|NOSFERATU IN SPACE
by K.V. Wylie
I stop and I breathe because you wanted
Don't get too close,
Dr. Leonard McCoy was working late in Sickbay. There was no need to, but he was beginning to feel the approach of an old man's insomnia. Nights were too long on the Enterprise.
Though Sickbay was not one of the sections subject to periodic hours of dimmed light to approximate earth's rotation, he could sense the difference without looking at a chronometer.
Ship noises echoed differently at 'night'. They swirled in the air like Saint-Saens' swans, and vibrated in the quiet hallways.
Shadows moved with the night sounds too, figures that would twitch at the corner of his eye and disappear when he turned.
A shadow walked across his peripheral vision now.
I'm not looking, McCoy said to himself. He would not give in to the non-existent phantom. So he nearly jumped out of his chair when the shadow asked, "Doctor, do you have a moment?"
Spock stood in the doorway.
McCoy drew a breath. "You have sufficient weight to you that I don't know why you don't make any noise when you walk around."
The Vulcan translated through the convoluted grammar and came to the best conclusion he could. "Shall I wear a cowbell around my neck?"
Though he could appreciate the attempt at humour, McCoy didn't have the inclination to pursue the subject.
Spock walked the rest of the way into McCoy's office and sat down. He had read enough Human literature, good and bad, to wonder if the doctor was suffering from the poetically described broken heart. The events on Yonada were recent and McCoy had married Natira, however briefly. Spock had his own, similar experience with which to compare. What Spock couldn't understand was why the doctor had married her in the first place, or why he would have agreed to visit Yonada after the asteroid/spaceship landed.
McCoy had initially agreed with the captain's offer to take the Enterprise to Yonada's destined planet. Since being cured of xenopolycethemia, McCoy had suddenly and vehemently opposed the idea. His opposition had taken the form of two unprovoked and verbally lengthy threats that if the ship so much as turned her nose in the general direction of Yonada, the captain would find himself without his CMO.
Kirk hadn't pushed the matter, either with McCoy or privately to Spock's ears only. But the captain was surprised.
And so was Spock. He did notice that the doctor was dealing with his grief, or guilt, by immersing himself in work. This was a route Spock understood and, as he'd come across an opportunity in the same vein, he'd immediately left the Bridge and come to Sickbay.
"Doctor, I have just read in a Starfleet communiqué that an unusual plague is affecting the city of Bremen on the planet Orlok. Starfleet has sent out an open call for physicians and scientists."
"Plague is an old-fashioned term," McCoy said.
"The same appellation could be applied to Orlok," Spock said.
"The medical facilities are primitive. Plague is the exact word in the report."
"What are the symptoms?"
"I know what it means. How is that a symptom of plague?"
"It is one of several symptoms that have suddenly manifested," Spock said. "If I may continue."
"By all means."
"The main symptom is somnambulism, during which the afflicted individuals, who are mostly women, have walked onto ledges, roofs, and off piers into an ocean."
"Fatal," Spock corrected. "These people have been falling to their deaths. Other symptoms include bruising on the face and neck, fainting spells, and," the Vulcan paused.
McCoy frowned. "Dreams about sex are a symptom?"
"These people mate once every fifty years," Spock said.
"Sexual activity is not a major component of their culture."
"Sleepwalking, dreams, self-inflicted bruises. Hardly a plague," McCoy said.
"It is on a planet in which these conditions are completely foreign," Spock said. "Will you go?"
"Out of curiosity," McCoy replied.
"I will advise the captain of our departure."
As Spock stood, McCoy asked, "Our departure?"
"Should the symptoms affect you, I will be able to prevent you from sleepwalking onto a ledge."
"Not if you're affected too."
"Vulcans do not dream."
"You might dream and not remember it," McCoy pointed out.
"You're a restless sleeper. I'll get you a cowbell."
Starfleet was satisfied with Spock and McCoy's answer to their communiqué. Kirk was not. Plague-ridden planets were at the bottom of the list of places that he was voluntarily willing to risk his men, if they even made the list at all. There wasn't much he could do about it. After picking up relief supplies from Starbase Six Hundred, he ordered the Enterprise to Orlok.
And immediately found the worst magnetic storm he had ever encountered.
"The storm has not been charted in any survey," Spock said, holding discretely onto the side of his console as he stood and faced the captain.
Kirk's reply was drowned under a slam of magnetic energy against the hulls. He stumbled forward and caught himself on a rail.
"I said, it's been two days. Wasn't the course you plotted supposed to have taken us to the thinnest part of the storm?" Kirk asked.
"It should have," Spock admitted. "The centre of the disturbance has shifted."
Kirk didn't have an immediate comment. He had taken enough elementary physics classes at the Academy to know that magnetic storms didn't move around on a whim. They were caused by various, though normal gravitational pushes and pulls in planetary systems. Only something major, such as the destruction of an entire planet, could shift their orbital position.
"Figure something out," he said at last. Spock may or may not have nodded in reply. From Kirk's viewpoint, everything on the Bridge was rocking up and down. The captain felt seasick for the first time in his life.
As he uncertainly made his way back to his command chair, he vaguely heard a call from Engineering to Sickbay within the stream of inter-ship communications. The red shirts down below suffered a lot of bumps and cuts, and Kirk didn't think anything of the call until a few minutes later when Uhura said, "Captain, Sickbay is reporting a casualty."
He swung around in his chair, and regretted the movement when another wave of magnetic chaos sent the chair flying back in a dizzying whirl. When he righted himself, he said, "A death?"
"Yes, sir," Uhura said, aware that all of the Bridge crew, with the exception of Spock, were now looking at her in surprise. The Vulcan was simply looking.
"What happened?" Kirk demanded.
"Dr. M'Benga made the call, sir. He knows only that Dr. McCoy is requesting your presence in Sickbay."
Kirk nodded. "Spock, you have the Bridge. When I return, I want a course that gets us out of this damn storm."
He glanced at Chekov, at navigation, to emphasis his point, before taking the turbo lift to Sickbay.
Sickbay was in the most protected, stable part of the Enterprise, yet the storm could be felt here too. As Kirk made his way to the main examination room, a beaker tumbled out of a cupboard and smashed to the floor.
He heard McCoy swear and ask someone, "Didn't I tell you to secure those doors?"
"I did, Leonard!" Christine Chapel snapped back. She appeared in a doorway, looking as haggard as Kirk felt.
"Captain," she said, and gestured behind her. "He's in there."
McCoy was standing beside an exam bed. A body was on the bed, covered in a sheet and fastened with restraining straps to prevent it from being thrown to the floor.
"Bones? An accident?"
In reply, McCoy lifted one end of the sheet.
Kirk, who had seen a lot of dead bodies, recoiled.
"Ensign William Lucie," McCoy said, and added unnecessarily, "Immediate cause of death, decapitation. I will be doing an autopsy."
Ensign Lucie's throat had been shredded by something horribly sharp. Clots of blood and flesh had spewed over his chest and face. His hair was plastered stiff in dried gore.
A shudder from the storm caused the head to roll. McCoy grabbed it, and winced. "He was on night shift in the cargo hold. When day shift reported, they didn't see him and informed Scotty. Scotty thought Lucie had gone AWOL, but the Ensign wasn't in his cabin and his girlfriend hadn't seen him either. They began searching, and eventually found that he was in the cargo hold, in a storage compartment. Like this." McCoy tucked the sheet back over the body and head.
"I'd say he'd been dead at least three hours before he was found. Security's on it."
Horrified, Kirk said, "Someone did this to him! My God, Bones!"
"That was my reaction too," McCoy said grimly.
McCoy shook his head. "Not that Security's told me. I've run psychological profiles on every crewmember, at one time or another. No one on board has this...tendency. Unless this is another of those Redjac creatures like we found on Argelius Two," McCoy added.
