It looks like blood.
Two figures are coming closer through the mist of fine snowflakes tossed by the wind, and there is a dark stain on the left leg of the white thermal overall worn by the shorter of the two.
Lt. Uhura has to remind her heart to keep beating.
She fine-tunes the focus on her binoculars and looks again.
They’re still half a mile away and the colors are bleached by all the snow, but she can see the taller man is half-supporting, half-dragging the other.
Her orders are to stay where she is (the only place where the transporter can lock co-ordinates on this godforsaken planet) and call for beam-up as the away teams come back. For how things have turned out, she is also doing triage on the injured. She has a phaser rifle and a tripod at the ready, but nothing shootable has appeared until now, only vague shadows, always too far away to lock on. She needs to see better.
Forty-five heartbeats later, she adjusts the binoculars again, exhales, and prays for the wind to calm down for twenty seconds. Or just ten.
Nearer, they come nearer. She can see now that the taller figure is hobbling lamely on, pushing forward the other with his knee, all the while holding his arm around his back and under his right shoulder. The stained leg drags on the ground. But they’re near enough at last that she can see. It’s not blood. The color is that of the tamed iodine of the emergency kit. So Jim is wounded, but probably not bleeding to death. Yet.
She drags up the zip of her own overall from below and pulls out the communicator she stuck in her panties’ waistband to keep it warm enough to work. Not for the first time, she thanks her late grandmother for the practical advice. She had been in Oil War XI, the one fought in Antarctica. “Use that zip,” she told her. “The boys pull their dick out of it when they take a leak, you can use it to pocket electronical equipment quickly next to your skin, without freezing to death.”
She flips the cover open.
“Uhura to Enterprise. Chekov, prepare to beam up three on my signal in about two minutes. Alert Sickbay: the captain is injured, right leg non-functional. By how he’s walking, Spock may be injured too.”
The communicator slips again inside her clothing, and she is leaning over the low ledge of the snow-bound crater, her finger on the phaser trigger.
But there is something snaking its way from the edge of her field of vision under the surface of the snowfield, like a small wave, a *dark* wave, coming on straight at the two hobbling men, and all of a sudden there is a wide open mouth, and teeth. Lt. Uhura feels an ice-cold trickle of adrenalin down her back. She forces herself to inhale, then locks the air in her lungs, and shoots twice.
The blasts slam into the being, which rolls back up and to the side, reminding her of redskins in old-fashioned XX-century horse-opera movies.
Maybe they made it.
She leans out, one arm stretched, the other braced against the rock.
“Take my hand before we get much older, Captain,” she says.
“I plan on getting very much older, Sally,” he breathlessly manages to quip.
With a grunt, she pulls him in while Spock hauls him from behind, then collapses on himself in a ball just outside the ring of stone.
Jim is barely breathing; she lays him down with his shoulders against the inner slope of the crater and picks out the communicator again.
“Chekov, beam up the captain, now. Spock and I will follow next, on my signal.”
She stays to check that the beaming works right, then she’s rolling herself out next to Spock.
“Hey, where are you hurt? Hey, talk to me.”
He doesn’t move, just whispers.
“Just a moment,” and his eyes close.
He exhales slowly, inhales with great care, and finally manages to speak, voice low but steady.
“Third and fourth left ribs. Punctured lung. The captain... lower right tibia shattered. Emergency bandage...”
“Come on in, so we can beam up. Can you stand?”
It seems he can’t, not really, so she drapes him on her shoulders and crawls over and inside on all fours. He’s heavy.
“Damn, they lost us. Spock. Spock! How is it going with you?”
He tries to answer, but his words are lost on a hiss of pain.
“Come on, breathe! Like that, fine, take it easy and don’t stop.”
She cups her gloved hand in front of his nose, to shield it from the bitter, dry cold and ease his respiration.
“Listen, I’ll sing to you, ok? Nice and slow. You just keep breathing in time.”
Legate, I heard the news last night
My cohort ordered home,
By ships to Portus Itius
And thence by road to Rome...
Her voice is low and soft, and Spock’s spasming gasps ease into a more comfortable rhythm.
I marched the companies aboard,
The arms are stowed below.
Now let another take my sword,
Command me not to go.
Spock’s eyes slid close, but she feels he’s not passed out, just focusing.
I’ve served in Britain forty years
from Vectis to the Wall
I know no other home than this
nor any life at all...
One more breath, another, and he manages to speak.
“Loving you is so selfish of me-- a gift I give myself,” he whispers.
“You know one thing about love? It goes around,” she answers.
The shimmer of the transport cuts her short.