Star Trek: The Next Gestation

Leesa Tiol grunted as she repeatedly kicked away at the shuttlecraft’s buckled exit hatch until it gave way. It clattered out onto the black rocks of the uncharted planet she had crashed on, which thankfully was M-class, supporting an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere.

She stepped out into the black sand and looked around, her hand touching her holstered phaser at her side. For kilometers in every direction was a wasteland of black sand and rock formations; towards magnetic north stood a sierra of similarly colored mountains, above which the system’s blue sun was slowly creeping westward. Nothing was threatening to her eyes, so she let her hand fall and stretched her arms, her tendons popping after the extended trip. She had been four hours in that shuttlecraft before the planet’s atmosphere had distorted her craft’s drive core and caused her to crash; which is when she sustained quite a few bruises despite her crash restraints.

Doubting that it would work, Leesa regardless tapped the communicator pinned to her yellow and black Starfleet uniform above her left breast.

“Starship Sagan, this is Lieutenant Tiol on Gamma Zeta 2, please respond.”

No signal whatsoever penetrated the atmosphere, so after trying once more to communicate with the cruiser Sagan, she gave up and returned to the interior of the mangled shuttlecraft.

Inside lay Lieutenant Commander Gaius Lombard, unconscious, his own blood staining his blue and black uniform. Leesa had staunched the bleeding and bound the wound before attempting egress from the shuttle, but she was still worried about his condition. The science officer had taken a blow to the head when his crash restraints had failed on impact, and had yet to stir from his unconsciousness.

There was a medical tricorder in the emergency gear, so Leesa removed it and ran the sensor over Commander Lombard’s injuries, cataloguing the data for when they would be rescued. She sighed and replaced the medical tricorder in the box when she was done, and then ran her fingers through her shoulder-length black hair. Her blue eyes glinted in the ambient emergency lighting of the shuttle as she looked around, gleaning options from what wasn’t malfunctioning or destroyed.

Leesa decided to locate herself on the planet and identify her surroundings first. Removing a standard tricorder from her utility pack, she stepped back out into the sand and flipped the tool open. The slim device hummed as the young security officer turned in a slow complete circle, gleaning everything about the planet she was on for hundreds of kilometers in every direction. When the scan was complete, she tapped a couple of keys and examined the readout.

The shuttle had crashed roughly 40° south of the equator, thus the reason for the sun hanging so low in the northern sky. The black rocks were mostly volcanic in nature, with small deposits of cadmium and iron scattered about, but the sizeable field of lava she had crashed in did not seem typical of the entire surface of the planet. Her eyes sought out the tallest, flat-topped mountain to the north; a volcano, now inactive, had apparently erupted within the last few decades and covered everything within kilometers of it with lava. Her scans showed that there was plant life and small rudimentary creatures many tens of kilometers distant, but this indigenous life was nowhere near her.

An anomaly proved to be a structure, built into the side of the largest lava formation around; about a half-kilo to the east. It was constructed of tritanium and deuterium alloy, which were federation materials. This last piece of information vexed the young lieutenant, as this was an uncharted system in the middle of nowhere. Her brow furrowed, she turned to the east and squinted, barely able to discern straight lines at the base of the curvaceous lava formation.

Tapping another sequence into her tricorder, Leesa held it out to the east as it performed an intensive scan. She gasped as she saw the result: Romulan life signs!

She quickly snapped the device shut and put it in a pocket on her right hip while returning to the wrecked shuttlecraft. No sensor dampeners, no camouflage of any type; they obviously thought that the planet’s remote location and it’s system-scrambling atmosphere was enough of a smokescreen to hide their presence in Federation space. But what were they doing here?

Her scans had told her that there were four Romulans inside the structure, which stretched underground as much as it did above ground, and if they were the typical paranoid Romulan personnel, they would have detector equipment to identify local scanners like her tricorder. So it was a safe bet that they knew she was here, even if they hadn’t seen her shuttle crash.

How Leesa was going to explain that she crashed so close to their compound by sheer coincidence was beyond her. But, since they were illegally in Federation space, she needn’t explain a thing, so she took out her phaser and assured herself of its charge.

