Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of and is copyright (c) 1979 by Ingrid Cross. Originally published in Guardian #2. Rated PG.

THE TASTE OF SUNSETS

Ingrid Cross

The ground's chest was stone-cold, tomb-damp, the clouds a falsetto cheeriness against a flaming sky. My back kicked in protest against the clammy soil. I could feel my tired lungs draw in yet another seared load of radiation-tinged air.

[Always, I had thought I would be among the Enterprise's crew at the end. With the others, I had set through many accumulated hours when Jim Kirk fought with all his skill and stubbornness to buy more time. I had faced death before and had never found myself wanting at the crucial moments. But never had I anticipated such a lonely, cruel and godforsaken death.]

"Know something?" Chris asked. Her voice: controlled, deliberately calm, permitting no anxiety or fear to seep from the edges.

"Hmmm?" Lately when she spoke, the only answer I could give was a casual hum from my aching throat.

[The sunsets had been our only companionship ... our solitary diversion. For when this alien sun dipped below the hostile horizon, we knew we had won some small battle from our captors. No one came near (our opponents remained triumphantly invisible) and we had exhausted dour excess energy days earlier in useless conversation. So we counted the sunsets, for wont of other entertainment.]

The sun's fiery descent into its nightly cradle illuminated her face. Her voice: tinged now with all our disappointments, faded hopes and soured dreams, the sense of time pouring through a broken egg-timer.

"I have come to hate this time, Uhura," Chris whispered weakly. The tone of finality was not disagreeable to me.

For we recognized this as our final sunset.

THE END