Rite of Passage

by Winter

Alternate Universe - Star Trek


Vin hated these officers meetings. He knew that captain was required to hold the meetings because of Starfleet regulations. Vin just hated sitting in one spot with nothing to do. Today was even worse because it was so hot in the small room. Vin tugged on the tight collar of his uniform. He tried to get comfortable in the chair but it was no use.

"Lieutenant sit still," Chris ordered. "I'm almost done."

"Sorry Captain," Vin said as he locked his eyes on the table.

"Any comments?" Chris asked but got no response. "Dismissed."

Vin bolted out of his seat and was quickly through the door. Josiah chuckled and shook his head.

"What's with the elf?" Buck asked using his nickname for Vin. "He's been acting strange for the past couple of days."

"Don't know maybe he needs sometime off," Nathan suggested.

"Well the conference he's going to with JD should be a good break for him," Chris said.

"I don't believe the lieutenant even heard you were sending him," Ezra commented.

"Ezra's probably right," JD said. "I don't think Vin was listening at all."

"I'll find him later and let him know," Chris said

The others filed out of the room and Chris sat down to gather his data cards. He wasn't sure what had gotten into the Vulcan. Buck was right Vin's behavior had been erratic the past week. He just hoped some time away from the ship would get him back to his quiet self.


As soon as Vin ran from the conference room he headed for the holodeck. He wanted to get rid of his pent up energy beating up something. The overwhelming desire to hit something was driving him crazy. Vin stepped into the room and tried to decide what to program. He wanted something bloody with a lot of fighting.

"Computer, Scottish Claymore," Vin called and the ancient weapon appeared in his hand. "The Battle of Culloden."

The black and yellow grid pattern was replaced by a roughed Scottish landscape. Vin was standing in an open field with the Scottish highlanders. Across from them was the might of the British army. The highlanders screamed a battle cry and surged forward. Vin screamed with them and was swept forward with the tide.


Chris asked the computer to locate Lieutenant Tanner. The mechanical female voice said he was in the holodeck. Chris wasn't surprised and headed down the corridor. Vin often used the holodeck to work off tension. As he got closer he saw the light flashing indicating it was in use.

"Computer what program is currently running?" Chris asked

"The current program running in the Battle of Culloden," it answered.

Chris entered to find a bloody Vin standing in a battlefield with dead and dying men. Cries of mortally wounded men and horses assaulted Chris's ears. He watched as Vin confronted a British officer. Vin parried of few strokes than ran his sword through the officer. Chris could never figure out Vin's fascination for ancient Earth battles.

"Computer end program," Chris called.

He hid a smile as Vin looked around in confusion as the army disappeared. When he saw Chris he walked over.

"Damn, Chris, we were winning," Vin said indignantly.

"The Scots lost," Chris pointed out.

"Not in my version," Vin said with a smile.

"We need to talk," Chris said.

"If it's about the meeting earlier I'm sorry," Vin said quickly. "I don't know why I can't sit still."

"It's alright Vin, it's not that," Chris said turning towards the door.

"Oh OK," Vin said following. "Then what is it?"

"Well I don't think you heard anything I said in the meeting this morning," Chris said stepping into the corridor.

"Sorry," Vin apologized again.

"I just wanted to let you know that you and JD will be going to a conference on Mindan 3."

"Really?" Vin asked excited. "On what?"

"It's for Navigational and Ops officers, " Chris said. "Nothing too exciting but I'm' giving the two of you a couple of extra days. I hear there are some great rock formations on the planet."

"Wow," Vin said with a smile. "You're actually goin' to let me and JD go alone?"

"Against my better judgement," Chris scowled.

"I bet Buck was ready to have a steer," Vin said with a laugh.

"What?" Chris asked confused.

"An old Earth term," Vin said. "I was looking up slang used in the 1990's. Did I get it wrong?"

"Beats the heck out of me," Chris said. "Slang of the 90's isn't something a captain needs to know."

"So who's going to feed Lila?" Vin asked.

"Don't worry about the cat," Chris said. "You know someone will."

"So when is the conference?" Vin asked.

"In two days," Chris said. "You'll take one of the shuttles."

