Star Trek Into Darkness Page 0,1

to mutter a frustrated “Great” before the babble of the pursuing mob of enraged Nibirans rose above every sound except the dangerously deepening growl of the looming volcano. Gesturing in lieu of speech, Kirk beckoned for McCoy to join him as he resumed his flight. With a last regretful glance at the immobile local riding beast, the doctor followed.

Taking note of the rolled tube of local parchment that Kirk clutched like a relay runner’s baton, McCoy nodded in its direction.

“What the hell is that?”

“I don’t know.” The captain was fighting for breath now, each lungful demanding an increasingly painful effort. He motioned in the direction of the bellowing native throng behind them. “But they were bowing to it.” As a second glance showed the lead Nibirans continuing to close the space between them, he drew his communicator with his free hand and snapped the instrument open.

“Kirk to Shuttle One: Locals are out of the immediate kill zone. I’ve . . . given them something else to focus on. You’re clear to proceed as we discussed! I repeat, you’re clear to proceed! Operation’s a go now!” Lowering the communicator, he looked to his left. “You know, for someone whose expertise resides in what is essentially a sedentary profession, you move pretty good.” A spear slammed into the tree just to his right.

Behind them, the immense volcano was beginning to spill streams of lava down its flanks, bleeding bright red-orange against the dark basaltic slopes.

McCoy’s gasping reply was as dry as the chief engineer’s favorite gin. “Being chased by howling homicidal indigenes has a way of enhancing my sprinting ability.” His tone darkened. “Of course, if you hadn’t shot our ride . . .”

Kirk shook his head. “Can’t hear you, Bones. Volcano noise.”

“Volcano noise, my—!”

Computer-augmented stability controls notwithstanding, Hikaru Sulu had to fight to hold the shuttle steady. As the interior of a fast-rising volcanic plume and its accompanying blasts of acidic gases was not the most salubrious location for a hovering shuttlecraft, it required Sulu’s full attention to keep the compact craft from being knocked ass-over-teakettle. Or worse, cast on an out-of-control vector toward the unforgiving ground below.

There was nothing wrong with audio reception, however. Kirk’s voice filled the cockpit.

“Copy that, Captain!” A glance rearward showed that while well under way, preparations for the final aspect of their questionable intervention were not yet complete. Shorn of anything resembling spare time, Sulu made his concern known in no uncertain terms.

“We have to do this now, people! If we sit in this murk much longer, the acids in the offgassing are going to start impacting our systems. All we have to do is lose one thruster and we risk going down!”

His warning was acknowledged with a hand wave. It was not half-hearted, but half-human. Turning back to Nyota Uhura, Spock stood stoically as she continued sealing him into the exosuit. Designed for heavy-duty work under the most extreme conditions, the brilliantly metallic, copper-colored suit was far less flexible than its standard-issue cousins. It could protect its wearer from nearly anything, but it could not make Spock comfortable. The latter did not concern the Vulcan. Survival did. Tilting his head slightly to one side, he spoke toward the suit’s pickup.

“Captain, did any representatives of the indigenous intelligence see you? At the risk of repeating the obvious and despite the difficulties inherent in our current effort, I must repeat that the Prime Directive clearly states that there can be no perceived external interference with the internal development of an alien civiliza—”

Despite the shuttle’s increasingly violent rocking, Kirk’s response came through clearly.

“No, Mr. Spock, they did not! I know what it says! I might have missed a few details here and there in certain classes . . .” The admirable clarity of the surface-to-shuttle transmission was confirmed as Kirk’s communicator picked up the nearby McCoy’s unmistakable sarcastic snicker. “. . . but I didn’t miss that one. We’re not supposed to be here at all. It’s because of the Prime Directive that we’re having to do this the hard way. Now, drop off your super ice cube and let’s get out of here! Kirk out!”

The science officer would have argued further with his captain save for two reasons: The time to do so had long since expired, and arguing with James T. Kirk frequently generated far more frustration than satisfaction. Filing the details of their brief conversation for future discussion, Spock returned his focus to the business at hand.

As Uhura stepped back, Spock knelt and opened