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The Last Star Trek: Chapter Twenty-Four - The Final Frontier

...McCoy lowered the glasses and looked at his old friend once more. “God bless you, Jim,” he whispered. Then he turned away from the window and moved to sit at the controls of the shuttle, brushing angry tears from his eyes. He was no pilot, but the shuttle was simple to operate...

Brian William Neal's account of the mission of the famous and gallant crew of the starship Enterprise to the most hostile planet in the universe moves toward a shocking, almost unbearable, climax.

Kirk, McCoy, Sulu and Spock moved across the blighted plain at a steady jog, constantly scanning their surroundings for signs of the aliens. They had covered almost three-quarters of the distance to the lake and could see the line of trees about three kilometers ahead. They had bypassed the places where they had left their fallen comrades, and had not had time to see them or retrieve their bodies, since Spock’s tricorder had finally picked up the aliens, who were approaching fast.

The four ran resolutely on, the line of trees stubbornly seeming not to be getting any closer, although reason told McCoy it must be. Finally, they passed between two low hills and were rewarded with the blessed sight of the Enterprise as they had left her, still beached on the edge of the lake with her stern in the air. Seeing their ship gave them renewed energy, and they increased their pace. Just a few hundred meters, thought McCoy, and we’ll be there.

Suddenly, Sulu gave a cry, and Kirk and McCoy turned to see Spock bending over the Asian. They ran back to join their comrades, and McCoy dropped to one knee, opening his bag as he did so.

“What is it, Sulu?” he asked, running a diagnostic tool over the Asian’s prostrate form. Sulu was lying on his back, his face a mask of pain. “I…I don’t know,” he said between gritted teeth. Then he convulsed, his back arching to an impossible angle, as though he had been shot or pierced with some weapon. McCoy dug in his bag again and began examining the Asian, who was shaking so violently that Spock was having difficulty holding him down. Then, as McCoy bent over him, the unthinkable happened.

Sulu gave a shriek, and flecks of blood appeared on the front of his uniform tunic. Kirk and McCoy recoiled as the flecks turned into a flood, and a creature from the depths of hell burst from Sulu’s chest and began to wriggle free.

The doctor and the captain stood, rooted to the spot watching the horrific scene, and Spock acted quickly. He applied the Vulcan neck pinch for which he was well-known, then increased the pressure beyond that required to induce unconsciousness, turning it into a death-grip. Sulu’s eyes turned up in his head, and he collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut.

The creature squirmed out of Sulu’s chest cavity and started away from them, back the way they had come. McCoy, shaking himself out of his horrified torpor, drew his phaser and fired a blast on maximum setting. There was a high-pitched squeal, and the creature disintegrated. In the silence that followed, Spock rose from the Asian’s side and joined the others.

“There was nothing else to be done,” he said, looking as shaken as they had ever seen him. “Mr. Sulu was already dead. I merely spared him any further suffering.”

The other two looked at the crumpled body of their friend and back to the Vulcan. McCoy nodded, and Kirk said, “We know, Spock. We know.”

McCoy glanced at Kirk, but the captain was staring past him and Spock, looking behind them. He turned and followed Kirk’s gaze, and saw a line of aliens stretching across the gap through which they had just passed. With astonishing speed, those at each end of the line moved to form a semi-circle, obviously intent in enclosing the three in a pincer movement. Spock turned to the others and spoke calmly.

“Captain, doctor,” he said, formal as always, “I shall delay the creatures while you make for the Enterprise. You should be able to reach it safely if you go now.” The others began to protest, and the Vulcan looked at them and smiled, a rare thing for him. “I, too, can feel the alien being growing within me. I have examined all the possibilities, and there is no possibility that it can be excised while still preserving my life.”

He looked at the shocked faces of the two Earthmen, and smiled again. “Jim, Bones,” he said, placing a hand on each of their shoulders, “as I said to you once before, it is logical. The needs of the two…”

“…outweigh the needs of the one,” finished McCoy.

Spock nodded. “Do not worry too much about me. I do not believe the creatures will want to kill me. If they were to do that, then the young within me would not be born. But I will see to it that that does not happen.” He smiled again, a full, genuine smile this time, and released his hold on them. He raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper, my friends,” he said, then turned and walked towards the line of aliens, now only a hundred meters away.