"This is going to be great," Vin exclaimed.

Chris smiled at the Vulcan's enthusiasm. He knew Vin and JD could take care of themselves but trouble always seemed to follow them.


Vin woke in the middle of the night sweating. He threw off the covers but it didn't help. Vin usually liked his room warm but to night it felt like he was stifling. The Vulcan instructed the computer to lower the temperature. He felt restless and disoriented and began to pace the room. He had the urge to hurt someone. An overwhelming desire to destroy something came over him and Vin searched the room. He saw the glass table in front of the couch and went to stand next to it. Vin raised his arms and with an angry scream brought his fists down on the table shattering it. Broken glass cut his right hand and he savored the pain. After he destroyed the table Vin was content and crawled back into bed.


The alarm next to Vin's bed chimed ending his sleep cycle. Vin rolled over and winced at the pain in his hand. Looking down at the sheets he saw the dark green of dried blood. He glanced at his hand and noticed a deep cut but didn't remember where he got it. He shrugged and rolled off the bed and headed for the sonic shower. When he was done he pulled on a clean uniform and left the bedroom. He was surprised to find the shattered remains of the glass table. Vin was confused and looked at his hand. He didn't remember falling and landing on the table. Vin decided he'd better let Nathan take care of his hand.

Nathan was sitting in sickbay when Vin walked in and stood by the door. The chief medical officer knew Vin wasn't always comfortable about coming to sickbay and was surprised to see him.

"Hello Vin," Nathan said with a smile. "What can I do for you?"

"Well I uh......cut my hand," Vin said walking towards him. "I didn't think it was that bad last night."

"Let me see," Nathan said taking his hand.

He turned Vin's right hand over so he could get a better look at the cut. The laceration started at the base of Vin's pinky and ran across the heal of his palm to his thumb.

"How'd this happen?" Nathan asked as he picked up a medical device.

"It's stupid," Vin said evading the question as Nathan slowly passed the portable sealer over the wound closing it.

"Tell me anyway," Nathan insisted looking up.

"I tripped and fell against that glass table in my cabin," Vin lied.

"Shattered it?" Nathan said with a laugh.

"Yeah," Vin smiled glad that Nathan didn't suspect anything. "Into a bunch of pieces. Didn't have a chance to pick it up before I had to go on duty."

"Well be careful cleaning it later," he said and finished sealing the wound. "There you go, as good as new."

"Thanks Nathan," Vin said and turned to leave.

"Anytime Vin," he said and watched Vin walk out the door.

Vin showed up to the bridge late. He quickly moved to navigation and relieved the ensign at the controls. Chris raised his eyebrows as Vin slid into the seat. Vin was rarely late and Chris was curious. He cold see Commander Wilmington was just as curious. He knew he would never be able to keep Buck's curiosity from getting the better of him.

"So Lieutenant lose track of time?" Buck asked.

"No sir," Vin said not offering any more explanation.

"What Commander Wilmington is trying to say, in his oh so subtly way is, why are you late?" Ezra asked getting to the point.

"I was down in sickbay," Vin said. "I cut my hand last night when I tripped and fell into that glass table in my cabin."

"Let me guess," JD said. "You tripped over something on the floor?"

"Yeah," Vin smiled. "Guess I should clean things up."

"Is everyone's curiosity satisfied?" Chris asked. "Do you think we cold get back to work?"

'Aye captains' were quickly said by the two youngest as they turned back to their consoles. Ezra gave Chris a two fingered salute and continued with what he was doing. Chris glanced towards Buck and saw him smiling. Chris shook his head and went back to the report he was reading.


The activity on the bridge was fairly routine for the next couple of hours and Chris sighed in relief. He glanced around the bridge at his officers. Ezra was behind him at the security console talking with one of his team. Buck was checking over the maintenance schedule as a pretty female ensign waited for his signature. Chris shook his head knowing Buck would take his time. Josiah joined them on the bridge and sat watching the stars go by on the view screen. Being the ship's counselor was sometimes a boring job, but Josiah didn't seem to mind. He was always able to occupy himself. Chris looked towards JD and saw the young ensign sitting relaxed in his chair with his fingers flying over the console. JD loved to figure out the distance to stars or how long it would take for a starship to going at a particular warp speed to get to its destination. Other captains thought it was odd that Chris depended on a human for rapid calculations when he had a Vulcan on board. Chris didn't know if it was because humans raised Vin but he wasn't able to do the complex math in his head like other Vulcan's. He looked to JD's left and saw Vin sitting stiffly in his chair. Usually Vin sprawled in his chair completely at ease. As Chris watched he saw Vin shiver.

