturity and time away from Enterprise had helped her distance herself from those feelings. Now instead of being stiff and wary of each other, the two had a comfortable working relationship that was easing into a friendship, and she wanted to keep it that way. But, she decided, it didn't hurt to look.

Dr. Lewis turned to his fellow botanist, babbling about pre-studies and previous planetary scans. Christine tuned it all out. She was tired, even though she had gone to bed early the evening before. Pre-landing party jitters. She couldn't decide if it was excitement or disruption of her routine, but she had tossed and turned all through the night. The darkness outside the shuttle and the dim lighting inside created an intimate atmosphere, and she could feel herself being lulled into a light sleep.

It seemed only moments later when Spock's calm voice woke her from her slumbering, informing them that they were nearing the planet and would shortly be entering the atmosphere.

Within mere minutes, the darkness outside the shuttle began to lighten and a Class M world appeared in the viewports and through the forward view screen. Unlike Earth, this planet had no great oceans, but many smaller ones, interspersed in the large brownish continents. Only occasionally were there patches of green which hinted at foliage.

Commander Spock spoke as he angled the shuttle in to the pre-selected landing coordinates along the edge of one of the small seas, near one of the few green areas. "Please, prepare for landing. Stay seated and strapped into your seat until I give the all clear." He sounded for all the world like a commercial airline pilot from some of the old holovids that she and Uhura watched, Christine thought.

The warning was unnecessary, of course. Commander Spock landed Geminos on the hard ground as lightly as a baby's breath.

It was getting toward dusk on the planet's surface where the landing party had set up their temporary campsite. The temperature was comfortable and there was no need for a campfire, but Spock understood the human need for such after his camping trips with Kirk and McCoy, and so he carried out his check of the shuttle with only cursory attention paid to the fire preparations.

Christine was sharing a tent-pod with Cammy Fields; Lewis was with Lee. The two security guards had a tent, but insisted that they didn't need it; privately they had discussed it and decided that it might hinder them in guarding the perimeter, though from what they didn't know. Commander Spock had his own separate tent which surprised no one, most of all Chapel. Spock was a very private person and, though he would have endured the inconvenience, if he didn't have to do so, why bother?

"Dr. Chapel. Are you going to join us tonight?" Cammy asked while they rechecked the medical bay. The back of the shuttle was open and created a small porch-like canopy above their heads.

"Join you in what?" The doctor asked, without looking up from the vials in the cabinets. There was a smile in Christine's voice, "I think there might be a serious dearth of entertainment here."

"Well, I thought that we could spend the evening getting to know each other since our plan for tomorrow is already established. It might be nice since we are going to be here for so long together." Cammy's youthful enthusiasm made it hard for Christine to feel aggravated with her,

so she didn't remind her that they were all here to work, with a lot to do and a short time to do it in. Christine would be surprised if Dr. Lewis preferred to spend his time sitting around a campfire "shooting the breeze," as McCoy might say, rather than going to bed early to rest up for what was sure to be a long day walking and gathering samples.

"Sure-for a while," the doctor turned and trained her blue eyes onto Cammy's and smiled as she said, "But remember, I am not as young as you are young lady, and I do need to get some rest. I can't spend the entire evening telling ghost stories then sleep on the ground and be full of energy tomorrow."

"Doctor Chapel, you know those Starfleet bedrolls are supposed to be "top of the line in comfort and design." Cammy quipped as she quoted the sticker on the landing party's field equipment.

Christine smiled down at the young nurse, "Yeah, well, tell me that in the morning, will you? I have a feeling I'm going to need a peppy little reminder as I work the kinks out of my back."

The two walked toward the fire where Lt. Redstone was handing out MRE's for their last meal of the day. "Come and get'em while they're hot, Nurse, Doctor Chapel." He tossed each of them a package as they found a seat beside what was now a roaring fire.

Spike O'Connelly walked up after making a check around the camp. Squatting down beside Redstone, she snatched an MRE from his hand. "You get that fire any larger, Stone, and some passing ship is going to mistake it for a distress signal."

Redstone gave her a toothy grin and shoved her onto her backside. "And thanks to you for all your help in gathering supplies, O'Connelly."

Spike smiled back and snapped, "Yeah, while you were playing Boy Scout, Stone-man, I was securing the perimeter. Somebody has to keep us all safe from the monsters lurking in the darkness."

This last remark Spike delivered with a glance at the two botanists who, frankly, acted as if they'd never seen a plant outside a greenhouse before.

Christine Chapel watched the two of them, as well. They sat together looking alternately at the darkness and the fire. It was disconcerting, especially for a first timer, realizing that you were one of a handful of people on an entire planet. Maybe Lewis was reconsidering his evening of socializing and was instead thinking about locking himself in the shuttle. She chuckled to herself at the thought, then wondered if Lee could even speak; she had yet to hear him utter a word, content to let Lewis talk all he wanted.

Spock walked into the circle of firelight, and the antics of the two security guards instantly stopped. He took a seat on a flat stone beside Christine.

"Sir, would you like an MRE," asked Lt. Redstone, all business now.

"Thank you, Lt."

Redstone passed a vegetarian packet around the group until it reached the Commander.

For a while no one said a word. The night was beautiful; stars glittered overhead, the fire crackled, and a soft wind made the evening quite enjoyable.

Redstone spoke, breaking the silence. "You know the last time I remember camping out was on Old Woman Mesa near my home in Arizona. But it was much colder than this. In fact, if I hadn't had so many beers I probably would have gone home and slept in a warm bed."

"Arizona. I'm from Texas," Cammy spoke up. "That makes us practically neighbors, sir. The last time I slept outside, it was around 95 degrees and my graduation night. I was more worried about scorpions and rattlesnakes than freezing or being too hot."

Not to be outdone, Spike upped the ante, of course. "The last time I slept outdoors it was winter-in Norway. For the thrill of it, of course. A bet."

"Let me guess," Redstone challenged, "You were barefoot and only had one blanket to wrap yourself in."

"No," she replied, "That would be Chekov. Because nobody does it like they do in Russia."

Everyone except the botanists laughed. Even Mr. Spock nodded in agreement.

"Dr. Chapel, how about you? When did you last experience the "wonders of nature," asked Spike, looking at the doctor expectantly.

Christine allowed a slightly crooked smile at the memory. "It was with my sister and parents, in North Carolina. We were visiting an aunt who lived in Kitty Hawk, and my dad thought it would be nice to build a campfire on the beach and listen to the sound of the ocean." Her voice took on a slightly wistful tone. "It was wonderful. We stayed up talking until sunrise. That's one of my favorite memories. The sun coming up over the Atlantic, blazing orange and pinks. The smells….salt water and smoke." She let her voice taper off. They didn't need to know the next summer her father was dead and her sister off to the stars.

Spock looked at her, noticing her suddenly less animated tone.

Dr. Lee spoke, "I have never been camping before, I must confess. I was born on Mars Colony. That is one reason I became interested in botany; plants growing in the wild was something I never got to experience growing up on Mars. So I joined Starfleet, not to meet alien species, but to meet alien plants."

The group again broke up with laughter at his self-deprecating tone and facial expressions.

Spike now looked to Mr. Spock. "And you sir," she asked.

Uncomfortable at the sudden interest in his personal life, the Vulcan rose, stating, "That will have to be a story for another night, Lt. O'Connell. I believe I will retire for the evening. I wish you all a good night's rest. Doctor Chapel, may I have a brief word, please?"

Christine followed Spock toward the luminance cast by the shuttle's dimmed exterior lights. He stopped and turned towards her. "I am sure everything is prepared for tomorrow's excursions, and the crew's sub-dermal locators are functioning properly." Spock already knew that Chapel would have alerted him if there was any problem, but he would be remiss in his duties if he hadn't asked.

Christine was secure enough not to take the question personally, understanding Spock's sense of responsibility. "I double-checked the locators upon arrival, and all were functioning properly. Everyone seems to be adjusting," she hesitated, "adequately." She looked at him, knowing that he understood.

"Yes, I, too, observed the two botanists' seeming awkwardness with their surroundings. I expected more from two scientists with their credentials. I think that they would benefit from closer supervision tomorrow in case there are ….unexpected circumstances."

Christine agreed with him. "Very well. According to planetary scans, there seems to be little that would be very harmful, but you're right, better safe than sorry."

There was a time that standing near the handsome Vulcan under a starry sky would have sent her pulse fluttering. Now, as she looked into his face, Christine could still see the handsome man that she fell so hard for so many years ago. After V'ger, however, his face was tempered by a softness or an understanding that he had lacked during their first five year mission.

"Very well, Doctor," Spock seemed to look askance at her, but it was hard to read him at the best of times, much less in the near darkness. "I hope you enjoy your rest tonight, despite your….advanced age."

Christine laughed softly, "Oh, you heard that, huh?"

"Yes," Commander Spock raised his eyebrow and tilted his head slightly. "I can't say that I totally disagree with your assessment of "camping out," or the human preoccupation with it. Though the Captain and Dr. McCoy seem to enjoy it tremendously."

"Perhaps alcohol makes it more bearable for them," she chuckled.

"I have no doubt that you are probably right. Good night, Christine." She was not surprised that had he used her given name while they were alone, and it pleased her because it indicated how far they had come in their working relationship.

"You, too, Spock." She watched him as he walked to his tent then turned and headed to her own.

Chapter 2: Chapter 2

The Hunted: Chapter 2

Dr.'s Lewis and Lee were on their hands and knees looking at plant specimens scattered around them on a light colored tarp. They were attaching identification tags along with GPS coordinates into their tricorders as to identify from where they had taken them. So far they had only had four disagreements about what to label what as to its exact location. The rest of the landing party left them to it.

The day had passed uneventfully with the crew splitting into two teams periodically, then rejoining as one group every few hours. Except for being rather excitable, which was understandable if plants were the focus of a person's career, Lewis and Lee had performed like their anxiety of the night before had never happened.

Christine was particularly pleased with the performance of Cammy. She remembered protocol for field work and kept up her duties with professional aplomb. Christine had been afraid that the friendship she had struck up with Lt. Redstone the night before would be a distraction, but her fears proved to be unfounded. Her predictions about the hard ground and her back, however, were accurate, unfortunately.

Walking over to the shuttle, the doctor reached in for a hypospray and injected herself with something to relieve the backache that she'd suffered from off and on all day. There were some advantages to reaching your mid-forties, but muscle aches and pains were definitely not among them.

Turning back to face her companions, she noticed Spock sitting in the shade going over the day's data on his tricorder. Grabbing two water bottles from the refrigerated compartment, she walked over to where he sat leaning against the tree.

"Thirsty?" Christine held the bottle down in front of him, rivulets of condensation trailing down the container.

"Thank you," he reached out to take the water from her hand. "You may join me if you wish," Spock said, laying aside the tricorder for the moment. "Is your back less painful?"

"That obvious?" Christine muttered.

"You usually have a little more "spring" in your step, I believe is the correct expression. Your movements were stiffer today, and I noticed that when you rested at midday, you sat down gingerly."

"Good eye, Mr. Spock. Reminds me why I never play poker with you anymore," she said good naturedly, although tired. "I didn't want to risk taking something for the pain, which might mask it and then I'd injure it worse. Thought I'd wait until we wrapped up for the evening."

"That's very dutiful of you, Dr. Chapel, but the next time you are in pain, I would prefer if you took care of it sooner. Your cries of pain could be disruptive in the field," he said dryly, without, of course, a trace of a smile on his face, but there was definitely one in his voice.

Christine took a long swallow of her water and smiled at him. "I'm starting to believe McCoy-you are a closet comedian." For a brief instant, blue eyes touched dark brown ones, and then they both quickly looked towards the rest of the away team.

Cammy was taking care of a long scratch on Spike's arm, while Redstone was away doing a check of the vicinity. Lewis and Lee were still animatedly cataloguing specimens.

Changing the subject, Christine asked, "How'd you think the team performed today?" Technically, as Lt. Commander, she was second in command of the mission.

"Considering the lack of experience among members of the landing party, quite well. I am somewhat impressed by your young Nurse Fields. Despite her youth and inexperience, she performed her duties exceptionally well." Spock had a flashback of a young excitable Chekov on away missions and felt a flush of amusement at the memory.

"She's a good kid," Christine said softly, watching her finish up with the rough and tumble Spike. "She's got good instincts and she's hands-on. I like that. Never underestimate the power of touch."

Spock observed the doctor while she watched Nurse Fields. Her shoulder length soft brown hair was gathered in a short ponytail at the nape of her neck, and there was a smudge of dirt along the side of her face. Looking down at her hands, he noticed her fingers, long and slender, and remembered many times when she had comforted him in Sickbay with her "hands-on" approach.

Softly Spock remarked, "Yes, she reminds me of someone I used to know."

His tone of voice was odd, and Chapel turned to look at him. About that time Lt. Redstone came up behind them.

"Ahem. Sir. Doctor." Redstone stood a short distance away. They looked they were discussing something personal and he didn't want to intrude.

Commander Spock abruptly stood and turned to face him. "Lt., report."

"Sir, the area is unchanged from yesterday. I detect no large animal life, no humanoid life forms or any other detectable dangers."

"Very well, Lt. Redstone, why don't you help Nurse Fields with her fuel gathering for tonight's bonfire," Spock said.

"Yes, Commander." The tall Native American started toward the center of the campsite, then suddenly turned and walked back over to Christine who had started to rise herself.

"Dr. Chapel," he shyly smiled. "I took the liberty of rescanning the stream we passed by on our way out of camp. It looks safe for bathing; I heard you and Cammy saying how nice it would be to have a bath after all that walking and digging in the dirt today." Redstone looked at his feet, a little uncertain as to what her reaction might be to his eavesdropping.

"That's very considerate of you, John. Thank you."

"No problem, ma'am." There was a brief shy smile and he turned and headed back toward the camp.

"Well, it appears you have a made a conquest, Doctor," Spock said, as they followed behind Redstone.

Christine barely glanced at the Vulcan beside her as she quipped, "I'm sure I just remind him of his dear old mother back on Earth."

For a millisecond Christine in the moonlight from the night before flitted through his mind. His only response was a raised eyebrow and a dubious expression that quickly disappeared.

The evening came on peacefully, as had the first, but tonight there was a sense of accomplishment at the amount of work done. Hard work tends to relax social restraint, perhaps because people are too tired to raise personal barriers as easily-except for Vulcans. Physically stronger and more emotionally restrained, it would take a lot of work to scale Commander Spock's personal walls.

Cammy, Spike, and Christine had gone down to the stream that John Redstone had mentioned to the doctor and taken a good old-fashioned water bath. The men had followed suit, with the exception of Spock, who preferred to perform his ablutions privately, thusly, he went last.

By the time the Commander had returned, the conversation around the fire had gotten livelier. Tonight instead of sitting on the ground, bedrolls or something similar was used by the away team to make themselves more comfortable. The security officers had gathered small pebbles from the stream to use as poker chips, marking different colors on different stones to differentiate them to make winnings, and losses, easier to tally. Spike had brought along a new deck of cards; she was quick to point out the "new" part in case anyone accused her of marking the deck due to her many anticipated winning hands.

"Come on Doc," urged Spike, "I know you can play; I've seen you in the Rec Room taking poor old Doctor McCoy's credits."

"I didn't say I couldn't play, Lt., I just said I didn't want to. I'm trying to give up my vices, like poker playing and too much cheesecake." She didn't add that she had played McCoy for so long that she knew all his "tells" so he was fairly easy for her to beat. Christine Chapel was stretched out on the ground on her bedroll enjoying the evening. Her back felt better and the fresh air, as she had told McCoy, was doing her a world of good. And the cold bath-she hadn't appreciated a bath like that in ages. She'd forgotten how just how damn good it felt to be outside again.