"Spock's been working on a way out of this storm, but I think I'll hand that over to Sulu and Chekov, and put Spock in charge of Security on this one," Kirk said.
"How hard can it be to get out of a magnetic storm?" McCoy asked, the peevishness of the question giving away his upset over Lucie's death.
"Magnetic interference has almost completely shut down Chekov's navigation console. We're trying to get the ship to respond to commands through the science station." Kirk grabbed the edge of the bed as the ship rolled.
"This is going to make the autopsy interesting," McCoy said.
Before McCoy sent his report, another crewman in Engineering disappeared during night shift in the cargo hold.
"I'll nae leave any of my men alone down here anymore," Scotty said to Kirk when a ship-wide search, including a search of every single locker, failed to turn up the missing Lieutenant. "Nawtanba was reliable. He wouldnae leave his post, not for anything."
"Put security personnel on rotation with your men," Kirk said. He eyed the boxes of medical supplies they'd picked up from Starbase Six Hundred. "Has McCoy been through these yet?"
"The manifests are on the boxes. Standard emergency medical equipment."
The two men braced their footing as the deck seemed to abruptly fall away underneath them. "I've nae seen a storm such as this," Scotty said. "All my section is spooked."
"Spooked?" Kirk asked, taken aback by the word.
"Aye," Scotty admitted. "Nothing stays where you leave it.
The noises in the hull sound as if something is walking behind you. I've even seen Mr. Spock looking over his shoulder down here. And there's Lucie's death."
Kirk called a department head meeting. Sailors were superstitious. At the heart of it, the Starfleet crews were sailors, but those serving on the Enterprise were starship officers. Spooks were not in starship protocol and Kirk was not willing to indulge that sort of speculation. He would deal with facts.
In the briefing room, McCoy delivered the autopsy report first. "Ensign Lucie died from trauma associated with massive blood loss. The major wound on him was to his throat. His spinal cord was severed just below his skull by a very sharp weapon. I don't know what was used."
"Blood loss," Spock repeated. He was sitting beside McCoy, and looked away from the doctor's official report on the vid-screen to the latter's scribbled notes. "There was minimal blood in the locker in which Ensign Lucie's body was found."
"I know," McCoy said. "However, that young man had almost no blood left in him. Even his heart valves were depleted."
"He must have been killed elsewhere," Spock said.
"What of Lieutenant Nawtanba?" Kirk asked.
"We have not yet located the Lieutenant," Spock said. "The transporters have not been used, nor have the shuttles. The Lieutenant is still on board the ship."
A rough tremor sent a stylus and pad to the floor. "And the storm?" Kirk asked.
"It's moving with us," Sulu said, knowing Spock would consider such a statement irrational. The Vulcan let the remark go, so Sulu added, "It's left the system in which we found it."
"Excuse me?" Kirk sat forward. "I didn't think magnetic storms did that."
"They don't, sir," Sulu said.
"If it's not a magnetic flux, then what is it?"
Sulu didn't have an answer. Kirk eyed Spock.
"Insufficient data," Spock said.
"You've been scanning it for six days. How can you have insufficient data?" Kirk retorted.
"The source of the storm is magnetic, and that is all the scans will verify. Whatever this disturbance is, the ship is in the midst of it, and we have insufficient power to break free," Spock said.
"I've never treated so many cases of motion sickness," McCoy muttered. "I can't keep anything down."
Kirk turned to Scotty. "Can we boost the engines?"
"We have," Scotty said.
"I meant, can we boost the engines without worrying about safety margins?" Kirk asked pointedly.
Reluctantly, Scotty said, "We have, Captain. We nearly burnt out a crystal."
Kirk rubbed his forehead. He could empathize with McCoy. He hadn't eaten anything for the past few days either, except for plain soup, and that had been a gamble.
"The storm is our secondary concern," Kirk said. "Finding Ensign Lucie's murderer and the murder weapon, and Lieutenant Nawtanba are first."
"We've searched the ship," Scotty said.
"Search it again," Kirk said. "Open every cupboard and every closet. Start in Engineering and the holds, and work up. The search teams will work in pairs. I want everyone on deck and involved in this. Rest periods are cancelled for the next twenty-four hours. We are only two days from Orlok, and this matter is to be cleared up before then." He glanced across the table. "Bones, the U.S.S. Monitor is coming to get Ensign Lucie's body. They'll be taking it back to Earth to his family. Would you, ah, put him back together as best as you can?"
"I'll try," McCoy replied.
"Dismissed." Kirk stood, and the meeting came to an end.
The doctor didn't stand, so Spock remained until he and McCoy were the only ones left in the briefing room.
"How will you reattach Ensign Lucie's head?" Spock asked.
"I don't know. They don't teach you things like that in medical school." McCoy held onto the table as the room suddenly tilted. His notepad slid to the floor as he barely kept from toppling into Spock's lap. "I wish the young man had burnt up or something. There's no way I can put him into any shape I'd want his mother to see. The autopsy didn't help his looks either."
"Has this recent death caused you to rethink your decision about returning to Yonada?"
"No." The blue eyes came up to Spock's. "What are you really asking?"
"Your desire to stay on Yonada was aberrant," Spock said.
"Yes," McCoy said so quietly that his reply was nearly drowned out by a crash outside the hulls. "I'd rather die among strangers. It's easier all around."
"I found out you were ill from the captain. You did not tell me."
"Would it help if I said I'm sorry? I am."
"It is not necessary." Spock stood somehow on the slanted deck. "The gravity has been affected. After I ensure repairs are underway, I will assist you with Ensign Lucie's body. I have a paro-vinyl compound which should effectively and discretely reattach his head to his neck."
"The key word there had better be discrete," McCoy said.
The chronometer read zero-three-thirteen, and McCoy was in Sickbay, when he saw a flutter of movement in the doorway of the room where Ensign Lucie's body was.
"Christine?" he asked as he turned. No one was there.
He let out the breath he was holding. He was getting as bad as the cadets in Engineering.
When he returned to his paperwork, though, he angled his chair so that he had a clear view of the next room.
Spock came into Sickbay at zero-three-forty.
"Did you see anybody in the hall?" McCoy asked.
"No," Spock said. "Were you expecting someone?"
McCoy shook his head. "Didn't Jim say everybody was supposed to be in pairs now?"
"The search parties," Spock said. He held out the paro-vinyl compound. "I will assist you."
"This will be gruesome."
"I did not expect it to be otherwise."
It was not an easy task. Ensign Lucie's eyes were open, he reeked of disinfectant, and the storm meant that Spock had to hold the head steady while McCoy applied the compound.
As he pressed pieces of tissue together, McCoy said, "He lost a lot of blood."
"Yes," Spock said.
"It has to be somewhere."
"Perhaps it was added in with your department's medical waste."
"That's been checked," McCoy said. "And I checked my plasma supplies. I don't have any, um, extra stock."
He glanced up. Spock looked somewhat green.
"Do you want a break?"
"I would prefer we finish."
"I was thinking, with all the deaths we've had, there should be someone on board to do this sort of thing," McCoy said.
"We've sent too many ruined bodies back to their families."
"The family members are advised of the condition of the remains," Spock said.
"But there's always that hope that maybe it's not your husband or wife, or son or daughter. That maybe it's someone else.
You're going to look. You have to, to make sure. Wouldn't you look, Spock?"
"Yes," Spock said.
They fell into silence. When McCoy finished with the neck, he closed the openings he had made to do the autopsy and returned the body to stasis.
They washed up and McCoy said, "This ship is getting eerie. I keep seeing things in doorways. Tell me that's illogical."
Spock didn't answer.
"Come on," McCoy pushed. "I'm an emotional human, seeing ghosts. Now's your shot."
