I’wak mesulch yut t’on
It happened in an instant. First, he was in the sterile, antiseptic transporter room and then he was somewhere else entirely. Some energy had disrupted his travel, twisted the particles of his being from their proper course. Smashed him back together into the clay of flesh far from the simplicity he knew.
The transporter pad he appeared on was gritty with sand. Breath wheezed out of his lungs as he found the air thin and choking. Atmospheric pressure bit into his skull, squeezing his temples as a steady throb of dizziness overwhelmed him. He tripped, staggering off the pad ensconced in a gravity shelf, his body trying to find equilibrium in the higher gravity pull.
He heard a crack of knee against metal and a grunt to his side and saw Scotty, on his own pad, kneeling and clutching his head. He wasn’t dressed in his usual engineering uniform. It had been replaced by some sort of suit that clung close to his body like a slick skin.
“Where are we, Cap’n?” he asked, his Scottish brogue tainted by pain.
“I don’t know, Scotty,” Kirk replied. He stepped forward gingerly, testing out his rubbery legs. He was wearing a suit identical to Scotty’s and could feel it slicking away his sweat, swallowing it up. The air was still and hot. There didn’t seem to be enough of it to get a decent breath.
They were definitely still on the Enterprise; the transporter room was easily recognizable. But it wasn’t the right one. The controls were gutted and half buried in sand. Most of the pads were missing. Streaks of grit colored the walls and the door to the corridor was wedged open, busted off its track. The only light came from the emergency glowtubes that lined the juncture between wall and ceiling. They were designed to run on the barest amount of energy and would glow even if the all power in the ship was off. The telltale, comforting him of the engines was missing, so it appeared the ship was stationary. As far as Kirk could tell, it was probably on some sort of sandy planet, dovetailed into some dune somewhere.
Kirk reached over and helped Scotty to his feet. He then patted all over his suit, finding nothing but a tiny, type 1 phaser crusted with dirt and well used. Scotty produced a matching weapon, along with a pair of laser pliers and a cutter.
“Put your phaser on stun,” Kirk advised. He wiped at the sweat on his forehead. “Do you think we’ve gone to the Mirror Universe?”
“I sure hope not, sir,” Scotty offered with a shrug. “And there was no ion storm this time.”
“Spock registered some sort of anomaly…”
“Aye. But if ye remember, we didn’t really have time for Mr. Spock to run his tests. We were about to be brained by some less than happy aliens, as I recall.”
“I know Scotty. But I think I’d rather face them than whatever this is. I don’t like the way it looks.”
“Aye. The Enterprise has seen some better days.” He sighed with evident longing for the polished, purring lady he was used to.
A loud, metallic bang brought both men whirling, phasers at the ready. Someone shoved open the busted door further, poking his head in. He wore the same kind of suit Scotty and Kirk were in, but his hood was up, covering everything but a pair of pale blue eyes.
“What are you crazy bastards doing?” said an all too familiar voice. “You going to shoot me? I’m a doctor not a target.”
“Bones?” Kirk asked as both he and Scotty lowered their phasers.
“Who else would it be?” Bones growled. He pushed hard against the door and it made a grinding shriek, falling completely off its track and clanging to the floor. “Why have you got your hoods off? Do you enjoy wasting moisture?” Scotty looked over at Kirk with a raised eyebrow. The lecture Bones seemed to be gearing up to give spurred them both into pocketing their phasers and unfolding the hoods from their suits. The hoods instantly adhered to their skin and caught the dew of their breath as well as the droplets of their sweat.
“You guys look like a pair of googley-eyed Ferengi that just saw their first Orion slave girl,” Bones continued. He gestured toward the corridor. “Well come on then. Unless you enjoy the idea of being buried under a few metric tons of sand.” He disappeared in a movement more nimble than any Kirk had ever seen him make.
“What should we do, Cap’n?” Scotty whispered. Bones was right; with only his eyes visible, Scotty did look young, frightened, and unsure. “Should we follow ‘m?”
“I don’t see how we have much of a choice,” Kirk replied, striding forward with more confidence than he thought he had. “He didn’t try to kill us or hurt us in any way, so I’d say that this might be better than the last alternate universe we went into.”
The corridor was dark when they stepped out into it. Most of the glowtubes that lined the hallway were broken or missing, along with the doors to other rooms. The floor was thick with a sea of sand, tiny granules shifting with the slightest of movements.
McCoy was picking his way across an expanse of it, a bag stuffed so the seams strained bouncing on his back, and his hands full with a couple plastic totes marked with the Federation seal. He glanced behind him at the other men.
