Calculated Risk Ch. 01byEtaski©
Author's Notes: This story is erotic fantasy written by Etaski. I reserve the right to be listed as the author of this story, wherever it is posted. If found posted anywhere except Literotica.com with this note attached, this story is posted without my permission. © Etaski 2010
This story is a Star Trek story, written on request by a reader here on Literotica. Moreover, it is a Pon Farr story. If you don't know what that is, not to worry, it'll be explained.
There are no canon characters used in this story; all characters are original, though I researched canon information on the setting and alien physiology from various Star Trek wikis, particularly Memory Alpha.
A hardcore Trekkie may find something inconsistent with those details, but please bear in mind that this was written by a casual fan, for a casual fan, with the hope that others may enjoy it as well. Thank you.
Just what was a "wild-ass guess," anyway?
It was one of those things that humans did sometimes. Often it was the result of short-cuts or failing to look far enough ahead, or of simply not having enough information at the right time, being caught off guard. It was that last-ditch effort—based almost solely on intuition and impulse—that essentially made a call out to the universe.
It was, if nothing else, a last act, because doing nothing in the face of crisis was unacceptable. Especially under pressure.
Humans might call it bravery. Courage.
Vulcans more often called it impulse in light of oversight.
Meanwhile, Madeleine Coupiska was willing to settle for "luck."
It was good luck that she was still breathing and had only bruises and body aches after the shuttle had gone down. It was good luck that the buckled metal wasn't warped so badly that she was to be sealed in a baking coffin under the hot suns and that she had been able to get the door open to get out onto the sand. It was good luck that there was a spare survival pack, containing a functioning respirator and night torch and some water in two canteens, plus emergency rations and a small med kit.
It was bad luck that her compass was shattered and that the communications inside the shuttle had gone out; it was bad luck that she didn't know exactly where she'd struck ground, only that she was likely a good few days walk from the nearest Vulcan city of Ta'Ralor.
It was *very* bad luck that the pilot hadn't made it. It wasn't just the heavier gravity of this planet that weighed her down as she sank to her knees outside the wreckage. After she'd used the numb aftermath to take stock of her situation and gather a few much-needed facts and supplies, that was when regret and sadness for a man she'd only recently met had begun to press in with the shock. She couldn't stop from crying then, even though she knew she was wasting water in an environment where she wouldn't have much to spare.
Going by "the book" in this situation, it said that a person should stay put at the wreck site so that any search parties could more easily find her and she would conserve her energy and resources by not stumbling around. Generally speaking, it was very good advice.
The problem in this specific instance was that no one would notice her lack of communication until at least ten days from now.
She had been on her way at last to visit a very small tribe of Vulcans farther to the west of Ta'Ralor. It was to be Pith'Regin in that region, loosely translated as the Time of Reflection, a periodic ritual both social and solitary in nature. She wanted to observe it on behalf of her research for resource material, comparing and contrasting the cities with a few more rural outposts.
The agreement had been that Madeleine could do so only provided that she brought no technological devices that would interfere and distract during this time of quiet, which would last six nights. At that point, the tribe would send one of their best runners back to Ta'Ralor to send back the shuttle to retrieve her. She knew a good runner from their location took three and a half days to reach the city, even if a shuttle jump would only take a few hours at most.
Still, it had been a generous offer from one of the most reclusive tribes on Vulcan. The message had leapfrogged in via relay communications barely five days after she'd arrived on the planet and had made the general request known to a few different outposts that promised to spread the word.
The odd thing was that they had also added a request. She was to pick up the runner they'd mentioned—a 21-year-old Vulcan named Skaun—if he was still in the city, and bring him along with her.
The message had ended abruptly: "Check medical facilities."
Madeleine had agreed to abide by the terms and to search for the runner in the city, naturally curious by now. It had taken a better part of the night to track down news of an unknown Vulcan in Ta'Ralor; several Vulcans at the three hospitals and a dozen clinics recognized the name but would not or could not tell her where he'd gone next.
