She just stared, confused and frightened.
“What’s your name?” he asked, changing his strategy. If she knew a way out of here, he had to get her to reveal it.
Her eyes grew wide, “Yani - ah,” she breathed, and her voice broke on the last syllable. She pulled her legs up and hid her face on her knees.
“Yaniah,” McCoy repeated and then remembered Delihan mentioning that many of these slaves didn’t even speak a language, let alone have names, “you haven’t heard that name in a long time, have you?” he asked her gently.
“I was twelve when they made me a slave,” she said, looking up again.
“Yaniah,” McCoy fought to keep the anguish he suddenly felt on her behalf from his voice, “Your name is beautiful. Ya-ni-ah. You can be proud.”
“I’m sorry, if I scared you, Yaniah. My name’s Leonard.”
He smiled at her clumsy attempt to repeat his name. “Yeah. Call me, Lenny.”
“Well, it’s easier, and nicer than Leonard. My friends call me Lenny.”
“Does he call you Lenny?” Yaniah asked, pointing at Jim.
“Uh, no. Yes. Well, ... no. He calls me Bones,” he said with a selfconscious smile.
“Bones. Who calls you Lenny then ... Bones?”
McCoy bit his lip to stop himself from laughing. “Actually, ... no one. I don’t know. In my youth some people said Lenny. But now most people say, ... Doctor,” he realized, suddenly finding that strange.
“Can I call you Bones, Doctor ... Lenny?” she asked, grinning.
He realized she was teasing him. and chuckled. “If you like. It’s probably the name I like best.”
“Because he’s the one who gave it to you?”
“Yaniah,” McCoy needed to focus again, “how can we get to the surface?”
“We can’t. But one person could use the escape capsule.”
His eyebrows shot up. “Escape capsule? Where is that?”
She pointed to a spot under the console, where a few people sat staring about confusedly. “Behind them.”
“How do you know about it?”
“I’ve helped building it,” she said. “There is much solid rock above us, and the conveyor cage is far away.. When we built the mill, we put in a capsule that could be used by the free Meriahn working at the controls, in case of a fire, or a cave-in. They didn’t like working here. They were always afraid something would happen.”
“So, the capsule brings people to the surface?” McCoy gained hope.
“No. It can be used by only one person. But it brings that person to the surface. Outside the prison too. I think it ends ... somewhere in the woods,” she said, remembering.
McCoy couldn’t believe his luck. If he could get Jim to the surface, the Enterprise would detect his communicator signal and be able to beam him aboard, where Dr Pulliam could treat him. She was a good neurosurgeon, although lacking experience. However, she was definitely able to do more for him there than he was able to do here.
“Would you show me how to use it?”
She nodded slowly, looking disappointed. “Will you leave us?”
McCoy let go of Jim’s hand, unconsciously, gripping Yaniah’s forearms. “Leave you? No! Don’t you understand? Jim needs medical help. If we could get him to the surface, he could get the help he needs!”
“But you said, you need him to keep you warm and calm. You said you love him.”
He shook his head at her. “That’s right. Yaniah, you said it yourself: It would be better for him if he weren’t here. You know, love is not about oneself. The truth is: I’d give my life for him.”
Her eyes grew bigger. “I gave most of my life to the free Meriahn. Does that mean, I love them?”
McCoy’s heart constricted. “Did you do it willingly?”
She thought for a few moments. “I don’t remember. ... I don’t think so.”
“Then it is not love. You see, love makes you willingly do things that aren’t necessarily good for you. But on the other hand, knowing that I could have helped Jim and didn’t do it, only to save my own life, wouldn’t be good for me either. I couldn’t live with that kind of knowledge.”
She stared at him for a long moment. “So, giving your life for him would be ... for your own good? I don’t understand that.”
He smiled ruefully. “I don’t think I fully understand myself, Yaniah. It is ... illogical.” He stopped for a moment, thinking. “But I understand this: Love is bigger than we are. It means more than any indvidual, and if you’re lucky enough to experience it, you should be thankful.”
She nodded slowly. “Yes. I wish I could experience it.”
“You may. Love almost always comes unexpectedly. Look, would you show me the escape capsule?”
