Title: The Right-Hand Man (3/10)
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Pairing: Kirk/Spock/McCoy (eventually)
Summary: Bones uncovers a deadly experiment which is killing a colony of innocents; it’s his mission to save them, so that’s what he’ll do… despite those out to stop him—permanently.
Previous Parts: 1 | 2
“What the Hell do you mean we’re leaving!”
Doctor McCoy is shouting in the corridor at a dour little man who visibly shrinks.
“Do you not understand what a medical staff does? We’re fighting a plague, you FOOL! Without our help every last Kausian is gonna die!“
“Doctor, I have orders—”
“Stick those God-damned orders straight where the sun don’t shine! None of my people are going anywhere.” McCoy turns on his heel and all the lab techs scamper out of his way as he comes barreling in still cursing and stomping.
They send up a little cheer as the lab door whisks shut in the Commodore’s face.
McCoy scowls at them (it’s his good-natured scowl—they can read triumphant in it) and says, “Well, what are ya’ll standing ’round for? Get back to work!”
“Mr. Weston, we have a problem, Sir.” The Commodore is sweating.
Weston suppresses his distaste.
“No worries, Commodore. The back-up has been dispatched.” He cuts off the comm and goes back to the release forms on his desk. He signs them with a flourish.
Spock observes Kirk from behind his steepled hands. “May I inquire after your state of agitation, Admiral? Surely Doctor McCoy will arrive on Earth safely.”
Jim shoots Spock a look before pacing in the opposite direction.
“We both know that I am not worried about the good Doctor’s safety. He’ll be fine.” Jim almost smiles at the thought of the poor bastard who ends up next to McCoy on the shuttle-ride. “Grumpier than an old badger, though.”
“Indeed. I find Doctor McCoy’s distaste of shuttle transportation as illogical as his distaste of transporters. Why he would volunteer for a mission that requires space travel, in light of his phobias—”
Spock lets the sentence trail off because there is no need to complete it. The illogicality is inherent.
“The question is why he volunteered in the first place, Spock.”
Spock pauses, arches an eyebrow very high. “Jim, Doctor McCoy is a singular individual who is incapable of denying his psychological need to ‘help’ others.”
“A man with a heart of gold.”
Spock’s eyes are sharp with yes though he voices no agreement.
“Spock…” Jim sighs and rakes a hand through his hair. “What are we going to do?”
“I presumed that we would play chess as is customary during these meetings.”
“You know what I mean! About Bones, what are we going to do about Bones?” He wrenches out a chair and falls into it—sprawled, pensive.
“I have no suggestions. The Doctor is very clear in his avoidance. He no longer desires our company.”
The words are painful to hear, especially with Spock’s straightforward manner. Yet, Kirk cannot truly accept defeat. Five trying but wonderful years with McCoy—and he’s determined to convince Bones that they should have plenty more.
“You are aware, Jim,” there is a small inflection from the Vulcan, “that the true question is whether or not Starfleet can convince McCoy to leave the Kausians.”
“I know that, Spock. Sometimes I just like to pretend that Bones isn’t so stubborn.”
“A difficult task, I trust,” Spock says, and Jim laughs.
Joy misses their evening meal, and McCoy is only a quarter of the way through a plate of replicated chicken and rice (closest he can find to chicken bog; he peppers it to the gills) when he throws down his fork in irritation. He twists the ring on his little finger, thinking about all the rude things he’d like to say (that he hasn’t already said) to Starfleet Command.
Now they’re interrupting his dinner with their foolishness.
McCoy collects the data disks on his desk and shoves them into a back pocket. He’ll just have to take the work to her.
He decides to swing by Joy’s quarters first, in case she got caught up in something or other; but he knows she’s probably being antagonized by the Commodore and his lackeys to close up shop and head home. Well, we will see who’ll be packing! He’s handled higher-ranking officers than the sallow Commodore. McCoy is not just a fighter (for his cause), but he’s a dirty one too.
When Dr. Barnes is in residence, her door remains unlocked (like McCoy’s). Leonard frowns when it doesn’t automatically slide open; he presses the buzzer. No one answers. One quick decision and he’s punching in her entry code. (She’s got his too—like leaving a key with the neighbor.)
The room is dark. “Lights, 50%.”
Completely, utterly bare except for a sheet-less bed against the far wall.