Finally she found something solid at one of the smaller clinics. Pressing an urgent message for him from his tribe—only partly true—they'd finally told her that Skaun had signed a waiting order three days ago to purchase something included an anticipated medicinal delivery. He'd already picked it up and had presumably left the city that evening, on his way back to his tribe immediately after claiming his purpose for being there.
Damn it. Would they still let her come out now, without the runner?
She'd sent the information back to the outpost to pass on to the recluse tribe; after a few more hours waiting, they'd made a reply. They thanked her for the information and did not renege on their offer. She could still come to them and stay for Pith'Regin.
But that message had ended thus: "Search for our runner on the ground while on the shuttle. Pick him up if you can, Ms. Coupiska. It is of great importance."
Again, she'd agreed. But what in the world was going on?
It would have been rude to ask. Whatever it was, it was private, though she could guess that someone was sick.
The Federation scholar had next hired a shuttle already planning to head Vulcinis up north; the pilot was a human man who'd be "leapfrogging" through his own set of outposts before reaching the larger city, dropping off and taking on cargo as he went. He was willing to take her on as well, and they would leave in the morning. Vulcans might be nocturnal by nature but humans still preferred to fly by day, even if it was hot as Hell on this planet.
According to her hosts, there was a "most likely" route the runner would have taken; it was not the first time a runner had come down from those mountains, after all, and it was logical to use the most efficient path.
What she'd already considered, however, was that the Vulcan runner would've taken shelter when the suns rose, while they were flying, and even if they'd waited until evening to leave, neither she nor her human pilot would be able to see him on the ground in the nighttime with their own eyes. Infrared would probably work, but that would be vying with any other nocturnal creatures roaming around—which could be many. With infrared it was hard to determine more than "it moves" and "it's big/small."
She'd weighed the options but her pilot had argued, saying it would slow them down and the risk was too high to try any nighttime search. What the small tribe asked was too much.
So they left that morning not expect to see him at all, and Madeleine was prepared to tell the tribe that when she got there. They'd still keep scanners on the ground, though, just was in case they got lucky.
It was well into morning when she had suddenly jerked upright in her seat and jabbed at the screen. "There! Look!" she cried to the pilot.
They were both shocked to see an adult Vulcan indeed still running along the ground in the daylight. The pilot had glanced at her and she knew the expression. Now they had to do as they'd agreed they would do: they had to try and pick him up in the harsh wilderness with few safe places to land.
That attempt to land had been their undoing. As they slowed and banked over a series of higher hills, something had seemed to strike the shuttle from below. The motion had been chaotic and her memory was fuzzy; the vertigo as the world had spun out of control made her nauseous, but she clearly recalled the smell of sulfur and a sound like a hot, blasting roar as their shuttle was knocked violently to the side.
They'd been too close to the ground and the pilot had been unable to recover them out of the spin, though he'd shouted something about hitting a sand-slide instead of naked stone.
That had been the wild-ass guess; straining the controls toward one crash site over another. She still didn't know how he could've seen it, or pulled toward it. But he had.
Madeleine had been knocked out for a little while but awoke still strapped in her seat, daylight and sand leaking through the cracks in the hull. The pilot was strapped to his seat as well and mostly intact...but his neck had been broken somehow by the impact.
This likewise broken shuttle hadn't been planning to return to Ta'Ralor for months. Her fellow researchers were expecting a runner to return in ten days to say she was ready for a new shuttle to be sent out. Until then? They wouldn't even think about sending out a search party, probably not until the runner was overdue by three days or more.
Thirteen days minimum. She did not have nearly enough water and food to last that long sitting in one place on this arid, desert planet. She had to leave the crash site and take her chances. She had to find help. She could always bring someone back here later to get the pilot.
She had to find that runner before he got too far away. Or maybe just find his tracks and follow him.
He had to stop soon; he'd been running all night.