Yaniah nodded. “Yes, Bones. It’s over here.” She stood and pulled McCoy up with her. He felt his stiff joints protest when she pulled him towards the console.
“Get out of the way!” she shouted at the crowd of people who sat in front of the hatch of the escape capsule. “This is bigger than any of you!”
Prolia Labour Camp - 6 hours to destruction
McCoy watched as Yaniah wiped the tears from a man’s face who probably was about the same age as he was himself. The man trembled, making little, unarticulated noises, as he desperately wanted to express himself, but was lacking an adequate language.
“Don’t fear!” Yaniah crooned, “You’re fine. Shh. It’s alright.”
McCoy closed his eyes and hugged himself. This place was hell. When they’d accomplished sending Jim in that escape capsule to the surface, he’d tried to tend to the many haggard looking and distraught prisoners that were coming in. It had helped him to distract himself from the panic that lurked inside him, threatening to jump up and totally consume him any minute. Yaniah had soon imitated his behaviour. She hadn’t gotten tired of calming these people, talking to them, drying tears, smiling at blank, confused faces and holding people’s hands. Not long ago she had started to call some of them by names she had thought up for them. McCoy admired her energy.
He could function in emergency situations for hours, even days without rest if he needed to, and had done so on more occasions than he cared to think about. In his career, he’d seen many gory things, literally waded in human and alien blood at times and had operated until he’d collapsed. He’d seen and dealt with traumatized people before, but this here was different.
These slaves were the most pitiable creatures. Suddenly being able to think for yourself, gaining a consciousness for the first time ever, McCoy had no idea how that must feel. He remembered a report he’d once read, about a woman who had been born deaf and blind. Only when she had been in her teens, she had learned a language that used touch to express words. Later she had reported that she didn’t remember anything from before that time. Language was essential to consciousness, to identity. How can a whole society bear such a cruelty - for thousands of years? Sure, there had been societies on earth that had exploited huge parts of the population. Kings and governments had let their people starve while they wallowed in abundance and glut. But this was gluttony to a much greater degree.
When he, Kirk and Spock had first beamed down to Meriah Five, he’d thought that living within Meriah’s society was paradisiacal: There was no material want, no violence. The highest goal for Meriah’s people was self-fulfillment, and improvement on an intellectual basis. But now he saw at what cost: These slaves were deprived of everything slaves were usually deprived of: their freedom, their rights. But even more, these slaves had been deprived of the only thing that earth’s slaves had had: their consciousness, their thoughts, their personality.
And they were still being ignored by their fellow citizens. The only sign that spoke for the fact that someone out there was actually aware of what was going on down here, had been when the taps that provided the nutrient solution were turned off. They wanted to starve them out.
Every once in a while a prisoner would go to one of these taps with his dirty little cup and try to draw some of that awful pink stuff out of it. They couldn’t understand that nothing came out of them anymore. The only thing that had provided them with some satisfaction, as basic as it had been, had been taken away from them. They stared with big eyes at the taps, thinking that something must be wrong, trying again and again. Their frustrated cries tore at McCoy’s soul.
It was abominable. He suddenly came to realize just how abhorrent these Meriahn really were and slowly, he came to understand that Delihan who wanted to change all this was a kind of liberator, a hero. And this hero had violated him, McCoy, in a way that still made him suffer.
McCoy shuddered. No! Don’t go there. He searched for Yaniah again. Even though he barely knew her, she’d become his anchor, ever since Jim had left them.
“I’m Yaniah,” he heard her say to the huddled, frightened man. She took his hand to point at his chest. “you’re Loriahn.”
He looked at her, repeating, “Loriahn.”
“Yes! Wonderful! Hello Loriahn!” she said.
“Yaniah?” he asked her.
“I’m Loriahn.” he beamed at her, the joy bringing tears to his eyes. Hearing someone call him by a name, was probably the happiest moment in his life, and although McCoy had found those moments touching and encouraging the first times he had witnessed them, he couldn’t feel happy about them anymore. They frightened him, reminded him of what people were capable of doing to their fellow citizens. He hugged himself closer.
“Please, don’t leave me here to die,” he whispered to no one in particular. Then, when he realized what he’d done, clamped a hand over his mouth.
