Title: Holiday Revenge (12/13)
Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Pairing: Pike/Archer, Kirk/McCoy
Summary: Sequel to Goodbye, Holidays. Events turn ugly, for Kirk’s enemy has found the perfect way to pay Kirk back for his meddling.
Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11
Did you think this wasn’t coming? Did you believe we would never see the end? I did. So let’s just say I have mixed emotions about everything, and that made it more difficult to put this chapter into words.
Before you proceed, consider these very serious warnings:
-There is violence herein. Guns, knives, people hurting people. Bad guys not repenting.
-There is death, and in the spirit of the above warning, it is not peaceful death.
-There is action. Too much of it, really, so I recommend reading this chapter at a time when you will have no interruptions.
All that said, onto the story!
Archer calls his team to attention one last time at the gate. He wants to make certain there is no misunderstanding of what needs to happen and who should be taking those risks.
“My birds in the nest,” he says, pointing at Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. “Think of it like this: you’re too young to fly. If you fall out—” He smacks his hands together. “—you’re done for.”
McCoy looks less than pleased with this analogy, Spock seems to think Jon is a fool, and Kirk is curious, just like the baby bird planning to test how far he can lean over the edge of the nest without toppling out.
Jon sighs. “The nest is there,” he proposes, indicating the hangar’s north side. “My guess is that ladder runs up to the rafters.”
“Rafters?” repeats Leonard, alarmed.
“A good vantage point for lookouts,” remarks Jon, “but if you can’t find an inconspicuous corner up there, retreat to the radio tower. I’d rather have half the intel than all of it at the risk of you three being exposed.”
“Perhaps one of us could scale the roof,” Spock suggests.
Leonard gasps. “Are you out of your mind? You’ll get yourself killed!”
Spock arches an eyebrow. “I am certified in rock climbing.”
“And I’m certified in recognizing reckless idiots!” retorts McCoy. “Fine, go up there on your own. See if I patch you back together afterwards!”
Jim lays a hand on his agitated boyfriend’s arm. “We all will be careful, Bones.”
Leonard crosses his arms and glares at everyone in silence.
Jon thinks McCoy has brought up a good point. “Speaking of patching people up, McCoy’s our first responder for medical emergencies, but he isn’t a substitute for an actual paramedic. Most wounded, first out. I don’t drill you in fireman carries for nothing. Your partner takes a hit, get him to safety.”
Jim raises a hand. “You didn’t drill us in fireman carries.”
Jon eyes him. “Dragging works too.”
“Lovely,” mutters McCoy.
“Spock, you’re Kirk’s second-in-command.” Jon stares hard at the dark-eyed man. “Do you understand what I mean?”
Spock inclines his head ever-so-slightly. “I believe so, Sheriff.”
McCoy must understand that unspoken objective too, because he makes no protest, just says to Spock, “Good luck.”
Jim is the one close to scratching his head. Jon could tell him that second-in-commands don’t simply follow orders, they question orders which aren’t rational and, moreover, oversee the safety of the leader giving those orders, but since second-in-commands work best on the sly too, Jon keeps his silence.
“What are you going to do, Sheriff?” Jim asks.
Jon sobers, contemplating the tiny figures in the distance moving to and from the hangar. “Because we’re here based on only a hunch, this is low-level reconnaissance. Do you know what that means, Kirk?”
“Surveying enemy territory.”
“Exactly that,” he agrees. “No engagement unless a life is in danger—or when I call for it. Just observe and move on. If there’s to be a fight, I want them to bring it to us. Even then, keep in mind those of us standing here are the only reinforcements available, so don’t push where you can’t win. Larry, do you see those overturned trailers to the south? You and Matthews head that way. Circle until you see a way in that won’t require discharging a weapon. Go now,” he commands.
Larry and Matthews slip around the crooked gate and jog through the treeline, keeping themselves hidden.
Archer turns to Kirk. “What’s your approach?”
Jim looks slightly surprised that Jon is willing to ask. “We can cut across the treeline to the radio tower and take our first survey there. The control room sits higher than the hangar. If the way looks clear, we’ll proceed to the north side.”
“I’m worried, Jim,” says McCoy. “Isn’t that side where they would bring in the planes? It must be open to the outside.”
“And as such would be guarded more scrupulously,” Spock adds.
Kirk nods. “If they’re watching from the inside, it’s likely we can make it without being seen. If not… We would need a distraction.” His calculating gaze studies the landscape. “I don’t know what yet.”
Jon suggests, “You can always turn on something in the radio tower and make a run for it when they’re curious enough to investigate.”
Kirk’s eyes light up. “Yes, the tower!” He turns to Spock. “Spock, what are the odds the control room is still connected to the equipment in the hangar?”
“I can extrapolate that answer once we have access to the booth, Jim.”
Jon says, “You have the basis for a plan, then. Make it work, Kirk.”
“Will do, sir.”
Spock focuses on Jon. “Sheriff, it is clear you intend to proceed alone, which may work to your advantage in infiltrating at the ground level. Mr. Scott was able to obtain the blueprints to this building arrangement once the coordinates of our destination became clear. I believe the docking bay facing us could very well be the least guarded entrance. The height of the grass ahead suggests no one has made use of it in quite some time.”
“I’m impressed,” Jon says warmly, “and I accept that recommendation, Mr. Spock. One point, though, to all three of you: always assume the unexpected is as likely to occur as the expected. If I take the dock, it will be with the expectation someone has to be incapacitated.”
“That’s smart,” Jim says.
“Of course—because stupid can lead to dead.” Archer removes his gun from its holster. “It’s time. Weapons in hand, gentlemen.”
Kirk holds up his taser. Spock flicks his taser on and off to verify that it is operating properly. With a grim slant to his mouth, McCoy hugs a first-aid kit to his chest which he must have pilfered from one of the vehicles.
Jon can’t help it. He grins. “I think Sourpatch is the most dangerously armed.”
Jim looks at his boyfriend with undisguised affection in his eyes.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” mutters McCoy.
“Go,” Jon orders.
It’s with a mixture of pride and fear that he watches the trio slide around the gate, Kirk in the lead, and disappear north through the treeline. After a minute, Jon heads out by himself.