“Grab a couple boxes,” he yelled over his shoulder at them. “We’ve hit the jackpot, my friends.”
Sure enough, there were stacks of the black totes piled high against one of the walls. Shrugging, Kirk grabbed as many as he could carry and less gracefully followed after Bones. He heard Scotty, breathing shallow with effort, close behind him.
“What do you think are in these?” Kirk asked.
“Could be anything,” Scotty said. “Foodstuffs, medical supplies, weapons. But Cap’n, I think… I think we’re pilfering from the Enterprise. I don’t think any of this is ours.”
“Yea, I know,” Kirk agreed. He crested a dune of sand that brought him close enough to the ceiling that he had to crouch, his back offering a twinge of protest. But the sight before him stopped him in his tracks.
A good portion of the Enterprise was gone. The hull was scorched and broken open like an egg shell. Fierce sunlight pierced Kirk’s eyes as, rather than the deck of the ship, he saw a wide expanse of desert, littered with bits of debris close at hand and far off, rock formations. One sun was high in the sky and another was slipping toward the horizon while a third stood sentinel in the east.
“Vulcan,” he breathed, recognizing the view. He had only been to the planet once before and that trip hadn’t exactly been a pleasure cruise. He’d had to fight his own First Officer here.
That felt like a lifetime ago. Just one in a line of sour missions. This one had simply managed to cement Spock’s trust in him. And that smile: wide, unabashed, uncontrolled. The complete spontaneity of pleasure upon seeing Kirk alive, it had penetrated deep into the captain’s bones. He savored the memory, despite the pain and fear that had led up to that moment. All was made right again through that simple expression of the face. The universe made sense again because of a twist of facial muscles.
Scotty joined Kirk on the top of the sand ridge and inhaled sharply. “The Enterprise, sir,” he said softly, reverently, as he surveyed the damage, “she must have been blown out of the sky.”
Jim nodded, hardly believing it. Despite numerous brushes with destruction, there was still a part of him that firmly believed his ship was indestructible. It could be broken and battered, but never split open and left to rust.
A short distance across the open desert, Bones was piling his finds on a trailer welded to the back of a hovercycle. The bike was a conglomeration of parts from a myriad places, all the paint different colors so it looked like a metallic patchwork quilt. It didn’t look like it would be able to run.
“Come on!” Bones yelled over to them. “What are you gawking about?” He made a rude gesture that spurred the other two men into action.
They trudged down the sand embankment created by the Enterprise’s crash landing. Scotty pulled ahead and soon reached McCoy, helping him load up the totes and leather sacks the doctor had gathered onto the trailer.
Still far from the bike, Kirk stopped and turned around to take stock of the ship. He watched as it slowly, inch by inch, slipped into the sand, infinitesimally swallowed up by the dunes. His home, the source of his understanding of family, all of it was tied up in that ship. The thing was now a shell without any of its soul left to it. He felt a deep sense of mourning begin to creep up on him. He knew intrinsically that this was not his reality. In his universe, the Enterprise was fine. It was all in one piece and full of the people he loved. But knowing that didn’t stop him from feeling for this wreckage before him. When the ship sank more steadily, he felt its loss like it had been physically attached to him.
And damn, how were they going to get back? They needed a transporter room. They needed the transporter room currently filling with sand. Without it, they were trapped here. Unless those on the other side could figure it out. Kirk had unwavering faith in Spock, but he knew they also needed a brain like Scotty’s to help figure out a problem like this one.
Kirk was knocked savagely out of his musings when something heavy slammed into his back. He heard a faint crack and pain raced along his nerve cells as he tumbled face first into the grit, banging his forehead on one of the totes he was carrying.
He groaned, but managed to roll over onto his back, knees bent, ready to kick and claw and punch and fight with whatever was necessary. But what he saw when he looked up stopped him cold.
Standing menacingly over him was Spock. But he was almost unrecognizable. There was the same aquiline nose, mahogany eyes, and thin, taunt body. But his eyes were on fire with aggression and his stance, gripping a Vulcan lirpa tightly, betrayed a creature forged in emotion. This was not the stiff, controlled man Kirk was used to. He resembled the way he looked in the throes of the blood fever. But there was more off with him than just the burning look of emotion about him.
He was naked to the waist and his chest was hairless. Instead of the usual carpet of black hair, it was crisscrossed with dark, tribal tattoos. Words in Vulcan script flowed over his pectorals, expanding up his neck. Each of his wrists held a different glyph on their undersides. And his hair was not the tame bowl cut Kirk always equated with Spock. It was wild, free form, flopping over his forehead, coiling over his high arching brows instead of lying in the uniform picket fence of his bangs.