"Vin you alright?" Chris asked standing up and walking over to him.

"It's cold in here," Vin complained.

"Computer what's the temperature on the bridge?" Chris asked.

"Ambient temperature is 70 degrees. Two degrees higher than Starfleet regulations," said the female voice in what Chris imagined was a scolding voice.

"Same as always," Buck said. "We keep it higher just for you."

"You feeling alright son?" Josiah asked in concern.

"Didn't sleep so good last night," Vin admitted.

"Report to sickbay," Chris ordered.

"I'm alright!" Vin protested.

"I know," Chris said. "But I can't send you to that training course if you're sick."

"Alright," Vin agreed reluctantly and left the bridge.

"Lieutenant Jackson," Chris called over his combadge.

"Jackson here," Nathan said.

"I just sent Vin down to sickbay," Chris said. "Keep and eye out for him."

"Aye Captain," Nathan said with a chuckle.

"Really captain, its as if you didn't trust the lieutenant to go see the good doctor," Ezra said.

"Just covering all bets," Chris replied.

"A wise decision," Ezra said with a smile.


Vin almost decided not to go see Nathan but he just couldn't disobey orders. Maybe he was getting sick. He felt tired and his muscles ached. Vin also had the feeling he needed to do something but had no idea what. He walked in the doors to sickbay and Nathan looked up.

"Back again Vin?" Nathan said pretending he wasn't expecting him. "How come I'm so lucky?"

"Chris ordered me to come," Vin said. "He wants you to check me over. Make sure I'm not getting sick."

"Why would he think that?" Nathan asked taking Vin's arm and led him towards a diagnostic bed.

"I'm cold," Vin said. "And I didn't sleep so good last night."

"Let's see what I can find," Nathan said. "Jump up here and lay back."

Vin did as Nathan instructed and tried to relax. Nathan gave him a complete physical. He didn't find anything out of the ordinary except Vin's heart rate was a little faster. Other than that he as fine.

"Well?" Vin asked propping himself up on his elbows.

"Can't find anything," Nathan admitted.

"I told Chris," Vin said as he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed.

"Is there anything bothering you Vin?" Nathan asked.

"Well," Vin began and wouldn't look at Nathan. "I'm kind of Nervous about me and JD going on this training."

"Why?" Nathan asked confused.

"Because," Vin said looking up. "Look what happened last time I went somewhere with JD. I almost got him killed. If anything happens this time I know Buck will kill me for sure."

"What happened on Dalanta wasn't your fault," Nathan said.

"I know," Vin sighed. "But I don't want Buck to get mad at me."

"Don't worry he won't," Nathan said. "Why don't you go get some sleep and I'll let the Captain know you're alright."

"Thanks Nathan," Vin said hopping off the bed and heading out the door.

Nathan sighed as he watched the Vulcan go. Sometimes Vin took things too literally. He could recall a number of times Buck saying he'd kill anybody if they hurt JD. The rest of the team knew Buck was teasing JD to get him all riled up but obviously Vin had taken it seriously. Nathan left sickbay and headed for the bridge.

Chris waited patiently for word about Vin. He didn't expect Nathan to come to the bridge to make his report and expected the worse.

"He's fine," Nathan said.

"You're sure?" Chris asked.

"Yup," Nathan sad as he took a seat next to Chris. "Except he's got himself all worked up about this conference."

"Why?" JD asked. "It's nothing special."

"He's afraid if you get hurt Buck will kill him," Nathan said with a smile.

"You're kidding," Buck said. "Where'd he get a fool idea like that?"

"Gee Buck, I don't know?" JD said sarcastically. "Maybe it's every time you say 'If someone hurts JD I'll kill them' "

"That's Commander to you kid," Buck scolded and JD blushed. Some times he forgot he was on the bridge. "He can't really believe that."

