Title: Mark of the Beast (9/9)
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 | 6 | 7 | 8
Or read at AO3
The Undeniable Truth
The tearing of the world ceases after a long hour. Jim, Spock, and McCoy are wound together like one giant mass of praying flesh (at least, in McCoy’s case). It’s comforting, in a way, because they spend what could possibly be their last few minutes alive in each other’s arms, touching with soothing hands and whispering calming words.
Leonard must have fallen into a half-doze because his brain takes too long to recognize the shifting of Spock’s shoulder (which is so convenient for resting one’s head). Long, rough-padded fingers are lightly squeezing the back of Len’s neck.
He grumbles into the shirt, “Please tell me this spot’s still safe. The roof’s not gonna drop on me again, is it?” He sighs and opens his eyes to stare at the silhouette of Jim’s face, at the mix of grimness and wonder. How can the man always be so alert? “Jim,” he asks, “how’s it looking?”
Jim replies, still keeping watching, “Like disaster.”
Len grunts and sits up—or tries to; their shelter is cramped for two people, let alone three. “Haven’t felt the ground shake in a while,” he remarks (a little hopefully).
“The last tremor of notable seismic activity occurred approximately twenty-nine point six minutes ago.”
“Thank you, Spock,” McCoy says dryly. “But does that mean it’s safe to walk around?”
Jim is scooting out of the hidey-hole before Len can protest “Jim, get back here! I wasn’t serious, you idiot!”
Spock is already unfolding and crawling forward so Leonard does what he can—he drapes himself across the Vulcan’s back and locks his hands around Spock’s chest. Spock turns his head to McCoy. “Do you wish me to carry you, Leonard?”
“Now look here, Mr. Spock, just ’cause Jim jumps off the bridge don’t mean you gotta go tumbling too!”
Those dark eyes sparkle with amusement. “I follow my Captain.”
Leonard curses but lets Spock go out into the world. Len is not far behind. Just like good little soldiers, he thinks sarcastically. How does a man get involved with not one but two stubborn lovers?
‘Cause he’s as crazy as they are.
McCoy’s brain stops attempting to make excuses as he stands in the cold air and gets a good look around. It’s all in shambles; not just shambles—it’s practically half-dead. There is no glowing green and pearly white—no cultivated masterpieces of landscaping; it’s a spray of mucky greys and browns and the smell of rotten vegetation.
The ground has swampy patches that suck at McCoy’s boots as he takes a very slow walk around the area. Spock is bent over studying a pile of something, so Len doesn’t disturb him (or want to find out what fascinates the Vulcan so—it looks like a carcass, McCoy winces). Jim stomps past Leonard with the mumbling words, “Where is it?”
Sure would be nice to have a tricorder right about now, Len thinks wistfully. His hands feel empty and that bothers him.
He hears a shout of “Spock! Bones! Over here!”
Leonard and Spock round a large, up-rooted leave-less plant that must have been one of the sculpted hedges. Jim is standing not far ahead. They come to stand beside him; all three officers stare at the remnants of a crumbling wreck. It could have been a decently sized cottage. Now it is little more than a pile of rubble.
McCoy’s eye catches the faint burnt-red of cloth. He points and says, “Please tell me that’s not what I think it is.”
“On the contrary, Doctor, I believe that your assessment is accurate. Jim has discovered the palace of the Basilisk.”
More like a hovel, McCoy mutters. “But what about the actual Palace?”
“Look around, Bones.” McCoy blinks and complies. “Notice anything?”
“Yeah, it’s a wasteland of a planet, Jim. Nothing but miles of…”
“Precisely,” Spock agrees. “There is no Palace, nor the remains of a large structure. Only this.”
Leonard swears. “We’ve been tricked!”
Jim’s laughter startles them both. When he doesn’t stop and has to double over, McCoy severely craves his tricorder. He bends down to Jim’s tear-stained face. “Jim? Jim, take a deep breath. No hysterics, okay? I’m not prepped for hysterics!”
“I—I’m not—hysterical, Bones,” the Captain manages to choke out.
McCoy exchanges a look with the First Officer. “Well, you’re about to make me hysterical, so stop it!”
That sobers up the man. Jim straightens with a hand to his back, wincing. Len’s already running a professional eye over the cuts and bruises (the one’s he can see) and noting the stiffness of the Captain’s stance. He’ll have to sit Jim down in Sickbay for a serious examination. If they ever get back to the Enterprise.
“Well,” Len wants to know, “should we look for a body?”
They observe one another—and take a step back. Jim says, “Let’s get to the ship first. Then send down a scavenger party later.” There’s no argument from either of his lovers.
It takes a careful eye on their path, but they manage to make it to the courtyard without incident. At one point, McCoy loudly warns both Spock and Jim to “be careful of that hole!” It’s not a hole, but rather a thirty-foot long fissure in the earth. No one wants to find out just how deep it goes.
What remains of the courtyard couldn’t even classify as the once-extravagant open area of marble statues and gleaming white stones. Bones just chalks up the whole thing to a ridiculously talented (powerful) illusionist. It unnerves him, so to speak, to contemplate just how much of the Palace and its grounds weren’t real. They felt real, people lived and worked in them, however briefly. (Didn’t they?) The entire episode boggles the doctor’s mind. He doubts that he’s the only one.
Unfortunately, the bodies are only too real. Jim is kneeling next to the open-eyed security officer—whose face still looks horrified. McCoy checks each one but finds no life. He swallows hard and informs the Captain. Spock calls them both over to the end of the courtyard.