By the time Spock returned from the creek, the entire landing party with the exception of Christine, was deep into the poker game. Even Lewis and Lee were enjoying themselves, in fact, much to Spike's dismay, Lee was proving to be not quite the rube she had marked him to be.

Spock's arrival prompted a quick invitation from Lt. O'Connelly. "Sir, would you like to join us?"

Studying the situation for a second, he surprised them all by accepting. A tinny beep sounded. Redstone stood up. "Excuse me, but time to check the perimeter." His absence left an opening in the circle and their commanding officer filled it.

Christine closed her eyes and listened to the crackle of the fire and felt a cool breeze blow across her skin. Her crew mates' voices filled in the background noise and she listened, allowing the sounds of companionship to relax her.

She lay there picturing their faces as they talked, making wagers, blowing out puffs of air (Cammy when she lost), and bragging (Spike and Lewis). Lee and Spock were relatively quiet, contemplating the game and answering questions when asked but not saying much more.

Spike's voice rang out strongly, "Dr. Lewis, I do believe that you are bluffing, and, sir, I call your bluff, and raise you twenty." She moved two green stones to the center of the pile.

"Too rich for me," Cammy blew another aggravated puff of air.

Lewis threw down his cards: pair of deuces, jack high. Christine could tell by the way his crowing had quieted down that he had been bested.

The game went on for a time, and Christine tuned out, but could tell that it was coming down to Spike and Spock, which was no surprise to her.

"Commander Spock," Spike asked as he dealt the cards, "Where did you learn to play poker?" Christine quietly waited for his answer, curious.

"Starfleet Academy. I was quite good, but I didn't know at the time that you weren't supposed to count the cards. Once I learned that, it took a little more time for me to develop my skills."

"You sure got a leg up with that "poker face," if you don't mind me saying so, Sir."

Christine smiled to herself. Twice in one day, he'd heard that.

"Not at all, Lt. O'Connelly. As a Vulcan, I would be offended if you thought I didn't have a good "poker face." With that he lay down his cards, full house.

Spike growled. Her three queens went down in flames. It was now down to the two of them. Cammy was the only one watching. Lewis and Lee had begged off to go to bed early. By this time, Lt. Redstone had returned to see the end of the game. He sat down on the stone near Cammy.

Spike could see the handwriting on the wall, but she decided to try a new tactic. Never afraid of a challenge, she suddenly asked, "You ever been in love, Commander?"

For a moment there was silence. Christine was suddenly wide awake but didn't move a muscle.

Unperturbed, Spock never looked up from his hand. "What may I ask has sparked this sudden interest in my love life, Lt. You should know from your Starfleet studies that Vulcans do not express such emotions. Could it be you are trying to distract me from winning all the stones, thereby beating you soundly? Or could you be asking because you have a personal interest in the answer?"

Spock's verbal arrow hit home. Spike O'Connelly was for once speechless. And the look on her face was priceless. Redstone was ready to fall over; he'd never seen anyone shut Spike down so effectively and quietly. "No, Sir, I just, Sir, sorry, the question was impertinent and just slipped out."

"No apology needed, Lt. I call and raise you forty." He moved four green stones to the center pile.

Spike presented her hand. Two pair, kings and queens. Spock lay his down: four aces.

Looking pole-axed, Spike got to her feet. "Time to check the perimeter, Sir. Good game." She walked into the darkness without another word.

Cammy and Redstone were beside themselves. "Great job, Commander," Redstone said. "Never thought I'd see the day. And with my happy thoughts, I will now turn in. Good night, Commander. Doctor Chapel. Cammy."

Cammy rose, too, picking up her bedroll. "If you don't mind showing me to my tent, Lt. I'd appreciate the use of your light."

"My pleasure," Redstone took the lead, and they were gone.

Spock stretched his legs out, easing the tension from sitting so long on the hard ground. Christine's voice startled him, but he concealed it. He'd thought she was asleep. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Commander." She rolled over onto her side, a mock disapproving look aimed his way.

The fire cast a beautiful glow against her pale skin, and she looked so comfortable there on the bedroll. Spock looked at her for a few minutes, contemplating his next words. "Dr. Chapel, I have known you to be indignant before at my behavior, but what have I done now to incur such wrath?" His voice was actually teasing.

"You sucker punched that Lt., and you know it."

Spock elevated his eyebrow and echoed her words, "Sucker punched?"

"You knew she wouldn't think you capable of such a verbal backhand, and you knocked her proverbial legs right out from under her. I'm impressed, Spock, very impressed. You never cease to amaze me."

"Christine," he attempted to look slightly wounded in the firelight, as he, too, lay down on his side to look across at her more easily. "I simply took the logical route. She thought that by mentioning something intensely personal, she would distract me; I merely took her own weapon and turned it against her. Surely, you cannot disapprove of my logic."

They lay facing each other on opposite sides of the fire, playing their own game now. Christine rolled her eyes at him. "Logic, my ass."

Spock rose from his place on the blanket left on the ground. He crossed to Christine and actually held out his hand. To Christine's surprise, she took it, and he pulled her to her feet. "Perhaps I should walk you to your tent, Doctor, to earn forgiveness for my "sucker punch" of Lt. O'Connelly." His mouth almost, almost, turned up at the corners into a smile.

She didn't realize she was still holding his hand, and she was standing very close. Christine credited the fire with the heat that suddenly infused her body. Or a hot flash. Anything, but what she thought it might be.

"Spock, you have earned my indignation before, as you pointed out, and have always been forgiven, so I'm sure you will be again. Good night, Commander. I'll find my own way home."

"Doctor Chapel. Sleep well." He released her hand, slightly abashed that he had been holding it for so long without realizing it.

He watched her make her way safely to her tent, and feeling a strange sense of being alone, made his way to his own tent for some deep meditation.

Chapter 3: Chapter 3

The Hunted: Chapter 3

Dawn was just breaking the next morning when Christine Chapel was jarred awake by a loud explosion, followed by a squeal from Cammy Fields who was lying across from her. Jerking on her field jacket and pants, Christine exited the tent. Spock and the two security guards were already outside staring upward.

There were several large pieces of debris falling, trailing them were fiery streaks left behind by burning gases and smaller pieces that lit up the early morning sky.

"What is it, Spock?" Christine asked as she moved to his side, unconsciously mimicking his intense gaze at the darkened sky. She noticed the others in the landing party had also left their tents.

"Unknown." His tone was no more emotionless than usual, but there was something in his demeanor that made her stomach tighten. He turned to the security officers, "Arm yourselves and scan for life signs." Immediately, Redstone and O'Connelly sprinted to follow his orders.

Christine turned to Spock, "I'll get my emergency med kit in case there are survivors," and she headed for the shuttle. Spock's voice stopped her before she had a chance to take more than a step.

"Get a phaser to arm yourself, Doctor, and one for Nurse Fields as well," he ordered.

"Spock, what the hell do you think that is?" Her voice was calm, but her tone asked for more explanation.

Spock showed not a trace of impatience as he answered, "Christine, I don't have time to fully explain, but there are not a great many Federation citizens in this sector, therefore, there is not a great amount of Federation traffic. There have been reports of nefarious activities and incidents that occur due to the lack of a Starfleet presence."

"Understood, Commander." She favored him with two raised eyebrows and a tense expression and headed toward the Geminos, gathering Cammy Fields from where the girl stood outside the tent, taking her along with her as she went.

By the time Redstone and Commander Spock returned from recon, the rest of the landing party had gathered at the fire pit after packing in the equipment and getting ready to depart in case it was necessary. Spock had left Spike behind with the landing party. She had been regularly scanning the area around the landing site and was alerted that they were approaching before the others saw them. The security officer could tell by the speed at which they were moving that the news probably wasn't good. Spike joined the rest of the landing party about the same time they arrived back.

Lewis and Lee were sitting on a large stone by the cold fire pit looking anxious, saying little. Dr. Chapel sat across from them, and Cammy was standing close enough to her mentor to be her shadow.

Christine stood up as Spock and Redstone stopped. She waited for Spock to speak, studying his stony visage.

"The debris we saw this morning was indeed from a ship. Configuration and origination are not recognizable to either myself or Lt. Redstone, nor did the recorders' database have anything that matched. Neither did we recognize the crew. "

"Were there any survivors?" Christine asked, her blue eyes intense as they locked onto Spock's.

"Yes. We did not approach the craft; we felt it was …prudent not to do so." He stopped speaking for a minute, and removing his gaze from Christine, Spock glanced around at the group. There was a tense silence, while waiting for him to continue.

"Why?" Christine asked. "What did you see, Commander?"

Lt. Redstone answered her instead. "Doctor, they executed their own wounded." The Native American appeared rattled. "Some of them were killed in the crash, and those they dragged into a large heap, then they burned them up with some type of weapon. The injured ones they killed didn't seem to be hurt all that badly, but it was kinda difficult to tell. We didn't want to alert them to our presence."

Ignoring Redstone's breach of command etiquette, Spock sat down on a stone, inviting by gesture the others to do so as well. "There appear to be eight uninjured male survivors. There is a high probability that they will react to our landing party with hostility."

"Mr. Spock, you are a master of understatement. They killed their own people. What do you think they'll do when they discover we're here?" Christine's voice was steady, and she already suspected the answer.

The commander trained his gaze back to hers. "They will possibly attempt to kill or injure us and take the ship. Best case scenario is that they will leave us uninjured for Enterprise to pick up in two weeks. I prefer not to risk either." He glanced around at the landing party, registering their reactions, and then continued, "It is regrettable that we will be unable to continue our mission as intended, but, as someone said, it is better to be safe than sorry." Spock looked back to Christine as he finished speaking.

"How soon would you like to leave, Commander Spock?" Spike spoke up.

"Immediately. I commend the attention and foresight at packing our equipment into the shuttle to prepare for departure. If there is nothing left to attend to, I strongly suggest we don't waste any more time."

"And then, Sir," Spike asked. "Do we head find a new campsite, at safe distance?"

"Lt. O'Connelly, that is preferable, but not without risk. Our best speed is warp 3. DS5 is three days away at warp 6. It will take us approximately six days to reach the station. From what Lt. Redstone and I were able to ascertain, the alien ship is severely damaged, therefore, they will be unable to pursue us. However, "he hesitated," there was damage to their ship that was likely caused by weapons fire. If we stay, we could be caught up in a conflict for which we are unprepared or possibly attacked by whoever attacked them. We might also be placing ourselves at risk by leaving the planet. Whoever or whatever neutralized the alien ship, with all its apparent armaments, would have no problem destroying or tractoring in Geminos."

No one else spoke or asked a question.

He continued, "Logic and probability lead me to believe that finding a location far from the crash, on the other side of the planet, will enable us to continue our research, albeit in a limited degree, and remove us from the site of conflict from either the aliens or their attackers. It would be difficult and time consuming to pinpoint a ship as small as ours on an entire planet." Spock rose from his seat, "We will head for the final coordinates from our geographical selections which will take us farther away, yet keep us within a reasonable area for Enterprise to look for us in case there is trouble."

The landing party began to move toward the shuttle. The scientists wasted no time boarding. Cammy had already helped Dr. Chapel secure their gear and medical supplies, so she quickly followed them. The security officers were making a last quick check of the area. Christine stayed by Spock's side waiting for the others to move away.

The doctor turned and faced Spock, as they walked toward the shuttlecraft. "There was there something else, wasn't there?" Christine said softly.

Spock was not surprised at her perceptiveness. "Yes." He stopped for moment, to make sure the others couldn't overhear what he was about to say to her. "I saw no need to further alarm them." Christine thought he actually looked sickened, which scared the hell out of her.

"They are cannibalistic. The aliens didn't incinerate all of their dead. The injured ones they killed-those who were fresh-they butchered like animals and put on large spits." He was queasy, Chapel realized. Hell, she was getting green listening to him. She couldn't imagine how it looked, or God forbid, how it smelled.

She wanted to say, "Well, that can't be good," but couldn't bring herself to. It must be the horror, one of those things so ghastly that you wanted to laugh although it was entirely inappropriate. An involuntary shudder passed through her.

"Let's go, Doctor. The sooner we put distance between us and the aliens, the safer we will be," Spock said. He allowed her to precede him onto the ship. The security guards were right behind them.

Sealing the shuttle door, Spock and Redstone started their preflight check and start up. This trip, Spike sat beside Christine, behind Redstone, with a phaser rifle stored by her side. Cammy was seated between the two scientists in the third row seat.

Geminos ascended, preprogrammed coordinates directing Spock. The shuttlecraft rose over the treetops, and the Vulcan angled the small ship into a smooth turn to the south, toward the hotter, dryer area of Rikidin.

Redstone suddenly yelled, "Incoming!" Before the echoes from his yell died, the ship took a weapon's hit, knocking them into a side spin. Alarm klaxons sounded, and Christine felt her restraint yank her back into her seat. Just as Spock and Redstone began to gain control of the shuttlecraft, there was an aft hit, and smoke began to fill the cabin. Another blast to the side, just seconds later, and all control of the little ship was lost. Redstone's voice rang out, "Hold on. We're going down."

Christine's little smart-ass voice in her head wanted to speak again, but it was silenced by total darkness as Geminos ploughed through the trees and landed with a bone-jarring, brain-rattling smack into the ground below.

The Hunted, Chapter. 4

Smoke obscured Spock's vision momentarily when he regained consciousness. He could hear hissing from somewhere in the back of the shuttlecraft. The most alarming sound was the sound of silence. He didn't hear any moans or cries of injury coming from his crew.

The forward view screen was shattered completely, and the front of the shuttle had been pushed back almost into his lap. Spock maneuvered out from under it, and reached over to check for a pulse on Redstone's neck. Alive, but unconscious. Turning around, he saw Lt. O'Connelly beginning to stir. Reaching to his right, Spock reached out to check Christine Chapel's neck for a pulse. Steady, but there was a trickle of blood down the side of her head. Other than that, he was relieved to see she appeared uninjured.

He couldn't see past the second row of seats. The rolling tumble the shuttlecraft had taken had crumpled the top down so that he couldn't ascertain the condition of the occupants of the third row, though he was now hearing muffled moaning.

Spike was coming around, "Commander?"

"How badly are you injured, Lt.?" he asked. "We were attacked. Do you remember?"

Suddenly, she seemed to come fully alert. "Yes, sir." Spike instinctively reached for her phaser rifle. "I need to get out, sir, they may be approaching."

"I doubt the door will open, Lt. You can exit through the forward view screen. Alert me at once if you see anything. I'll see to the rest of the crew."

"Yes, sir." She was up, glancing at Redstone, assessing his injuries, then she was gone.

Spock turned back to Christine. "Doctor Chapel." He touched her face gently, trying to bring her around, "Christine, I need you to wake up."

Her eyes fluttered open, years of emergency training kicking in. "Spock. Where are we? Is everyone okay?" She tried to sit up, but he gently pushed her back into the seat, so he could release the restraint.

"We were hit by weapons' fire. We need to get everyone out and take up a defensive position. Whoever fired on us is probably on their way here. Are you injured?" He turned away from her to seek an emergency medkit from one of the shuttle's undamaged panels.

Christine sat forward; her head was spinning. She could feel something, probably blood running down the side of her head. Spock handed her a piece of gauze from the kit to wipe the blood from her face. Taking the medical tricorder, he quickly scanned her for injury.