"This is Vin we're talking about," Josiah said.

"The one that takes everything literally," Ezra pointed out.

"He still blames himself for Dalanta," Nathan added.

"But that wasn't his fault!" JD said loudly defending the Vulcan.

"You don't have to convince us kid," Buck laughed. "I'll go have a talk with Vin."

"Do it later," Nathan said. "I told him to get some sleep."

"OK," Buck said. "I'll straighten him out tonight at our weekly poker game."


Vin woke to the sound of someone pushing his call button. He rolled over and stumbled out of the bed.

"I'm coming!" he yelled as the sound went off again.

"Hey Vin," Buck said as the Vulcan opened the door. "Nice hair."

"What do you want Buck?" Vin asked irritably as he tried to flatten the cowlick in his hair.

"Came to get your for the poker game," Buck said. "And I wanted to talk to you."

"About what?" Vin asked suspiciously.

"Just wanted to let you know I trust you to watch out for JD," Buck said.

"Huh?" Vin asked confused.

"You sure you're feeling OK," Buck asked in concern.

"Yeah," Vin said quickly to cover his confusion. "I'm glad you trust me."

"OK good," Buck said with a smile. "Go take a quick shower and I'll wait for you."

Vin nodded and headed back to his room. He didn't know what Buck was talking about. Come to think of it everything seemed fuzzy. Like his head was stuffed with cotton and he also heard a ringing in his ear. He really wanted to go to this conference and hoped he could keep this all from Chris. He quickly took his shower and then left with Buck. They met the others at their usual table at the 'Saloon'. A few weeks ago they decided Ten Forward was a boring name for the place and started calling it the Saloon. Inez like the name and began to decorate it in a western theme. Gone were the plastic tables to be replaced with synthetic wooden ones. Hanging on the walls were replicas of various types of firearms used during the ancient time period of the west. Vin liked coming to the Saloon even more now. They quickly joined the others and Ezra started dealing the cards. Inez came over to take Vin and Buck's order and left. They played a few hands and Vin realized he couldn't concentrate. The noise of the other patrons was starting to make him crazy. He wanted to hit something to get the noise to stop. Vin didn't know what was happening and suppressed the feelings of rage that was trying to escape. Vin jumped when he felt a hand on his arm.

"It's you're bet Vin," Chris said.

"Huh?" Vin asked confused.

"Its customary to place a bid if you wish to continue playing," Ezra said.

"Oh right," Vin said quickly throwing in a chip.

Chris watched Vin as the game continued. He could tell the Vulcan was distracted and wasn't surprised when he lost the hand. They continued playing for a few hours and Vin tried to cover up the fact that he couldn't remember how play. His mind was all jumbled and it felt like he was supposed to do something. Vin was relieved when JD called it quits. He wanted to get a good night sleep before the left tomorrow. Buck said that was a good idea and Chris agreed. They all drifted off to their cabins. Chris walked with Vin back to his and wished him a good night. Vin entered the cabin and got an overwhelming desire to destroy something. Vin fought the urge and headed for his room feeling completely drained. He fell onto the bed and was instantly asleep


JD was excited. He liked spending time alone with the Vulcan. Vin didn't treat him like a kid. He treated JD like an equal. JD couldn't believe the captain gave them three extra days to do some rock climbing. He looked up Mindan 3 and saw there were all types of formations to climb. The difficulty ranged from easy to extreme. Needless to say JD wanted to try one of the extremes. JD checked to see if he packed everything when his door chimed.

"Hey kid," Buck said when he opened the door. "Got everything?"

"I guess," JD said. "Vin ready to go?"

"Haven't seen him," Buck said. "Chris went to get him for breakfast. We all wanted to make sure you got at least one good meal."

"What are you trying to say Buck?" JD asked with a smile.

"That you and Vin will eat only food containing high amounts of sugar while you're gone," Buck said.

"I know," JD laughed. "Ain't it great."

Buck kicked JD in the butt when he bent over to pick up his bags. JD went to wrestle Buck but the larger man stopped him saying the others were waiting. Buck took JD's bags and they head towards the mess hall. The Maverick wasn't a large starship so it only had a single mess hall. They entered to find Ezra, Nathan and Josiah sitting at a table in the corner. In the unofficial area designated as the 'officers mess'.