Some of the slaves, like Yaniah, had become slaves when they’d been older. They understood their situation now, and listened to Delihan, who tried to organize them, get them to fight their way out of the prison to claim back their lives, change Meriah’s society and start a revolution.
McCoy doubted they had a chance. It had been over a day now, and they were still here in the prison, and not a single official had tried to contact them. They’d all die from hunger and thirst - if they were lucky. If they weren’t lucky, they’d start to kill each other and ...
“Stop it!” he suddenly shouted at himself, not caring anymore that he was showing signs of beginning insanity, “Spock! Please, if you can’t get me out in the next couple of hours, please ... just destroy this camp, before these people start killing and eating each other!” he whispered to his friend, hoping he could hear him, and also, to the same degree, hoping he couldn’t.
There was commotion at the door and McCoy could see Delihan, spotting the hat he was wearing. He was searching the room, finding him, and coming towards him. McCoy scrambled back, only to find he couldn’t, for there was the wall behind him.
“Yaniah,” he shouted at her, reaching out for her.
She saw him, took his outstretched hand the minute Delihan arrived and knelt beside him.
“Doctor McCoy!” he said, searching the frightened blue eyes before him.
McCoy grabbed Yaniah’s hand even tighter and she drew in a breath harshly. “What?” he ground out. My god, I am, I really am becoming insane.
“Do not fear me!” he said, after having studied the trembling doctor, “I’m here to keep my promise.”
“What promise?” McCoy succeeded in keeping his voice steady.
“My comrades and I will climb up the shaft and run an attack on the guards on the surface. We’ll fight our way out of here,” he said.
McCoy knew that was impossible. Even if they made it to the surface, they wouldn’t make it out of the prison. But he didn’t really care. “And?” he just said.
“We will die in the process. but we’ll set a sign,” he said matter-of-factly.
“I promised you, to tell you what I know about Tamulok’s whereabouts. You must stop him, or he’ll turn his planet into another Meriah.”
McCoy felt anger well up inside him. “As if that would help us any. Who am I gonna tell? I’ll die in here, thanks to you!”
Delihan smiled, which made McCoy want to punch him. “No, Doctor, I strongly believe your Enterprise is still up there, monitoring all this. The Federation won’t let one of their citizens die in here. They’ll get you out. Captain Kirk once told Coltan, they were willing to start a war with Meriah, only to do justice and get the person who assaulted you: me.”
McCoy snorted. “You believed that? The Federation will never start a war with your planet only for revenge, or to save my life! I’m not important enough.”
Delihan’s face fell. “But now they know what my government is doing to its own people. Captain Kirk will tell them what he found out, when he was here. Surely they’ll find that that’s morally intolerable. They will attack Meriah, and change our society.”
“They won’t. Believe me,” McCoy said bitterly.
Delihan deflated. “But, your Federation. I thought they were ...”
“What? God? They won’t interfere with the affairs of a sovereign planet, as long as they’re not attacking a member of the Federation.”
Delihan frowned. “Maybe not. But Captain Kirk will not let you die in here.”
“Captain Kirk may be dying himself this very moment,” McCoy spit at Delihan angrily, and seconds later realized with panic, that he may be right.
“Your Commander Spock ...,” Delihan tried, now desperate. Why did this human insist on seeing everything so pessimistic?
“If Spock’s in command, he’ll do what Starfleet Command tells him to do. He won’t risk his career on my behalf. And he shouldn’t.”
Again, McCoy realized he was probably right, and it suddenly dawned on him, that he was really and truely about to die in the next days, maybe hours. No one had had anything to eat or drink in the last hours. They couldn’t go on much longer. If he was lucky, he’d be one of the first to die. If these Meriahn really were of Vulcan descent that would even be quite likely, since Vulcans were able to go without food and drink for much longer than humans.
Yaniah edged closer, her eyes wide with fear. “Bones, are we all going to die?”
“For nothing?” Delihan added.
McCoy felt to pairs of eyes on him, as they waited desperately for him to answer that question.
“Why, ...?” McCoy could understand why Yaniah turned to him with questioning eyes, trusting him to comfort her, and keep her safe. He had been the first person to talk to her after her long sleep, a whole life of being controlled by other minds, other people who only cared for her as they would for a tool. But Delihan? Why did he bother? What did McCoy’s opinion mean to that Meriahn?