"You have a concussion. Otherwise you seem to be uninjured, except for the scalp wound." He turned to scan Lt. Redstone.

"He has a broken arm."

Christine slid forward taking the hypo from the med kit, she injected Redstone, first with a pain killer, then with a stimulant to wake him up. If they were under attack, they sure as hell needed him. Almost, instantly, Redstone awoke.

"Orders, sir."

Spock turned to Christine, "Get him bandaged and out there with Lt. O'Connelly. I will go around to the back and attempt to get to the rest of landing party." He climbed out the forward screen and out of sight.

Christine spoke gently, but urgently, to the Lt. "John, can you turn to the side so I can get that arm into a sling."

"Yes, ma'am." He obediently turned and allowed her to bind his arm to make it less painful and easier to maneuver with. "Thanks, Doc. You okay?"

"I'm good," she assured him. "Let's get out of here." She clambered up onto the damaged console with the tricorder slung over her shoulder. Throwing the emergency medkit through the opening, she felt for her phaser. Still strapped on. "I'll go first, then help you out," she said, without slowing down, realizing time was of the essence.

Feeling hard ground beneath her feet, she reached up to assist Lt. Redstone, but she needn't have bothered. He was right behind her, phaser in hand.

"Stay close to the shuttlecraft, Doctor. It'll be safer for now." Redstone disappeared into the dense foliage, as she moved around to the back, kit in hand, looking for Spock. He was attempting to force open the back hatch. She scanned him with her tricorder. Nothing but bruises, "Thank God," she thought. Putting her equipment to the side, she moved to help him open the hatch.

It cracked open just enough to allow Spock to reach in and hit the emergency release, and it started to raise up. Cammy seemed to be the only one conscious.

"Doctor Chapel, Commander." Her voice sounded young and scared.

"Hold on, Nurse" Christine instructed, using her title to hopefully keep the girl's panic to a minimum. "We're working as fast as we can. Try not to move."

"Yes, ma'am. I don't think I'm hurt, though."

More gently, Christine, said, "You're going to be fine, Cammy. Stay still."

Spock moved a large chunk of debris that was blocking them from the remaining three crewmen. Lee was obviously dead. He was closest to the area where they had taken a hit and had suffered severe head trauma. Reaching back for the tricorder, since there was only room for one, Spock quickly scanned the young nurse. He handed it back to Christine without a word, waiting for her reaction.

She read it, and looked back at him, knowing what had to be done. "Let's get her out of there."

Spock reached down and effortlessly lifted her from the broken seat. He gently lay her on the ground outside and went in back in for Dr. Lewis.

Christine knelt beside Cammy. It wasn't good. The tricorder indicated internal bleeding although there didn't seem to be any external injury that she could immediately ascertain.

Spock climbed back out of the shuttle with a dazed looking botanist on his arm. He helped the man sit down with his back against the damaged craft. He touched Christine's shoulder, indicating that she step back so he could speak with her alone.

"I'm going to check on the Lt.'s. and try to ascertain any immediate threats." He disliked leaving her alone with the wounded, but he had no choice. "Stay alert, and keep your phaser nearby. If I don't come back, or there is danger, take cover and stay there until it's safe. The shuttle is emitting an automated emergency beacon. There's a chance that it could be picked up by a passing ship." His deep brown eyes bore into hers. "I know that you will not leave them if you are threatened, but, trust me, you will only be risking your life, Doctor. You won't be able to stop the aliens. Run to safety. That's an order."

She swallowed hard, looking at him, but didn't agree. "Be careful, Commander," Christine said, her heart suddenly in her throat. The Vulcan nodded and headed off into the green undergrowth.

The Hunted, Chapter. 5

After Spock disappeared into the dense undergrowth, Christine turned her attention back to her patients. Kneeling down beside Cammy, she scanned her again.

"Doctor Chapel, is everything okay?" the girl asked. The doctor hadn't told her anything, and she knew that if everything was fine, Chapel would have told her so right off to reassure her. She wasn't in any pain really, just uncomfortable.

Christine looked down and tried to give her a reassuring smile. "I'll be right back; first, let me have a quick look at Dr. Lewis." Squeezing her hand as she moved away, Christine scanned the botanist. He was fully conscious now.

"Doctor, am I going to be okay?" he asked, looking panicky, "I feel sick to my stomach." He clutched at Christine's arm for reassurance.

"According to my scans, just some bruises and minor cuts on your left arm. Relax," she said soothingly, "I think you're having an anxiety attack."

"But what happened? Where is everyone else? Are we safe?" Lewis' face was sweaty and his respiration had increased.

"Dr. Lewis, calm down. We don't seem to be in any immediate danger. The rest of the away team is securing the perimeter. Rest here while I tend to Nurse Fields. You need to keep watch while I'm busy with her." He still looked addled and agitated. "Dr. Lewis!" Christine's tone was sharper, more commanding. "Gather yourself together; we don't have time for this. Now stay focused."

He wasn't armed and Christine didn't offer him her phaser; she thought he might accidentally shoot a member of the landing party returning.

The doctor moved back over and sat down beside Cammy. "Hey, how're you doing?"

Cammy looked up at her, fear, but not panic, in her large brown eyes. "Am I hurt badly?"

Christine answered her quietly and calmly, "You have internal injuries. Ruptured spleen and a tear in your kidney. You need surgery, soon, to stop the bleeding. When the others return we'll get everyone to safety and I'll take care of it." The older woman reached down and took Cammy's hand in hers, "You're going to be fine, okay?"

Cammy's eyes teared up, "Yes, ma'am."

"Do you need something for pain," Christine asked.

"No, I'm okay for now."

"Listen." Christine placed her hand on the young nurse's cheek briefly. "I'm going to give you a hypo to prevent shock, and then I'm going to search around in the shuttle and see what I can salvage. We may have to move quickly, so I want to get what supplies I can. Will you be okay for a little bit?"

"Yes, ma'am. I heard you tell Dr. Lewis that he was okay? Where is Dr. Lee? Is anyone else hurt?"

The doctor's mouth tensed and she took a deep breath, "Dr. Lee was killed and Lt. Redstone has a broken arm, but that's about it, thank God. We were lucky."

Cammy looked relieved at the news. "You go on, Dr. Chapel. I'll be okay."

"That's my girl. If you hear anything at all, or you have any pain, yell out for me."

Cammy nodded.

Christine stood up, unwinding the muscles in her back. Her head was still aching, but she wasn't quite as dizzy as before, and the bleeding had stopped. She glanced at Lewis. He was sitting with his back pressed tightly to the shuttle, looking wide-eyed into the forest. She thought about asking him to sit with Cammy, but decided the girl would probably end up comforting him instead of the other way around.

Christine gathered medical supplies, food and water rations, and bedrolls together in a small pile outside the shuttlecraft. She picked up an extra tricorder that seemed undamaged, so she included that as well. Moving further inside, she managed to dig out a phaser rifle from where it was stored under the floor along with two small handheld ones.

Moving to the front, she was glad that she was tall or it would have been almost impossible for her to pull herself back through the view screen. Christine tried to access the controls, but they were badly damaged. She realized quickly that she wasn't communications tech material, so she gave up, promising herself that she would pay better attention the next time Uhura was babbling on about problems with her communications console.

It had been almost forty minutes since Spock had followed the security officers to recon the area. Christine nearly jumped out of her skin when her communicator beeped.

Snapping it open, she said, "Chapel here."

She sighed with relief at hearing Spock's voice, "Doctor, is everything all right there?

"Yes, Commander, we're safe."

"Prepare your patients for transport. We are on our way back and will have to leave the area immediately."

"Understood, Spock. Chapel out."

Christine climbed back through the opening and quickly moved toward Cammy, announcing to both her and Lewis, "Commander Spock and the security team are on their way back. Lewis, keep an eye out, and let me know when you see them. Cammy," she knelt back down beside her. "I'm going to give you something for the pain that may come from moving around and a stimulant to help you. I'm sorry but we're going to be leaving here and it's most likely not going to feel good." She moved back the blanket that she had covered the nurse with earlier and pressed a hypo against her arm again.

"This should help. I'm sorry, Cammy. You know that moving isn't going to help your injuries. I've tried to stabilize you, but I've got to get in there and stop the bleeding." Christine brushed the girl's hair back off of her forehead.

"Yes, Dr. Chapel. I understand." There was no whining, no panic, from her. Christine's heart hurt at what was likely to happen to the young girl. She hadn't dared to try to operate knowing that they might have to evacuate this area soon, and she had been right. The young nurse's best chance was to wait until she could remain still afterwards.

"Dr. Chapel? Would you do something for me?"

"If I can. What can I do?"

"Inside the shuttle in my day pack. I have a crucifix that belonged to my mother. Will you get it for me?"

"I'll try to find it. Hold on."

Christine was moving toward the opening when there was sudden noise and movement directly in front of her. She didn't panic, assuming it was Spock and the security officers. She couldn't have been more wrong.

Stepping from the forest were three of the largest, most frightening looking beings that Christine had ever seen. Pictures from old horror holovids couldn't have done them justice.

Nearly eight feet tall, their skin resembled dark leather and it was difficult to tell where their uniforms left off and their skin began. Small carved tusks curved down on both sides of what she assumed was a mouth, and the eyes were large, but shaped like slits. And, fangs, oh, damn, were those fangs, she thought, protruding, gleaming white under the dim forest canopy. And for a split second, Christine Chapel simply froze, then she instinctively, yanked her phaser free and aimed it at the three of them. "Stop. Don't make me hurt you."

Behind her, Lewis literally screamed, and she heard him take off into the forest. Cammy raised herself up, but other than a sharp intake of breath, didn't make a sound. Neither did the intruders. They simply stared at her, as one might study a zoo specimen.

"Who are you? What do you want?" the doctor demanded. She heard the universal translator click on. But there was no sound because her visitors had yet to speak.

The one in front, perhaps a little shorter than the other two, stepped forward toward Cammy. "No!" Christine shouted. "Get back! Now!"

The alien ignored her and kept walking toward the girl on the ground.

Christine moved between them; the phaser in her outstretched hand, set to the most powerful stun setting, and pointed it directly at his midsection. "I said stop!"

The alien intruder took one more step and she fired. He staggered but didn't go down. The other two moved toward her, but the first one grunted and seemed to motion them to stay where they were. He looked at her and spoke something in what sounded a little like a mixture of Klingon, Andorian, and phlegm to Christine.

She adjusted the phaser setting without taking her eyes off the three aliens. "Don't make me kill you. Step back." Christine moved closer to Cammy, who had by now struggled to her feet to stand behind the doctor.

The shorter alien, unfazed by the phaser blast, began to circle around them, as if sizing them up, and by his demeanor, he wasn't impressed. He spoke again to the other two, and they growled back in their strange tongue. The universal translator clicked softly at her hip. Abruptly the translator whirred to life and she understood what he was saying.

"Fragile and with no natural defenses. They rely on weapons to protect themselves."

"We're tougher than we look. Now, what do you want here?" Christine demanded.

The aliens seemed surprised. "You speak our language."

"With some help, yes. Now, again, what do you want with us. We have done you no harm."

"You used your puny weapon on me. Is that not "harm?" he asked. Their faces and voices seemed to have no expression. Just one big scary package of big bad-assed alien. Well, Christine thought, it's working for him.

Cammy was so close behind her that she could hear the girl's ragged breathing.

Instead of answering her question, he asked her one, "Are you a female? And that one. Female, as well."

This time Chapel refused to answer. She didn't what to hazard a guess as to why he wanted to know.

"Is the smaller one your offspring?" he asked. "You protect her with a warrior's terrible fierceness. Impressive for a species so …frail."

Yes, Chapel thought, there was definitely expression now.

"Was the one who ran away a male of your species? Are the females the warriors?"

She stared at him, trying not to show just how terrified she really was, and still would not answer his questions.

"No matter. You will come with us." He motioned to the two taller aliens, and they came toward the two women.

Christine fired and the one closest to her fell; she couldn't tell if she'd killed him, and didn't have time to find out. Before she could fire again, a powerful blow crashed down across her head. The last thing she heard was Cammy's scream.

The Hunted, Chapter. 6

Spock neared the shuttlecraft wreckage expecting to find Christine Chapel and the rest of the landing party waiting for them. He was extremely concerned with what he did find. A dead alien. And except that for that there was no real evidence of a struggle.

It was obvious that Christine had prepared for their departure; some supplies were gathered and stacked. Whatever had occurred had happened within minutes of his communication with her less than 15 minutes prior.

Spike picked up the phaser rifle that Dr. Chapel had left with the supplies and tossed it to Redstone, who then hung the handheld on his belt.

He nodded his thanks.

Spock scanned the area with his tricorder. "They can't be too far ahead. According to the transponder I.D. data entered by Dr. Chapel when we arrived, she and Nurse Fields went in that direction," he indicated back into the forest opposite of where the landing party had returned. "And Dr. Lewis went," he turned around, "that way."

"What are your orders, Sir?" Spike asked.

"Lt. Redstone will go after Dr. Lewis, and you and I will follow Dr. Chapel and Nurse Fields. If you find him, Lt., signal me with your communicator and find safety until directed otherwise. We will be able locate each other by the transponders." Spock reached down and got the other tricorder which he handed to Redstone. "You'll need this to pinpoint the transponder signal. Be alert, Lt."

"Yes, sir, good luck finding the rest of the team." Lt. Redstone responded. He looked at Spike, and said, "Good hunting."

"You, too, Stone-man," she snapped back. The trio split up in search of their crewmates.

Christine Chapel awake with another blinding headache. She was sure the hit on the head had worsened her concussion because now she was nauseous, too. She rose to her hands and knees, turned to the side and vomited. Her body was shaking from shock? Injury?

Christine rolled onto her back, feeling the ground under her move like she was intoxicated. She fought another wave of nausea. Opening her eyes, she realized it was now night. She was outside on some type of bedding. Oh, God! Cammy! The girl was injured, and Christine remembered what Spock had said about the aliens killing and eating their own injured.

Rolling back to her side, she looked for the nurse. Cammy was lying nearby; her color was ashen and her face contorted with pain. Christine forced herself up and over to her. The aliens had noticed that she was awake and moving, but didn't seemed alarmed by it. Although they were all so similar looking, she thought she recognized the one coming toward her as the shorter one she had tried to stun earlier.

"You are not dead." He sat on his haunches in front of her, blocking her view of Cammy.

"No thanks to you," she muttered. Christine was scared, but now she was also pissed.

"You killed one of my men."

"What did you expect," she tried to glare at him, but her head was throbbing and her vision was a little blurry.

"Impressive, even if you did have to use a weapon." He gestured toward Cammy, "Is she your offspring?"

"Why? Why do you care?" His attempts to converse with her were baffling to Christine. "If you are going to kill us, what difference does that make?

"You fought when you knew that you would lose. You attempted to stand off three warriors of superior strength. Impressive. We hold such courage in great esteem."

"You guys don't fight when you get cornered? What do you do, just give up? Excuse me, but didn't you kill your own injured crewmen?" Christine's vision was clearing a little.

"They gladly gave their lives. They were injured, therefore, no longer useful to us. By feeding us, they continue to live on in a brother warrior. If we know we are going to be killed by an enemy or captured, we would rather die by our own hand, not by the enemy's."

Christine was hurting, hungry, and worried about Cammy. She didn't have time to discuss cultural philosophy. What she needed was to help her nurse.

"Will you allow me to treat her injuries?" Christine might as well try to take advantage of this détente. She gestured towards Cammy. "She needs my help. I'm a healer."

"Healer? What is this? Healer?" he asked.

"I assist those who are sick or injured to return to good health."

