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The Yellow Brick Road and the Keepers of Polaris

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   From a distance, he hears a familiar clamor of boots running on what sounds like fleet regulation flooring, soon this is joined by the sounds of medical terms and procedures being ordered.  Leonard H. McCoy blinks and finds himself laying on the floor of an enterprise corridor.  

 

  Abruptly a squad of Starfleet medical officers tears through the hall towards him in a frenzied but purposeful commotion.  Accompanying the pack of medical officers is Jim and Spock whose attentions are both focused on the prone figure on the stretcher that Bones hasn't been able to get a clear look at due to all the commotion.  Concern flashes through the doctor since whoever is injured must be someone close to them.  While the command officers of the Enterprise were known to be some of the most devoted to their crew they simply didn't have the time during a conflict to be both at an individuals bedside at the same time. Leonard quickly clamps down his distress as he would an artery, and steels himself, quickly falling into his CMO role.  He steps out of the shadows and further into the passageway

 

  “Doctor M’Benga give me the patient’s…” McCoy begins to say but before he can finish M’Benga, who hasn't stopped nor reacted to Bones' voice charges toward the doctor seemingly unaware of his existence at all.  So much so that he would have run right into the good doctor if Leonard hadn’t stumbled back to avoid him and the huddle of nurses that follow. 

 

 “Wha, Geoffrey!  What in sam hill?!…” sputters Bones as they barrel past him, though his words dissolve into silence as the group leaves him in their metaphorical dust.

 

  Leonard shakes himself from his stunned stillness and makes to follow after the group when with inexplicable suddenness he finds his feet tangled up with something soft and fuzzy.  Bones tries to correct his balance but fails miserably and ends up falling face first on the floor.  It’s odd though part of the doctor notes, what should have been a punishing encounter with the starship regulation surface plating ends up feeling more like landing face first on a mattress.  McCoy doesn’t get much time to dwell on this however because a moment later he sees what entangled his feet.  Before him is a black cat with fiery glowing eyes like something out of a campfire ghost story.  The feline looks madder than a wet hen, what with the ways it’s ears are back and its tail is twitching in agitation.   

 

                                           

 

 

                                        Hell Cat

 

   “Oi! Ya Wallaper, watch where yer goin!” Yowled the cat.  Well, there goes the last of my marbles, muses Leonard.  

 

   Abruptly Bones looks up, realizes that he's being left behind and panics for awhile unsure of what to do.  With a masterful degree of tenacious force of will, Bones puts aside his introspective concerns about his possibly fastly mounting insanity.  Fueled by his determination the good doctor takes after the group that is rapidly speeding towards the medbay. 

   However, to his growing frustration, Leonard soon finds his course continuously slowed or outright halted as he tries his damnest to catch up with his hustling staff and friends.  Normally the rest of the crew is very adept at getting out of his way in a crisis as they would for any other officer or emergency personnel needing to pass through unhindered. Instead of crew members getting out of his way as the doctor would expect, time and time again Bones finds his course halted by having to dodge to keep from running to one or more of his crewmates. 

   It was as if they were ignoring him or as if he was invisible.  A few times he had been moments from running smack into someone or being trampled. ‘What’s gotten into everyone?’ Wonders Leonard his inner voice profuse with confusion, irritation and underneath it all, concern.  Maybe he needs to talk to Jim, muses Leonard, about doing more crisis sims and training with the crew.

  Finally, the doctor has managed to struggle his way to the gates of the domain he has come to consider his own, Medbay.  Without delay, he follows in the wake of the pack of nurses rushing onto the scene like reinforcements to a battle.  As Bones rushes in he is puffed with irritation, thoroughly determined to regain the respect of his colleges and the regard of his closest friends.   He can’t recall ever being given the cold shoulder like this before, nonetheless, he won’t stand for it.  

  Frankly, the whole situation is unsettling Leonard to his core.  The doctor is unable to prevent his own insidious spreading terror.  He can’t help the growing tides of dread that keep washing over him and nearly consuming him before leaving him shaken in their wake.  Worst of all is the persistent sense that this is all a symptom of something much dire than interpersonal issues

  When he catches up the pack and their unknown patient Leonard’s own reaction is not what he expected.  Instead of rushing into the fray as he normally would do, he finds an inexplicable thick miasma of trepid solemnity falling over him like a blanket.  The levels of ominous dread combined with panicked reluctance have grown so high, that all things considered Dr. McCoy should be overcome and drowning in the emotions he’s submerged in. 

  Despite himself, he finds himself inexorably drawn to the unknown patient on the bed as if bound by a spell.  Everything but the figure on the bed seemed to fade to a blur and the previously clamorous sounds of medbay in action fading to indispensable mumbles as the Doctor crept closer.  As Bones peers over and around the shoulders of the crowd surrounding the prone individual that was the focal point of this controlled chaos.  When he finally gets a good look at the person’s face, few things can compare to his shock nor to the depths that Bones' heart sinks.  Impossible! Thinks the doctor, ‘this must be some kind of mistake or a sick joke’. Lying unconscious on the biobed is what might very well be a mirror image of Leonard McCoy himself, albeit a more battered version.    

