All the Stars That Perished by Niobium
Summary:

Drabbles, some of them WFWs, set post-Star Trek Into Darkness, during the five-year mission and surrounding the events of Beneath the Enormous Sky.


Categories: Alternate Original Series Characters: Chekov, Pavel (Yelchin), Ensemble Cast - AOS, Kirk, James T. (Pine), McCoy, Leonard (Urban), Scott, Montgomery (Pegg), Spock (Quinto), Sulu, Hikaru (Cho), Uhura, Nyota (Saldana)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Friendship, General
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: Becoming
Chapters: 6 Completed: Yes Word count: 4840 Read: 12576 Published: 27 Aug 2013 Updated: 27 Aug 2013
Story Notes:

I hadn't intended to expand on all the things you don't see in Beneath the Enormous Sky, and then after writing for some prompts, I wound up with all of this. This is massive spoilers for Beneath, plotwise, so if you haven't read that, this is a bad place to start if you don't like spoilers.

1. Chapter 1 by Niobium

2. Chapter 2 by Niobium

3. Chapter 3 by Niobium

4. Chapter 4 by Niobium

5. Chapter 5 by Niobium

6. Chapter 6 by Niobium

Chapter 1 by Niobium
Author's Notes:
WFW #103 - Landscapes (I went for 'starscapes/solarsystem-scapes/asteroidscapes').

They trained everyone for this kind of thing at the academy, though Jim had to wonder why. He was too exhausted from the pain to panic, and had just enough presence of mind to keep his breaths even and an eye on his surroundings. Anything else would have been too much effort.

He was fortunate enough to be drifting near a large asteroid that moved in the same vector he did; it shielded him from smaller, on-coming fragments and gave him something other than his numerous broken bones and half-functional EV suit to focus on. The warped, black and gray surface was a pock-marked landscape of impact sites, and shimmered with ice and the promise of metallic content where the light of the system’s red giant star illuminated it. He eyed the impressive looking cave that yawned at one end and hoped there was nothing inside of it, because now would be a bad time to make a fantastic new discovery regarding some ravenous, asteroid-inhabiting predator.

Being eaten was an even more unpleasant idea than his overall situation, so his thoughts meandered back to the later. Of particular concern was the unmistakable feeling of blood gathering along his left leg. The suit’s systems indicated it was intact, which ruled out gashes but left the possibility of something like a compound fracture. Wouldn’t that be fun to explain to Bones, along with who knew how much of his blood filling the voids of the suit.

Stop thinking about bleeding to death, Kirk.

He tried to re-assess his where-abouts, and found his neck was stiff and hard to move, limiting his field of view. He didn’t recognize any of the features in this stretch of the asteroid belt; none of the larger planetoids they’d been using for navigation were visible. Of course that could just mean they were behind or under him (or that’s what he was hoping).

The distinct lack of shuttle wreckage added to his list of concerns, though earlier that same wreckage had been one of his bigger problems. He’d bounced through it as the craft broke apart, rendering his suit’s beacon, propulsion system, and communicator nonfunctional. With no debris trail and no signal, it was unlikely the Enterprise would find him soon.

He sighed and reminded himself it wasn’t as bad as it could be; the suit’s power supply was holding steady, keeping him from freezing and supplying him with oxygen, and had a minimum of two hours left on it. Even without any of the usual methods of locating him, the Enterprise wouldn’t be that long in arriving.

Between the smaller rocks he caught glimpses of the enormous gas giant they’d intended to scan. Its ghostly rings were so diffuse they made the marbled blue and white and rust-red planet look not unlike a galactic disk with a colorful core. The outermost ring provided a sharp, edge-on border to the muted spirals further in, and an entourage of moons, some of them almost planet-sized themselves, cast hazy shadows like dark nebulae over the indistinct bands. Storms crowded at both poles, spinning in wild circles that merged and broke apart even as he watched, while the equator remained hidden by the reflected glow of the red giant’s light off the veil of dust and ice.

