Five to One
By Alone Dreaming
Rating: T or PG-13 for illness, injuries, violence and pandas
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek. If I did, this would not be posted under fan fiction.
Warnings: Delirium, Bugs, Pandas, Blood, Illness and more.
Author's Note: A story in two parts partially written while I was on vacation then cut to pieces and revived once I returned. The original ending has now been worked into another story of mine which I will post before I end up in my hectic school schedule. This story is unrelated to my others do to some timelines inconsistencies. As always, self-edited so be gentle but most of all, please enjoy.
He knows he must be hallucinating and it isn't because he's seeing a purple and pink panda in the corner of the room. The panda is the only thing he is certain of because it's been here since he was unceremoniously tossed through the trapdoor in the ceiling. Back then, it viewed him with unmitigated hostility, nipping his arms and legs whenever he got too close to it. But, as time had passed, the panda learned to accept him and he learned that when the panda sat down somewhere, it was his cue to move to the opposite side of the room. This understanding, coupled with the fact that he could not stomach the food provided for them so the panda got a vast majority of his share, now lets them dwell with each other as unwilling but consenting cellmates.
No, it is not the panda who is staring at him with its magenta eyebrows dipped down, gnawing on one of the green, stocky plants they received for dinner. The panda actually makes sense to him, as does the food and his surroundings. What makes him certain of his delirium is far more logically- oh, how proud Spock would be if Spock could express such an emotion- conceived. First, he figures he's quite ill at this time. His whole body is quaking and no matter what he does, he cannot still it. He feels hot, cold, dry and damp all at once which is confusing to his torpid mind. There are sharp pains through his torso from his tight chest, all the way down to his painfully bloated stomach. He pairs with this the fact that he has not even tried to eat for several days and comes to the conclusion that he cannot possibly be well. Second, he is vividly reliving sections of his life on the opposite wall. It's like watching a huge view screen on the dull, black rock. It's all in third person, and he's fly-on-the-wall viewing some of the more extraordinary moments in his short captain's career. The tiny, rational part of his brain has warned him that this is a sign of mental degradation.
A grinning, self-assured young man paces across his vision and he knows that this is he only a few months before. He stares at this through half-lidded eyes, not bothering to flick away a bug crawling near his face because it will waste energy, and decides that the delirium isn't too bad. Unlike some people he's seen fall into the bouts of mental instability, he is neither violent nor crazy. He's merely seeing things that aren't there and, though he'll never tell a soul, he's a bit glad of it. This may be the last time he ever sees his friends. Two weeks ago, he resigned himself to the fact that they would not be coming for him. This is not pessimism but realism. He's been here for over two months and Starfleet will only allow one of their best ships to hunt for a vanished crewmate for so long. Besides, just because they aren't coming doesn't mean he's giving up. Even as sick as he is, he clings to the fact that he will find a way out. Like so many times in the past, he'll rely on his own abilities to scoop himself from a dire situation.
This doesn't change the fact that he wishes they'd come in, guns blazing, attitudes roaring and rescue him. He misses them, all of them, from the witty Uhura to the whiz kid Chekov to cranky, loyal Bones. And even Spock at his very worst is better company than the panda who is now moving on to his plate of food. He'd kill to have any of them here right now, even if they were captured as well, just to provide him with real companionship. Rescue, admittedly, would be the better alternative and a dark, dark side of him that he doesn't want to acknowledge feels strange that they haven't. After all, he's rescued everyone so many times. This dark side doesn't begrudge them it. No, this dark side wryly comments that it figures; after all, what happens to the guy who does the saving when he needs to be liberated?
He jerks a little violently and startles the panda. It drops the food and proceeds to start licking its paws. Tiny white eyes watch him with keen interest that is making him more than a little nervous. Turning his attention away from the creature, he tries to focus on the never ending movie of his life playing on the wall. This is not the typical end of the road thing that he's heard about from those who have come close to death. They talk about a sudden flash, a condensed version of all their actions fit into mere seconds before they blacked out. What he's experiencing is much longer, far more drawn out, and better, he thinks. He's not getting tiny pieces- like Bones' laugh and Spock's amazing eyebrows- but the situations in which he's had those things happen.
Right now, he's seeing one of the many times he saved his beloved ship and its crew. It occurred just after Nero. They all finally took in a breath, reported to the infirmary and did the necessary things- like assessing the severe damage done to the Enterprise. He was wandering the ship, congratulating people, being captainly for what he was sure was the last time and carefully, avoiding Bones when everything had suddenly gone black. Pitched into darkness, he staggered about, waiting for emergency lighting to come on. When this did not work, he pawed in his pocket for a tiny transportable light and used it to find his way down to engineering. He knew it was bad already but hoped- beyond all hope- that he was wrong. They had come too far- and he'd fought some big fucking Romuluns- to go down now.
