Title: The Unreal City
Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Genre: slash, adventure
Pairing: Kirk/Spock, Kirk/OMC
Rating: PG – NC-17, PG for this part
Warnings: None for this part
Summary: When the landing party gets lost in the fog of a hostile planet, Kirk and Spock are struggling to get back together in many respects. Contains sea-monsters, mythological allusions, a space version of Venice and epic angst - see for yourself.
A/N: Story is set mid-season 2 with references to Amok Time and Who mourns for Adonais. Also many thanks to my lovely betas Teh and Shiny!
The first thing they noticed was the fog. The cool tickle of the materialization process had just faded and they found themselves exposed on the planet’s surface, surrounded by a fog so thick you could almost cut it with a knife. It moistened their clothes, crept into every pore and seemed to transform every breath into an act of strenuous labor. Although the readings from on board of the Enterprise had claimed, that as a class M planet, the atmosphere of Thalassus III was adequate for humanoid beings to breathe in, this certainly wasn’t the most comfortable place in the galaxy.
Anyway, it was too late to turn back now.
What a pea soup! Mc Coy sighed and tried to catch a glimpse of the other members of the landing party. “Jim? Mr. Spock?”
“I am here, Doctor.” Seconds later the Vulcan’s tall frame appeared a few meters to the right. He was holding his tricorder and although you could never be sure with a Vulcan face, his expression appeared sterner than usual. “Have you seen the captain?” Spock asked, looking up from the tricorder.
“You mean he isn’t with you?” McCoy was confused. “He can’t be far away then – we should have materialized right next to each other. If it wasn’t for this damned fog…”
Spock shook his head. “My readings indicate no higher life form in a hundred meter radius.”
“He is gone,” Spock said in a flat voice.
“How can that be? Why didn’t he beam down with us?” McCoy flicked out his own communicator. “Scotty? Where’s the captain? Is he still on the ship?”
There was no answer.
“What the hell?” He shook the communicator, pressed the button a second time and held the device against his ear. But again, there was no answer, no signal, not even static. “Mr. Spock? I think we’ve got a problem.”
The Vulcan’s frown didn’t change, but McCoy knew him long enough to judge from his quick movement as he pulled out his own comm that he was quite nervous.
“The communicator is dead as well Doctor. And as the probability of both our communicators malfunctioning is very low it must be either broken or something is preventing the signal from reaching us.” Spock looked up at the sky, which was as uniformly grey as their surroundings. “There must be something within the atmosphere interfering with the communicators,” he said. “A disturbance the instruments on the Enterprise were unable to catch from orbit.”
McCoy had never heard of such a thing. But then, he was a doctor, not a meteorologist and…
Spock’s voice interrupted his complaints. “The fog is clearing.”
A slight breeze had come up and they watched as the grey billows dissolved to reveal slick black stones, strands of seaweed and a vast expanse of grayish-green water. Still the fog seemed to be lurking at the borders of their vision, waiting to reclaim its territory.
“The captain should be able to see us now, presuming that he is close by,” said Spock and turned to inspect the terrain as far as possible.
“If he is around,” grumbled McCoy whose hopes sank by the minute. Landing parties never got separated when they materialized; in all his years of Starfleet service he had never experienced a thing like that. I can’t imagine him having wandered off on his own – not if it wasn’t for an emergency – or a very pretty girl, he thought and shook his head, and there wasn’t time for either.
Nevertheless he decided to give it a try. “Jim!” he shouted on top of his lungs. “Jim? Are you there?”
There was no answer, only the silence of the fog and the soft murmur of the sea.
* * *
When the materialization process was over and James Kirk opened his eyes, he found himself alone in the middle of impenetrable fog. Also, his feet were wet. Wincing, he took a quick look around, his hand jumping instinctively to the handle of his phaser. But there was no recognizable threat, only the grey surface of the fog, swallowing everything except for a glimpse of dark water around Kirk’s feet, which had just started to soak through his boots, turning his feet to ice.
“Spock?” he asked “Bones?” But no one replied.
What’s going on here? Once again he called his friends’ names and once again there was no reaction. He shook his head, sighed and pulled out his communicator – which turned out to give no reaction either. Kirk cursed between clenched teeth and put the comm back into his pocket. Seems like I’m in trouble.
