Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of and is copyright (c) 1981 by Kathleen Resch. Originally published in Gateway, Martha J. Bonds, editor. Rated PG.
The Devil Her Due
He had been with Jim. One moment, and they had been standing on the transporter pad, the Captain exchanging one last word with Mr. Scott before signaling for beam down to their conference with Commodore Wesley. The next moment Spock had found himself alone in the darkness of a solid rock chamber. It had now been exactly seven hours, and he had spent every second of those hours in exploration, in conjecture and an underlying frantic need and fear to learn his Captain's fate.
Barely perceivable at first, then more and more apparent, a shimmer of blue light spread faintly across his field of vision. The light was not nearly bright enough to assist in his knowledge of his surroundings and the slow-strobe flicker left him vaguely nauseous. He quelled this impulse without difficulty, but was relieved when the quality of the light changed, brightened, until it danced slowly, coldly about him, illuminating in lingering flashes the glistening black onyx stone of the chamber. He looked around swiftly, taking advantage of the light while it lasted to analyze by sight what touch had imparted to him earlier.
There were, indeed, no visible breaks in the circle and arch of the solid stone around, above him. The only access must be by transporter beam, he thought -- and then he was no longer alone.
They surrounded him, seven in all, the shortest taller than he by a foot, and all impossibly, skeletally thin. He circled warily, eyes on the silent, grey faces, on the ink-dark eyes that stared out of deeply hollowed sockets. Part of his mind analyzed the situation -- no transporter hum, no moment of transition. Were these, then, projections?
Then one reached out, cobra-swift, instantly dispelling that theory with a bone crushing grip on Spock's left wrist.
He jerked his hand away from the cold, damp touch. The creature displayed no reaction.
"Where is Captain Kirk?" he asked. He did not expect an answer.
They moved closer, their stink overpowering in his nostrils. Then they laid hands on him at once.
* * *
Spock tested the strength of the bonds that held his wrists securely behind his back. They were bound too tightly; blood from his lacerated wrists was sticky against his skin, and his fingers were tingling from oxygen starvation. He deliberately set his metabolism to compensate for that factor, and surveyed the four of the creatures he had been able to render unconscious.
The four that, against all likelihood, were even now regaining their feet.
He repressed a momentary, atavistic urge to allow fear to enter his mind. There are no unknowns, he reminded himself, merely data that as yet has not bee fully explained. "Where is Captain Kirk?" he asked.
One stepped closer, and he saw for the briefest moment something of intelligence flicker in the dead eyes. Then it gestured with a long-fingered hand, and Spock looked at the wall indicated.
There was a light tinkle in the chilled air, a sound as of laughter, of sliver bells, of the shattering of crystal. Then the onyx wall before him lightened and, layer by layer, like onion skin, light flared, retreating through the thickness of the stone wall, then died away into translucency.
Beyond the wall he saw a room. There was a woman seated upon a throne. There was an altar at her feet. Upon that altar was a man.
"Take me to him," he said. He was successful in keeping a tremor of anxiety from his voice.
Slowly the stone wall faded into haze. Then that dissipated into the frosty air, revealing the chamber before him with stark clarity.
He stepped forward toward Kirk, and was at once restrained by the creature holding the rope encircling his bound hands. He turned savagely, aware of the uncontrollable surge of emotion now possessing him, aware also he-had no intention of trying to suppress it.
"Let me go to him." His words were razors cutting the air. Nothing in the creature's gaze indicated that he had even been heard, but then it tilted its head a little, directing its stare beyond Spock.
The Vulcan nearly turned to see for himself what had attracted its attention, but then, in a rusty, mechanical way, the creature dropped the rope.
Spock whirled and ran the short distance between him and his Captain. The golden glimmer should have warned him. It did not.
He picked himself off the floor, angrily shaking the dizziness away, narrowing his eyes as he studied the faint outline of the forcefield which shielded James Kirk's unconscious body.
Yet it was him. Alive. Spock paused for a moment, allowing an intense surge of relief to wash through him, drinking in the sight of the bare, muscular chest moving in an even rhythm. He took in the sight of the nude body, the gleam and perfection of shoulders, chest, belly, thighs, then let his gaze settle lovingly on the angles and plane of the familiar face, the face that reflected the innocent peace of undisturbed sleep. It must have been an illusion generated by the forcefield but the quiet form seemed to exude a golden aura.
Alive. That was what mattered. There would be time for other questions, now.
