To all appearances, Captain James Tiberius Kirk was dead.
Shaw and Leland investigated his sudden collapse. Pierce had a look of concern on his face, as Emma Frost placed a hand on Jason Wyngarde’s shoulder. Only Leonard McCoy hung back from the chaos. His eyes were dark and focused on Jason.
“I assume he tried to use the rapport,” Emma said to Jason.
“He did, and I showed him what a mistake that was,” Jason answered. “I severed the rapport and struck down his astral form. It killed two birds with one stone.”
“He’s dead?” Pierce asked.
“When the mind is cut down, the body follows,” Emma explained. “If Jason speaks the truth, then yes, Captain Kirk is dead.”
Shaw glared up at him. “Wyngarde, you unmitigated fool. We needed him alive.”
Wyngarde shrugged. “The crew of the Enterprise doesn’t even know he’s been taken. They’ll still come, and when they find him dead we’ll simply tell them McCoy did it.”
Bones’ eyes narrowed for a second before they focused back on Wyngarde.
A low, rattling cough sounded throughout the room. Everyone looked down at Kirk, who coughed a second time. Jim’s entire body trembled, but he managed to sit up. He continued to cough for a bit before his breathing finally regulated. “If I got hit by a bus earlier,” he said, his voice hoarse, “then that was like getting flattened by the Enterprise.”
Wyngarde and Frost looked at each other with concern.
“I do not understand,” Wyngarde said. “I slayed him.”
Emma knelt down next to the captain. She pulled a device out from a pocket in her cape and began to analyze him with it. McCoy turned away to look out the window, and if his eyes glowed white, no one noticed. An ear-splitting whine followed by a small explosion rang out from the device in the White Queen’s hands. She dropped it with a surprised cry before stomping out the flames. “This doesn’t make sense,” she said. “There is no reason why my machine should short out like that.”
McCoy scoffed to himself before turning his attention back to Wyngarde.
These people with their parlor tricks and their technology; they had no idea what they had done. They had no idea about the forces they set in motion.
His hands glowed with flame, and the lights went out.
“What in God’s name?” Shaw said. “Tessa...”
“At once, sir,” she replied as she slowly made her way through the dark towards the vidphone by the door.
“Forget to pay the power bill, Shaw?” Leland asked, his voice laced with a cruel edge.
“Quiet,” Shaw snapped. “This doesn’t make any sense, it’s not storming.”
Tessa’s voice rang throughout the darkness. “The phone’s dead, Mister Shaw. I can’t get through to anyone.”
Bones chuckled, and it was dark.
They were clueless. He was going to enjoy what happened next, and knowing that was nearly enough to cause him to grieve. “It wouldn’t matter if you could,” he said as his voice echoed. “There’s no one who can help you.”
Everyone in the darkness turned to stare at him. He let the flames on his hands climb higher, surrounding his body. He was the only light in the room, and he could see the Inner Circle in all of their so-called glory.
Some of them were confused, but some of them, two in particular, were afraid.
Jim, however, looked so relieved it made his heart ache. “Bones.”
//I’m going to get you out of here.//
With that, the raptor of the Phoenix enveloped him and he transported Jim and Tessa to the outside hallway.
They weren’t the people who needed to pay, and they didn’t need to see what he was about to do. He flew back into the Inner Circle’s sanctum and used his telekinesis to hold the door so that no one could get in.
In a way, Bones was more terrified than he had ever been before. He knew exactly what was happening to him; he saw that he had been undergoing a transformation ever since his experience in the M’Kraan crystal.
Jason Wyngarde and Emma Frost’s machinations sped the process to where he could no longer control it. He could only accept it and revel in it.
That reveling was almost enough to bring him to the ground weeping.
“You made a large mistake, Jason,” he said, still bathed in flames. “You killed the love of my life in front of me. I bet you thought that’d enslave me to you forever; instead, you may as well have slapped me across the face.”
“Jason,” Emma said. “Quickly, engage his mind before...”
“And you,” he spat. “You with your pathetic toys. You’re a pretender. You’re a fraud. You blocked my probes with your machinery, and you controlled me with still more of it. You want to read people’s minds so badly...” He opened a psychic link between them, letting her see all of the hatred and malice that now lived within his soul. “Here, my Queen. Take everything I have to give!”
He hit her with every ounce of psychic energy he could; it expanded her senses over a thousand fold. She could feel every ounce of pain, every laugh, every thought around her and beyond. Emma Frost could do nothing but scream in anguish as her senses were overwhelmed. “No more, please,” she sobbed. “It’s too much...”
Bones grinned and kept assaulting her. Part of him was horrified, but another part had never felt so free.
