A chime sounded, and Bones stirred awake. He blinked for a second in the darkness at the unfamiliar ceiling before he remembered.
It was dawn.
That meant it was time for the duel.
Jim sat up in bed next to him, stretching. “Morning, sunshine,” he said with a yawn.
Bones tried to smile. “Mornin’ darlin’.”
Jim reached out his hands to pull him close for a kiss; Bones went willingly, and if his kiss was robotic, Jim didn’t notice.
“Mind if I get first shower?” Jim asked.
Bones shook his head. “Go ahead.”
“Thanks,” Jim said with a grin. He got out of the bed and padded his way to their bathroom. It didn’t take long before he heard the sound of the water starting.
Bones sat in the bed. He closed his eyes and reached out a hand. Energy seeped off it, grabbing his suit and shoes. He opened his eyes and looked at his clothing, which hovered in the air before him. He swallowed once before turning to make sure Jim was in the shower; he heard the muffled sound of him singing, so he must have been.
Bones swept two of his fingers to the side, and his clothes filled out and formed the shape of a man. He swept his fingers again, and they turned into his uniform complete with a phaser.
He looked down at his hands, which trembled.
The bonds he and Spock placed in his mind failed. He wasn’t to Phoenix level powers yet; he could barely hear any of Jim’s thoughts, for example, and he doubted he could fly in space. He might be able to put up a force shield, but it wouldn’t last too long against someone like Gladiator.
But facts were facts, and the fact was that the binding already gave out.
He closed his eyes and did something he hadn’t done since his father got sick.
“God, please give me strength,” he pleaded. “Give me the strength to get through this duel without revealing my powers, but most of all...please let my friends get out of this in one piece.”
Of course, there came only silence. He sighed and lay back down.
He waved his hand and the uniform neatly folded itself up, sitting on the corner of the bed. The boots moved themselves to the same corner and sat, patiently waiting for when he would put them on. Bones sat back up, hugging his knees, as he listened to Jim in the shower.
Two beings tied together: Leonard McCoy and the Phoenix.
Phoenix provided him with his very life force; it was the whole reason why he still breathed. In turn, he provided the Phoenix with awareness and purpose. He didn’t want to die; he wasn’t afraid to, but he didn’t want to. There was so much he had yet to do...so many places he wanted to travel, things to experience...
Days to spend with Jim.
Bones didn’t wish to die...but it was possible that Lilandra was right, and it was the only way.
Once more, he prayed.
“Give me the strength to do what I need to if it comes to that.”
The water shut off in the bathroom. Bones wiped his eyes with the back of a hand before arranging himself to look less worried.
Jim stepped out with one towel wrapped around his waist and another draped across his shoulders. “This Shi’ar shower is crazy. I almost fell over from the water pressure. I’ve got to figure out how they manage that on a starship.”
“Starfleet figures out how to manage it, and you’ll end up drowning,” Bones said, even though his heart wasn’t in it.
“Heh,” Jim said. He bent over at the waist and towel-dried his hair. “You should probably go ahead and take yours. I don’t want to insult Lilandra by making her wait.”
“Yeah, I’m going,” Bones picked up his uniform just as Jim looked up.
“Hey, where’d you get that?”
“Hm?” Bones looked down at the bundle in his arms. “Oh, I...called the ship with your communicator while you were showering. Can’t exactly fight in a suit.”
Jim smiled. “Good thinking.” He began to get dressed.
Bones stepped into the bathroom, closing the door most of the way behind him. He hated lying to Jim, but he didn’t want to tell him. In case things got out of hand during the fight it might be better to have a surprise on their side.
It also served the purpose of plausible deniability. He didn’t want Jim to be implicated if...if things went the wrong way.
Using his telekinesis to turn on the shower, Bones stood and examined himself in the mirror.
Dark Phoenix was almost like a split personality brought on by a traumatic experience, sort of like a grand mal version of Dissociative Identity Disorder. Spock was right to an extent that he couldn’t be accountable for his actions. Yet...Leonard “Bones” McCoy was Dark Phoenix. They were one in the same.