He lifted his eyes to the woman on the throne. Scarlet eyes regarded him with a strange intensity beneath the black of her wingswept brows; her lush green lips curved in a smile which held nothing of warmth. Her white hands, twisted together, held one end of the length of a short, gold chain. She moved her head slightly to regard him better, the clacking sound of the ivory earrings suspended from her pointed ears accompanying the move.
His eyes took in other details -- the river of ebony hair cascading down to enhance the perfection of her gold-clad body, the carved and gleaming onyx of the throne on which she sat, the chamber itself, illuminated with shafts of gold and crimson light...
The fact that they were now alone. The guardian creatures had vanished again, as soundlessly, as swiftly as they had appeared.
He could not help but speculate on the meaning of that occurrence. However, though it was a temptation, he did not allow himself to draw hope from the fact that they were gone. Whatever the creatures had been, obviously they were controlled by this woman. Hers was the power here, and it would be she with whom he must deal.
His gaze returned to Kirk's face. "What have you done to him?"
Her voice was silk, was the murmur of a deep river. "Claimed him."
"And who are you?" He filled his gate with all the intensity, the command that was in his soul.
"I am," she said, drawing an emerald tongue over her lips. She smiled. Laughed. "I am that I am."
Annoyance flared through him at her riddles. Yet there were more important matters. "Release him." Their gaze locked.
"Have you no other questions to ask, Spock?"
Riveted, he demanded, "How do you know my name?"
"Curiosity, at last. I saw from his mind that you are driven by it." Her scarlet eyes were avid. "I see from your mind there are forces yet stronger."
He fought to keep his face expressionless, "Release him," he said again.
"What will you give me for him?" She rested her head on one green-nailed hand.
His lips were suddenly dry, his voice difficult to summon. "Anything. Anything that I am able.''
"Then give me..." Her pale hands twisted the chain idly as she appeared, dreamily, to contemplate the proposition. But her eyes were hard beneath her lowered lids. "... your soul."
"That is a religious concept in which I do not believe. Though common to many cultures…"
"Including your own." It was no question. "Including both of your own."
He said nothing at all.
"If you do not believe, it should not matter if you agree or not," she pointed out reasonably.
"If I do not?"
"Then he will know Hell."
His attention was instantly on Kirk. A scream of pure agony sent horror through Spock; the sight of Kirk's hazel eyes, wide open and tormented, his body writhing beneath unbearable pain was impossible to face or deny.
"Stop!" he shouted.
"Do you agree?"
He looked up to find she had left her seat and was now facing him over Kirk's quiet form. He dared to glance down again. No trace of pain was left his Captain's quiet features, eyes closed once again in sleep.
"Will you return us
"If you agree, you may take him wherever you will."
It was the only answer, he realized. A difference which makes no difference… He swallowed. "Will you conduct some peculiar ceremony?"
She smiled, revealing cat-sharp teeth. "Give me your consent."
"I consent." His tone spoke of contempt, and of desperation.
"Then it is done."
"That is all?"
At that word, the rope still binding his wrists together fell away from them to the floor.
"Give me your hands," she said.
He brought them around, reaching over Kirk's body. She laid the golden chain across his outstretched palms.
"He is yours," she said, boredom in her voice. "And you are mine." Emerald lips curved with delight. "Mine."
"Release him. Now."
"You yourself hold the key."
He didn't understand for a moment, then looked down at the chain he still held. Then he began a minute study of the altar, of the tremor of the forcefield encasing Kirk's body. It wasn't until his eyes returned to his Captain's face that he saw it, a faint necklace of golden light directly above Jim's throat.
Without pausing to think, he laid the chain there. It fitted perfectly, just for an instant, then the shimmer dissolved away and it fell through, landing upon Kirk's throat. Gold, to fulfill the departed aura.
The gold was marred with crimson. With disbelieving eyes he looked at the scarlet river gushing from Kirk's throat. At the golden dagger he still held. The stiffening of the body before him. The smile of the woman beyond.
"No..." A soft sound of agony, of disbelief, was torn from him. He reached frantically, gathering up the body in his arms. For an instant, it seemed not to be of flesh... lying lightly in his arms, near insubstantial, as haze given form by the frosted air.
The instant passed. "Jim?" This flesh and blood was real to his touch. This form was real to his eyes. "Jim?" he asked again.
There was no answer.
"Liar!" The flare of murder was in his eyes. "Liar!"
"You have what you have bargained for. "Take him wherever you will." Her tone was a dismissal.
He looked back down at the burden in his arms and found he could not look away.
"And I have what I have bargained for." Her voice was already far in the distance.
Laughter tore at his ears. Some of it was his own.