After replacing the phaser, she returned to the interior of the shuttlecraft and rummaged about, organising what worked and tossing what didn’t work out the hatchway. Over the next hour or two she salvaged what she could from the shuttlecraft, tended to the unconscious commander Lombard, and made several attempts to boost the still-functioning communications equipment in the craft, but all attempts to contact the Sagan failed.

Finally, after doing everything she could think of to keep busy productively, she sighed and sat down, reaching for a pack of rations, as the replicator was inoperable. Midway through her meal, she heard a clatter from outside the hatchway.

Turning her head quickly, Leesa saw a pair of Romulans, one with a disruptor pistol, the other with a rifle, aimed at her. Their dark eyes were narrowed with suspicion and smugness. One of them spoke into a device; Leesa’s universal translator told her what he said.

“Subcommander Teloy, we have the spies. We will destroy the craft and bring the survivor to the facility.”

“Acknowledged.” came the voice from the other end of the communication line.

Redirecting his attention to Leesa, who had not moved from her position, the pistol-wielder spoke to her.

“Get to your feet, human, and follow me.”

Glancing at Lombard lying on the floor, Leesa objected, “My crewmate is injured, I must attend to him.”

With a sneer, the Romulan with the pistol replied, “His pallor tells me that he will be dead soon. You will come with us. Now.”

Casting one last look at Lombard, Leesa got slowly to her feet, dropping the meal kit to the deck at her feet. She proceeded out the doorway and stepped into the sand, covered by both Romulans. As she moved past the pistol wielder, the rifleman stepped back to effectively cover her, but stumbled as his foot came down on a discarded piece of tech that Leesa had discarded.

It was the opening she needed.

She lashed out, grabbed the disruptor pistol from the Romulan’s hand and jammed her palm into his nose. He fell limply backward into the black sand without a sound.

The second Romulan hastily fired his disruptor rifle at her; the green energy blast zapping past her left arm as she turned towards him. She brought the disruptor up and put a pair of blasts into his chest, which tossed him into the sand with smoke rising from his mortal wounds.

Leesa whipped back around to find the first Romulan, green blood streaming from his nose, struggling to get his elbows underneath him; pain and disgust burning in his eyes.

“Filthy…. Human, how dare you touch me!”

Leesa noted his lack of motor skills coordination and lowered the pistol. She bent down and retrieved the rifle from the dead Romulan and tossed both weapons into the shuttle. Refusing to take chances, she opened her tricorder and scanned the region again, confirming that the other two Romulans still occupied the structure.

“What are you scanning, human?” He spit the word out as if it were rotted fruit he had accidentally tasted. Leesa looked at the injured alien before re-entering the shuttle, picking up a pair of restrictors, and returning.

“I’m going to bind your limbs now. Will you remain still or do I have to stun you?”

The Romulan grinned through his pain, a grin of malice.

“I will remain as still as one of these rock formations, innocently waiting for you to remove my dignity by restraining me.”

Leesa clenched her jaw at his spitefulness, removed her phaser and set it to minimum stun, and sent a bright yellow beam of energy at the Romulan. He slumped back into the sand, his eyes closing as his breath wheezed from his chest. She bent down and secured his wrists and ankles, then checked to affirm that his breath was steady. Then she dragged him up against the hull of the shuttlecraft, out of the way.

Shocked by the incident, Leesa sat down on the lip of the shuttle hatch and blew out her breath, wiping the nervous sheen of sweat that had gathered on her forehead. She stared at the dead Romulan lying awkwardly in the black sand.

Although trained in multiple defensive techniques and abilities as a Starfleet security officer, she was still disgusted with her kill. Despite the fact that she was ambushed by Romulans, the premise for at least two Starfleet security training scenarios, she should have been able to find another way to diffuse the situation. If she ever got off this planet, she wasn’t sure how she would word her report of this incident.