The White Queen couldn’t even speak; she was reduced to lying in a heap on the floor. Tears streamed down her face, and they were pitch-black from her mascara. She hugged her arms to her chest and shook under the onslaught. There was no telling her thoughts from the others anymore; in fact, her mind was wiped clean. She was a blank slate.
Only then did Bones stop.
The other Inner Circle members stared in horror.
The flames licked higher around him as he turned to face the men. He smiled, and it was humorless and cold.
He grabbed Leland, Pierce, and Shaw in a telekinetic bubble. He then raised his right hand, and his fingers pointed upwards. After a second, he slowly closed his hand to make a fist, and the bubble constricted around the men, crushing them. “And you, with your ambition,” he said. “I should turn you into dust.”
“No, please,” Leland cried.
“We didn’t...we weren’t...” Shaw said.
His eyes continued to glow in the darkness. “It is much better to hit you where you live.” He reached out with his mind to the Inner Circle’s computer banks, and telekinetically uploaded all of their files to the computer on the Enterprise.
“When I’m done, you’ll be lucky if you can get a job tending a garden, you’ll be so disgraced.” With that, he teleported them to their homes; they could pack to flee or do what they liked. It wasn’t his problem.
This left him alone with Wyngarde, who was nowhere to be found.
“How cute,” Bones said. “Using your holograms to hide from me. Did you forget that I’m a telepath? Against that cool wall your thoughts shine like a lantern!”
He used his powers to shatter the illusion, and Wyngarde stood flush against the far wall. “My...how did you...”
“I bet that’s not even what you really look like, is it?” Again, he used his powers and shattered the illusion. Wyngarde the handsome gentleman rogue faded into a wispy thin man with a weasley face and moldy-looking black hair. He still had the violet eyes, but they didn’t sparkle anymore.
Wyngarde tried to bring the illusion back up, and it would flicker for a moment before fading away into nothingness. He shrunk back. “Sweet heart, I know how this looks,” Wyngarde pleaded. “But, I...”
“Silence!” A flaming talon appeared and grabbed Wyngarde between its claws. “You have no idea what you’ve been doing to me, and you did it without any care for my feelings. You gave me things I didn’t even know I wanted, you tricked me into giving myself to you...you raped me...and all the while, you made me beg for more! Now you’re going to stand there and lie about how you never meant to hurt me?” He laughed, and it was bleak and full of pain. ”Your every action has been specifically designed to hurt me. So now...I am going to hurt you.”
“You already are,” Wyngarde choked. “You’re killing me!”
Again Bones laughed. “No, but you’ll wish I had. You’ll dearly wish I had. You were using me to gain power...power for the club, and power for yourself.” The black flames climbed higher within his soul with what he was about to do. “Your wish is my command.”
With that, all of Jason Wyngarde’s senses expanded so that he was one with the universe. He was a part of creation and destruction; he was the life of the very stars themselves. He was inundated much like the White Queen had been, but on a deeper, more primal level down to the depths of his soul. He had all the awareness of a God, but he was only a man. The experience was too much, it overwhelmed him, and he slipped into a catatonic state.
“Oh no, you don’t,” Bones said as he touched his face. With that, Wyngarde revived. “Again.”
For the second time, Bones imbued Wyngarde with all the powers of a God. Once more Wyngarde’s mind tried to shut down, and Bones brought him back. He repeated the process a dozen times before he was satisfied. Wyngarde slid to the floor with his sweaty hair stuck to his face. His eyes were haunted and desperate. “No please,” he begged. “Please, how can I live after having felt that?”
“I don’t know, Jason, how will I ever find peace again after the damage you’ve wrought? One is my problem, the other is yours.” Again he smiled. “The judgment of the Phoenix sees through you like an x-ray. It’s found you lacking, Jason. Live with it.” He dropped the telekinetic talon, and with that the door locks came back up. “Take her, and go. You’re not worth burning.”
Wyngarde obeyed, cradling the White Queen in his arms as he slunk off into the night. He opened the Inner Circle doors, and as he left, Jim came rushing in along with Spock and the others. “Bones, we heard screaming,” Jim said as he ran up to him. “Is everything all right?”
The first thing he did was dampen down the psychic rapport. “I...I’m...”
Jim’s mouth was tight and his eyes were filled with worry. “Bones, what’s going on? Talk to me.”
Bones closed his eyes; Jim’s thoughts were like an open book to him. There was so much love and concern there and so much warmth. He wanted to get him to the closest Starbase to seek treatment for the mind control. He wanted to take him back to Earth on a leave of absence.
He wanted him to get better.
Too bad there was no way for that to ever be possible again.
The song of power within him that began on the day with the M’Kraan crystal built in intensity to a ringing crescendo. He couldn’t fight it; indeed he had no desire to fight it.