McCoy stares, almost entirely convinced that he has entered the wrong quarters. He does a little turn around the room, clasps his hands to stop their shaking. I must be losing my mind, he thinks. There’s not even a comm-unit to call for a gurney and straps.
Forcing his hand through his hair, he pauses in the doorway—glances around one last puzzling time. His stomach churns when the door slides shut.
Has Joy left?
Leonard rubs at his stomach (it’s uneasy). Something is very wrong. He does not encounter a single soul in the corridors. There’s no one waiting for the lift; no harried tech running a report from one department to the next.
No sound, just a hushed quality that raises the hairs on the back of McCoy’s neck.
His hands touch his belt where a phaser would be (if Jim were in command). McCoy does not use the wall-comm to hail the lab and announce his destination (ask Where the Hell is everyone?). He has learned something, at least, from five years on the Enterprise. If your gut says there’s trouble, then yeah there is definitely going to be trouble. (How many times has he been where he was needed because of that instinct?)
The lab doors swoosh open. McCoy swallows the lump in his throat. It’s empty too. The equipment is missing, the tables are barren. It’s all sterile white and desolation, as if the last three-and-a-half months never existed.
He swings around the corner into the testing room and has to grab at the wall for support.
It’s not empty.
Carnage—the word sears his mind before the world goes gray.
Bloody tunics (so many) and sprawled limbs, gaping glassy-eyed faces.
A massacre of blood.
Leonard is unable to think sense (to breathe). This is not the facility on Kaus V that he knows. This is not reality.
Three feet from his boots lies Linda (the bubbliest nurse he’s ever worked with); he recognizes her braid of golden hair and the trinket her mother gave her knotted at its end. She has wide, blank eyes. McCoy slides to his knees and throws up his dinner.
It takes a long time (four minutes) before the nausea subsides and his body isn’t shaking and sweating quite so badly. Doctor McCoy has been on the battlefield, unable to prevent death. But this room (where they preserve life) is filled with the bits of people he knows—laughed with, yelled at for months; all these not-strangers with hope and hard work in their veins (now seeping onto the floor).
When his brain lurches back into function, it notices that the bodies are not haphazardly fallen (like a quick attack) but piled.
In stacks of four—alternating head-first, feet-first.
It’s wrong and sick and–Joy! Oh God Joy.
He’s crawling on his hands and knees, forcing himself to look (to find). Half-heartedly checking pulses on cold wrists.
She’s bottom of the fifth stack, and tears are trailing down his face. My poor sweet girl. She’s young, too damned young to die like this.
That gets McCoy stumbling to his feet because he needs security. Needs a weapon. There are monsters in the building.
But he doesn’t make it far. Footsteps and hushed voices echo from the front of the lab. Leonard is barely hidden behind a desk when they enter the room.
“We have found no others, Sir. All quarters are clear.”
“Keep looking until I call the retreat. Use the bioscanners. If you receive a signal, find and remove the source. No exceptions.”
“Send Betas Two, Three, and Six up here. The—” this (cold) man barely pauses, “—evidence must be on the shuttle. Dismissed, One.”
When he is sure that they have left the lab (barely makes out the quiet hissing of the doors), McCoy slumps against the side of the desk. He registers the digging in his back and pulls out a data disk. It only takes five seconds of staring at the thing before McCoy realizes, My God, what have I done?
Leonard thinks of survival. He has his research notes in his hands and little else (a medikit he unstrapped from a body). Since this data is what brought the beast back to the lair, it is invaluable. (It is murder.)
Whatever danger lurks in these halls will harm more than just McCoy. (Joy, the name rings hollow.) The Kausians—who already suffer—will perish down to the last child. Then who will be next? So what little fear McCoy harbors for himself, he has in abundance for the rest of the galaxy.
But it’s barely a way to keep himself going (from walking out into the open, saying Just do it already!). He’s a doctor—just a doctor, not a solider or a tactician. (Maybe not that brave of a man.) How is he going to survive?
A sole survivor, he thinks numbly. Guilt eats into him. (How many men have you evaluated in this condition, McCoy?)
Then, unbidden, he remembers two of the bravest officers he knows. James T. Kirk. Spock.
What would they do?
He sees the data disks in his hands and knows the answer. They would fight back.