Skaun had calculated the risk, taking together distance, nights, and interaction with people: a three in seven chance that he would be caught in the wilderness between two specific locations when the time arrived.
Twenty-eight point five seven percent.
Acceptable, because his brother needed the medicine from Ta'Ralor or his chance of survival would not rise from what the doctor had said: thirty-five percent.
Not acceptable. His own risk was lower.
There had been a brief debate between the elders, the healer, Skaun's parents, and Skaun himself. Skaun was the one known to be closest to Pon Farr within his tribe; they were correct in that it was very dangerous for him to leave now. Yet Skaun was also their fastest runner, he knew the path to the city very well, and Srill was his blood relation, his younger brother who'd contracted a persistent illness that wouldn't leave his lungs without stronger medicine than they had.
"No matter what," he had debated, "this Pith'Regin will not be a peaceful one for me. Between Pon Farr and Srill's weakening state, I will be the most distracted. It is most logical that I be given this task on which to focus, to run to Ta'Ralor and bring back what my brother needs."
They had agreed to his reasoning even knowing the risk. Actual items of value to trade were spare but the elders seemed to think it would be enough for the medicine without Skaun having to spend days working to earn it.
Unfortunately it was not also logical to send a female with him. They had no unmarried female runner both of the correct age and who would be able to keep up with him. In addition, the risks of leaving her mid-way between the tribe and the city to meet him coming back out-weighed the potential benefit. The exact time frame was unknown, delays were possible, and as a result, they could lose two of their young adults rather than one.
Skaun had agreed with them: he would go alone.
That had been eight nights ago. He had made it along the known route to Ta'Ralor in less than four nights. Unfortunately the medicine hadn't been immediately available from the hospital, and he'd waited the rest of that night plus three more for an expected shipment to come in. He had stayed in one of the temples to conserve the trade credit he did have, and offered simple work in exchange for food, keeping mostly to himself.
That delay, however, had upped his calculated risk from twenty-eight percent to fifty-six. Skaun was not certain of the moment Pon Farr would come upon him, but he could narrow it down to a three-day window. The evening they received the shipment at the clinic, he had two choices: he could stay in Ta'Ralor for up to another seven nights, wait for Pon Farr and to act on it, then return. Or he could run against the suns and try to make it back in three nights, just in time before he may be overtaken.
The net difference was four to eight more nights that Srill would have to wait. If it had only been four since he left the tribe, Skuan would choose it for his own sake. But it had already been eight. That would total at least fifteen nights, possibly more, if he stayed in the city to wait out his time. He did not have anything of enough value to justify to a pilot for a trip via soaring shuttle; he did not think he would win a debate on that, and working for that same value would take even longer than waiting for Pon Farr.
No matter which way he looked at it, Srill's chances of recovery would be lower than thirty-five percent when he returned, if he was not too late. Skaun did not miss the fact as well that if he was caught by the insanity out in the wilderness, he may not make it back at all and both brothers would die.
Absolute value dictated that if Skaun stayed in the city, it would most likely result in one brother surviving: himself.
Yet doing so would invalidate his argument for going in the first place. It wasn't perfect logic, it was calculated risk which had just gotten higher.
But his brother was worth the risk or he wouldn't have left.
Unable to accept more delay, Skaun decided to run against the suns and that fifty-six percent.
The first night had gone as expected: his tough, bare feet and long legs kept a measured, constant rate, his pack at its heaviest again with his new supplies, the second most important one next to the water—the medicine—packed specially to prevent breakage.
He did not think of much beyond Srill as he ran; he focused, and he breathed. Skaun allowed all meditation he experienced as he travelled across the ground to minimize distraction and control his exhaustion.
His lungs filled and filtered the air in large quantities; his heart beat at around two hundred forty-two beats per minute. His blood vessels were fully dilated, releasing as much heat as possible as his skin remained dry and restricted water loss; hard as he was running, he did not sweat.
