Title: Mark of the Beast (5/?)
Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Summary: The Enterprise falls into yet another ill-timed scheme. A terrible choice must be made—and honored.
Previous Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
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Please make sure that you have read the previous chapter.
Chances of Ill-Fortune
The biggest mistake Captain James T. Kirk makes is not telling Spock or McCoy about his doubts and dreams. He knows that the Basilisk is purposefully trying to distract him from the reality of his situation. Convincing Jim of his own death and the subsequent helplessness of his lovers—yes, that is distracting. Jim likes to think that he would not leave Bones or Spock in such a way, but deep down, he acknowledges the truth. Their lives have always been, and shall always be, more precious than his own. If Jim feels that there is no alternative, he will give his life in exchange for theirs (and his crew—or a stranger) in a heart-beat. Of course, none of the three bring up this upsetting subject because, time and again, how often have one of them almost died for a similar—if not, exact—reason? Jim hates the accusation self-sacrificing, and he may try to verbally deny it, but if someone knows how to read Jim Kirk, that person will comprehend the seriousness in his face and know that Jim lies. He’s a Captain; self-sacrifice often proves to be the captain’s duty. (Jimmy always flinches at the thought of the survivors of that captain’s duty—he’s one himself.)
Kirk poses a not-so-idle question to Spock. “Do you think the Basilisk is capable of mind control?”
Spock, eyebrow rising, replies without hesitation. “Yes, Captain.”
“He speaks through others. The action requires more than mere force; one must literally implant their desire to speak in the intended and manipulate the body do so physically. The control of the brain—and the mind—are both necessary to accomplish such a task.”
Jim turns his head so that Spock will not read any incriminating thoughts in his face. Spock speaks, rather closely, from his side. “Captain, what is the pertinence of your question?”
Jim knows just how perceptive a Vulcan is—so he subtly shifts the rest of his body in line with his head (away). “We need to determine what weapons the enemy has at his disposal, Mr. Spock. I will not have any man of mine go into battle unprepared.”
There is silence. Of course, Mr. Spock is well-versed in Jim’s view of mission tactics; he’s been privy to years of watching Jim lead the Enterprise through dangerous situations. But this quietness—though inherent in the Vulcan—makes Jim nervous. Spock is thinking too hard.
So Jim says, a little too cocky, over his shoulder, “I’ll just check in with the detail down the hall. The security officers are bored from lack of a good fight. We’re all twitchy on the trigger right now.”
It’s the “Jim” said so firmly that does not allow the Captain to take that final step out of the room; it makes his heart beat a little faster.
He turns around, says, “Spock?” and hopes that the shadows obscure his true expression.
“Leonard tells me that your rest was disturbed last night.”
“Bones tells you a lot of things, Spock. Most of which you don’t deign to acknowledge.”
“Incorrect. Doctor McCoy often speaks in… exaggeration, which I find illogical but curious.”
Jim gives a little laugh and gestures with a hand as if to say He’s Bones, what can you do? “You know how I can’t sleep, Spock, when there’s trouble.”
“Indeed,” the Vulcan agrees.
Another, more insistent, “Jim” catches Kirk again before he can escape. This time, the Captain stands still.
“You may approach either Leonard or myself, if you cannot rest.” If you need us, the words are unspoken.
Jim replies, half in shadow with a bare lift of his mouth, “I know, Spock.” He exits.
“What did he say?”
“He was evasive.”
“Of course he was, Spock. Gettin’ Jim to talk about his worries is like pulling a stubborn tooth—you just have to yank damned hard.”
There is a heart-felt sigh. “Don’t worry. I’ll corner Jim when I can.”
A pause between the two. “Spock?”
“You don’t think—”
McCoy does not have to finish. Spock says, “I hope not… but I fear so.”
Jim finishes his talk with the security officers and is almost back to his rooms when a man appears out of a corner. “Captain!” he calls. The word is urgent and low, almost afraid.
Jim stops, hand sneaking to his belt. “Show yourself.”
A servant (not a Lesser) leans out of a shadow towards the end of the hall (as it curves out of sight). “Captain,” the man says again. “You haven’t much time.”
“No one has attempted to attack us again.” Jim takes one step forward. “Though, Yuise. She was stabbed. Why?”
“The Master does not explain; he never explains!”
There is an anxiety pouring off of this one, Jim decides. Funny, the servants have always been silent (and blank) since the delegation party’s arrival. Jim’s gut protests. He is about to tell the man to leave (and if he sees the Basilisk, to tell the bastard he’s a coward) when the next words stop Kirk cold.
“He’s going to take you, Sir!”
“What?” Jim half-snaps, tries to ignore the memory of liquid sliding down his throat. “I won’t go anywhere—”
“He’s going to take your—” The word is almost unrecognizable with nerves. His translator says “soul.”
Jim shifts, wants to know, “Why me?”
“The Master needs it.”
He needs my soul? Shit.
The man is speaking hurriedly now, like a confession. “The Mark of the Third is soon. That’s why he requested negotiations. Please help us! We have no more to give him, and he’ll—” The rest of the sentence snaps off in a strangled shriek.
