Star Trek Into Darkness




It seemed as if not just the supervolcano, but every square meter of solid ground on the planet was on the verge of shaking itself apart. The serpentine smoke cloud that emerged from the enormous, towering cone stretched far out to sea, retaining its ominous coherence even as it cast much of the ocean’s surface in shadow. Struggling to escape the noxious gases that rose from the planet’s interior, troubled flying creatures sought clearer air to the north and south. Meanwhile, landslides periodically thundered down the volcano’s slopes as its insides continued to swell, while the magma-clogged throat coughed and rumbled threateningly. Far below the outer planetary crust, something was building, something that portended far more than a mere series of Strombolian eruptions.

Designed by its builders to withstand intermittent quakes and recurring tectonic stutters, constructed of hand-hewn stone, the massive temple situated not far from the mountain’s base violently trembled but did not fall. Mute and immovable at the convergence of multiple pathways that had been laboriously cleared from the red-leaved forest, it had stood thus for many hundreds of cycles.

The bipedal figure that burst from the bas-relief framed entrance was moving as fast as possible. While the simmering volcano appeared the greater threat, the more immediate one took the form of dozens of figures who emerged from the interior of the temple in hot pursuit. The bright yellow cowls and loincloths they wore stood out in sharp contrast to their skin, which more than anything resembled the cracked and splitting clay that might be found at the bottom of a long-dried-out lake bed. Primitive, simple symbols and lines of painted vegetable dye marked their otherwise bare bodies. Their yelling and screaming formed a nightmarish cacophony that contrasted with the lead figure’s heavy breathing.

The gray cloth wrappings James Tiberius Kirk wore had disguised him. Now they interfered far too much with his breathing as he struggled to stay ahead of his pursuers. Whipping them off, he sucked in one desperate lungful of alien air after another as he dodged primitive spears that would terminate his life as surely as any phaser. Around him, the deep red Nibiran forest seemed intent on deliberately impeding his flight.

Emitting a howl of outrage in memory of the desecration that had just taken place in their most holy temple, the high Nibiran priest shook the weapon he was carrying as he urged on his fellows. Though the Nibirans were decidedly humanoid, their rounded facial features, ritually marked clay-colored skin, and black pupil-less eyes marked them as genetically and evolutionarily different from the humans they otherwise closely resembled.

As the object of their fury, Kirk fought to lengthen his stride as he ran. He knew that if he was caught in possession of the scroll he had snatched from the temple, his pursuers would show him no mercy. He would be dead before he could explain that his intentions were wholly benign. He had to just keep running—if all went according to plan, that would not be much longer.

It couldn’t be much longer, he knew. His legs were turning to rubber while his lungs threatened imminent surrender.

The branches and tendrils of the surrounding forest whipped at him; every second they slowed him, allowing the furious Nibirans to draw that much closer. A foraging mother and child gazed up at him with wide eyes as he bolted past. Sitting on a red branch, a creature that resembled a yellow anemone drew tentacles back into its sack-like body as he sped by. He didn’t know if it was plant, animal, or a combination of both, and at the moment he didn’t care. Down a slope blanketed in red foliage, across a stream, and into a small clearing he raced-where, startled by his sudden emergence from the thick undergrowth, a massive fanged quadruped reared directly and unexpectedly in front of him.

The phaser Kirk drew was as technologically out of keeping with his surroundings as a ram hydrofoil would have been in a traditional sailing regatta. Before huge paws could come down on him, he hit the animal with a full blast from his weapon. It promptly collapsed in a pile of legs, fur, and dismay, revealing another masked biped behind it. Facing Kirk but weaponless, this second figure fumbled to remove its own facial wrappings. The face soon revealed was contorted, but no more so than usual.

“Dammit, man,” Leonard McCoy sputtered, “that was our ride! You just stunned our ride!”

Confronting the ship’s doctor and still breathing hard, Kirk barely managed