He sighed and got in the shower and stood under the spray for a minute.
Jim was right; he couldn’t give up. He had a right to live. He hadn’t hurt anyone. For now, the Phoenix was under control. He needed to fight with everything he had.
He hoped that it would be enough.
“You know, only Bones and I really have to do this,” he said, and the rest all turned to look at him. “You guys can sit it out. We understand if you’re not comfortable with it.”
They stared at him in silence.
Finally, Uhura spoke. “Don’t be stupid,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “We’re all in this together.”
Jim looked at Sulu. “All of us?”
Sulu nodded. “I don’t agree with her plan; it’s too harsh a sentence. He deserves a chance.”
His eyes softening, Jim extended his hand. “Thanks.” They shook on it, and all was forgiven.
The room’s doors slid open to reveal Lilandra, followed by Araki and the Imperial Guard. Some of them like Gladiator, Oracle, Smasher, and Starbolt, they recognized. The others---a green robot looking person that stood about three meters tall, a woman in white with a round black cape and yellow skin, a man that appeared to be made out of purple stone, and a red skinned woman with blonde hair and cloven hooves for feet---they did not.
“The Starfleet officers,” Lilandra began, “will beam down followed by the Imperial Guard. Once both teams have arrived in the part of the moon called the “Blue Area,” the fighting will commence. Whichever team is the last one standing shall be proclaimed the victor. Should Starfleet be successful, the surviving members will be set free. Should the Imperial Guard win, Leonard McCoy – Phoenix – is mine to do with as I see fit. Do you agree to the terms of this contest?”
Jim nodded. “I agree.”
“Very well, then, Captain. Beam them down.”
“At once, Majestrix,” the technician called. She powered up the system, and in the blink of an eye, the Starfleet officers disappeared.
Lilandra sighed. “Imperial Guard.” The Imperial Guard took their spots on the transporter platform. Lilandra looked at them with sad eyes. “Make certain they do not win,” she said as quietly as she could muster.
“Fear not, my Empress,” Gladiator said with a slight bow. “They cannot.”
Lilandra nodded to the technician, and at once, the Guard was beamed down. Araki looked to his Majestrix with a concerned expression.
“I know they cannot,” Lilandra said to the room as her eyes filled with tears.
Jim made a mental note to suggest to Pike that Starfleet do more research into this civilization as he placed a hand on the phaser on his hip. Standing in a circle, the seven of them surveyed the surrounding area.
“Looks like we’re alone,” Jim said.
“We are.” Bones stood somewhat stiffly next to him.
Jim furrowed his brows. “Wait, how can you be so sure?”
Bones gave him a look. “The Imperial Guard watched us transport down, Jim.”
Jim stared at him for a second; there was something about the way Bones said it that bothered him. He turned his attention back to his crew. “So here’s the thing. We can’t outgun them, but we can keep them off balance.”
“Hit and run tactics, boss?” Sulu asked.
“Yeah,” Jim said with a nod. “We split into two teams and engage them only on our terms. We don’t have superpowers, but we’re all armed with phasers. We can try to whittle them down one Imperial at a time.”
“Hold it,” Bones said as he turned to the opposite side of the crater just as a bright flash happened.
Nyota watched too. “That light means they’re here,” she said.
Jim pulled out his phaser and armed it, setting it to heavy stun. Probably nothing short of vaporize would even work on someone like Gladiator, but there was no need to open with deadly force. “Right. Let’s use these ruins to our advantage. Split up and keep your communicators open, but don’t talk unless you need to. We hit them as hard as we can, and as much as we can, got it?”
“Aye,” they all said in unison. Jim, Sulu, Spock, and Bones took off in one direction; Scotty, Chekov, and Uhura took off in another. They ran through the ruins, trying to find places to hide and wait out their attackers.
Scotty stood behind a wall that jutted out, taking the point. “Is it me, or are our teams a little lopsided?” he couldn’t help but ask. Chekov and Uhura looked at him curiously.
