No matter how nerdy I’ve been in my life, I could always comfort myself with the knowledge that I never — in my adult life, anyway — wrote “fan fiction.” That changed a year ago this month, when Leonard Nimoy passed on.
The actor, of course best known for playing Mr. Spock in Star Trek, was a childhood idol. A few months before his death, a friend of mine had given me a reissue of the 1972 Mr. Spock model kit by Aurora — the first kit of a Star Trek character (earlier models were of the spaceships). Spock was depicted, with uncharacteristic aggression, zapping one of the heads of a giant three-headed snake with his phaser.
I had this model when I was 10 years old, but I ruined it with the paint job I gave it, as my impatience and miserable manual skills ruined most of the models that had the misfortune to come home with me in those days. But I always loved the box art, which set this scene on a green-skied planet with the starship Enterprise skimming by overhead, and when I heard of Nimoy’s passing, I decided to memorialize him with a story that would (with tongue in cheek) place this scene in context.
So here, fondly dedicated to Nimoy, is my very affectionate Star Trek fan fiction parody. I should also mention, to avoid wasting anybody’s time: This story is not pornographic. I was unaware, at the time I wrote it, of the frequency with which “fanfic” is used as an outlet for sexual fantasies. I have no objection to this in principle, certainly, but my fascination with Nimoy, Shatner, et al. doesn’t happen to be sexual. Really, it isn’t. At all. Honest.
By the way, the reissue Mr. Spock model my friend sent me is still in the box. I’m afraid I’ll ruin that one, too. I doubt my modeling-building chops are better now than they were back in the ‘70s.
The Tripleheader Incident
Three figures materialized, under a green sky of roiling clouds and lightning. The moment the shimmering of the transporter beam had subsided, the two humans on the left and the right immediately grimaced, both at the wind and at the smell of the air. The taller figure in the center squinted slightly, but did not otherwise react.
“That stinks,” said Leonard McCoy, covering his mouth and nose.
“Your gift for understatement remains unrivaled, Doctor,” said the figure in the middle.
“You’ll have to excuse the emotional reaction, Spock,” said McCoy. “The whole planet has a fatal case of flatulence.”
“A pungent description, Doctor,” said Spock. “But the gas that’s venting through the crust is mostly sulfur, not methane.”
“Whatever it is, let’s not spend any more time here than we have to,” said the young man on the right—James Kirk by name, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. “Spock, Bones, let’s have your readings, so we can get this done.”
Spock and McCoy were already at work with their tricorders. After a few seconds, McCoy looked up.
“Well, despite the stink, the atmosphere is breathable, even without filter masks. It should be safe for at least a few more hours.”
“I concur with the Doctor,” said Spock, “however there is still considerable hazard in being on the surface. Atmospheric instability is increasing rapidly, as is tectonic activity.” As if to confirm this, the ground shuddered slightly under their feet.
“Recommendations, gentlemen? Should we proceed or not?”
“You know where I stand already, Jim,” said McCoy. “I think it’s crazy. We’re a starship, not Noah’s Ark. And this thing’s venom is seriously nasty. I doubt that any of our anti-venoms would work on it. This would be a highly reckless operation even if the planet wasn’t a day away from breaking to pieces.”
“Dr. McCoy’s assessment of the danger is inarguable. However, Professor Stanley and his colleagues are experienced at this sort of capture and removal, the scientific value of the species is considerable, and a basic respect for life suggests that the risk is worth taking, provided it can be accomplished quickly.”
“The whole thing should have been done weeks ago, if it was going to be done at all,” muttered McCoy.
“True but irrelevant, Doctor,” said Spock.
“We’ll give them an hour,” said Kirk, flipping open his communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise. Beam down Professor Stanley and his team.”
A few second later three more sparkling human outlines appeared, then faded, leaving behind a tall thin bearded man in his fifties and two younger assistants, a man and a woman, all in beige overalls. A metal box large enough to fit at least two people, with anti-grav carriers on each end, had beamed down behind them.
“All right Professor,” said Kirk. “You have an hour. I think I can take the smell that long.”
“That may not be enough time, Captain,” said Stanley. “Tripleheaders are shy, elusive animals.”
“Sir, Aurora Colubra II is about to collapse like a bad soufflé. It isn’t especially safe for the Enterprise even to be in orbit around it, let alone for us to be standing here. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in an hour, we’ll have to abort for everyone’s safety, including yours.”
“My safety is not important, compared to the preservation of a species,” said Stanley. “Nor, in my judgment, is that of a starship.”
