Title: Recapture (8/9)
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Summary: An innocuous tour lands Kirk, Spock, and McCoy in deadly territory.
Previous Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
A/N: Basically I wrote one version of these last two chapters, then wrote another and posted the one that I liked. :/
The woman in the brig was awake but oddly impassive. She had not shifted the slightest bit after settling herself on the long bench of her cell and looked at no one.
“…I believe you,” the captain of the Star Maiden said with gruff reluctance to the others in the brig. If Pieta looked at no one, he only had eyes for her.
“We have no reason to lie, Roraqk,” Jim replied, for a moment sounding almost weary. He admitted, “I didn’t see this coming.”
“No one could,” murmured Leonard from Jim’s side. He strengthened his voice. “It’s obvious she’s not in her right mind. She’s killed two people.”
“Murderers rarely are in their right mind, Doctor,” came the remark from Kirk’s opposite side.
Leonard rolled his eyes at Spock but didn’t offer a contradiction.
Jim took hold of the conversation before his two companions discovered a subject they could really disagree about. Sadly, the vacation was ruined and he didn’t have time to enjoy their antics.
To Roraqk, he said, “We may have apprehended the party responsible for the two deaths but this situation is far from over. We think Pieta was in possession of an object that was originally of interest to the victims. We searched her quarters for it, but—”
Roraqk interrupted with “Enough, Kirk. I don’t care about some mysterious object. We have the killer and her confession. She’s somebody else’s problem now.”
Leonard bristled at that. “If you would shut up long enough to let us explain, you’d know why it is still your problem!”
“Bones,” Jim said.
“He’s not listening!”
“At this point, he doesn’t have to. We’ll take care of it.”
Nostrils flaring, Roraqk faced the three men as if he understood the message beneath Jim’s words.
Jim met the intense gaze. He said bluntly, “You’re incompetent. I’m removing you from duty, Roraqk.”
“You can’t do that.”
“I just have.”
Roraqk took a menacing step in the human’s direction. “Be careful, Kirk. This isn’t Starfleet, and I’m not one of your underlings.”
Jim challenged, “But it is Federation space. Your charter is bound to the by-laws whether you like it or not.”
“You’re not taking my ship.”
“My rank is equal to yours. I can if I have to.”
“You’re not taking my ship!” Roraqk roared this time.
Jim refused to flinch. “I don’t see that I have a choice in the matter. You won’t take us seriously when we say you are in danger. I don’t know how else to convince you—and frankly I don’t have the patience for it. Until we reach the starbase, the Maiden is now mine to command.”
Roraqk lifted his hands, then dropped them again, flexing his fist like he was imagining the beating he was capable of giving. The bite in his voice spoke of a deep rage as he growled to an officer standing aside, as though there had been no question of who held command: “No one comes in contact with this prisoner until we dock. Don’t talk to her, don’t look at her, don’t even so much as breathe in her direction.”
“Now wait a minute,” Leonard interrupted, “that’s inhumane!”
Roraqk fixed a beady eye on the doctor, finishing, “That’s an order.”
Unfortunately the officer at his superior’s back looked uncertainly from Roraqk to Kirk. Not hearing the automatic ‘aye, Captain’ that he expected, Roraqk turned in time to see the fellow’s indecision.
He snarled, “I’m still captain of this ship.”
Quite calmly, Jim said to Roraqk’s subordinate, “Monitor her from the security room, Lieutenant.”
Roraqk went for Jim’s throat.
Spock smoothly stepped in between the two captains. “I would not advise it, sir,” he said to the enraged humanoid. Spock didn’t have to elaborate on what he meant.
Roraqk wheeled around and threw a wild punch. His fist hit the wall, and the metal dented. The staff who were present winced.
Behind Jim, Leonard sighed and muttered something about being right.
Jim’s mouth twitched upward only for a brief second. Then he turned on his heel, donning an air of authority like a familiar cloak, and said, “To the bridge, gentlemen.”
Spock and McCoy filed out of the brig after him. Roraqk, however much he seethed, followed the trio not long after.