“The captain, Sulu, and Spock on one side,” Scotty elaborated, “and the three of us on the other. If this were a pub fight, I’d be your man no question, but I feel like against the Imperial Guard I’m not really much of a heavy hitter.”
Chekov frowned. “We are clever. More so than those Imperials.”
Uhura nodded. “Pavel’s right; Jim’s team may have the brawn, but we’ve got the brains. Plus I think the three of us are more willing to play a little dirty.” She smiled. “I may have an idea, actually.”
Scotty and Chekov looked at each other before turning back to her.
It didn’t take long for her to detail her plan.
At least, until a blazing flame hit just a meter from where he stood.
“Watch it!” Jim shouted as he took cover. Bones followed him as Sulu and Spock did the same on the opposite side of the path. Sulu took aim and fired at the Imperials.
“You cannot hide from us, Captain,” Starbolt called. “You cannot hide, and more importantly, you cannot win.”
Jim looked up into the sky; Starbolt was not alone. Oracle, Smasher, and the yellow-faced woman in white that he thought was called Manta hovered behind him.
“We’ll see about that,” Jim retorted. Starbolt wasn’t the real threat; Oracle was with her telepathy. Without hesitating, Jim took aim and fired, hitting her with a heavy stun ray. Oracle crumpled, falling down throughout the air.
“Oracle,” Starbolt cried as he flew to catch her. Manta covered him by firing a blast towards them. Sulu and Spock barely managed to dodge in time as it shattered the stone they hid behind. They both opened fire, but Manta and Smasher managed to avoid it.
“We’re sitting ducks,” Sulu shouted as he took aim a third time. He hit Smasher; it didn’t even slow him down. He took aim and hit him a second time. Spock and Jim also managed to hit him, and it was enough to disorient him fully. He veered off, confused, and rammed at full speed into a building, decimating it in the process.
Bones trained his phaser on Manta and hit her with a blast at heavy stun. She crumpled and lost control of herself, spiraling down towards the ground.
“Move,” Jim said, and the four officers took advantage, running across the open area of the ruins to find their next hiding spot.
Unfortunately, Manta and Smasher recovered and were in pursuit.
The four men sprinted with Spock and Sulu bringing up the rear. Without warning, Smasher swooped down and grabbed Spock. Smasher grinned at him from behind his red glasses as they soared up into the skies. “I can fly through 4-Space, Vulcan,” he crowed. “The question is, can you?”
Spock began to struggle to free himself. “I suppose we are about to find out.”
Smasher smirked as he flew high up above the crater into the cold nothingness. Spock’s first thought was to hold his breath; his second was that he had never been colder in his entire life.
It took an instant for him to be stunned into unconsciousness, becoming limp in Smasher’s arms. The Imperial Guardsman gathered him up like a child and flew back down into the crater. When he was high enough to ensure his unconsciousness, but not so the fall would kill him, he dropped Spock down to the ground where he landed in a puff of moon dust.
“First blood to the Imperial Guard,” Smasher said as he caught sight of Manta going for the other three officers. “As it should be.”
Manta fired an energy blast just ahead of Sulu. A hole formed in the ground too abruptly for him to dodge, and he fell into it. Jim and Bones stopped for a second with concern.
“I’m fine, go,” Sulu shouted. Jim took off, and Bones gave him a grateful look before following. They disappeared into the ruins ahead.
Manta touched down on the ground three meters from Sulu. “Your loyalty to this McCoy creature speaks well of your race, Terran.” She raised her arms up, and a bright energy enveloped her form. She blasted Sulu at full strength.
His uniform became charred and frayed as he fell to his knees in the debris. He managed to prop himself up on one arm, even though it shook. “You won’t...win...”
Manta blasted him a second time, and then everything went black.
They were not, however, prepared to hear singing.
Warstar approached the sound; it was a woman’s voice, gentle and sure through the air. It haunted them as it lilted through the ruins. Together they continued to investigate. The music grew louder as they neared it. Before long, they saw a figure clothed in in darkness. What they could see of her told them that she was stunningly beautiful.