She got up suddenly, feeling the need to do something. Again she hammered on the flickering displays in the cockpit to try and get a communication through the atmosphere, to no avail. Again she checked the science officer’s vitals, establishing them as steady but weak. Again she put her tools away and stepped out of the wreck and into the bluish light of the sun, gazing into the distance.

Her eyes sought out the vague outline of the structure set against the tallest rock formation in sight. She knew those Romulans were up to something there. Since this was Federation territory, they had no business being here. And since there was no other member of Starfleet nearby to inform them of their error, Leesa made up her mind to confront them, especially since there was nothing else to be done in her current situation.

The officer gathered her tricorder and phaser, and activated the emergency beacon stored in the shuttlecraft’s systems. After one last check of Commander Lombard’s condition, Lieutenant Tiol stepped out into the sand once more and made for the structure.

×××

From fifty meters away, her tricorder was able to pick up more details from the structure.

The two remaining Romulans were grouped in a single room in the below ground section of the structure. Near them was an unconfirmed life reading, organic but not corresponding to any known life signatures. Beyond that the tricorder could tell her nothing.

The hatchway was on the wall facing her; seemingly a standard federation egress. Leesa approached it, pocketing her tricorder and palming her phaser before activating the control panel on the wall. At the proper control touch, the heavy doors slid open with a groan from the pneumatics, revealing a semi-lit interior. She stepped inside, glancing over everything that her scanning had told her was there; two federation computers and a single Romulan computer stood against the far wall, with a holographic display field in the center of the room. Lockers stood to the right while another door sat in the center of the wall to the left.

She keyed the door to close behind her as she stepped inside. Everything she saw was unassuming, but when it came to Romulans, she decided to be as paranoid as they are. She programmed her tricorder to scan for traps or small power sources nearby, and after confirming the absence of these things, she went over to the computers against the wall and downloaded the information stored in their memory to her tricorder. They appeared to be inert at the moment, merely storing data.

Suddenly the interior door to the left groaned open, and the Romulan Subcommander came through, examining a device in his hand.

“Don’t move! Starfleet security!” Leesa said, raising her phaser; her call startling the Romulan officer. He looked toward the facility entrance, bemused.

“How did you-” he cut himself off and snapped his head back toward her; his sleek black hair dishevelling. Within a second, his eyes jittered around, taking in her unwounded condition, her phaser, and his options, which were few, considering his predicament. Slowly his face became emotionless and his back straightened, his eyes narrowing.

Leesa gripped her phaser and closed the distance between them.

“You are illegally occupying a Federation world. State your intentions.”

A rancid grin crept across the Romulan’s greenish lips, but he said nothing.

On edge and frustrated, Leesa indicated that her prisoner should move back into the room he just came from. She followed him as he complied, careful for an ambush from the one Romulan still unaccounted for. This room seemed to be quarters and refresher niches, with a table and chairs in the center of the room. Yet another door on the other side of the room led presumably downstairs.

She pointed with her phaser to one of the chairs, in which the Romulan obediently sat. His face had returned to emotionlessness, except his eyes, which blazed with frustration and malevolence.

“Put your hands on the table, and link your fingers.”

He complied; a picture of pensiveness but for the square-shouldered Romulan Navy uniform and the malice in his eyes.

“There is one more Romulan here. Are they downstairs?”

Not a move or a sound came from her prisoner. Leesa sighed and lowered her phaser, ready to whip it back up at the slightest shifting.

“I believe your name is Subcommander Teloy. I am Lieutenant Leesa Tiol of the starship Sagan. As an official representative of the interests of the Federation, I ask you again what you are doing on this planet.”

For a moment, the Romulan said nothing. Then he blinked and adjusted his hands on the table before replying in a quiet voice.

“We are on a scientific expedition.”

“What kind?” Leesa said without hesitation.

“Biological. There are life forms we have found that are curious in their enigmatic properties.”

Leesa nodded; that would explain the vague organic readings her tricorder had picked up.

“What’s in the rooms downstairs?”

The Romulan sighed before he spoke again.

“Anatomical analysis equipment, a fully equipped surgical bay, cryogenic storage containers.”

Leesa added, “And your lieutenant, I presume?”