“You didn’t mention Essler,” Leonard said after Jim had stepped onto the bridge and grimly announced the change in captainship to those present there. “Why?”
“I too would like that explanation,” said Spock, lending his voice to the inquiry.
Jim glanced aside to the imposing figure of the Star Maiden‘s former captain, who glowered indiscriminately at everyone from the edge of the platform, and answered in a voice that wouldn’t carry. “Consider him a trick card up our sleeve that we may need.”
Leonard shared a confused look with Spock. “But, Jim, he’s gone AWOL.” The doctor narrowed his eyes. “I know I tied those pillow cases damn tight. How could he have possibly gotten out of ’em?”
“Evidently there are many unknowns concerning the Lieutenant-Commander.”
“You think?” Leonard shot back to Spock. “He’s willing to attack one of us, he knows about the stolen Orb, and he’s an escape-artist to boot! I’d say there’s a great deal we don’t know about him, Spock!”
“Calm down, Bones.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down,” the doctor whispered furiously. “This vacation has turned into some kind of horror sideshow. We don’t know what’s coming at us next, Jim!”
“Bones,” Jim said once again, “can’t you tone it down? You’re not helping my headache.”
Immediately Leonard whipped out a tricorder, seemingly from nowhere, and held it over Jim’s head. It whirred as it took readings. “I told you to let me give you a shot. A human’s not built to take several paralyzing energy blasts in a row. You’re going to develop a migraine at this rate.”
Jim winced. “Please don’t say that.” He waved off the hypospray the doctor started to remove from his medkit.
Leonard pursed his mouth in displeasure but tucked the item away again. To Spock, he said, “He’s refusing my help but he won’t refuse yours.”
Spock tilted in his head in acknowledgement of that.
Jim frowned, looking between them, and insisted, “I’m fine.”
Spock only said, “Perhaps,” and seemed to direct his attention elsewhere.
Leonard crossed his arms and let his gaze bore a hole into the side of Jim’s head. “So,” he wanted to know, “what’s the plan?”
“We’re already scanning for anomalies onboard, Bones.”
“Last I heard, the results were coming up negative—which means, thank god, somebody has had sense enough not to take the Orb out of its box and play ball with it.”
Jim gave him an un-amused look. “We have to find it before that happens.”
“No need to tell me that. I read the case studies on the virus it carries.”
Jim’s interest was piqued. “Why was it never sterilized?”
Leonard snorted. “You try telling a bunch of fanatics that the very thing on which they base their religion is a piece of contaminated space debris. It was never accepted by the Bajorans that the cause of their leader’s prophetic visions was actually delirium from a fever induced by a virus. Our Federation field doctors tried talking sense to them, but at this point any native who agrees with the findings is a heretic. The best that could be done was the agreement to contain the Orbs so that they could be looked at but not touched; at least, not touched by most, except those who are worthy of the experience.”
“An experience which is likely to kill them.”
“Yeah,” Leonard agreed, shoulders rounding downward. “I don’t understand how dying is that important.”
“For the sake of belief?” Jim said. “Maybe. But not for the sake of politics.”
Leonard nodded. “Which is why you’re thinking somebody stole one of the Orbs in the first place.”
Spock turned his head back in their direction. “Bajorans do make a distinction between governmental and the religious bodies. That is not to say, however, that the religious Assembly and its leader, the Kai, do not remain un-involved in secular affairs. Often the shift of power between the provincial factions is attributed to the Assembly lending its support to one leader over the other. For this reason, I believe the majority of the discontent and unrest in the nations on Bajor stems from the composition of the Assembly itself and in particular which faction the members are willing to represent or refute. Moreover, because it is not a simple matter of election, these members exercise their independence in bestowing their favor—if one discounts the bribery, nepotism, and violence which is likely to influence their decisions.” At Leonard’s look of disgust, Spock pointed out, “To the Bajorans, this is simply how their world operates. I have perused multiple papers concerning the Bajorans’ doctrine of the Prophet. One phrase has been found to be repeated more than any other. The rough translation is: ‘Giveth all unto him who is Chosen, for His guidance is our salvation.”