*

Spock covers the last hundred meters at a steady march, feeling the alien growth pulsing within him. He feels the anger simmering beneath, the emotion that he has attempted for all of his life to conceal and control, and a small, grim smile crosses his face as he is ironically surprised to discover that he cares not that his friends will see him revealed, unmasked as a Vulcan of old in his final moments. That he was always a Vulcan, he has never doubted; now, he is discovering that, given the appropriate circumstances, the most logical being will ultimately revert to its most primitive roots.

He walks on towards the unsuspecting creatures, the fury building in him. One part of his intellect acknowledges that they are merely mindless animals, that they are being controlled by another, infinitely more malevolent consciousness. But in the ultimate, paradoxical expression of his logical life, he finds that he does not care. His long-repressed genes are rising rapidly to the surface, and his logical mind is being overtaken by the desire that someone, something, will pay for the deaths of his shipmates, his friends. He marches resolutely on, his rage growing with every stride, his customary calm and serenity being replaced by a furious need to kill, to annihilate these creations that have destroyed him and his comrades.

To rend.

*

Kirk and McCoy stood, unable to move or avert their eyes from the tall, lean figure of their friend. As he reached the aliens, two of them reached for him, and Spock seized one of them by its neck, throwing it into its companion and scattering them like chaff. Two more approached, and Spock applied the Vulcan death-grip he had used to end Sulu’s pain to one of them. The creature squealed and collapsed as if poleaxed, while Spock hit the other across the side of its head, knocking it down and killing it instantly.

Then more began to close in, and Spock moved in a blurred frenzy, crushing heads and tearing the creatures literally limb from limb, the aliens helpless to retaliate in the face of their instructions to take the hosts alive. Kirk and McCoy watched, horrified, as their friend and shipmate was spattered by the aliens’ acidic blood, his features becoming scarred and smoking while he appeared not to notice, and Kirk recalled his thoughts of what an enraged Spock would be capable.

Finally, when the sheer weight of numbers began to overwhelm him, Spock turned and faced Kirk and McCoy. Then he sank to his knees and sat back on his haunches, crossing his hands over his chest in a protective gesture, his palms resting on his shoulders. He looked towards his friends once more, then closed his eyes and, using his Vulcan ability to totally control his body, simply willed his system to shut down. His arms fell to his sides, his proud and noble head sank to his chest; his great heart beat one last time, then stuttered and stopped. The aliens milled about in confusion, and Kirk and McCoy watched the final demise of their comrade.

“Goodbye, old friend,” whispered Kirk, as a single tear slid down his cheek. Then he turned to McCoy and said, “Bones, get to the ship. I’ll cover your back.”

McCoy tore his gaze away from Spock and said, “No way, Jim. We go together, or not at all.”

Kirk took McCoy’s phaser from the doctor’s belt. “Just this once, Bones,” he said, “do you think you could do what I ask without arguing?” He softened the rebuke with a smile. “Besides,” he said, “I’ve got the phaser.”

McCoy still did not move. “Jim,” he said, “you can’t hold them all by yourself! Come with me, we can both make it, we…”

Kirk faced his old friend and slowly shook his head, smiling gently. McCoy looked at him, uncomprehendingly at first, then shook his head in frantic denial. “Oh, no,” he said, as the horrifying truth dawned. “Oh my God, Jim. Not you, too?”

Kirk smiled again. “Yes, Bones. That’s why I can’t come with you. If even one of those creatures gets to earth, it will be a disaster like nothing we have ever experienced before.” He paused, and turned to look at the creatures. They had moved away from the kneeling form of the Vulcan, and were beginning to slowly close in on the two remaining humans. Kirk turned back to McCoy. “Go now, Bones. Quickly. I’ll delay them as long as I can. Spock was right, and now doubly so. I’m the last host they have left, unless they catch you. They can’t afford to kill me.”

He gripped his friend by the arm and looked hard at him one more time. Then he smiled again, and said, “Go on, Bones. It’s time to confront Moriarty at the falls.”