Ahead of him, Archer spies his two deputies already drifting past the trailer yard towards the main road and small paved parking lot in front of the hangar. He veers at another angle when he hits the yard, using the half dozen abandoned trailers for cover. Some of them sit askew, open to the environment and any of nature’s beasts which wish to make a home there; others are still sealed tight with rusting chains and padlocks. A short distance away, an old burnt and blackened oil drum lays overturned in the gravel, someone’s leftover fire pit. Most of the discarded trash on the ground is rotting, two or three empty, broken liquor bottles included.
His initial impression must be correct: the new owners haven’t the desire to return the airfield to its days of glory. Why, then, is it useful to own?
He pushes away that thought to focus on the mission ahead. Reaching the last trailer before the yard turns to a stretch of grass meeting the hangar, he crouches there and assesses the square doorway that makes up the dock. At first inspection, it appears forgotten.
Unfortunately, the door is also closed.
He releases a dismayed breath. Rolling bay doors have chains; chains make noise. Jon sizes up the second option: a regular-sized door next to the dock, accessible by a short flight of concrete stairs. The door itself is metal and could be barred from the inside. He has to check on the off-chance that it isn’t.
The distance between that door will require a sprint. Archer checks the road to his right to ascertain any movement (of which there is none), then glances left, catching a flash of a body disappearing around the radio tower. Well, if Kirk and his team can make to their destination undetected, so can he. He flicks the safety off his weapon and runs.
Twenty years ago his lungs wouldn’t have protested the burst of exercise. By the time he reaches the top step, his breath is sawing in and out and sweat has gathered at his temples. He tries to the knob, cursing to find the door locked and kneels down to put himself eye-level with the key hole. Pulling a tiny lock-picking kit out of an inner jacket pocket, he thinks it’s a good thing he is alone. Nobody ought to know that the county sheriff can do this.
Jon tries to wheedle the door into compliance as he twists the metal rods around the lock. “C’mon, c’mon…”
The radio clipped to his shoulder comes to life with “Kirk here. We’re inside the tower.”
He responds, “Good work.”
“Thanks. The door to the control room was locked, but Spock broke us in.” Static overlays Kirk’s report momentarily. “—you.”
“Repeat that, Kirk. You broke up.”
McCoy’s voice filters through. “He said we can see you from up here. Isn’t lock-picking illegal, Sheriff?”
Damn. Jon isn’t foolish enough to reply to that.
Spock has a different opinion on the matter. “There is no shame in using the skills of a delinquent under these circumstances, Mr. McCoy.”
“Great,” Archer mutters under his breath. He has been Spock-approved.
Kirk is back. “We can’t see the far side, but there’s a car sitting in the south parking lot. No one inside it.”
“Interesting,” Spock muses. “Sheriff, though I cannot speak with certainty without visual confirmation of the license plate, the vehicle is similar in make and model to the one which Lt. Marcus was driving.”
So, Marcus followed their mark here. Jon wants to know, “What else do you see?”
“The hangar opening is guarded. We’re going to need my plan,” Kirk says. “Bones, see if you can find a power box. Spock, can you work this equipment?”
“It is antiquated,” comes the faint reply. “I shall try, Jim.”
“Be careful,” Jon reminds them.
“We’ll do our best. Kirk out.”
Just as Jim’s voice fades, the lock makes a tiny click of sound, which is akin to a shout of triumph to Archer’s ears. He gently turns the door knob, wincing as the rusted door hinges complain after being neglected for so long. When the door is open just a sliver, he peers through the space to detect movement and listens for sounds like someone nearby. The silence is promising.
Archer slides past the door and closes it behind him, allowing his eyes a moment to adjust from the bright daylight of the outdoors to the shadowed interior of the hangar. Luck seems to be with him. A row of stacked pallets hides this door from sight. No wonder no one uses it, he thinks, since it would take a large machine like a forklift to clear a proper pathway. He stirs a thick layer of dust and swallows a sneeze.
The pallet stacks are tall enough to cover his movement and also give him a view of the wide level hangar floor and the second-story office on the opposite side. One, Jon ticks off mentally, noting the bald, tattooed man standing by the office door. From his ground level, the height of the office windows makes it impossible to see if anyone is inside the office, but he figures the man is either standing guard against whoever is inside or there to prevent someone from escaping.
Keeping to the darker corners, he switches from pallet to pallet, counting, Two, three, four, as more of Nero’s men become visible. From the very last stack in the row, he spies another door leading to the outside sitting ajar below the staircase. The shadows of two men are on the outside, more guards, but it’s the group just within that doorway which draws Archer’s attention.
The man armed with the short blade is Ayel. Ayel seems fixated on the office above their heads, the thoughtful way he turns his knife over and over in his hand suggesting that the person in the office is an enemy, not a friend of Nero’s.
The other three men suited in black resemble stone statues more than living people. They don’t appear overly captivated by anything, for the occasional turning of their heads is almost robotic as they survey of the hangar for threats.
In the very center of the group is Nero himself. With one hand hidden in a pants pocket, the man’s posture is almost casual, as if the conversation he’s currently engaged in on his cell phone is the only pressing concern on his mind. The occasional murmur of his voice is an echo than Jon can barely catch.
Nero looks no different than the sharp-eyed, smiling politician he portrayed during last year’s election campaign. Though Jon has never had the opportunity to introduce himself to Nero in person (he supported Wesley during the election for Mayor, and Nero has only ever answered his investigation inquiries via a law firm), this man’s face has been plastered all over his crime board since the incident with the North Star.
A sudden furious impulse to make his presence known and catch Nero unawares overwhelms Archer, and he starts forward without thinking. By the time his higher reasoning kicks in, he has rattled a broken pallet board by stepping on it.
Ayel tears his gaze away from the office and turns in Jonathan’s direction.
Jon thinks, You’ve done it now, Archer, and quietly raises his gun, preparing to be discovered.
A siren’s scream cuts through the hangar. Jon clamps a hand to one ear, startled, half-expecting they have found themselves stuck in the middle of an enemy air raid.
Nero, momentarily frozen like everyone around him, straightens and snaps his cell phone shut, turning on his guards with a slashing look. “Secure the area!” he shouts over the wailing siren, then to Ayel specifically, “Find a way to shut the damn thing off!”
Ayel bounds up the staircase to the second-story and slams back the office door, disappearing inside.
Teeth bared, Nero pivots in a slow, wary circle, no longer the suave, mild-mannered politician.
Jon presses back behind his pallet stack, wondering how long it will be before the guards flocking out across the hangar will think to check his hiding spot. A heart-pounding thirty seconds later, the siren abruptly cuts out.
