“As you all know, you have been gathered here today for an emergency crisis meeting.”
The commander at the front of the auditorium stood straight, his back stiff, looking around the room which was half filled with the bright, dubious faces of some of Starfleet’s finest cadets. He appeared anxious, even as he was trying to convey a sense of calm to the young men and woman.
James Tiberius Kirk turned his head away from the officer to study the face of his best- and quite possibly only- friend who was sitting to his right. Leonard “Bones” McCoy wore his standard scowl, fully equipped with both his signature brow furrow and eye wrinkles as he squinted at the commander addressing them. He was obviously just as nervous as Jim, but when he turned to face the younger cadet, he offered him a reassuring half smile.
“Now, as I’m sure you’re all aware, the outbreak of the HK79 virus strain began last week, with the first reported occurrences coming from small towns around the midwest. It mutated quickly. Unlike anything Starfleet has ever encountered before. Within two days time, reports were coming in from every major city on the continent. The reports have been varied, and vague, but what we’ve been able to gather is that this virus effectively shuts down a person’s body within a matter of hours after contraction. The person dies, but is then “reanimated”. When they are brought back, however, they have no recollection of their past lives, or experiences. They feel no emotion. They have no wants or needs, outside of the insatiable craving for flesh which has baffled scholars and officers alike. At this point, we have been unable to uncover a cure. At this juncture, it would appear the only way to stop the virus, and the spread of this blight, is to cut it off before it has a chance to mutate. In laymen’s terms, to kill off the infected before they have a chance to reanimate.”
Beside him, Leonard stood, his face a mask of confusion and abated horror as he started to speak. Jim half rose from his chair as well, hovering close to Leonard’s elbow in silent support.
“Why are you telling us all this? We know what the hell has happened! We’ve been livin’ this goddamned nightmare, the same as you.”
Another figure rose from the crowd, one which instantly caught Jim’s eye. He was tall with close cropped black hair and eyes that shone like polished onyx in the artificial light of the auditorium. His ears, Jim noticed belatedly, were pointed at the tips. Staring openly, Jim watched the Vulcan, who wore an officers uniform, speak in a voice which seemed both deeply threatening and inquisitive, all at once.
“I find I must agree with the doctor. Why are you divulging information which even the most ill-equipped of us already have knowledge of?”
Leonard raised a silent eyebrow, and Jim found himself attempting to smother a grin.
“Who is that guy?”
“I don’t know, but I like ‘em.”
The grin which had finally laid claim to Jim’s face slid away as the commander addressing the room began to edge towards the exit behind him.
“I was reiterating the information to you in hopes that you will understand, and forgive, the actions we must take here today. We have gathered you all here because, at some point, each of you has come in contact with someone who has been infected.”
Jim gripped Leonard’s shoulder tightly, his eyes wide as the commanding officer reached the door. The sound of phaser fire sounded distantly from outside, and the cadets in the room all began to stand, murmuring and huddling close together in their confusion.
“You all are potential victims. Potential threats. You must be eliminated, to preserve the sake of our humanity. Forgive us.”
And with that, the commander was gone, slipping out the side door, which sealed back together with a mechanical “whoosh” in his wake. The main doors to the auditorium were flung open, and men in body armor began filing in like ants, shooting their phasers into the crowds of cadets. Screams began to echo and reverberate in the small building, and time seemed to stand still as Jim stood, watching, his mouth slightly ajar in muted terror. He was yanked from his stupor as Leonard was dragged from his grip by the strength of the crowd, which was storming all the available exits, even in the midst of being fired upon.
He yelled as bodies pressed into him from all sides, and breaths which were not his own clogged his lungs.
The strangled cry came from his right, swallowed somewhere behind a wall of frantic students trying desperately to reprogram the doors controls. Fighting against the wave of people, Jim struggled to follow the sound of his friends voice. As more men with weapons piled into the building, the screams grew more frequent, and increased in volume. Jim had made it halfway to the door where he’d last heard his friend when a hand reached out from the densest part of the crowd and gripped his shoulder. The hand, which must have been attached to someone incredibly strong, yanked him backwards with such force that he found himself falling. Unable to catch himself, he rolled with the impact and curled into a ball, trying to save his body from being trampled to death in the confusion. From behind a row of theater seats, the hand reached out and grabbed him once more, pulling him towards the row of chairs. He felt himself impact roughly against something hard and warm, and the hand which had been gripping his arm came up to clap tightly over his mouth, just as he was about to call out to Leonard once more.
“Do. Not. Move.”
A familiar voice whispered, close to his ear.
“Follow my lead.”
Nodding his understanding, Jim felt the hand release him. Turning his head, his eyes met those of a deep black, and his breath caught. It was the Vulcan, from earlier. The alien nodded, once, and without a seconds hesitation, began to crawl away from the carnage near the doors and back towards a small, overlooked air duct on the west side of the building. With the gunmen so preoccupied with the other cadets trying in vain to escape, they went undetected. When the Vulcan reached the opening to the tunnel he worked quickly to pry off the grate which was bolted over the entrance, yanking at the steel with strong, steady hands. When at last the piece broke free, he tossed it aside and sank fully to his knees before crawling inside, motioning for Jim to follow in his wake. The blond wasted no time in doing just that. Dropping to all fours, he followed Spock.