Scotty's response was simple. "We're dead in the water, Captain." The Scotsman, who, with his permission, had taken over the Engineering Department, looked panicked. "Nothing- no life support, movement, nothing."
"Can you fix it?" Kirk asked, keeping himself calm.
Scotty's hands were hovering over a completely burned out panel. "I don't know. I really don't know."
His next sentence, as he watches it, sounded very mature and not much like him, "Mr. Scott, I need to know immediately whether or not you can get our life support back up. If not, I have to start evacuation." It hurt to think about but he had little choice.
"I might," Scotty said softly, pulling out a tool. "I just don't know if I have time."
He grasped the man's shoulder then found his way back up to start organizing evacuations. Without the central communications system, he relied heavily on communicators. It was not as difficult as he would've imagined. Though exhausted by their trials, the crew handled the news like champions. The heads of department met him on the darkened bridge and he'd assigned each of them to taking care of their people. Those who floated were given over to Spock. Everyone, he informed him, was to get onto shuttles and head towards the nearest habitable planet. Though Starfleet had promised to send help, who knew when it would come, and they had no time to waste. Injured first, able bodied people second; department heads boarded after they were certain they had everyone; the last department to leave would be Engineering.
"Captain," Spock said as the others dispersed to fulfill his wishes. "How do you intend to open the doors to the shuttle bay? Full power outage will make this nearly impossible."
"In the works, Spock," he replied, throwing the Vulcan a tired grin. "Take care of your people. When everyone's loaded, the doors will open. I'll make certain of it."
He returned to Engineering where Scotty was cursing so violently, with his accent so thick, that he had no idea what was really wrong. "It's a blown part," the man hissed, holding up a mangled group of wires and metal. "One downfall to this otherwise beautiful craft. She's got an Achilles Heel here." He tossed it down in frustration.
"Can you fix it?"
Scotty ran a hand down his face. "If I had seven, eight hours and a better set of tools, maybe. But we may have thirty minutes 'til we're purple from cold and bloating from lack of air. I'm sorry, sir, there's nothing else I can do."
"There is," Kirk answered. "Tell me what it's for, how to reattach it, and then I want you to route some of the left over power from the dilithium crystals to the doors on the shuttle bays. If there's anything left over, set up an SOS signal in case someone comes this way. Once that's done, get everyone on this deck onto a shuttle."
Scotty did what he could, without asking why which was much appreciated, and soon, he was alone, sitting at a table with a portable light. Before him was his communicator, transmitting to the communicators that each head of department had. This was not what he had expected only a few hours before as they'd escaped the black hole. He'd thought, as he'd ridden the high of success, that he had proved his theory of no no-win situations. He'd been king of the world, briefly, thriving on the power of Captaincy. Even knowing he'd have to give it up most likely would not have pulled him down then. Now, he felt the resignation that he was certain his father felt as the ship had blown up around him. 'Like Father, like son,' he thought as he signaled for the shuttles to leave. He gave his final directions to be careful and to keep a sharp eye out for Starfleet Command. Then he'd turned his com off and gotten to work.
The temperature drop was swift, the air thinning too fast. Soon he found himself light-headed, sick and so cold that his hands trembled as he worked on the part. Electronics had always been fascinating to him and while he was no savant, he'd rewired his motorcycle to run more efficiently. At the time, it had been practice so that he could get a job at a mechanic's store nearby. Now, he wondered if providence had directed him to that to give him a chance of survival here. All he had to do was fix this, he thought as his mind slowed down. He'd moved by now to where he had to attach it so that he would not have to try later, when he had even less air on his side. There were only two more wires to go; two and he could give it a shot. His stiff fingers did not want to bend but he forced them. Then, the last wire snapped.
The part dropped down onto the ground with a clunk and he sat back on his haunches, his breath coming out in short gasps. This was fixable, he tried to assure himself. He only had to find a wire to replace it with and then he could reinstall. The Enterprise once again would surf the seas of outer space. Even as he thought it, he felt as though he was grasping at running water. Realistically, by the time he found the wire, it would be too late. 'Sorry, beautiful,' he thought. 'I tried.' He raised the light up to look at the connection point, knowing that there was nothing to do but wait now.
Then it struck him. Sticking the light in his mouth, filled with a sudden vigor, he dove into the opening, his hands snatching the wires and rearranging. It was like his bike; why hadn't he seen it before? The conduit was good to have but it was unnecessary. Yes, this gave them a slightly higher chance of frying the warp drives but with those already ruined, there was no reason to fret. He attached, removed, redid and finally, turned a knob. About him, the entire ship came back to life. If he'd had even a smidge of energy, he would have cheered. Instead, he slouched down on the ground and prayed the shuttles were not out of range.