A man in a black Ops outfit marches down the hall, phaser drawn and eyes alert. McCoy ducks through the nearest entryway and holds his breath. He manages to sneak outside the laboratory/medical facilities, despite a few close calls. Once crouched by a low wall, out of sight, Leonard curses his sense of direction. He can get around a hospital just fine, but finding the shuttle launch-pad is like looking for a needle in a haystack. (He wishes for Scotty; that man could scent an engine a hundred yards away.)
Leonard keeps close to the shadows and observes.
Two men (Two, Three, or Six, he thinks) roll out a cart, and there’s still a keen sick sensation in his stomach when he sees an arm hanging out. They are transporting bodies. Unfortunately, Leonard has little choice but to track their progress; they’re heading to the only escape route available to him.
The soldiers make several trips back and forth with cart, dumping bodies against walls in the shuttlecraft (wedging them between seats). Leonard waits until what he believes to be their second-to-last trip before darting into the shuttle. He has to arrange himself under a few dead corpses, tucked near the back to remain unseen. He tries not to space out, face pressed to the metal floor and fingers twitching. He waits.
After what must be the longest hour of his life (forever), the boots have stopped tramping around. The shuttle has been filled with the majority of missing equipment and huge crates of personal affects. There are no computers or PADDs present; except for a man’s memory, their research data is stored in such devices. And all memories have been eradicated—except for McCoy’s.
When the hatch is closed, Leonard crawls out. The shuttle is brightly lit, ready for use. He twists and turns around objects until he reaches the piloting area (through a set of doors—this model is large enough to transport over one hundred people).
The doctor stares at the controls, not knowing what to do—until he comprehends that he doesn’t need to do anything. They’ve set her on auto-pilot.
What is a shuttle full of dead cargo going to do? Dump its load into space?
No. Not the “evidence.”
It hits him. Oh shit.
A computerized voice activates, says “All persons, please fasten safety harnesses. Prepare for launch.”
On the edge of the launch-pad, the Commodore recognizes Heger. He looks at the silent solider and refrains from asking about his business. Obviously Mr. Weston has sent his right-hand man to deal with this mess. Still, the Commodore is uneasy. He asks, “They boarded the shuttle willingly?”
Heger meets his eyes. “We had to use a small amount of force but, yes, all are accounted for on the shuttlecraft.”
The Starfleet officer opts not to think about Heger’s words too carefully. He has been nervous since Mr. Weston ordered him to Kaus V to “see the Starfleet personnel safely off the colony.” Better for a man not to question orders.
They stand side-by-side, watching the shuttle rise off the loading dock. It weaves into the sky of Kaus V, high, high above the ground. Thank God, the Commodore thinks, bowing under a great relief, now we only have to deal with the media fall—
The shuttle explodes into a ball of fire. He can only gape at the massive flare, as little shining embers streak from the sky.
“Oh—Oh my God! The shuttle’s—the people in—”
Heger turns, observes the shock (the horror) on his companion’s face and says, “It seems there was a shuttle malfunction.” He walks away. (A crowd grows.)
Admiral Kirk has to push through the cadets filling the hallways. There is not quite a hush—but the feeling is grave (like grief); Jim’s heart clenches. He recognizes this stillness (before an assault).
Two young cadets are holding each other; one, a young man with bowed head as his friend talks to him quietly. The sight gives Jim pause. Before he can voice concern, a cadet next to him gasps “I know that name! Didn’t he serve on the Enterprise?”
“Cadet!” Jim snaps out. Several young faces turn to look at Jim, wide-eyed. One young female touches his shoulder hesitantly, says, “Admiral, I’m so sorry. Doctor McCoy—” Kirk doesn’t stay to listen to the end of that sentence.
He is shoving now, to get to past the bodies (and enormous sorrow taking up all the air) because there is a loud voice droning out into the hall “—shuttle exploded leaving Kaus V, taking out the entire Starfleet med—”
Kirk breaks through in time to see the live vid-feed (paneled into the wall)—names upon names of Starfleet officers. Names that he knows from skimming the recruitment roster when he had heard that a certain doctor departed San Francisco.
One name in particular—
Dr. Leonard Horatio McCoy.
He opens his mouth (nothing comes out) for the air that has abandoned him. Hands are holding onto his shoulders—many, many hands holding him down (back).
When Jim comes to himself, the vid panel is scattered in pieces across the floor. He realizes (his hands ache fiercely) that he has just attempted to remove Bones’ name from a scrolling list of dead.
He never makes a sound because there is no proper sound for a breaking heart.