Unfortunately for Warstar, Scotty and Chekov stood hidden in the shadows with their phasers trained on them.
“Big fellow, isn’t he?” Scotty whispered. Chekov nodded his agreement. “That means he’ll fall hard then.”
Both of them adjusted their phasers to full strength, aimed, and fired. They hit the big, hulking body with their blasts, and it shorted out. It fell over, toppling to the side.
“Woo!” Chekov shouted as he and Scotty ran over to make sure Warstar was down for the count. B’nee attempted to climb off C’cll’s back as they shot him, putting him down.
“That’s two,” Uhura called from the darkness where she placed her hands on her hips.
“These Imperials are going down easy!” Chekov said with a smile. “We are sure to win.”
“Apologies, Pavel Chekov,” a voice called from behind them. “But that is not the case.”
Chekov gulped as Uhura’s eyes widened, and Scotty slowly turned around.
There stood Gladiator.
The four of them looked at each other in silence.
“Hi,” Scotty managed to say.
“I suggest you surrender,” Gladiator said in a sad voice. “I am impervious to your phasers and my strength is much greater than yours. One blow from me can shatter your skulls.”
“Maybe you haven’t heard,” Uhura said with far more bravado than she felt, “But we don’t surrender.”
“It is a shame then that we must fight.” Gladiator promptly took a fighter’s stance, raising one hand in a fist. Scotty and Chekov backed away.
Uhura thought quickly; she spent the last few months reading up on the Shi’ar, and that included reading the dossiers of the members of the Imperial Guard. Gladiator as the Praetor was the strongest and bravest warrior they had to offer. However...his powers were based upon his self-image and self-esteem. If he doubted himself at all, he weakened.
She frowned; while tearing someone else down was actually abhorrent to her, she had to admit it was the only way to succeed. “Before we fight, may I ask you something, Kallark?”
Gladiator raised an eyebrow. “I don’t normally discuss things during battle, but seeing as you cannot win...I suppose I can allow it.”
“Why did you permit the mad emperor D’Ken take the M’Kraan crystal and attempt to use its power?”
It was imperceptible to Scotty and Chekov, but to someone who was as schooled in body language as Nyota Uhura the way the Praetor faltered was as obvious as reading a large sign. “He was the Emperor. I serve the Imperial throne of the Shi’ar.”
“You are supposed to serve the Empire above the person, Kallark,” Nyota continued. “Why did you not stop D’ken to preserve the peace?”
Next to her, Scotty brightened. “Hey, actually that’s a really good question. Surely as close to him as your position puts you, you caught on to the fact that he was insane. Why did you follow a madman’s orders?”
Gladiator blinked. “I...”
“It’s pretty simple, actually,” Uhura answered for him. She steeled herself because the next part required her to be something that she wasn’t by nature. It required her to be cruel. “You did it, you let it happen, because you’re weak, Kallark.”
His posture stiffened. “I am the Praetor of the Imperial Guard! I am the strongest being in the galaxy!”
“I’m not disputing that physically you are powerful,” Uhura elaborated. “I’m saying that your spirit is weak. You’re nothing but a follower, easily swayed by those with a tiny bit of power above yours.”
Chekov nodded. “The expression for you is Yes Man, I believe.”
“My job is to follow the orders of the person who sits on the Imperial throne,” Gladiator answered.
“A strong person knows when to question those orders,” Uhura said. “A strong person also knows when not to obey.” She pointed an accusing finger at him. “The Empire was nearly destroyed because you failed, Gladiator. You failed in your duty to protect it. You’re a joke. You’re a waste.”
The expression on Gladiator’s face shattered; he looked somehow small, as if their very words caused him to shrink. “I’m...I’m not...I did my duty.”
“You have no purpose, laddie,” Scotty added. “You have no purpose, and you barely have any dignity.”
“And your haircut is stupid,” Chekov added.
Gladitor reached a hand up and touched his Mohawk. “This hairstyle is a warrior’s hairstyle,” he said, though it came out meek and unsure.