As he searched for an answer, the sound of the people in the background was becoming louder. There were no words, just sounds, but distinctive sounds of frustration and aggression. Loriahn, the Meriahn slave that Yaniah had named, was hitting his empty cup on the floor, repeatedly. The others, wanting to stop the annoying noise pushed him around which made him even more agressive. Yaniah tore herself loose and went to the ball of bodies that was now rolling on the floor. The cup came flying and hit her squarely on the nose, which started bleeding instantly.
McCoy got up, reaching for her, but was pushed aside by Deliahn’s body when the massive body of a Meriahn slave fell backwards from out of the crowd, burying Delihan under him.
McCoy heard a sickening crack, and before he even caught a glimpse of the former Secretary of Defense’s body, he knew that he was dead. He’d broken his neck.
The man who’d fallen on Delihan turned around, appalled by the sight of the odd angle at which Delihan’s head was lying, and the surprised but definetly dead eyes staring up at him.
Enterprise - 5.8 hours to destruction
It was silent on the bridge, not peaceful, but silent. All personnel stared at the screen, at the scene before them, where their own Doctor McCoy now hugged a middle-aged Meriahni slave girl, calming her, telling her, that he was sure they’d be saved.
She cried, while he tried to stop the bleeding from her nose with another piece of his already torn uniform.
“Shh, it’s alright. Listen to me, Yaniah. They didn’t do that on purpose. It was an accident. It’s okay. Things like that happen. Don’t cry!”
The crowd had gathered around them, listening, watching them.
“Go away!” she shrieked at one of them.
“Now, come one, Yaniah, they’re not evil. They’re just scared,” he said in a soothing voice.
“They’re dangerous. They’re like animals. They’ll start fighting again, and then you and me are going to get between them and they’ll kill us, like they killed him,” she said.
Uhura again spared a glance at Spock who was sitting in the captain’s chair, staring at the screen, spellbound, like the rest of the bridge crew. When she saw him nod at the slave girl’s statement in agreement, she clamped her mouth shut, in order not to scream.
How could he just sit there? When McCoy had pleaded to not leave him to die in that godforsaken prison, it had twisted everyone’s soul. She’d heard the reactions of her comrades, Chekov’s, Sulu’s, and Scotty’s pained moans. But Spock had been silent, and had kept staring at the screen stoically. Even when McCoy had specifically addressed Spock only seconds later - no reaction.
“They don’t understand us. They don’t speak a language! We can’t keep them calm!” Yaniah sobbed and buryied herself into McCoy’s shoulder to hide from the crowd that was edging closer, menacingly.
“Mr Spock, we need to do something!” It was Scotty, coming out of his stupor, addressing Spock.
“Yes! We can’t just watch!” Sulu agreed.
“Starfleet Command can’t seriously expect us to only stand by,” Chekov chimed in.
“Please, Mr Spock! Doctor McCoy doesn’t deserve this!” Uhura almost shouted at him.
“Agreed,” Spock answered calmly, slightly turning towards her, but never taking his gaze off the screen. “Do you have any suggestions?”
He does care. I know it, Uhura thought. She suddenly felt for him. She knew about Starfleet’s orders. She had received them and forwarded them to Spock. Admiral Westervliet had not been elaborate. There’d just been a simple: “Don’t interfere with Meriahni affairs.”
Asshole. What did he expect them to do? Watch? It was torture for them, too. She silently thanked God that Kirk wasn’t here to watch this, he’d go insane.
“I don’t know. We should just take a shuttle and ...,” Scotty stopped when there was a new noise coming from the screen.
“... mem’ries of a song, a song that ... sings of ... Geor-gia, back ...back where ... I ... be-long.”
Uhura closed her eyes. This was becoming too much to bear. McCoy was haltingly singing Georgia on my mind into Yaniah’s ear, stopping frequently, catching his breath in between the words, swallowing back tears. It was calming Yaniah and the crowd, but it certainly did nothing to comfort anyone on the bridge.
With a sudden movement, Spock came standing beside her, turning his back to the screen for the first time in what felt like hours.
“Lieutenant, I’ll be in my quarters. Be ready to meet me in fifteen minutes.”
