Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek.
Author's Note: First things first...thank you, DLB48, for your fabulous help. ;)
I really don't know how to introduce this story. It's a mixture of crazy, romance, and heartache. TOS fans, you'll understand soon enough. If you're not a TOS fan, you may want to look up a certain name after you read this chapter. It is, in essence, the twist I'm throwing right at you in the beginning...twisted and then twisted some more to fit the 2009 ST alternate universe.
This chapter is a bit painful. Just a warning. This whole story is a bit heart-wrenching but bittersweet. There are many obstacles to overcome.
Chapter One occurs six to seven months prior to the end of the five-year mission. This is the same universe as my first story, Escape Artist, so there will be a few references to its content. Chapter Two will begin as the summary suggests.
Thank you for reading!
Ten tiny fingers to touch, a slight wail to penetrate the silence, and pale hair to tickle a new mother's face. She was enrapturing, this baby. Not cleansed yet from the birth experience, but wrapped in a simple cloth. Carol fussed over her newborn while the world around her crashed. She could think of nothing else but her child.
She thought of the name Jim had chosen. Lucy. It was precious, elegant, like gold, but simple. It fit her like a glove. Jim will be so proud.
"Go," a woman rasped at her. "You need...to leave."
Carol looked up in a daze at the woman who just gave birth to Carol's daughter. Somehow, Carol had assisted the woman to deliver her own baby. A dream? "I...I can't. Jim."
He was coming sometime. He had to be. Carol had commed him earlier before she went into labor. The Enterprise knew where they were. Now, Carol wanted to show Jim their daughter. She was absolutely perfect.
"She's alive.." the woman weakly motioned to where Dr. Lester lay motionless. "The hypospray I gave her... didn't kill her yet."
Carol's face felt too warm so she pulled down the covering on her face. It was the same covering Dr. Lester's nurses and medical assistants each wore. They were single women in a medical field and their culture required it. As she pulled it down, she felt a few ridges on her face. It confused her but then the child in her arms fussed.
A chill entered the air. The sunset began on this planet to which Dr. Lester had brought Carol. Lucy whimpered. Carol tucked the blanket closer around her daughter as they stood under Dr. Lester's partially roofed medical facility. Its shelter was limited, although it had three rooms. She patted her newborn bundle fondly, not quite understanding what had happened. Hadn't she had one more month until her due date?
Then she saw her own skin as her hand comforted her baby. It was not pale. It was tanned skin.
"You have to go," the woman ordered her again. Carol looked up at her in bewilderment. That was herself talking. No. That wasn't right. Carol had just given birth to this precious child of hers and Jim.
Dr. Lester stirred. Her eyes fluttered and she spoke incoherent words. Carol remembered Dr. Lester coaxing her to look at an area of interest in her makeshift lab and then experiencing tingling throughout her body.
"What...what happened?" She asked the woman who looked just like her.
"Dr. Lester...she developed a device that switches life sources...I pushed her away so you would be me and not her. So she... would be herself...and not you. She doesn't... deserve a chance with ...your husband."
"Is that why she brought me here?"
All this time, Dr. Lester befriending Carol. Dr. Lester wanted Jim to herself.
The woman nodded. "It caused...preterm labor. I'm...dying. You would be, if we hadn't...switched."
Carol's heart stopped. "How do you know that?"
The woman grimaced. "I'm a medical assistant. I know. Now, a bit of... my knowledge will be within your grasp."
"My own memories?" Oh God. Her and Jim. She could not forget about him.
"They're safe. But you'll struggle...seeing mine as well. I'm...so sorry."
Carol was, too. The woman before her had tried to make the best of things. She saved Carol's life. Now, that woman was dying.
"Go. Tell...the other nurses. They'll understand." The woman gasped in her agony and Carol knelt down, automatically knowing to take a certain hypospray from a medic bag and shoot it into the woman's neck. Pain killer. Carol took stock of the woman's internal injuries. Indeed, she had gained the medical knowledge of the Ikaaran woman.
"Thank...you." The woman eyes were closing. She grasped at Carol's hand. "Go."
"No, not yet." Carol's tears went unhindered. "Shhh...Jim loves you."
She would comfort this woman the best way she knew how. It hurt, oh how it hurt, but she owed this woman so much.
The woman shook her head. "Don't say that.."
"He does love you. Please, take comfort in that." Carol could not do much but she could help this woman feel loved as she died in her stead. She grasped the woman's hand. "If you can see my memories, embrace them."
Dr. Lester's once friendly voice interrupted. "I sent a distress call to the Enterprise." Lester hissed the words and blood spilled from her lips. Carol jerked up, baby still in hand.
"They'll be looking for the Ikaaran woman who tried to kidnap Captain Kirk's baby and kill his wife's doctor. When she dies," Dr. Lester motioned weakly to the woman who was in Carol's body, "your husband will not stop hunting you down."
"Carol," another nurse entered the room."Your husband's ship has already arrived. They'll be after you, all of us. We have to go."
"Go," the woman dying said her last word. Carol could not leave her child. Jim would never forgive her. She was needed here, wasn't she?
"They're here. You can't take her where we're going." The nurse took Carol's newborn from her arms and placed her in the arms of the dead woman. Carol protested, even as the aching horror of the situation unfolded. "Your husband will watch over her. Your life is at stake. Someday, you can return."
Someday. The nurse's monotone voice did not impress her into belief. Carol had been married to Jim for four years. She knew him. Jim would not get over this, not for a long time. If ever.