Jon hopes like hell that Kirk and his team made good use of the chaos to reach the ladder.
Gathering his courage, he peers around the edge of a pallet. Ayel appears in the open doorway, a struggling man in his grip. When Ayel throws his quarry against the railing, Jon gets a good look at the man’s face. It’s Marcus. Behind Ayel and Marcus, another person slips into view, then, prevented from too far forward over the office’s threshold by the thick arm of the guard still posted there. Even with the bruised face and swollen eye, Jon has no trouble identifying him either.
Absolute shock often has the curious power of both numbing and clarifying the mind. Though Jon cannot even move, he drinks in every detail, every word, every action: Ayel forcing Marcus down the steel staircase at knife-point, Marcus babbling that he had nothing to do with the siren, and Pike standing so very still, observing the treatment of his fellow officer and friend in silence.
Almost like a blow, that fact that Pike is alive strikes Archer hard, filling him with a painful amount of joy.
Pike is alive. Pike is here. He needs to get to Pike.
At the latter thought, Jon’s brain begins to work furiously. He reaches for his radio, activating it to say in a strained voice, “Archer here. I have—”
Larry’s voice cuts in. “Yeah, we see him, Boss.” Then sharper to Jonathan, he urges, “Don’t do anything rash.”
“What’s your position?”
“Side of the front entrance. Matthews,” Larry hisses, “I said stay put!”
Matthew comes through the background, arguing, “But we have to rescue—!”
“Shh!” hisses Archer’s oldest deputy with more violence. “Remember who’s listening!”
“Oh,” says Matthews after a pause. “Shit, good point.”
Archer can’t fault Larry for being wary of alerting Kirk to Pike’s presence. Who’s to say what the kid would do? Jon makes a snap decision then. “Maintain your position, Deputies. When I have the chance, I’m changing my ten o’clock to nine o’clock.”
“Roger that, Sheriff.”
Waiting is the hardest part, especially knowing that their presence cannot yet be revealed to Pike.
Stepping off the staircase, Ayel shoves Marcus in Nero’s general direction with the snarl, “He was trying to use the radio.”
“I wasn’t!” denies Marcus. “The damn thing came on just before the siren went off!”
Nero stares at Marcus like there isn’t any appeal to his pleading. “Did you think you could create a diversion and escape me, Lieutenant?”
“It wasn’t me,” Marcus claims more forcefully. “Maybe it’s a warning to you!”
Nero falls silent for a long minute before asking, “And who do you believe to be responsible?”
Jon’s stomach sinks.
But Marcus says with certainty, “Kor. I told you he would come back.”
Nero motions to some of his men. “Scout for intruders. If Kor truly intends to start a war with me, he wouldn’t send one man in alone to distract us.” After those men gather others to complete Nero’s bidding, Nero tells Ayel, “Kor has no taste for subtlety. I should like to repay him in kind. Block the road with two of the cars.”
Something Liu had said about her city’s local gang leader calling his organization to arms hovers uneasily at the back of Archer’s mind. Could it be possible that what Marcus claims is true? That Kor and Kor’s men are coming here to challenge Nero?
Damn, yet another hostile force to worry about. How is he going to get Pike away safely?
He won’t be able to. Someone else must.
“Larry, Matthews,” he calls first, “get your asses away from the front entrance. The merc is heading that way.” Then, “Birds in the nest, I need eyes on the road now.”
No response is immediately forthcoming.
Archer puts his back to the pallet stack, facing the wall, lifting his radio closer to his mouth. “Kirk, it’s Archer. Do you copy?”
“Spock here. We read you.”
Oh, not good. “Where’s Kirk?”
“Hm,” Spock pauses and then goes on as if recognizing that it might be important to know where his charge went, “he is nearby.”
That is a piss-poor answer in Jon’s opinion. “Explain,” he demands.
A whisper comes through, not Spock’s or Kirk’s. “We’re on the roof.”
Archer nearly shouts at that, managing to bite his tongue at the last second. With deadly control, he repeats, “Explain.”
Spock supplies, “The hatch to the rafters is bolted from the inside. We proceeded to the roof to make use of the skylight.”
“We can’t see much through it though,” McCoy continues on in that whispering voice. “The glass is too cloudy.”
“McCoy,” Jon says, having heard the slight shake of the other man’s words, “what’s wrong?”
“Mr. McCoy is afraid of heights, a fact which he did not deem relevant for us to know until just now.”
“I’m doing o-okay,” stutters Leonard. “Just don’t let go of my hand.”
Spock sighs. “I do not understand Jim. I am perfectly capable of transversing the roof to the second skylight.”
“Then who’s gonna keep me from falling off?” McCoy counters in a harsh whisper.
“This position is secure. You will not fall.”
“If I hyperventilate and pass out, I will!” McCoy nearly shrieks now. “Damn your cold-blooded soul, I said don’t let go of my hand!”
Spock’s exasperation filters through. “I have no intention of letting go, but I would appreciate it if you did not break my fingers in the process of seeking comfort.”
Jon absolutely understands why Jim made Spock stay with McCoy. If Leonard is too incensed at Spock to remember how afraid he is, they won’t actually have to worry about Leonard passing out.
Nonetheless, Jon is going to strangle Jim the next time he sees him. Traipsing about the roof like it won’t matter if he falls off and breaks his neck, the crazy fool.
As if the mere thought conjures the man in question, Jim is suddenly talking to Archer through the radio. He sounds out of breath. “Sheriff, I think we have uninvited guests.”
That’s exactly what Jon is afraid of. “Tell me.”
“Guests,” Jim bleats again kind of mindlessly and then, annoyed, “Bones.“
“Damn it, Jim, just take my hand! You’re my boyfriend!”
“I also find this arrangement to be severely disturbing,” agrees Spock.
“So the other skylight,” Kirk continues, clearly ignoring his companions, “isn’t any better for a visual, but I did climb up to the antenna—”
“—because Uhura reported incoming traffic. I could almost make out the cars. There’s a lot of them.” Jon hears the frown in Kirk’s voice. “It also looks like there’s some kind of blockade at the main gate.”
“Nero ordered that,” Jon explains. “Kor’s coming.”
“Kor,” Jim repeats slowly as if puzzling out who this could be.