"You are an emotional human," Spock said, without his usual verve.
"Are you seeing things too?"
"Would I admit it?"
McCoy managed a small smile. Then he became serious again.
"Lieutenant Nawtanba has to be somewhere. He's dead, isn't he?"
"I believe so," Spock said.
"This makes no sense. Why is this happening now? We haven't new crewmen on board for several months."
"Five months, sixteen days."
"If we'd brought a murderer on board, why wait so long?"
"Human psychology is your department," Spock said.
McCoy sat at his desk. Spock frowned at the sight. "Why did you move your chair?"
"I told you, I keep seeing things."
Spock followed McCoy's angle of sight into the next room.
"Did you believe you saw Ensign Lucie move?"
"We're all seeing ghosts," McCoy shrugged.
Spock sat down as well. "There is a rumour we have a stowaway on board."
"Of course. No one wants to believe that the monster who killed Lucie is someone we work with every day," McCoy said.
"Nobody extra showed up on the scans."
"We can only scan for the life forms we know."
"Something incorporeal," McCoy suggested.
"I scanned for unusual energy readings, including the readings for the entity we discovered on Argelius Two. There was nothing."
"Which brings us back to someone we work with."
"Unpleasant," Spock said.
McCoy closed his eyes, but they felt so gritty, it didn't help. "If this isn't cleared up by the time we get to Orlok, are you and I just going to leave it for Jim?"
"Starfleet is expecting us to respond to the problem on the planet."
"It wouldn't be right."
"Then we would be AWOL," Spock pointed out.
"Whoever did that to Lucie, and perhaps Nawtanba could do it to Jim."
McCoy opened his eyes. Of course the Vulcan had considered that possibility. It had probably crossed his mind the moment Lucie's body had been found.
A fierce crash rocked the ship. McCoy grabbed at his desk as tapes and a paperweight slid to the floor. "How can the Enterprise stand this?" He swallowed, trying to calm his stomach. "How can a storm move with us?"
"You and Lieutenant Sulu are assigning conscious thought to a non-conscious phenomenon."
McCoy took a pager from his desk and strapped it on his hip.
"Where are you going?"
"The chapel," McCoy replied. "I can't take another minute here. Geoff can call if--"
He didn't finish. He'd been about to say, if Nawtanba's body is found.
McCoy was still in the chapel an hour later when Spock came in.
"The ship is on yellow alert," the Vulcan said. "The captain ordered evasive maneuvers."
"I thought I felt them."
"The magnetic storm followed us," Spock said. "The captain believes we are under attack."
McCoy was standing beside a lattice framework made of darkened alloys and named The Grave of Chishti. Numerous strings had been tied through openings in the lattice.
Spock gestured at the structure. He did not understand the symbolism behind it, but he could play along. "Did you tie a string, or remove one?"
"I tied two."
"What did you wish for?"
"It's like birthday candles. You can't tell, or it won't come true." He eyed Spock. "Get some sleep."
"Rest periods are cancelled."
"You were going without a break long before the twenty-four hours order. Anyway, my orders supercede Jim's."
"That power appears to have gone to your head."
"It went there long ago," McCoy shrugged. "Spock, are we ok again?"
Spock inclined his head. "We are content with one another, Leonard."
The doctor smiled. Then his pager went off.
It was mid-morning before Kirk had a chance to get to Sickbay. By then, the gruesome task of another examination and autopsy was done, and McCoy was just shutting a second stasis door.
"Same as before?" Kirk asked.
The deck bucked before McCoy could answer, and the men were thrown dizzily together.
"Damnit!" McCoy muttered, crawling on hands and knees to a secured chair. Kirk pulled himself up along the edge of a doorway.
"Bones?" Kirk asked cautiously, the only word he thought he could say without dislodging his stomach contents to the floor.
"Lieutenant Nawtanba was decapitated with the same sort of weapon," McCoy said. "Death due to blood loss. They didn't tell me where he was found."
"Behind an access panel in the torpedo launch bay," Kirk said, a hand hovering over his mouth.
"And the blood he lost?"
Kirk shook his head.
"We have something monstrous on board," McCoy said. "Maybe this storm brought it out in whoever it is. I can't stand just waiting around for the next death."
Kirk took a deep breath. "Security's in Engineering."
"It might not be someone from Engineering."
"It's someone who knows Engineering extremely well."
The Enterprise shuddered. McCoy glanced up. "You think we're under attack, Jim?"
"This is no storm, Bones."
The ship steadied enough that Kirk could let go of the doorframe. He took another breath and asked, "It's none of my business, but are you sure about Yonada?"
"You've picked him?"
It wasn't really a question and McCoy didn't need to answer.
After the captain left, McCoy sat for a few minutes, contemplating whether or not to pick up the tapes from the floor. Reasoning that they'd just fall off the desk again, he stepped over them, left Sickbay, and went to his cabin.
He took a sonic shower and was settling in his bunk when Spock came in. Without speaking, the Vulcan undressed and slid under the sheets beside him.
McCoy absently stroked Spock's forearm. "The strings were for Nawtanba to be found alive and for the storm to subside."
"I assumed so."
"Those young men didn't deserve to die that way."
"What is deserved or undeserved is beyond my understanding, Leonard."
Thunder boomed outside the hulls. McCoy closed his eyes and pressed against the Vulcan.
The Enterprise arrived at Orlok with an empty brig and chaos outside her hulls. The orbit was erratic, and the transporters too chancy. McCoy and Spock took a shuttle to the planet's surface.
"We'll be back in two weeks," Kirk said, the only message he could get through the interference.
"All right," McCoy said. He hated to leave the ship now, but he had volunteered. Starfleet had accepted his offer. It was out of his hands.
McCoy watched the Enterprise as Spock piloted the shuttle, an irrational part of him hoping he could see the murderer through the hulls.
"Where could he be?" McCoy muttered. "Wet dreams and walking around in our pajamas are the most that can happen to us now.
I feel awful. We've bailed on Jim."
"The investigation was not advancing with our presence," Spock pointed out.
They had been unable to communicate with Orlok, so Spock decided to set the shuttle down near the coastal town of Bremen. He flew the shuttle over a rolling, blue ocean, and landed in a patch of sandy grass.
As the shuttle's engines quieted, they heard the sound of slow drums.
"Something's going on outside," McCoy said.
A line of people advanced towards them. In the fore were six people. They carried an oblong box, their steps in time with a drummer in the back.
"Is that a casket?" McCoy looked around in horror. "Have we landed on a cemetery?"
"There are no markers."
"Not every culture marks their graves," McCoy said. But the people were going past them. The two men stood respectfully until a woman near the back of the line stepped out to them.
"You are from Starfleet?" she asked.
"Yes," McCoy said. "This is Commander Spock, and I'm Doctor McCoy."
"I am Alencon, the Mayor of Bremen. You must wait. We have come to bury our dead."
Another line of people bearing a casket approached over the crest of a hill. A third group appeared just after them. It was late afternoon before a wagon pulled by two horses came down the road and onto the field to them.
Alencon sat beside the driver. She stepped down and said, "Commander, Doctor, thank you. We have the highest need of your assistance."
"How did those people die?" McCoy asked, nodding in the direction that the funeral had gone earlier.
"They walked into the water while asleep. Their bodies came ashore this morning," Alencon replied. "Our doctor cannot stop the deaths. He and I hope you have brought medicines."
She gestured at the driver of the horses. "This is Talbot.
You have anything to carry?"
"Several crates in the shuttle," McCoy said.
Talbot was a burly man. Despite his strength and Spock's Vulcan muscles, it took a long time to load the wagon.
"These boxes are unbearably heavy for what's on the manifests," McCoy panted. "Will the horses be strong enough?"