Teloy leaned forward, his hands gripping each other, “No. You killed my lieutenant when he attempted to bring you to me. Only a formerly useless ensign is downstairs. But she will not be troubling us during this very…. pleasant…. conversation.”

Blinking at the accusation, which she could not fully refute, Leesa dragged a chair over to the wall next to the door they had come through. She sat in it, keeping her phaser aimed in the general direction of the wily Romulan.

“Let’s just wait for her to see what’s taking you so long up here, shall we?”

Instead of silence as she expected from him, the Subcommander smiled slightly and turned to look at the slimmer doorway which presumably led downstairs.

“She is…. indisposed. We will be waiting a very long time if you wish for her to investigate my absence.”

“Call her on your communicator.”

His smile widened a bit and the subcommander turned and looked at her.

“It wouldn’t make any difference.”

Leesa frowned, exasperated at this Romulan’s smug attitude. She wondered what was going on down there; she doubted the Romulan was lying, but he wasn’t telling the entire truth either. Either way, she had to change the situation; he had too much power in the conversation.

“Okay. Get up, you’re taking me down there.”

They got to their feet, Subcommander Teloy somewhat reluctantly. The stairwell door hissed open and Leesa nudged the man through and followed him down a set of well-lit stairs. At the bottom he tapped the control panel for the door and it slid open, depositing them into a room that encompassed the entire bottom floor.

It was just like the subcommander said; all the equipment he mentioned was there, along with storage boxes and a surface loading station against one wall.

Against the far wall was the medical bay, and in the biobed lay the fourth Romulan. She was lying uncomfortably, her eyes gazing with frozen shock and pain at the ceiling. Her midsection was completely ripped open; a ghastly and ragged green-blooded hole where he stomach should have been.

Leesa gasped in horror. The subcommander, his opening spotted, whipped around with his arms to strike at her, but she was ready for such an action. She ducked and slammed her shoulder into the Romulan’s midsection, and brought her knee up into his face as he doubled over in pain. He collapsed to the floor with a groan as he clutched at his stomach and face, trying to get his breath.

“What did you do to her??” Leesa yelled as she stared at the dripping mess of what was formerly a Romulan ensign.

All that came from Subcommander Teloy was a tortured wheeze.

Leesa paced over to the corpse and dug out her tricorder, passing it over the deceased woman. The scanner results painted a gruesome picture. Apparently something alive had grown inside the woman, and then burst out of her; there was traces of non-Romulan cellular residue amongst the gore. The young lieutenant closed the tricorder with trembling fingers, then reached up and gently closed the dead woman’s eyes.

She stormed back over to the doubled up Romulan and shouted in his face.

“What did you put inside her?!”

Green blood spat onto the floor as the Romulan hacked out a laugh.

“New…. life…. You should be…. excited, Starfleet Lieutenant Tiol, for being in the presence of…. an undiscovered…. life form….”

Leesa got up and looked around some more, sweat making her hair cling to her forehead. On the floor near the biobed was a little pile of gore, mostly green. It was vaguely cylindrical, but very dead, so she couldn’t be sure of its exact form. Her breath was shaky as she once again pried out her tricorder and gathered information on it. It was completely unknown, besides being carbon-based life; her device couldn’t make any more of it.

She gritted her teeth and re pocketed the tricorder. She was Starfleet; an organisation formed specifically to seek out new life, but to discover it in such a setting was horrendous, no matter who you were. Leesa was wary of Romulans; they had tried to deceive her in every encounter she had with them, but nobody deserves something like this.

She turned around to storm back over to the subcommander, but a sloshing noise in the shadows to her right made her stop. In the corner were a pair of lockers, and between the lockers sat a few boxes stacked atop one another. The topmost box was open. Carefully, Leesa edged over and leaned over the box to see it’s contents.

Clear, viscous fluid filled the box, and within lay a single creature, presumably a live version of the bit of flesh on the floor near the biobed. It was semi transparent, but definitely a corporeal life form. It flexed and relaxed and curled around itself as she watched, extending to almost a meter long and then shrinking to the length of her foot. It was strange and beautiful at the same time, but had a malevolent tinge in Leesa’s mind, since she saw what had happened to the Romulan woman.

