The Soul of The Stars: Chapter 1 – The Small One
We have been ordered to set an immediate course for the colony of Nebuton, founded over twenty-five years ago by Federation explorers. The star system which it inhabits is rapidly eroding, causing quakes and various other natural disasters. In the midst of this chaos, anarchy has broken out among the settlers and there has been near whole-sale slaughter. Now all that is left to be done is to rescue the survivors. I am sending down a party of ten crew members headed by our Science Officer Mr. Spock and our Medical Officer Dr. Leonard McCoy. Due to the perilous atmosphere, persons can be beamed aboard only at a certain location at the planet’s center. They must escort the surviving colonists there with all dispatch. The life span of Nebuton is fast ebbing out.
– Captain James T. Kirk, Commander of Enterprise
“What have we here?” Spock queried, whipping back the tent flap and causing the intruder inside to stumble and fall. He squinted at the prostrate form and exhaled, “Fascinating.”
It was a mere girl, presumably still in her teens, wearing a crumpled sweater and denim skirt. The unruly locks of her dirty blonde hair fell across her, and her gray-blue eyes were opened wide in terror. He had not seen her among the other refugees before. She must have followed from a distance after they had rounded up survivors and left the ruins of the settlement.
“I see you managed to locate my rationed victuals,” he remarked, gesturing the half-eaten piece of ki’haf wafer in her hand and the mashya spread smeared on her face. “While on the topic of your intrusion and thievery, have you anything to say in your defense?”
She looked completely oblivious to the question she had just been asked, half out of fear, half out of curiosity, and she stammered awkwardly, “Are…are you…an alien?”
Spock raised one eyebrow indignantly. “The fact is that I am a native of Vulcan, a planet much older and more sophisticated than your comparably primitive Earth. Hence, considering that you are of the latter species and are currently inhabiting space in my tent uninvited, I believe you are more ‘alien’ than I.”
She blinked, and hung her head. “I’m sorry…I’m…I’m very sorry.”
“Humans always are,” he muttered with a hint of annoyance. “Yet preventing the fault with self-control seems to elude them.”
He pulled off one of his white gloves with a sense of stately decorum, and extended his hand towards her with the intent of helping her to stand. She gasped and jerked back, as if expecting him to hurt her. “Please…please…I didn’t mean to, I didn’t…” She was trembling now.
Spock noticed something in her eyes. It was not just a little girl’s fear, but the kind of dread generated by a recent trauma, the kind that reads everything as an invitation to death.
He withdrew his hand slowly. “It was only my intention to assist you in standing, small one,” he explained softly, “not to cause you trepidation.”
The girl looked into his eyes deeply, as if she was reading through his entire self, trying to decide whether or not he was deserving of trust. Then very slowly she reached her hand towards him. He took hold of it gently and pulled her to her feet. Observing how weak she seemed, he then directed her to be seated on a stool nearby. “Can you recall on what occasion you last took proper nourishment?”
She thought for a moment. “It was…before…the test.”
“The one I failed…” Her voiced drifted off.
“Well…regardless.” He gestured to the wafer. “Since it is already partially consumed, you had best finish it.” He took a glistening, cylinder-shaped bottle off the folding table and poured out a strange green liquid into a smaller tubular glass. “Here,” he offered it to her. “To enhance your energy level.”
She gulped some down and then started to choke.
“Yes, well, it may be an acquired taste,” he admitted.
Just then, a middle-aged man in a medical uniform stepped into the tent. “Spock, what in heaven’s name is going on here?”
“Ah, Doctor McCoy,” Spock hailed him. “Just the personage I will reluctantly admit we are in need of.”
“What’s this? You, of all creatures, hosting a young lady?” McCoy queried.
The girl, starting to nibble on the wafer again, looked at him suspiciously, and then over to Spock for some sort of confirmation.
“He’s perfectly harmless,” the Vulcan assured. “I can’t vouch for his consistent helpfulness, but harmlessness, yes.”