“Listen up, Kirk. The recon mission is over. When the coast is clear, retreat to the radio tower, then back to the woods. Take Spock’s SUV, pick up your crew from wherever they’re hiding and high-tail it to the highway.”
Jim’s voice sharpens. “What’s going on?”
“A territory war we do not want to find ourselves in the middle of.”
“I have eyes on Marcus. I’ll handle him.”
Spock says, “Acknowledged, Sheriff,” and cuts the communication.
Jon is left staring at his radio with the suspicion that Spock doesn’t want him to know what they are thinking. He is about to radio Larry and Matthews to come to the dock when a shouted demand from Marcus of “What about Pike?”, grabs Jon’s attention. He turns to watch.
Nero’s head lifts briefly towards the man still watching the proceedings silently from the office door. “Did I give the impression that I wanted the detective dead?”
“What?” Marcus says in surprise.
Nero’s gaze finds Marcus again. “I will ruin him, of course, but for now I simply thought it prudent that Detective Pike knew the reason why.” He speaks in a wholly different voice, then: clear, penetrating, imperious. “You seem too eager to be rid of him. Very well. The choice is yours, Lt. Marcus, but know this: spilling Christopher Pike’s blood has far less value to your future than the breaking of his spirit will.”
“What does that mean?” Marcus asks warily.
Nero offers up a small smile. “If you heed my advice, you can have the body back for its intended purpose.”
Whose body? Jon wonders. What would Marcus do with it?
The lines in Marcus’s face smooth out, as though he finally understands Nero’s meaning. “If I take care of Pike as recommended, does this mean I work for you?”
Nero inclines his head ever-so-slightly. “I can generally find a use for any man—even the cowardly.”
Marcus’s mouth thins at the obvious insult, but only wants to know, “What about Kor?”
Nero’s tone indicates he has lost interest in the conversation. “Kor is your problem.”
“No,” Marcus begins to protest.
Ayel returns. “We are prepared to hold them at the gate until you leave.”
“You can’t leave me to Kor!” Marcus yells, angry again.
Nero rests a hand briefly on his man’s shoulder. “Thank you, Ayel. Keep in mind what I said about Kor, should the opportunity present itself to you.”
“Yes, Nero,” Ayel responds with deference.
Marcus shouts for Nero as Nero strolls to the open door under the stairs where a black sedan slides past.
“Ah,” murmurs the man, pausing to slide his hands into his pockets as he turns back to observe those he is leaving behind. “Detective!” he calls to Pike, who has moved to the edge of the landing now that the guard is coming down the stairs. “I feel that we are destined to meet again.”
Left ignored, Marcus launches forward as if to attack. A man in a black suit aims a punch at Marcus’s head that sends him sprawling across the floor.
“If he tries that again,” Nero says, “break his neck,” and walks out.
Marcus sits up, hand to his bleeding mouth, stunned.
Jon shoves away a moment’s pity for the man and circles the stack closest in distance to the stairs. There’s little chance of crossing the space without drawing attention. Should he wait until the others leave to fight Kor? But Nero could be gone by then. When will there be another opportunity like this to put a stop to Nero’s sadistic plans?
Marcus climbs to his feet, looks around at the men who aren’t precisely his enemies, yet are most certainly not his friends. Ayel sneers at him in disgust before walking back to the front entrance. The others follow him.
Marcus jumps at the chance to go to the stairs. “Pike!” he calls.
As Jon watches Chris presses his mouth flat, turns and limps back into the office.
On his own now, Marcus quavers for a moment. Then he slides backward as he surveys his surroundings. His gaze lingers in Archer’s direction and he starts that way.
Jon hardly dares to breathe, unable to believe an opportunity like this is coming into his hands. The moment Marcus steps around the other end of the pallets, Jon bolts across the empty hangar, slamming through the door to the outside.
“NERO!” he bellows, gun raised and at the ready.
Caught mid-call, Nero stares at Jonathan with undisguised surprise. The phone by his ear is ringing.
A man picks up and, after a moment of silence, hangs up again.
Jon moves forward, making certain to block the door at his back as an escape route.
Nero steps back in tandem. His mouth twists wryly for a brief second before he says in his smooth politician’s voice, “So, Sheriff Jonathan Archer. In the end you came to me.”
Jon snorts. “You forgot to send my invitation. This is an interesting little party you’ve got going on here, Councilman.” His humor falls away. “Hands behind your head.”
Nero’s surprise is gone, replaced by a cold aloofness. “I admit this is not a party I planned very well. How did you find this place? Never mind,” he adds contemptuously. “I will discover the answer soon enough.”
Jon reminds himself that all bad guys like to boast in order to support their own egos. “You’re under arrest for conspiracy in the kidnapping of a law enforcement officer.”
“Kidnapping?” echoes Nero, mouth curving with disdain. “I am not holding anyone here. Retrieve whomever you wish.”
Jonathan takes a step forward, pulling out his handcuffs. “Cut the bullshit, Nero. Hands behind your head. I won’t repeat myself a third time.”
Nero complies the order even as the disdainful curve of his mouth becomes more pronounced. “You’re making a grave mistake.”
“Yeah, yeah, tell that to the judge.”
“I shall,” Nero rumbles, then in a deliberate voice commands, “Ayel, avenge yourself!“
Jon spins around—having not heard a sound of the soft-footed approach behind him—to meet Ayel’s rage.
Archer has the wind knocked out of him as he hits the ground. He doesn’t lose the grip on his gun, but the man snarling in his face is grinding the bones of his wrist together in an attempt to force him to let it go. He sees almost too late that Nero’s vicious fanatic of a follower has a weapon of his own. Using his free arm to block the knife from plunging into his throat, he bucks at the first opportunity to throw the man off, but only with marginal success: Ayel loses the leverage he has to pin Jon’s wrist.
There’s no time to think or to plan; training is only Jonathan has. He manages to lift his arm enough to shove the muzzle of the gun against Ayel’s chest in the same moment the man slashes downwards with the knife again and fires. The force of the discharge topples the man backwards, his knife clattering to the ground beside him.
Archer remembers to breathe in the moment after, numb with relief. Ayel is dead, he can see that. Coming to his feet, he realizes his neck stings and winces as his fingers find the shallow cut left behind by Ayel’s knife.
Thinking of the knife reminds him of Nero, but when he turns around Nero has vanished and the black sedan that was idling up ahead too.