She backed away and turned toward to the still-alive romulan, only to find him struggling to his feet with a disruptor in his hand. She quickly aimed her phaser and depressed the firing button, but not before he got a burst off in her direction. Her beam of concentrated light struck him square in the face, throwing him onto his back. At the same time, the green disruptor blasts tore into her shoulder and arm, spinning her around as she fell against the stacked crates and onto the floor.

Leesa landed on her wound with a cry. Through the pain, she saw the open crate atop the stack fall from its perch; its contents splashing out as it landed on its side. The worm creature slid across the floor, then arrested its own movement by changing its shape.

Fear and pain wrestled in her mind as she used her good limbs to back up against the wall, watching as the unknown life-form slowly wriggled in her direction. She yelled something, but she didn’t know what her voice said. She frantically reached for her phaser, but could find it nowhere within reach. Leesa could only watch with wide eyes as the thing edged toward her.

It stopped on the left side of her feet, which were drawn up as close to her as possible. It stood up like a snake would, one end seeming to serve as a sensor as it poked in her direction. First it gently nudged her shin, then her kneecap. Then it moved forward a little more, and came into contact with a few drops of her blood, which it bent to examine. It came up and pointed at her left shoulder, the one with blood seeping from beneath her torn uniform.

Then it gave a strange wiggle/shudder; the movement was strangely unspasmodic. It seemed more like a calculated movement than a spasm. Wanting any information about this thing, preferably before it tried to hurt her, Leesa yanked the tricorder from its pocket and awkwardly opened it with one hand; its whirring hum a comforting sound amid the chaos.

Again the worm alien shuddered, almost exactly the same as before. Her tricorder immediately made a beeping noise; the readout displaying that the universal translator software was working on deciphering new language input.

Leesa stared incredulously between the shivering worm and her tricorder as her wounds pulsed for attention. Then her device trilled, and an automated voice came from it.

“You are hurt?”

This simple phrase proved so many things, the first of which is that this creature was intelligent. The next was that it showed concern, an emotion, which meant that it was of a level of intelligence where it could be reasoned with. Leesa gaped in surprise for a moment before the creature made the same shuddering movement, and her tricorder repeated its translation.

“You are hurt?”

Without knowing what else to do, she typed in the tricorder to respond, ‘Yes I am. But I stopped those who imprisoned you. Please don’t hurt me.’

The tricorder projected an image similar to the worm, which writhed and shivered It’s message. The worm seemed to regard the projected image until It’s message was complete, then it edged closer and wriggled some more. The message came through:

“I won’t hurt you. Thank you for freeing me. They hurt my kin, hoped to change us to hurt others for them. We will not help them. May I help you?”

Leesa wondered through her pain how this simple creature could possibly help her. With shaky fingers, she typed in her message, and the tricorder projected her response, ‘How can you help me?’

Instead of responding, the worm snaked toward her wounds, and began to wind itself around her arm and shoulder, stretching itself to cover the burnt and blackened flesh. She gasped at the contact, bracing herself to tear the thing off of her if it began to hurt her, but nothing of the sort transpired. Instead, she felt the pain begin to subside a little, and warm tingling sensations emanated from where the worm wrapped around her. She sighed in relief from the pain, and leaned back, her muscles relaxing finally.

×××

The sensations combined with the waning pain must have caused her to drift off to sleep; not surprising after her busy day. Slowly she came to, and got her elbows under her and sat up.

The room looked the same, only the worm creature was nowhere to be found. Leesa used her arms to push herself to her feet; she remembered that she was wounded, but for some reason no pain came from where the blasts had struck her. Peeling back the ripped and burned fabric, she exposed her wounds only to find them completely healed, with no evidence of the injuries besides the holes in her uniform.

She changed her opinion about the worm, now thinking about it in a good light, rather than being mistrustful, but she was still perplexed. Why had its makeup not registered on the tricorder? Why had it helped her? And where had it gone?

