Jim had been unable to sleep, so he patrolled the Starbase. It was the dangerous time. The time of the monsters.
He’d left his son in the capable care of Bones along with Bones’ daughter. If something very wrong happened, Jim had no doubt Bones would get them off this hellhole and somewhere safe.
Only last night an Ice Monster had killed one of the visitors. The victim, an Andorian, had been warned to be careful, but as often happens, he did not listen, and the Monster carried him away.
There’d been talk about going after them to attempt a rescue but then Bones reminded everyone that it was likely the poor Andorian would have already been killed or worse…eaten…long before they reached the Ice Monsters lair. And then there would likely be more Monsters and more victims.
It was sad, yeah, but Bones had been right and everyone knew it.
He turned at the familiar whisper and made his way to the door of a dwelling where Janice Rand peeked out.
“Hey. You should keep the door closed. Get some sleep.”
“I heard you out here. What are you doing? You should be inside, Jim.”
“Can’t sleep. Might as well keep watch.”
“We can’t afford to lose you.”
Jim gave her a reassuring smile. “You won’t. I’m not even sure any of them will be out here tonight. They ate well last night.”
Janice shuddered. “Don’t. Please.”
“I mean I know what happened to him, obviously. But to think about it. And that could have been Tommy.”
“The best way to prevent that is to keep Tommy and everyone else inside.”
She bit her lip. “But is it? We don’t even know where they came from so suddenly, Jim. I’ve lived on Starbase 12 for five years. There wasn’t any sign of something like that before. Who’s to say they won’t come more often or during the day? We have no defense against them except for the two of you.”
“I don’t have any answers. I know as much as you,” Jim said grimly. “I wish I could offer reassurance, but the truth is I’m just as scared as everyone else. It’s not just me now.”
“Rumor has it that you and Doctor McCoy plan to leave Starbase 12.”
“You know how rumors are.”
She rolled her eyes. “I do. And I know that sometimes there’s truth to rumors. I sure as hell am not staying here without you two. So if you’re leaving, take me and Tommy with you. Please.”
She put her hand on his arm. “I know you and the doc are wanted men. Everyone knows that and we don’t care. I can imagine why you are but I don’t need the details. I know you’re good. Both of you. That’s all I need to know. You’ve saved countless lives. And you…there’s something different about you. You’re special.”
“Janice.” He shook his head. “I’ll talk to him. Okay? That’s all I can do.”
“Please, Jim. I can’t stay here with Tommy the way things are. Not if you two are gone.”
“I’ll see. Now, go back inside and close and lock the door, all right?”
She gave a short nod and closed the door. Jim waited until he heard the snick of the lock before turning around.
It was bitterly cold out. Mist swirled from his breaths. His boots crunched in the ice on the ground. Jim wore no coat but others would have to bundle up if they were out. He was glad they were not.
It was perfect conditions for the Ice Monsters. Sure, as Jim had said, they’d gotten someone just the night before, and he hoped it would satisfy them for now. But as Janice said, it was impossible to know when something would change.
He returned to his own dwelling a short time later and Bones was awake as he closed and sealed the door.
“I was about to come looking for you,” Bones said.
“No need. I was fine.”
“No sign of them tonight. Yet I felt…something.”
Bones frowned. “What?”
“Watchful eyes.” He shrugged and stepped over to the coffeepot which still contained a small amount of the pot he’d made earlier. He poured a cup and drank it, black and bitter. “Someone lurked on the edges. Or something.”
“The Ice Monsters?”
“I’m not sure.” Jim eyed him over his cup. “Your girlfriend wants to come with us.”
Bones scoffed. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
“Your one nightstand then. Or was it two?”
“Three.” Bones grimaced. “I like her. A lot. But relationships? For us? Not happening.”
“I didn’t say she was asking to marry you. She’s scared. They all are.”
“And they have reason to be, Jim. If they’re smart, they’ll all leave this Starbase. But the more that travel with us, the more likely we won’t blend in anymore. Sulu was only the latest to come looking for us. They’ll send more.” Bones paused. “How long can you keep up the power it takes to change our appearance when they do come?”
Their likenesses were everywhere. Jim knew that. They both did. When the Federation came they did not see Leonard McCoy, they saw Ben McCain. Or in Jim’s case, Jake Livingston. Some became suspicious even with the different faces, like Sulu.
They’d been lucky so far that no one from this Starbase turned them in. But it was possible. Always possible. And so he agreed with Bones. Time to move on.
“I don’t know. And believe me, I’m all for getting off this rock. But if we can help Janice and her son, shouldn’t we try?”
“And what about the kid? Pavel? He’ll want to come too. Probably others.”
“God, I don’t know, Bones. I just know I don’t want to abandon all these people to whatever fate waits for them. They don’t deserve this. And how do I know that I didn’t cause this?”
“You? How would you be responsible for the Ice Monsters, Jim?”
“I don’t know,” he whispered, feeling defeated.
“You’re not. There’s so much of this planet they built the Starbase on they just don’t know. They’re likely native and pissed that we’re here.”
“But the Starbase has been here for years, Bones. Why now?”
Bones pulled on his coat and picked up his arsenal. “I don’t know, Jim. Any more than anyone else. But we’re leaving this place. And soon. Plan for it.”
His friend lowered a shield over his face meant to protect him from the cold and certain attacks of the monsters.
“I’m going out for a short patrol. Watch over the kids. And if I don’t come back—”
“I know,” Jim said softly.
Bones nodded and went for the door.