He looked down onto the surface of the water and took one careful step forward. The water wasn’t deep, not even reaching up to his knees and the ground appeared rather even, but nevertheless, he paid attention to his every step. The water might get deeper any minute, not to speak of sudden drifts, which could pull him off his feet or dangerous creatures, which… well, it was better not to think about it. He gripped his phaser tight as he set one foot in front of the other, his gaze fixed on the dark water, ready to jump back or fire at any second.
I wonder what happened to Spock and Bones, he mused. They might be only a few meters away from me – it’s impossible to tell with this hell of a fog!
Spock… Kirk had hoped that this mission – a simple task at first glance: to re-establish contact with Thalassus III, a planet that had long been neglected by the Federation – that this mission might make things …easier between them.
Since their friendship had changed so profoundly after the pon-farr and the subsequent events on Vulcan, it had been next to unbearable to be stuck on the Enterprise, with next to no privacy. There had been no time to talk and to sort things out – to find out, what the hell they had been doing that night after their reunion in sickbay. As every mission since then had morphed into yet another life-threatening adventure, in which he and Spock had to cooperate to save the lives of their crew - it was not surprising that after a few weeks Jim Kirk had found himself as a nervous wreck.
And now he’s gone and I’m stuck within another mission gone wrong, Kirk sighed, let’s hope that this one at least doesn’t involve Klingons.
It was difficult to keep track of the time, but after a while Kirk seemed to have arrived on some kind of tideland. Coming to a halt, he took another look around. This time he was lucky, the fog had cleared up a little.
From what he was able to discern, he was standing on a sandy beach, which stretched in a soft curve until it lost itself in the foggy distance. Behind the beach some dark structures loomed in the mist, maybe rocks, but it was difficult to recognize details. Kirk turned around and looked back the way he had come. The grey surface of the sea merged seamlessly into the grey sky, but now that the fog had lifted, Kirk was able see some shapes in the distance – very large shapes. He narrowed his eyes and tried to make out details, but the fog was still too thick for that. At any rate, there was something out there about half a mile off the coast. A ship? An island? A city? He had no idea.
Wait? What was that? Kirk frowned and strained his eyes. There it was again! He was pretty sure now – there was a light, a blinking light on top of the large structure hovering in the fog. And now that he had seen it, he was able to discover more: One, two three, no… about a dozen tiny lights in the distance – whatever it was, this thing was huge!
He shrugged his shoulders and set out to walk along the beach into the general direction of the structure. Whatever it was, it contained lights and thus, probably objects made by sentient beings, who might be able to help him to get back to his ship – and back to his friends.
* * *
“Careful Mr. Spock, you’ll get your feet wet!”
“Thank you Doctor, but I have already noticed the water.”
McCoy sighed and rolled his eyes as he waded through the ankle-deep water. When all their shouting had been in vain, they had decided to walk, searching for signs of civilization any place that might have the technical means to repair the communicators. Moreover, Kirk must have the same idea and they might meet up somewhere on the way. “Although the probability is devastatingly low,” Spock had said “I estimate it about…” McCoy had cut him off before he could calculate a number – his hopes were low enough already, he could do well without any further Vulcan discouragement, thank you very much. Ever since then they had been walking in silence until they had reached the water.
“We should take another route, the water is getting deeper.”
“Damnit Spock, I can see that myself!” His nerves were raw and he wished they hadn’t started talking again – it was one thing to deal with this damned planet and the loss of his captain, but obnoxious Vulcan advice on top of that…
After they had left the water of the tideway, they were strolling along what McCoy had come to call the beach. The fog had cleared some more and they were now able to make out the sandy coastline and the surf, which was breaking against flat tideland.
They had decided to keep close to the shoreline to prevent getting lost, but after another ten minutes of walking, McCoy wasn’t so sure, if that had been a good idea. The landscape was changing: More and more rocks cluttered the beach and after a while, the sand was gone and they had to balance carefully on top of the uneven boulders. The water had gotten deeper and the surf was breaking noisily against the rocks, turning them wet and slippery. McCoy and Spock both had already tripped several times – even Vulcan reflexes appeared to be helpless against the treacherous surface of the stones. They uniforms were soaked and McCoy had a nasty cut on his left hand. After he had provided the wound with a makeshift bandage Spock was already hurrying him on. “We need to reach a settlement,” he said with an unusual sense of urgency in his voice. “Otherwise we’ll neither manage to mend the communicator nor will we ever find the Captain.”
And then, all of a sudden, Spock stopped abruptly, his head jerked to the sea as he stared into the fog. “Doctor McCoy, have you seen this?” He pointed to the right.