“Sp- Spock!! What in sam hill is going on?” Bones demands, unquestionably shaken and desperate for answers.  To his increasing frustration, the Vulcan acts as if he hadn’t heard a blasted word that Leonard had said.  Bones understands that their differences often causes friction and discord between them.  On a regular basis, this abrasive antagonism would flare up into a maelstrom of histrionic blood and thunder of excessive proportions.

   Overtime Leonard has accumulated reasons to suspect that the Enterprise crew, particularly the science officers and medical staff; found their antics both entertaining and exasperating.  A fact that Leonard found embarrassing, nonetheless, he could never seem to resist the temptation to banter with the Vulcan. Certainly, the first officer frequently failed to treat the good doctor and his advice with the degree of respectful regard that Leonard felt was warranted.  

 The man knew how to push Bone’s buttons in ways only equaled by the captain.  However, Leonard can not recollect a time that ol’ pointy ears had stooped so low as to outright ignore him.  The Vulcan’s anal-retentive need to project a veneer of aloof professionalism and his obsessive faithful obligation to duty, would not permit such juvenile onerous disregard for propriety.  Thinking maybe the usually perceptive walking computer was just suffering from a bad case of tunnel vision Bones moved closer to Spock through the purposeful chaos around the injured imposter.

“Spock!! What in tarnation,” yelled Leonard waving his hands about and even in front of his friends face.  Despite this, no response was forthcoming from the Hobgoblin, “Spock!!”

“Spock!!” Bellowed Bones,”If you don’t respond I’m going to slap you silly!”

  McCoy notices that the captain is coming over to their position and on instinct, Leonard reaches out to his friend fo aid. “Jim! Jim something wrong with Spock!! The man is ignoring me.  It’s like I’m immaterial to him or something….” While he was speaking Leonard had tried to grab Jim’s shoulder, seeking to ground himself through physical contact; seeking to gather that mutual support they maintained. However to Bone’s dismay and horror his hand instead of finding the solid purchase as expected, phased through his friend like it was nothing.  It was as if he was made of nothing but like light or smoke, not flesh and blood.

    Suddenly the ship jostled and lurched from the force of a considerable impact to the ship’s shields.

 

 

 

                                                   

Chapter Text

 

                

 

Hours later

   Before the recent troubles, Kirk had begun to glimpse a tantalizing ghostly glimmer of what had made his alternate universe counterpart so enraptured with the Enterprise and his role as her captain. The sensation of elation perpetuated by the adventure inherent in discovering the unknown, the miraculous deep camaraderie made manifest from an assortment of disparate individuals becoming a crew and evolving into a family.  All this infused with the actuality of being at the center of it all; guiding this living ship, this soaring falcon of possibility through the rocks and the shoals of the cavernous vacuous unknown.

  If one man alone, was left to support the weight of responsibility, it would be a temporal certainty that he would be crushed to dust beneath such a burden. Neither the strength of character nor the broadness of one's endurance would have much of an impact on the quality of the end result.  Jim, however, had been far from isolated during those brief years of soaring freedom. On his right, an ever-present resolute pillar of cool collected brilliant reason and intellectual curiosity; at his left a seemingly unquenchable vibrant torch of compassionate wisdom. Flanking this, the gossamer wings of The Enterprise's command crew composed of the best the Federation could procure.  Raw diamonds in the rough cut to brilliant beauty, by the rigors of experience.  Command is the beating heart and synapsing nerves of this wonderous enterprising beast.  Eternally unexpendable and essential to the function of this extraordinary machine.

  Recently, however, the synchronicity has begun to fall into discord. What once, had been achieved with an effortless ease akin to true graceful symbiosis, has become precipitously mired in entropy. Social gears that had once turned with perfect smoothness are now encumbered with rust and friction.  What’s to blame for this degradation you might ask? A logical man would probably pin that tail of blame square on the ass of circumstantial entropy, but as Spock would tell you, Jim isn’t always a man of logic.  If he had a day off from his wool-gathering; he may admit to the fact that external forces largely out of his control, playing a role in this descending parabola of dysfunction and its ensuing out of control spirally quagmire.

  Jim Kirk cannot seem to escape his Atlas-like tendencies to carry the lion share of the perceived blame on his shoulders. ‘I have to be stronger, better, faster, smarter, damn it!’ The Captain berates himself routinely, in the tense unpredictable spans of time spent waiting, watching and guarding. His inner exhausted turmoil constricting thought and winding woeful misery tighter.  His mind coiling tangled knots of stress, frustration, depression, and despair digging their shadowy entrenching tendrils deep. On the surface, Jim believes he can hide his true mindset from his crew behind a well worn rehearsed smile and carefully constructed confidence.

