Title: When the Hour Strikes (4/?)
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy (pre-K/S/M)
Disclaimer: Star Trek is not my property, only my plaything.
Summary: The First Officer becomes a target for an unidentified assailant.
Previous Parts: 1 | 2 | 3
Or read at AO3
Spock falls into the mind of a maniac. There are barbs which catch on the edges of his mind and rip away pieces of the shields that protect the Self. He tries to fortify his defenses, but he feels disjointed and his strength dissipates quickly. The shields are crumbling, Spock is falling, and a torrent of howling laughter sweeps him down into the dark.
Leonard hears a distant voice calling, “Leonard? Len, can you respond?” He would answer, but the stabbing pain in his head has caused a full retreat. McCoy knows that if he stays this way—floating in the cool white of a half-conscious state—then he can perhaps survive the torture of his brain by those hot iron spikes.
But then there’s Jim. Jim AND Spock, who both must be in trouble because they aren’t hanging around pestering him to return to the land of living.
Serious deadly trouble, most likely.
Damn, damn, damn!
Why can’t a hurting fellow get a break from danger-attracting people like the Captain and First Officer? Bones only remembers falling asleep on the couch, not drinking an entire case of Romulan ale, so he can’t be to blame for his condition.
“A’right…” The word comes out terrible and grossly abused in his Southern accent. This seems to calm down the insistent nagging of that familiar voice (Christine?) who demands Doctor McCoy’s attention. “I hear ya. Just—Oooh, God A’mighty!”
Light sears the optical nerves attached to his brain once he peels his eyes open. “Get that outta my eyes, Nurse! Are you trying to kill me?”
“Len, I’m trying to do my job! Did you hit your head at any time?”
“What? No, for Christ’s sake! I’ve taken longer tumbles off the transporter pad than that couch. Just help me up—”
“No, you need to stay down.” He ignores her. “Leonard! I know where you hide the restraints.”
Christine’s not playing fair. McCoy needs those restraints… How many times has he prevented the Captain from committing bodily harm to himself (and Len) by strapping the man to the biobed? If word gets around, and Jim finds out, Jim’ll—
Oh Hell. Jim.
Now McCoy remembers with clarity why he has to wake up this instant. Jim has gone after Spock who has disappeared—no doubt dragged off to an airlock by his pretty pointed ears.
Hell and damnation!
“Christine, you know where that stim—”
She’s way ahead of him—and resisting like a stubborn mule too. “Oh no you don’t, Leonard McCoy! You are seriously ill. Until we determine the cause—”
“To Hell with the cause, Chris! I need to get to Jim and Spock.”
“What good will you do if you stand up and throw a clot, Len? How can you help anybody if you’re DEAD?”
Leonard pushes her hands away and struggles to sit up. “See, all’s fine so far.”
She is already pulling out a hypospray from her pocket, and Leonard stumbles to his feet and as far away as he can manage. “No.” Before Christine can argue, Leonard snaps at the nearest medical tech to locate the Captain and the First Officer.
He’ll be damned if they die on his watch.
Spock hasn’t blinked his eyes in the five minutes since Jim first fell to his knees beside the Vulcan. Spock’s eyes are open, staring at nothing. It’s the emptiness in them that scares Jim to his core.
Security has already handcuffed and set watch on Lieutenant Tarind, who seems to be in no better condition than the First Officer. Jim is positive that whatever terrifying thing is happening at this moment, it’s in a place he cannot reach. And Spock is fighting alone.
The sound of McCoy’s voice has his head swiveling to the partially melted lab door. The pain in Kirk’s face must be glaringly obvious because the doctor is on his knees beside Jim, touching him with reassuring hands before he focuses on Spock.
Spock, who is so still, like a dead man.
“Tell me, Jim.”
Kirk explains all that he knows—from locating Spock to this laboratory, breaking through the door (not quickly enough, he doesn’t cry out), and finding two prone crewmen on the floor, locked in each other’s arms in a grotesque mimic of battle.
“We found this, Bones.” He motions one of the Security guards to hand Doctor McCoy the empty (used) hypospray. “Had to have belonged to Tarind.”
“Who injected the contents into Spock. Damn it! We can’t win against this bastard.” McCoy stops scanning the Vulcan with his tricorder. “Let’s get ’em to Sickbay. Spock’s readings are all over the chart, and I can’t work with these meager tools—” McCoy breaks off with a sharp swallow, head bent.
Jim cannot see Bones’ face. Suddenly it hits him that McCoy is still ill.
“Bones! Why aren’t you in Sickbay?”
McCoy slowly lifts his head to meet Jim’s eyes. He says fiercely, through the tightness in his voice, “Why didn’t you go to Sickbay after you got knocked upside the head, Jim? ‘Cause you couldn’t! Not when it’s Spock’s life at stake! Now let me do my damn job.”
Kirk can do little else but nod his assent. He issues orders to the other officers, and within another few minutes, they have Spock and Tarind loaded onto gurneys heading to Sickbay. Jim doesn’t bother convincing Bones to take a ride on one too, because he sees his own stubbornness reflected out of those blue eyes.