She nodded, and before she had finished moving her head, Spock had fled the bridge.
Prolia Labour Camp - Present
He dragged his sticky tongue over his brittle lips, trying to alleviate the pain his blistered and chapped lips were causing him, but did not succeed. There was no moisture whatsoever left in his mouth. Breathe through your nose, to keep your oral mucosa from drying out any further, he chided himself, but when he closed his mouth and took a deep breath through his nose he immediately had to gag on the foul smell of the thick air laden with the stink of sweat, feces, and decaying bodies.
There was nothing in his stomach to throw up, though, so his body only convulsed in dry heaves that made his already painful headache intensify exruciatingly.
Dehydration, his mind uselessly provided, as well as oxygen depriviation.
Being killed by one of these violent and primitive brutes suddenly did not seem so unappealing anymore. It was quicker than slowly suffocating on stinking air, or literally drying out.
However, the last fight between the slaves had been hours ago. Yaniah was organizing them, calming them, chiding them when they did something she thought wasn’t appropriate behaviour. She reminded him of his primary school teacher, Mrs Brook. Lenny, it is not nice to chew gum in class! Stop tilting on your chair! Stop hitting your head on the wall! It is not nice to kill the man next to you with a stone. He laughed mirthlessly. So, this is where I’ll die.
“Lenny?” she asked him, shaking his frame gently, but persistingly.
He only realized he’d dozed off when he looked into her grey, concerned eyes.
“Wha ...? No’ ‘Bones’ anymore?” he asked, forcing his tongue to work properly.
“It was his name for you, so I’m not going to steal it,” she said, nodding gravely, as if it mattered.
“Too bad. Then I guess I’m never going to hear it again,” he said bitterly.
Her eyes went big. “Why?” she asked frighteningly innocent.
He sighed. “Yaniah, do you really think we’ll come out of this alive? We’ll die in here. Of thirst. Or we’ll suffocate, or we’ll die of some disease that is spreading from the dead and decaying cadavers.” His voice had become louder with every word until he had finally shouted the last two words at her. Illogical waste of energy, he realized. Not only did his headache increase yet another notch, but also did Yaniah not deserve his emotional outbreak.
“You give up?” she asked him, and she sounded reproachful, her eyes were boring into him now.
“Yes,” he said matter-of-factly. What was the point of lying to her?
“You mustn’t do that, Lenny!” she said. And there she was, all Mrs. Brooks again. “Didn’t you tell me you loved Jim?”
“Yes. So? Why are you reminding me?” he asked her petulantly.
“Didn’t you also tell me that love is bigger than any of us?” she asked, ignoring his growing impatience and frustration with her and continued to lecture him: “The love you feel for Jim, is bigger than your thirst, your pain. If you give up and die, you’ll let it die as well.”
“So? Who cares?” he mumbled, suddenly imagining Jim in sickbay, recovering from his head injury with Spock at his side. As long as Spock is there, ...
“Jim will care!” she said, looking at him intensely. “How easy it is for you to give up now! What makes you think that Jim will be alright, knowing that you gave your life for him? If you did love him, then you would not give up now. It’s selfish.”
My god! I’ve created a monster, he thought, smiling a little. He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. They felt dry as well, as if there was a fine film of sand under his eyelids. “Yaniah, why do you care? Don’t get me wrong, I admire you for that. But to me, it’s a mystery what keeps you going.”
“Love,” she said, blushing a light shade of green, “you said it comes unexpectedly. And it did. I love the people of Meriah.” She stopped to look at the huddled mass of people around her. “I find comfort in the thought of experiencing something that is greater than my own existence,” her voice became more quiet with each sentence until she was whispering: “It frightens me, my own existence. I wasn’t used to ... feeling, thinking ... to being. It frightens them also.”
Her eyes roamed around the room. “Those in charge stole the freedom, the personality, the very thoughts of everyone who is a slave! But they are captives as well. Captives of Meriah’s system. They can’t break free either, even though they must know about the cruelty of their doings. Delihan tried, but was killed by those he wanted to free. Meriah is a planet of doomed people. They all must learn ... to love. Must learn that there is something that is ... bigger than we are.”