“Basically all the power goes to the Bajorans with the closest claim to God,” Leonard summarized, “and for the lessers it’s a rat race to get their attention.”
“So it would seem.”
“Wonderful. Then why steal an Orb?”
“Leverage,” Jim answered. “Bajorans call them the Prophet’s Tears for a reason, Bones. You can’t be chosen by the Prophet if you aren’t in tune with at least one Orb. My guess is that we have a faction who’s reckless and desperate enough to go after one, maybe as ransom, maybe to gain more followers. Who really knows?”
Spock considered this. “I doubt it would be the Paqu or the Nakot, who are the two largest national factions and currently have the favor of the Assembly… Yet there are too many minor factions to single out any one culprit.”
“Ugh, I really hate civil wars,” Leonard griped. “Now I understand why the Bajorans turned down membership to the Federation. They’re too busy duking it out among themselves to care about playing nice with anybody else.”
Jim nodded slightly. “That’s probably a good thing, Bones.”
“Bet you’re wishing that we hadn’t made first contact with them all those months ago.”
Jim’s smile was thin. “I’m only paid to seek out the unknown. Don’t blame me.”
“At this moment, blame is not of consequence,” said Spock. “Pieta will not tell us where she has hidden the Orb, and the longer its location remains unknown, the more at-risk this ship becomes.”
Leonard swallowed hard. “That’s a sobering thought. Why don’t I go down to Medical and check out the quarantine procedures on this old boat? When we do find it, we need to be able to stash it somewhere safe if we can’t toss it out of an airlock—and honestly I’m not comfortable with the idea of either of you picking up that thing with your bare hands. We just don’t know enough about the virus and how it operates in a host environment, and I’m not that desperate for a new research thesis to publish. Capiche?“
“We hear you, Bones,” said Jim. “You go on. Spock and I need to debrief a security team in the meantime. We will all meet back here in half an hour. Agreed?”
Spock said, “Yes, Captain.”
They moved as a unit towards the exit to the bridge.
Ahead of Leonard and Spock, Jim paused just shy of the archway. “Strange,” he mused, “my headache’s gone.” When it dawned on him that that could not be coincidence, he turned abruptly to face the men behind him with narrowed eyes.
An unrepentant Leonard grinned. Spock simply blinked at them both, adopting an air of innocence as only someone with excellent control over their facial muscles could.
Once again, his partners had colluded to fix him up without his permission. But Jim knew better than to call them on it. Truthfully, he was grateful to be free of the pain so he could think with a clear mind—as long as the burden of maintaining the mental block didn’t wear Spock down. They couldn’t afford to be vulnerable, not any of them.
Jim sighed, shook his head, and with determination resumed his heading to the nearest lift.
“We are going to search this vessel from top to bottom, including the living quarters, passenger and crew alike,” Jim told the group of people around him. “Work in pairs, report anything or anyone suspicious, but above all, ladies and gentlemen, do not touch any object that you do not recognize. Call it in to the Bridge immediately, and the Bridge will alert Medical. I cannot be clearer than that in what I expect from you. Understood?”
He was given a round of agreement and handed the floor over to the Chief of Security to coordinate the search plans.
Spock said, “We need to alert the passengers.”
“I know,” Jim said. “The last thing we need is panic. I can make a ship-wide announcement. I’ll say we’re performing a required security drill for the crew.” He offered Spock a half-smile. “Maybe I’ll even add that the captain would like to show his thanks in advance by making the dinner buffet tonight free-of-charge. Oh, and free drinks too!”
Spock said nothing to that.
“Well, I thought it was a good idea,” muttered Jim. He turned partly away. “I know we said we’d meet back up with Bones, but could you call to Medical and check his status? I have this nagging feeling that he’s causing trouble. He almost took a bite out of that medical officer last time they came face-to-face. I hate to think that he might end up in the brig for brawling.”
“Leonard had reason to be concerned,” Spock said. “The officer’s disregard for protocol was disturbing.”
Jim cut his eyes at the Vulcan. “No need to defend Bones’ honor to me, Spock. I’m on his side.”