McCoy stood still and looked into the direction Spock indicated. There were rocks leading into the sea – a kind of causeway made up out of the same slippery black boulders as the coastline, vanishing into the fog after a few meters. He looked closer – and then he saw that the causeway didn’t lead into nothingness. There was something in the fog maybe half a mile from the shore – something huge… Wait, was that a light?
“What the hell is this thing?”
“The only logical conclusion is that we are facing a settlement, inhabited by sentient beings. The inhabitants of Thalassus III are humanoid, therefore we should describe the settlement as a city. Fascinating.”
“Are you sure? The readings we took on the Enterprise didn’t show any settlements around here!”
“It is quite logical to build a city on an island within a bay. Various tactical and economical reasons speak in favor of such a location.”
“Oh never mind tactical locations, let’s go there!” McCoy took another look at the obscure shape in the fog. “If Jim has seen this, he will be heading there. At least that’s what I think he’d be doing.”
Spock didn’t wait for an answer, but made the first step onto the slippery causeway. It is decided then. McCoy followed without further ado.
It was easier than expected to walk on the dam – the surface of the structure must have once been intended for pedestrian use and was therefore surprisingly even. Thus they made good progress, but soon enough they found themselves surrounded by fog again, with neither the coast nor the phantom city from their position. McCoy wasn’t sure if he liked these circumstances.
Spock was walking next to him, but he hadn’t spoken since they had set foot on the causeway and McCoy recognized the small signs hinting at his discomfort. He was clearly thinking about the Captain – Vulcan stoicism or not, Spock cared as much for Jim as McCoy did, well, maybe even more.
McCoy wanted to say something encouraging, provide some words of comfort even if he knew that Spock would dismiss them as irredeemably human, but as soon as he opened his mouth, he saw a movement, out of the corner of his eye - there was something in the sea!
“Watch out,” he bellowed and pushed Spock out of the way. Just in time as a large black thing roared out of the water and splashed onto the stony surface of the causeway. They heard a deep inhuman groan as the thing – a slimy dark-green tentacle, as thick as a human leg – retracted back into the tumultuous sea.
McCoy stared in horror at the gigantic creature, only partly visible between the foaming waves. He caught a glimpse of vast expanses of slick greenish skin, a mass of writhing tentacles and something resembling a large luminous orange eye – then the next wave broke and the thing was gone, with only a shadow below the surface hinting at its existence.
“Do you have any idea what that was?” Breathlessly, he turned towards Spock, whose face had gone visibly pale. The Vulcan’s fingers were clenched around his phaser, his whole body tense as he shook his head, his logic and encyclopedic knowledge failing him for once.
“We’d better hurry,” said McCoy, “before it attacks again!”
Spock nodded and quickened his pace, phaser still in hand. Just then, another tentacle crashed on the spot they’d just vacated, only an arm’s length from McCoy’s back. This time it came from the left.
“There are two of them! Run!” McCoy shouted and then they were both running for their lives. Neither of them paid any attention to the narrowness of the causeway or the slippery surface of the rocks when another tentacle clawed at them.
McCoy’s breath was burning hot in his lungs, as he tried to increase his speed, red spots were dancing in front of his eyes and he was sure he’d trip any minute. Faster and faster he ran, his ears were filled with the rush of the waves, the whipping tentacles and the terrible groan from the monster’s mouth. (He wasn’t certain the thing even had a mouth, but he was quite sure that even Spock had no time for scientific investigations now.)
“They are falling back,” shouted Spock, who had the sense of balance to look back while he was running. “We will outrun them if we increase our speed by ten percent!”
Now that’s good to know, McCoy thought sourly as he tried to wrest some last sparks of energy from his tired legs.
He had been distracted for seconds only, but that was enough. Stepping on a patch of seaweed, he saw his foot slip in slow-motion and felt the air rush below his body as he tumbled down and sprawled on the stony floor. He didn’t even find time to swear. Pain surged through his body and for a few seconds he blacked out.
When he regained consciousness his perception was blurred for a moment. The he realized that something was wrapped around his leg. Slimy and cold, it was grasping his ankle and pulled, dragging him towards the water.
McCoy tried to hang on to the slippery rocks, but in vain. He felt the sharp edges chafe his skin as the creature pulled him across the causeway. I don’t want to die like this! Once again he tried to grasp for a hold and this time he managed to get a firm grip of a cleft between two rocks. His fingers felt close to breaking and he was sure he wouldn’t be able to hold on for long and thus just postpone his watery death by a few moments.