McCoy watched Yaniah who had edged closer to him, and who was repeating the words that he himself had said to her only a few hours before, with awe. Their noses were almost touching, while he searched her intelligent eyes for an answer to all of life’s questions. Although he had been the one who had planted the idea into her thoughts, she suddenly occured a thousand times wiser than himself.
“How?” he breathed.
There was a loud sound coming from the direction of the mill. A strong wind suddenly came through the open door, that brought in a lot of dust and made McCoy turn against the wall in order to protect his parched eyes.
The sound was familiar, but his brain could not quite identify it. The people in the room scrambled back at the walls looking at the door, and then making room for a dark figure that was approaching. A bright light was shining through the door, as if from a searchlight.
The person held a flashlight and he could not make out his face. A Meriahni official? Someone who wanted to negotiate?
Yaniah got to her feet when the figure in the room strode towards the controls. A whirring sound suddenly brought recognition for McCoy. It was a tricorder! And the sound from the outside originated from a shuttle engine. The person at the controls was moving in a swift, efficient, controlled and suddenly very familiar way. He recognised him by his movements first, even before he noticed the blue uniform, the accurate haircut and the pointed ears.
“Spock!” he croaked joyously. It seemed unreal. But Spock was there, although he was ignoring him completely.
“You are from the Enterprise?” Yaniah asked the Vulcan who was focussing all of his attention on his tricorder.
The man continued to ignore her and she had to control herself to not reach out and touch him. He was trying to do something important she suspected and shooed a few curious gapers away.
McCoy finally succeded in getting his feet under him and hobbled on stiff legs towards Spock, when the latter suddenly turned around in a quick motion, grabbed McCoy’s arm to put it around his neck with one hand while his other arm went around McCoy’s waist.
“Doctor, we have no time! Me must leave immediately!” he said evenly to anyone who did not know the Vulcan, but McCoy heard the hint of haunted panic behind the controlled voice, which suddenly brought his heart to his throat.
“What? Spock! What is it?” he asked and instead of working with Spock to get themselves into the waiting shuttle as quickly as possible, he put all of his weight and remaining strength into the task of resisting him.
He didn’t quite succeed, Spock still urged him forward, though he stumbled and McCoy felt the Vulcan’s hands bruise the flesh on his hip and wrist where Spock was holding him.
“The Meriahn will use the energy field to destroy this prison. In approyimately 2.5 minutes the whole complex will ignite,” Spock explained.
Before McCoy could process what he’d said, they were at the shuttle’s hatch and Spock was about to push him inside.
McCoy stemmed both his hands against the opening, this time achieving to stop the Vulcan.
He turned his head to find Yaniah close by, looking at him, with an expression of shock on her face.
“Ignite? They’re going to destroy this whole complex? Spock! All these people! Can’t you ...”
“Doctor! We must leave now, or we, you and I, will die!” Spock was actually reasoning with him, but McCoy sensed he was only half a rational thought away from being nerve-pinched to unconsciousness. And Spock was a very rational guy.
So with a desperate movement he ducked away from the shuttle hatch, away from Spock and came to stand beside Yaniah who had assimilated the information Spock had given them already.
“Lenny, you must go!” she said.
“Come with us!” he said, pushing her.
Spock turned, already reaching a hand towards the doctor’s neck. There was no time for yet another irrational discussion.
McCoy saw it coming, and escaped, still pushing Yaniah, who was resisting him with all her strength.
“Let go of me! I can’t leave, just as you couldn’t leave Jim! You know why! Now go!”
He stopped, in shock, feeling Spock’s hand on his shoulder again, half expecting to pass out, but Spock only drew him away from Yaniah to push him into the shuttle.
“Doctor, Jim needs your help. He’s in a deep coma as a result from a severe head trauma,” Spock said under his breath, as if it were a secret, and McCoy suddenly felt himself being manhandled into the co-pilot’s chair.
He felt the rush of acceleration when the shuttle dashed through the mine’s adits, and held his breath as he realized just what they were doing: flying a shuttle through an underground dilithium mine.
Thoughts, pictures, noises and sensations were all jumbled together in a massive confusion that occupied his brain when they were suddenly going up the vertical shaft where the conveyor cage once had been.