“Fuck,” he says succinctly to the empty field, feeling like a failure.
“Sheriff? We heard gunfire. Do you need backup?”
“Negative. Deputy…” He swallows hard. Nero got away. I failed us. “What’s your position? Can you get inside the hangar?”
“Not a good idea, Boss. Your shot spooked the fighting at the gate. Recommend a quick retreat instead.”
Jon can retrieve Pike from the office on his own. “Do it.”
The moment his finger lifts off the call button, the radio jumps to life with “Sheriff!” Then, like a man driven beyond endurance, McCoy says, “Goddamn it, I knew this was a bad idea. Sheriff, Jim’s gone after Marcus!”
“What!” he barks.
McCoy sounds caught between fury and tears. “And I can’t get off the goddamn roof! Jim wanted to see where the gunshot came from and saw Marcus running out of the building.”
Larry interjects hurriedly, “Jon, Matthews cut the cables to the steering. There’s no way Marcus can move his car.”
Jon is already hurtling like a comet back into the hangar to take the most direct route to parking lot even before Larry finishes speaking, preoccupied with one overwhelming concern. Jim is after Marcus. Marcus is the enemy. Marcus is fleeing at the first chance, but won’t be able to get away easily. Therefore Marcus will have no care for the boy. He’ll hurt the boy, possibly destroy the boy, in order to survive.
“No, Jim, no,” Jon whispers.
Something catches his eye, just momentarily, a familiar figure at the top of the landing staring, shocked, at him as he races past.
Chris. Calling his name.
Chris or Jim, Chris or Jim.
For Jon there is no choice in the matter: he keeps going until he bursts beyond the main entrance doors and into the sunlight spilling over the parking lot.
“KIRRRK!” he roars.
The shout is a distraction to the man pinning Jim to the hood of a car. Jim uses it to throw Marcus sideways. Spock, already peeling himself off the ground not far away, launches himself—not at Marcus—but at Jim. Jon understands why a second later, because Marcus fires off a shot from the gun in his hand, and the bullet shatters the windshield of his car instead of embedding itself into the skull of Kirk who had been standing just there before Spock had knocked him down.
Jon aims for the gun in Marcus’s hand. Marcus isn’t fast enough to switch targets from Kirk to Jon, and screams as Jon’s aim holds true, dropping the gun to clutch at his bleeding hand. The man turns, stumbles, and flees. Jon takes off in pursuit, snatching up Marcus’s gun and yelling into his radio, “MCCOY, GET OFF THE ROOF NOW!”
He trusts that Spock will fight Jim into the ground rather than let Kirk follow them, but he’ll manage that fight better with Leonard at his side.
With a street battle happening at the gate to the main road and Nero himself having escaped in the remaining car, probably down the dirt road to the east, there’s nowhere for Marcus to go but into the hangar again. Jon comes around the side of the hangar where Ayel lies dead in time to spy Marcus slipping through the door. He slows to a jog as he approaches it, tucking the extra gun into the back of his pants.
“Belay that retreat,” he orders to his deputies. “Come in from the north. Let’s back this son of a bitch into a corner, boys.”
“On my way,” Larry responds. “Matthews has the front entrance covered. He won’t let anyone out—or your kids in.”
Relief fills Archer, must be obvious in the gruffness of his reply. “Don’t know what I’d do without you, old son.”
“Watch yourself, Boss. I thought I detected a heartfelt emotion there.”
Jon grins. That’s Larry’s way of saying, Me too.
Then he fortifies himself, waiting a beat before stepping through the doorway with his weapon at the ready.
Marcus, the bastard, hits him from that exact angle where he’s blind when he comes through. Jon’s gun jumps in his hands, firing wildly into the hangar, as they go down in a tangle of limbs. He manages to clip Marcus on the chin with his elbow, but that doesn’t deter the man from his mission, which Jon comprehends in a moment’s clarity is to retrieve his gun.
“Hell no!” he snarls, and twists away then comes in from a different angle to nail his attacker in the stomach with the knee.
Marcus swings as he folds in over his vulnerable midsection; Jon takes the full force of the blow to his cheekbone. Marcus grabs for the gun in Archer’s hand in that moment and almost succeeds until Jon plants a boot in the man’s thigh and does the only thing he can to prevent Marcus from arming himself—wrenches his arm back and lets the gun fly off into the shadows. Marcus bellows then, a sound of rage, and knocks Archer backward on his ass. The man goes scrambling after the gun.
By the time Jon rolls back to his feet, afraid that he’s made a miscalculation he cannot counteract, the situation has completely changed.
For an instant Marcus, frozen in a partial crouch, has his eyes on someone else.
Jon’s gun never wavers in Pike’s hands as Pike takes aim at their enemy.
Jon can’t manage to say anything other than Pike’s first name.
Marcus slowly raises both hands in a gesture of surrender, then with as much care straightens up until he is standing. Jon straightens as well and takes a step forward.
Pike jerks his chin to the side, a silent command for Marcus to move away from Jon.
That Marcus complies without question doesn’t strike Archer odd at first, not until Marcus says, “You won’t shoot me,” and Pike replies in a too-flat voice, “I’m thinking about it.”
He sees it then, something which has never before been present in Pike’s eyes: hatred.
“Pike?” he questions cautiously.
No response, just a stern face, iron mouth, implacable eyes. Pike at his coldest.
Marcus emphasizes, “You can’t shoot me.”
“Can’t I?” Pike sounds dangerously reasonable. “You said it yourself, Alex: what good is moral righteousness in the face of the morally reprehensible?”
Jon doesn’t like the sound of that. It isn’t Christopher. “Chris,” he says more firmly, “put the gun down.”
“Yes, Chris,” echoes Marcus, “put the gun down now.”
“No,” counters Kirk’s father steadily, without moving.
All of a sudden, Marcus’s gaze becomes hooded. “Sheriff, you heard the man. Do you plan to stand there and do nothing, or will you stop him from being foolish?”
Marcus is baiting them both. Jon ignores him. “Chris, talk to me. What’s going on here?”
“I want him dead, Jon.”
“You can’t mean that.”
“You don’t know what he’s done.”
“I know,” Jon says gravely.
Marcus’s head jerks slightly in Archer’s direction.
Jon continues on, “In fact, I would hazard a guess that everyone knows what the Lieutenant’s done by now. Your captain was just biding her time until this dumbass slipped up—and boy did he.”