"Aye," Talbot said, the only word he had spoken until now.
McCoy wasn't willing to let the point go. To Spock, he repeated, "They're too heavy."
"We will open the crates when we arrive at our destination," Spock said. They had already lost a day waiting for the funerals to end and the Mayor to return. He was unwilling to delay any more.
Alencon did not accompany them on the wagon. "Our doctor is waiting for you. I must attend to business."
Talbot shifted so that McCoy and Spock could sit beside him on the driver's seat.
"Is it far to where we're going?" McCoy asked.
Talbot glanced at him, but remained silent.
A potent garlic smell hit McCoy as they set off. The doctor looked at the back of the wagon, but only his crates were there.
He was wiping his eyes with his sleeve when he discovered the source of the odor. Talbot wore several loops of garlic tied to twine around his neck.
"Is that to keep the plague away?" McCoy ventured.
"How many deaths have there been?" he persisted. When the silence continued, he and Spock exchanged a look. The Vulcan raised an eyebrow.
Their route took them up a sharp, narrow incline. The horses began plodding more slowly as the wheels bounced over rocks.
McCoy saw Spock suddenly grab onto the side of the bench seat as the other eyebrow went up.
"What is it?" McCoy leaned over for a better look, but Spock abruptly pushed him back towards Talbot. The doctor had seen enough anyway to make him pale. On Spock's side, the wagon's wheels rode and slipped on the broken edge of the road. At the edge was an abrupt drop down a long cliff.
McCoy eyed the impassive driver. "The Commander and I can walk."
He was ignored. Hanging onto the rough underside of the bench as he tried not to shift his weight towards Spock's side, McCoy strung litanies of curses in his head until the wagon finally reached the summit and turned onto a wide roadway.
The people of Bremen waited for them. They stood in front of their houses, men and women wearing what looked like hand-made clothing and grouped in wary, wide-eyed clumps along the road. Some of the men held long-handled rakes and hoes, and a couple of the women clutched babies to their hips.
A lot of them wore bulbs of garlic around their necks.
McCoy nodded as they went past. The greeting was returned sporadically.
Talbot stopped before a huge, imposing house of white-painted brick. As he began unloading the crates, several men ran from the house to help him.
"Hello," McCoy tried, but the men didn't answer.
"Something cultural?" McCoy asked Spock. "Perhaps we're not supposed to talk outside?"
Before Spock could answer, a new voice sounded.
"We do not speak to strangers since the plague began." A well-dressed man approached them from the house. "I am Doctor Gargrave. You are from Starfleet?"
"I'm Doctor McCoy. This is Commander Spock."
"Welcome," Gargrave said. Then he saw Spock's ears and drew back a step.
"I am from Vulcan," Spock explained.
"Is that a city?" Gargrave asked.
Gargrave tried to smile. "Forgive me. I have never seen anyone like you, and there have been stories of late. Come."
As he started towards his house, a high shriek cut the air.
"What the--" McCoy muttered, startled.
"It is the Master! I am here!"
In a window in a small building across the road was a woman's face. "Master!" she cried, reaching a thin, white arm through the bars.
"Who is that?" McCoy asked. "And is that a jail?"
"It is a jail," Gargrave said. "She is the wife of a weaver and violent in her illness. We had no other place to put her."
"She is affected by your plague?" McCoy took a step towards her, but Gargrave clasped his arm.
"Her symptoms are not the same as the others. She has been crying for a master for weeks."
McCoy pulled free. "I need to see her."
As McCoy started across the road, Gargrave called, "Don't touch her!" He sounded afraid.
"Person to person contagion was not part of the reports we received," McCoy said. "Regardless, as she is ill, I do need to see her."
The door to the jail was padlocked. "The key, please," McCoy demanded.
Gargrave, hovering in the road, said, "I do not have it with me."
McCoy turned to Spock. "We may be breaking the Prime Directive," Spock said.
"I don't care. Open the lock."
Spock extracted a small tool from his belt and bent down. A moment later, McCoy heard a click and the lock dropped the ground. A group of people who had been standing nearby shuffled away as McCoy entered the jail.
"Master!" the woman cried. She looked more closely at Spock.
"His name is Spock," McCoy said. "I'm McCoy. What is your name?"
She stared wildly at him. "No, it is not the Master! But I feel him! I hear him singing to me! Where is he?"
McCoy pulled out a scanner as he took a cautious step towards her, but she only sat on a cot and asked bewilderedly, "Where is he?"
"Do you have food and something to drink?" McCoy asked as he took a reading of her.
"I have..." she started, and pointed at a spider web at the ceiling. "Mine. Don't touch. The Master gave him to me."
"I won't touch," McCoy assured her. He finished his scan and glanced around the cell. A sink and tap stood at one end. At the other, on a table under the window, were several plates of untouched food. The stone floor felt cold through his boots.
"She's dehydrated," McCoy said to Spock. "Does the tap work?"
The Vulcan tried it and nodded.
"They're bringing her food at least, I guess by putting it through the bars," McCoy turned back to her. "What is your name?"
The woman looked towards the window. "Master, where are you?"
"Can you hear me?" McCoy asked, but the woman continued staring outside. Finally, McCoy shrugged, pulled out a hypo, and injected her. She didn't react to the hiss.
"I gave her some vitamins. I can't find anything physically wrong with this lady." Taking a scan of the room with his tricorder, McCoy added, "There's no bacterium, no virus, nothing."
"Her symptoms may have nothing to do with the plague," Spock suggested.
"Then why are they afraid of her?" McCoy asked.
"Doctor Gargrave said she was violent."
They returned outside where Gargrave was waiting with the padlock. He snapped it quickly on the door.
"Why do you lock her up?" McCoy asked.
"She will hurt us," Gargrave said. "Please come to my home now."
"She's too weak to be a threat," McCoy said. "It's cruel to leave her in a jail cell. Don't you have a hospital?"
"No," Gargrave said. "If there is illness, I go to the house." He led them across the road and into his mansion.
"Your boxes have been put in my laboratory, and my housekeeper has prepared rooms for you upstairs."
"We require only one sleeping area," Spock said. "Where is your laboratory?"
Gargrave hesitated. "One room? Have you offered help during your time to mate? Why would you do that?"
"Not all species share the same biological impetus. Where is your laboratory?"
Gargrave led the way. The laboratory comprised four rooms along the back of the house, the biggest one opening onto a back garden. The crates had been left in the biggest room by the door.
"I'm going to need a crowbar," McCoy mused.
"My servants will open the boxes. I will show you to your...room," Gargrave said. "Then we will dine and I will tell you about the plague."
"We will unpack our own equipment," Spock said.
Gargrave nodded. "All right. Come now."
Their room was three flights up and faced another large house across the road.
"Who lives there?" McCoy asked.
"I do not know. It was recently sold, but the new owner has not arrived." Gargrave gestured at a closed door. "The lavatory. I will wait for you downstairs."
After he left, McCoy said, "Pushy sort. When we get back down there, he'd better start answering our questions." He sat on the bed and stretched wearily. "No hospital. How lovely.
That means I'll have to go house to house to examine people.
And I'm not pleased with how they handle their mentally ill.
Putting them in jail!"
A soft knock sounded at the door. Spock opened it. A young woman stood in the hallway.
"Who are you?" he asked.
She stared at him in fright. McCoy got up and moved between her and Spock. "I'm McCoy."
She had trouble taking her eyes from Spock.
"It's all right," McCoy insisted. Finally she held up a small pouch.
"For you, Doctor from Starfleet. To protect you."
McCoy took the pouch and glanced inside. When he looked back up, she was gone.
"You're not going to be the most popular guy on the planet."
He pulled a necklace from the pouch. Hanging from it was some sort of whitish gem and a clove of garlic. "What the hell is this?"
