DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Ingrid Cross and is copyright (c) 1980 by Ingrid Cross. Rated PG. Originally published in Odyssey #4.
Leonard McCoy staggered from the Strategic Battle Control Center and leaned heavily against the Star Fleet insignia painted on the wall. He closed his eyes tightly, drawing in ragged gulps of air before he felt well enough to venture from the lower level of Fleet Headquarters on Star Base 7.
He could hear people rushing through the halls, chattering excitedly and calling to one another. They had cause to be so exuberant. With the Klingon-Romulan forces turned back, their newest weaponry and best war-cruiser destroyed, the evacuated families of base personnel could return within hours.
McCoy pushed himself away from the wall and tried to remember which way he had to go in order to reach his office. Having failed, he chose a random direction and joined the mainstream of foot traffic. It didn't really matter where he went, as long as he could leave the entire area far behind.
He saw nothing as he allowed himself to be carried along in the frenzied activity. Or rather, he was oblivious to everything except what had transpired minutes earlier. And his mind, numb to everything except that scene, replayed the gruesome action with a harsh and terrible relentlessness.
'Jim Kirk is dead,' he mind told him. And despite his heart's attempt to deny it, Leonard McCoy finally began to believe.
Earlier that day, Uhura's ship had been dispatched to hold off the invasion for as long as possible. And Kirk, after stealing a small vessel from the base, had gone out under the cover of a cloaking device. Uhura, in command of the Confederation, tied in a visual shot of the impending battle when the K'loran'ti had arrived. Seated in the Center of military strategists and experts, McCoy watched in horror.
As if he was caught up in a nightmare which slowly came to its inevitable conclusion, McCoy could see everything again in fine detail.
The main screen in the Control Center showed Kirk's small ship hovering near Uhura's dreadnought. Uhura's voice filtered through just as McCoy realized what was happening ... what Jim intended to do.
"Jim, just what are you doing?"
The admiral's voice was calm, maddeningly soothing. "Remember the part about the cavalry coming over the hill just in the nick of time, Uhura? Well, this is my cue." Then the communication link was lost.
The giant screen still held the same picture, and now McCoy could imagine the activity aboard the Confederation as Uhura issued rapid-fire orders to her first officer. "Chekov, can we lower our shields and beam him aboard?"
The exchange was like a play, and McCoy wondered if he would be expected to deliver any lines. He would not be able to: there were no words which would stop his closest friend. Chekov's voice, subdued and distant and eleven years older than when he had served with Kirk, said, "Negative. He's picked up too much speed. He's traveling at warp ... nine, Captain!"
"Helm, bring us hard about to a 90-degree angle and immediately bring our speed to warp 12. Now, Mister.'"
The huge starship shifted away from the Klingon-Romulan vessel and streaked away from the tiny craft. McCoy's eyes remained reluctantly on the image, knowing with a cold certainty what the outcome would be.
Then the tiny Copernicus swooped downward toward the K'loran'ti's warp nacelles, broke through the shielding which encompassed the pods, and struck the engines with a calculated force. The two ships imploded with a fiery brilliance, and McCoy finally turned away.
The memories were like a frigid hand tracing its way down the doctor's back. Jim ... dead. Now he and Spock were both gone, leaving only one person from the original triad. The thought was too large to comprehend completely. All McCoy could think of was the overwhelming loneliness.
He glanced around at his surroundings now, realizing he was near the corridor which led back to his own quarters on the base. He glanced dawn at his wrist chronometer, and saw that Uhura would have arrived at the Center for her debriefing and new orders. She would want to see him. He knew that, but he couldn't face up to such a meeting just yet.
One thought burned through his mind. Escape. 'But where?' he thought dismally.
The logical answer occurred to him quickly. "Home," he whispered. Georgia. The family homesite for centuries. There he might be able to find some vestige of peace, some last trace of kindness which had not been snatched from his life.
Leonard McCoy walked down the corridor which would lead him to his apartment, feeling as though he had gained years in the last thirty minutes. He had already packed most of his belongings the night before, when he had shipped personal items back to Earth as he realized how close they all were to being annihilated by the enemy forces. Then he would come back to the main complex on the base, find Uhura and go home. He dreaded seeing the woman, yet knew he had to face it or never be able to live with himself.
* * *
The two officers stood close together, yet isolated within their own thoughts. Uhura looked up at Leonard McCoy from beneath her long eyelashes and sighed softly. It had been mere hours since Jim Kirk's death, and now she was leaving. Bones would be alone for the first time in all the years she had known him. It was not a step she liked to see him take. "He had a lot to fight for, didn't he?" she asked suddenly. The question had been bothering her since she had seen Kirk the day before.
McCoy leaked at her, startled. There had been no need to clarify the pronoun. Uhura saw an answer in his haggard features and nodded. "No more questions now, I promise." The woman's communicator buzzed impertinently. Uhura's body tensed and she pulled the instrument from her belt and opened it. "Uhura here."
Watching her, McCoy saw the reflection of the old Jim Kirk. Before Spock's death ... before he had lost his active duty status ... before the years and the disease had broken the proud spirit. The captain had always made the same transition: from ambassador or personal friend, to commander whenever duty reared its head. 'Her responsibilities have given her a life of her own,' he thought. 'That's enough for me to know. Despite all the horror the past few days, she still will go on. That makes it easier to say goodbye.'
"Commodore, you asked me to contact you half an hour before our scheduled departure," Pavel Chekov was saying.
"Thank you, Mr. Chekov. Stand by to beam me aboard." She shut the communicator slowly.
"Duty calls," McCoy tried to say lightly.
She eyed him. "And what about you, Doctor?"
He squirmed a bit under her steady gaze. "Like I told you earlier, Uhura. I'm goin' home to visit the old hauntin' grounds of my youth."
She shook her head. "Seems a waste. You giving up medicine, I mean."
McCoy smiled gently. "No, Uhura. I haven't given my resignation to the Surgeon General yet. I applied for an indefinite leave of absence. That's all."
She leaned upward on her toes and took his face between her hands. "May you find the strength you need now, Doctor." She kissed him lightly on the cheek, turned on her heel and walked away quickly.
Leonard McCoy did not move until he heard the hum of a transporter beam. Then he bent to pick up the two suitcases containing most of his worldly belongings. "Never liked long goodbyes anyway," he muttered.
No one seemed to have heard the doctor. The man with civilian clothes melted into the crowd around the waiting shuttle. He stepped into the craft, bending slightly to avoid the low door. The broad shoulders, burdened heavily with age and grief, were swallowed up by the shuttle's closing doors.
After thirteen years, Leonard McCoy was homeward bound.