"Where's Chris and Vin?" Buck asked as they sat down.

"Don't know," Josiah answered.

"Here they come," JD said as they walked in the door.

Chris and Vin joined the others and JD volunteered to get their breakfast from the replicator. Josiah gave him a hand and in no time they were all enjoying breakfast. Chris noticed that Vin was only picked at his food but didn't say anything He knew the last thing Vin wanted was someone telling him what to do. Unfortunately Buck decided he was going to do just that. He warned the tow of them to be careful and to watch each other's backs. He then began to list the things they shouldn't do.

"Give it a rest will ya Buck!" Vin snapped.

"Easy there tiger," Buck said putting up his hands. "I was just funning with ya."

"You OK?" Chris asked.

"I'm fine!" Vin growled.

"You do realize whenever you or Ensign Dunne use that particular phrase we know the opposite to be true," Ezra pointed out.

"You still nervous about going with JD?" Josiah asked.

"I reckon," Vin sighed. It was as good excuse as any since he had no idea what was wrong.

"Maybe I better go with them," Buck suggested.

"NO!" JD and Vin yelled in unison.

"Well that was a definite answer," Nathan laughed.

They finished their breakfast ad they walked the two youngest down to the shuttle bay. Vin was feeling a little better but that nagging feeling that he had to do something was still with him. Lila was waiting at the shuttle and Vin knew she wanted to go. He told the big cat she had to stay and that Josiah would feed her. Vin hit the code to open the shuttle doors and they turned to say good bye. Chris knew Vin didn't like all this attention so he just wished them luck. The others took their cue from Chris and did the same. Buck gave JD one last headlock before he turned to Vin.

"Now remember Vin," Buck began but Vin interrupted him.

"Anything happens to JD and you'll kill me," Vin said with a smile.

"You got it," Buck laughed and pushed him in the door.

They all stepped back as Vin started the shuttle. It slowly raised off the deck and glided towards the airlock. Once the shuttle Laredo cleared the ship it accellerated and disappeared from view.


Vin sat listening to JD describing Mindan 3 for the last two hours. The Vulcan tried to keep his patience with the human but it was becoming increasingly difficult. Vin's head was killing him and he was ready to hit something. JD was droning away again about what they were going to do and Vin couldn't take any more.

"JD would you just shut up!" Vin yelled.

"Yeah sure Vin," JD said in a hurt voice.

Vin felt terrible after yelling at JD. He didn't know why JD's talking was bothering him. Usually he liked listening to JD talk about any topic. He glanced over at JD and saw the hurt puppy dog look he did unconsciously. Vin sighed and held out his hand.

"Aw hell JD I'm sorry," Vin said.

"It's alright," JD said quietly shaking his hand. "My mom said I could drive a person to distraction."

"No, JD, it's not alright," Vin said hanging his head. "I had no right to yell at ya. Its just I have a headache."

"Jeez, Vin, why didn't you say something sooner?" JD asked.

"It wasn't so bad before," Vin admitted. "But it seems to be getting worse."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Actually yeah," Vin smiled knowing JD was going to like this. "Think you can pilot this heap for a couple of hours while I get some sleep?"

"Really?" JD asked surprised.

"Why not?" Vin asked. "You've had the training. The computer will let you know if you go off course."

"Thanks Vin," JD said. "I won't disappoint you."

Vin smiled as he watched JD lean over the console and transfer controls of the shuttle to his board. Vin leaned back and tried to get comfortable. His body was starting to ache and he felt tired. Vin fell asleep to JD whistling happily.

JD flew the shuttle without incident for two hours. He checked the course to Mindan 3 and the computer indicated they had three more hours to go. He glanced over at Vin and the Vulcan was still sound asleep sprawled in the chair. JD was starting to get bored. Vin was right the computer practically flew the shuttle. To banish the boredom JD started investigating the planets they were passing. Most of them were gas giants without a breathable atmosphere and nothing interesting to look at. Just ahead he scanned a large grayish white planet that had a nitrogen and oxygen rich atmosphere. JD set the scanner to maximum and found the planet was an arctic nightmare. Average temperature at the equator was 35 degrees. At the poles it was a brutal -103 degrees. JD shivered just thinking about it. He decided to scan for a more hospitable planet but couldn't find one. He contented himself with studying the ice giant.