"An amulet?" Spock offered. "I frighten them because I resemble someone, tangible or imaginary, who threatens them."
McCoy shoved the amulet back into its pouch and dropped it on a table. Then he walked to the window. "The sun's set and there are two moons. Good thing these people don't believe in werewolves."
"How do you know they do not?"
"Garlic is for vampires."
"You are transposing Human legends to Bremen," Spock admonished as he moved beside the doctor.
"Dracula had pointed ears." McCoy tapped the side of Spock's head. "After we speak to Gargrave, we need to unpack and get to work. I don't suppose anyone who has a sick family member will mind my visiting at night."
"Sleep is when the active symptoms appear," Spock said, his way of agreeing.
McCoy had seen the back garden briefly when they'd walked through the laboratory. As he looked out now from the third floor, it appeared larger and wilder than the view below had indicated. Treetops blew and slapped in a night wind, creating shadows that ran along the grass and disappeared within tangled bushes. A row of vivid white flowers shivered in the moonlight as they bent towards a thin path leading from the house to the thick trees. The sound of ocean tides rode the wind.
"Disorderly," Spock commented, unimpressed.
McCoy stepped away from the window. "I don't like it."
"An emotional response," Spock said.
"Well, I won't be taking any walks out there."
McCoy went to the washroom. When he came out, Spock had unpacked and was just closing his communicator.
"The Enterprise is on her way to meet with the Monitor. When the ship left orbit, the magnetic disturbance dissipated."
"Thank heaven for small mercies," McCoy said.
They went downstairs and a housemaid directed them to the dining room. Gargrave and the young woman who had brought the amulet were waiting for them.
"Doctor, Commander," Gargrave said. "This is my daughter, Thanni."
McCoy wasn't sure if he should mention the amulet or not.
Thanni had come to his room without her father, so he merely nodded. "It's nice to meet you."
"Thanni has been tending to some of the cases with me," Gargrave said. "Perhaps she can assist you as well."
"All help is welcome," McCoy said. He waited for another housemaid to finish serving the soup before continuing, "All I have is the Starfleet report. I'll need access to your patient records, and some questions answered."
In a puzzled tone, Gargrave asked, "Records?"
"Do you keep written notes on your patients?"
"I attend to them, but I have nothing written down."
"What if you need to know their medical history?" McCoy questioned.
"I ask them, and they tell me," Gargrave said. "However I know most of the people. I have been the doctor for seventy-three years, and my father was the doctor before me.
Thanni will take over when I am too old."
"What about blood tests, things you do in your lab?" McCoy said. "Do you keep notes on that?"
"No," Gargrave said. "I prepared slides of blood from some of the women who first began sleepwalking, but I could not find any trace of disease."
McCoy wasn't sure whether to laugh or swear. "Fine," he said at last. He unclipped his medical tricorder from his belt and propped it up in the middle of the table. "This will record your answers to my questions. Who was the first person to fall ill? Was it a male or a female? Is he or she still alive?"
Gargrave eyed the tricorder. His daughter leaned towards the instrument and said loudly, "The first person to fall ill was did not walk in her sleep. Do you want to know about the first illness or the first sleepwalker?"
McCoy smiled, to encourage her, and said, "Both."
"The weaver's wife, Wihil, was the first to have an illness my father could not treat," Thanni said. "She began going out into the streets and calling for someone named Master. When people tried to take her back to her home, she would attack them."
"That's when you locked her up?" McCoy directed his question to Gargrave.
"No, it was only when she began touching herself that people grew afraid, in case her madness might spread," he said.
"How was she touching herself? Was she hurting herself?" McCoy asked.
Gargrave and his daughter drew back in their seats. McCoy frowned at them. "Doctor?"
"Her actions were private," Gargrave said.
At a loss, McCoy said, "I won't be putting it up on a billboard. Was she cutting herself? Hitting herself?"
"No, Doctor, her actions were private," Gargrave emphasized.
Spock interrupted. "Do you mean sexual?"
Relieved, Gargrave nodded.
McCoy pushed his soup aside. "Let me understand this. You locked up this woman, not because she was attacking people, but because she was masturbating? You were afraid that would spread?"
"We do not touch ourselves," Gargrave said.
"Maybe you don't," McCoy started, but Gargrave cut in.
"We don't. We have no need, save once every fiftieth year."
McCoy pulled out a notepad. "I thought the custom was cultural, rather than physical, fifty years being how you decided to space your children. I'm assuming that it doesn't take fifty years to raise a child, so may I ask if husbands and wives live together when they're not raising children?"
"Some do, and some do not. Some marry in order to have a child, and others for companionship," Gargrave said. "Thanni will not come of age for another thirty-two years. At that time, she will choose a husband and decide whether to live with him or remain here."
"I will going back to the jail, because Wihil is one of the people I wish to help," McCoy said. "I'll need readings on a healthy female for comparison."
"I offer myself, Doctor from Starfleet," Thanni said.
The next course was served. McCoy hadn't touched his soup, and the housemaid hesitated.
"I'm not hungry. Thank you," he said to her. She took the bowl and left a plate of vegetables by him.
"You should eat," Spock said.
"Don't nag," McCoy said. "When did the first case of somnambulism appear?"
"Three months ago," Gargrave said. "One of our teachers began walking outside. Her husband found her twice by the shore.
She began walking a few days after we confined the weaver's wife. At first, I thought the two cases were related."
"You don't believe they are?"
"She was not looking for a master. She simply walked. Then she began fainting during the day. I checked her blood, but there was nothing unusual about it," Gargrave said. Sadly, he added, "One night, she walked into the ocean and died before her husband knew she was gone."
Spock spoke up. "Doctor Gargrave, you were surprised when I indicated that Doctor McCoy and I wished only one room. Am I correct in saying that married couples do not inhabit the same bedroom outside of the time of mating?"
"That is true," Gargrave said.
"Have you counted the number of cases of somnambulism?"
"Yes. There have been twenty-seven, twenty-five of them women."
Spock eyed Gargrave. "If the husbands are not sleeping in the same rooms as their wives, how do you know that figure is correct? There could be more cases."
"It is why I asked the Mayor to contact Starfleet. I fear there is more. People are dying who we did not know were ill," Gargrave said.
"They die because they fall or drown?" McCoy asked.
"Yes, and not because of any disease I can find. If this is not a disease, then what is it?" Gargrave asked. "Nothing like this has ever happened on our planet. Something new has come here. Something is compelling people to dream, to get up from their beds, and to die."
"These dreams," McCoy said. "They are sexual?"
Uncomfortably, Gargrave said, "We do not touch ourselves, nor do we dream."
McCoy closed his notepad and shut off his tricorder. "I need to get some of my other scanners. Then I need you to take me to the homes of the people who are ill, please."
"I will," Thanni offered.
McCoy turned to Spock. "Would you and Doctor Gargrave go to the homes of the people who have died? I don't know what to ask you to look for."
"That might not be wise," Gargrave said.
"Why? Is there a taboo against visiting a home where there's been a death?" McCoy asked.
"It has to do with the way the Commander looks."
"What part of his looks are we talking about, exactly?"
Gargrave wavered. Thanni said, "Those who dream say that a man with pointed ears comes to them and causes terrible desires."
"Everyone's having the exact same erotic dream?" McCoy asked.
He glanced at Spock. "Telepathy?"
"The power of suggestion, perhaps. Do you have a hat?"
"I can cover my ears," Spock said. To Gargrave, he added, "The people who were along the side of the road as we came in have already seen me."
"They may not let you into their homes, hat or no," Gargrave warned.
McCoy stood. "Spock, let's get the crates open."