“Liar!” snarls Marcus. “Liu sanctioned this hunt.”
Jon has no problem tuning the asshole out. Still watching Chris, he adds more gently, “If there’s more we don’t know, there will be plenty of opportunities to tell us once he’s in handcuffs. Pike… Chris, we got him.”
Marcus is incensed now. “I came here to stop a rogue cop from committing murder! You’re lying, Sheriff—lying to save your lover! You cock-sucking son of a bitch!”
“Somebody’s overly sensitive,” Jon says to Pike with a touch of humor. Then that humor fades. “We know Marcus planned the kidnapping. We know about Kor. The truth always comes out. If there’s anything you believe in, Chris, I know it’s that.”
For a split second, he thinks Pike’s resolve wavers.
Until that resolve returns twice as strong. “I believe in protecting the innocent from the ugliness of the world.” Chris’s voice quickens furiously. “This bastard hasn’t any good left in him. All deceit and cowardice and lies!”
“Oh yeah?” counters Jon. “Then what about Kirk?”
Pike grows still.
Jon rushes ahead. “He’s here. Could barely hold him back when you were taken.” Although, where Jim is now Jon cannot begin to guess. Matthews is a brave soul but no match for Kirk.
Pike’s sudden intake of breath indicates his shock. Jon wonders if the man’s hand tightens on his firearm out of reflex or something else.
Then Pike asks much too softly, “Jon… what is my son doing here?”
It’s definitely not a reflex. At least Chris doesn’t turn the gun on him. “Long story,” he explains a bit nervously, “and also most of that story should be obvious. We’re talking about Kirk here.”
But that doesn’t soothe Jim’s father at all. “You let him come to a gunfight!”
Jon winces at the shout but continues on, determined to impress upon Pike what is most important: “You can’t let Jim watch you get taken away in handcuffs for murder.”
Without warning, Pike’s expression shutters again. “I’m doing this for Jim.”
Damn it. Jon has no choice then. He shifts his position, plants his feet shoulder-width apart, and uses the gun Marcus had turned on Jim to threaten Marcus.
Their target’s eyes grow wider. He sounds extremely uncertain as he questions, “What are you doing, Sheriff?”
“Here’s the thing, pal. My boyfriend says you have to die for the sake of his son, and I’m no fool to argue with that. I’m just gonna shoot you instead.”
At least he has Chris’s full attention now.
“Jon, you can’t shoot him.”
Jon insists, never taking his eyes off Marcus as he offers an unrepentant grin, “We’ll do it together. I’m okay with going to prison. Hey, who knows, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to be cellmates.”
Pike is too still for a short moment, then sighs deeply through his nose and lowers his gun. “You asshole,” he tells Archer without any real heat.
Jon lowers his gun and meets his partner’s gaze. “You like me anyway.” Although, now he’s curious to know which part, exactly, made Chris give in: the realization that Jonathan isn’t bluffing about throwing away his career and freedom; or the horrific thought of being stuck with Jon for years on end in a tiny prison cell.
An unexpected sound breaks the hold of their gazes. Marcus, who had given a sudden gasp, bursts out with helpless laughter. He laughs and laughs, and goes on laughing wildly, his voice a sliding echo across the hangar.
“Okay, now I think we should shoot him,” Jon declares as he cautiously regards Marcus while sidling in a half-circle towards Pike.
“Alex,” Chris says in a voice which Jon imagines Chris reserves for lunatics and suicidals, “stop now. It’s over.”
“Over!” wheezes Marcus. “Oh, it’s over for all of us. I’ll take you with me, Chris. I don’t even care if it will make Nero ecstatic to watch you on trial. You and me, from the beginning to the very end. But first, I have unfinished business with this bastard!”
Since Jon can’t fathom what Marcus thinks he can accomplish by attacking him unarmed when Jon has a gun, Jon doesn’t react immediately to defend himself.
Except there’s no need for defense because the sound of a gun firing shocks all of them to the core.
Marcus is the only one to stagger backwards in surprise. His fisted hands open—and Ayel’s knife drops from one of them, hidden by the sleeve of Marcus’s coat. Marcus must have picked it up as he fled back to the hangar, Jon realizes, still stunned.
Marcus’s eyes roll back in his head, and he collapses.
What seems like an interminable amount of time later, Archer is startled out of his immobility by the low call of his name. He turns around to find Larry moving forward, his gun still trained on Marcus. Once Larry seems satisfied that Marcus isn’t going to get up again, he lowers the weapon to his side.
“You saved my life,” Jon says, voice sticking in his throat.
His deputy simply nods and flicks on the radio attached to his shoulder, calling in, “Man down.”
Pike hasn’t stopped staring at Marcus since Marcus hit the ground.
“Chris?” Jon calls him gently.
Pike swallows and looks at him.
Jon is at a loss of what reassurance to give.
Larry turns to them, radio still crackling in his hand. “Matthews says he lost visual of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.”
“Help him search,” Jon says. “We can… handle this part.”
“As you say, Sheriff.” Larry jogs to the main doors.
“Kirk, Spock, and McCoy?” Pike repeats in a faint voice.
Jon grimaces. “Like I said, long story. Chris…” He moves toward the man, wanting, needing to touch him. “How bad is it?” he asks.
“It’s all bad,” Chris says roughly. “You’ll have to be more specific.”
“You,” he says, his concern making his response slightly too sharp. “How bad are you hurt?”
A spark comes into Pike’s eyes, enough to warm the remaining coldness lingering there. “I’ll live.”
Jon wants to hug him but Pike’s condition doesn’t look like it will survive that no matter what the man says. So he thinks he will settle for running his hands down the man’s arms, maybe cry a tiny bit into Pike’s shirt, and admit that even if he’s a failure he still hopes Chris will love him.
Jon doesn’t make it to the first part of that wish, for a new voice interrupts, “A touching moment for the detective.”
Jon and Chris turn as one to face a man Jon doesn’t know at all, can’t even see that well because he’s loitering in the shadows under the staircase, but recognizes right away as trouble.
“You kept your word,” this mysterious man says, obviously not to Jon but to Pike. “Very good. Very honorable.”
“Kor,” Chris names the intruder stiffly.
The man, Kor, shifts in the shadows, enough for Jon to see the humorous curve to his mouth and a ruthless gleam in his eyes. Kor says very slowly, deliberately, “Yet… I cannot keep my word when you know my secret too.”
