number one #1

Fic: Invictus (Number One, gen)

Title: Invictus
Author: igrockspock
Characters: Pike, Number One
Rating: PG
Summary: She'd let him die to save his crew. Just not today.
Notes: for "the question you have to ask yourself...is do you feel lucky today?" at where_no_woman's drabbling on the silver screen. Cleaned up and slightly altered for posting here.


One lifts her head and peers cautiously over the rocky opening of the cave. The bodies of six soldiers are strewn across the sand, each with a neat black hole on the left side of their chests. In the distance, two figures shimmer in the late afternoon heat. The edges of her goggles are rimmed with sweat and dust; the back of her throat is hot and dry. The phaser rifle is heavy against her shoulder, but she doesn't put it down, not even when she turns to inspect the away team behind her.

Three of her crew -- Pike's crew, really, but hers now because she's in charge of keeping them alive -- lie supine on the floor of the cave, Boyce moving fluidly between them with tricorders and hyposprays. Stable? she asks with her eyes. Stable, he replies with his. She turns her attention toward the figures in the distance.

"Lower your weapon!" one of them calls.

She doesn't answer.

"Lower your weapon!" he shouts again, voice echoing across the empty desert.

She ignores him again.

"Lower your weapon or I will fire!"

She raises the scope to her eye. He has nothing, she knows. Nothing that can reach her from that distance, anyway. She will let him scream himself hoarse to discover that he has no power over her. Pike would accuse her of enjoying this. If she can ever figure out where the mercenaries are hiding him, that is.

The figure in the front stumbles, and the man in the back -- the shouting one -- yanks him up. Her heart catches in her throat when they come into range through her scope. Pike lurches in front, standing as straight as he can, which right now is barely vertical. The man's jacket is open in the front, the insignia nearly covered by dirt and sand. Still, just from the way he stands, she can tell he's a mercenary from the same company as the soldiers she just killed. He jams a phaser against Pike's temple.

"I have your captain," he calls. "Surrender or he dies."

One would swallow if her throat weren't so dry. Instead, she calls his bluff.

"If you kill him, you have no hostage and you still can't get in here."

Her logic is sound, she knows; Pike is worth a lot of credits to a lot of people, but only if he's alive. She hopes to god the mercenary is smart enough to figure that out, but not quite smart enough to leave with him immediately.

A faint, high-pitched whine spreads across the desert, the sound a phaser powering up. He is trying to call her bluff, but she ignores it. A phaser that makes a sound like that has to be at least 30 years old. If she can get him to waste just one shot, he'll be defenseless for at least 10 seconds while it recharges. Of course, first she'll have to figure out how to get him to shoot without killing her or Pike in the process. For that, she'll need time. She resolves to prolong the conversation for as long as she can.

"You're going to let your captain die?" he calls to her, jamming the phaser tighter against Pike's skull.

"You're right," she calls back, her voice echoing across the empty space. "I'd let him die to protect his crew."

It's true. She would. But not today. Her spare phaser is still wedged against her foot. She kicks it back into the cave and hopes that Spock gets the message.

The mercenary changes tactics.

"He loves you, you know. Kept calling for you all night in his sleep. And you're going to let him die."

One does not answer until she hears Spock's faint footsteps behind her, climbing carefully up the wall that leads to the second, hidden opening at the top of the cave. The mercenary doesn't want to kill Pike, that much she knows; if he did, he would've done it already and not bothered with all the shouting. She just has to keep him talking long enough for Spock to take him down.

"If you kill him, I'll shoot you before his body even hits the ground."

She represses a shudder at the thought of Pike's -- Chris's -- body lifeless on the desert floor. But his death is not the real problem. Tempting the mercenary like this is a dangerous game; if he has any sense, he'll threaten to torture Pike next. Pretending to be cavalier about his death is already sapping enough of her energy; she doubts she would have the fortitude to watch him suffer. For the whole ship, maybe; for her and Boyce and the three lieutenants on the floor behind her, no. She consoles herself that none of them would want her to make that trade either.

One hears faint footsteps on the roof of the cave. Something in her stomach and chest goes light with relief, but she keeps her body tensed around her phaser rifle. Even when she sees the red dot on the mercenary's forehead, she knows better than to relax. Instead, she shifts her weight slightly, wedging her left foot against the rock behind so she can push off and charge if anything goes wrong. Involuntary, she counts the ways that Pike could die: he could get in the way, the mercenary could use him as a shield, Spock's aim could be off by a fraction off by a millimeter...

She resists the urge to close her eyes in the split second between the shot ringing across the desert and finally striking its target, but when the mercenary falls to the ground, she presses her forehead against the cool rock until the tremors leave her fingers. Then she gets up to retrieve her captain.
EEE.


I love this so much. How much do I love this?

♥ ♥ ♥


That is how much I love this.

Tempting the mercenary like this is a dangerous game; if he has any sense, he'll threaten to torture Pike next. Pretending to be cavalier about his death is already sapping enough of her energy. She doubts she would have the fortitude to watch him suffer. For the whole ship, maybe; for her and Boyce and the three lieutenants on the floor behind her, no. She consoles herself that none of them would want her to make that trade either.


Just ... this, is so, so much character crammed into less than a hundred little words, and oh, One. ♥

Tear out my heart.

Edited at 2009-12-06 05:25 pm (UTC)
Eeeeeee! I'm glad you liked it. I edited it approximately 4.6 zillion times, even after posting it. And damn, you're fast! Sorry you saw it before I fixed all the typos!

I really want someone to write me a sequel about the aftermath of He loves you, you know. Kept calling for you all night in his sleep. And you're going to let him die. In my head, she doesn't react to it at the time because she just can't afford to in the heat of the moment, but I don't think she'll be able to get it out of her head afterward.
This is ALL KINDS OF AWESOME YES.

(Would say more, but being paged.)
Thank you so much! Number One in particular is really important to me, so it means a lot that you think I write her well. Although, in my head, they aren't yet together in this fic...I was sort of thinking of it as payback for the Talosians revealing her fantasies about him...
Love how you wrote her thoughts and mental calculations... and how much her relationship to Pike shines through. *happy sigh*
Thank you! I left the Pike thing deliberately understated because I doubted that she'd think about it much when she was in a command situation, but I'm glad it shined through instantly.
I love the small tweaks you made to this piece -- it's even more intensely moving. Lovely work!
Phew! O_O

I absolutely love all the things that go through her mind as she tries to drag out the talking to give Spock time to take out the mercenary. Wow!
hoshit. This was awesome--I consider suspense one of the more difficult things to write, and you did this wonderfully. I was cringing in my chair the whole time!
Thank you! I'm glad you found it suspenseful - it's so hard to gauge when you're writing something like that since you already know the ending!
Late as usual but *squees* I love this. I love them! And it totally cheered me up today, which I needed *mutters about driving tests*.

when the mercenary falls to the ground, she presses her forehead against the cool rock until the tremors leave her fingers. Then she gets up to retrieve her captain.
I love your Number One so much.
I'm sorry you needed cheering up, but I'm happy this fic lifted your moon. Number One is my favorite character ever, so it means a lot that you liked her here.