"Rescue Run" is a short story that appears in the Anthology "Chronicles of Pern: First Fall".
Rescue Run takes place 40 years after the original Pern settlers fled to the Northern continent to escape volcanic activity. Shortly after the appearance of Threadfall that jeopardized the original Pern settlers, Ted Tubberman, a disgruntled Botanist, sent a distress message that he hoped would reach the Federated Sentient Planets so that they would send a rescue mission. This story tells of that mission.
Published in 1991, the Wildside Press Hard Cover edition contains illustrations and border decorations by Pat Morrissey. Rescue Run also appears in the Anthology, The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall.
As the Federated Sentient Planets battle cruiser Amherst conducts a search of the Sagittarian sector of space for any sign of incursions by the "Nasties" - an alien race responsible for a devastating war six decades prior - Lieutenant Ross Vaclav Benden - nephew of Admiral Paul Benden - notices the colony on planet Pern in the nearby Rukbat system sent out a distress signal nearly fifty years ago, claiming it was under attack from an "unknown organism which consumes all organic matter". Noting the circumstances surrounding the message, and also the fact that they are already travelling to a nearby Oort Cloud to allow the Amherst's science officer, Saraidh Ni Morgana, to conduct research on it, Captain Anise Fargoe orders a rescue run, and places Benden in charge. As they near the Oort Cloud, Ni Morgana examines and heats up several particle samples, eventually discovering a life form that grows to a hideous mass before collapsing upon itself. She subsequently offers to join the rescue run to see if the same life form somehow made it to Pern.
The Amherst's shuttle - the Erica - is launched towards Pern, where it attempts to make contact with the colony ships, only to find them abandoned. After detecting two beacons on the Southern Continent, the Erica heads towards the first beacon, descending over the Northern Continent - which appears empty, sensors picking up little heat radiation - and passing a pod of dolphins, eventually discovering the beacon site buried under volcanic ash, and the surrounding land devastated - matching the description of the odd circular patches recorded by the EEC survey team - although noting that several shuttles appear to be missing from the site. Heading west towards the second beacon, the Erica eventually discovers an inhabited settlement built out of a cliffside.
The settlement - Honshu Hold - is home to Stev Kimmer and his family - including the children of former residents Kenjo and Ito Fusaiyuki, who requested Kimmer stay with her after Kenjo died. Kimmer claims that they are the only survivors of "Thread" - which was brought by the "Red Star", and stopped falling after fifty years - and Shensu, one of Kenjo's sons, supports this story - also revealing that their entire family were taught how to mine at Kimmer's insistence. As they discuss how they will get Kimmer and his family off Pern, Ensign Cahill Nev notes they might have problems accommodating their added weight on their fuel-depleted shuttle. Later that night, Shensu reveals his father had a hidden stockpile of fuel that he used for his own purposes, and secretly allows them to refuel the Erica to allow them not only to escape Pern, but to take a number of precious gemstones with them and thus ensure their future.
The next morning - around which time Ni Morgana tests a medical salve, which they plan to take with them - Nev begins making calculations as to how much cargo they can take with them. Benden talks with Kimmer, who again states his belief that they are the only survivors. Afterwards, Benden goes to join Ni Morgana on a survey of the Thread remnants, only for Kimmer - who recognises Benden as a relative of Paul Benden - to stop him, having realised that they can use power packs brought by the Erica to power up his old sled, and use it to inspect the stakeholds and ensure there are no other survivors - Benden notes that Kimmer is probably having second thoughts, and wondering if it might be worth spending the remainder of his life on Pern, which he could now be the default owner of.
While Ni Morgana studies the remnants of Thread and catalogues the medical herbs of Pern, Benden and Kimmer - along with Shensu's brother Jiro and one of the Erica's marines - search the stake holds that Kimmer didn't investigate over the years; they find all are abandoned - although they still fail to find any sign of the missing shuttles. After they return to Honshu, Ni Morgana reveals the women of Honshu have been behaving strangely, and that she fell asleep while on watch on the Erica - she suspects the others on watch also did, but aren't saying anything - but she couldn't find any additions to the cargo. A feast is held the final night at Honshu, and the next day the Erica blasts off from Honshu - unknown to them, their launch is witnessed by a fisherman at Fort Hold.
As the Erica enters space, Benden realises the ship is too heavy, and will not have enough fuel to rendevous with the Amherst - worse, they are unable to contact it from their present position. After issuing orders to conduct a "slingshot manoeuver" - by heading for the first planet in the Rukbat system, and using its gravity well to force the ship forwards - Benden confronts Kimmer, having guessed he got the women of his family to drug the crew of the Erica and smuggle something onboard. Kimmer feigns knowledge, but he and his relatives are soon discovered to have precious metals hidden on their bodies. These are hastily removed, but Kimmer refuses to reveal the location of the extra cargo, believing that they have sufficient fuel to reach the Amherst and that Benden is bluffing. Benden shuts him in the airlock, and soon discovers the extra cargo is flattened sheets of metal, hidden all over the ship.
The metals are quickly gathered, but when they go to dump it, they find Kimmer missing and the airlock empty. Unsure whether or not Kimmer committed suicide or was murdered by a member of his family, Benden goes with Ni Morgana and Shensu to comfort the women, who began panicking when their cargo was discovered, by reassuring them that their remaining cargo, black diamonds and numbweed samples, will ensure they live well; plus the circumstances surrounding their rescue means they will not be subject to the hefty rescue fees of the Colonial Authority.
As time goes on, the Erica makes contact with the Amherst and manages to arrange a new rendezvous point, before successfully completing their "slingshot manoeuver" at the first planet in the Rukbat system, and gradually making their way back to the Amherst. As they dock, Benden and Ni Morgana conclude in their reports that Kimmer committed suicide in an attempt to discredit Shensu and his brothers. In addition to this, Ni Morgana plans to have the Rukbat system interdicted, to prevent ships from passing through it and spreading the Thread organism.