His hair stirred in a wind, becoming more wild and unruly. His clothes shifted from the black and red period costume to his Phoenix outfit.
Only it was wrong.
“Bones...your clothes...” Jim said as he looked at his face.
Instead of green, the jacket was a deep red that was almost black. Instead of bright and lustrous, the gold was tarnished and dark. The smile on his face was inhuman, almost psychotic.
“Bones has left the building,” he said. “I am Dark Phoenix!”
A large firebird enveloped him and filled the room.
Then, it exploded.
//Bones.// He tried to reach him through the rapport. //Bones please, talk to me.//
“What’s happening?” Uhura asked. “What’s going on?”
“I knew this would happen,” Sulu whispered. “You all told me I was crazy, but I knew it. The doc’s gone off the rails.”
Once again, Jim tried to reach Bones through their bond. //Bones?//
Bones didn’t reply; Jim again reached out to him, and what he felt inside his mind made him almost recoil in sadness, and yes, even fear. There was pain, so much pain. There was despair, so deep that he wasn’t even sure Bones knew it. There was also a great deal of anger, which given the circumstances Jim felt was justified.
But above all else there was a thirst...a yearning for power and sensation beyond human comprehension.
It was so disturbing and so unlike anything he ever felt in Bones before.
//Bones, please.// He pleaded. //Let us help you. Let me help you.//
The flames died and the table lifted from over their heads before being burned to ash. Jim took quick stock of his surroundings; Spock was behind a chair nearby, and his dress uniform was singed and covered in soot. The two security officers, Ricky and de Salle, had their phasers trained on Bones, although they looked confused.
“Do we fire, sir?” Ricky asked.
“Stand down,” Jim barked.
Sulu looked at him with a bewildered expression. “Are you crazy?”
“I said stand the fuck down,” Jim said to him. //Bones, come on. You don’t want this.//
For a time, there was silence through the rapport. Then came four words that would haunt Jim for the rest of his life.
//Yes, Jim; I do.//
Flaming wings formed on Bones’ back as that inhuman, dark smile stayed frozen on his face. He hovered in the air.
“You were right to fear me, Sulu,” he said, “and by the time I’m done you’ll wish that it was simple fear you still felt.”
He raised his hands above his head, and a ball of flame a meter wide formed above them. The psychotic grin widened, he aimed, and he launched it at Jim, Nyota, and Sulu. The three of them barely managed to dodge it in time, and it blew a hole in the floor.
Bones laughed, and it was high-pitched and manic. “You wish to play. All right, then.”
“Why are you attacking us?” Jim asked. “For God’s sake, Bones, what is happening to you?”
“God?” Bones looked thoughtful. “For all intents and purposes, I am God. I am fire and life incarnate18 !” He spotted Scotty and Chekov, who lurked behind the desk. Scotty took readings on a tricorder. Again the rigid smile formed on Bones’ face. “Little boys with their toys, always playing...” He rushed towards them, leaving a trail of flame in his wake.
“No!” Jim shouted, but it was too late. Bones turned into a raptor and flew right through them; this acted like an electric shock, and it stunned both of them. They fell to the ground like marionettes with their strings cut.
Sulu assumed a battle stance. Bones saw him and scoffed.
Images hit Jim through the rapport of black flames climbing high into the night and across his soul, of cold and dying stars and planets being consumed and eaten. He couldn’t fully register what they meant; he knew he needed to calm Bones and try to stop him. He cursed Wyngarde’s name thoroughly. If this was because of his tampering with Bones’ mind, there would be nowhere he could run that Jim wouldn’t find him.
“The conceit you have to take me on,” Bones said his voice laced with a cruel edge Jim had never heard before. “The simple arrogance.” He reared back and flew low to the ground, skimming across it, before becoming again engulfed by flames. At the last second, he angled himself up diagonally and hit Sulu ten times at once, effectively using a pyrokinetic uppercut.
Sulu collapsed; he was also knocked out.
Jim shook his head sadly; not only had Bones attacked them, he enjoyed it. Using his power was acting like a runner’s high for him; it stimulated his emotions like a drug.
It pained him, but something needed to be done.
As if on cue, Ricky spoke. “I have a shot, sir,” he said. “Waiting on you.”
Jim looked down at the floor. “Take the shot.”
“Copy that,” Ricky said as he opened fire. Bones deflected the shot back at him, and he was stunned.
“Fool, do you really think you can surprise me? I can read your thoughts as they happen. I’m picking all of your minds clean. I know your plans before you make them, and I‘ll counter every single one!”
de Salle swallowed, but trained his phaser onto Bones. Bones waved a hand, and the phaser turned around, aiming at his chest. “No!” de Salle cried out as it fired, stunning him.