In his grief, he would hate every single Ikaaran woman he ever met.
Lucy slept in the arms of a dead stranger, though the body was that of Lucy's mother, Carol. Infuriated voices came nearer, some she recognized but now feared. One voice belonged to the man she loved.
Dr. Lester still stared at Carol, though her life was ending soon. Now, Dr. Lester pointed a phaser at Carol.
Her hope of explaining things crashed. Lucy beckoned, and Carol gave her child one last look.
The other Ikaaran woman pleaded with Carol to leave with them.
Carol made the most difficult choice she ever made and would make in her entire life. She ran from her husband and child.
The coordinates Dr. Lester gave in her distress call were far from perfect. Jim, Spock, and Bones had three miles to cover in order to reach Lester's facility. The terrain, friendly in its pure flatness, allowed the trio a fast pace. A luminous sun bloated the horizon even as it set. Light would leave the planet in two hours, but that was plenty of time to get to Carol and their baby.
Jim was a father.
He ran with that as his mantra. He was a father. A father. The universe changed things for him yet again and would not allow him to be present for his baby's birth. It goaded him. His own father did not see his own birth, but unlike him, Jim would see his child.
If, in fact, the Ikaaran women left without the baby as Dr. Lester said. They'd all been incredibly friendly towards Carol and Jim, showing their own happiness for the Captain and his wife. Jim cursed himself for not seeing through the facade.
Their child would know its father. Jim refused to dwell on whether the kidnapping would actually occur. He ran faster to Carol and their child. Dr. Lester failed to mention whether Carol had given birth to a girl or boy, a surprise the parents both desired at the baby's birth.
"I'm a father," he whispered. He pumped his legs and arms faster, catching up to Spock. He'd let Spock go ahead. It would be safer. "Spock, go. We're right behind you."
"Captain, I should wait for you," Spock protested. "It is indeed unfortunate that shielding surrounding Dr. Marus' location prevented us from transporting closer to it."
"If they get away with my child...I will catch them...and kill them." Kidnapping his child, after he grew up without a father? Without a loving mother? It infuriated him. No way would Jim let them live.
Spock's eyebrows shot up. "Captain, I prefer to stay with you. I will remain one half minute ahead of you and then assess the perimeter."
"Yes, Commander...you will." Someone's survival depended upon the priceless value of each minute. He felt it in his gut. The Vulcan's speed increased and Spock distanced himself from Jim.
Spock would reach Dr. Lester's facility before he would. Jim trusted his first officer in all.
"Jim, I want you to be ready for what the baby may need ...when we get there. Jaundiced..." McCoy kept in time with Jim.
"Yeah...Carol was up on all that...just in case." Jim had been too. More than Carol. A fact he kept mainly to himself, letting her feel the joy of showering him with all her knowledge.
Premature birth on a barely discovered planet?
What the hell had Dr. Lester been thinking? Jim hoped the woman would recover from her injuries nonetheless. Carol, not showing signs of any oncoming labor, deemed it a beautiful chance to have some time to herself and see the research Lester mentioned. The morning and afternoon was when she'd commed Jim. For the most part, Carol had been spent lounging and conversing with amiable company. Carol deserved to relax and be fascinated by research, but not what was happening now. Never.
Jim's running faltered. Carol. He was so busy thinking of his new child. He almost stopped but Bones pulled him along.
"Jim, you have to keep going. We're almost there."
"Jim...she's probably fine...Dr. Lester didn't mention her."
Jim couldn't move his legs now. They were leaden.
"That is what worries me." Jim jogged while Bones kept pulling. "Carol. How is Carol?"
"Jim, snap out of it." Bones yelled in his face. "She'll need you, Jim...you have to run. Stop this jogging shit. Who are you...Chekov?"
McCoy's shouts fueled the returning power. "She'll be fine, right Bones?"
"Jim, she's your wife. You've both been through more than anyone."
Bones always reminded Jim that Carol was the next crazy in line after Jim because she married him. Jim pulled plenty of stunts as they struggled to keep their relationship going in the beginning. After their marriage, things kept hitting them.
She was strong, but this, this was nothing she should go through alone.
The building in sight, Jim began screaming her name.
Bones joined in calling for Dr. Marcus.
Jim narrowed his eyes as the flat land became rolls of hills behind the building. His heart beat erratically. Hiding and escaping in those hills would not be difficult. Damn the planet's radiation. Their sensors and transporters would not work properly now. Spock turned the corner and ran back towards them.
"Captain, I found six pairs of footprints headed into the hills." Spock met them at the side.
"There were six Ikaaran women with them today." Jim blanched. "Carol!"
He tore into the open facility, mindless of what he was doing. The first room made his skin crawl with its emptiness. "Carol," he choked out, fearing the silence.
Jim stood in the doorway of the second room, the red sky in sight as the roof parted. Everything in the room was red. Dr. Lester's mouth bubbled the unnatural color. Her glassy eyes stared at the blazing sky. Beyond Dr. Lester lay Carol.
All was lifeless and and pale, except for the baby slumbering in his wife's arms, wrapped in a scarlet blanket, and red spilling from Carol's body.
Someone slipped past Jim through the door and knelt beside her body. Then another person rushed past him. Spock and Bones were with Carol. Jim wanted to go to her, too, but he couldn't move.
"Jim, I'm sorry. She's dead." Bones looked up at Jim sorrowfully.
Jim sank to his knees, weeping. The baby awoke, sending little cries along with her father's.