Title: Mark of the Beast (6/?)
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 | 5
Or read at AO3
The Monster of a Thousand Souls
Lieutenant Jonathan Reeves is peering into an open-faced alcove when he feels a light brush against his arm. Phaser reflexively rising, he stops dead still and listens—attempts to sense any presence. Then the hairs at the back of his neck lift in warning, as a quiet whistling drifts to him. He inches from his spot, turning around slowly, and moves back into the main corridor.
Sudden shadows reach from the walls, seem longer than normal; the hall itself looks changed, though the lieutenant has not traveled far from the group. He’s left them just five paces down, could hear them a minute or two before (when did the sound stop?), talking and moving about.
Now, however, he is inexplicably alone. Reeves shifts on his feet, wall at his back, and calls “Captain?”
The whistling starts up again, louder and to the left. Reeves prepares himself, checks the setting on his phaser, and decides to scout farther ahead. Never’ll find the Captain by just standing around, Jon. A shadow paces his movements. (It’s not his own.)
He enters a small room cautiously, announces his presence with “Mr. Spock? Doctor McCoy?” All is bare, except for a chair lying on its side in the corner. Reeves can make out no devices attached to the chair (straps or otherwise); and he sees no signs of a disturbance—or resident, for that matter, of any kind.
Thinking idly of rats, he shivers.
The security officer is almost to the door when he hears the echo of a thunk-thunk. He turns around… and stares at the upright chair. Though the nervous swallowing is automatic, Reeves gives no other signs of the bad feeling forming in the pit of his stomach.
“Who’s there?” he asks. “I’m armed. Who’s there?”
It’s surprising to him, when he gets an answer.
Who is not here, Jon?
“What? Where are you?”
A hand touches the back of his neck, below his hairline. Reeves jabs his elbow back as he spins around and meets nothing but air.
Oh, Jon dear. Who is not here?
“Stop that and show yourself!”
The chair slides out of the shadows with a scrape and Jon is half-shocked, half-relieved to see Miss Yuise step out of a dark corner and sit down.
“Miss Yuise! What are you doing here? Why are you—aren’t you—” his voice trails off.
She smiles at him in a weird way. (He’s seen it before, he thinks.) Reeves takes two steps away from her, his phaser set on target. “You’re not Yuise, are you?”
I am an essence… of her.
Sweat breaks out on his forehead. Her mouth isn’t moving. It doesn’t move and he can hear her.
“You’re not real. You’re some kind of trick! One of his… his illusions!”
The woman’s smile drops away. She lifts her right hand and the phaser in his hands disappears. The man jumps, then, towards the door—Captain always said it’s better to follow your instinct and his practically screams run!
There is no door. There is nothing but solid stone wall that meets the palms of Jon’s hands. “Let me out! You can’t—you—let me out!”
He flattens his back against the wall and stares at her.
I have a task for you.
So small. I won’t hurt you. It won’t hurt.
The way the voice says that scares him to pieces. “No!” he says roughly.
You won’t be lonely, Jon. You’ll have me… and the others. All of us.
She rises from the chair (almost flowing) and comes toward him. Shadows are coalescing into a deep darkness like a backdrop behind her.
“Stay away from me!”
Join us. Give yourself to the Master.
A steady wailing builds, out of the air. Jon trembles. Distorted moaning faces are forming out of that pitch black, thousands of weeping faces.
He slides down the wall, wide-eyed—his trembling now a prominent shake. The thing that is Yuise stops at the tip of his boots. He cannot look away, not as her face shifts, slides and becomes another face. And then another and another—a quick parade of slack jaws and haunted eyes, until it comes to rest on a visage so gruesome—and hollow—a sob breaks from Reeves’s throat.
One of us, Jon. So many of us.
“Stop!” He puts his arms over his head.
Master needs it, needs you. The voice is awful, sounding desolate and starved, inside his head.
We’re so hungry.
No, I won’t, he thinks desperately. No no nonononono…
He is helpless. The darkness grips him, suffocating and cold. It eats his soul alive.
Leonard frowns down at the tricorder and shakes it a little. Hell, he curses. Every time he steps near a corner of this crazy palace, the tricorder comes to life and starts whirring with little anxious beeps. He wants to shout at it, Shadows don’t have vitals, damn it! But Spock’s always amused enough as it is on his account.
Where’s that pointy-eared computer anyway?
McCoy turns around and almost has a heart attack.
“Jesus Christ! Are you trying to kill me?” The security officer doesn’t look repentant in the least. In fact, Leonard observes, narrowing his eyes, Reeves looks a little pale.
“You feeling alright, Lieutenant?” McCoy steps into the man’s personal space and waves his tricorder in wide half-circle. It beeps once and dies. “Goddamn it! What’s the matter with you?”
“Hmmm? Hold on a minute, I gotta adjust—”
A hand grabs the tricorder from him and tosses it away.
Leonard is incensed. “What the Hell! That’s not a toy, you damn fool!”