Nevertheless, Kirk makes a promise to himself to help Spock and McCoy.
Spock enters the Bridge and goes to the empty Captain’s chair. There is a shrill whistling from the navigation console that indicates a head-on collision course with a bright red sun that dwarfs the other stars in this quadrant. The Bridge screen is zoomed out far enough that it looks miniscule and very far away. But even at such a distance, the sun spits out fire in anticipation of their arrival.
In truth, Spock knows that on the ship’s present trajectory, which he cannot alter (he’s tried), they will be sucked into its gravitational fields in less than one point sixty-six hours. In less time than that, the hull shall reach its melting point; then the Enterprise will implode and become a tiny piece of molten heat and radiation.
The ship-wide comm crackles to life (again). Beautiful, isn’t it, Mr. Spock? Soon we shall be One!
Spock runs a hand along the top of the chair, lets his fingers brush against the buttons on its right armrest. He thinks about the quality of a man who would sit there and not shiver in fear as they sail to their fate.
Take the chair. She’s all yours.
Who does this voice belong to, that taunts him at every turn he makes? When Spock searched for other personnel (after he woke up, could barely recall his name), it said No one but us, Vulcan. As he entered Sickbay, seeking an unknown presence but not quite sure why it had to be there, harsh laughter filtered out of the overhead speaker—didn’t stop until he retreated into the corridor and turned heel for the turbolift.
He is alone but dogged by the sound of his own failure. Why else would Spock, son of Sarek, command an empty vessel set to burn?
He drops his hand to his side and goes to the Science station.
Sit in the chair! It’s an order.
That gives Spock pause and he straightens from towering over the scope. “I have no desire to do so.”
You will take the Captain’s seat. YOU are Captain of this ship!
He is? Spock does not recall being awarded such an honor, nor does he feel a stirring inside him that agrees. Captain Spock—the words do not fit, but he lacks memory to neither deny nor accept the charge. “You are incorrect.”
The comm system shrieks with static, but Spock ignores it. He merely adds, “If I am to die, I would prefer… this position.” Spock takes a seat at his newly claimed station. “I am Science Officer.”
No! The word is sharp, loud, and angry.
Spock raises his eyebrow and goes back to turning a series of dials. One hour, twenty-nine minutes, five seconds until termination.
“He won’t respond to any treatment, Jim. It’s worse than the last time.”
“There has to be a way!”
“We’re not telepaths! What the Hell can we do?” McCoy curses strongly. “Damn!” He sends the PADD in his hands smashing against a table.
Jim looks taken aback at Leonard’s grand display of temper. “Bones, calm down.”
“Calm down? CALM DOWN! Spock is fighting for his God-damn Vulcan mind, for all we know, and we’re stuck out here. We’re useless, Jim, useless!“
“We’ll find a way—”
“Will we? I don’t—” McCoy’s words cut off as he hunches over and presses a hand to his head. Jim is there instantly, supporting him and ready to help him sit down should McCoy’s legs give out. This is the fifth episode the doctor has had since their arrival in Sickbay.
“Bones, I am calling M’Benga.”
“No!” Leonard grabs at Jim’s shoulder and painfully straightens up. “I’m alright now, Jim. It’s just a… side-effect.”
“Of what?” Kirk demands. “You don’t even remember how you got this way!”
“I’m beginning to think that it wasn’t me.”
Jim silently peers into McCoy’s face as if he can read the man’s thoughts. “Tarind did break into my quarters, Bones.”
“Yeah, and I didn’t wake up, did I? Funny, ’cause I’m a light sleeper… comes with the territory of the medical profession.”
Jim releases McCoy, once the doctor is steady enough on his feet, and runs a grim hand over his face. Bones looks just as grim (and pained).
“Jim—whether Tarind did something to me or not—I don’t matter right now. Do you see this?” McCoy leads Kirk over to the EEG that monitors Spock’s brainwave activity. “See these waves here? Those are delta waves, the ones we associate with unconscious or comatose patients.”
Jim nods, unable to speak around the lump forming in this throat.
Leonard’s eyes are sad as he observes the Captain. “His activity up here—” McCoy taps his forehead, “is deteriorating, Jim. If we don’t do something soon, he’s going to be brain-dead.”
It’s a blow that hurts Jim more than he wants to acknowledge. Leonard runs a hand along the Captain’s arm in silent comfort. When Kirk is able to focus again, push past the pain of the horrifying words brain-dead, he stares at the patterns on the EEG. After a minute of numb observation, something catches his attention. “Why does it spike like that, Bones? If Spock’s in a coma…”
“Don’t know. There’s an occasional blip of activity—and even stranger, it isn’t localized in one area of the brain. But I’m not a neurologist, Jim, especially not for Vulcans.” McCoy doesn’t count that time he had to put Spock’s entire brain back into his head. (It makes him shudder with wonder and fear in remembrance.)
“Would you say that something might be going on…that we can’t pick up?”
Doctor McCoy wonders how much hope he can give Jim—when he knows there is a good chance that Spock won’t come back to them.