"This concept is foreign to us."

"Nevertheless," she countered, "It is important to my people to try to help each other when hurting. It is my duty."

He seemed to understand that. "You may proceed." Rising to his feet, he reached down and pulled Christine to her feet. "I am called Re-Jad." Releasing her, the alien walked away.

He turned loose of her so quickly, she almost lost her balance and fell back to the ground. Regaining her equilibrium, she made her way to Cammy.

"Can you hear me?" Christine felt her face and neck. Clammy. Probably in shock. Checking the nurse's pulse, she noted that it was rapid and thready. She palpitated the young woman's abdomen. It was hard. Not good.

Coming around, Cammy whispered, "Dr. Chapel?"

"I'm here, Cammy. I'm here. Lie still; I'm going to try to get to some of my equipment so that I can help you, okay. Please, sweetie, don't move around," Christine said as she watched the nurse move to try to alleviate some of her discomfort. "I'll be back as quickly as I can. I won't leave you. I promise."

Cammy worked up a slight smile, "I know that, ma'am."

Christine swallowed a sob. Getting up slowly, she made her way over to the group of aliens where she thought Re-Jad had gone. He rose when he saw her approach. The others went silent as she stopped in front of their apparent leader.

She tried to make her tone both respectful and fearless, "I respectfully ask that you return some of my equipment so that I may treat her injuries." Chapel stood tall and straight and looked right into his eye slits.

He seemed to consider both her and her request. "I will allow you to have your "equipment," if you will allow me and my first warrior to observe you while you "heal."

"Very well. Thank you."

Re-Jad gestured to one of his crew. He rapidly returned with her tricorder and communicator."

"I need my medical kit. It has special supplies, not weapons," she hurriedly assured him.

Re-Jad again gestured. The alien left and returned again. This time he had her medkit and a bag of MRE's.

"That's it." She reached for it, but Re-Jad took it and motioned for her to go ahead of him.

Christine knelt down by Cammy Fields' side. Re-Jad knelt beside her. He placed the bag between them on the ground. Another alien with a vicious scar across his eye, hunkered down opposite them. She fought down another wave of nausea at the smell of them in such close proximity.

Christine Chapel scanned the nurse, who was now unconscious again. She used a hypo to heavily sedate her, then took a laser scalpel, and began to cut her open.

After the surgery, Christine took her vital signs again. They were a little steadier, not yet stronger. She took a cloth and dipped into some water that Re-Jad had sent his first warrior for and gently wiped Cammy's face. She covered her patient and got up to stretch.

The two aliens had not uttered a word during the entire time she operated. When she had finished, Re-Jad had dismissed "Scarface," and offered her water.

Christine was too tired to be surprised anymore and gratefully took a drink "Thank you."

"Do you require nourishment?"

"No, I have food here." Christine rapidly assured him, gesturing toward the bag of rations.

"Rest. You will be undisturbed. You may also keep your equipment, Healer." Re-Jad left her alone beside her patient. Reaching across to grab an MRE, she wondered where Spock and the others were. She hadn't asked in case the aliens didn't know they were here, but that was highly unlikely. They knew that Lewis was on the loose somewhere, and she supposed they could be out looking for him. Christine counted six aliens; Spock had said that there were eight survivors. She had most likely killed one, so that left one either on guard duty or out looking for Lewis and the others. And considering that they had been shot out of space, Re-Jad and the other aliens seemed pretty laid back about it. Or confident.

Whether her safety was promised or not, it was unnerving to say the least to lie here surrounded by aliens who looked like they wanted "suck her blood." An unexpected shiver came over her.

Christine checked Cammy again. Her vitals had improved. Breathing a sigh of relief, the doctor dragged the bedding that she had been lying on earlier over beside her patient and lay down. Soon exhaustion took over despite her unease, but Christine's last thoughts were of Spock and whether or not he was safe.

The Hunted, Chapter. 7

Spock lay along a large tree branch on a small hill that overlooked the alien encampment. Spike sat aside one beside him. It was dark now, but within the lighted camp, Spock had watched while Christine seemed to confront one of the aliens about something and then watched while they brought her some of her own supplies.

"Interesting," Spock murmured.

"Why would they have taken them after one of them, probably, Dr. Chapel, killed one of their own kind?" Spike asked him. "Why not just kill them there at the shuttle?" Spike shuddered at her next thought, but asked anyway, "You don't think that they're going to eat them do you."

"I do not know, yet, Lt., but I am …relieved that they are seem to be uninjured for now," he answered.

Spike cut her eyes to her commanding officer. Weird. If it was anybody but Spock, uber-Vulcan, she would think he had feelings for Dr. Chapel. She was a tough broad, but classy. He appeared to be closer to her than he was most of the crew, but, then again, the "old originals" were a tight knit group anyway.

She continued, "We know they shot down the shuttle with some type of handheld weapon, but why shoot us down and not finish the job? They damaged the ship so badly it's unusable. Doesn't make any sense to me, sir."

"If you compare alien cultures to your own, you will inevitably be confounded by their behavior. Each society is unique and its cultural mores difficult to understand under the best of circumstances," Spock said. After he saw Christine lie down beside Nurse Fields, he sat up and leaned against the tree, stretching out his legs on the wide branch that he had been lying on.

"There is the possibility that their intention was not to destroy the shuttlecraft, Lt., but only to damage it so that they might use it to leave the planet. As to why they allowed Lewis to escape and yet took the women is somewhat disturbing."

Spock's communicator made a low level humming sound. He flipped it open, "Commander Spock here."

"Commander," John Redstone's voice came through strong and clear, "I've located Dr. Lewis. He is uninjured, sir. I have also located a small cave along a stream, probably the same stream that was near our campsite, where we have taken shelter for the night. I haven't seen any of the aliens or detected any nearby."

"Good work, Lt. Redstone. Lt. O'Connelly and I are watching the alien camp as we speak. All but one of them are accounted for. We believe the missing one is guarding the camp, but we haven't determined his location, yet. Stay where you are until further notice. There is no need to further endanger yourselves until we have a more concrete plan."

"Sir, did you locate the rest of the landing party? Are they safe?"

"At the moment, they appear uninjured. I will contact you when possible. Spock out." Shutting his communicator, he reattached it to his side.

Spike spoke softly, "I'm glad John and Dr. Lewis are okay."

"So am I, Lt." He grew quiet, never seeming to take his eyes off the alien camp.

"How long have you known Dr. Chapel, sir?" Spike asked as she took up a posture similar to his beside him on the next branch.

If Spock thought she was getting personal again, he didn't say so, but he was quiet for so long, Spike thought he wasn't going to answer.

Finally, he said, "She came aboard the first year that Captain Kirk took command."

"So, she's been a ship's doctor for a while."

"Actually, no, she was Nurse Chapel then."

Spike was surprised he was continuing to talk; maybe he was a little anxious, too. "I guess that kinda explains her looking out for Nurse Fields."

Commander Spock released a loud breath. "No, that is Christine, strong, nurturing, compassionate, and stubborn."

"You sound like you don't appreciate the "stubborn" part, Commander." Spike commented softly. She smiled in the darkness, knowing that he couldn't see her.

"She can be stubborn about the most illogical things. At times, she reminds me of my mother, actually." Now his tone was lighter, not uber-Vulcan.

"You mother is human, right, sir?"

"Very much so, Lt. O'Connelly. She has adapted well to life on Vulcan, but it has not always been easy, having to control her natural impulses, however, she is also a strong and stubborn woman and will not let it rob her of her "human-ness." Now, Spock smiled slightly in the darkness, as he thought of his mother, knowing that Spike couldn't see him.

"You mother is still alive then?"

"Very much so." Suddenly he was quiet, and Spike wondered if she had gone too far and gotten too personal.

"I have…missed her companionship. I have been meaning to get to Vulcan to visit, but my duties seem to interfere with my travel plans."

"Well, Commander, my granddaddy used to say, 'If it's important enough to you, you'll get it done. Somehow.'"

There was quiet again. Then…

"I suggest you rest for a while Lt. O'Connelly; it may be a while before you do so again." Back to uber-Vulcan.

"Yes, sir." She closed her eyes, knowing he, as usual, was right.

Spock sat watching the camp. He could hear Spike lightly snoring beside him. Why, indeed, had they taken the women, he wondered. So far they appeared to be unmolested; they had even allowed Christine to treat Nurse Fields from what he had been able to see, but they had watched her closely. Were they waiting for rescue? Was their emergency beacon sending out a rescue signal as well? More than likely. Did they plan on taking the women with them?

Although he didn't recognize it for what it was at first, Spock was irritated with Christine. He had given her a direct order to run. Dr. Lewis certainly had. Dr. Lewis is weak, and you knew she wouldn't, he told himself. Christine is not a coward, and she has too much of a sense of duty to leave a helpless patient, much less someone she had mentored. So why did you order her to do something you knew she wouldn't. Couldn't. This train of thought is illogical and pointless, he thought and attempted to turn his mind to their immediate situation.

He should rest as well, even though he could go longer than humans could without sleep, he should take his own advice. With one last glance at the alien camp where Christine Chapel's form lay, he closed his eyes to try to rest.

The Hunted, Chapter. 8

"Sir, with all due respect, that is not a reasonable course of action," Spike's tone was adamant. "They will kill you on sight. Surely, Commander, you realize this."

It was daybreak, and the two of them were standing under the trees where they had spent the night.

Spock's voice was calm, "I believe not, Lt. They have had opportunity to search for us, yet they have not. They have had time and opportunity to kill Dr. Chapel and Nurse Fields, yet they have not. I believe that if I approach them openly, with no weapon, that they may be willing to allow me unharmed into their camp. Perhaps curiosity, or whatever it is that has kept Chapel and Fields from harm, will work to my benefit."

"Sir, that's a hellava chance you're taking, begging your pardon, Commander."

"What do you suggest, Lt. O'Connelly? The aliens must not be allowed to take the medical team with them if they leave, nor can they be allowed to keep them indefinitely. To do so increases the risk that they will be harmed. Lt., you have your orders: Observe my approach to the camp for two standard hours. If I have not returned during that time, or if I am killed, find Lt. Redstone and Dr. Lewis, stay with them until Enterprise returns. You are not to attempt to rescue me. There is no need to risk more deaths or injuries." Spock read the look on her face. "That is a direct order, Lt. O'Connelly," he said sternly, remembering Chapel.

"Yes, Commander Spock," Spike answered, "But, I wish to state that I disagree with this course of action, sir. I feel that if you go that I should at least accompany you. We could approach them quietly and stun them, and take Dr. Chapel and Nurse Fields."

"And what if it took more than a "stun" setting to subdue them. Would you, as a representative—an officer—of Starfleet, risk having to kill sentient beings before we even attempt to negotiate?" Spock asked, cocking one eyebrow at her.

"No, sir," Spike was trying not to lose her cool. "But, they've already proven their hostility. They have kidnapped and killed our people, Shot down our shuttle. I would rather not have them kill you, sir," she finished passionately.

It was as if Spock had not heard a word his lieutenant had uttered. "You have my answer, Lt. O'Connelly. I respect your reasons for disagreeing, but you will follow my orders, nonetheless." The look he gave her could have melted dilithium crystals.

Spike didn't speak; she could just move her head in acknowledgement.

"If we are released, I will, of course, contact you as soon as possible." Spock removed his weapon, and handed it to the security officer. He kept his communicator and universal translator.

"Good luck, Sir." Spike said.

Commander Spock nodded at her and began his walk down into the alien encampment.

Christine had been up for a while. She had checked Cammy; everything looked good. The girl's color was better, pulse steadier and stronger, and no sign of infection or further bleeding. The nurse probably wouldn't be awake for a while. Christine wanted to keep her quiet and had injected her with another sedative to help her rest.

None of the aliens had approached her yet. Not even when she had gone into the trees to relieve herself. She supposed that they knew as long as Cammy was here, she wasn't going anywhere. They were right.

Abruptly, the camp grew quiet. Looking over at the center of the camp, Christine noticed that the aliens were all looking toward a small hill to the west. Re-Jad exited the damaged ship with "Scarface." They were approached by another alien who spoke animatedly, but she couldn't understand what they were so excited about or what they were looking at. Maybe a rescue party! Had Enterprise returned sooner than anticipated!

Christine Chapel stood up to get a better view. Her stomach clenched tightly and she felt her heart in her throat. Spock! Alone and headed this way.

Re-Jad strode toward her and grabbed her by the arm. He dragged her over to the other aliens and stepped out in front of them so she could see Spock striding calmly toward them.

"What is the meaning of this?" Re-Jad demanded. The claws on his "hand" were digging into her flesh.

Christine wished she knew. She said, "He is my commanding officer. The one in charge of our scientific mission."

The aliens began to fan out and form a large semi-circle around the area into which Spock would be entering. Christine became increasingly more alarmed at the offensive stance they were assuming as they moved toward him, tightening the circle around him as he got closer.

"Re-Jad. My commander, Spock, he probably wishes to …" what the hell was the word, "parlay," she stammered out.

Without loosening his grip or taking his eyes from Spock, he growled,
"What is 'parlay.'"

"To discuss the …situation. He is concerned for us and wants to make sure we are safe. "Please," she asked him, "allow him to speak to you. He plans no violence, I assure you."

Re-Jad must have either believed her or believed that Spock wasn't much of a threat. He motioned the circling aliens back with a wave of his long arm.

Spock drew within 12-15 feet of Re-Jad and Christine. He saw fear for his safety in the doctor's intense blue eyes.

"I am Commander Spock of the Federation Starship Enterprise. I see that you have located members of my missing crew. I wish to thank you for their care and respectfully ask for their release." Calm and unflappable, he stated his request.

Re-Jad simply said, "No."

Spock responded with his usual Vulcan aplomb. "May I ask why not?"

"I ask you what I asked your 'Healer.' Why do you walk into certain death?"

"My death is not 'certain,' until you actually kill me. The 'Healer' and the one who is injured are members of my crew and I am responsible for their safety. I cannot abandon them. It is not our way."

Re-Jad seemed to accept this statement at face value as he had already witnessed such behavior from Christine. Instead, he asked, "The females belonged to you."

Spoke elevated his eyebrow, not missing the past tense, and said, "In a manner of speaking, yes, the females belong to me."

"No. Now they belong to me. This one," Re-Jad pulled Christine in front of him, "fought me, and I defeated her in battle. Now they are my females."

Spock appeared to consider this for a moment. Finally, he said, "I will not leave them."

Once this statement was understood, there was a flutter of movement in the group. Re-Jad pulled Christine back and pushed her behind him in answer.

Spock spoke again. "Very well, since we cannot come to agreement, may I ask for your permission to make sure they are uninjured? I have no weapons and present no threat to you or your crew."

Utterly logical. The alien commander considered the Vulcan. "I extend the hospitality of my camp to you. But understand, the females are now mine."

Commander Spock turned his head to the side and nodded slightly, "Thank you. May I sit with them for a time?"

"You may-for a time." Red-Ja stepped aside to allow Spock access into the camp, and more importantly, to Christine. "Healer, take him to your offspring."

Chapel nodded at him, and said to Spock, "This way, Commander."

Unimpeded, but closely scrutinized, the aliens allowed him to walk by her side to where Cammy lay still asleep. They both knelt by the nurse's side with their backs to the aliens.

"Why did the aliens refer to Nurse Fields as your 'offspring'?" he asked.

"Re-Jad said it was the way I defended her." Chapel answered.

"Re-Jad. The leader?"

"Yes." Then, "Oh, Spock," Christine breathed out, "What are you doing?"