“Spock?” Kirk gasped. There was the familiar eyebrow lift of confusion. But then Spock crumpled, falling limp to his knees. Over the Vulcan’s shoulder, Kirk saw Scotty standing, his phaser extended before him. The blast he had hit Spock with had been a high stun.
“Hot damn!” McCoy’s voice echoed in the sudden quiet after the trilling of the phaser beam. He hooted and scampered over, clapping Scotty on the back as he passed him. Kirk had just gotten to his feet and heaved Spock into a sitting position so he wouldn’t choke on his own salvia or the desert sands when Bones barreled into him. “Jimbo, you are the best lucky charm in existence! What the hell is a hobgoblin doing all the way out here anyway? And you lured him right on out. Whoa doggie. And look at those ears!” He crouched and pulled on one of the body parts in question. “Well bred. Probably got some noble blood in him, if you can call that green sludge of theirs blood. And he’s well-watered. You’re gonna make us rich, pointy.” The last sentence was directed at Spock’s prone form as Bones patted his cheek, smiling wide.
Kirk balked in confusion. It was still jarring to have been that close to being speared by his Commander. And the way he looked here, in this strange universe, was so odd. More so than how he’d looked in the Mirrorverse. He’d still been stiff and controlled there. Cruel and cold as well, and, of course, the beard was unexpected. But there was something even more surprising here. Spock had looked absolutely wild. He’d moved like a sleek and feral beast. There was no tight rein on his psyche. He had been left uncivilized. And that had done more to knock the air out of Kirk’s lungs than the blow of the lirpa’s bludgeon to his back or the shock of the thinner atmosphere.
Without any warning, McCoy lowered his hood and stuck two fingers into his mouth, whistling loudly. Something a ways away made a sound Jim could only describe as a mix between a canine growl and a goat bleat. Complete silence followed the noise, but McCoy stood, expectantly watching, his hand making a visor to shield his eyes from the suns.
Confusion seemed to be Jim’s constant state here. He watched McCoy and his mind worked furiously, but he hadn’t recognized the animal sound. And what warranted Bones’ excitement over Spock? Kirk looked down at the Vulcan. He was slumped ungracefully, his head lolling to one side. Kirk noticed a tiny tattoo behind one of his ears. He could never imagine the Spock he knew with one tattoo, let along the innumerable ones this Spock had.
When Bones started whooping with excitement, Kirk snapped back to attention. A large creature was lumbering toward them. Its fur, a rusty brown, blended in with the landscape around it. It had the shape and the face structure of a bear except for the pair of long, tusk-like fangs that protruded from its mouth. It moved completely silently, bred for stealth in the desert.
Kirk had watched a vid once on the fauna of Vulcan. He’d wanted to impress Spock with some esoteric knowledge. Now he was rather glad he’d been so vain.
This sehlat, however, didn’t seem much like the ones in the vid. As it got closer, Kirk could see that its eyes were quite blank and dopey. It had a stupid sort of expression on its face, looking like little more than a furry, carnivorous cow. There was an elaborate saddle overlaid with Vulcan glyphs on its back, so “horse” might be a more astute comparison. But Kirk had never seen a horse with such a vacant expression. Sehlats were supposedly highly intelligent. In this universe, this statement was thrown into doubt.
The sehlat stopped a few feet from McCoy and gave its growl/bleat. Bones dug in the pockets of his suit and pulled out some sort of pellet. He tossed it and the sehlat’s long tongue shot out of its mouth and caught it. Crunching the pellet, the creature bleated happily.
McCoy moved closer and began to inspect it, patting its flanks, and digging around in its saddle bags. Scotty sidled up beside Kirk, his expression just as confused as Kirk supposed his own was.
“Well,” Bones said, finishing his survey and smiling broadly. He had procured a couple coin purses that had been hidden in the saddle and tucked them away in his suit. “We’ve definitely got ourselves a nobleman. That hobgoblin is rich. And he has quite a nice sehlat.” He petted the creature in question on the snout, encouraging a contented purr out of it. “I think we’ll keep the beastie. But, of course, I defer to your good judgment, Jim.” His tone of voice implied that he rarely considered Jim’s judgment “good.”
“Uh, sure,” Kirk said dismissively. He thought fast. “If you think we can feed him.”
“Kid, with the cash we’ll get from the elf here, we could feed a hundred guys like this,” McCoy answered. He patted the sehlat once more and it nuzzled against him, seeking out another pellet. “Anyway,” McCoy went on, obliging the creature and offering it another snack, “I think we should give our cashcow his medicine.” He looked expectantly at Jim.