Some sixth sense tingling, a danger alert, flashes through Archer, spurring him to cry “Down!” just as Kor steps out of hiding to reveal the gun he has aimed at Pike.
Jon throws himself at his lover with the fear he won’t be fast enough. The crack of the gunshot is jarringly loud, yet at the same time distant compared to the pounding of Jon’s heart in his ears. He feels the impact of knocking into Chris, hears Chris cry out in pain, feels searing pain of his own as they go down together.
Further away, there’s a scream of “No, DAD!“
Chris and Jon hit the ground hard. Jon immediately rolls off him, but the damage is done. White as a ghost, Chris wraps an arm around his middle. He isn’t coherent enough to answer Jon’s anxious inquiries.
When Archer tries to prop himself up with his left arm, he drops right back to the ground again. The logical part of his brain says, Congratulations, you’ve been shot, dumbass. The emotional part is simply glad the bullet missed Pike.
“Kor,” Chris bites out suddenly. “Stop Kor.”
Jon looks around in time to see Kirk barrel down the hangar from the open archway and take a flying leap over a pile of small airplane tires, heading like an arrow straight for Kor.
Jon jumps to his feet. “Kirk, don’t!”
By the time Kor spins around to fire off a shot, but Jim is practically on top of him and Kor misses. The bullet rips through the Camel’s face on the old poster on the opposite side of the hangar. Partway across the hangar, Spock reacts by dragging McCoy down to the ground to make them less of a target.
Cursing, Jon sprints towards Kirk and Kor, now rolling through the dirt and dust, tearing at each other like vicious dogs. He yells at Spock and McCoy, “Help Pike!”
Jon’s been shot in the upper torso somewhere because when he takes aim at the fighting pair, his body reacts by jerking in pain. There’s no clean shot at Kor no matter how hard he concentrates; and Kor, who notices Jon waiting for an opening, lays Jim out with a decisive punch before plucking the kid to his feet and locking him into a choke-hold, turning Jim into his own personal human shield.
Jon shouts, “Let him go!”
Kor bares his teeth, declaring, “Take the shot if you dare,” before dragging Jim backward to the door in the dock area where he must have snuck in to begin with. Jolting back to full awareness, Jim begins to struggle under Kor’s arm.
Jon can’t do anything but follow—follow and beg: “Let him go. Let him go, Kor, and I’ll let you go. I swear it.”
“No, you can’t!” Jim rages. “He shot Dad! He shot my dad!”
McCoy must be with Pike by now, and Pike is… not shot, at least, but in pain; he has probably been tortured, and has to be heart-sick, too, over Marcus’s betrayal.
Jon can’t do anything about those wounds right now but he can save Chris’s son. He will.
“Pike’s okay,” Jon lies. “Listen to me. Stop fighting. Jim, you need to stop fighting.”
“This one has vengeance in his heart.” Kor makes that sound like praise. The pair is almost across the threshold of the exit now. “I look forward to the day we meet again.”
Kirk isn’t going to let Kor walk away. He’s going to try something stupid in the next second. Jon sees that truth plainly in Jim’s eyes.
Perhaps Kor feels the same, for the moment his next step puts him through the doorway, he shoves Kirk at Jon, and takes off. Jon does the only thing that makes sense: he grabs for Kirk’s collar and swings the kid behind him, snapping, “Stay!” before he pursues Kor.
Kor doesn’t take the expected path; he heads away from the road, directly for the trailer yard. He’s fast, faster than Jon is, and disappears between two large trailers before Jon can catch up to him.
Jon stops and crouches by the first trailer he reaches, listening for loose gravel. If Kor makes it to the end of the property, walled by dark masses of trees, they could very easily lose track of him.
“Kor!” he calls, moving cautiously down the length of the trailer, “give it up! We know about Pike—about Marcus!”
Laughter comes from farther ahead and to Archer’s right. “For Marcus, I thank you! He was quite the troublesome little problem!”
Keep gloating, thinks Jon in disgust, so I can find you. He turns the corner of a trailer, checking the space between it and the next one before moving on. “If Marcus was the problem, then why go after Pike?”
“If I tell you, I should have to kill you too.”
“You could try,” Jon growls. Where is Kor hiding?
He wipes the sweat running down his face and keeps going. “Only cowards hide, Kor! Come out and fight me!”
A crash of something falling, like chains, nearby. Jon hurries in that direction. As he passes by the mouth to a trailer, he sees too late the tall shadow inside which doesn’t belong there. Kor jumps at him, into him, with a scream like a war cry, and slams Jon into the next trailer.
The white-hot flash of pain is too much for Archer; he blacks out momentarily, coming to slumped down on his knees, an abominable throbbing in his upper chest and shoulder. In possession of the gun now, Kor looms over him, his bloodlust barely concealed by a hooded gaze.
“You should not have called me a coward,” Kor tells him.
With a rush of despair, Jon knows this is the end for him. Did he tell Chris often enough that he loved him? Who would become Kirk’s other parent?
Just as he thinks this, there is a flicker of movement behind Kor, a faint slide of shoes on gravel. Kor stiffens, recognizing the danger, but it’s much too late. The dark-haired man who forms out of shadows, whom they hadn’t heard until he wished to be heard, has the shape and size of someone Jon knows from personal experience is well-trained in fighting.
Spock grabs Kor by the back of the neck, at the same time disabling the man’s gun hand with a twist of the wrist. In the next instant, Kor is face-down, spitting out gravel.
Kirk appears in the corner of Archer’s eye, picking up the gun that Spock had thrown aside. Then Jim pulls a taser from the back of his jeans and tosses it to Spock. Spock holds the weapon for a second, contemplating his opponent on the ground, before warning the man, “I suggest you remain where you are.”
Kor turns his head, looks directly at Archer, and bares his teeth in a vicious grin. “You have been saved… for now.”
Jon forces himself to his feet, surreptitiously using the trailer at his back to support him. He holds out his hand to Kirk.
Jim brings him the gun.
“Get him up,” he says.
Spock twists Kor’s arm behind his back as he lifts the man to his feet.
Jonathan blinks the spots of his vision, wishes he hadn’t lost his handcuffs during the fight with Ayel, and orders to Jim, “Take the left.” He then assumes a position on the right and just slightly behind of Kor and Spock. “Don’t think for a moment, I won’t shoot you,” he warns Kor.