Ignoring her concern for him, he asked, "What is her condition?"

Christine sat down beside her and looked at him. "She is recovering from surgery. I had no choice but to operate. She was dying from internal bleeding."

"They allowed you your equipment?" Spock was surprised. He had watched her with the nurse, but had no idea she was doing field surgery.

"Oh, yes, but they watched the entire process. I don't think they had ever seen an operation before, for that matter, I don't think they have doctors, or at least use them in the capacity that we do. They consider it an honor to allow their lives to be taken to serve the others. That's what you witnessed when you saw the injured aliens being killed."

"Fascinating." Spock sat down facing her. "Have they harmed you?"

"No. I'm fine, considering," she responded. Christine looked at his face and was momentarily so overwhelmed at seeing him again that she forgot he was a touch-telepath and reached out and touched his cheek momentarily. "Oh, God, I am so glad you're here, and sorry that you are at the same time. Are the others safe?"

Amazingly, the Vulcan didn't flinch from her hand. "They are fine, Christine. Tell me what happened at the shuttle?"

After she finished, he looked at her strangely. "Interesting. Re-Jad understands the concept of sacrificing self for another, much as his injured crew did, and respected this in your struggle to protect Nurse Fields and in my approaching his camp unarmed and outnumbered."

Spock looked carefully at Christine. She was anxious, but calm. "You behaved courageously, but you disobeyed my order," he said. "I believe my instructions to you were to run to safety." His countenance belied the stern tone of his words. "If you had been killed, Dr. McCoy would never have given me a moment's peace for not bringing back his 'best girl.'"

She smiled at him as she said, "I apologize for only thinking of my patient and myself. I should have taken that into consideration. Next time I will behave more with your comfort in mind."

"See that you do, Miss Chapel." Christine looked at him in surprise and smiled briefly. "What is it?" he asked.

"You haven't called me 'Miss Chapel' in years. I don't feel like 'Miss Chapel; I feel like tired, scared, old Doctor Chapel." She half-grimaced, half-smiled at him. She was almost touching his leg with hers. Pulling away suddenly, Christine asked, "Have you eaten anything?"

"You're not offering me alien stew are you?"

"God, no! I have some MRE's." She rustled around in the bag and pulled one out. "Here. It's on me."

Spock tore open the Oriental vegetables package and began to eat. Christine looked around him at the aliens. Most of them were occupied, but there was no doubt that they were being watched more closely now than before Spock had arrived.

"They sure see you as more of a threat than me," she said.

Spock was quiet as he ate. Christine was quiet, too, watching him eat. Finally, he spoke. "Have you eaten, Doctor?"

"Not hungry right now."

"Really. I would have thought otherwise."

"Sorry. Don't mean to stare. What are we going to do?"

"I am formulating a possible plan."

"Is it a secret plan?"

"No, Doctor. I just haven't completely thought out the details. I would prefer not to worry you, yet."

"Is it going to worry me?"

"You tend to fret over the welfare of others, even when you have no control over the situation."

"Really?"

"Yes, it is illogical, but accurate."

Spock finished eating. Christine sat quietly, looking at Cammy. "Maybe I should talk to Re-Jad," she said quietly.

"Why?" he asked.

"He doesn't seem to care for you," she glanced at him, "much."

"He seems to care for you," he looked at her, "a great deal."

"Your point?" she asked, elevating her own eyebrow.

"It is obvious that he will not let you go without a fight."

"Well, it wouldn't be much of a fight: seven to two," Christine said. "If you consider how they're built to how we're built, then it's fourteen to one and half."

"Yes. We will have to plan something that will give us more of an equal chance to escape."

"I am not going to like this plan, am I?" she said, twisting her lips a little as she looked at him.

Probably not, Spock thought.

Chp. 9 "The Hunted"

The conversation and the route that it was taking was causing Christine's head to ache more than before for some reason. She touched the side of her head gingerly. Spock immediately noticed.

"You are in pain," he stated. He reached over and picked up the medical tricorder from where she had placed it after checking her patient earlier and scanned her.

"Your concussion is no better. In fact, you have another bruise and small cut on the side of your head. Perhaps not serious if you rest, but considering our circumstances….," Spock trailed off.

"I'll be fine; don't be concerned about me," Christine said, wearily, "Let's just get the hell out of here."

Spock looked at her closely. She didn't look well, he thought. She had dark circles under her eyes and her creamy skin looked paler than usual.

"Stay here; I will hopefully return shortly." Spock started to rise, but Christine put her hand on his arm and stopped him.

"What are you going to do?"

He gently took her hand off of his arm and stood up. "I am simply going to speak to our host."

"Umph," she snorted. "Why don't I like this?"

"Try not to worry, Doctor. I think you underestimate my skills as a diplomat."

Christine smiled with one side of her mouth. "I hope so, Spock. I hope so." She watched him closely as he headed toward the midst of the aliens, looking for Re-Jad.

Re-Jad saw the scrawny greenish-skinned male approaching and waited for him to come to him. This was his camp and he would not appear too accommodating to this "Commander Spock." And alien commander certainly didn't like his alleged claim on what was by right his property now.

The Vulcan stopped and spoke firmly, "Dr. Chapel, the one you call 'Healer' is injured. She might become further injured if she exerts herself."

Re-Jad did not speak, but seemed to be considering Spock's words.

He continued, "Her injuries are not readily apparent, but they are serious."

"You think that this makes her less valuable to me?" Re-Jad asked him.

"I had considered that possibility, yes." Spock answered honestly. "She will require care. Care that you may not know how to provide," he spoke again, "She may also be an impediment to your mission, whatever that may be, as well as a drain on your limited resources."

"Do you think that I am not clever enough to see through your ruse? She is valuable to you. So much so that you would tell untruths to secure her release. Dishonorable."

"I assure you, sir, that she is injured, and her care may require one of her own fellow crewmates," Spock stated firmly.

Red-Ja was equally as firm. "Then you will stay with her until she is well."

Spock acquiesced. "Thank you."

Christine looked up at his return. "That was quick. It either went well or we're to be shot at dawn."

"I attempted to reason with him by relating to him that you were injured and therefore would be a burden, but he is insistent that you stay. I am to stay until you are well." Spock did not look away although he knew what was about to happen.

Christine was stunned. "That was your plan! You knew he wasn't going to release us so now you're trapped here with us. Unbelievable! How exactly does that improve the situation?"

"Dr. Chapel, calm yourself. Your emotional outburst does not help our predicament."

"Our predicament? All you had to do was leave. Now what?"

"Time will work to our advantage. The longer they are stranded here, the closer it will be to the time for Enterprise to return. There is also the possibility that our distress beacon will be picked up by a passing vessel. And," he kept going, "You are injured, and I was not …. comfortable leaving you unattended while Nurse Fields is also incapacitated." Spock looked from Christine to Cammy as he finished speaking, not willing to meet her eyes.

For moment, Christine sat back, speechless. He was worried about her. Spock was worried about her. No. She was reading too much into this.

"Oh," was all she could say. Then, "Very logical, Mr. Spock."

As evening turned into night, Spock gathered wood from the edge of the clearing in order to build a fire for his human companions. Christine had finally agreed to rest after being assured that Cammy would be well monitored.

The fire began to pop and crackle under his ministrations and gave a welcome light into the immediate area. A soft voice caught his attention.

"Commander?" Nurse Fields' voice was almost a whisper.

"I am here, Nurse. Are you in pain?" Spock asked as he knelt beside her.

"No, Sir. Where's Dr. Chapel?"

"She is resting. Are you hungry?"

"Actually, sir, I'm pretty thirsty." Spock left and came back quickly with a container filled with cool water.

Cammy tried to lean over on her side in order to take a drink. Spock placed his hand behind her back and held her up while she took a long sip.

Finishing, she lay back down with his assistance and wiped water droplets from her chin.

"Thank you, sir. How long have I been unconscious?"

"Approximately 24 hours. Dr. Chapel had to perform surgery in order to repair the internal injuries that occurred during the shuttle crash. You seem to be recuperating well despite our current circumstances."

"What are our present circumstances, Commander?" she asked quietly.

Spock hesitated, not wanting to upset her in her weakened condition. "We are currently being held in the alien encampment, Nurse Fields, but we seem to be in no immediate danger. It is still approximately 11 days until Enterprise may be within range of our emergency beacon."

His voice had barely silenced when Re-Jad made an appearance. Cammy emitted a terrified little gasp at her nighttime glimpse of the alien.

Spock rose and faced him.

Re-Jad looked at Christine's sleeping form and turned to glance at Cammy Fields. "The offspring has improved. The Healer? She is well?"

Spock responded, indicating Cammy, "She is improving, yes. Dr. Chapel is still recuperating from her head injury." Spock glanced toward her watching the colored lights scan across her forehead from the neurostatic emitter that he had placed across her brow to monitor her condition.

The alien leader considered Spock for a moment, as if to judge the veracity of his statement. Re-Jad sat down by the fire, uninvited. Spock sat down across the blaze from him, partially blocking his view of Christine. Cammy watched them from where she lay on the ground, transfixed by the appearance of the being before her. The large alien appeared to take no notice of her at all.

"I would speak with you," he addressed Spock. Re-Jad gestured toward where Chapel lay as he looked across the fire at the Vulcan. "Is she your mate?"

Spock contemplated the alien warrior, realizing that his answer may well have an impact on whether they left separately or stayed together. "May I ask why you wish to know? Among my people relationships are extremely private and are not for discussion."

Re-Jad seemed to consider his words carefully before responding. He looked into the fire. "I understand the need to protect one's mate, the need to protect what is yours, what you….must have for your existence. Is this not so with your people as well?"

Spock answered, "It is."

Without looking up from the fire, the nightmarish looking creature continued, "My mate was taken from me in an attack on our home world. She was with child, our first. There has never been another. The loss has been …" Re-Jad trailed off.

Spock was realizing that regardless of their fierce appearance and bearing there was an almost Klingon-like honor among them. Instead of answering Re-Jad's question, Spock asked one of his own. "Why did you shoot down our shuttlecraft? We had done you no harm, in fact, we were attempting to leave the area."

"Our attackers are like shadows. We do not have the advanced technologies that they have and were unable to scan for specific life signs. When your ship attempted to flee, we used what weapons we had functioning in order to stop you. It was unfortunate that your crew was injured." Re-Jad looked toward Chapel's form, not even giving Cammy a cursory glance. Something that did not go unnoticed by Spock.

Spock doubted that things were going to be as easy as simply declaring that Christine was his mate and then they would be released. The alien seemed too taken with Dr. Chapel or her healer's skills to give her up without more protest.

Spock stared into Re-Jad's eye slits. "If you are willing to allow my "mate" and her "offspring" to leave, then I accept. We will leave at dawn and no longer take from you the few resources your crew may have left."

Re-Jad looked just as intensely back into Spock's almost black eyes and emotionless face. "That would be unacceptable. I will, however, give you an opportunity to challenge me for her. An opportunity that I did not have when my mate was taken."

Spock tilted his head in a very Vulcan gesture. "It would be an extremely one sided physical confrontation. Your size is nearly comparable to twice mine. I would have no chance. Is this offer of a contest merely to assuage your conscience so that you do not do to me what others have done to you, or is this a sincere challenge so that I might have a true chance to retain what is rightfully mine, as you already know?"

Re-Jad's countenance reflected what Spock assumed was offence and the alien warrior quickly rose to his feet. "You insult me with your words. I have already given you more than I was given. I owe you nothing!" He whirled and stalked back to his men and his ship.

Cammy Fields, who had been forgotten in the pissing match between the two males, spoke up. "Well, that could have gone better, huh?"

Spock barely turned his head to look at her, "True."

The nurse continued softly, "You know that if you had agreed to fight him, you wouldn't have had to worry about him killing you. Dr. Chapel would have."

"Nurse, Dr. Chapel is a Starfleet officer and as such she would do as commanded by a superior officer," Spock responded, now turning to look at her full on, a little surprised by her bold comment.

"Yes, sir, she is. But she also cares about you and your friendship and wouldn't be real happy about your risking your life for hers. She also isn't very shy about sharing her opinion. Sir."

Spock had to admit that the young nurse had a point. Christine would be what his mother called "fit to be tied." Oh, well, it was very likely a moot point now anyway. "Nurse, I suggest you rest. Tomorrow may well be an eventful day."

"Yes, sir. Good-night, Commander." Spock didn't answer, but then again, Cammy didn't expect him to. He was not given to idle chit-chat and hopefully he was working on some type of plan and that was what he had in mind when he questioned the alien commander's offer.

The young nurse knew that she had irked Commander Spock by mentioning that Dr. Chapel would not approve of his plan, but she knew that it was true, even though it might not affect Spock's plans, on the surface anyway. She had watched them together, knew that they had served aboard the Enterprise for one five year mission and were now into their second. She could tell that they knew each other, the way people understood each other when they had been through fire together or had had a personal relationship

. Cammy knew the first was true; the second, a relationship, she was still working out. Commander Spock was certainly protective of Dr. Chapel and her of him, too. Sometimes she felt that whether she herself was there or not was irrelevant, even if she knew that neither of them would ever abandon her. She didn't just carry the "value," yes, that was the word the alien commander had meant. They each valued the other. Whether or not it was romantic or sexual in nature, Cammy couldn't figure out. But there was something bubbling there just under the surface; she'd bet her commission on that.

Cammy was vaguely aware of Spock sitting by the fire as she dozed off. He seemed to be praying, no, that wasn't right; Vulcans didn't pray, did they? Meditating then. She hoped whatever he was doing that it led to a way for all of them to get away from here and back to their ship.

The Hunted, Chapter. 10

Spock had been meditating for 2.6 hours when he heard Dr. Chapel. First it began as fitful sleeping, tossing and turning. In a short while, he heard her emit a slight moan and mumble something unintelligible.

Leaving his place by the fire, he moved to her side. The neuro-emitter had not signaled distress. "Dr. Chapel." She did not respond. He lay his hand against her check, then to her forehead to check for fever. Cool. Spock went back for the tricorder and scanned her further. Nothing alarming, in fact she was some better.

"Christine. Can you hear me?" She seemed to become semi-conscious, and she raised her hand up as if to reach for him.

"Spock?"

"I am here. Are you in pain?"

"My head hurts."

Spock retrieved a medical kit from one of the bags near Nurse Fields and brought it back to Christine. "Here-a hypo, but you must choose the dosage if you are up to it, or tell me and I will do so."

Christine took the hypo from his hand and adjusted it from memory then pressed it against her neck. Almost immediately the pain in her head began to fade. It was blessed relief.

"Thank you. Better." She handed it back to him and closed her eyes.

Spock moved to return the med-kit to the bag, but Christine's hand fell lightly on his arm. "Don't leave yet." she murmured.

"What can I do to make you more comfortable? Do you need water?"

"Stay with me a while. Talk to me," she whispered, eyes still closed.

Spock contemplated her. This was unusual behavior, this neediness. It disturbed him and made him wonder if there was more damage than the tricorder was reading. "I will stay, but you need to try to rest."

"Have you slept?" she asked him softly.

"I have been meditating."

There was silence for a time. After a few minutes, Spock assumed she had fallen back asleep. Unwilling to be too far away, he lay down on the ground and turned on his side so that he was facing her. He had just closed his eyes when Christine spoke again.

"I'm glad you're here. I'm mad as hell that you're here, but I am glad that you're with us."

"Dr. Chapel that is one of the most illogical things that I have ever heard you say."

Christine rolled to her side, facing him. He could see in the firelight that she was smiling drunkenly at him. "I think I may be a little high from the pain medicine. Not entirely unpleasant considering our circumstances though. You want a shot?" She gave him a lop-sided grin.