The laboratory was in darkness. It took McCoy and Spock a few attempts to find an old-fashioned light switch. It lit up a row of incandescent bulbs, the yellow light reflecting off the windows and creating a hazy mirror of the room. The night outside became impenetrable.
McCoy glanced at the windows. Anyone could be out there, looking in, and he wouldn't be able to see him.
"Leonard," Spock said quietly.
McCoy turned, and saw what Spock had seen.
Two of the crates were open, and empty.
"Son of a..." McCoy yelled through the door to the hall.
The doctor and his daughter came running.
"Your men have opened the crates. Where's the equipment that was inside?" McCoy demanded.
"I told them not to touch the boxes," Gargrave said. "They were just as happy not to. It was late and they wanted to get home to their own dinners."
"The crates didn't open by themselves."
"I will speak to them immediately. What equipment are you missing?"
Spock checked the lists on the crate lids. "Two computers, sterile dishes for growing sample cultures, and an electron microscope."
McCoy forced open a crate beside him. "We only had the two computers, Spock." He pulled out a large knapsack. "At least I still have my field medkit. The tricorder in there has a good-sized memory."
"But minimal processing functions," Spock said. He opened a crate. "Lab equipment and pharmaceuticals." Pulling the lid from the last crate, he finished, "Sterile operating supplies and chemical clean-up material."
McCoy tried his communicator. "The Enterprise is out of range. Would any other ships be due out this way?"
"There is a possibility," Spock said. "Put on your beacon."
The doctor did so, then closed his communicator and said to Thanni. "Let's go."
"Where, Doctor from Starfleet?"
"The nearest house where someone is ill. And then the next and the next."
A horse and small cart were waiting. Thanni took the reins and got into the cart. "This will save us walking. There are many houses to visit if you wish to see all of the sick."
"Good idea." McCoy got up beside her. As they started off, he asked, "That amulet you gave me, what will it do?"
"The stone is called a dewdrop. They are found sometimes along the water's edge. They bring the protection of the water spirits," Thanni said. "The garlic is used for many things in cooking and in healing. It rids the blood of impurities. You are not wearing it."
"I forgot it in my room," McCoy lied. "Where are we going first?"
"My grandmother's cottage. She walks onto the roof when she sleeps."
"Every night?" McCoy asked, taken aback. "And she's, ah?" He balked on the word alive, and opted instead for, "She's still all right?"
"She ties herself to her bed with rope. My grandfather died four years ago, so my father or I go every morning to undo the knot." Thanni smiled. "Grandmother is good at making knots, my grandfather was a fisherman and taught her, but she never understood how to untie them."
"She is your mother's mother then. Where is she?"
The smile disappeared. "She died last month. She walked onto her balcony and fell into the garden below. The bones in her neck broke."
"I'm sorry," McCoy said. He waited for a few minutes, then asked, "Do you dream?"
"No," Thanni said. "My grandmother has though. She told me about the man with demon ears."
"Spock may have demon ears, but he is from Vulcan, and the way he looks is natural on his planet," McCoy said. "Vulcans embrace peace and logic."
"You seem a kind man. I do not think you would bring danger into my father's house." Hesitantly, she asked, "Does your husband have feelings? Does he smile?"
"Yes and rarely," McCoy answered, deciding not to bring up the fact that Spock wasn't actually his husband.
"When I choose my husband, I will choose a man who smiles," she said.
Thanni stopped in front of a cottage. Without knocking, she led McCoy inside.
"Grandmother!" she called. "I have brought the Doctor from Starfleet!"
"Come in," was the reply.
McCoy was led into a small bedroom at the back of the house.
An elderly woman lay on the bed, her ankles and one wrist bound tightly with ropes to the bedposts, the ropes so short that her legs were effectively spread from one side of the mattress to the other. Only her heavy nightgown and genial smile prevented the scene from appearing wanton.
"Welcome, Doctor from Starfleet," she said. "We have been waiting for you."
McCoy nodded, fastening his eyes resolutely on her face.
"Hello ma'am. My name is McCoy."
"Shall I untie you, Grandmother?" asked Thanni.
"No, child. It takes me forever with my swollen knuckles to put the knots back to rights again."
McCoy drew a chair to the head of the bed and held up a scanner. "Ma'am, this won't hurt you. It takes readings of your physiology. May I?"
She nodded. "Do whatever you need to do, McCoy."
As he scanned her, he asked her the standard questions. Any change in her diet or habits? Any recent illnesses? He didn't think her answers would hold any clues, and they didn't. Neither was an answer coming from his scanner.
Finally he put it down and said, "I would like to ask you about your dreams."
She raised her head from the pillow. "Thanni, go to the kitchen."
"I'm old enough, grandmother," Thanni protested, but she went after her grandmother gave her a severe glance.
"McCoy, please close the door."
McCoy got up and did so, after a quick check down the hall to make sure Thanni was out of hearing range. He returned to the bed and drew up a chair.
"If my question was impertinent, I apologize, ma'am."
"It's not that, McCoy," she said, smiling at him again. "My son-in-law has certain ideas about how to raise his daughter.
I don't agree with him, but Thanni is his child. With the loss of Thanni's mother, it is very important that I do not upset the household."
"I am sorry to hear of your daughter's death," McCoy said.
The grandmother's smile dimmed. "In a way, I lost her when she married. He is a strict man, have you noticed?"
"In certain areas," McCoy agreed. "It was difficult getting the explanation as to why he locked up the weaver's wife. I do not wish to speak of what may be considered immoral, but I will if it stops the deaths. I need honest answers."
With her free hand, she reached over and took his. "McCoy, men here are afraid of women. Are the men of Starfleet afraid as well?"
Her clasp was warm and gave off a faint hint of talcum powder. Unsure of the intent behind her action, McCoy said, "Some are and some aren't."
"Men wrote the laws here," she said. "They believe women cause longings that would destroy their health, so they created rules. We may not unclothe ourselves in front of our husbands except once in fifty years. We may not sleep in the same rooms as our husbands. We must keep ourselves covered.
It's all nonsense, of course. My mother told me so, and I told my daughter, but then she married Gargrave."
"The men are afraid and the women know better," McCoy said.
"Most of the women do not," she said. "We are taught that our desires cause sickness. These teachings have been handed down through centuries, and who am I to argue with history? We are more often a healthy people. I would not know any differently if my mother had not spoken honestly to me. To help you, I will speak honestly with you as well."
Thanni's grandmother let go of his hand and settled back on her pillow. McCoy realized he'd been offered a contract.
"What you say to me will not leave this room."
"Take what I am telling you and use it to protect my granddaughter." Lowering her voice, she continued, "You will find nothing with your microscope and your strange devices.
You will find no sickness in any house. I tie myself to my bed because I wish to leave it."
"Ma'am?" McCoy asked.
"I believe my dreams are of a phantom who exists in the waking world and who walks the ground on real legs."
"What does he look like?"
"He is tall and very thin, as though he never eats. He wears shirts, sometimes one colour, sometimes another, but always with a dewdrop on the front. His ears are twisted like an animal's and his eyes burn. I am afraid of him."
"Yet you get up out of your bed. To go to him?"
"Yes," she admitted. "Those who dream and walk do so because they want to. They are willing. Thanni is not affected because her father raised her to be afraid of men and the feelings men can stir in women."
"Are you saying that the ones who died wanted to die?"
"No," Thanni's grandmother said. "They just walked to walk.
In our dreams, we think we are on the ground. This phantom has come here because we do not know how to defend ourselves against him. He has been here before."
"In legend, he came. I don't know when, just that it was long ago. The demon came and people died."
McCoy thought through her statement. "Two men have been affected."
"Two men who have never taken wives."
"Ah," McCoy said. He put his scanner away. "Thank you, ma'am."
As he rose, she asked, "Do you have a wife?"