Nyota covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh, Leonard,” she said. “What have they done to you? We’re your friends...we’re your family.”
“They set me free,” Bones answered with a shrug. “And Dark Phoenix is alone. No friends, no family. No ties.”
“Doctor, I understand you have been through a traumatic ordeal,” Spock began as he stepped forward. Bones turned to him, still hovering a half a meter off the ground. “I also understand that the road to recovery from such mental abuse is long and fraught with difficulty. Lashing out at us, while providing a temporary relief to your pain, is illogical and solves nothing. Let us take you back to the ship, where we can arrange counseling for you...”
Again, Bones laughed that maniacal almost-cackle. “You and your logic, Spock, always with your logic. Do you know how tedious you truly are? The worst crime is being boring, Spock, and you have committed it since birth.” Beams of flames shot from his hands, and he hit both of them. Nyota screamed and Spock groaned as they fell to the floor.
This left Jim alone with Bones.
“Bones, please,” Jim said again. “Please, don’t do this. We can help you. Let me help you.”
“It’s too late for help, darlin’,” Bones...no, Dark Phoenix, said. “And it’s too late for us.”
With that, he used his telepathic powers to simply make Jim fall asleep. He crumpled and curled up, lying by the hole in the floor.
Jim groaned; fuck, that was right. Bones went crazy and beat the shit out of them. Nearby, Sulu made a frustrated sound. Jim stood to survey the damage; the rest of the crew came to as well. It didn’t take long, and they were all awake.
“Well,” Scotty said with a cough. “That could have gone better.”
“I don’t really see how it could have gone any worse,” Sulu said as his eyes narrowed to focus on Jim.
“We’re alive, Hikaru,” Nyota said as she ran her fingers through her hair. “That counts for something.”
Jim stared up at the sky. Dawn was breaking, and the early morning light cast a grayish tint to the sky. He continued to watch it for a time, searching for any sign of Bones. In spite of everything he said, the rapport was still active. He could feel him, although it was a little faint.
Bones, or Dark Phoenix rather, must have been quite a distance away.
//Bones, I know you’re out there.// He sighed. //Please come back. I know you think it’s too late, but it’s not. We can save you.//
No answer came to him.
Jim sighed a second time.
Spock hailed the Enterprise on his communicator. “Commander Spock to Enterprise, come in.”
There was static before a reply came. This is Lieutenant M’Ress, although I am having a bit of difficulty hearing you, Commander. A lot of the ship’s functions are offline.
“Offline?” Spock asked. “How so?”
We were hit by some kind of energy pulse a couple of hours ago. It disabled the engines. Life support and the transporters are still functioning, so we’ll be able to bring you back okay. Engineering’s almost got everything back up and running.
“That’s my team,” Scotty said with some pride.
“Understood, Lieutenant. We are not ready to beam up yet; I was calling for a status report. Spock out.” Spock turned to face his captain. “It would appear that Doctor McCoy was quite thorough before departing.”
Jim closed his eyes. He left the life-support and transporters functioning; he only made it so he couldn’t be pursued. He didn’t hurt anyone. It was cold comfort, but it was all Jim had.
“I don’t understand this,” Nyota began, and everyone turned to her. “I know that he was being controlled, but why would he lash out like this? Why disappear? Why hurt us at all when we had nothing to do with it?”
Sulu stared at her. “You really have to ask? That Phoenix...thing has driven him nuts, just like it would you, or me, or anyone else hosting it.”
There was a long silence.
“Hikaru, I don’t think that’s a fair assessment. He was fine before this happened.”
“Was he?” Hikaru crossed his arms over his chest. “I read the mission log for Platonius. Did he or did he not go out of his way to not only humiliate that Parmen guy, but destroy their home as well?”
Jim said nothing.
Spock raised an eyebrow. “I cannot speak with any certainty as to the doctor’s thought process on Platonius. However, I must admit there was a deliberateness to his actions that suggests your theory is correct.”
“He’s also been using his powers to heal people, when he used to be content to do it the normal human way,” Sulu continued. “That was in the mission report, too. He’s been slipping for a while, growing less and less human. I warned you all on the Starjammer, and I warned you all since, but everyone told me I was just being oversensitive.”
“That’s enough,” Jim said, his voice quiet.
“Really? You think so?” Hikaru looked at him with a challenge in his eyes. “You’ve been sleeping with him for God knows how long! If anyone should have picked up on it, it’s you. I bet you noticed and chose not to do anything about it. You let your personal feelings get in the way...”