He wondered if those rings were as treacherous as the asteroid field, and hoped he would remember to insist on more mapping before sending anyone in too close. He’d wanted to make a half-dozen close passes with the shuttles, though if the planet’s nimbus was even half as dicey he wouldn’t risk the crew that way. The long range scanners and a probe or two would have to be enough.

It was getting hard to think straight. He was certain there was more blood around his leg than the last time he’d thought about it. What were these asteroids composed of, again? Were they interfering with the sensors? Was that what was taking the Enterprise so long?

A shadow crossed over him. Out of his peripheral vision he could see the unmistakable shape of a small vessel picking its way through the rocks, and he shuddered with relief. It was fine, everything was going to be fine. They were here.

He passed out just before the shuttle came into view, and so didn’t see that it was night blue and black and made of smooth, back-swept lines, and marked with precise, geometric script that bore no resemblance to any Federation language whatsoever.

Chapter 2 by Niobium
Author's Notes:
WFW #102 - Missing

Spock refused to list the captain as a casualty. The furthest he was willing to go in his reports was 'missing in action'.

At first Uhura took hope from the wording, but as days stretched into weeks and weeks became months she had mixed feelings any time she read the phrase. Sometimes it reminded her that Scotty and the engineering team came closer to finding a way to track the mysterious ship every day. Other times she thought it tasted of denial--that Kirk was simply gone and they were never going to find him, but no one, not even Spock, could accept that.

Despair ate at all of them, making the crew quieter and suffusing the mood of the ship with a dull ache. They all had their coping mechanisms (Gaila threw herself into her work so completely it was a wonder she hadn't collapsed yet), and Uhura worried these would become new norms if (when) they admitted he was not coming back. They might never admit that, though, because fighting against despair was the unrealistic conviction that it wasn't supposed to be like this; they weren't supposed to lose their captain only a year out, and he certainly wasn't supposed to just up and vanish.

In her more practical moments, she recognized there was no 'supposed to' on a deep-space exploration mission. They knew so little about the further reaches of the Galaxy that everything was game and anything was possible. Even, it turned out, your captain disappearing after a shuttle accident in an asteroid field.

She rubbed her eyes and adjusted the subspace array again, inputting the new frequencies Sulu and Chekov had helped her work out. While the long range sensors hunted the faint warp signature gleaned from the now-dead shuttle's logs, Uhura sifted through the noise of space, listening for a voice in the wilderness that might bring her one step closer to finding him.

Chapter 3 by Niobium

Of all the stars they’d surveyed, the Pilot liked intrinsically variable stars the most.

Every star breathed, from franticly spinning neutron stars to cool, tenuous red giants, but variable stars were hearts in and of themselves. They were slow hearts--the fastest one he’d seen yet only beat once in a third of a sub-cycle--but it was a rhythm the Pilot could have orbited for an entire Maxima without ever growing tired of its presence.

Although this particular variable star was at an ebb in its pulsation, it was so bright and massive that the captain had been conservative when deciding on the distance of their closest pass. They were trailing a comet as it passed close to the yellow-white supergiant, collecting readings from the brilliant tail with probes and the occasional shuttle. It was simple work for the Pilot to keep the Dancer’s distance consistent and watch for any odd readings from the comet or the star, so every spare moment he had was spent following the slow, steady fall of the pulse. He thought if he wanted to he could follow it down so far he would reach a point where the galaxy held its breath and all of time stood still, everything waiting until the star was ready to finish the beat and brighten once more.

There was a signal from the shuttle. The researchers were done with their readings of the comet and on their way back. Unfortunately the Dancer’s next objective was some distance away, in a small planetary system with no variable stars in the vicinity.

He had a few minutes before the shuttle would land and the captain would give the order to go to warp. He spent them with his fingers on the star’s deepening pulse, and dreamed of the space between stellar heartbeats.

Chapter 4 by Niobium

Uhura was running a simple array diagnostic, the third in as many days, when she heard it.

She was sure Spock would call off the search any day now, and paranoia had her worried even the simplest system hiccup would make her miss something. She didn't need practice running the tests, and really could have handed them off to one of the junior communications crew, but it was something to focus on other than how they were going to abandon Kirk to whatever fate had befallen him.