“Uh, sure,” he found himself saying again. He glanced quickly at Scotty, but the engineer appeared to be just as lost. This whole situation was down to Kirk’s intuition. If there was an intelligent decision, he didn’t know what it was. He had no idea if he could trust this Bones and the Spock of this universe had attacked him, so he couldn’t rely on him either. What Jim really needed was some time alone with Scotty so they could try and figure out how to get back. What had even caused the transporter to malfunction? It was times like these he wished he listened to Spock when he was rambling off his scientific data. But it hadn’t seemed so important at the time.
“Ok…” Bones prompted. He was still staring at Kirk. “Could you maybe shackle him please? I’d rather not be viciously murdered today if I can help it.” He paused. “What the hell is wrong with you two anyway? Were there some drugs on that ship or something? You’re quiet and have been following me around like a couple of lost tribbles ever since we got out of there. Where’s your insufferable commanding presence, ‘Captain’ Kirk?”
It’s hard to think and calculate and be confident all at the same time, Kirk thought ruefully.
“I’m just tired, Bones,” he said aloud. He then dug around in the pockets of his suit until he found what Bones had been talking about. He was carrying a couple pairs of restraints that he had somehow missed finding in his first, quick, and less than thorough suit inspection. He crouched and cuffed Spock’s wrists and ankles, the energy field creating sparks as it connected, reinforcing the metal of the cuff’s center and also creating a barrier that would offer a rather unkind shock if fought against.
“I didn’t think it was possible for you to get tired,” Bones grumbled. He swung his medical kit around and dug a hypospray out of it. He then joined Kirk in a crouch.
“What are ye givin’ him?” Scotty asked, keeping his distance from the curious sehlat that had turned its attention to him.
“Tarlexian,” McCoy replied. Without a pause, he reared back with his free hand and slapped Spock hard enough that his head snapped to the side. Kirk startled, opening his mouth to say some sort of protest, when McCoy did it again. This time, a groan rumbled up out of Spock’s throat and his eyes flashed open.
He yelled something in Vulcan, glaring at all three men in one sweeping motion. “You filthy rabble,” he spat, switching to Standard. “I will rip open your bowels and feast on your entrails. I will crush your skulls until your brains spew from your ears and eye sockets.”
“Holy mother of heaven,” Scotty breathed. Kirk reeled back, but remained silent. Pon farr was nothing compared to this. Spock looked completely capable of everything he was saying. Color had risen in his pale cheeks, so his expression was tinged green. His teeth flashed with every word he said and his eyes… They were truly horrendous. They were nothing more than deep, black pits.
“You’re a polite one, ain’t cha?” McCoy chirruped. “I almost don’t feel bad about this now you started talking and all. But this shot here, it’s gonna hurt. A lot. Enjoy.” He stabbed Spock in the side of the neck with the hypo.
“You sicken me, repulsive human swine,” Spock continued. “I will tear your heads from your necks and –k0;
Whatever he was going to say next dissolved into a wet choke. His face twisted in on itself and the most inhuman, sickening scream wrenched itself from his throat. He fell forward into the sand, trying to clutch his head with his manacled hands.
“What the hell, Bones?” Kirk exclaimed as Spock writhed, keening piteously. “What did you give him?”
“I told you: Tarlexian,” McCoy replied. His blue eyes lifted from the spectacle Spock was making to look at Kirk and his tortured, sympathetic expression. “It’ll be over soon… I think. And it will mellow him out a little bit. At least for a while. So maybe he’ll stop graphically describing how he’s going to mutilate and kill us.”
Spock screamed again and curled up, coughing on the sand.
“What is it doing to him?” Kirk whispered. He was, quite frankly, horrified. He had seen Spock face amounts of pain that would leave a man insane and crippled for life, without batting an eyelash. Kirk had never seen so pure agony in his life.
“I’m breaking his bond,” McCoy explained. “A good-looking fella like him, I figured he had to be married by now. And we don’t want him calling the wifey on us. He’s a pushover compared with whatever that Vulcan she-beast would bring. So we gotta break the bond. Simple as that.”
Slowly, breathing hard, Spock uncoiled from himself. His face was still flushed and his hands were shaking. His inner eyelids had closed over his eyes so he looked milky, blind, and halfway demonic. His outer lids soon closed as well and his body went slack, until he slumped over unconscious once more.
“Smart guy,” McCoy said, clapping him on the back. “Went right into a healing trance. Hopefully, his she-Vulcan is doing the same.” He rose fluidly to his feel, slapping his thighs until sand fell off of him in little clouds. “Alrighty. I think it’s time we got out of here.”
Kirk could not agree more.