Suddenly he heard the familiar sound of a phaser firing; saw the red beam – and watched it missing its target. The creature groaned again and his fingers were burning, he couldn’t bear it, he had to let go. McCoy felt the tentacle tearing at his ankle, felt his body sliding like a puppet across the rocks, there was the phaser again and something was screaming – and then the pull on his leg was gone. He heard water splashing, once again this terrible scream – and Spock was there, taking hold of his arm, pulling him to his feet. He had almost forgotten about Vulcan strength, and that Spock’s hands were so warm – higher body temperature and all that.
Later, McCoy couldn’t remember how they’d gotten over the last part of the causeway. He had only a handful of clouded memories of fog, black tentacles and more fog, interrupted only by the red phaser beams slicing through the air. He must have been half-delirious; it was a miracle he had been able to move at all.
But one way or the other they had reached the end of the causeway. There had been stairs and somehow they had managed to climb them – on top, there had only been blackness.
When McCoy woke up, Spock’s face was the first thing he saw. I could have imagined better sights to wake up to, he thought with a sigh. The Vulcan shifted aside – and McCoy caught a first glimpse of the city.
* * *
The bridge had been unexpected. And the city… the city was really impressive. Still in the middle of the bridge Kirk stopped to take a good look.
There were towers rising out of the mist. Lots of towers. Also spectacular domes adorned with golden turrets and flying flags and below them the poles of a dozen ships – and the whole splendor seemed to float in the middle of the water. Only minutes ago it hadn’t been there. When Kirk had arrived at the foot of the bridge - an impossible collection of vast arches and towering columns right in the middle of the deserted beach - all he had been able to see at the end had been fog. But after he had been walking for half a minute or less, wind had come up, the fog had lifted – and he had discovered the city.
As he was crossing the bridge and the towers were drawing nearer, it became less of a dream vision and turned into a real place: an alien city on an alien (possibly hostile) planet, a situation he had encountered a dozen times or more. Kirk took out his phaser, checked its functions and set it to ‘stun’.
Stepping off the bridge he found himself on a small expanse of empty land between the end of the bridge and the first buildings of the city. Good tactical planning. They’ll be able to spot enemies when they traverse this area and then take aim at them from the top of those towers. The fog had returned –by now he had understood that it only lifted for minutes, at a time – and he couldn’t see a living soul – yet.
He could only hope that Spock and Bones would eventually discover the city as well. I need to talk to Spock. The Vulcan’s dark eyes wouldn’t leave his thoughts. We need to sort things out before…
“Watch out!” Someone barged into him. All of a sudden, Kirk was surrounded by people – he winced, his hand jerked towards the phaser and he took a quick look around – only to relax, because no one was paying him any further attention.
Without realizing it he had entered a narrow street, which lost itself in the foggy twilight between two large buildings. Most of the newcomers wanted to enter here, too– which led to inevitable confusion. Kirk sighed, pressed against the wall on the left and tried to appear as unsuspicious as possible. All on his own in an alien city, it was better to watch and observe before taking action – no matter how much this contradicted his natural instincts.
He counted twenty people – apparently humanoid, with no outward alien traits. Most of them were dark-haired with pale skin and large dark eyes, but he couldn’t spot any deviations from the human template when it came to ears, hands or facial features. They were wearing colorful clothes with lots of frills and flowing red and green capes and were currently carrying large bundles of various goods. Kirk looked back towards the sea and once the fog cleared up again for a few seconds, he could spot a pole and superstructure of a tall sailing ship that had been secured not far away.
Fascinating… he thought and smiled when he could almost hear Spock’s voice in his head. Having decided that the ship’s crew didn’t pose a threat, he started his way into the city center.
Thus he drifted through the confusing maze of little streets and alleyways, crossing several bridges - the city was divided by a network of tiny canals – as he made his way through a colorful crowd of merchants, workmen and artisans, which populated the streets. Every time he saw somebody dressed in blue, he had to turn and felt that little pang of disappointment in his chest whenever he realized that it was not the man he was looking for.
Once he stopped and asked a group of boatmen, who were repairing their slender black vessel on the bank of a canal, after the city’s name. They stared at him and his unfamiliar clothes, but eventually one of them shrugged and said “La Città.” The other one raised an eyebrow and seemed to be about to speak, but he was cut off by the third man.