At first she thought it was just another random noise. Space was a morass of random noises, after all, and even for someone as skilled as herself it took concentration to sift relevant signals from the rest. With everyone stretched so emotionally thin, concentration was something she had in short supply.

She had an instinct for noise, though, and that instinct pushed at her now; it told her to focus and listen.

Uhura canceled the test and leaned closer to her station, cupping her hands over her earpieces. She kept her breathing slow and steady, lest the pounding of her own heart drown out the faint sound. One by one she adjusted the array’s settings, making minute changes.

No, she wasn’t imagining it.

“I think I’ve got something.” She felt everyone on the bridge stop whatever they were doing to stare at her, even Sulu from his spot in the captain’s chair.

Another finite adjustment, and the signal strength doubled. “Gotcha.” She swept her hand along the panel, sending the coordinates to Chekov. There was a sense of something like panic as the rest of the crew waited, afraid after all this time to hope for even a second.

Chekov’s hands had a fine tremor as he put in the changes. Sulu moved to his station, leaning over to help Chekov. They waited for tense seconds as the long range sensors recalibrated and began their sweep.

“There, there,” Sulu said, pointing at the panel that bridged the helm station. Chekov tapped on a readout and adjusted the sensors further, and the signal resolved. “On screen,” Sulu said.

A pathing map overlaid the viewscreen with a ragged series of numbers and lines, tracking the data they’d been following through the nebula and into a small star system. The last mark on the trail was a particularly bright point: an active warp signature.

Sulu let out a shaky breath. “Sulu to Commander Spock.”

***

"Jesus Christ would you look at that thing," Scotty breathed.

The alien vessel was twice the size of the Enterprise, and Spock saw nervous energy in the eyes of everyone on the bridge no matter that they were half a system away and (as far as they could tell) undetected. It was made of sweeping lines, with a tall, inverted teardrop bow, a long body bearing an ovid bulge at the center, and a flared stern. It was also completely black, lit only by patterns of viewports and its engines, and if it hadn’t potentially been the ship imprisoning their captain Spock might have made a complimentary comparison to a planet's nighttime sky.

Within a few minutes data began to trickle back from the sensors; Scotty and Chekov had spent over two hours reconfiguring the scanners so they wouldn't alert the other ship. Chekov read off the highlights as they came in.

"This warp core is very different from ours, I've never seen a reading like this. It looks...rotational somehow, like they have particle streams orbiting one another, and an interaction between those orbits, or maybe changes in their speeds, is what creates the warp field."

Scotty leaned in past Chekov. He read over the data, then made an infuriated sound and slapped the station. Chekov scrambled to silence the panel's numerous complaints.

"Of course, those tricky bastards. There's no stream collision to detect except when it happens as a byproduct, and then it’s probably rare and tiny." Scotty straightened and moved towards the turbolift, telling Spock, "I'll get you new settings for the long range scanners. Now that I know what I'm looking for, it'll be easier to keep an eye on them."

Spock nodded to Scotty, and though he hated to put a damper on everyone's growing enthusiasm there were practicalities to attend to. "Is the captain on board that vessel?"

He thought he could feel them all hold their breaths.

"Not...sure..." Chekov ran his finger down the display, tossing results they didn't care about to another screen. “Here." He stabbed at a line, and the skeletal diagram of the ship highlighted a point buried somewhere in the thickest section of the body. "That is a lifeform signature not like the rest. Sixty percent match to human with our current data. Sixty-five now."

Sixty-five percent wasn't enough to justify any kind of interaction. It was, however, enough to justify more snooping. "Lieutenant Uhura, is it possible for us to pick up their communications signals?"

"Already done, Commander. I have a translational learning algorithm running its first pass."

"Please keep me updated. Once you have enough results send them to the computer engineers. I want access to their ship's software systems as soon as possible."

"Yes sir." Uhura turned back to her station, looking more energized than she had in weeks. He told himself it was too soon to hope, though not too soon to make plans, and looked to Sulu and Chekov.

"Lieutenants. I need a way onto that ship."

Chapter 5 by Niobium
Author's Notes:
WFW #104 - "My heart belongs to...", and then it didn't wind up really being as much about hearts as a previous drabble was (woops), so I didn't post it.