“You’re free to judge the value of your own life, Professor,” said Kirk calmly, “But not that of my ship.”
“Allow me to point out, Professor,” put in Spock, “that your hour is now down to fifty-eight minutes. I recommend that no more time be wasted.”
A jagged green bolt of lightning slammed into the ground a few hundred yards away, and everyone felt its charge wash over them.
This apparently helped Stanley agree to the timetable. He turned, nodded to his assistants, and gestured toward the many small, dormant volcanic craters in the area.
“Dr. Strecker, Dr. Bass, start scanning the craters.”
“I’m getting nothing,” said Strecker, the young man, looking down at his tricorder. “No life readings.”
“It’s as we feared,” said Bass. “All this static is interfering with our scanners.”
“We’ll have to start checking the craters visually,” said Stanley. “It’s dangerous and slow, but we have no choice. And let me warn you all, phaser on stun may not be effective on an animal this size, so if you encounter one, aim for the center head.
“Doesn’t it have two more heads to spare?” asked Kirk.
“We believe that only the center head has a complete brain, Captain,” said Stanley. “The outer two have ganglia, but they’re controlled by the center. Of course we’d know for certain, if it weren’t for the Federation’s idiotic deference to the nonsensical religious taboos of the natives here, keeping us from doing any proper field studies. Now that those infuriating people finally agreed to be evacuated, science can proceed.”
“Isn’t it possible there are no life readings because they’ve all died already?” asked McCoy. “Most of those craters aren’t exactly dormant any more. They’ll have had toxic gases venting through them for months now.”
“We have been generously granted an hour to establish that’s not the case,” snapped Stanley. “Until that hour is up, we…”
“Excuse me, Professor,” said Spock, who was peering at an area some distance away. He pointed. “I think you might find something of interest in that rockslide.”
The party hurried toward it. Lying still among a heap of fallen rocks at the foot of a small slope was a thick oblong object, dark green on top shading to a yellowish underside. It was the lower body of an enormous snakelike reptile. As they got closer, they saw the upper body fork into three necks, each topped by a heavy, square-jawed head. The center head was invisible under a large, roughly triangular boulder, from beneath which had seeped a pool, now dry, of yellow blood.
“It’s a tripleheader,” said Stanley, almost reverently.
“No life readings,” said Strecker, scanning. “The rock must have smashed its head. We’re too late.”
“We can collect it,” said Stanley. “Go get the carrier at once, please.” He turned to Kirk. “I still intend to use the every minute of the hour you’ve given us, Captain, to find a live specimen. But even a dead specimen will give us more knowledge of this species then we’ve had to date. And maybe we can get permission to clone it, if the idiots on the Council can understand the importance of…”
“Look out!” said Kirk. As the two assistants had risen and turned their backs on the creature, the eyes of the head nearest them had crawled open, and fixed on Dr. Bass, the female assistant. In one swift, smooth movement the head reared up, taller than Dr. Bass, the mouth opened, and the head darted down. The footlong fangs swung forward, deploying, but just before they would have connected with the young researcher’s back, Kirk’s shoulder slammed into her, knocking her out of the striking creature’s path.
Kirk himself was not so lucky, however. As he flung himself sideways, he felt the fangtips tear horizontally through his tunic.
And his skin.
As quickly as he felt their sting, however, the fangs jerked away, and Kirk rolled to the ground. He felt a sudden, terrible tightening in his chest, and unconsciousness swept over him.
When he drifted awake, he was in Sickbay, floating on a lake of numb tingling, straining to draw each breath. McCoy was looking anxiously down at him.
“Bones?” he gasped. “Is everybody…”
“Everybody’s fine. Except you. We aborted and came back to the ship as soon as you got hurt.”
“What about the…”
“Don’t try to talk, Jim. Just keep breathing. I’ll give you another tri-ox compound in a little while, once your metabolic rate has stabilized. I’m trying to refine a specific anti-venom out of what Stanley and his people were able to extract from that blasted monster, but so far I’m not having much luck. The venom they’ve collected is too weak. The creature was too old, and besides the potency degrades post-mortem.”
“I wouldn’t…have guessed it…was weak.”
“You were luckier than you think. All you got was a scratch from the fangs, thanks to Spock. He got an arm around that thing’s head, yanked it away, and broke its neck. If you’d gotten the full wallop, we’d be planning a funeral with honors right now. Apparently Stanley’s theory about only the middle head having a brain needs some revising.”