“We have work to do,” he said and his voice sounded gruff, confrontational. Kirk felt the familiar twitch in his knuckles, but he forced himself to calm down – a fight wouldn’t help him here.
“Alright gentlemen, I’m sorry for bothering you – have a nice day.” He withdrew and hurried along the next alleyway.
La Città – not very illuminating, but a name was better than nothing.
He trudged on and crossed another small square, followed by another bridge and another canal. La Cittá (he suspected it meant ‘The City’ – not the most original name) appeared far larger than he had initially expected. And still no sign of Spock or McCoy.
After yet another bridge and a walkway next to a canal, curving towards the left, Kirk reached what he assumed to be the heart of the city.
He stood still and took a look around. Yes, this had to be the center. The large marble-tiled square, the countless arches and columns, the goddamn tower - this place was definitively built to impress. It served its creators’ intentions well, Kirk had to stand and stare for more than a minute, before he was able to move on.
The square and its buildings were situated in a rectangle, which bordered the seashore – thus the whole structure was permeated by mist, engulfing the columns and spires, giving the scenery a surreal dreamy air. And yet… despite the omnipresent fog and the unfamiliar impressions, there was something that tickled a vague, memory, hidden deep inside Kirk’s head. I know this place. I’ve seen it before…
He made his way through another flock of locals, mumbling excuses, still holding out for his missing friends, until he was standing in the center of the square, facing the large grey-and-golden structure on the left. Next to it stood the white building, the one that looked a bit like an old-fashioned Terran wedding cake turned upside down and encrusted with a million white arches – as if a mad giant had torn out a dozen bridges and stuck them aimlessly into the building’s walls.
Where have I seen this before?
Kirk craned his neck and looked to the top of the tower, which loomed over the square. It was made out of reddish brick with a pointed roof, decorated with a white marble statue, apparently some kind of animal.
A tiger? A Vulcan desert-wolf? A lion? I think it’s a lion, I’m sure it is….
Suddenly the memory came back and he knew what this place reminded him of. It’s Venice! This whole city looks like Venice, back on Earth! Except that it isn’t a museum, but a real city, with people living in it.
He took a closer look around. He had never been to Venice himself, but he had seen pictures and he knew that the open-air museum was a popular holiday destination (you had to book months in advance if you wanted to get hold of a ticket) – this city, however, didn’t look much like a holiday resort. Furthermore, there was something wrong with the architecture– the buildings didn’t look like they did on the postcards. To be exact, they didn’t look very much like they had been designed by humans at all, more like something, someone might have come up with, after they had been given only a vague description of what Venice looked like, without ever having visited the place itself.
Kirk knew enough about alien societies, to recognize Terran influence when he saw it. But Thalassus is too far away! They couldn’t have built this all on their own. Someone – someone from Earth – must have come here and provided them with the inspiration.
But who? This wasn’t the first time the Federation had contacted Thalassus III, but none of the reports from the previous three expeditions had mentioned any earth-like structures or Terran influences when it came to society and culture. However, all three contacts had occurred on the planet’s northern hemisphere – maybe the south had been exposed to Terran visitors decades ago, in the earlier days of space travel?
That makes no sense; the planet is too far off the usual routes. Kirk sighed and absentmindedly scratched his chin. Where’s my science team when I need it?
He spotted a bench in front of the white building with the arches and sat down, resting his feet. With a sigh he allowed himself to close his eyes for a moment. Then he checked his communicator for the umpteenth time, but still, no signal. Kirk shook his head, put the utensil back in his pocket and rubbed his temples. Suddenly he felt very tired. I hope the ship is alright. If Spock and Bones haven’t come back as well, Scotty must have taken command by now – let’s hope he’ll find a way to solve the problem with the comms – hopefully very soon!
Kirk shook his head and tried to quench the onset of despair. I can’t allow myself to give in, sitting on this damned bench and pity myself – I have to find a way to get out of here! He was the captain for God’s sake. It was not like him to let the hopelessness of the situation defeat him.
So he did what he always did in these situations. He stopped thinking and took up action. The first step was to stand up – which was the easiest part. Next he had to find out who was in charge here.
Kirk straightened his back, took a look around and spotted a group of wealthy-looking men in fancy clothing, standing at the base of the huge tower, engaged in quiet conversation. Merchants or politicians. Perfect, he thought as he approached the group.
“Good morning, gentlemen! My name is James Kirk and I have a few questions…”
* * *
- to be continued -