“You’re useless, Kallark, and barely worthy of your title,” Nyota continued. “Scotty’s right, you have no dignity or purpose. You’re nothing. Worse than nothing, you’re a failure.”
“Nothing,” Gladiator repeated. “A failure.” He stood looking at the ground.
“Yes, a failure,” Chekov agreed.
“Come, you two,” Nyota said. “Let’s leave Kallark to his ruminations.”
The three of them walked out of the tunnels to the surface. They stood in the open air looking above them for any sign of the Imperial Guard.
Scotty let out a whoop and grabbed Uhura in a fierce hug. “Nyota, if you weren’t spoken for I would marry you out of your brilliance!” he said. As Nyota laughed, Chekov made an offended noise, and Scotty looked over her shoulder at him. “Nothing personal, Pavel. There’s enough Scotty to go around.”
Pavel huffed and crossed his arms. “I do not share.”
Scotty put Uhura down, and she looked back and forth between the two of them.
“When did this happen?” she asked.
“Last night,” Scotty answered, and then he looked sheepish. “Apparently I’m already in the dog house.”
Chekov nodded. “Yes. That is accurate.”
They were so exultant they failed to notice the man made of stone, who was called Earthquake, come up to them. He stomped his foot, triggering a quake that spread across the ground to where they stood. The three of them lost their balance. Earthquake smirked before triggering another quake. This one was more severe and sent them to their knees. Chekov tried to aim with his phaser but the ground moved so fast he couldn’t see straight.
Earthquake sent rocks flying through the air; two of them caught Scotty and Uhura in the head, knocking them unconscious. Chekov was the last one standing, and he focused so much on Earthquake he didn’t see the red woman. She pulled out a whip, cracked it, and wrapped it around Chekov’s throat. It was an electronic device known as a neuro-whip; when used against a person, it triggered a seizure, and Chekov went down with the others.
Earthquake joined her. “Good work, Hussar. The Empress will be pleased.”
Hussar nodded as she nudged Chekov with her hoof. This meant there were only two Terrans left in the game.
The Imperial Guard had all but won.
Bones didn’t say anything; he just nodded. Together they made their way to the alcove, standing as far back as they could in the darkness. They crouched down; the only sounds were that of their breathing, and they spotted the flying members of the Imperial Guard as they went past them.
“We don’t have much time,” Jim whispered.
Bones was oddly, eerily silent. For some reason, he looked down at his hands. They shook a bit in the dim light, and Jim looked at them with a curious expression. “No. No, we don’t.”
A feeling of dread washed over Jim in waves. If he focused, it looked like Bones’ hands glowed.
No…they were glowing. It was dim, not nearly bright enough to give them away in the scant lighting of their shelter, but it was there just the same.
“How long?” Jim asked.
Bones telekinetically covered the alcove with a wall of moon dust; such an action would further hide them from the Imperial Guard. From the look on his face, it caused him a significant amount of strain. He sweat with a flush high on his cheeks, and his hands continued to tremble.
“Started when I woke up,” Bones answered. “I didn’t have the uniform beamed in; I changed my suit into it. The phaser too.”
Jim closed his eyes. Worry and fear settled in the pit of his stomach like a lead weight.
Lilandra was right.
She was right; the Phoenix could only be contained temporarily, if at all. There was no telling if Bones and Spock binding the Phoenix a second time would even work. Bones’ abilities were still finite --- covering the alcove with the dust was causing him difficulty, for example --- but he had the powers again regardless.
“Can you hold on until we at least win this duel?”
Bones shrugged; he looked tired and older than his thirty-two years. “We’re the only ones left, Jim. I don’t know that we’re gonna win this.”
Jim opened his mouth to ask how he knew that before closing it. “Telepathy’s back too, huh?”
Bones cast his eyes down to the ground. “You can’t feel me?”
Jim was about to argue when it dawned on him. He could feel Bones, although it wasn’t nearly as “loud” as their rapport was before. It was so much more natural to feel Bones than to not that he hadn’t noticed it happening.
He took a second to fish through the rapport; what he felt in Bones was a kind of resignation, but he also felt terrified. It was like he was hanging off a ledge by his fingernails, clinging so he wouldn’t fall.