Spock couldn't help being slightly amused. "I will pass, Doctor. Perhaps during our next crisis."

"There is something to be said for an altered mental state during duress, Spock. Have you ever been drunk?" She was starting to ramble.

"No. I usually do not drink alcohol, Christine. Don't you remember?" His voice was tender and soft.

"I always remember, Spock. I remember….I remember the first time I met you. I remember the first time the ship was attacked. I was sooo scared. I remember when you went to Gol." She stopped here for a minute.

"Christine, try to sleep. You will feel better after you rest. Tomorrow we may be free and away from here. You will need to be able to assist me with Nurse Fields."

"It was not smart or logical for you to return. Why did you?" She almost whispered the question.

"It was very logical, but you are too tired for me to explain tonight."

"I'm scared. Do you know that?"

"It is natural for you to be frightened," Spock answered. "It is human."

"Not for me. For you. Re-Jad doesn't like you." She yawned. "Will you promise me that you won't do anything else to draw his attention? If he asks you to leave us, please just go." Christine reached out and touched his hand where it rested between them. "Please."

Spock could sense fatigue, anxiety, and affection coming from her, but it was all muted by the pain killer's effect. She was almost asleep now.

"I will do what I can, Christine." It was the only answer he could honestly give her. Reaching down, he pulled their limited covers over both of them and placing his hand back on hers to comfort her, he finally tried to sleep.

Spock had explored strange planets, met with world leaders, brilliant scientists, and encountered all manner of unexplained, unknown phenomenon, but he awoke to something unfamiliar to him-the warmth of a woman's body curled beside his own.

Sometime during the night they had gravitated toward each other and now they lay curled together against the past cool of the night and now the morning. Although she wore no perfume, Dr. Chapel had a distinctive scent.

Vulcans have a superior sense of smell and he could probably have picked her out in total darkness. Her back was warm against his front and although he didn't have his arm totally around her in what could be called a suggestive embrace, he did have his hand resting on the curve of her hip. Spock could even count the regular breaths that she took in her deep sleep.

He lay for a while without changing position, going over possibilities in his mind as to what might be the best way to proceed in his dealings with Re-Jad. Spock was not a being who "played things by ear;" he carefully worked through the options, calculated the risks, and took the most logical course of action. But as he lay there in the early morning light feeling Christine's warmth against him, Spock experienced a vulnerability that he rarely felt. He sensed a protectiveness toward her, and something else that he couldn't quite define, and didn't really want to dwell on for too long. He couldn't afford the luxury of personal reflection and to waste time on such would be illogical considering their present predicament. Maybe later if he was still bothered by his concerns, he would meditate on them as he had always done. Logically, as usual, he would work through whatever was distracting him.

Christine gently began to stir, arching back into the warmth that his higher body temperature offered. Still mostly asleep, she didn't realize whom she was with or why, only that her back and head ached and the warmth eased the pain.

Spock, however, did not have the excuse of sleep and he was quite aware of her pressing back against him. Unconsciously, Christine had pulled his arm from her hip and tucked it around in front of her, thereby pulling him almost halfway onto her back. There was no way he was getting up without waking her up. He decided that for the doctor's benefit he would wait a while longer before rising. After all, Nurse Fields still seemed to be asleep, and he wasn't all that uncomfortable.

Interestingly enough, since the "V'ger incident," Spock had been more willing to allow small elements of his human side to silently come to the fore, not that he would ever want anyone to know, especially Dr. McCoy. Spock considered it an experiment because it seemed logical and reasonable that he should explore both sides of his parentage; his mother had, after all, always said that he was "part" of her. Something he had always tried to deny about himself before. This "comfort" wasn't entirely unpleasant.

Christine awoke feeling much better than she had in days. Her headache was gone and, except for a tinge of an ache in her back, she felt 100% improved. She raised herself up on an elbow and found Spock sitting by the fire with Cammy. Moving to join them, she was amazed at how well the girl looked.

"How do you feel, young lady?" Christine asked as she reached for her medical tricorder to scan her even as Cammy answered.

"Very fine, Ma'am. I even ate something," she answered brightly.

"You're looking much better, Dr. Chapel," Spock remarked. The dark circles under her eyes had faded and the little pain lines that had pinched between her eyes had disappeared.

Christine smiled at them both, "I am, thank you." Eyeing their formidable looking companions, she asked, "Any contact with our friends this morning?"

Spock's lips pinched minutely when he glanced at the group seated around their first repast of the day. "Not yet, Doctor. But when Re-Jad notices that you are up and about, he is sure to wonder if you are well enough for me to travel on and leave you here as his spoils of battle."

Christine didn't answer; she appeared to be concentrating on finding something in the bag for breakfast. Cammy noticed, however, that there was a little tension between the two of them. Strange. She thought they had looked a little cozy when she had gotten up in the middle of the night to answer nature's call.

"I think I need water more than I need food this morning; I'm parched," Christine said.

"Stay here," Spock commanded. "I will get it; you shouldn't draw too much of their attention." With that, he rose to his feet and headed in the direction of the nearby creek with a container.

"He's right, you know," Cammy said when they were left alone. "Their leader, Re-Jad, came over here and talked to Commander Spock last night about you."

"What!" Christine's startled exclamation caused Cammy to physically draw back a little. "What did they talk about specifically?"

Cammy took a deep breath and looked in the direction that Spock had gone as if to assure herself that he was out of earshot. "He offered to fight Commander Spock for you. The commander said it wouldn't be a fair fight and that he was just doing it to ease his conscience because he had lost his own mate or wife or whatever they call them. Re-Jad got pretty put out and left."

The doctor was quiet, digesting this new information. She looked up as Spock arrived back with the water and handed the container to Christine. She took it silently, not meeting his eyes. "Thank you, Commander."

Picking up her MRE, the doctor started to tear it open, then suddenly threw it to the side and quickly rose to her feet. Before either of her companions could say anything, the doctor walked toward the cluster of aliens. Surprised, Spock and Nurse Fields watched her as she approached Re-Jad.

In direction opposition to how he had reacted to Spock's approach, Re-Jad rose and walked to meet Christine partway. She said something to him, and the two Starfleet officers watched as the large alien commander turned around to walk into his ship, followed by Dr. Chapel.

Cammy spoke, "What was that about?"

"Unknown." Spock's face was impassive. "Stay here." He rose to his feet gracefully and strode toward the damaged alien vessel. He didn't get very close before one of Re-Jad's crew stopped him.

Cammy watched as it appeared that Spock attempted to go around the ferocious looking being. In seconds, another one appeared to provide back up, not like the first one needed it. Commander Spock certainly wasn't going to get any closer. After several more minutes of intense discussion on her commander's part and none on the part of the aliens, Spock returned. He looked as irritated and tense as Cammy had ever seen.

The young nurse looked over at him as he once again took a seat across from her. "Did they tell you why they wouldn't let you pass?" she asked.

"No," he replied tersely. "But I have a disconcerting suspicion that Dr. Chapel is not there just for 'water.'"

Cammy looked at him worriedly, "Do you think he will hurt her, Commander?"

Spock didn't answer as Christine and Re-Jad exited the ship a few minutes later. The alien spoke to his crew and two of them broke away from the group and followed him and Christine to where Cammy and Spock waited.

Spock rose to his feet, strongly suspecting that he was not going to like what he was about to hear.

Re-Jad stepped forward while Christine stayed behind him, flanked by the other two alien crewmen.

"You will take the Offspring and depart. The Healer will stay. She is well. The Offspring is well. You have no need of her and nor she of you now." His tone brooked no argument.

Spock stepped forward and closed to within a foot of Re-Jad, although he still had to look up at the fanged commander. "I explained to you; I will not leave without them both. They are my responsibility and belong to me. I would think that you would understand this after our previous discussion."

Re-Jad looked, even on his vampirish countenance, smug. "You have no say in the matter. The Healer herself has decided. She has chosen to stay. You will both go. Now."

Spock stared at Christine. Her expression could have out-Vulcaned even him. "Unacceptable," he almost spat. "The decision is not hers to make. I am in charge of this mission. I am her commanding officer, and I will decide who stays and who goes."

Re-Jad had had enough. He literally picked Spock up like a child and threw him eight to ten feet onto his back. Cammy jumped up to go to him, and Christine bolted forward, but Re-Jad pushed the doctor back and barked at the others to control her.

"We had a deal. You said he wouldn't be hurt," she yelled at him angrily.

Spock rose to his feet, dignity and indignation still intact. "I will not let you take what rightfully belongs to me. The challenge you offered earlier-I accept-if you still have the courage to fight me."

Re-Jad emitted a series of sounds that might have been laughter. "She is mine now by her own admission. You would fight for a female who has abandoned you of her own accord? You are a fool."

"It wouldn't be the first time," the Vulcan stated dryly.

The Hunted, Chapter. 11

"I cannot believe you! What in the hell are you thinking! He will kill you!" Christine Chapel was livid. She was standing with her hands on her hips, legs planted firmly apart looking at Spock like she could rip him apart herself.

Spock was ignoring her, or so it seemed. He had stripped down to his black tee shirt, uniform pants, and boots.

"Fine. Whatever. I give up." The doctor stalked over to the cold fire pit and plopped down.

Cammy was sitting on her blanket, saying nothing. She felt like she was watching her parents fight and decided the best course of action was to just shut up and stay out of the way. She had been superfluous to this little drama from the beginning, so why jump in now.

Spock neatly folded his uniform shirt and placed it on his tightly rolled blanket. He walked over to where Christine sat with her legs drawn up, arms resting on her knees, head down. He knelt down in front of her. If he had been human, he would have taken her hands in his.

"Dr. Chapel. I realize that you thought you were acting in the best interest of Nurse Fields and myself. I understand your compunction to protect others given your nature and occupation, however, you did not have the authority to 'give' yourself to Re-Jad." Still she didn't look up, but he continued anyway, "That being said, I would most likely have had to fight him anyway. There was no way that he was going to let us all go." Spock didn't add the unnecessary words "especially you."

"Do not blame yourself, Christine. It has to be done. Re-Jad is an honorable being. If he is defeated, he will release us all. And I am not exactly a 'lightweight' myself. As our friend Dr. McCoy would say, 'Have a little faith.'"

Christine finally raised her head to look into his dark brown eyes, so sincere in not wanting her to blame herself. "What if he cripples you, or, God forbid, kills you, Spock?" Her blue eyes were frightened. "How on earth could I live with that?"

Spock was slightly amused at the irony of her reaction, though he carefully controlled it. She might be taken into captivity, but she was, as usual, worried about someone else. He looked into the face of this woman that he had known and yet not really known for so many years. The dangers and situations they had faced together raced through his mind in a nanosecond. The times she had held his hand whenever he was hurt or injured, offering him unadulterated devotion, as well as all the others that she had comforted or cared for from the time that she was a lovely young woman to the confident classic beauty she had become in middle age.

"According to ancient human custom, when a male went into battle for a woman, he was given a trinket for 'luck,' and from the appearance of my opponent, I very well might need one," Spock said, raising his trademark eyebrow.

His comment was so unexpected that Christine couldn't help but emit a little laugh. "Well…." She reached into the top of her uniform and pulled out a medal on a think silver chain. Unsnapping the clasp, she dangled it in front of him. "Here. St. Jude."

He dropped his head obligingly, and she fastened it around his neck. "Good luck," Christine whispered.

As he strode to meet the fearsome figure of Re-Jad, Commander Spock clearly understood what a loss would mean, for all three of them. Vulcans certainly possessed strength superior to humans, but if size and appearance was any indication, Re-Jad was more than a match for him.

The two males came together away from the center of the encampment where there was plenty of room for movement. Christine Chapel and Cammy Fields stood off to the side, saying nothing, but their expressions said plenty. Re-Jad's crewmen stood or sat in various positions where they hoped they would have an unimpeded view of the fight. Their leader was a masterful fighter, powerful and fearless; the idea that this puny being with pale skin was any threat at all was ridiculous. The wagers they had made had nothing to do with whether or not their commander would win or lose, but how long the alien male would be able to last before defeated or killed.

Re-Jad was waiting for him. Spock approached him calmly, looking as if he were about to discuss Starfleet personnel regulations. "I am sorry that it has come to this," Spock said, looking coolly at his opponent. "I was hopeful that we could come to an understanding before injuring each other."

"If that is your way of saying that you are frightened, it is understandable." Re-Jad's crew made their little weird laughing sound. "We fight until one of us surrenders, or one of us is dead. If you win, "he glanced at his men, and again there was movement among them that indicated amusement, "I will allow both you and your females to depart. If I win, you will be dead and I will keep both females. If you surrender, I will release the Offspring, and keep the Healer. Understood."

"Clearly," Spock replied tonelessly.

The Vulcan's words had not died in the air before Re-Jad accelerated across the distance which separated them like an Earth cheetah. Catching Spock under the throat, he immediately threw him to the ground, and with only his forearm, held Spock to the ground while slowly strangling him. Spock's brought his legs up and kicked Re-Jad in the head, forcing him to release his grip, then arching his back, he leapt to his feet before he could be grabbed again.

Spock swung out with his right leg and caught Re-Jad around the side where he hoped his kidneys might be. Re-Jad easily managed to deflect Spock's leg and jerked him again onto his back in the dirt, but this time before his opponent landed on him, Spock rolled out of the way and bounced to his feet barely in time.

If Re-Jad was a powerful oak then Spock was a willow, for the Vulcan knew that he could not overpower his opponent with brute strength, but he could use his agility and cleverness.

Spock was starting to see black spots in front of his eyes as his oxygen supply was being cut off—again.

Re-Jad again asked him, "Do you surrender Vulcan! Spare your life, and take the Offspring!" He released his death grip on Spock's throat long enough to give him a chance to speak. "Vulcan! Surrender!" Re-Jad commanded.

Spock could not speak, gasping for air. Christine struggled against the hands that held her back. She screamed at Spock, begging him to surrender. He was trying to speak. Re-Jad could hear him mumbling something through his damaged throat, and he leaned down so that he could hear the words that Christine prayed would save Spock's life.

"What, Vulcan? Speak and save yourself."

Spock finally managed to get two words out, "No surrender."

"So be it." Re-Jad began to crush Spock's throat in his powerful hand. As the light before his eyes started to dim, the Starfleet commander could hear Christine Chapel screaming and pleading for his life to be spared. His last conscious thought was that, again, he had failed to protect her.

Suddenly a blast of phaser fire came from the edge of the forest. Re-Jad spun around and fell between two of his crewman, dead before he hit the ground. Spike came from the forest where she had approached totally unobserved while everyone had focused their attention on the conflict at hand.

"Get back! Get back!" Spike barked as she approached the group.

Christine had taken advantage of the surprise attack and torn away from the crewmen who had been holding her. Rushing to Spock, she checked his vitals. Pulse strong. He was just unconscious. Looking up, she saw Spike with her phaser rifle trained on the remaining unfamiliar crew. Spike stopped by her side, looked down at her commanding officer and doctor.

"Is he still alive?" she asked.

"Yes." Christine was breathless and still awed by the appearance of Lt. O'Connelly.

"Then let's get him and get the hell out of here, doctor. Like, now."

Cammy Fields had raced to join them, so she reached down and helped Dr. Chapel lift Commander Spock to his feet. Placing him between them with one supporting him on each side, they headed toward the forest. Behind them, Spike kept her phaser rifle trained on the six beings remaining behind.