“Hey!” Jim is already moving forward. (Apprehension is abandoned.) “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
There is the sound of scraping, a muffled cry—which has Jim launching into a run. By the time Kirk makes it to the end of the hallway, no one is there. On the stone tile, an object lies; Jim’s eye catches the glint of red. He bends down and picks it up.
Turning it over in his hand, Jim feels sick. It’s an engraved sheath for the dagger.
Surprisingly, Spock does not want to inspect Jim’s new discovery. The Vulcan only stares at it briefly before beginning another series of questioning. Finally, Jim has to say “Enough! Spock, of course I heard the man!”
The Vulcan repeats his question. “Were you within sufficient range to see this servant speak, Captain?”
Jim turns to Bones, who proves he is in cahoots with the First Officer. “Answer his question, Jim.”
At Jim’s glare, Spock remarks, “I do not doubt your account of the event.”
“Then what are you driving at, Mr. Spock?”
Moving in a cautious circle, the Vulcan tells both the Captain and the Doctor of his concern. “On the initial day of our arrival, after we were shown to our guest quarters, I attempted to acquire from multiple servants the location of your room, Jim.”
Kirk settles his hip against a waist-high curio table, crossing his arms. McCoy looks from Spock to Jim and back.
“I concluded that the servants are not willfully silent. They are mute.”
Jim stares at Spock, letting his words ripen. “Mute. Physically mute?”
“—this servant spoke to you.”
McCoy interrupts. “Well, quit jockeying around theories! The only way we can be sure is if I can scan one of ’em.” When Jim agrees, Leonard tacks on, “And, damn it, you aren’t going alone, Jim!”
“Bones, it’s not like the Basilisk is going to suck my soul out of my body.”
“Considering the kind of hoodoo the Enterprise gets involved in, kid, I wouldn’t cross that possibility off the list just yet.” (It never fails to amuse Jim that Bones still calls him kid, after all these years.)
“Fine, I and a security officer—”
“No, you and Spock—”
“Spock needs to stay with you!”
“—and I are going together.“
Jim knows when arguing is futile. He likes to anyway. “What about Karla?”
“She’s passed out on pain killers. I’ll leave instructions just in case.” McCoy walks away to do just that.
While they wait, Jim fidgets just once before he has to speak. “Spock, if we encounter the Basilisk and things turn… dangerous, I want you get Bones out.”
“My duty is to oversee the safety of the Captain.”
“I won’t have another harmed on my behalf. I’m the one he wants.”
“Can you be certain, Jim, of the Basilisk’s intentions?”
When Jim says yes quite fiercely, Spock’s eyes narrow, but he does not argue once the Captain adds, “That’s an order, Mr. Spock.”
McCoy returns. The three pick up a security officer, arm themselves, and the search begins.
The discarded sheath glows, then dims, on a nearby table. The door to the adjacent room opens and a woman emerges. She trails a handful of bandages and drops them into a puddle on the floor. (The bandages are white, without stain.) Lifting the sheath to eye-level, Karla Yuise studies it, smiles, and it vanishes as if it never were.
The Palace is empty halls of gleaming white stone and dark corners.
Leonard shivers, not for the first time, and walks closely behind Jim and Spock. The security officer at their backs is unusually quiet too. Len feels that he must break this numbing silence or he’ll go mad. “Jim, where are the people?”
Kirk keeps striding along as he answers. “Your guess is as good as mine, Bones. Four days ago, this place was packed. It seemed… normal.”
“Now everybody has disappeared. Hell, why do we have to get into these situations?”
“Doctor, the Enterprise has little choice in matter of her assigned missions. Starfleet—”
“Yeah, well, Command can send us into God-knows-what after they’ve gotten off their asses and experienced the kind of shit we have to survive through!”
“Your language is unnecessary.”
“It makes me feel better. How many times do I say that, you green-blooded hobgoblin!”
“Okay, the Captain orders no arguing until we are back on the Enterprise.”
“You saying you think that Spock and I can’t argue and save your hide at the same time?”
“Bones, are you kidding me? You two will argue over my corpse.” If the Captain flinches at his own words, neither the First Officer nor the CMO will notice.
“Don’t talk about death, Jim.” McCoy’s words come out harshly.
“I agree with Leonard.”
The Captain stops. The security officer behind them almost runs into McCoy at the abrupt halt, but the fellow takes one look at his three superiors and decides to give them some space. Jim ignores anything and anyone but Spock and McCoy. He tells them, succinctly, “I’m not going to die on this planet.”
“Is that a promise?”
“It’s a fact,” Jim says with a hard look in his eyes. “I don’t care what the circumstances are, what you—either of you—” Both of his lovers are staring intently at Jim (wondering now). “—think is going on. I WILL NOT DIE HERE.” Jim turns on his heel, then. “And if our enemy plans just that, we’ll have to show him how severely mistaken he is.”
Leonard reaches out to touch the Captain’s hand. “We’re always with you.”
Jim smiles and says, “Yeah, I know. And I’m grateful… because I need you both.”
Spock holds out his fingers, in a silent request. Jim complies. There is a spark of something sharp and sweet that passes between their touching fingertips.
The Captain will remember it, later, in the direst of moments.