Hello! I would like to preface this piece with a brief author's note. What follows is a series of seven chapters inspired by Gustav Holst's symphony The Planets. This will be a very stylistic endeavor, as I am attempting to recreate the feeling of a symphony in words. Just as every movement tells a different story, so will each chapter and each character do the same here. I'm hoping that I'll be able to pull this off!
I would urge everyone to listen to the symphony either before or during reading to truly get the effect. The version that I use as reference is by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Colin Davis. Copious amounts of research have gone into this, with everything from reading the original astrological texts that Holst used as inspiration to getting my hands on an actual score of the symphony to see the musical direction.
I must give a billion thanks to my beta Beguile, who helped me stay on track. She is wonderful!
WANDERERS AND DEITIES
I. Mars, the Bringer of War
The unknown vessel is of a design with which he is unfamiliar; their sensors can not recognize it and suddenly Jim Kirk has that feeling in his gut that everything is going to go to hell.
It is almost as if he can feel the torpedo approaching from across space, though he knows that is not physically possible. It could be because his heart is suddenly slamming against his chest so painfully and erratically, too many beats without enough blood to sustain it. There is a gentle hum as the Enterprise lurches away in an evasive maneuver and a scream of an explosion as the weapons make contact. The bridge rattles beneath him and he bears down with a white-knuckled grip on the captain's chair and hopes that his sweating palms do not betray him.
One voice bellows that their shields are dropping while another informs him that more unknown projectiles are approaching from their other side. He fights with himself not to sound frantic and on his order the Enterprise tries to sweep away. The maneuver is successful in avoiding a direct hit as orbs of electric green skirt the ship at an oblique angle and dissolve with a plume of residual impact into the shields at their port side.
A voice in the distant chaos somewhere informs him that there is damage to three of the decks with one of them bordering on critical and another voice is quick to report that the shields will not withstand multiple hits of that magnitude.
He slams his hand against the communicator on his chair, screams above the chaos for his chief medical officer. There is static for a moment and a sound that may be a scream of terror and the doctor's voice slices through the din for only a moment. He says he is going to be up to his elbows in the dead and the wounded and what the hell was going on out there and did anyone have it in their right mind to stop it any time soon?
Kirk can not spare the thought to respond because there is another barrage of ammunition hurtling their way. He screams for the doctor to do the best that he can and cuts off the communication just as another explosion terrorizes the area somewhere above his head. A bright flash follows and sparks scatter amid startled and horrified noises.
The report from tactical fails to reach him through the ringing in his ears but his instincts reveal to him what his auditory senses can not. He diverts all power to the shields he is afraid will not hold because it is the only thing he can do.
As he stares through the polarized screen at the unknown vessel looming in the distance, Kirk wonders bitterly why this situation seems so familiar.
The ship is gutted and naked against the backdrop of the universe and only one living soul occupies it. Many of his comrades are dead in the corridors while others have been sucked into the abyss to die of suffocation if the explosions did not kill them first.
His fingers fly across surfaces, unleashing a barrage of ammunition at his enemy. It is a suicide mission and he knows this. The ship trembles beneath him, drawing every ounce of remaining power to exhaust her supply of weapons in the face of utter destruction.
Red phaser fire cuts a swath through the blackness and the blue-white radiance of photon torpedoes light up the empty space. There is a resounding impact across the void. Kirk watches the unknown vessel lurch unnaturally, debris blossoming from her side as one photon torpedo finds a weakness on her flank. Kirk decides to act before his brain can organize his thoughts and belts orders at the helmsman. The Enterprise lurches and moves swiftly and he hopes that this will garner them enough opportunity.
So many alarms are blaring in his ears that he can not register the next chorus of them but he has no need to do so because he can feel it in his bones. Shields are critical and weapons are off-line and he has no choice but to carry out his final directive as any good captain should do. Lead settles in his stomach as the computer speaks to him because it is disconcerting and chilling how placid her voice sounds in the midst of all this chaos.
A series of adjustments on a control brings a bright red notice on the screen that burns itself permanently into his eyes. He settles himself in the captain's chair and grips at the arms, stares straight ahead into the face of his enemy.
The vessel is losing power to their forward shields, tactical announces. They are diverting power to their flank as if conscious of Kirk's move. As the Enterprise is in motion the enemy unleashes another unyielding attack and enough energy comes through to rock the bridge and throw Kirk from his chair as something explodes behind him, belching smoke and flame and heat.
The impact comes quickly. The seconds count to zero and he feels the pride, the anger, the terror, the mixed emotions he can not hope to name well up in confusion in his breast. He is thrown forward with a force that snaps his neck and a heat that melts his skin as the bridge disintegrates around him and everything explodes outward to envelop him with hands of flame and twisted metal and untamed energy.
He screams something that is burning in the forefront of his brain, though if asked to repeat the order he would be unable. Tactical bellows to him that the damage in the injured decks has gone critical and that life support will soon follow. There are more words flooding in his direction than he can hope to comprehend and his ears are drumming so loud with the chaos that he can not discern anything above the sounds of destruction.