The sight is nauseating. It’s a sea of dead bodies, haphazardly strewn about the earth. As they pick their way through it, Jim’s jaw twitches with emotion he’s shoving down into himself (Len can tell). McCoy didn’t stay in the Palace long enough to encounter the servants or the Basilisk’s Lessers, but he has no doubt from the expressions of his lovers that they do recognize the occasional familiar face.
They find Karla Yuise’s body in an area that must have been (the illusion of) her rooms. She’s sprawled on her stomach, head twisted and eyes blank. By the stiffness of her limbs, McCoy would estimate that she has been dead for almost three days. There is no indication of a knife wound on her back.
“Captain!” Jim is already at Spock’s side by the time Leonard arrives. Their backs are to McCoy, but they are so still he can feel his blood pressure rising.
“What is it?”
Jim looks at the doctor, his face unreadable. Spock turns around and presents a communicator. “The communicator was among Miss Yuise’s belongings.” McCoy looks down, realizes that he is standing on an embroidered woman’s tunic.
“You mean she had one the whole time?”
“No,” Spock says slowly. “I think that we, each of us, retained our communicators; however—”
McCoy feels sick. “—we were made to believe that they had been taken.”
Jim turns away, his shoulders rigid. McCoy thinks, Damn it, Jim, this isn’t your fault. But he won’t say it now; Spock and Leonard can only help Jim after they’ve got him cornered in his quarters—away from this planet, away from any reminder. Then, perhaps, the Captain will be open to listening to their words. Well, Len knows, he won’t be at first but having two tenacious lovers is good for something.
The Captain orders Spock, “Establish contact with the Enterprise.”
Spock does so, and McCoy cannot describe the sheer relief he feels at hearing Scotty’s voice say “Mr. Spock! We’ve been tryin’ reach ye since yesterday!”
Turns out that the Enterprise received an order from the Captain—they swear it was his voice—to beam up McCoy and Yuise but when the transporter was activated, a large surge of energy (so strange) came through and felled half of the system. It’s still down for repairs, but the regular—though brief—comms from the Captain kept them from worrying.
The Basilisk was thorough in his isolation of the delegation party. They would have all been dried-out husks of people before the space-bound crew grew suspicious enough to send down a shuttle. It’s just another explanation that they have to file in their reports to Starfleet. McCoy doubts that Command is going to take half of their claims seriously—despite the Enterprise’s track record for encountering the most phenomenally evil and inventive creatures in the galaxy.
(On the shuttle ride back to the Enterprise, McCoy never utters a single complaint; he sits, behind Jim and Spock, with closed eyes.)
Later, they send down several investigative parties to flesh out the details of the event; Jim goes along on each one, much to McCoy’s dismay. Leonard performs careful autopsies of several bodies. The security officers died, he concludes, in the unleashing of the Basilisk’s power. Their bodies are burnt on the inside, as if they carried a searing wave of energy like receptacles. Other bodies vary in states of death: some recent; some, deceased so long ago that they are little more than mummified remains.
It’s horrific, and when the three surviving officers sit down to discuss and analyze the Basilisk’s trap, Jim tells Spock and McCoy about the Basilisk. McCoy can only imagine, then, the implications of the autopsy results. Did these people die slowly, drained on their life force? Were they still in possession of their own thoughts, or little more than empty husks of functioning organs? Remembering the blank look in Reeves’ eyes, the doctor hesitates to speculate further. It is hard enough, watching the Captain compose each heart-breaking missive to the family of the deceased. (Spock and McCoy want to help but Jim refuses, like always.)
They orbit the planet for two more weeks before Command closes the mission. As the Enterprise pulls away from the planet of the Basilisk, Jim tells Spock and Bones in the privacy of the Ready Room the final verdict of the Fleet and Federation.
“The Federation wants to recolonize the planet. They will be sending in a science team to determine the suitability of the surface for life and then, eventually, reconstruction crews.”
McCoy is so mad he thinks that he may throw something; he crosses his arms and tucks his hands next to his body just in case. “And they read the full report?”
“Shit, Jim! You’d think a soul-sucking monster would be enough to quarantine the entire planet for the next thousand years. Goddamn those bastards!”
Spock adds, “I too find this news disturbing, Captain. The Science Department was able to correlate data between the Basilisk and our encounter with the Organians, but we could not draw accurate conclusions. The Basilisk is, simply, an unknown entity—and dangerous to all life.”
“The planet will be deemed safe when it shouldn’t be,” Jim acknowledges as he paces.
“Wasn’t any of them worried that we couldn’t find the Basilisk’s body, Jim?”
“If the Basilisk’s explanation to the Captain is correct, Doctor, then we can assume that he is able to transfer his… essence.”
They take a moment to absorb Spock’s statement. McCoy shivers. “So he could be sitting down there, waiting on the next batch of Federation fools to come trolley-ing along for settlement.”
No one needs to say a word; agreement is unanimous.
The Enterprise hums as it goes into warp. Despite that they leave the solar system behind and are bedding down together for some much needed rest in the large Captain’s bed, not one of the three sleeps easily. McCoy settles for rubbing Jim’s back in slow circles with one hand and brushing his thumb along the side of Spock’s fingers that are entwined with his own.
At least, we’re alive. At least, we are together.
Tomorrow Kirk, Spock, and McCoy can pretend to be normal—until they can be normal again.
Len’s eyes close, but the darkness seems worse. His ears ring with the echo of the Basilisk’s howl—that terrible, angry keen like a starving man denied. Though the Vulcan’s heat keeps Len’s skin warm, on the inside, McCoy is cold.
I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
If you have a moment to spare:
What is your favorite of my works and why? Answer here please!