Vin was abruptly woken when he heard an alarm sounding in the shuttle. He jerked awake and looked around. JD was frantically trying to make course adjustments on the console. The harsh sounding alarm was ripping through Vin's head. He gave a scream and punched his fist into the alarm. JD jumped and stared at Vin.

"Sorry JD it startled me," Vin apologized. "What's going on?"

"I don't know," JD said. "The shuttle started losing power."

"Computer," Vin said as he tried to gain control. "State the problem."

"Malfunction in aft thrusters," it replied.

"Damn!" Vin cursed and ran a diagnostic. "We need to find a planet to land on."

"There's only one with and atmosphere," JD said.

"Good set in a course while I try to keep this bucket flying," Vin ordered.

"But Vin its climate is arctic," JD said wit a scared look in his eyes.

"We don't have much choice," Vin said looking at JD. "We'll just have to make do."

The shuttle lurched and threw them both out of their chairs. The craft pitched forward and they both climbed back into their seats. They buckled the safety straps on as Vin wrestled the sluggish ship back on course.

"JD send out the distress beacon," Vin yelled over the noises the shuttle was making.

"OK," JD yelled and launched the beacon.

JD helped Vin make course adjustments as they approached the planet. Vin guided the craft as best he could. JD set the course so they would land as close to the equator as possible. He knew they wouldn't stand a chance anywhere else. They broke through the planet's atmosphere and were surrounded by clouds. The shuttle was buffeted from all sides by strong winds. It took all of Vin's skill as a pilot to keep them on course. The shuttle was falling like a rock and Vin knew the surface was coming up fast. He tried to apply breaking thrusters but got no response. Vin tried to level the shuttle but it was no use the controls weren't responding.

"Hold on!" Vin yelled.

The shuttle bounced off a cliff and continued on its erratic course. The shuttle finally came to a stop as when it crashed in a glacier on the side of a mountain.


Lieutenant Standish glanced around the bridge. The young ensigns sitting at navigation and ops were fairly new to the Maverick. Starfleet Command was always sending them rookies straight out of the Academy. They knew the Maverick would give them a good experience under adverse conditions. The Maverick patrolled one of the more volatile sectors of the Federation. Ezra was checking over a security report when Ensign Corin called from ops.

"Sir," she said. "I'm picking up a distress beacon."

"Can you identify?" Ezra asked.

"Checking," she said and made adjustments to her board. "It's the distress beacon from the shuttle Laredo."

"Ensign plot a course to intercept," Ezra instructed.

"Aye sir," she promptly answered. "We can intercept the beacon in three hours at warp seven."

"Ensign Corin program in course," Ezra said as he turned to navigation. "Ensign Michaels once course is set got to warp nine."

"Warp nine aye Sir," he said.

"Captain Larabee report to the bridge," Ezra said over his combadge as he felt the Maverick jump to warp speed.

"What is it lieutenant?" Chris asked.

"Sir we've picked up a distress beacon from the shuttle Laredo," Ezra replied.

"On my way," Chris said.

"All senior officers report to the bridge immediately," Ezra ordered over the ship's speakers.

Chris was the first to arrive on the bridge. Ezra relinquished command to the captain and returned to his station. He informed the captain they were on an intercept course and would rendezvous in approximately three hours.

"What the hell happened?" Chris asked.

"Unknown sir," Ezra said.

"What is it?" Buck asked as he walked on the bridge.

"We picked up the distress beacon from the Laredo," Ezra said as Josiah and Nathan exited the turbo lift.

"Damn it I just knew it!" Buck exclaimed.

"Calm down Buck," Chris ordered. "Ensign Corin what readings are you getting from the area around the beacon?"

"Nothing yet captain," she said. "The beacon is beyond long range sensor."

"As soon as sensors pick up anything let me know," he ordered.

"Aye sir," she answered.

