There had been no stopping himself when the rock crumbled from under Spock's feet. His weight plunged him into an awkward fall that ended with a frigid shock of water. In the second after impact, he lay thinking. Incredible! A drop like that, and no injuries! But then the pain connected in his brain. Through a searing flood of agony he heard the captain calling overhead and knew that Jim had not followed him into the crevasse.
Water slapped his face like an icy hand, rousing him. He pushed against slippery rocks. With painful effort he raised his upper body from the streambed and sat in a whirl of swift current. By some fierce scrap of Vulcan objectivity, he appraised his condition.
The two or three injured ribs and the contusions were manageable. But now there was something wrong with his leg besides a rampant infection. The pain was so intense that he knew a bone must be broken.
"Captain..." The feeble call trailed away to nothing. Spock gathered a full, stabbing breath and yelled, "Down here, Jim!"
"Are you hurt?" came the anxious response.
"I'm afraid my right leg is...finished!"
There was a pause, and then, "Can you stand at all?"
There was only one way to test that capability. Shivering hard from the cold, Spock cautiously tucked his healthy leg under him and eased himself into a squat. He held the tenuous balance long enough to gather his strength and thrust upward. His right heel jolted over the rocks. White-hot pain ripped through the leg and he hit the streambed, writhing.
Time passed in a wild tumble of water and shouting.
Then Spock was sitting upright, his back pressed against rock. He tried to remember moving, but drew a blank. The water's bitter chill was numbing his mind as well as his body. He could no longer feel either leg.
Kirk's voice came rasping through the blackness, weary but urgent. "Spock! Answer me!"
Spock permitted himself a faint smile. So Jim was still there-the fool. "Haven't you left yet?"
"Not without you!" Kirk said firmly.
Down in the crevasse, Spock shook his head. "My injuries are too severe for travel! I can wait here while you go for help!"
"No way!" Kirk shouted. "We're leaving together, even if I have to carry you! Now get up and take hold of my hand!"
It was precisely what Spock had expected-emotion overruling reason. Somehow the captain must be made to see logic. "Jim. You haven't enough strength left to carry me through these tunnels! Why reduce both our chances for survival? Go on alone!"
"Yes, survival!" Kirk's voice took on a brittle edge. "Would you have me walk away from here...over your dead body?"
Spock drew another painful breath. "Captain. Think of your ship."
Kirk exploded. "I'm fully aware of my responsibilities, Mister! Now try considering your own! I've given you a direct order, and I expect you to obey it!"
Spock drank a handful of water to ease his thirst. The captain's command was unreasonable. It would be a simple matter to feign compliance; high overhead, Kirk would never know if he actually tried or not. He could spare himself the pain of useless attempts-possibly injurious efforts-that would only delay their inevitable separation. Or he could simply refuse.
Jim might forgive him that...eventually. If Jim survived.
The captain's voice drifted down once more, so low and uncommanding that Spock strained to hear the words. "Spock...you can do it...I know you can."
The blood pounded in Spock's ears. Struggling to control spasms of shivering, he placed his palms against the rock behind him and thrust his body upward. A series of jarring hops brought him onto his good leg, listing dangerously as the chilled limb threatened to buckle under his weight. Gaining a firmer hold, he peered up into the darkness. There was no way of measuring the distance to the top, or of knowing which side of the gorge Kirk was on.
"Alright!" he called out. "I am on my...foot!"
Kirk's relieved sigh was swept away by the churning water. On his belly beside the cleft, he edged forward and extended his arm as deeply as possible. "I'm over here, Spock! Reach up...and keep talking!"
Homing in on the Vulcan's voice, Kirk scooted closer and closer until their fingertips met. With a surge of relief, Kirk reached lower and interlocked their wrists. He had no intention of letting go. "Get ready...and...now!"
Kirk heaved upward with all his might. It was like lifting stone.
Impossible, Spock thought as he fumbled along the slippery cracks for a handhold and foothold. Jim was in no condition to hoist a dense Vulcan body, and yet...inch by agonizing inch he rose, until his fingers closed over the stony rim.
"Hang on," Kirk grunted nearby.
Spock felt a hand grip his waistband and haul him up. Jagged rock slashed his injured ribs; the scream forming in his throat was choked off by a sudden warm gush. Then his bad leg grated over the top and he lay in a haze of pain, coughing blood.