The man repeats “Doctor” and levels a phaser at McCoy. When Leonard stares into the other’s eyes, he notices—finally—that they are heavily dilated. Black.
During the attack, the medikit strap over Leonard’s chest breaks and equipment spills across the floor.
Kirk glances up, then around and asks, “Where’s Bones?”
Spock goes still, listening, and takes off in a direction with Kirk on his heels.
They round the corner into a person-less room. Kirk’s boot cracks down on something hard and he steps back to look at it. The floor, Jim realizes in a daze, is scattered with Bones’ things. Spock straightens with a tattered, empty medikit dangling from his hand.
The two lock eyes and share a wordless single thought: Leonard.
After the longest period of Kirk’s life, both are boiling over with fear as the minutes compile and Leonard is not found. It’s by sheer desperate luck (and not small amount of panic) that Kirk and Spock stumble into the courtyard of the Palace and find McCoy.
Standing beneath the center statue is Leonard and Lieutenant Reeves. Doctor McCoy is slumped against the stone, his wrist anchored in one of the officer’s hands.
Kirk gives a little shout (of relief) but as he gets closer to the pair, slows down to study them, the dim evening light hits the left side of Bones’ face. From temple to chin, it’s covered in dried blood.
Before he can call out his lover’s name, Jim hears Leonard plead softly “Please, not him. I’ll go with you!”
The security officer—a fellow crewman, a man whose arm McCoy remembers setting after too careless of a training session—holds Leonard tightly and refuses to let go. One would think, upon first glance, that the young lieutenant attempts to shield the doctor from danger. The truth is, simply, that Len is prisoner to a madman. Not under the Captain’s orders, but the Basilisk’s. It’s complicated; and worse, it is just plain frightening.
McCoy meets the eyes of Kirk but finds that he cannot speak. Jim is clenching and unclenching his fists (they subtly shake) and, for a brief moment, Leonard wonders what Jim must read in his face. Fear? Yes. Will Jim understand that Len’s fear is not for himself?
Kirk will only see the obvious: one of his lovers is in danger (about to die) and is afraid. Leonard feels the swell of panic in his chest, because—after years of companionship, brotherhood, and more between them—he knows that little can stop Jim Kirk from rash action.
The Vulcan stands rigid, as if a mere breath upon his person will instigate an avalanche of something previously unknown (and terrifying). Spock! Leonard pushes through their bond.
Like before, there is a faint echo but it is wrong and strange.
He tries very hard to tell Spock: Stop Jim! He hopes, prays, that Spock will hear him (and listen). Jim is the one in danger, despite the phaser twisting into Leonard’s side and the hard (oddly cold) arm pressing into his neck. (He has to gasp raggedly to breathe.)
That they come to be this way, at the precipice of an ending, brings tears to Leonard’s eyes. One of them—his heart wrenches—won’t make it out of this courtyard alive. Above all things, Leonard agonizes over the thought of death—of the four men standing tense, each is innocent.
The guilty, however, is nowhere to be seen. Only heard (and his intentions felt).
“Let them both go,” Jim says lowly (he pants, as if his heart is going crazy). “I’m warning you, let them go!”
The Lieutenant smiles and says, “What will you trade, James Tiberius?”
“Jim…” Leonard manages to choke. “Jim, don’t—”
“It’s okay, Bones.” Kirk tries to send him reassurance through a small smile, but it isn’t heartfelt and McCoy knows it.
Leonard tries again. “Spock, don’t let…Jim…it’s a—monster—”
The pressure on his windpipe increases and the last words gag in his throat. His hands pull futilely at the muscled arm, but there are dark spots begin to dance randomly in his vision. His brain absently calculates the seconds left until oxygen-deprivation causes a full black-out. (That number is not high.)
“Stop! Don’t hurt him! What do you want?”
Spock suddenly moves (breaks his trance) and steps in front of Kirk. “You will release the doctor,” he says coldly. “You will release the mind of Lieutenant Reeves, and we will not trade the Captain’s life.”
Reeves, a serious and quiet man, laughs loudly. It is truly unnerving, and indicative of his possession. “I forgive you the trespass, Vulcan. I must conduct this business solely with your Captain.”
“Then you’ve got me. We’ll discuss whatever it is that you want; just us. But you leave my crew—” Jim swallows hard. “—alone, do you understand?”
Reeve’s eyes are very dark, watchful. “Such an amusing Human. I accept.”
Suddenly Leonard can breathe, and he does so—falling to his knees and drinking in the air. A thud sounds behind him, and he pulls away from Spock (how does the Vulcan move so fast?) to look. Lieutenant Reeves is face-up and limp as a rag doll (breathing?); Len cannot help but shift forward to feel for his pulse.
Noting the sluggishness of the man’s pulse, McCoy steadies himself against Spock and calls for Jim. When there is no immediate answer, his heart skips a beat. (His brain denies instinct with a painful no.) Spock turns, still holding McCoy. Leonard must be clutching painfully at the Vulcan’s shoulder.
Jim is gone.