***

The Pilot didn't trust the star they were orbiting. It had a pulse like an erratic heart, and its active regions boiled along the surface in step with the off-kilter beat. Erratic was bad from the Pilot's perspective; it meant unpredictable, and unpredictable stars were dangerous.

Unfortunately, that unpredictability was what had drawn the Stellar Surveyors to this subject. There was knowledge to be gleaned from such anomalies, and right now a half-dozen probes were dipping in and out of the white star's chromosphere, collecting samples and readings and images for analysis, while the Dancer's sensor array gathered what it could from their more distant vantage point.

It wasn't as distant as the Pilot wanted. He'd suggested a much more conservative orbit, offering a closer perigee in hopes that would satisfy the surveyors' needs while minimizing the risk to the ship. That perigee was now their apogee, and the Pilot regretted even suggesting a distance so close. He was still learning how to negotiate with the crew on these things, and the curve was steep.

He took some small comfort from the knowledge that the captain had agreed with him, even though she had also been overridden. This was a stellar survey vessel, and that meant what the surveyors wanted they ultimately got.

As a compromise to his concerns, the Pilot reserved most of his focus for the star and used the AI to balance the rest of his duties. Keeping the ship in a stable orbit was easy enough, since their subject was in an open area and well away from the bulk of the molecular cloud they'd traversed to reach it. The more he paid attention to the star's irregularities the more he thought there was a pattern underneath it all, and the Surveyors were correct in wanting more data. It would take a good deal of processing to resolve chaos of this level. He just wasn't sure they should--

His reaction was so fast that he'd grabbed a snapshot off the probes and had the warp drive spun to maximum before even realizing what he was doing or why. The ship-wide alert was an afterthought. "Stand by for emergency jump." He didn't wait for a response from the captain, he just pushed the drive into action.

They dropped out of warp a short distance away; far enough to put the ship out of harm's way but not so far as to damage the drive. The captain stood from her chair, no doubt to demand an explanation, and he gave one before she'd spoken by displaying the star on the viewscreen. The crew present on the bridge stared as an enormous coronal mass ejection, easily half the size of the star itself, arced out, tore free, and spun away into space. The shields sparked and glowed with the radiation showering over them, and the stellar array complained about the datapath filling to capacity.

The captain grew placid and settled back into her chair. "Pilot, report."

"We'll need a minute to reconfigure the drive, captain, but the ship is undamaged. Primary shields are holding at seventy percent, and will be back to full as soon as the warp core stabilizes."

"Very good. We did not see a warning from the stellar array."

"No, Captain--it's possible the ejection was triggered by a behavior we've not seen before."

That seemed to break the head surveyor out of his reverie. "What about the probes?"

"We lost four to the ejecta." A ripple of discontent spread through the surveyors, though they stilled as he continued. "I took a snapshot just before the jump. The other two are safely out of line of sight of that active region."

One of the younger surveyors went to her station. Her hands swept over the display, bringing it to life with charts and tables and formulae, and the head surveyor hovered at her shoulder. "Is the data intact?" he demanded.

"Some." She tapped here and there. "Pilot, please send the snapshot to the computer engineers. We will work with them to recover what you've saved."

What he'd saved. He told himself not to dwell on that and bundled up the snapshots. When the transfer to the computer engineering cluster was finished, he said, "Done, Surveyor Scioryx."

"Thank you Pilot."

The head surveyor made a low sound that was his own reluctant thanks. The captain glanced at him, her body language more smug than Pilot had ever seen it, then looked back to the viewscreen. "Pilot, please plot a safer orbit from the subject."

He caught the head surveyor giving the captain a dark look. "Yes, Captain." He watched the drive readouts while the engineers went about their adjustments, and once the diagnostics confirmed an optimal state he pushed the ship back towards the star at a modest pace. He set to work relieving the stellar array’s data bottleneck, not wanting to miss anything in these next passes.

The head surveyor's voice broke into his concentration. "Pilot." He was regarding some of the current readings from the surviving probes with distaste.

"Yes, Surveyor."