“I’m not letting you get killed,” Jim said, his voice resolute. “I refuse to accept that as being the only solution.”
“What do you propose instead?” Bones looked at him then, and...Jesus, the look in his eyes was heart-breaking. “The only other way I can see is lobotomizing me. Making me a vegetable would maybe force the Phoenix leave my body, but Jim...I can’t live like that. I can’t not be a doctor. I just...I can’t.”
Jim shook his head. “This isn’t a zero-sum equation, Bones. We can find a way to sever the bond without harming either one of you. I know there’s a way, we just need more time.” Still crouched, he walked over to his Bones and placed his hands on his shoulders. “There’s a way. We just have to win this.”
Bones didn’t answer; Jim still felt the resignation through their bond. “We can’t hide in here forever. Sooner or later, we need to come out.”
“Yeah, I know.” Jim brought his hands down to take Bones’ in his. He brought them to his mouth, pressing a gentle kiss to the back of his knuckles. “There’s a lot I want to say right now. Unfortunately, this is one of those times where I blow at finding the right words.”
Bones smiled. “Where I’m concerned, it’s the thought that counts, and yours are just as amazing as you are, darlin’23 ’.”
Jim squeezed his hands. “Ready?”
The smile faded off Bones’ face. “I suppose.”
The dust curtain fell from the doorway. Jim and Bones stood, running back into the open air.
Whatever the outcome, they would face it together.
In spite of the current situation placing her at odds with Jim Kirk, she was most impressed with his crew. The only reason Spock and Sulu fell was due to the element of surprise; Smasher and Manta hit them so hard and so fast, they had no time to register what happened, let alone counterattack. Uhura, Scotty, and Chekov not only bested B’nee and C’cll, but Gladiator as well.
Again, it was only the element of surprise that was their undoing. Earthquake pummeled them mercilessly, and Hussar finished them off.
Now Kirk and McCoy were in hiding somewhere in the ruins, ostensibly to formulate a new plan of attack. Lilandra could tell that the Guard was growing restless; the flying members all hovered in the air, taking special care to watch the ground from every direction to find the remaining adversaries.
Kirk and McCoy came running out of an alcove, hand in hand.
“Increase magnification,” she ordered. “I want to see their faces.”
The picture enlarged to show the captain looking determined and the doctor looking worried. They ran for a while before Oracle spotted them.
“There,” Oracle cried as she flew towards them, Manta, Starbolt, and Smasher following suit. They were in hot pursuit of the pair from Starfleet. Starbolt fired an energy blast; his timing was off, and he missed. The captain fired back over his shoulder towards the source of the blast.
He, too, missed.
Together McCoy and Kirk sought shelter. Jim continued to fire at the Imperial Guardsmen; he managed to fell Starbolt, but Manta and Smasher redoubled their efforts. The doctor also opened fire, and his brow was furrowed in concentration.
In a perfect world, it would be her standing by their side and fighting with them. They were her friends; more than her friends, they were among the bravest souls in the known galaxy. They had the spirits of true warriors, and she would give anything to be with them.
Instead her duty placed them at odds. It cut out a piece of her heart every time one of Kirk’s crew fell, but the part of her that was Empress needed to be stone cold. She showed no sorrow; she showed no emotion at all.
“Majestrix,” Araki began, but he hesitated. “Are you sure about this?”
Lilandra did not turn to look at him. “I have the lives of thousands of worlds resting upon my shoulders, Araki. The Phoenix threat must be expunged.”
Araki nodded, though she could not see it. “I comprehend that, Majestrix, but Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy are exceptional beings. Suppose they win?”
A single tear fell from Lilandra’s eye as she watched the duel progress. “They will not win Araki. You have my word on that24. ”
A red and blue flash passed across the camera lens. That could mean only one thing: Gladiator had recovered.
This was it then.
This was the end for Kirk and McCoy.
Lilandra held her breath as she watched Gladiator shield his fellow Guards from the phaser blasts with his body. The captain’s look of resolve wavered for a moment, but he adjusted the strength of his phaser accordingly.
