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.