"This is one of the fastest forming ejections we have on record, going back almost an entire Maxima. How did you know it was forming?"

He had no answer which would satisfy anyone, least of all himself, and that bothered him. Yet it wouldn't do to hedge with the head surveyor; he was a shrewd old Praxidian, and the Pilot had the distinct impression the head surveyor didn’t like him. "I was concerned about the star's active regions, and watching them very closely."

"Why?"

The captain's nerve bundles were flicking with impatience. The Pilot replied, "The stellar array's readings were inconsistent with the data we have on file for stars of this type. I wanted to be able to report any relevant changes the moment they occurred." Because we were too close. (But that he didn't dare say.)

The head surveyor was some time in thinking over the Pilot's response, and when he looked about to continue the captain made a sharp movement with one hand. "If you are done interrogating my Pilot, Surveyor, we have a ship to run. I am sure you would like your other two probes back in one piece." Her tone held a threatening note the Pilot had never heard before. He thought he saw one of the systems engineers worrying at the hem of her shirt.

The head surveyor dipped his head to the captain in deference, and said, "Thank you, Pilot, for your efforts."

It didn't sound genuine, and the Pilot could see the head surveyor's suspicions in how his fingers made restless movements. Regardless, he replied, "You're welcome, Surveyor," and the head surveyor made a graceful gesture of acknowledgment, then turned back to the station’s display.

The tension between the captain and the head surveyor didn't abate until they were in orbit around the white star again, which worried the Pilot. He knew Captain Yzzorthil was on shaky political ground in going up against the head of their mission, and didn't want her to take such risks (who knew if any captain they replaced her with would be as tolerant of his idiosyncrasies?). However he'd also been unsettled by the head surveyor's questions and where they'd been leading, and was grateful she'd stepped in to stop him. He would need to thank her when there was an appropriate moment (or at least one where the head surveyor wouldn't overhear him).

He watched the star's arrhythmic mannerisms out of the corner of his mind's eye as he went about his duties, and wondered what warning he'd derived from them, what he'd sensed or read or felt. No matter how closely he examined his memory of that moment, he couldn't find an answer. When they finally gathered up the probes and took the jump to their next destination, he decided to stop thinking about it, and let himself enjoy the accomplishment.

He dropped into his sleeping phase to find the interloper waiting for him in the atrium.

Chapter 6 by Niobium

As the Enterprise sped to its next destination, Spock took a moment to consider the crew’s reclaimed energy. The heavy, draining mood that had been infecting them all since the captain’s disappearance was gone, banished when the shuttle carrying him touched down in the hangar.

It was, for the moment, replaced with nervous concern, because Kirk had taken all of three steps off the shuttle before passing out. In retrospect Spock felt responsible for not expecting that and insisting the captain be loaded onto the gurney from inside the shuttle, and made a point to commit that option to memory. Still, the surgery needed to remove the suit had gone smoothly, and at last report his vitals were strong. The warships the alien vessel had been fleeing were nowhere in sight, and nothing else had arrived to harry the Enterprise before the laid in their new course and jumped to warp. Everything was as good as it could be considering the previous three months.

Or so he thought, and then Dr. M’Benga asked him to come to MedBay. The doctor didn’t sound upset over the comm system, but Spock felt the bridge crew stare after him as he left. He had to put effort into staying calm on the turbolift ride down.

There was no sense of alarm in the MedBay, and the nurses, technicians, and physicians moved about their tasks with unhurried efficiency. This assuaged his fears to some degree; surely if anything was wrong with the captain, he’d be hearing about it at the top of McCoy’s lungs.

After finishing up with a nurse, Dr. M’Benga came to greet him. “Thank you for coming so quickly, Commander.”

“Of course, Doctor.” Despite no evidence to suggest it, he asked, “Is there a problem with the captain?”

“The captain is fine. Dr. McCoy, on the other hand, isn’t.” M’Benga nodded over at his counterpart, who was standing at a wall of test results with Kevin Riley from Biotech. Riley was gesturing and talking while McCoy listened with a grim face and folded arms. Spock knew, on the instant, what this would be about, because McCoy’s entire demeanor was one of physical and emotional exhaustion.