“I can’t say for certain.”
It’s Captain Kirk who turns on him. “That’s not good enough, McCoy!”
Leonard tries not to respond right away, wills that bubbling anger not to surface. He understands, better than most, how Jim reacts to stressful situations. Instead, he replies calmly, “I’m sorry, Captain.”
McCoy turns on his heel and leaves Spock’s bedside. Kirk follows him. When McCoy reaches another part of Isolation, it’s to observe the still figure of Lt. Tarind. He nods to the Security officers and the nurse who is monitoring the man’s condition. Tarind is different than Spock, quite more so than they had previously assumed. While Spock’s brain activity seems to be muted—fading—Tarind shows a high concentration of activity in his cortex. His brain is working overtime, and it puzzles McCoy to no end.
Leonard waves off Jim’s imminent apology. “The Lieutenant won’t wake up either, but it’s almost as if he resists awareness on purpose.”
This brings Jim to McCoy’s side. “You mean he is consciously ignoring us—to do what, stay in his head?”
“Something like that.”
“Can we force him to wake up?”
Leonard takes a minute to gather his thoughts. He goes over to the EEG, studies it, and then turns back to Tarind. McCoy takes out his penlight, leans over and pulls back one of Tarind’s eyelids—
—and a hand grabs his wrist tightly, yanks him half onto the biobed. “Hello, Doctor.” It’s a whisper from partially parted lips.
Leonard might have shouted a word then, maybe a cry for Jim or maybe the patient’s name. His mind quells beneath Tarind’s “Welcome to Hell.” There is the sharp sound of Bones! behind him and another arm looping around his middle, pulling at him. He can’t speak, then, when it matters most to tell Jim to let go, to warn him away.
Pain spreads like wildfire, starting in the back of his head and working around to consume any coherent thoughts. McCoy knows he’s about to die. Just before he breaks under the terror of invasion, he feels another presence. It observes him with wonder and a surreal calm… so terribly familiar that McCoy’s heart sings for a second—
A force tears into remnants of his last thought and strips it away.
Spock is idly running a test on the Zeta-T particles that emanate from the sun and pass through the hull of the starship. He can find no satisfying means to spend the remaining minutes of his life. So he runs tests and calls up his past research publications to peruse them for errors. (Not that he would publish work based on incorrect data or false logic.) He is working through a physics equation when the monitor by his left arm beeps.
Spock accepts the message and reads Detected: Two humanoid life-forms, Deck 47.
The Vulcan is out of his seat, and in and out the turbolift in little more than a minute. His long strides eat up the distance as he runs his tricorder for the location of the life-signs. (Spock won’t recall retrieving one later.)
Around the left corner and…
Spock stops as a laboratory door slides open before he can approach it. When he does not move, that (mocking) voice says from the speaker on the opposite wall, A parting gift, Mr. Spock. Go on. Have a look.
He cannot contain his curiosity. Spock enters the lab and cautiously observes two prone, uniformed men.
Familiar… When he attempts to delve into his memory banks, he discovers chains and a lock which burn cold. (Why?)
One of the men stirs, blinks and sits up. He seems confused at his surroundings (if Spock reads his expression and posture correctly). Then the officer looks up at the Vulcan and says, “Spock?”
“I am Spock.” He spreads his fingers in Vulcan greeting. “Live long and prosper.”
“Holy Jesus, it is you! Spock—wait, where are we?”
“Deck 47, in Science laboratory 209.”
“No, I meant—Jim? Ah, Hell! Jim, wake up!” This nameless man (why he does not introduce himself, Spock cannot understand) shakes his companion until the other groans and mumbles, “Stop, I’m awake, Bones.”
“Jim, you’ll never believe this… we’re with Spock.”
For some undetermined reason, both of these officers know of Spock but the acquaintance is not mutual.
The other man is on his feet in a flash and gripping Spock’s upper arms with unnecessary force. Spock raises his eyebrows in response. “Spock! You… you’re okay!”
“Correct.” If an appending word tries to blossom in his mind, it wilts and dies before he can comprehend it.
“But how…” Whatever Jim’s next words would be, he does not complete his statement. Jim releases his hold on Spock (who, surprisingly, did not find the touch uncomfortable) and stares intently at the Vulcan’s face before looking away. The man then paces the length of the lab and finally circles back to the first officer (who Spock refuses to refer to as Bones).
His words are for his partner alone. “This is wrong.”
The other adds, “I couldn’t agree more.”
Now Spock must interrupt. He requests, “Please identify your name and rank.”
They turn as one to stare at Spock. Spock patiently awaits a response to his question. Finally, when one of them speaks, he says, “Yep, seriously wrong, Jim.”
*McCoy’s reference to incident with Spock’s brain: alludes to ST TOS S3 episode “Spock’s Brain” in which Spock has his brain removed and McCoy has to put it back in. :) It’s crack-tastically wonderful and hilarious. Go watch it!
Now, ya’ll know I love me some mind!trauma, but I think Tarind does more so–he’s like a little kid playing in a sandbox! (Or is it that creepy kid with the matches?)