"No, I have another man."
"Be careful then, McCoy. The phantom will find you."
"Good, because I'm looking for him. Is there anything I can get for you before I go?"
"I do not need anything," she told him.
At the doorway, he halted. "It's hard to just walk out and leave you tied to the bed."
"I am safer this way," Thanni's grandmother smiled. "And I am here by my own hand."
"If you yell, can any of your neighbours hear you?"
"Why would I yell?"
"You said you believed this phantom to be real," McCoy said.
"I do, but I cannot leave this bed to go to him, and I will not invite him in. I am safe."
"All right," McCoy said reluctantly. As he went to find Thanni, he considered leaving her behind at her grandmother's house. It was only the knowledge that he didn't know where the other affected women lived that stopped him.
McCoy and Thanni returned to the cart. "The next house is not far," she said, as she tugged at the reins. "Did my grandmother help?"
"Yes," McCoy said, replaying his readings through his medical tricorder.
"Did you find any disease?"
"No, but she's given me an idea," McCoy replied.
The rest of the surviving, affected people and their families were not so forthcoming. They'd already heard that McCoy had ridden into town with a pointed-eared man. Though no one out-and-out refused to let him into their homes, some were cautious, others frightened, and a few outright hostile. It didn't get any better when he had to admit he didn't know how to stop the sleepwalking.
"Why did you come?" one man, the father of a sleepwalker, asked angrily. "You brought the demon with you."
"This started before I arrived," McCoy said.
"The dreams only. Now that you are here, it will get worse."
"People died before I got here. I want to stop it. Your own doctor has asked for my help!" McCoy considered putting his foot in the doorway. He and Thanni had been out for hours, he was exhausted and at the point of begging. "Perhaps I can stop your daughter's dreams. As I understand it, the dreams bring on the sleepwalking."
"How? With devil magic?"
"No." McCoy put his hand on the door. "I will talk to her and put her in a kind of sleep. I will tell her to stop dreaming."
"Have you done this to the others?"
McCoy shook his head. "This would be the first."
"Then why here?"
"You're the closest." McCoy pointed behind him, at the edge of a precipice bare yards from the man's house, and the expanse of rock and raging water below, now visible in the red dawn. "Gargrave trusted me to be out in the night with his daughter, alone. What does that say to you?"
"Please," Thanni said.
At last, slowly, the man stepped back from the door and allowed McCoy in. "There," he said roughly.
The man's house was small, one room with a few shelves, a table and two chairs, and a fireplace. Matting was on each side of the hearth. A girl knelt on one of the mats, her eyes fixed fearfully on McCoy, and it was she that her father had indicated.
McCoy crouched before her. "Hello, I'm Leonard McCoy. What's your name?"
She looked at her father who nodded.
"Roswa," she said.
"You have dreams, Roswa?" he asked.
"I see a man. He calls to me."
An uneasy horror went over McCoy, which he tried to keep from showing in his face. Roswa was a child, and the youngest affected that he had seen.
"Roswa, do you have a pet?" He'd seen what looked like a small cat by a window.
"If you listen to the man who calls to you, he will take you away and you won't be able to get back. You need to be here to take care of your pet. Remember this." McCoy took out a hypo and gave her a tranquilizer. "Describe your pet to me.
Tell me what she looks like, what she likes to eat, and what games she plays."
Roswa did, confirming the animal he'd seen. As the drug took effect, her words came more slowly.
Her father sat next to her, looking worriedly between her and McCoy. "Child?" he said.
She didn't answer him. McCoy held up his hand warningly before continuing, "Roswa, close your eyes and tell me what you hear."
"I hear the fire and wind. I hear the bushes outside moving in the wind. I hear water."
"You hear only the fire, Roswa. Listen again. There is nothing else, except that."
"I hear the fire."
"There is only the fire. There is nothing else," McCoy said softly. "Listen. What do you hear?"
"I hear the fire."
"I hear only the fire."
"Roswa, when the night comes, you will sleep here and you will hear nothing except the fire. Do you hear the water?"
"Roswa, you will sleep. You will dream only of the fire and of your pet sleeping by the fire with you. You will see nothing else. You will hear nothing else. You will not leave your bed until your father tells you that the sun has risen.
Do you understand?"
"What is my name, Roswa?"
"If the man tries to come again, you will tell him my name.
Once you do, you will no longer be able to hear him. He will go away. You may not follow him. You are not allowed to leave your bed. You will sleep until the sun has risen. Do you understand?"
"Go to sleep, Roswa."
McCoy gently moved her onto her side and tucked a crude blanket over her. Then he rose and went back to the door.
Roswa's father followed him.
"Let her sleep for a while, then tell her the sun has risen," McCoy said.
"Will she walk any more?"
"Is she an obedient child?" McCoy asked.
"Always," her father said.
"There's your answer, because I told her she's not allowed to leave her bed. May I return tomorrow and see her?"
The man nodded.
McCoy and Thanni left. He yawned as he crawled up into the cart.
"It is time for you to rest too," Thanni told him.
"First we'll stop by your grandmother's and untie her," McCoy replied.
They returned to the road. Thanni said, "If the demon is real and Roswa gives him your name, he will come to you."
"He causes people to die," Thanni said, sounding scared.
"He's the reason I'm here," McCoy said.
Thankfully she quieted after that. As they neared her grandmother's house, however, she asked, "Why did you choose Spock of Starfleet to be your husband?"
"I don't know. We kind of chose each other."
"How do you know when he is pleased with you? He doesn't smile. Does he tell you?"
McCoy had to pause again. The truth was, he didn't have an answer. "I suppose, if he wasn't pleased, he wouldn't stay."
"He never tells you?" she asked. Her question wasn't rude.
It was the honest bewilderment that Kirk had also expressed.
"Vulcans are not sentimental," McCoy said.
Thanni went ahead of McCoy into her grandmother's house. He followed more slowly; he was tired, but he was also enjoying the pleasant, homey feel of the rooms. He could see which was the grandmother's favourite place in the living room.
Knitting, a lamp, and some books were on two tables beside a worn and comfy-looking armchair. The chair faced a bay window and had a view of a well-tended back garden. The kitchen was clean and neat, with a teakettle stood ready on the stove.
He was just about to give into a truant urge to wangle a breakfast invitation when he saw Thanni abruptly halt in the doorway of her grandmother's bedroom and cry out.
The grandmother was in the spasms of a nightmare. She twisted against her ropes, scraping her wrist and ankles.
Thanni remained in the doorway, frozen in fear. The severity of her reaction bothered McCoy until he realized that these people claimed to never dream.
He rushed past her. "Grandmother!" he called, untying the ropes as quickly as he could. "Wake up!"
He realized he didn't know her name. "Thanni, call to her!" he ordered.
Thanni took one step into the room. "GRANDMOTHER!"
Her grandmother's eyes opened as McCoy brought her to a sitting position. Then she began choking.
Nothing was in her mouth or throat. McCoy pulled her to her feet and said severely, "Wake UP!"
Her eyes focused on him. Then she calmed and sagged. As he set her back on the bed, he noticed her neck.
Several purple blotches were raising on her throat. McCoy stared as the pattern sorted itself out.
It looked like a handprint.
"He...called to me. He was so angry," she rasped.
"Get some water," McCoy said to Thanni.
She ran from the room, and returned just as quickly with a glass of water.
"Slowly," McCoy said as the grandmother took a sip. "This dream was worse than any of the others?"
"Not a dream." Thanni's grandmother took another sip. "He hates you, McCoy. He says you are to go away."
Not sure what to make of that, McCoy said, "Lie back and let me put some cream where the ropes have burned you." He opened his medkit. To Thanni, he added, "You're staying here.