“I said that’s enough!” Jim said. “Okay, Bones has been changing. I think that’s natural given that he’s gone through something that literally no other human being has ever experienced. Right now he’s confused, and he’s in pain. We need to help him.”
Sulu’s jaw dropped. “Help him? Did you not just hear what M’Ress said? He attacked the Enterprise! Last I checked, attacking a Federation vessel when unprovoked is a declaration of open hostility! And that doesn’t include the way he attacked all of us!”
“He didn’t hurt anyone, he just knocked us out!” The argument sounded weak, even to Jim.
Sulu barked out a sarcastic laugh. “Gee, how nice of him. What’s to say he won’t come back for more and kill someone next time? Who says he won’t attack whole planets? He’s a cosmic level-threat, Kirk, and you need to pull your head out of your ass and realize it!”
Everyone stood in shocked silence.
Without a word, Jim turned and made his way out of the room.
There was a pause before Nyota turned to Hikaru. “You’re being very unkind right now, Hikaru. It’s unnecessary and unworthy of you.” She gathered up her skirt and ran after Jim. “Jim, wait!”
Jim stepped over the shattered glass to walk onto the Hellfire Club’s terrace. The sun was higher and had painted the sky shades of violet, orange, and gold. It was a spectacular sunrise, but he didn’t care about it at all. He grabbed the ledge and stood.
A hand fell on his shoulder, and he turned to face Nyota. “He doesn’t mean it,” she said.
Jim scoffed. “Yes, he does.”
Nyota frowned. “Maybe a part of him. Hikaru’s anger comes from fear; no one really blames you for what’s happened, Jim. There was no way to predict this. There was no way to know about the Hellfire Club’s plans, and there was no way to see Leonard’s evolution until it was too late.”
“I can’t help but feel that I should have known,” Jim answered. “I mean, I suspected. Some of the feelings I’d get from him sometimes should have clued me in.”
She looked at him with a puzzled expression. “I don’t follow.”
Jim sighed. “Bones and I have a psychic rapport. It’s similar to the bond between married Vulcans but stronger.” He smiled, although it was humorless. “It’s actually still active. He’s far away now and across space. He’s searching for something, but I don’t know what yet.”
Nyota nodded. “That may prove useful. Could you use it to track him?”
“I can try,” Jim said with a shrug. “Though he’d likely know what I was doing. It takes me a lot more effort to shield thoughts from him than it does for him to do the same to me. He actually did it just before he became Dark Phoenix; I think it was to spare me.”
Nodding a second time, Nyota looked thoughtful. “Actually...now that you mention being spared, he really could have killed all of us with a thought. Why didn’t he?”
Jim brought his hand to his chin and thought. “The only thing I can think of is that Bones still has at least some control over Phoenix. That may be too optimistic, though.”
“No,” Nyota said with a shake of her head. “No, I don’t think it’s too optimistic at all. It actually makes sense...while Phoenix may have no compunction about burning us all away, Leonard would never forgive himself. It’s not in his nature to hurt, let alone kill.” She smiled at him. “Your Bones is still in there, which means we can bring him back.”
A plan formed in Jim’s head. “We can use the readings Scotty and Chekov took of him using Cerebro, and come up with some kind of device to slow him down. I mean, if Emma Frost invented a machine to tap into his mind, why can’t we make one to level the playing field? If we can avoid hurting him we will, but it doesn’t need to come down to him or us.”
“I think it’s a good strategy,” Nyota said. “Maybe Spock can use Cerebro to help heal his mind. I do think a lot of this is trauma related, and I agree that we should help him more than fight him.” A sad look crossed her features. “Although...there is a chance that Hikaru is right, and there will be no saving him. Are you prepared for that?”
A coldness filled Jim’s chest at her words. He wished that it was some other way, but as long as he was the captain of the Enterprise, she was right. He had to be prepared to stop Dark Phoenix no matter what.
Even if it meant killing Bones.
“I’ll try to get used to it,” Jim answered.
Nyota nodded. “Come, let’s go back to the others,” she said as she held out her hand to him. “We need to get back to the ship so we can work on this plan of yours.”
Jim took her hand, and they went back inside the Hellfire Club. He tried to reach out to Bones one last time through the rapport, but he received only silence. Sighing, they walked back into the Inner Circle.
It was time to go to work.
This made him frown.
Tiring was unacceptable. It meant that his powers were still finite.
Oh sure, his powers were tremendous and growing, but he still had limits. Worse yet, he still wasn’t at the level he was in the M’Kraan Crystal. He wanted...no, he needed his powers to be limitless.
He was almost a God, but almost wasn’t good enough. He needed to control all life, all creation. He needed to be infinite and one with all that was. The best way for that to happen would be for him to absorb a large amount of energy. He needed to tap into a power source and consume it in order to step up his game.