“Alright, you want helpfulness, I’ll be helpful,” McCoy snorted, “and I’ll helpfully inform you that that Vulcanian finger food and fire water is probably going to make her sick.”
She paused for a moment in mid-munching.
“As Science Officer, I pronounce it to be perfectly suitable for human consumption,” Spock declared, eying her.
“And as Medical Officer, I have the right to counteract your pronouncements in the line of health and well-being as I see fit!” the doctor bellowed. “That stuff is meant strictly for lanky types with pointed ears!”
“Really, Doctor, the reason I thought you could be of some aid was to bandage the girl’s lower arm,” he asserted, taking the jabs at his appearance as well as could be expected. “If you took but a moment to observe, you’d notice the dried human blood on her sleeve.”
McCoy approached her slowly. “There, there, honey, let me see the arm now…that’s a good girl…” He pulled up her sleeve cautiously and gasped. “It’s a brand…cut into flesh!”
She yanked her arm back, starting to tremble again.
“Now, now, it’s alright,” he soothed her. “Just need to get some disinfectant and bandaging on it at the medical tent.”
The girl’s gaze once again moved to Spock, seeming to lock onto some steadying factor found in his presence for security.
“Come to think of it, you’d better come along too, Mr. Science Officer,” McCoy stated.
Spock shrugged. “I hardly see the need.”
The doctor swaggered over, pulled him aside, and muttered out of the corner of his mouth, “Have a heart, you anemic brainiac!”
Spock rolled his eyes. “As you know, doctor, I have no heart, physically or metaphysically, as humans would regard one…”
“Just…look – at – her!”
Spock glanced over at her again and saw she was now breathing hard, her hands clamped down on the edges of the stool till her knuckles were white, and her eyes wandering distractedly. She seemed to be running some terrible memory, over and over again.
“For some mystical reason unexplainable to man or beast, looking at you seems to calm her down,” the doctor finished with a healthy hint of sarcasm.
Spock crossed his arms thoughtfully. “Considering that she is a refugee, and I am under orders to assure that all refugees board the Enterprise in as healthy a condition as possible, I suppose there is some logic to my continued participation.”
“How very kind of you,” McCoy grunted.
“Kindness is an emotionally-driven reaction, and as such, I have never endeavored to exercise nor exhibit it.”
“Alright, then,” the doctor huffed. “With no finer sentiments to appeal to, all I can say is…do your duty, Mr. Grinch!”
He then went over to his new-found patient and sweet-talked her as if she were a frightened animal, telling her that Mr. Spock would be accompanying them to the medical tent. Spock was slightly piqued, but did his best to conceal it as they exited the tent and started across the camp.
They had only just reached the fringe of the refugee encampment when a woman with straggly yellow hair and eyes like gray steel accosted them.
“It’s the mad man’s brat,” she spat out, pointing threateningly at the girl. This alerted some of the others in the throng, men and women this time. They started shrieking cat-calls, and throwing dirt and pebbles. The small one took several steps back, behind Spock. She was too unnerved to look up, and kept her eyes on the ground.
“We are officers of the Federation,” Spock addressed the growing crowd in a calm yet firm voice, “and our mission to assist any and all refugees to a place of safe haven.” “She failed the test!” a scruffy man challenged. “By rights, she should die like the others!”
“What?!” McCoy snapped. “By what rights? What test? This is inhuman…”
Suddenly a strong, scruffy man from the crowd advanced and made to push past McCoy. It was fast turning into a potential mob scene. But quick as a snake’s bite, Spock’s hand was on the man’s neck. His nerve pinch defense worked, and the man keeled over unconscious. The crowd, stunned, took several paces back.
But the girl was too terrified to stay. She was gone like a lightning bolt, running for her life towards the rocky out-cropping behind the camp from which she had come.
The doctor turned with the intent to go after her, but Spock stopped him. “Do not bother,” he counseled. “I do believe she will eventually return.”
“You mean like a cat does after you feed it?”
By Rosaria Marie