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Wolves and Sheepdogs

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Looking up at the distant rim of the canyon, and still completely unsure how he could possibly get there, Leslie sighed. It was the same old story: boy meets girl, girl turns out to be a Romulan agent, boy gets abandoned by girl in the middle the wilderness with no hope of rescue unless he can find his way out of a canyon lined with refractory metal ore.

Well, that last bit might be stretching things a little. It really didn’t matter if there was anything mineralogically exciting in the rock or not. The walls were more than high enough so that the Enterprise would have to be directly overhead to catch a signal. Adding the refractory ore in just added some extra tension to the story.

From a Tal Shiar point of view, he wondered why it wouldn’t have been simpler just to kill him. Bishara could have gotten rid of his body just as effectively as she’d gotten rid of him.

He’d passed out in the middle of the night to have it transform into the middle of nowhere. As far as the Enterprise was concerned, the search would be a needle in a haystack anyway. But as long as they kept searching, with him still alive, he could eventually shorten the search. Still, he supposed he shouldn’t complain too much about Bishara being a Romulan agent. They’d enjoyed an incredible weekend together first. Well, he’d enjoyed an incredible weekend, and she’d at least given the appearance of doing so. That would probably have to do.

Still, she hadn’t killed him. That said something, didn’t it?

But warm memories weren’t going to help him reach the canyon’s rim, where he could hopefully be picked up more easily by the ship’s sensors. They also weren’t going to help him avoid the large predator tracking him.

He sighed again.

Join Starfleet, see the galaxy.

No one would tell a 17-year-old kid testing for Starfleet Academy that the galaxy consisted mostly of empty space, that over the first decade or so of his career, he would lose friends and almost die more times anyone could think adventurous, that once in a while a Romulan agent would strand him in the ass end of nowhere and leave it up to him whether he lived or died.

No, the recruiter with focus on the positives: serving aboard a starship (its endless, identical corridors), standing on planets no human being had ever seen (with hopefully breathable air), meeting new alien lifeforms (which may or may not try to kill you), rescuing stranded travelers (even the ones who didn’t want you to), helping avert disasters (okay, that one was pretty much universally good). Leslie had to admit that he’d done all of these during his career, and hoped to keep doing them for a long time yet. But he also had to admit that some of those alien lifeforms, and some of those alien worlds, worked hard to make sure you didn’t survive the encounter, and a lot of them came up with tremendously creative ways to do it.

The existence of his stalker, Leslie considered, argued that there was at least one, and probably more than one, relatively easy way in and out of the sheltered gorge. It was only a kilometer or two wide, so unless it went on for scores of kilometers, it couldn’t possibly have enough small game to support even a single large predator for long. And that single large predator would eventually be the last thing in the gorge. Of course, there was nothing to say that the relatively easy entrance and exit to the gorge wasn’t a half dozen kilometers in the wrong direction. Knowing something existed was a lot different than having access to it.

In all likelihood, his best bet was still to find a not impossible to climb trail and pull himself up a hundred or so vertical meters of rock out of the gorge where he might stand a chance of being rescued. He hoped he was picking his way in the right direction through the scraggly forest to find that trail, but as his ears stayed open to all the noise around him, and his eyes scanned ahead, he was aware that each passing moment brought sunset closer, and he certainly wasn’t going to climb in the dark even if he found something suitable.

It occurred to Leslie that he should also be looking for a large tree that would support his weight to spend the night in, or, maybe better still, a small hollow in the side of the gorge to put us back to with a fire in between him and the predator following him.