Their group marches from the trailer yard towards the hangar.
Kor breaks his silence when they are halfway there. “It’s quite the pity,” he says. “I had something spectacular planned for that rat Nero—something even he couldn’t scoff at.”
“I really don’t care,” Jon says, and he doesn’t.
“Shall I show it to you?” Kor replies politely.
Jon stops walking as Kirk gasps and cries, “His hand!”
Neither Jon, Spock, nor Jim is fast enough to react.
Kor had drawn a small little device from his pocket with an ominous red button. He presses it, laughing—
—and a ball of fire shoots up towards the sky, the intensity of the blast knocking them back on their feet, thankfully not close enough to fry them outright.
The fuel truck has exploded.
In that moment of fire and debris raining down and smoke filling the sky, Kor throws his weight back into Spock with more force than the blast, freeing himself. He takes off in the direction they had come.
“Jim!” Jon cries as Kirk rights himself from his surprised stumble only to pursue Kor. Jon means to go after him but to his surprise the fire is wheeling in the sky and the ground rushes up to meet him.
Spock catches him before his face plants in the dirt, questioning sharply, “Are you injured?”
The expression on Spock’s face promises unpleasant repercussions if Jon was to lie.
“Shot,” he confesses.
Spock has lowered him onto his back. His normally moderate voice booms out, “JIM!” When Spock wrenches down the zipper of Archer’s jacket, an arrested look comes into his eyes. His voice cracks, disbelieving. “You have no vest.”
Blood loss is making Jon woozy. He snorts, retorting before thinking better of it, “‘Cause you’re wearing it.”
Spock stares as though he hasn’t seen a man of Jonathan’s ilk before. Then his head snaps around a second time. “JIM!”
Archer protests the hands inspecting his ribcage. “Hey, hey, hey, get a real medic!” His protest turns to a cry of pain when Spock locates the entry wound of the bullet.
“I apologize,” Spock says, thin-lipped and looking ill himself. He sheds his outer coat and balls it up to press to the wound.
Jon nearly blacks out for a moment; while fighting off hazy vision, he sees a blur that must be Kirk skidding to a stop on the grass and dropping to his knees beside them.
Jim looks at Spock’s coat soaking up Archer’s blood and turns colorless.
Jon groans and closes his eyes.
“No,” he hears the tearing whisper, “don’t die!“
His eyes open again. “Who said anything about dying? We need to get out of here.”
Spock pins him on one side, Kirk on the other side when he tries to sit up. “No!” they say together.
Jon doesn’t have time for arguments; really he doesn’t. Grasping Spock’s shoulder, he orders, “Get me the hell up.” Then, pushing Kirk’s shaking hands away from the bloody coat, he doggedly holds it in place himself. Spock is quick to take his weight as he tucks his legs under himself, determined to stand up. It’s Jim who hovers next to them, stuck between the act of helping Jon and giving Spock room to maneuver him.
Crashing from an adrenaline rush is the pits, thinks Jon. Now he can’t ignore how much pain he’s in.
“Pike,” he says, voice strained. “Take me back to Pike.”
Kirk and Spock exchange some sort of silent communication over his head. Then he and Spock begin an awkward limping gait back to the hangar. Jim keeps pace with them, taking over pressing down the coat when Jon’s hand slips.
“Hold up,” Jon says tightly, spying a new line of vehicles coming down the road. These are black, unmarked vans with the kind of shiny polish and spit-clean exterior that implies vanity and wasted money on unnecessary maintenance. The men who haven’t been beaten senseless by their rival counterparts pause as well to watch the newcomers approaching—until, that is, they realize like Archer who the newcomers must be. Then everyone, allegiance to Nero or to Kor forgotten, starts to flee in all directions, some sprinting for their cars or SUVs, others just running mindlessly across the field or the paved airstrip. A number of the vans veer out from the line to pursue those fools.
Jon urges Spock and Jim to help him hobble to the parking lot where the remaining vehicles ride right through the gate and being pulling up next to each other in a precise row.
The first van’s back door swings open, the person scrambling out it is much too familiar. Wide-eyed and red in the face, he—Montgomery Scott—staggers around the side like he desperately needs fresh air. An unperturbed Sulu follows suit, then a bright-eyed Chekov, and a smirking Uhura. The final person to exit the back is Agent Robbins.
Jon gapes. “What’s this?”
“The cavalry,” Spock supplies dryly. “I did ask Nyota to notify Agent Robbins of our whereabouts.”
Together Jim and Jon stare at him.
“Medic!” Robbins barks, already striding their way. Another agent hurries around to the passenger side of a van further down the line.
Jon sees the fury in Robbins’s eyes and wonders if it’s too late to tell Kirk and Spock to turn around and hide him in the grass.
The agent stands in front of him, saying nothing at first. She makes a slow methodical study of his pale complexion, injured neck, blood-soaked jacket, and not-quite-steady hands. “I’m thinking there needs to be a new club,” the woman remarks eventually. “You’re as moronic and self-sacrificing as my ex.”
“Don’t you mean heroic and saintly?” Archer clarifies.
Robbins just stares at him until he shuts his mouth. Then she says abruptly, “We have Nero.”
“What!” Jim and Jon cry at the same time. Spock lifts his eyebrows, then shifts his hold on Archer to take more of Archer’s weight as Jon sways on his feet.
“Well, ye see,” Scotty pops in, looking extremely pleased, “when we figured there was gonna be a gang fight, we moved our operations to the back road. I mean, kinda of obvious, right? That bastard Nero wasn’t gonna get his hands dirty with a fisticuffs kind of fight. I would know.”
As she moves aside so the agent with the medical kit can reach Jon, Nyota takes up the explanation. “So we threw a few tire spikes on the road—”
“—and after Nero’s car ran into the ditch—” Sulu goes on.
“—we electrified ze doors!” Chekov finishes happily.
“Burn,” Scott says, waggling his fingers with an almost manic gleam to his eyes, “literally. I owed him that.”
“At least they didn’t kill him,” Robbins says with a touch of amusement, “but he was very, very angry when we arrived.”
“Oh god,” Jon murmurs, then, “ow!” as the agent with the bandages puts something vice-like around his shoulder to stem his blood flow. “I think this is worse,” he declares, and pitches forward, for once grateful to pass out.
Epilogue will be posted tomorrow. Who’s crying more: me or you?