To answer that last question, she began searching the room, looking behind the crates and under the biobed, where the Romulan woman’s corpse still lay. Nearer the doorway, the other Romulan lay spread-eagled; his wounds from their melee combined with her phaser beam to his face had apparently rendered him comatose, as his breathing was very light.

Finding it against the hatchway that led to the stairwell, Leesa came close and opened her tricorder to once again scan it. The worm was barely moving, prompted to when her shadow fell over it, it wriggled somewhat more weakly than before.

“Glad you are better.” The artificial translation came through the tricorder.

With a reflexive smile cutting through the concern etched on her face, Leesa thanked the unknown alien; the tricorder projecting her words in holographic gestures.

‘I might have died if it wasn’t for you. Are you alright? How can I help you?’

“I need fluid, a wet environment, to sustain myself.”

After imploring it to wait where it was, Leesa hastened over to the few stacked crates in the corner where she had fallen and began searching through them. It seemed that most of the crates were filled with Romulan databases that had been somehow wiped of information, and that only two of the worm creatures had been brought here, apparently without replacement fluid. The little crate that she had upended in her fall lay on its side on the floor, the fluid it had contained had evaporated.

Her search had turned up nothing suitable to hold the creature, so she returned to it. She knelt beside it, and conversed via the tricorder.

‘The fluid they brought you in is gone, and there is no more. How can I help you?’

“Last chance for me is inside you.”

Leesa furrowed her brow, wondering what it could mean. Then it dawned on her, and she glanced back over her shoulder at the Romulan female corpse still adorning the biobed across the room. The corpse with it’s midsection blown open.

Her eyes shifted back to the dying worm, her thoughts racing as the situation became clear.

‘The Romulans attempted to do something similar to what you are asking me to allow you to do. The corpse of one of them is laying in the corner with a hole where her stomach used to be. How do I know the same thing will not happen to me?’’

The worm hesitated before responding, “I have nothing to give you but my promise that I will not harm you.”

Leesa stood up, snapping shut her tricorder. She set it on a table and ran her fingers through her black hair. At this point it came down to what she valued more; the sovereignty of her body, or the ideals of Starfleet. It is Starfleet’s mission to seek out new life, and she had found it, only to have it die in front of her. Unless she allowed the one thing to happen to keep it alive, which was at the very least a disturbing act, and at the most, a deadly one.

She hovered between her decisions, watching the thing writhe on the tritanium decking. It looked so pathetic just lying there; she couldn’t just allow it to die. She knew so little about it, and earnestly wished to know more. Plus, she realized, she wouldn’t be surrendering her bodily integrity if she made the conscious decision to allow the worm creature access.

Finally she made her decision. Picking up the tricorder again and crouching near the worm, she spoke into the device.

‘I’ll allow you inside me. Please, be careful with me.’

The worm rolled over and it’s end came up off the floor, and it wiggled a response, which her tricorder translated.

“Thank you. I will be careful.”

Standing up, she set her tricorder and phaser on a table, then hesitantly began unfastening her uniform. It was a single-piece outfit, so all she had to do was grasp the zipper in the back, slide it down, and pull the top off of her arms. As she pulled the sleeves off of her arms, her shoulders became exposed, white as white skin could be, setting off her midnight hair. She was fit and trim, and would have no issue exposing her body to anyone she wanted to, except this was a very unfamiliar situation. Her chest became exposed, her sizeable breasts covered by a white performance bra which kept her breasts from moving too much during exercise and other strenuous activity. Such as beating up Romulans. A toned, flat belly continued below her breasts to her hips.

She slipped her thumbs beneath her beltline and shimmied her shapely hips to let her uniform down her legs. The fabric slipped over her butt with effort; sheer white panties were all she wore in addition to the bra, and she had had all extraneous hair laser removed years before, so every inch of her supple, toned skin was smooth and all but flawless. As her pants slid down her thigh, a long, thin, faint scar was revealed; a prize she kept from a duel with a disgruntled Klingon, who to this day sported a bent nose from her fist.