"What do you think happened?" Nathan asked.

"Cold be a number of things," Josiah said. "The beacon could have launched by accident."

"I doubt it," Chris said. "Vin's too careful for that."

"Maybe they were horsing around and launched it my mistake," Buck said grasping at straws.

"Gentlemen speculation as to what transpired is futile and serves no purpose," Ezra said.

"He's right," Josiah agreed. "All we can do is wait."

None of the men were good at waiting. The atmosphere on the bridge became tense and Ensign Coin wished this hadn't happened on her shift. She adjusted the sensors trying to pick up anything but it was no use. They'd just have to wait.


JD woke to the sound of the wind howling outside the shuttle. The temperature inside was getting colder and JD could see his breath steam as he exhaled. He slowly pushed himself back into his seat and looked around. JD couldn't believe it. Vin actually landed the shuttle safely. He looked over to the Vulcan and he was alarmed to see Vin lying lifeless across his console. He carefully unbuckled his restraints and stood. JD's body ached all over and felt a stabbing pain in his chest. He figured he at least had a couple of broken ribs. When he was next to Vin he gently pushed Vin back against the seat. Vin's chin rested against his chest and his long hair covered his face. JD pushed his head back reveal Vin's bloody face. JD was alarmed when he saw the green blood coming from a cut over Vin's right eye. He didn't think he'd ever get used to the color of Vin's blood. JD retrieved the first aid kit and dressed Vin's wound. Vin groaned and JD was glad to hear a sound from the Vulcan.

"Come on Vin wake up," JD called.

Vin didn't respond and remained unconscious. JD knew Vin wouldn't be able to handle the cold and went looking for some blankets. He found the emergency survival kit and pulled out three thermal blankets. He tied one around his neck and tucked the other two around Vin. When he had Vin settled he went to see if he could get the heating system working.

Vin woke to a pounding headache. He cautiously opened his eyes and had no idea where he was. The Vulcan quickly unbuckled himself and got up. He could smell a rival close by. His instincts told him he must eliminate the competition. Vin staggered to the rear of the shuttle when he heard a noise. As he got closer a male emerged from a small room.

"Hey Vin," JD said surprised. "How ya feeling?"

JD was caught completely by surprised when Vin grabbed him and threw him towards the cockpit. The ensign was thrown against the control panels and rolled onto the floor. JD tried to rise as he heard Vin approaching. When Vin got closer he viciously kicked JD in the ribs. JD cried out in pain and knew he was in trouble. He didn't stand a chance against Vin's superior strength. He tried to scramble away and Vin grabbed his right leg and gave it a twist. JD screamed as he felt the lower bone break. Vin gave an animalistic scream and landed on JD's back. He hit the ensign hard in the kidneys and JD arched his back. JD didn't know what to do as he cried out in pain when Vin flipped him on his back.

"Vin it's me," JD pleaded.

Vin growled and punched JD in the jaw. JD tried desperately to fight back but it only seemed to enrage Vin more. The Vulcan pummeled him in the face and JD swore Vin knocked a few teeth lose. He could taste blood in his mouth. Vin continued to punch him and JD knew he was fighting for his life. He got in a lucky blow to the cut over Vin's eye and the Vulcan cried out and backed off. JD dragged himself under one of the chairs and watched Vin warily. Vin heard him and looked up. The ensign shuddered at the look in Vin's eyes. It was as if Vin didn't recognize him. JD figured the low to his head was making Vin go crazy. He cowered as Vin walked towards him and grabbed the chair. The Vulcan screamed as he ripped the chair off its bolts and threw it across the shuttle. He reached down and grabbed JD by the throat and pulled him up. JD feebly punched and kicked Vin as he felt the air being cut off. JD started to panic when he felt himself beginning to black out and knew he was going to die. Vin kept up the constant pressure until he felt JD go limp in his hands. Vin screamed in triumph and threw JD against the wall. He watched in satisfaction as JD's limp body slid to the floor and landed in a heap. Vin sat down across from him and felt the killing lust begin to subside. Now that his opponent was dead he could relax. Vin took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes.