Not just any power source would do. He needed something...big. Giant, even.
Like a star.
He was suddenly starving.
Yes, a big star, one similar to the Earth’s sun. That would probably do it.
Dark Phoenix reached out telepathically throughout the galaxy, using his powers as a type of sonar. After a minute, he found a system with a G-type star like the Earth’s sun. The life on the planets had long since died out.
It was perfect.
“Second to the right,” he said with a grin, “and then straight on ‘til morning19 .”
He veered to the west and headed off to claim his prize. It didn’t take very long before he stood before it.
The star was called D’Bari, and it was ancient. It was your average G-type star and had existed for three billion years. It easily was going to live for another three or four billion. It was about 1,600,000 and some change kilometers in diameter, and had a core temperature of 7,778,000 degrees Kelvin.
Correction: it could have lived for another three or four billion more.
Dark Phoenix slowed to a stop in front of the star. He hovered in space, watching it flare and simmer with a curious expression.
He was close enough to touch it if he wished. And oh, he wished. He reached out a hand, and the solar energy formed a stream and flowed towards it. “Imagine the power to crack the firmament and extinguish suns.” He looked up to the sky, and his smile widened. “Imagine all that power in the wrong hands.”
It was simple to expand the stream to be the width of his body, and he absorbed the energy from the star. It would only take a few minutes to complete the task. Dark Phoenix closed his eyes with a grin. He tilted his head back and opened his arms as he felt the power begin to flow through him.
“Yes,” he said out loud. “Yes,” he repeated as he continued to suck the star dry.
It sated him nicely. Soon his power would be even greater, although he had a nagging feeling that it would still not be as significant as it was when he bound the M’Kraan Crystal.
It would do for the time being though.
He continued to feed, and his mood elevated from pleased to pure ecstasy.
Empress and Majestrix Lilandra slept, although it was fitful. For some reason, she was on edge. It was as if something was not right in the heavens, and as a result her sleep was disturbed.
“Majestrix,” a voice called, waking her out of her slumber. “Majestrix, do you hear me?”
She sat up in her bed, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. There, on a view screen near her bed, was the Lord Chamberlin. “Yes, I hear you. Whatever is the matter?”
“Captain Lord Juber is on the Insta-link,” the Lord Chamberlain explained. “He needs to speak with you urgently.”
Lilandra frowned. She and Juber went back to her early days in the Imperial fleet. If he was using the Insta-link, then his situation must be of the utmost importance. She slid out of her bed, gathering her robe about her. “I shall take his transmission in the War Room.”
With that, she turned and made her way through the palace. Imperial Sage Araki quickly joined her, walking his customary meter behind her.
“Majestrix,” he began, and she held up a hand to silence him.
“I know, Araki,” she answered. “We shall soon see what is causing this trouble.”
Together they arrived in the palace’s War Room. “Main screen,” she ordered, and after only a moment, Captain Lord Juber and Science Officer Eluke appeared.
“Imperial Majestrix, Lux Gloriana of the Shi’ar,” Juber said with a bow. “I am sorry to disturb you, but we have a situation here in D’bari.”
“A situation?” Lilandra couldn’t help but be annoyed. “I fail to understand...”
“Here,” Juber said as he stepped out of view. The image of the Insta-link focused on a person floating just in front of the D’bari sun. He seemed familiar, although Lilandra could not have said from where by looking at his back. “According to our sensors, that...creature is eating the sun!”
It sounded impossible to believe. “Are you certain?”
“Yes, Majesty,” Eluke began. “According to my sensors, if it continues at the rate at its going, D’bari will supernova within minutes.”
“We cannot allow that to happen,” Lilandra said. “D’bari may be a dead system, but that still does not mean its star should be extinguished. Captain, engage the creature but do so carefully. Something that is powerful enough to absorb a sun will surely be powerful enough to destroy our newest battleship.”
“Understood, Majesty,” Juber said. “You heard the Empress! Fire photon cannons!”
The Tactics Officer did as she was told, and fired two shots as a warning to the creature. As if confused, the creature stopped in the middle of absorbing the star to face the ship. A large firebird formed around it.
“No,” Araki whispered, and Lilandra found she could only echo his sentiment.
Juber frowned. “What in the nine dying stars...?”
“Run,” Lilandra shouted. “Cease the engagement and run, Juber!”
“But, Lilandra---“ He began.
“Do as I command! Abort, Juber!”
It was too late. The Phoenix flew towards them. It reared its head back, giving a mighty screech, as it emitted a pulse of energy aimed right for the ship. Everything on board the Shi’ar cruiser immediately shorted out, excluding communications and life-support. Their weapons, their engines...all of it was gone.