He did not have to blink or shut his eyes often, though dust and particles were ubiquitous in Vulcan air; nictitating membranes moved horizontally across his eyes when necessary, keeping them moist and protected while maintaining visibility.
When Skaun noticed the first disruption in his runner's equilibrium, he saw that had pushed himself far into the deep red, Vulcan dawn. His heart seemed to shudder then, surging then slowing notably before regaining its powerful pace.
It was disconcerting, but when nothing else happened for a while, he mentally recalculated his risks—eighty-six percent—and continued. He would have to run longer before resting to compensate.
As the first sun climbed higher and the young Vulcan monitored his rising internal temperature, he also noticed a change in his gut, a tightening of muscle and what he could only call a flutter in his stomach. The back of his head began to ache.
"I'm tired," he thought to himself, stopping briefly to drink water. "I truly must to rest."
Still he kept jogging for a little longer, slowing down as the heat increased and his mind wandered more than any Vulcan was comfortable letting it wander. He wasn't even sure what the last thing that he saw had been when he heard the familiar volcanic vent blast hot gas into the air.
It grabbed his attention and he stopped, his insides still shuddering uncomfortably. Skaun didn't blink against the sudden particle surge in the air—he didn't need to—as he located the chimney of smoke and air two hillcrests to his left. He did blink in pure surprise, however, as a shuttle careened out of control as a result of the blast, streaking over his head and going down somewhere out of sight several hills to his right. He well heard the expected crash.
The Vulcan stared expressionless for a moment before realizing variables had changed more than he could have predicted, and finally accepted that his initial calculated risk had become a one hundred percent certainty. He sought out a rocky overhang to sit in the shade, drink a little more water, and ponder what to do next.
Srill was still waiting. Skaun could ignore the downed shuttle and try to keep going. Though he knew it was too late to avoid Pon Farr, he may still be able to travel regardless. He could feel some physical changes starting already, it had come too early by his estimate, but he could neither retreat to Ta'Ralor in time nor make it back to his tribe before the neurochemical imbalance might triple in strength over the next forty-eight hours. He knew his motivation would be doubly powerful, at least.
He still had to sleep, however; it would do his body more damage to keep running in the daylight. It was time to wait for evening. And if he'd miscalculated his window of time, how could he calculate what the effects of lack of sleep would be, possibly progressing plak-tow much more quickly? After all, it was called plak-tow—the blood fever—for a reason. No Vulcan wished to die by insanity.
Additionally, those in the shuttle may be dead or may still be alive. He would have to search for the crash to find out. And then what? He would not be much help, and he might even be a danger to them, particularly if his imbalance led to kal-if-fee, the challenge fight to the death with another male. Though the violent outburst might—might—help relieve the imbalance, Skaun had no desire to kill an innocent who may already be injured.
There may even be a living female in that shuttle, one who may be willing to help him, if she was not hurt too badly. If she was Vulcan. If she was unmarried. So many "ifs."
There were now several new risks, but with too many unknown factors. He did not have enough information to make a logical decision with a knowable outcome, except for one: if he stayed here alone, he would be lost to the blood fever, and the victims in the shuttle crash would not likely receive any help. He was the only one who could help in a timely manner.
"Please understand my thinking, Srill," he thought as a powerfully heavy feeling entered his chest and traveled to his head. "I regret failing you."
Skaun replaced the water container in his pack, stood up, and went searching for the shuttle.
Smashed compass or not, Madeleine at least knew by the suns which direction would lead her back to that "path" where she'd seen the Vulcan running. At least she hoped so.
She was so sore, pulled muscles tightening up with every minute it seemed, and she practically had to climb on four points of contact every moment, over and down hills as she fought against the higher gravity. She had only been on Planet Vulcan for a week; it usually took several weeks and plenty of working out to build the new muscle needed to move as the natives did across the challenging landscape.
She had mostly been sitting at her computer doing preparative research and walking around the city. No big work-out there. Hell, that's why she was taking a shuttle and not *hiking* out to this place in the middle of nowhere!