It had no effect.
Starbolt also recovered, and he used his flame powers to attack them in earnest. He scored a close hit, damaging some of the rock formed around their nook. The captain covered his head before returning fire.
Gladiator struck out with his eye beams, and Manta opened fire as well. Their aim was true, and they struck the rock that was providing the two men shelter.
They also struck the captain.
The force of impact blew him about five meters, and he landed in a heap, causing a cloud of dust to rise from the ground.
“No!” McCoy shouted as he ran to him. Jim lay still; even with the magnification, it was difficult to tell if he was breathing.
Lilandra held her own breath in response. She didn’t let it out until the captain began to speak.
“Sorry, Bones,” Jim said. “I tried.”
The doctor held his hand for a second as he lost consciousness. McCoy let go of him and stood, turning to face the Imperial Guards. Energy poured from his eyes, and his hair stood in a wind that did not – could not – exist on the moon.
“Sharra and K’ythri,” Araki whispered.
Flames engulfed McCoy, a roaring firebird forming around his body. It was large enough that people on Earth could no doubt see it, and it climbed high into the stars.
“Majestrix,” her science officer cried out. “Sensors are reading off the scales!”
“Shields up!” Lilandra ordered, as the flames rocked the ship. “Go to Plan Omega immediately! Burn the moon, the planet, the solar system if you have to! Phoenix must be stopped!”
The shields rose, barely in time. Lilandra tried to grab onto something as the gravity destabilized. They all floated in the air as the sensors and shields shorted out. Not long after that the power went out completely. Lilandra was aware of her crew barking orders to each other.
“Estimating ten minutes before systems come back online, Majestrix,” the first officer stated.
While that was good, Lilandra could only focus on one fact.
The Phoenix was reborn, and he was merciless.
Dark Phoenix walked on air ahead of him, a trail of flames in his wake.
Jim looked ahead of him; the Dark Phoenix needed to be stopped at all costs. But could he do it?
Could he kill Bones?
Jim ran after him; he noticed the bodies of the Imperial Guard on the ground around him. They were wounded, not dead, but he couldn’t think of that right then. He hid behind a wall, keeping a close eye on Bones.
The Dark Phoenix hovered just in front of a large ruin. Jim narrowed his eyes; it was likely that a telekinetic shield would block a full phaser blast, but blasting the wall and sending tons of stone and steel down on Bones might be too much for him to handle at that moment.
It was a gamble, and a risky one at that, but he had to try.
Bile rose in Jim’s throat.
//Bones.// Jim sent through the rapport. //Bones, I...I’m sorry.//
He took aim and fired.
The phaser cut easily into the stone, and it crumbled downwards onto Bones. The force hammered Bones to his knees, and the stone buried him. Jim felt the stinging bitterness of tears form in his eyes. The hand holding his phaser fell to his side; his grip became slack, and he dropped it.
Everything inside him ached. He was sickened; it was as if he would never feel right again. Jim slid down to a seated position on the ground, but he couldn’t bring himself to turn away from the wreckage.
So he sat, and he stared.
Light pooled in the cracks of the stones. Jim wiped at his eyes with his shirtsleeve. A blast rang out, clearing the rocks up and off of Bones. He stood, still in his Dark Phoenix colors. Trembling, he fell to his knees. “Jim...” he said. “Jim, help.”
Jim didn’t even hesitate before running to him. “Bones,” he cried out. He reached out to him, pulling him into an embrace. “Bones,” he breathed a second time.
Bones trembled in his arms. “I can’t do this. I can’t go on like this.”
“Yes, you can. You’re strong, Bones, you can fight this! I know you can!” Jim rocked him back and forth as gently as he was able.
Bones pushed him away. “I can’t fight this, not every moment of every day of the rest of my immortal life! If I fail even for a second, Jim, it’s all over.” Bones tried to stand. “It’s all over.”
Jim’s blood ran cold. “You can’t mean that.”
Bones looked at him; his eyes were wild, haunted. “The next time I’ll kill people. I could even destroy the Earth.”