The ship was crippled.
“Everything is down,” the tactics officer said. “We’ve lost all power...estimate twenty-four hours remaining on life support and falling....”
“Sharra and K’ythri,” Juber said a second time in shock. “What manner of creature could do such a thing?”
“Send a rescue ship to them immediately,” Lilandra barked to Araki. “I can only pray they get to them in time, but send one now!”
“At once, Majestrix,” Araki said as he sat at the communications console to dispatch the ship.
The firebird came back into view, although it was fuzzy and distorted in the wake of the ship’s power being cut. Lilandra sent a silent prayer to her Gods. The Phoenix regarded the ship for a long while. Deciding it was done with its deliberation, it flew off into space. Lilandra breathed a sigh of relief.
Juber and his crew were safe.
“Araki, summon the Ministry,” she said with more authority than fear. “I need to speak with them at once. It appears that what we have been afraid of these few months has come to pass.”
It took a moment for Araki to speak, and when he did he sounded truly sad. “Yes, Majestrix, I know what you mean.”
“That bird image can mean only one thing,” she continued. “That the Phoenix has gone rogue. I must meet with my council to determine how to deal with this threat, and Leonard McCoy is a threat, Araki. Not just to the Empire, but to all life itself. He must be dealt with no matter what the cost.”
“I have issued the summons, Majesty,” Araki replied. “They will meet with you here as soon as possible.”
Lilandra nodded. “Agreed. I pray with every fiber of my being, Araki, that we will not be too late.”
Araki did not say anything in reply; indeed, he did not have to. The very expression on his face made it clear that he felt the same.
Nyota Uhura couldn’t help but think that perhaps it was a little too quiet.
They headed back to Earth in order to pick up a Starfleet trauma counselor for when they would next encounter Dark Phoenix. If all went according to plan, then they would use her services.
If it did not...well, she tried not to think of that.
While Nyota was not afraid exactly, she was apprehensive about encountering Dark Phoenix again. She knew deep down inside that he was still Leonard McCoy, which meant that he was also still her dear friend.
She could not, however, deny the fact that he was inherently dangerous in his current state.
Scotty and Chekov designed several devices in order to give them an edge when next they would encounter him. First, special wristbands to mask their presence from his telepathy; more importantly, there was the mnemonic scrambler. The device was a diadem made to cripple a person’s thought process.
“If he can’t even form a coherent thought,” Scotty explained, “then there’s no way he can use powers that depend upon his mind.”
Spock agreed that the plan was logically sound, and Jim gave the go ahead for them to build it. He took Spock off his regular duties to assist them.
Sulu spent most of his off-time training. He also had yet to apologize to the captain for his outburst. Jim didn’t seem to hold it against him, but there was a tension between the two when they would be in the same room together that wasn’t there before.
In addition to apprehensive, Nyota was also frustrated.
Sure, engineering and physics were not her areas of expertise. It never bothered her before, but now...she hated not being able to help. After a day of doing her scheduled shift and hovering over the schematic writing, she decided she could either mope or do what she could. So, she threw herself back into researching the Shi’ar. Specifically, she read their legends regarding the Phoenix force. It might give her some clue as to what they could expect or even if the Phoenix had any kind of weaknesses.
Unfortunately, nothing was really turning up in terms of weaknesses.
Pretty much it seemed that they all agreed.
The Phoenix was the supreme force of life and creation in the universe; guarding the M’Kraan crystal was its secondary function. It ultimately provided the life force for all beings in the cosmos.
However...what it gave, it could also take away.
There was talk of a Black Angel in these records or, perhaps more worryingly, the Chaos-Bringer. The Phoenix was what is and what will be, and if it so desired, much like the crystal it guarded, it could be the End of All That Is.
It didn’t take a degree in engineering to figure out that Dark Phoenix was the Chaos-Bringer of legend.
All of the stories agreed that a main function of the Phoenix was to cast judgment. Sometimes this meant on beings, such as it did to the Mad Emperor D’Ken. But sometimes...
Sometimes this meant for entire civilizations.
As she told Hikaru, the most common phrase regarding the Phoenix was it “burning away what doesn’t work.” It apparently could consume stars and whole planets if it wanted. Ostensibly, because of his passion and care for other living beings, the Phoenix had chosen Leonard. Maybe...maybe Leonard had let it get too close, because it seemed like now the Phoenix was replacing him20. At the very least, it twisted him into something warped and dark.
At the end of the day, it seemed like both Hikaru and Jim were right.
Hikaru was right in that no mortal creature should house a force like the Phoenix. It belonged in the cosmos, and it needed to be free and untainted.