McCoy tried to speak, but Kirk pushed him gently but firmly away, and turned to face the alien creatures. McCoy stood, still unable to leave his friend, and Kirk said, over his shoulder, “Get moving, captain! That’s an order!”
McCoy hesitated a moment longer, then began to back away towards the ship. Then he turned and ran; surprisingly, none of the aliens followed him, and it occurred to him that they must only have orders to bring in the one carrying their spawn. He reached the emergency ladder, still where they had left it, and climbed to the top, where he stepped onto the flat upper deck. McCoy turned and looked back; Kirk was standing in the center of a half-ring of the creatures, casually picking them off one by one with the phaser, as they slowly closed in on him. McCoy ran to the hatch. Maybe I can get a weapon, something to take them all out. I might be able to operate on Jim, to remove the creature somehow.

In his desperation, the incongruity of the thought did not register. He was a doctor, dedicated to preserving life, all life, and here he was thinking of wiping out several hundred of these aliens. And not turning a hair at the thought. He dropped down through the hatch and ran to the far end of the bridge. Opening a small door set into a recess, he passed through and into a narrow shaft. Climbing the ladder he found there, he lifted another hatch and found himself in the shuttlecraft bay.

Quickly, he entered the shuttle and ran to its weapons closet; it contained two phasers, and he removed them both. He was turning to retrace his steps when he passed the starboard portal, which looked out on to the planet. What he saw caused him to stop and stare helplessly. In that moment, he knew then that his dearest friend was lost, that he would never reach him in time, that he could only watch as the drama was played out to its end.

Jim Kirk stood, surrounded by the nightmarish creatures, only they didn’t seem quite so nightmarish any more. He fired one final weak blast from his phaser, then tossed the useless weapon away. As they closed in on him, he reflected that he, like Spock, had also been living on borrowed time. He, along with the others, had cheated death many times before; now, it was payback time. Yet, McCoy might still get away, if he was prepared to do the right thing, the sensible thing. The logical thing.

Kirk turned from the aliens and looked up towards the ship; he could see the shuttle, and he even fancied he could see McCoy’s face peering at him from the portal. He tipped a small salute at the half-imagined figure of his friend, and a smile of genuine warmth creased his features; finally, the old Jim Kirk was revealed at last. No more responsibilities, no more having to always set the example. Just peace and rest.

He turned towards the ship again and reached into his tunic, bringing forth a small, spherical object, knowing that McCoy would have optical glasses on him. He held it aloft, making sure it could be seen, then held up his other hand, with his forefinger extended. Bones would understand, he thought. He’d better.

*

McCoy watched through the small but powerful binoculars as Kirk raised both hands above his head. For a moment, it looked as if his friend was surrendering; then McCoy noticed the spherical object in Kirk’s right hand. Immediately, the meaning of the single raised finger of his other hand was made clear. The aliens must not be allowed to have the secret of the Trans-warp drive.

McCoy lowered the glasses and looked at his old friend once more. “God bless you, Jim,” he whispered. “The Kobyashi Maru.”

Then he turned away from the window and moved to sit at the controls of the shuttle, brushing angry tears from his eyes. He was no pilot, but the shuttle was simple to operate, and all Star Fleet officers were checked out in it. He activated the impulse drive, set the controls for automatic lift-off and felt the shuttle throb under him as it rose into the alien sky. He now had slightly less than one minute.

Kirk, who had been watching the slowly encircling aliens, turned at the sound of the shuttle’s engines, and smiled grimly as it lifted into the red sky. Then with a last glance at the creatures, he whirled and ran towards the Enterprise. He ran to its familiar, comforting shape, and once under its shelter looked up to make sure he had gauged the distance correctly. Yes! Because of the downward tilt of the ship’s warp nacelles, the warp engine intake was only about two meters above his head. Easily close enough. And one of the nacelles that had been damaged in the salvo that had brought them down was leaking antimatter prions. Perfect.

He stood under the sheltering canopy of the ship’s bulk, and looked fondly up at its so-familiar lines. Well, old girl, he thought, here we are. Alone at last.

Kirk turned and faced his enemies; the aliens were closing in on him, and he raised his hand above his head towards the leaking nacelle and touched the energize stud of the Thermite grenade.

He had time for one last thought, and it was of his son, David; then the connection was completed. The grenade instantaneously ignited the anti-matter in the Enterprise’s engines; in the resulting multi-megaton blast, James Tiberius Kirk, his ship and his enemies, ceased to exist.


***

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