He knows that they weren't. This happened a while ago and even as the instant replay fades, he recalls the triumph of success twice in one day. He cradles that feeling close to himself, letting it strengthen his weakened body. If only this escape could be as easy as finding the unnecessary piece and removing it. But the only similarity here is that he feels so cold and his lips are just as chapped as they were in the last dire seconds before he was successful. Besides, his limbs have become so flaccid that he doubts he has the dexterity to perform any such task.
Before him, he sees another time he successfully kept his ship and crew from biting it. This was a time that proved, despite Uhura's insistence to the contrary, that he could be a diplomatic if he so chose. This was Berengaria V, a planet rife with civil wars and generalized lawlessness. They were sent as an outreach ship to a camp of refugees, all their storerooms filled with supplies and their minds filled with the orders to help in whatever way they could. He personally prepared several landing crews with a whole range of personnel- doctors, scientists, engineers, etc.- to give support and, with permission, had beamed them down to the camps.
It went well for nearly twelve standard hours before they lost contact with the ship and then with three of the four landing parties. His own was captured not much later by a battle weary group and Uhura, whom he'd kept near for her excellence in the language, informed him that they had landed without permission and were now considered hostile forces. As leader, he'd immediately stepped forward to explain them but the highest ranking member of the military party was the flunky of a flunky, making him utterly useless. They dragged him away from his crew to the mostly decimated capital to be judged for supposed war crimes. The new emperor, he was informed in broken Standard, would pass judgment upon him for there was no judicial system in place yet on the newly revolutionized planet. And if that went badly for him, his ship, already held by a tractor beam, would be shot out of the sky. He sat in silence for most of the trip, weighing his options and decided that he only had one course of action.
So, he stood before the Emperor and told the truth down to the last word. They'd been given permission by the last ruler and their only intention was helping the innocents caught in the crossfire. No, they had not aided the other side. No, they had no plans of starting their own revolutionary group. No, they were not trying to claim this land in the name of the Federation. They believed in peaceful solutions, he explained through the translator to the Emperor's right, but they also believed in non-interference as much as possible. Then he offered, as the Federation had offered previously, to help the refugees on the planet with the supplies he had.
"If that's not what you want," he finished. "Then I ask you let my ship, crew and me depart. We will vacate as quickly and ably as we can." He wanted to throw on a threat, to add an "or else" but he bit his tongue, hoping that this man would be reasonable enough to simply listen.
The Emperor looked reasonable to him. He'd initially pictured an older, plump man who had played the old bureaucracy and convinced the young that he meant change. However, the Emperor was nothing of the sort. He may have had a decade on Kirk at the most, with thin boned features surrounded by dark, thick curls and covered in sun darkened skin. His face was marred with cuts, one nasty enough that a physician spent most of the meeting attempting to patch it up. He carried a weapon and wore a blood splattered uniform. If any emotion could be put to his eyes, it was not conniving but compassion.
"This I would like," he said softly, in broken Standard. "My people need help. You will give this to them."
Something crawls over his arm- a bug maybe?- and he is distracted. He has no strength to knock it away as it crawls up past his elbow towards his shoulder. All that's left to him is the hope that it will not make its way to his face. This lasts for mere seconds as it creeps over his shoulder and onto his neck, its feelers brushing under his chin. It scuttles up onto his cheek, making its way towards his half-closed eyes. He can feel its feet near his nose just before it suddenly disappears. Purple fur fills his vision as the panda bear takes a seat next to him. It holds the bug in its paws, studying it with bearish interest before shoving it into its mouth.
It's blocked him from the wall and the hallucinations for the moment. So he lies there, savoring those images of his crew, focusing on his successes instead of his weaknesses. This will be enough to see him through this bout of illness, he decides, as his stomach clenches at the panda's crunching. And after that, once his strength's back, he'll find his exit. If he has to be diplomatic, he will. If he has to be clever, he will. It's all a matter of finding the one point of weakness and combine it with whatever strength he has at hand. A long, spine jolting shudder travels from his feet up through his back, all the way to his scalp. It paralyzes his mind for a moment and when he comes out of it, the panda is staring at him again. It raises a paw to hover over his head and he wonders if it's going to finally try to kill him. The paw drops slowly, and he wonders if he'd ever survive the mockery of being taken out by something so…pink.
The touch, when it arrives, is gentle. The pad of the paw, a dark maroon, is downy soft and cool against the warmer parts of his skin. Slowly, it rubs over his face- forehead, nose, cheeks, chin- and then onto his neck. The other paw pets his hair, in a slow, soothing manner. If he wasn't so tired and, clearly, delirious, he would've found all this attention to be completely disconcerting. In his state, however, he finds it comforting in a bizarre fashion. If he doesn't look too closely at the furry face, he can almost pretend that someone else, someone human is doing this instead of a previously hostile creature. His eyes close suddenly, of their own accord as the repetitive motion lulls him into sleep.
See you Friday.