The tunnel was a long forgotten air conditioning duct. How Spock knew it’s location, Jim wasn’t entirely sure. He just just grateful that he had remembered it in their time of need. They crawled for a few long minutes before stopping, their breaths coming in short gasps which mingled together in the dark. Jim resolutely ignored the fact that his hands were shaking. He could feel his heart beating loudly in his chest. Too loudly. As he worked to gain his composure, he thought of what Bones would say. What Bones would do.
Jim stuck the knuckle of his right hand into his mouth and bit down hard on it to stifle his erratic breathing. Looking up, in the darkness, he located the sharp glint of the Vuclan’s eyes, which were studying him silently. He jerked back slightly as a hand was laid tentatively on his shoulder.
I am Spock.
Jim’s eyes widened. A voice, which certainly wasn’t his own, was speaking. Inside his head. Locking eyes with the Vulcan in front of him, understanding dawned.
We have to go back. My friend. He’s… Please.
Spock gave a minute shake of his head.
We cannot. The gunmen have not yet left the building. They must… dispose of the corpses.
Anger welled up inside of Jim so fiercely that Spock jerked his hand away- from where it hand been gripping the blond’s forearm- in shock. Jim turned his blue eyes away from the Vulcan’s gaze and stared hard at the metallic surface of the tunnel beneath him. Minutes which felt like hours passed, and each second only served to wear on Jim’s already thin patience. Noises from inside the auditorium began to dwindle until until they disappeared all together. When at last he felt the cool skin of Spock’s palm return to his arm, he immediately began forming questions in his mind.
Are they gone? Can we move? Where would they have taken the bodies?
Spock seemed unperturbed by the onslaught questions, and the emotions which came along with them.
They have departed. We must exit quietly, and make for the nearest lab. There I will find the tools needed to contact my home planet in hopes of a rescue.
Jim’s eyes narrowed, but he did not reply. After a moment, Spock’s hand fell away once more. Jim squeezed himself against the far side of the tunnel, allowing Spock to pass by him as they proceeded to crawl back the way they had come, as their was no other exit from which to leave the tunnel. When the approached the opening, Spock stopped. Jim held his breath as the Vulcan stuck his head cautiously out of the entrance to the duct an peered about. Spock waved a hand behind him, indicating the coast was clear for Jim to follow him. They slipped out of the narrow confines of the tunnel and ran, half crouched, through the auditorium to the main doors which were now left hanging open. Jim did his best to ignore the blood stained carpet and the smears where bodies had been dragged forcibly from the building. Turning his face away, eyes watering suspiciously, he focused his attention on following Spock’s back.
When they reached the main exit, Spock held up a hand to halt them. Sliding along the inside of the wall, he tipped his head around the edge of the door to inspect the outdoor surroundings. Seemingly satisfied they were in no immediate danger, he signaled for them to resume their mad dash to relative safety.
The first draft of crisp, fresh air which assaulted Jim’s face was a welcome change from the stuffy, sweat slicked air of the tunnel, and the sharp, acidic smell of the theater. He wanted to stop running. To revel in the breeze. But, an awkward moan and the sound of shuffling feet a few meters behind him caused him to snap back to reality as he kicked up his pace, running full out now to catch up with Spock, who was already halfway across the seemingly deserted campus. As he neared the Vulcan, who was now entering in a code on a keypad on the door to a research building, Jim chanced a look behind him. A woman, maybe mid-twenties, was shuffling along behind him at a moderate pace. Her stringy blond hair hung down haphazardly in her face. Blood was smeared around her lips, and a gaping open wound was festering on her neck. Her red cadet dress was encrusted with dirt and grime, and one of her boots was missing. Perhaps the most disconcerting of all was her eyes. The pupils were the milky white of someone with severe Cataracts, or even blindness, and the irises were sharp slits, like that of an animal. She moaned and growled, her arms reaching toward him in a silent plea.
Jim was unaware he’d stopped running until a hand roughly grabbed his collar, dragging him inside the research building. The doors slide shut with a ‘whoosh’, and, they were alone again.
Spock stared at Jim, who was now leaning against the wall of the hallway, staring with unseeing eyes at the steel door separating him from the woman outside.
“I’ve never seen one up close before.”
Jim whispered, if only to fill the uninterrupted silence which blanketed the building.
“Nor have I.”
The blond shook his head as his body seemed to tire all at once. He slid down the wall until he was sitting on the cool tile floor, arms locked around his knees. Across from him, against the other wall, Spock did the same.
“What the hell is happening?”
“I…do not know.”
The answer was spoken so hesitantly that Jim looked up, surprised.
“It’s not like Vulcan’s to be uncertain,” he chided.
“These are uncertain times.”
Jim buried his head in his arms, both to hide his amusement at Spock, and his anguish for Leonard and the other cadets. When he spoke, the words were muffled against the fabric of his uniform.
“Jim. My name is Jim.”
Spock nodded, tilting his head to stare at Jim from an entirely new angle.