Jim was right in that, for better or worse, Leonard and Phoenix were one in the same. This meant that they could reach out to Leonard, help him regain control, and put Phoenix away for the foreseeable future. She wasn’t sure if there was a way to undo their bond, but perhaps with time Spock and Scotty could devise something to free Leonard from Phoenix.
They had to at least try.
Nyota put her PADD down and looked at Scotty and Chekov. The mnemonic scrambler sat in Scotty’s hands. It was a thin metal band that looked almost like a type of crown; circuits ran along the edges and it had a light in the middle that would turn on when the scrambler was active, she supposed.
“Now to just test it,” Scotty said.
Pavel eyed him warily. “You cannot test it on me, I need to watch the readings,” he said. “I have to help you make certain it is working.”
“True,” Scotty said with a thoughtful look.
“What’s that?” Nyota asked. “You need to test it on someone?”
“Aye,” Scotty said.
“Okay, well how about me?”
Scotty and Chekov looked at her, and the former cleared his throat. “Are you sure about this?”
“It’s not going to turn me into a vegetable, right? It’s just going to make it hard to think.” She shrugged. “I want to help.”
Pavel shrugged. “Okay.”
Scotty nodded. “If you insist, Nyota.”
Nyota smiled. “Thank you, Scotty.”
Scotty walked over and slid the headband down over her forehead. It was a bit big on her, but her hair offset some of the space. “Now, what it’s going to do is scramble your thoughts and block you from forming complete ones,” he said with a thoughtful look. “I can’t promise that it will be comfortable.”
“It’s fine,” Nyota said with a bit more bravado than she felt. “Go ahead.”
“All righty,” Scotty said as he pulled out a control. He winced a little and turned it on.
All at once, an ear-splitting pain filled her head. It made her double over, and she clutched the band in her hands. She tried to pull it off, but her brain was too sluggish; it couldn’t send the right nerve impulses to her hands to make them cooperate.
“Oh...oh my God,” she managed to exclaim. “Hurts...”
Pavel gave her a worried look before he remembered what he was supposed to be doing. “It is functioning properly...output levels are nominal...”
Tears formed in her eyes, and she struggled to blink them away. Her breathing became labored; it hurt so much, it felt like a migraine ramped up a thousand fold. She couldn’t concentrate on anything, not even on how much pain she was feeling.
It was torture.
Scotty watched her before turning it off with a pained grimace. “There we are. All set, we know it works.”
Nyota breathed frantically; just like that, her mind was clear. Her hands trembled, and she managed to wipe the tears off her face. It was without a doubt the worst physical sensation she had ever experienced.
Fortunately, it was over.
“If it made me feel this bad,” Nyota said with a gulp, “I can’t even comprehend what it will do to Leonard.”
“We are sorry,” Pavel said.
Scotty nodded. “Very sorry.”
“It’s all right. I volunteered.” Finally able to stand upright, she did so. “Goodness.”
Scotty gently took the scrambler off her head. “Well, I’d call that a success.”
“Agreed,” Pavel added.
Just then, Jim and Spock came into the lab. Spock looked as implacable as ever, while Jim had the haunted look on his face that had been present since the doctor left. “How’s it coming?” Jim asked in a grim tone.
“Scrambler works perfectly,” Scotty said with pride. “Although, uh...perhaps Nyota should go to medical to make sure there are no lasting effects.”
Nyota brushed some hair out of her eyes. “I’m fine, really. As soon as you turned it off everything went back to normal.” Her hands still shook, undermining her brave words. Spock nodded, but he did give Nyota the look that meant he was concerned. She smiled at him and made a note to reassure him privately later.
Jim went to speak but pitched backwards as if he was going to faint. He managed to grab a hold of the wall to steady himself.
“Captain!” Pavel cried as they all rushed to his aid.
“I’m okay, I just...” he held a hand up to his temple. “It’s Bones. I’m getting a lot of feelings through the rapport, and it’s overwhelming. It’s the loudest he’s been since it happened. It’s almost like he’s close by.”
“Is he?” Spock looked curious, and yes, even worried.
“He’s...behind us.” Jim closed his eyes in order to better concentrate. After a minute, he opened them wide. “There’s one thought more prominent than all the others. It’s...the word home.”
They all stayed silent as they let this information wash over them.
“Earth?” Spock asked.
Jim shook his head to clear it. “Yeah, and I think I know exactly where he’s going to end up.” He turned and began to make his way back out the door. “Come on, we need to get up to the bridge and tell them to push it. Scotty, boost the engines as much as you can. We’re in a race now.”
“Aye sir,” Scotty said as he took off for the engine room. The rest of them made their way up to the bridge.
It was all about to break. One way or another, things would be resolved soon.