Christopher Pike slumped into a chair, exhaustion lining his face. As he sat, he surveyed the scene around him. The medical tent he was seated in was filled with lone people of all ages, although majority were young children. Rare few huddled in pairs or groups; most sat in preferred isolation, staring at the waterproof wall with hollow eyes. Miserable noises and heartbreaking cries filled the tent, adding to his already grim mood. Pike sensed movement approaching from his left and he glanced up instinctively to identify the owner of the presence.
'It's sickening' Stephen Garrovick spat out as he dropped into the adjacent chair.
'How could anyone want to be responsible for this?'
He gestured towards the depressing scene around them. Pike stared blankly at the suffering.
'Someone without a conscience,' he replied bluntly.
Garrovick grunted in agreement and slouched sideways in the chair.
'Anyway, I'm collaborating a team to sweep the southern forest. You're welcome to join; it'd be something to do and frankly, anything's better than sitting here absorbing the miserable atmosphere'.
Pike frowned slightly and swiveled his head towards the Starfleet Captain next to him.
'What do you expect to find there?'
'There's been new intel of a group of kids living in the forest. If we can find them and get them to trust us we'd be saving a good number of children'.
Pike nodded slowly, his lieutenant instincts kicking in - if it was a chance to save more lives, it wouldn't hurt to look.
'I'm in,' he told Garrovick, 'when do we leave?'
Garrovick slapped the Captain's shoulders in encouragement and pushed himself off the seat.
'10 minutes, grab your gear'.
Christopher Pike scanned the trees surrounding the small group of Starfleet officers. Their phasers remained undrawn so as not to frighten the children they had come to save. Pike, along with three red-shirts carried supply bags whereas Garrovick and a blue-shirt hauled along packs filled with medical supplies and nutrient supplements. The officers had been trekking the forest for quite some time devoid of action. There was virtually no sign of life - save for forest animals - and their motivational attitudes were gradually replaced by weariness. We could be searching for hours without finding any kids thought Pike. Twenty seconds later he had to eat his own words.
The attack was silent, efficient and fast. Too fast for the reaction time of 6 adults. The forest had been silent; too silent, Pike had pondered - not even the ever present sounds of wildlife. His mind bored from the uneventful walking, Pike had failed to connect the absence of sound to the presence to danger. Too late, he realised his mistake as the forest burst into life.
A heavy branch collided against Pike's shins, bringing him to his knees from the sharp pain. His assailant took the opportunity to jump onto his shoulders and pummel his head. Yelling in pain and shock, Pike retaliated. He pitched forward, rolling on the leaf covered floor as his body hit the ground; knocking off whoever had inhabited his upper body. A muffled yell confirmed his inference and he leapt to his feet, his body crouched in the defensive position that had been drilled into his younger self countless times at the Academy. His aggressive mindset was annihilated however, when he caught sight of his attacker. Two pairs of dark brown eyes stared defiantly back from a height barely below his waist. Quickly, he flicked his eyes towards the other officers and realised that they too, were blindly fighting extremely young opponents. He locked his eyes on the small child once more before the they could take offensive action.
A piercing whistle caused the child to ignore Pike and scamper towards the source. Pike straightened up and whipped his head around the vicinity. The other children who had been attacking the adults had fled towards the whistler as well, leaving the small group baffled at their brief squabble.
Curiously the Starfleet officers all turned to see what, or whom had caused the children to abandon their assault. Pike hesitated when he noticed a blonde hair, blue eyed teenager standing protectively in front of their attackers. He appeared to be the oldest of the children and was aiming a battered phaser towards the group of adults.
It was set to 'kill'.
The leader glared menacingly at the small group, he held the phaser with a steady hand, finger ready on the trigger.
'Who the hell are you?' he demanded.
Pike swallowed nervously. The teenager was a potential threat, there was no doubt in Pike's mind that he wouldn't hesitate to shoot their group should they endanger the children huddled behind the boy. His eyes were particularly unnerving - they were a piercing blue and tugged at an unreachable memory buried deep within Pike. All the children looked malnourished but were relatively unharmed. The same could not be said for their leader, however. Majority of his body was covered in filthy, threadbare material but his uncovered skin had wounds cross-crossing their surface; some which had already scarred. Pike narrowed his eyes, they looked suspiciously like whip marks and covered parts of his arms, legs and chest that was visible. The hand that wasn't holding the phaser was hanging limply at his side, wrapped in crude bandages that did little to hide the swelling underneath. Pike knew a broken hand when he saw it. For the umpteenth time since his arrival to the planet, Christopher Pike felt a surge of rage and bitter disgust at the tyrant Kodos who had ravaged Tarsus IV and it's inhabitants before Starfleet's arrival - the children's health conditions were obviously his doing.
'Mute are you?' the teen asked rudely when none of the officers spoke, 'If you don't tell me who you are in 10 seconds I'll shoot you - I don't care who'.
Garrovick stepped forward to the address the teen who instantly swivelled the phaser around to the Captain's chest. Garrovick halted at the visible threat and raised his hands halfway in a sign of peace.
'We do not mean you any harm,' he began slowly, 'we're only here to help you - we're from Starfleet'.
The teenager snorted.
'I'm not stupid - I see you bloody uniforms. Don't mean jack though, you could be lying for all I know'.
'We're not, Starfleet was alerted to the situation on Tarsus IV only recently and we're here to conduct a rescue of the survivors. My name is Stephen Garrovick – Captain of the USS Farragut – and I would very much like to help you should you allow it; we have food and medical supplies we can offer you'.
The children behind the teenager grew restless at the mention of food but the boy didn't waver, his eyes dangerous and mistrusting. His gaze darted to each officer, calculating and analyzing. Surprisingly, when it reached Pike his eyes remained far longer than it had for any of the other adult's -drilling deep into his subconscious and rendering him slightly uncomfortable. Finally, the teenager seemed to come to a decision. He returned his eyes to Garrovick and lowered the phaser.
'Fine. But I'll only let three officers in the cave, the rest of you have to go back to wherever you came from - I don't want to find you hiding in the trees neither'.
Garrovick nodded and smiled warmly at the teenager.
'Of course,' he agreed.
'I want him to come,' the leader jabbed the phaser at Pike, 'and only he can choose the other two officers. Make sure you bring med's'.
The officers turned to Pike quizzically but he was baffled as they were. Garrovick chucked a look in his direction before addressing the teenager again.
'We can do that,' he agreed.
'Choose; you've got 10 seconds before I clear out of here,' the teenager ordered the Garrovick.
He turned towards the younger children and they scattered into the trees at his subtle hand gesture.
'5 seconds,' he yelled over his shoulder, already beginning to walk towards the maze of trees.
Pike snapped into reality.
'Garrovick and you – he pointed to a medical officer – we'll follow the kid. The rest of you head back to base,'
He shot out the orders in rapid succession and the team hastily obeyed them. In 5 seconds they were following the teenager into the forest.