The next moment, there was open sky above them and he found a second to breathe as well as to register that his headache had gotten worse.
“Doctor, there’s water in the back of the shuttle. I suggest you replenish your fluids,” Spock said quietly, grabbing his shoulder and turning him so that he faced the back of the shuttle, and then gave him a gentle but still firm push.
He reluctantly did as Spock had suggested. He was thirsty as hell, but also annoyed by Spock’s patronizing manner. He was doctor, for Chrissakes, he knew much better than that arrogant Vulcan that he needed fluids. Suggest my ass, he thought, becoming even more irritated.
Steadying himself with one hand on the back wall, he reached for a water container that was stowed away there, when a sudden jolt sent him to the floor and a blazing white light that came through the front screen blinded and momentarily stunned him. Spock had shut it out by deactivating the screen, a fraction of a second later and the shuttle was stabilizing.
“We’re experiencing some minor atmospheric turbulances, Doctor, I suggest you steady yourself.”
Again, McCoy felt exaggeratedly irritated by Spock’s remark, emotional stress, no doubt, some detached part of his brain provided. He pushed the button to activate the small view screen in the back, out of pure rebelliousness. I don’t like to be left in the dark, Spock!
The blinding brightness was already gone, but what he could see, seemed unreal. A dome of golden light was under them, sparkling and glowing air. It was astonishingly beautiful. Then, droplets of liquid gold were raining down onto the surface as the dome slowly dissolved. Where they touched ground they bathed the area into bright, golden light, that increased in brightness with every drop that was added. What is that?
He saw they were putting distance between that place and themselves. He put a hand to his still hurting head, trying to remember the place they were obviously leaving, but he failed, and could not make sense out of the pictures he saw.
The golden light slowly dimmed as they were getting farther away. A flimsy mist of grey started to mingle with it. The mist became thicker and darker, until McCoy finally recognised what it was: smoke. A mushroom of black, thick smoke formed where once that beautiful golden dome had been, it started to consume his whole field of vision as it reached the shuttle that ascended into the atmosphere. What the ...? A bomb? Who would ...?
Then, memory came back with a force: the prison camp, thousands of people, slaves. Yaniah. Yaniah who had fallen in love with the people of her planet. Love is bigger than we are. He’d told her, and she had believed him. He searched the darkness outside of the shuttle. That’s all that’s left of the prison, of Yaniah, and of love. Hot, burning smoke, and ashes.
He banged his head against the screen in anger. Once, then again. But he couldn’t feel the pain. Suddenly he realized he’d been holding his breath, and felt as if he was suffocating. With a violent intake of breath, he tried to press air into his lungs. The image of the smoke outside and the dry air in the shuttle caused him to start coughing. Other images began flooding his mind even as he struggled to catch his breath:
Jim, lying still on the concrete floor, not breathing. Delihan reaching out a hand to him, cutting into his mind, making him cough his lungs out. Oh god, his mind! The rapist had raped him again, and this time he’d even begged him to do it. Why couldn’t he cope now? It had been his own fault, anyway.
He suddenly tasted blood, but had no idea where it came from, the taste of blood, the stink of the stale air in that prison. He couldn’t breathe - the smoke! But the smoke was outside, not in here!
Still, it was impossible to draw in a normal breath. He panicked, he knew he was imagining things, but he couldn’t stop. His own mind was drawing him into an abyss of smoke, fire and stink from which there was no escape.
He was trembling. It was strange, but he felt that he was trembling, because of the warm hand on his neck and between his shoulder blades. The heavy, calm and unnaturally warm hand, that was a perfect demonstration of tranquility and repose, was the exact opposite of his shaking frame. He concentrated on the warmth that seeped through the layers of his filthy uniform, into his skin, and then deeper into his taught, and twitching muscles. He became more aware of his surroundings, could hear his own ragged breathing that was repeatedly interrupted by a wretched whimper.
The sound of the shuttle engines had disappeared as had the vibration that usually accompanied it. They had landed somewhere.
“Mr Spock, do you need help?” a voice came over the speaker, unusually loud and too shrill for McCoy’s liking. He recognised it as Christine Chapel’s voice, however, and wondered what had happened. Usually she sounded differently. And - where were they? In sickbay?