THE LOGIC OF SURVIVAL By: M. C. Pehrson
Captain Kirk was starting to get a bad feeling. Drawing his phaser, he scanned the tree-studded knolls for any sign of the security detail. Their red uniform tunics should have been easy to spot against the rolling green so typical of the planet, yet he couldn't see them. And neither Klate nor Mitsubi, both seasoned crewmen, were responding by communicator.
The murmur from Kirk's second-in-command drew his attention. Spock was squatting down, peering at the mossy groundcover, obviously intrigued by something. Probably only something that another Vulcan scientist would find interesting, but there were few of those to be found since the destruction of their home world.
"What is it?" Kirk asked.
"Astounding..." Spock replied in the same absorbed tone. "This plant's growth rate is phenomenal. Look here, where our boots have damaged the vegetation. You can actually watch it renew."
Kirk spared the moss a quick glance, but his mind was elsewhere. "I'm more interested in watching our security men reappear. I told them to stay in sight."
As he put one hand to his face and shouted their names, Spock carefully packed a clump of groundcover, roots and all, into a specimen case.
Still no sign of the men. Kirk made no attempt to hide his irritation as he yanked out his communicator. It emitted a sick sound and promptly died in his hand. "Damn!" he swore, twirling the unresponsive knobs disgustedly. "I thought Scotty weeded out all the faulty ones."
Rising, Spock passed along his own communicator and watched Kirk flip open the cover. Its healthy chirp brought a brief glimmer to the dark Vulcan eyes before Spock proceeded to chip mineral samples from a nearby boulder.
With a sigh, Kirk contacted the Enterprise.
"No," Scotty reported from aboard ship, "they're not here, but Klate called in a while ago. It seems they're chasin' some...wee ‘bunnies', Captain. ‘Cute things', Misubi said."
"Well then," Kirk replied with heavy sarcasm, "that explains it. If they should manage to report in again, Mister Scott, have them beam up, will you? And Engineer, there's a wee matter of shoddy equipment we'll be discussing."
Breaking contact, he snapped at Spock, "Are you about finished?" And immediately regretted the tone.
Spock set down a tool and reached into the equipment box for a soil probe. "This is the last sample. Our environmental expert might have performed more efficiently than I, had she not been ill."
Kirk wanted to say, Never mind. I'm just a little jittery. Take your time. But he kept an uneasy silence and his finger on the trigger as his gaze traveled to the horizon. There was nothing in the peaceful countryside to account for his tension, which made it all the more troubling.
On the verge of hurrying the Vulcan along, he turned...and found Spock frozen in a receptive attitude, his lean fingers gripping the soil sampler where it protruded from the ground.
Skin prickling, Kirk stepped toward him. Something rippled faintly beneath his boots. His mind scarcely registered the collapsing earth or heard Spock's startled yelp mingle with his own at they plunged downward. A smothering cascade of dirt ended in blackness.