Spock’s look said as you should be. The Vulcan pivoted around and strode away to the nearest wall communication unit.
Jim pinched the bridge of his nose. He had made it less than a week without needing to take command of something or someone. This vacation truly wasn’t a vacation at all.
But he had to get them out of this, all of them, safely. Bones hadn’t really meant to blame him but the man was right: Jim was responsible in a sense for what was happening. Pieta was his fault, at the very least.
Somehow he kept making mistakes, and he didn’t why. Was it always going to be like this?
He wished he knew.
Meaning to join Spock across the room, Jim started in that direction but was brought up short by an insistent beeping that he had not encountered in a while. Dropping his gaze to his belt, he removed the personal communicator he had clipped there after their brief return to their quarters. He flipped the device open, saying, “Kirk here.”
“Captain?” questioned a scratchy voice.
“Yes,” he acknowledged again, “this is Kirk.” He wasn’t able to drop the brusqueness from his tone. The present moment was hardly the appropriate time for a social call.
“Captain—” the speaker began to spit in stops and starts, “—sir, I mean, Jim, this is—”
Jim didn’t need to hear the name to know who it was; all-at-once he recognized the man and gave the communicator his full attention. “Essler!” he said loudly, then after looking around purposefully lowered his voice. “Essler,” he repeated with some urgency, “where are you?”
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you, Jim!” the young man blurted out in a rush. “I tried to, I really did, but Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock wouldn’t let me. Were you hurt?”
“You’re forgiven and, no, I’m perfectly all right,” Jim was quick to assure him. The hairs on the back of his neck had risen because, despite the apology, there was a suppressed excitement in the young man’s voice that Essler could not quite hide. “Tell me where you are—or better yet, why don’t you come to the Bridge?”
Essler’s voice lost some of its excitement, then. “I’d better not. Roraqk will demote me.”
“Your captain has been temporary relieved of his command.”
There was a pause. Then, “Am I Acting Captain?”
Jim almost chuckled. “Unfortunately not. That duty has fallen to me.”
He had to jerk the comm to an arm’s distance as a terrible screech nearly burst his eardrum.
“Sir! Captain, sir! I can’t believe—this is—but how?—You’re my captain now!” Essler’s excitement had returned tenfold.
If the young man was this happy about it, Jim could use that to his advantage. He said in his best captain’s voice, “Make your report, Lieutenant-Commander.”
“Aye, sir! As you probably know, sir, due to a misunderstanding I had been tied up by Dr. McCoy and left in your quarters. When I was a youngster, I was the best of my troop at tackling knots, so Dr. McCoy’s were no problem.”
“Troop?” Jim questioned.
“Intergalactic Boy Scouts. ‘Be prepared!'”
Jim pushed the back of his hand against his mouth to hold in his laughter. “Go on,” he urged.
“Yes, I garnered that. Where are you now?”
“Engineering Deck 2, Sector C next to the engine room.” Essler’s excitement grew to epic proportions. “Captain, I think I found it!”
Jim’s grip tightened instinctively on his communicator. “Found what?”
“Why, the Orb, sir. We can solve the case now! Once I realized you were in danger, I knew I had to break my contract. I’ll bring you the Orb.”
Jim had snapped upright after the second word. “No!” he barked, garnering the attention of every other person in the room.
Spock came at him at a swift pace.
“Stay where you are,” Jim said into the speaker. “We’ll come to you. That’s an order!”
Essler started to protest with “But, Captain—” and was, without warning, cut off as the line went dead.
Jim’s ‘red alert’ along the back of his neck turned in a terrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“Jim?” Spock said sharply, coming abreast of him.
“I hope Bones found something of use in the med bay,” Jim said, meeting the Vulcan’s dark eyes. “The Orb’s been located.”
Spock ended the call with a rather abrupt goodbye, and Leonard was left staring at the computer console in dismay. Now why had Spock insinuated that there wasn’t time for him pass judgment on someone else’s Sickbay? He wasn’t going to fault the poor medical staff for having to work with the 23rd century equivalent of stone tools.