At the edge of the forest, Lt. Redstone and Dr. Lewis were waiting and Redstone picked up his injured commanding officer with ease into a "fireman's carry."

"Let's go, ladies," Redstone said, as he led them back into the forest, with Spike still bring up the rear.

Chapter 12

In the alien encampment, there was no move to follow the quickly retreating landing party. Instead, the remaining aliens looked to their new leader for further instructions.

The one that Christine had dubbed "Scarface" leaned down and checked on his superior. Re-Jad was undoubtedly dead. One of the aliens spoke up, "Should we prepare to follow and capture them, leader."

"They will not get far with wounded and females. We will tend to our needs and preparations before we begin our pursuit," he stated calmly, as if seeing his superior shot dead was an everyday occurrence.

One of the other crew moved to collect the body of their slain leader to prepare for evening meal.

"No! We will burn him." Scarface was suddenly fierce in his demeanor.

Mu-gon, the alien, who had stepped up to prepare Re-Jad for consumption, stopped and stared at Scarface, surprised. "It is his honor to be our meal. Do you dishonor him and destroy his remains?"

Scarface, whose name was En-jon, reached and pulled him up in a fierce grip and bared his fangs/teeth. "He is unworthy of our devouring him. He was weak." Throwing down his crew member roughly, En-jon turned to the others and continued, "He," indicating the dead leader, "showed weakness. Instead of taking the others as prey immediately, he," again he looked contemptuously at his fallen commander, "allowed them to live to satisfy some curiosity he had about other species. We need no other species but our own in order to survive. We prey on other species because they are weak and they are ours to prey upon."

Turning to two of the others, he gestured to Re-Jad. "Make a pit, burn him, and then cover his remains with dirt as is his reward for allowing non-Ye-Non to enter our camp alive, two females at that."

En-jon continued violently, "When this is done and all is prepared we will do as we are meant to do. We will hunt. We will hunt and our prey will become our food as was meant to be. There will be no hu-quq from me! They will be roasting here for us by this time tomorrow. Now prepare. Go!"

His crew scattered to do as commanded. En-jon felt what humans would term satisfaction. He would skin the light-colored female alive and allow the green-skinned one to watch while he did so. There would be no mercy, if such a word existed in his language, from Mu-Gon, new leader of the Ye-Non.

"Stop! Stop! Stop!" Doctor Chapel's voice increased in volume ever time she uttered it. "We have to stop and rest. Nurse Field needs to rest and I need to check Commander Spock's wounds."

"Doctor Chapel, we must keep moving. I have secured a relatively safe location, and it is not long until we get there. Please, do you think that they can make it a little further?" Lt. Redstone asked, not slowing his pace.

Christine looked at Cammy; she looked white but gave Chapel a little smile that said she thought she could make it. Spock was still a little woozy and from what little that the doctor had been able to ascertain, and there were burst petechial in his eyes. The Vulcan had been able to walk on his own for a while, but it was obvious that he was in pain. Christine hadn't been able to scan him, for her equipment was either in the damaged shuttle or back at the alien camp. She watched him while he was moving away from her, and thought to herself that as far as she knew he could have broken ribs, a concussion, or hell, even a skull fracture. But—he, of course, was still moving. That was just Spock.

Christine didn't bother to answer Lt. Redstone instead she just kept moving along with her current patient and her probable patient with the rest of the landing party, hoping to get where they were headed before they were either caught by the aliens or Spock collapsed.

It seemed like an eternity later to Spock, but he actually knew it had been approximately 69. 86 minutes, when Lt. Redstone led them up a hill and into a cave. Since it was nearly dark it was hard to discern more than that. The intense pain that had been growing in his side was getting sharper and harder to mask.

"Set up a perimeter, Lt. Redstone and Lt. O'Connelly. Let us know at the first sign—"he gasped.

"Enough," Chapel said firmly. "They know what to do. I need you here," she said gesturing an area of smooth ground.

"Doctor, I can assure you-" Spock attempted to speak.

"I can assure you that I will be in command here until you are fit for command. Now sit, Sir." There was no room for argument in her voice, and he was in almost unmanageable pain. Spock complied.

Spike strode over to where Christine was getting ready to examine the commander, "Ma'am. We will be scanning for life signs and won't be far away. Trust me no one will get near the cave without we know it. With your approval, Lt. Commander?" she added hastily.

"Do it, Lt. O'Connelly." With that she turned away from Spike and turned instead to Dr. Lewis.

"I need you to keep watch inside and outside the cave for predators that might not be our alien friends. Can you do that, doctor?" Her tone and the icy blue glare that she aimed his way told him that he'd damn well better do it this time.

"Yes, Dr. Chapel," he answered meekly. "I will start with the cave if that's acceptable to you; Lt. Redstone and I didn't have a long to explore it before we were informed by Lt. O'Connelly of the severity of your situation."

"Very well, but be as thorough and quick as possible."

"Yes, ma'am." Dr. Lewis appeared to shrink in size as he moved to do as ordered.

Nurse Fields was half sitting/half reclining against one of the cave walls. The dampness did nothing to quell the achiness that seemed to stem from her very core and extend outward to her extremities. She watched while Dr. Chapel began to check over the commander. She knew that the doctor would get to her as soon as possible, but in field triage, a medic took the most injured first, and right now, that appeared to be Commander Spock from the looks of him. Cammy closed her eyes, maybe if she rested just a little. In thirty seconds, she was out cold.

At the same time that Nurse Fields was sliding into sleep, Christine had begun to examine her new patient. She could tell he was obviously in pain, even his Vulcan shields could only handle so much, and if he went into a healing trance here, it might be the death of him, for she may not be able to bring him out quickly enough to get him out of danger if they had unexpected visitors.

Without a tricorder, or any equipment except her training, Christine went to work. Spock lay back on the ground while she turned, touched, palpitated, listened, and looked at every inch of his body, or so it seemed to him. When she had continued in this manner for 20 minutes or more, he could stand it no longer, "Doctor Chapel?"

"Okay, Spock, I've got good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"

"Doctor, really, I…."

"Sorry, trying to make myself feel better, I guess, in that it could be worse." She took a deep breath and leaned over him so she could see his face in the growing darkness. "Okay, you have contusions, subdural hematomas, bruised ribs, and from what I can guess, at least one broken rib, and probably a serious concussion. You, hopefully, unless there is something I can't read without instruments—"

"Christine, I understand. What's the prognosis, Doctor?"

"You are in fairly serious shape. You can't go into a healing trance," she said and he nodded that he understood, and "I don't have a thing to give you for pain or to help you start to mend. So, you're just going to have to tough it out the old-fashioned way, suffer through it. I am sorry, Spock. I wish there was more that I could do." Her face was tender in the fading light and she leaned down to touch his face once more. At his look, she shot back, "At least you don't have a fever."

"Yet," Spock finished for her. Christine looked away and noticed Cammy Fields for the first time. "Hold on, I will be right back."

Spock turned his head and watched her. Funny, how he had underestimated her all those years ago. She was a strong, tough, yet tender woman. He noticed her urging Nurse Fields to move closer to where he himself lay.

"How is she, Christine?" he asked.

"She's okay, just exhausted. Stressed. Body and spirit. If I can gather some rocks, I am going to heat them with a phaser and get us some warmth in here." Christine hadn't forgotten that Vulcan's preferred it much warmer, so the cold must really be aggravating Spock's injuries.

In only a few minutes, there was warmth, and blessed relief for a few of his aches and pains. He could feel himself wanting to slip into a healing trance, but Christine was onto that.

"Spock. Spock! I need you to stay awake. You know this."

"Affirmative, Doctor." He said quietly, sounding as if he was exhausted. And he probably was, she thought. Had he slept at all the entire time they were at the alien encampment—or even before he arrived there—the last time she remembered them resting was the night Re-Jed's ship fell from space.

Christine had almost forgotten Lewis, and his reappearance startled her. '

"Dr. Chapel, here, I found some of the herbs that we examined and cataloged earlier. You may be able to use some of them, medicinally," he was excited as a school boy.

"Thank you, doctor, and I appreciate the effort, but human physiology and Vulcan physiology are quite different. I think I will hold these in reserve."

Deflated, he answered her, "Very good, then. I will check for some sort of ground cover for your patients." He was eager to get back into her good graces and avoid the "blue glare of death" again.

Relenting, Christine smiled at him, "Thanks, Dr. Lewis, that would be great. They really don't need to be on this cold ground."

Smiling he wandered away. Christine turned and found Spock looking at her with what looked like a perplexed expression on his face. "Fascinating. If Dr Lewis had behaved with other humans as he did with you, showing extreme cowardice and abandoning them, he would find it hard to find forgiveness from most."

The doctor drew her legs together to conserve warmth and leaned against a large stone beside where her patients lay. "Well, what's done is done, and cannot be undone. Or so I've heard. There is no need to punish him further. For all I know he may be punishing himself far worse than I ever could."

Uncomfortable with his impenetrable gaze and the intimacy created by the glowing rocks, she rose abruptly, "I'll check with Redstone and O'Connelly and get a status report. Call me if your pain worsens, but I won't leave you long."

She walked to the front of the cave and began speaking into her communicator. Not looking back. So she was unable to notice that he didn't let her out of his field of vision for one second.

Chp. 13, "The Hunted"

Shortly after dawn the following morning….

"Doctor Chapel. Doctor Chapel," Redstone's voice echoed into the emptiness of the cavern.

"I can hear you, Lt. Redstone. Report." In truth, Christine had almost dozed off and the communicator jarred her fully awake.

"The aliens are fairly close ma'am. They seem to be moving in an Alpha attack pattern around our position. We suggest that you move your patients further into the cave and prepare to take up a defensive posture in case we can't prevent them from reaching you. It might be a while before I can give you a sit-rep, ma'am. It looks like we're going to be otherwise engaged for a while."

"Understood, John. You and Spike….you guys do your best," Christine choked up for a second. "We're moving back now. Give us all the warning you can."

"Affirmative, Doc." Spike spoke up. "We're on 'em. Don't worry, ma'am, the white hats are on the job."

Christine smiled, "Keep that attitude and show it to me when you kick their asses, Lt. O'Connelly. Chapel out."

Spock was trying to raise himself up into a half leaning position after hearing the communication between Christine and the security team.

"I should be out there. Help me-" Spock's voice was cut off abruptly by pain. He fell forward on his side, looking extremely pale and weak.

"Yeah, well, Mister Spock, sorry, but you're with us. Dr. Lewis, help here," she ordered. Lewis jumped to obey and helped Chapel get the first officer to his feet. "When you went back to explore the cave, was there another opening or vent that you noticed?" Damn, she should have asked him sooner, she thought angrily at herself. But, dammit, she was a doctor, not a tactician, and it hadn't occurred to her before.

"I didn't find anything significant, but I felt a slight breeze there. Once I found the herbs I came back in case you might be able to use them…." Lewis realized once again he had probably failed her.

"You go ahead with Nurse Fields and I will assist Commander Spock. We'll be right behind you. Watch out for a place where the cave might have an opening or an air vent." Christine had a plan, albeit a desperate one if they weren't left with any other choice, but she hoped it didn't come to that.

Heading into the darkness was a little less terrifying with one small handheld light left to them by Lt. Redstone, but not by much. The darkness was almost total, in fact, Christine was experiencing a little bit of a flashback to Exo III. Not a pleasant memory, to say the least. But, she tried to concentrate on Spock's breathing instead of the darkness.

Spock was trying to carry his own weight, but the sharp pain where the broken rib or ribs was incredibly sharp. He knew better than to tell Christine; she would insist that he stopped, and they needed to keep going. The sooner they got further into the cave, the sooner they might find an opening to use as an escape. It did occur to him that the aliens might also find it, but he didn't voice that concern aloud.

It wasn't long until Lewis asked, "Doctor Chapel, will this suffice?" A small tunnel led about twenty feet into a much smaller cave, but there was a flicker of a breeze here which indicated that there was a small opening to the outside.

"Fine. I'll get them settled. You go back a little, without the light and keep watch, sorry, keep listening for anything that might indicate we've got company."

Lewis paled at her orders, but, thank God, in the darkness, Christine couldn't tell. "Yes, ma'am. How long, doctor?"

Christine snapped, "Until I relieve you, mister, now move!"

Lewis scurried to do as she ordered.

On the hillside, Spike and Redstone listened as the aliens grew closer. They split up without a word between them; their plan—but not their fate—already decided.

Spike slipped quietly up into one of the trees in the dense forest, waiting along one of the large branches like a cougar waiting to pounce. She would not offer them a chance to surrender. She understood Commander Spock's philosophy, as she did the basic principles of Starfleet, but this was different. This was complete and utter self-defense, if they were caught, especially since she had killed their leader, the aliens would spare none of them she feared.

Spike didn't regret what she had done by killing the alien. If she hadn't her commander would be dead now. What would happen to her for disobeying a direct order was irrelevant at this point. She couldn't take it back. She'd just have to play out her hand. Sometimes you stacked the deck; sometimes it was stacked against you. Secretly, she was frankly amazed that her ride in Starfleet had lasted as long as it had.

Abruptly a sound crunched under her feet. Two of the aliens had stopped and seemed to be sniffing the air. Without a qualm, Spike fired down hitting both of them, her phaser setting set to kill. Both dropped like stones, but the sound of her phaser firing had drawn attention. Quickly, she clambered to the end of her tree limb and then jumped to another. Just in time. Another of the aliens was there within a minute, scouting for the shooter.

Funny, Spike thought, how most sentient beings fail to look up. Before the thought had fully formed in its entirety, weapons fire severed the branch on which she lay like a femoral artery. _ _

Redstone moved through the forest like a wraith. It was something he had been taught from birth, moving silently through the desert or forest. He felt cool as a winter creek, moving from tree to tree. He knew his purpose, to protect his people. His personal safety was irrelevant to him. Redstone descended from a long line of great hunters and trackers; he had no doubt in his skills.

But Redstone was a predator; he had never known what it was to be "prey," therefore, he did not think as a prey animal. Unfortunately, his attackers understood this and used it to their advantage.

Just ahead of him, he saw the outline of an alien examining the cave entrance that had just been discovered. Moving quietly he had his phaser in hand, and unlike Spike, his was on the strongest stun setting. He drew closer when it was like the breath of death blew the hair on the back of his neck and it stood up. Turning but not quickly enough, he didn't even see the attackers to both sides before he collapsed to the ground.

Dr. Lewis was more terrified than he had ever been in his life. He had seen the monsters, and that is what they were, monsters from his childhood nightmares. "This is why I should never have left the lab, "he thought miserably to himself. It had been an hour, no more according to his wrist chronometer, but, gods, it seemed like five. He had heard a million sounds that almost sent him scurrying back, but nothing that materialized. Though, he had a new appreciation for how well a person's sense of hearing took over in total darkness.

A sound. This one was different. Heavier. Regular. He froze. They were here. He knew it. Sounds like boots crunching on broken rock confirmed it.

The botanist turned and ran like a rabbit back to the rest of the landing party.

Christine was worried. Cammy was exhausted. Spock was in grave condition. She feared now that one of the broken ribs may have pierced something to cause such pain. The Vulcan thought that he was doing such a good job hiding it from her, but she knew. His breathing didn't seem impaired, so it may not be a lung, but every time Spock moved, Christine was sure there was more damage. There would be no more running. At least not for Spock, which meant not for her either. She wouldn't leave him anymore than she left Cammy Fields.

Christine checked Cammy- asleep again. Well, at least that kept the terror at bay for the poor girl. Her first away mission. The Enterprise curse. She laughed grimly to herself, maybe there was something to it after all.