“He’s had about twelve hours of sleep in the last five days. It’s a miracle he’s even standing.” M’Benga held up an injector. “I don’t want to have to use this, but if he doesn’t go to bed in the next hour, I am going to, before something happens.” M’Benga’s expression told Spock all he needed to know about what sort of ‘something’ was at risk.

Spock nodded in agreement. “I will speak to him, Doctor. If I cannot convince Dr. McCoy to rest, please consider yourself authorized to do what is necessary.”

M’Benga made a low sound and pocketed the injector. “Thank you, Commander. If you’ll excuse me.” He moved to a bench where a set of samples awaited him, and Spock joined Professor Riley and Dr. McCoy.

A large diagram depicted the various anchor-points of the suit they’d just spent over two hours removing; Kevin was running his hand along the spinal segment. “...maybe, a thousand connections through the spine alone. And some of them were long, one went from Th6 clear down to Th11. There was another tight group here--" He stopped when he saw Spock approach, and nodded at him. “I was just updating Leonard on what we’ve got from the suit so far. None of the filaments broke coming out, and we haven’t detected any nerve or tissue damage. His skin’s reacting, though. Once the anesthesia’s cleared we’ll get him on some medications to get it under control.”

“Any functional brain damage?”

“Not all of the tests are back, but the first batch was clear. Better than clear, really; he’s out-performing his benchmarks from six months ago.”

Spock examined the data. Better could be as bad as worse, depending on what was causing it. “Any indication of the cause?”

“None yet--though a full metabolic profile’s still processing. The first one was a mess, maybe from however they were keeping him in stasis.”

“When can we expect the anesthesia to wear off?”

“Another hour or so. Maybe another couple of hours after that before he wakes up.”

Spock nodded. “If you do not mind, Professor, I would like to speak to Dr. McCoy.”

McCoy narrowed his eyes at Spock. Kevin looked between the two of them, said, “Sure,” and went to Dr. M’Benga’s bench, tablet in hand.

McCoy’s jaw clenched. “If you’re about to tell me to go to bed--"

Spock held up a hand. “On the contrary, Doctor. I would not presume to tell a medical professional how best to care for his own health.” McCoy blinked, taken aback, and Spock pressed his advantage. “However, it is worth pointing out that, should the captain awaken in the next few hours, it would be most regrettable if you were not in any shape to converse with him because you had passed out from exhaustion.”

“That’s what they invented coffee for.”

“Stimulants will only cause you to sleep longer when your body inevitably takes matters into its own hands, and the longer you avoid rest, the more unpredictable that occasion will become.” Spock considered him. “If you take your rest now, when you wake, you will be less inclined to have a discussion you may regret.”

McCoy stared at Spock, his expression going from angry to drained in the blink of an eye. He sighed and rubbed at his eyes, and was some time in responding. He stared at the suit’s diagram, saying, “When he passed out on the hangar deck all I could think was, god damn you. You don’t get to do this to me.” He laughed; it was a bitter sounds and held an edge of hysteria. “It wasn’t even his stupid fault this time either.”

Spock was sure he would never understand McCoy more than in that moment. He nodded, acknowledging his comprehension of both sentiments. “I will have Dr. M’Benga wake you when the captain is conscious again.”

McCoy nodded and ran his hands through his hair. “Okay.” He took a handful of steps towards the turbolift, paused, and said over his shoulder, “Thanks.”

Spock knew he meant more than just this particular incident, and without letting himself dwell on the rest, he said, “You are welcome, Doctor.”

McCoy seemed about to say more, then stopped himself and left for what Spock hoped were his quarters. (He decided to ask security for a status update on the doctor’s where-abouts in the next ten minutes.)

M’Benga came to stand next to him, watching McCoy go. “I must say, Commander, I’m impressed.”

When the turbolift doors had shut, Spock said, “At your discretion, Dr. M’Benga, please wake Dr. McCoy once the captain is conscious.”

He saw M’Benga’s mouth twitch in a small smile. “Of course, Commander.”

This story archived at http://www.adastrafanfic.com/viewstory.php?sid=1684