Closing his eyes, Jim took a deep breath. “You’re asking me to kill you for something that you might do. Bones, I just...”
“I’m asking you to prevent an inevitability, Jim.” Bones tried to smile, but it came out dark and wrong. “I’m asking you to do your duty as the Captain of the Enterprise.”
“Don’t you fucking dare make this about duty,” Jim said. “That’s cheap, Bones.”
“But not inaccurate,” Bones answered. His eyes turned white, and something flew into his hand.
It was Jim’s phaser.
Jim’s expression shifted from angry to horrified as he watched Bones aim the phaser at his own temple. Bones closed his eyes and began to pull the trigger. “You won’t do it. So I have to.”
“Wait. Wait!” Jim exclaimed. He couldn’t believe what he was about to do, but he couldn’t let Bones commit suicide. “Give it to me.”
“If you want to stop me you have to do better than that.”
Jim sighed, and as much as he wished otherwise, his eyes again filled with tears. “I’ll do it.”
Bones gave Jim a grateful look. Without a word, he handed the weapon to his captain; Jim took it from him with a blank expression. He then walked about ten paces away. They regarded each other for several minutes, neither of them knowing what to say.
Bones didn’t speak, but he broke the silence just the same. //You hate me, don’t you?//
//No.// Jim aimed the phaser at Bones’ heart. //I’m pissed as hell at you right now; I will be for a long time after this. But I don’t hate you, Bones. I don’t think I ever could.//
//I don’t want this, Jim, but if I do that again...I’ll never be able to live with myself.//
//I know, Bones.// Jim made sure it was set to full power. //That’s the only reason why I’m doing this.//
Bones lifted his lips into a partial smile. //It’s not, but I appreciate you saying so.//
There was another silence. Strangely, it looked like Bones’ jacket was flickering from the Dark Phoenix red to Phoenix green and then somehow to white and back again.
//I love you, darlin’.//
Jim’s grip on the phaser faltered. //I...back at you.//
He pulled the trigger. The phaser’s beam hit Bones in the chest, and it only took a second before he was vaporized. A trail of smoke was the only sign he had stood there.
It was done.
He didn’t know how long he stood there, but eventually a hand touched his shoulder. Without even turning, he shook it off.
“Captain...Jim...” Lilandra began. “Is there anything I can do?”
Jim stood silent for a while. “Haven’t you done enough?” he finally asked, his traitorous voice shaking on the word enough.
It was Lilandra’s turn to be silent. “I do not take any pleasure in this, Jim,” she said in a soft voice. The members of the Imperial Guard had recovered; battered and bruised, they stood by their Majestrix’s side. “I did not wish this; I would have given anything for there to have been another way.”
Jim turned to her then, and he saw that his crew also stood with her and her Guard. Uhura and Scotty were in tears, and Sulu and Chekov had their heads bowed. Even Spock looked sad.
“Just get me back to my ship,” Jim whispered.
It was then that he noticed Lilandra also cried. “Jim...”
“Get me back to my ship,” he ordered with no care of her status. Lilandra raised her head, but she did not argue. She pushed a button on her wrist gauntlet.
“Barelina, beam the crew of the Enterprise back to their vessel.”
At once, Majestrix, the technician replied.
Lilandra regarded Jim; to her credit, she looked heartbroken.
Maybe one day he would even believe that she was.
“I am sorry, James Kirk,” she said one final time as the lights whirled around them. When they dissipated, they stood in the Enterprise’s transporter room.
“Jim...” Spock said before hesitating.
“I’m going home,” Jim announced, although he wouldn’t look at any of them. “I’m going home, and I am staying there for the next three days. No one is to so much as locate me on the ship’s computer in that time. I will report to the bridge at 0900 on Friday.”
With that, he stormed out of the transporter room and to Bones’ quarters. It didn’t take long, and he punched in the access code, stepped inside, and went to the bed. He didn’t even bother to kick off his boots before lying down on Bones’ side. He buried his face in the pillows.
Finally, he let himself cry.