Spock was still awake. The rocks that she had heated with her phaser after she'd gotten them settled a second time gave off a soft, reddish glow. Christine sat down beside him, touched his forehead with her hand again.

It was more than just a ritual. She needed to touch him to reassure herself that he was still alive, not burning with fever, not …..—cutting off that line of thought. Christine spoke, "How's the pain? Any better? Worse?"

Spock turned his head to look at her-the hair in disarray, dusty smears on her neck and uniform, she looked calm, but he could tell from her touch that she was frightened for them all.

"The pain level is tolerable."

"Well, at least, it's no worse, that's good."

"Christine, if the aliens find their way past the security team, we may have to take drastic measures to keep ourselves from being taken. What they have in mind for us can't be pleasant."

"Your reputation as a 'master of understatement' is still intact, Spock," she smiled a ghostly smile at him. "I have been pondering that possibility."

"What have your ponderings brought you, Miss Chapel?"

She smiled slightly again, "Probably the same thing that you've been thinking. Using an overloaded phaser to blow the tunnel. We have air. There may be another way out, given time to find it. We might be able to hold out long enough for Enterprise to return. Water would be a problem, but in most underground caves there is some time of run-off we might be able to find. I feel that may be the riskiest but most logical solution. "

Spock admired her logic. "You are correct. I have been "pondering" the same action. If they overpower the security team, the only thing standing between the demise of the entire landing party is the two of us- in my injured state, I am not going to be much help physically-and with the one phaser that you received from Spike, we would most definitely be out-gunned. I am not sure how much help Lewis would be, nor am I sure that Nurse Fields is physically up to fleeing very far."

Christine Chapel's face was calm and composed. Spock admired that. He admired her…

Dr. Lewis ran into the little cave, barely able to gather his breath to say, "Oh, God, they're here. The aliens. They're here!"

.

Chp. 14, "The Hunted"

Christine jumped up immediately and grabbed Cammy, "Get up! We've got company!"

Spock struggled to his feet, agony written across his face. He had the phaser in his hand, picked up from where Christine had left it beside him. He took a defensive posture, aiming at the next thing to come from the darkness. Dr. Lewis ran to the back of the cave and stood beside where Christine was getting Nurse Fields to her feet.

Once Cammy was standing, Christine looked at Doctor Lewis, pulling him close to her, she said something to him under her breath that seemed to calm him, then aloud, she said, "Take care of her, do you understand me."

"Yes, Ma'am," he answered, frightened of Christine, the "monsters," everything.

Stepping over to Spock, she said, "Give me the phaser and I'll place it; just set it to overload. Hurry, Spock!"

Calmly, and without looking at her, he twisted the dial and said, "We have four minutes until it overloads. It will obviously bring down tons of rock and, preferably not on top of us." Spock paused, then, "I will do it, Christine. I will know better where to place it. All of you get back in the cave as far as possible in case the blast brings down more than we intend." He began to limp forward, carrying the phaser.

Stepping in front of him, Christine grabbed for the weapon. "I'll go. You won't be able to move fast enough to get out of the way of the blast!"

"Christine, we don't have time to argue. Move," Spock ordered, staring at her hard, his face like Vulcan granite.

Suddenly she wrenched the phaser from his hand and simultaneously pushed him back. Startled, and in his injured condition, he couldn't right himself in time to try to wrench it back from her and prevent himself from falling, too. Dr. Lewis was suddenly there to keep Spock from hitting the hard floor, and Christine disappeared into the black maw of the tunnel.

Christine Chapel slowed down just as she rounded the edge of the little tunnel where the remainder of the landing party would hopefully be safe. She had no light, but there were no large segues where she might get confused and go the other way—not that she had far to go. Even over the pounding of blood in her ears, she could hear them coming. The aliens, how many she couldn't tell, weren't even trying to hide their approach. And now the count was down to 3.33 before the phaser overloaded.

While creeping slowly along the edge of the wall, images of the aliens and "Ruk" the android that Roger Corby had "known" while on Exo III kept mixing in her mind at warp speed. The fear that she felt then had been for Captain Kirk and Roger, now the terror was just as real if not more so. God, she hated being underground. If she lived through this Christine promised herself, she would never, ever, on pain of courts-marshal go on another landing party mission anywhere that had to do with being underground!

She couldn't wait any longer, feeling along the edge of the wall, Christine checked the time 1.56. Finding a small indentation toward the lower half of the cave, she pushed the phaser back into the hole and whirled to run when a hand snaked out of the darkness and jerked her back into the inky blackness.

"Healer!" Christine didn't know his real name, but she recognized the voice. Scarface!

"Where are the others?" he asked/ordered shaking her viciously by the arm. "Where? Why are you alone? Answer me!"

"Stay here. Right here," Christine thought. "I'll take all of you bastards with me." She refused to answer aloud.

Unwilling to waste more time with her, En-jon shoved her to one of the others, and commanded, "Take her out. We will find the others."

"No!" Christine began to scream and fight them for all she was worth. It couldn't be long now. She just had to hold out for a few more seconds to eliminate all of them all, but it was not to be. A brutal blow to her head, violent enough to snap her head sideways, knocked her insensible.

As the alien toted her out of the cave, he felt a weird tingling sensation in his arms. Before he could took another step, there was an unexpected blinding light accompanied by an instantaneous "Swoosh" that knocked him face forward on top of Christine, and he knew true darkness forever.

Spock struggled to get up when he heard Christine scream in anger and frustration and he realized what had mostly likely occurred. In his injured state he couldn't even fight away Nurse Fields and Dr. Lewis, whom Dr. Chapel had instructed to insure that Commander Spock didn't follow her.

Before the waves of pain subsided enough to enable Spock to make another attempt to break free, the phaser overloaded. Cammy Fields screamed and threw herself instinctively over her patient, clinging to him. The concussion from the phaser detonation brought down tons of rock and debris; dust clouded the air inside the cavern. The little handheld light and dim glow of the earlier phasered rocks was totally obscured.

Finally, the other two crew members moved off of him and Spock could breathe without the agony of their bodies' pressure against his abdomen. Cammy was asking him if he was all right, but Spock couldn't hear anything; neither could anyone else, but Dr. Lewis kept saying over and over, "We made it! We're alive!"

The dust was beginning to settle and Spock realized that he could see. The blast from the explosion had partially blown out the back wall of the cave where the air had been breezing through earlier. There was enough room for them to exit, one at a time now.

"Christine!" Her name shot through his mind like an arrow. She hadn't had time to escape the blast. She was gone. Spock felt an unexpected nausea unrelated to his injury. She was gone.

Chp. 15 "The Hunted"

"Get him out of there, Bones," Captain James Kirk ordered his Chief Medical Officer and his medics.

The landing party from the Enterprise had arrived 2.35 hours after the explosion had blown out the side of the hill where the cave was located. Nurse Fields and Dr. Lewis were able to exit under their own power; Cammy was beamed up immediately to sickbay for further medical care. Spock was obviously not able to exit under his own power, thus, McCoy and Kirk clambered into the rocky aperture.

Dr. McCoy's medical tricorder whirred over Spock as the doctor scanned their first officer from head to foot, pausing over specific areas of his body longer than others.

"How did you know to return early, Captain?" Spock asked. He was feeling much better after being given a hypo full of pain meds from Dr. McCoy.

"We received a distress signal from a Tellurite ship that had been attacked in this sector." Kirk gave his trademark grin, "Let's just say I had a feeling, Spock, and leave it at that." Looking at Dr. McCoy, the captain asked, "How is he, Bones?"

Without looking up from his medical instrument, McCoy answered, "He has a broken clavicle, three broken ribs on his left side, one on his right. A dislocated shoulder…"

"Will he live, Bones?" Kirk demanded impatiently.

"Yes, Jim, he'll live. He's too stubborn to die." Although his comment was like his old self, there was a definite lack of joviality in McCoy's demeanor. He was taking Christine death especially hard. She was like a friend and a daughter to him.

Motioning to his medics to bring the anti-grav unit, he prepared to have Spock carried from the cave.

"May I ask why you did not beam us directly from here?" Spock asked, as he was being prepped for transport.

Kirk answered, "A substance in the cave's composition prevented us from getting a secure lock for transport. We could get life signs, but, according to Scotty, the signal couldn't be trusted to not "scramble your atoms" as the good doctor here might say."

Placing his hand on Jim Kirk's arm, Spock asked, "Were you able to recover Dr. Chapel's body?"

"No, not yet, Spock." Kirk looked away. "We have to get the injured up first. Nurse Fields told us how Christine sacrificed herself in order that the rest of you might make it until rescue."

"The bodies of the security team, Lt.'s Redstone and O'Connelly, those have been recovered as well?" Spock inquired.

"Bodies? No, Spock, they weren't dead. Severely injured but not dead. We beamed them up when we entered orbit; they were in the open away from interference. I'll explain later.

At that moment Mr. Chekov appeared at the cave's new opening.
"Sirs! We have located Dr. Chapel; she's alive!

McCoy didn't have to be told twice. "Get him to the ship. I've got to get to Chris!

12 hours later aboard Enterprise in Sickbay:

Christine was lying serenely on a bio-bed, sleeping. After undergoing hours of surgery and, ongoing, regeneration, time and recuperation was what she needed most. The alien's massive body and her proximity to the opening of the cave when the phaser detonated had saved her life. Only by digging through the rubble, the old-fashioned way, had the rescue party found her. Since her life signs couldn't be read ship's sensors, tricorders within 10 meters of her body had finally picked up her faint life signs.

Both of her legs had been crushed, and she had severe internal injuries, but she would be fully able to resume her ship's duties.

After being taken captive, the two unconscious security guards had been strung up feet first to allow the blood to drain to their heads, so that later when their captors were ready, the security team would have had their throats slashed and their exsanguinations would occur swiftly. Other than cuts, bruises, broken fingers, and concussions, Redstone and Spike would be okay. In fact, they were allowed to return to quarters after treatment. The alien that had strung them both up had returned to the cave and had been killed along with the rest of his party.

Commander Spock lay across sickbay watching a nurse take readings from Christine's bio-bed. McCoy abruptly appeared by his side.

"How're those ribs feeling? That bone-knitter should have them about healed up by now?"

"Much better, thank you, Dr. McCoy. How is the rest of the landing party?"

"Nurse Fields is resting in a separate area for less critical patients. She had a lot of boisterous visitors and I didn't want the two of you disturbed. Christine did a he lava job with her field surgery," McCoy said it with no small amount of pride in his voice.

Sharply his demeanor seemed to shift and he lowered his voice, "You do know how lucky you all are, Spock? If Jim hadn't had one of his hunches, at least three-maybe more of you-would be dead." McCoy grimly observed.

"Yes, I do." Spock did not look at him, instead he closed his eyes and lay back into his pillow, still exhausted and adjusting, privately, from finding out that Christine was alive after all.

"Dr. Chapel's bravery, as well as that of the security team has been noted. It is too bad that none of the aliens survived, as well; perhaps we could have identified them or their home world. Now it may take another attack in order to identify them," Spock offered.

"My God, man! I hate to say it, but after nearing killing all of you…" McCoy's emotions were still high after nearly losing Christine, but he still didn't want to finish what he was about to say.

Noticing Spock's pale demeanor and apparent fatigue, McCoy assumed his patient needed more rest. "I'll be back later; give you some time to do that Vulcan healing thing, if you still need to. Just call if you need me." Looking over toward Christine, McCoy continued, "She should be out for a while, but we'll be in periodically to check both of you," and with that as his closing comment, Spock was left alone with Christine and the gentle clicking and whooshing of bio-monitors.

14 DAYS LATER:

Captain Kirk began reading the Communiqué from Starfleet. The hearing had been convened to either place blame or give commendations. At any rate, it would probably be the landing party's final debriefing on the incident.

"Starfleet's Investigative Committee's findings: Rikidin Incident

*Commendations:

Commander Spock, Executive Officer, USS Enterprise *Starfleet's Purple Star, wounded in battle; Federation's Medal of Valor.

Lt. Commander Christine Chapel, MD, ACMO, USS Enterprise *Federation's Medal of Valor; Starfleet's Purple Star, wounded in battle; Federation's Distinguished Service Cross for Medical Valor.

Lt. John Redstone, Security, USS Enterprise *Commendation for Exceptional Service in the Line of Duty.

Lt. Rebecca O'Connelly, Security, USS Enterprise *Commendation for Exceptional Service in the Line of Duty.

Lt. jg Cameron Fields, RN, USS Enterprise *Starfleet's Purple Star; Commendation for Valor.

Awarded Posthumously: Lt. John Lee, Federation's Silver Star.

This board also recommends that Lt. Rebecca O'Connelly be tried for courts-marshal for disobedience of a direct order of a superior officer, Commander Spock. Since said disobedience resulted in saving the life of her commanding officer and a personal letter of appeal from Dr. Christine Chapel, the board recommends a demotion in rank and a personal apology to Commander Spock.

Lt. O'Connelly's behavior will also be monitored by Commander Spock and the Head of Security for a probationary period of one year."

When Kirk finished reading there was a collective expulsion of breath from all but Commander Spock.

"There will, of course, be a ceremony to award these richly deserved medals and commendations. You will all be informed within 24 hours of when that will take place. May I say to you all—Good job. Dismissed."

Kirk left the briefing room, accompanied by Commander Spock. Dr. Lewis couldn't get away fast enough. Dr. Chapel congratulated Cammy on her commendation then walked over to where Redstone was ribbing Spike about being "underneath" him now or some such nonsense. He stopped when Christine walked over.

"I want to thank both of you for everything that you did down there. I am glad you were with us." She smiled warmly at them both.

"Thank you, Doctor Chapel," Redstone said, blushing a bit. "I'd better get going, scheduled for duty in fifteen. See you around, 'OC,' Dr. Chapel." He left, leaving Spike and Christine alone.

Spike looked a little uncomfortable. She peered at Christine for second, and then said, "Why did you stand up for me when I had disobeyed a direct order from Commander Spock. I appreciate it; don't get me wrong, but that's probably not good, as I found out, going up against your commanding officer," she wrapped up with a wry smile.

Christine smiled back at her. "Maybe I've disobeyed an order or two in my time." She continued, more serious, "Let me tell you something. Spock won't be able to tell you thank you for saving his life—especially after disobeying his orders, but I do thank you for saving my friend's life. More than you'll ever know." To emphasize her point, Christine placed her hand on Spike's arm. "I won't forget it, Rebecca."

"I hope he appreciates what a friend he has in you."

It was Christine's turn to smile wryly, "Doesn't matter. He's safe. Most of us are safe. Dismissed, Lieutenant."

Nodding her head at Christine, she exited the briefing room.

Christine Chapel sat down at the table in the now empty room. "Lights dim."

She placed her head in her hands, resting it there, contemplating nothing, just being for a few minutes before heading back to sickbay.

The door swooshed back open, and without raising her head, she said, "You forget something, Lt. O'Connelly?"

"No, Christine, I did not." Spock's velvety baritone filled the room although he had spoken softly.

Sharply raising her head, Christine just stared at him, surprised. "Can I help you, Spock?" Why did it always sound like a gentle caress when he said her name?

He walked over to where she was seated at the conference table and sat down opposite her, "After our mission and during our subsequent recovery, I never had time to thank you for saving our lives, my life. I wanted to do so."

The dim lighting and the quietness of the room made for an intimate atmosphere. Christine smiled at him softly. "You are welcome, Spock. You've always been welcome."

Spock simply lifted one eyebrow and gave her that almost smile. "I'll keep that in mind, Miss Chapel. I will definitely keep that in mind."