   Those close to him had long ago learned to chart their leader’s emotional geography and to plumb the deceptively calm depths to ascertain the true character of the strong emotional currents beneath. It is a sign of how bad the moral and communication interference has become that no one seems to have noticed how deep the dark circles under their Captain's eyes have become.  Also how red his eyes are due to fatigue and from long hours staring at a view screen with unblinking attention.

  Perhaps they would notice the mussed hair, cuts, electric burns, scrapes, and bruises accumulated while fighting off yet another vicious attack from Klingon Birds of Prey. A particularly vicious strike had short-circuited equipment panels, the impacting whiplash has been punishing on the young man’s person and the evidence in the form of a painting of bruises are beginning to reveal it’s self.  Certainly, they would notice that he still hasn’t changed his uniform that is still marked with dried rust-colored blood stains.   Blood that stained the gold shirt when their Vulcan first officer was beamed up from that damned war torn piece of rock, holding Jim’s broken CMO in his arms.

  Most of the other crew on Kirk’s assistance have long since gotten aid from their excellent medical personnel.  Except for Jim himself who is being even more of a stubborn ass than normal. For many reasons he does not wish to go into, Jimmy doesn’t like being handled by most medical personnel, except for Leonard. If conscious Jim Kirk will utilize a menagerie of tactics in his very long repertoire to avoid treatment. The degree of run around that he gives Bones at this point has become more reminiscent of flirtation and play. The Captain knows well, that the Physician secretly enjoys the chase, as much as Jim enjoys the colorful dialog and antics his CMO is inspired to produce when he gives him the runaround.  Jim suspects that if he surrendered too easily the man would be suspicious, disappointed and possibly insulted. Plus, letting the doctor have it too easy would probably give the man ideas and A Captain only has so much time to devote to being poked and prodded by his anxiety-prone chief medical officer.

  However, Leonard isn’t here. In addition, Jim is being even more cantankerous than normal banishing any poor medical staff with barked orders, growls, glares and insidious diversionary tactics. M’Benga, who has had his fill of the man’s bad behavior, is considering calling in the cavalry.   Particularly, since all the rest of command is busy with their own scruples and have found valid explanations as to why they don’t have time to deal with reticent captains.

  Currents of anger are suffused still under the surface of Kirk’s skin.  Simmering fury directed at Star Fleet due to their galling folly to insist requisitioning two of his command staff, no matter how briefly, nor how vital the mission.  Thunderous wrath at the Klingons - those bastards, sparking embers of quilty temper at Spock who was supposed to keep him safe damn it.   Sullen hot ashes of ire at Leonard for always, recklessly appreciating the value of others but nonetheless neglecting his own damn worth. All this aside, most of Kirk’s righteous firestorm is directed at himself. He should never have let them go on that damned mission, no matter what punishment the Admirals would have unleashed.

  The Enterprise's position had become untenable and the outpost undefendable.  Inevitably they were forced to evacuate the outpost or risk being overrun. The higher-ups concluded that the solution to the Klingon issue is just a matter of finding the right number of bodies for the war beast to consume. Jim, on the other hand, knew that sometimes one had to cut their losses in order to regroup and rally to fight another day. The war hawks prohibited them from drawing back as this would show ‘weakness to the enemy.’  The reality on the ground made sticking to close-minded tactics in service of preserving a institutions pride a sure fatality.  Klingon’s had drastically improved their technology including shields, firepower, and most worrisome of all their cloaking technology. The Enterprise had just barely been able to evacuate their personal and high tale it before being surrounded.

  Luckily they had managed to find a cloud nebula to hide in while they licked their wounds.  The losses had been heavy and the Klingons may still be hunting them. Kirk supposes that's what you get for being the Federation flagship, in a cold war that is close to blazing into a hot war zone at any moment. The issue as far as Jim can see it stems from the fact that the federation what’s to protect their borders and have their show of force to intimidate the Klingons.

  However, on the other hand, they don’t want full out war or to negotiate either. So instead they are counting on the presence of their flagship and these pitiful excuses for outposts on the border to somehow be enough to dissuade the Klingons. At the same time, they don’t want federation citizens panicking so they are trying to devote minimal funds to the effort in order to minimize the perceived severity of the escalation. Manpower isn’t a problem, plenty of desperate souls available to power the war engine but when it comes to supplies and ships they have been unreasonably stingy. Pike once said that children that have known only peace have different values from those who have known war.  Lately, Jim Kirk couldn't agree more with his mentors sage words.  Almost every day the burdened young man finds this truth being illustrated vividly before his eyes.

  Regardless, Kirk will have to find a way to better be able to explain the situation on the ground to them because their current situation was dire. If the brass didn’t change their tactics soon it would only be a matter of time until they all returned to space dust from which they were crafted. Damn, even a Captain needs a break from the wheel and maybe a drink or two once in awhile. He’s so tired, feels like there is a heady weight pressing his head down and his eyes closed. He’ll just close his for a moment, give these eyeballs a break from all that artificial light. Strange, Jimmy swears he could almost feel Bone’s strong arms around him and hear him fondly scolding him. That’s not possible though.