Of course, Leonard thought, eyeing his surroundings, the staff consisted of only one individual who didn’t seem very interested at all in whether or not he could had the proper equipment to perform a medical procedure.
Said individual was tapping staring at him from the other side of the table with impatience, like Leonard was a gnat that had come around to bother him.
“Did you think of something?” Leonard wanted to know. “We have to have a secure storage compartment. At bare minimum an iso-field.”
“This is a tourist cruiser, Dr. McCoy, not one of your Federation ships. I have two exam beds, a supply closet, and an office.”
Leonard crossed his arms. “What about your stasis room?”
The other doctor’s eyes narrowed at him.
Leonard rolled his eyes heavenward. Communicating with this man was akin to speaking to a wooden board. He huffed and went to the rear of the bay.
The Star Maiden‘s sole medical officer caught up to him rather quickly and latched onto his arm. “I don’t want you disturbing my work area, McCoy,” he insisted.
“You act like I’m only here to pester you!” Leonard snapped back. “This is about the safety of the ship!” He jerked his arm away and demanded the code to access the stasis room.
For a long minute, it was a silent battle of wills between them. Then Leonard’s opponent seemed to come to some decision and grudgingly gave the voice command to open the door.
Leonard strode into the room. It wasn’t large, but he expected that. Along the wall decorated with built-in cold chambers, he pressed the padd to open one of them.
“This will have to do,” he said, looking into the long, empty container that presented itself for his inspection. “I think as long as the case containing the Orb isn’t damaged or removed, we can transport it without risk to ourselves. But if it comes open…”
“I know the danger, Dr. McCoy.”
Leonard shot his companion a side-glance. “Then why in blazes are you so nonchalant about a biohazard?”
The man shrugged. “It’s the nature of the business, I guess.”
That was an odd response, Leonard thought to himself. He closed the container and watched it slide back into the wall. It wasn’t until he starting turning away from the wall that he noticed something strange. He stared hard at the other chambers, all of which had control panels that blinked back an inactive status.
A chill crawled down his spine.
“Where did you store the bodies?” he asked.
Silence met his answer.
Leonard turned around.
The stony-faced man in the open doorway met his eyes, making his intent clear without words, and then took a long step backwards.
Leonard lunged for the door, but it hissed shut before he could reach it and the lock engaged.
Slamming his hand against the clear panel separating him from the outer bay, he demanded, “What are you doing?”
“My apologies, Dr. McCoy,” came the voice through the wall comm, “but I did warn you to say out of my work area.”
“Let me out of here!”
“That would be unwise.” His captor paused. “Yet I suppose I do owe you an explanation; after all, we are colleagues in a certain sense.”
Leonard’s mouth formed a thin line. They weren’t colleagues. This man wasn’t a real doctor, and they both knew it.
“You destroyed the bodies,” he guessed. “You never intended to turn them over to the authorities, did you?”
“On the contrary, we fully intended to—right up until my captain realized who killed them.” The man’s face twisted into a sneer. “I told Roraqk that woman was nothing but trouble, and now the bitch has made a mess of everything in the name of revenge. But we’ll clean things up, rest assured of that.” He turned away.
“Wait!” Leonard cried, beating against the door again. “The Orb is still out there! We’re still in danger!”
The man kept walking away.
Leonard bit out a cry of frustration and took several steps back to survey what he was up against. He didn’t know the design of this ship; it wasn’t the Enterprise.
That didn’t mean Spock had not taught him a thing or two in the years of their commission together. He found what he was looking for and peeled a tiny panel off the wall beside the door. A circuit board and a jumble of colored wires greeted him.
Jim and Spock were walking into a trap. He knew it as surely as he knew his own name. It wasn’t just that Roraqk had lied to them, had broken the law. Something else was motivating the decisions of the ship’s captain. Something he, Jim, and Spock had failed to recognize.
Leonard said a prayer under his breath as he began separating the wires.
Now, which color was it that Spock had told him usually represented the tripwire?
“Damn it,” he cursed, and yanked at one.