Suddenly the Enterprise shook, violently enough for McCoy to steady himself on the edge of the bed.
“Where…” said Kirk.
“We’re still in orbit,” said McCoy. “A very low, rapidly decaying orbit. The planet has started to implode.”
“We have to…go…”
“We can’t just yet, Jim. Spock’s beamed back down to the planet.”
Spock could feel the surface of Aurora Colubra II shivering constantly beneath his feet from the moment he beamed down. He shot a glance upward. There was the Enterprise, tiny but visible in the sky, skimming along just above the swiftly shrinking atmosphere. He had very little time indeed. He scanned the many cone-shaped craters around him, but the interference was too great for any detailed readings. Green lightning crackled again nearby, and his tricorder’s screen went blank.
So he closed his eyes and concentrated, ignoring the sulfurous stench as no human could have. Then he re-opened them, fixed his gaze on a particular crater in the middle distance, and began to stride toward it.
When he was perhaps ten meters away, he heard hissing, and the sound of leathery skin on leathery skin as it uncoiled. He slipped the carrying pouch off of his shoulder, let it fall to the ground, and kept advancing.
The first of the great reptilian heads appeared above the craggy edge of the crater, eyes bright with hatred, tongue flicking in and out. A second head, identical, followed, and then the third. A tripleheader.
As Spock hopped to high ground and drew his phaser, he had time to reflect that the Federation colloquialism for this creature—the native name was all-but-unpronounceable—derived from an obscure term in the archaic Earth game of baseball. Interesting how many familiar Earth expressions derived from that peculiar activity’s jargon. He would have to read a bit more about it when he had some free time…
The three heads drew back in unison, ready to strike. Spock leveled his phaser and squeezed the trigger. The weapon squealed, and blue beam lit up the head to the left, which slumped over, stunned. The center and right heads collapsed as well. Professor Stanley was apparently correct that only one of the heads carried a complete brain, but he had jumped to a conclusion in assuming it was the center head. Almost any attacker would make the same assumption. A fascinating natural decoy.
The Vulcan flipped open his communicator.
“Spock to Enterprise.”
“We were getting worried, Mr. Spock,” came Lt. Uhura’s voice.
“Alert the transporter room. I’m beaming up in approximately 49 seconds, along with a large specimen of the planet’s fauna. Please have Professor Stanley and his team standing by with a specimen container, and instruct Mr. Sulu to leave orbit at maximum impulse power as soon as I’m aboard.”
“Aye aye sir.”
No other member of the Enterprise crew would have had the physical strength to haul the stunned reptile’s coils out of the crater single-handedly, but Spock did it with little strain. Then he retrieved his storage pouch, and jumped into the crater.
Forty-one seconds later Spock climbed back out, the pouch over his arm now full. He signaled the Enterprise, and he and the great unconscious reptile sparkled and vanished. A few seconds later, the starship itself streaked away, out of the green, lightning-laced sky.
Hell is a place where it’s hard to breathe, Kirk was thinking, as McCoy came in with his hypo. Another tri-ox compound, so soon? It only helped a little, but Kirk would take whatever he could get.
As the hypo hissed into Kirk’s arm, however, he felt his respiration ease almost at once, and within a minute he was breathing normally. Heaven is a place where it’s easy to breathe, he thought.
“You can thank a certain pointy-eared science officer with a death wish, Jim,” said McCoy. And indeed, just then Spock was walking into the room. “He cut it close, too. The planet caved in five minutes after we left orbit.”
“Four minutes and 18 seconds, to be exact, Doctor,” said Spock. “I’m pleased to see you feeling better, Captain. As you guessed, Doctor, the venom of the young creatures was of sufficient potency for distillation.”
“Young creatures?” asked Kirk, with a luxurious deep breath.
“Eggs, Captain,” explained Spock. “I was able to remove 19 eggs, along with the mother, from a nest.”
“Needless to say, Stanley is walking on air,” remarked McCoy.
“They were nearly hatched, so the Professor was able to extract one of the young creatures, and milk it for venom.”
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“How did you find the nest, among all those craters?”
“As Dr. McCoy may have told you, I was forced to employ the Vulcan technique of Tal-shaya upon the unfortunate creature that injured you.”
“He did tell me. Thank you, Spock.”
“No thanks are necessary, Captain. But in so doing, I came into contact with its mind. It was a male, and thought that it was defending its mate and its brood. Fleeting though it was, this contact allowed me to locate the correct crater. For a creature with three heads, it had, I must say, a rather one-track mind.”