The insistent cold brought Vin back to consciousness. He didn't remember where he was he sat up. He looked around and took in the sight of the crashed shuttle and it all came back to him. Vin frantically searched for JD and found him lying in a heap across from him. A wave of images hit Vin and fell to the floor as the overwhelmed him. He couldn't believe he had killed JD. He opened his eyes again and looked at the ensign.

"What have I done!" Vin screamed and stood up.

Vin had no idea what to do but knew he couldn't stay there with JD. He didn't know why he killed JD but he did know Buck would never forgive him. Vin rushed to the door and pulled it open. A cold arctic blast came through the open door. Vin ignored it as he ran out pulling the door closed behind him.


"Captain I found one planet with an atmosphere," Ensign Corin yelled.

They had been scanning the area since they arrived and found no evidence of the shuttle. Chris figured they were forced to land on one of the planets and his heart sank as the scanned the immediate area only to find uninhabitable worlds.

"On screen," Chris ordered.

The ominous planet appeared on the view screen. Its grayish white surface seemed uninviting. Just from the appearance Chris could tell it was cold.

"Atmosphere is breathable," she said. "But the temperature is only 35 degrees at the equator and -103 at the poles."

"If they're down on the ice ball I hope they're by the equator," Josiah said quietly.

"I'm going down to sick bay to get it ready," Nathan said as he left the bridge.

"Damn it Ezra!" Buck yelled in frustration. "Anything?"

"No," Ezra said. "Wait I'm picking up a signal."

Chris turned to watch as Ezra made an adjustment to his board. The security chief was wearing what Chris called his 'poker face'. They waited a few minutes then Ezra smiled.

"Found the shuttle," he said.

"Josiah you have the bridge," Chris ordered. "Ezra, Buck let's go."

The two officers followed Chris to the transporter room. Ezra fed the coordinated from his console to the transporter. The transporter chief was ready for them and handed them each a parka as the stepped onto the pads. When they were ready Chris nodded and they disappeared.

The inside of the shuttle began to shine as three figures appeared. Ezra immediately pulled out his tricorder. The interior of the shuttle was dark. Night had descended on the planet and it was pitch black. Buck pulled out a lantern and turned it on. The first thing they saw was the destruction to the interior of the shuttle. The second was the crumpled form of JD against the far wall. Buck pulled off his coat and wrapped it around JD as he pulled him into his arms. Buck was shocked at the bruises on JD's face. Around his neck were marks left from fingers as if someone tried to strangle him. JD moaned as Buck checked the rest of him.

"JD can you hear me?" Buck called as Chris knelt at his side.

"Vin.....don't," JD mumbled but didn't wake.

"Damn it Chris what the hell is going on!" Buck demanded. "JD looks like he's been beaten half to death."

"I don't know Buck," Chris admitted.

"There was only one other person on this shuttle Chris," Buck said ominously.

"Get JD back to the Maverick," Chris said avoiding the obvious.

Chris stepped back as Buck hit his combadge and said two to beam up. Their forms shimmered and disappeared.

"Lieutenant Tanner is not the shuttle," Ezra informed the captain.

"Damn it Ezra what the hell happened?" Chris asked.

"Might I suggest we determine the where abouts of Lieutenant Tanner before we begin to speculate," Ezra suggested.

"If he's not in the shuttle there's only one other place he could be," Chris said as he looked at the door.

Ezra already came to the same conclusion when he found ice by the door. He could only wonder what had driven the Vulcan to run from the safety of the shuttle.


Buck materialized on the transporter pad and carried JD to the portable medical bed Nathan was standing by.

"Damn what happened?" Nathan asked when he saw JD.

"Vin beat the hell out of him," Buck said angrily coming to his own conclusions.

"Where's Vin?" Nathan asked in concern as they wheeled JD out.

"Right now I don't care," Buck growled.

Nathan knew not to press Buck. He knew the commander was worried about JD. Nathan knew what Buck said wasn't true but he couldn't ignore the evidence. Vin was the only other person on that shuttle. He knew something must have happened to cause Vin to do that. Nathan shook his head and knew there was no good reason why a fellow officer would beat another half to death.

The transporter chief watched as they wheeled JD to sick bay. Within twenty minutes everyone knew what happened to the young ensign on the shuttle.


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