Kirk looks very serious, mumbles under his breath before he can even think. General Order Thirteen.
Every eye on the bridge whirls to face him. Some are incredulous, others almost afraid. The command echoes across all decks. The members of the bridge are hesitant to leave. He orders them away but can not join them yet; he will defend against attack long enough for the crew to escape, for that is a captain's duty. Several members of his crew voice their concern but he shakes his head and orders them away with an authority he wishes he did not need to use. Even in the face of death, he will always be his father's son.
He does not have time to look them in the eyes, to say his apologies and his goodbyes.
The bridge is deserted and has dipped into semi-darkness. Green-white projectiles scream toward him from across the distance and he urges the Enterprise to evade, but the ship is wounded and sluggish and hesitant to respond to his urges. She manages only meager tilt before the projectiles slam into the saucer and nearly send her rolling. The bridge flashes bright white and yellow and Kirk is flung from his feet and has to cling to the control panel to stay upright.
This is the only way. He must remind himself again because his head hurts to much and his heart is pounding so fiercely that he can not even think. The fear is as palpable and real as the heat and he wipes sweat and blood from his eyes with the back of his hand before dragging his ragged fingers across another set of controls.
The ship trembles beneath him as if gasping her last dying breaths and he feels a part of him fall apart and die with her.
The bridge buckles as an explosion rocks the lower decks, though it is not from enemy fire. The ship is breaking apart and folding in upon itself beneath his very feet. Another tremor causes him to collapse into the captain's chair and into the seat of his old glory. He steadies himself amid the fire and the darkness and will not let his shoulders stoop despite the anger and the fear and the agony. The alarms and the sounds of destruction suddenly recede into static and the chaos around him slows into that moment of mental tranquility that is always present just before the end.
The computer struggles, sluggishly confirms that the correct course is engaged.
He straightens his back, squares his shoulders. He is James Tiberius Kirk, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, and though both will soon be no more he has no regrets. He was born in chaos and will depart in the same fashion. It is only natural it should happen this way, for that is the natural balance of things in the universe.
He thinks of many things as he feels the engines thrum to life one last time and wishes above anything that he had someone to talk to, for there is nothing worse to him than to die alone. His fingers dance across the communication pad even though he knows there is no soul alive on board to hear it. He announces himself to the emptiness, says his thanks you and his goodbyes to dead ears. It is cathartic and comforting somehow as the enemy ship engulfs the screen before him.
He will not close his eyes.
He cuts the communication line at the last possible moment. Kirk out.
He does not have time to willingly accept the sensations as much as they are thrust upon him. Indescribable energy slams him forward so quickly that his body can not take the primal reaction to protect itself and he has a snapping moment of realization that he is breaking in pieces before his body is evaporated in flames and he suddenly feels absolutely nothing all.
The first sensation that flickers to life in his fuzzy and darkened sphere of existence is a throbbing agony across his shoulders. He decides against opening his eyes, afraid of what he might find.
A gentle sensation on his back brings him around violently for the simple fact that it hurts so damn much. His eyes fly open and he finds himself staring at the floor and he flinches away from this sudden realization. Many voices whisper his name but they merge together discordantly with the screaming echoes in his head. He forces himself to his knees against his better judgment and faces the battered and dirty faces of his crew, bright eyes staring at him in a muted mixture of terror and exultant relief.
The enemy ship is gone and the Enterprise is saved. He fights to untangle his memories from the depths of his foggy recollection between the ragged breaths he takes to keep himself conscious. They tell him that his suggestion to flank the vessel was successful and that their photon torpedoes were able to penetrate the weaker shields there before the alien ship could compensate. The result was utter destruction.
Kirk can not believe this, for the last tactical move in his memory is General Order Thirteen. He gapes at them, uncomprehending. The doctor explains that a blast from the enemy vessel had knocked him unconscious just as they fired their own torpedoes and the exploding consoles behind him had nearly taken out half the bridge.
He struggles to his feet with the help of the doctor and instantly regrets it, for the charred skin on his back is taught and it feels like his bones might explode from the effort. He pushes away all medical treatment under the guise that there are others that require it more than he; in actuality he is well aware of the seriousness of the injuries to his body but he is more concerned about the pain in his head and his heart, the sudden agony he did not know could exist.
It was a fight not entirely his own and a pain that did not belong to him. The experience that felt so real was an illusion. Fragments of the destroyed vessel have not embedded themselves in his body and ripped him to blooded pieces across the blank canvas of the universe. It was not his flesh melting away under the ponderous heat, not his bones breaking, not his heart breaking, not his mind falling apart, not his memories and regrets and hopes and empty desires of a life cut short.
Never did he imagine that it would be this painful to be alive.
In a haunting moment he realizes that it was not his final struggle he was reliving in his unconsciousness.
It was his father's.
To be continued.