You'll sleep when your grandmother's awake, and stay awake when she sleeps. And if your father doesn't like it, HE can stay here."
Thanni nodded. "What else can I do?"
"I saw a kettle on the stove," McCoy said.
"I'll make you tea, grandmother?"
Her grandmother nodded. After Thanni left, she said, "You took away his favourite, the child Roswa. He can't get to her."
McCoy went cold. He stared at her. "How do you know that?
How could you know that?"
"He told me," the grandmother said. She closed her eyes for a moment as a shudder went through her. "He says you are to leave."
"That's not even a remote possibility," McCoy said. He trembled, but it was an exhilarated reaction. Thanni's grandmother watched him curiously.
"What did you do, Leonard McCoy? How are you protecting Roswa?"
"You told me that the ones who dream and walked in their sleep did so because they were willing," McCoy replied. Despite the circumstances, he smiled. "I made Roswa unwilling, using a hypnotic suggestion."
"You'll see, because I'm going to do the same with you," he said. "After Thanni comes back and you've had your tea."
While they waited, he mused, "All the people affected by sleepwalking live by cliffs or by the water. All of the houses are at the edge of town. I wonder why that is."
"If we were to walk through the middle of the town, someone would see and stop us," the grandmother said.
"So he has his limits," McCoy said. "He hasn't appeared to anyone except in dreams, but you believe he can walk around."
"He reached ahead before he arrived," she said. "He's here now, Leonard McCoy. He's here and he will come for you because you threaten him."
McCoy smiled again, though it had a touch of grimness to it.
"I look forward to meeting him."
It was easy to put Thanni's grandmother in a trance. Her last dream had frightened her. After he left her sleeping, without the ropes, Thanni keeping vigil at her bedside, McCoy walked outside and leaned tiredly against the side of the cart. The horse glanced at him.
"I guess you want to go home to your breakfast," McCoy said to the horse. He considered returning to each of the homes he'd visited during the night, and planting the suggestions, but he was bone-weary.
Finally, he decided to check in with Spock, grab a few hours sleep, and return to the homes after lunch. After that, he planned to see the weaver's wife.
McCoy led the horse back to Gargrave's home. He wasn't sure how to handle the reins. Fortunately, the horse was ready to return to his stable, and led the way.
One of the servants took the horse at the gate. McCoy found Gargrave and Spock in the laboratory. They'd set up the remaining equipment, and Spock was running samples through his tricorder.
"Where is Thanni?" Gargrave asked.
"At her grandmother's. Your mother-in-law had a bad night and I don't want her left alone." McCoy expected Gargrave to offer an argument, but the latter only nodded.
"We have had some word of your activities," Gargrave said.
"News travels quickly," Gargrave said. "I'm told that you caused the child Roswa to fall into a peculiar sleep. Then you cast out the demon in her."
McCoy blinked. "Excuse me?"
"Her father's neighbour came to tell me that the child has been resting naturally since you left. She has not rested so in a long time. Apparently, she sleeps because you told her to."
McCoy glanced towards Spock. The Vulcan was also waiting for an answer.
"I hypnotized her," the doctor said.
"What is that?" Gargrave asked.
"I ordered her to go to sleep," McCoy said, deciding the simplest explanation would be the best. He sat in a chair.
"Why did you decide on that course of action?" Spock asked.
McCoy shrugged. "If you can find a virus, I'd be happy to deal with it, Spock." To Gargrave, he said, "I did not cast out any demons."
"Suggestions to a subject in a trance do not last longer than fourteen days," Spock said.
"I won't need any longer than that," McCoy said. "What did you find out?"
"Doctor Gargrave's servants did not open the crates," Spock said. "We have spoken to each of them, and I believe they are speaking the truth."
"Damn," McCoy swore. Gargrave and Spock eyed him.
"Do you wish me to ask them again?" Gargrave said.
"No," McCoy said. "As much as that fits in with my theory, I wish we'd set the transporter on a wide dispersal and beamed the boxes out into space. Damnit!"
Spock put down his tricorder and moved over to stand in front of McCoy. "Why do you say that?"
"What do you think was in the crates?"
"I do not know," Spock replied. "I planned to check the neighbours. Perhaps one of them or one of their children--"
He stopped when McCoy shook his head. "Don't bother. Spock, I should have looked in those boxes when we were on the ship.
Why didn't I?"
"Leonard, the crates were packed on Starbase Six Hundred.
They had not been tampered with."
"I should have looked." McCoy rubbed his forehead with both hands. "We've brought a monster here and set it loose. I should have realized on the Enterprise. Those crates were the only things we didn't check when we were searching the ship."
"Set what loose?" Spock asked. Gargrave came around as well.
"Have you heard the legend about a demon with pointed ears?" McCoy asked.
"I was about to tell you of it," Spock said.
"It is an old fairy tale," Gargrave said.
"The legend is the most prevalent reason the families were giving for the deaths in their houses," Spock said. "The belief is so powerful that many families would not let me into their homes. I cannot dismiss it, however illogical it may appear."
"Thanni's grandmother believes the demon of the legend is real and that he's here now," McCoy said.
"The symptoms of somnambulism have been appearing for several months," Spock said.
"How did she put it?" McCoy had to stop and think. "He reached ahead before he arrived. That's what she said. So where is he now?" He got up and went out into the back garden. Even in the bright, morning light, the tangle of growth was so thick that shadow and darkness lay under the trees.
"What are you looking for?" Gargrave asked.
"Footprints," McCoy said. "I don't see anything. Do your men have weapons?"
"We need to search in there." McCoy gestured at the trees.
"Right away," Gargrave said. He left.
"You believe the legend," Spock said.
"You said you weren't going to dismiss it," McCoy pointed out.
"I was not prepared to make it my sole theory," Spock replied.
McCoy tried to peer within the trees. "If we don't find the demon, I'll go back this afternoon to all the people we know are affected, and I'll hypnotize them. I believe the suggestions keep these people safe."
"We do not know that yet," Spock said.
"He got very angry when I blocked Roswa from him. He went after Thanni's grandmother. Though it was through a dream, she had visible bruises on her neck."
Abruptly, he looked back towards the lab. "I wonder what was in the second crate?"
Armed with knives and rakes, Gargrave's men searched the back garden and returned empty-handed.
"If there was such a creature, it would not be safe for him to stay here," Spock said to McCoy in their room. McCoy stood at the window, looking out. Spock sat on the bed.
"He might get away with it," McCoy said softly.
"You are suffering from insufficient rest," Spock said.
McCoy didn't move from the window, but he was looking at the house across the fence now. "I don't like all those blank windows. You can't see anything inside."
"It is merely an empty house," Spock told him, unsure what approach would be best to deal with the doctor's strange mood.
The doctor drew the curtains and turned around to face Spock.
"Do you think you and I will be together in a year?"
"I do not know, Leonard."
"Do you ever think about it?"
"I fear, anticipate, and look towards nothing," Spock said.
"Am I in variance towards you?"
McCoy managed a smile. "No."
"Will you lie beside me?"
McCoy came over.
"I would return with you this afternoon to those houses you wish to visit, but I do not believe the residents would allow me in."
"What I'd rather you do is put down your tricorder and play Button, Button."
The Vulcan gave him a sideways glance. "Leonard?"
"It's an old game. If I were a button, where would I be? And if I were a vampire, where would I be?" McCoy raised up on an elbow. "Pretend this creature really exists. He is capable of planting forceful suggestions, able to prey on people's fears of sex and desire, and is active at night, though not in a large area. He prefers that his victim come to him. He preys on people who live on the outskirts of town, near the water. Another thing. According to Thanni's grandmother, once I start keeping these women, and two men, away from him, he'll be coming for me."
"When we find him, what do you propose we do with him?"
Spock looked at him, startled. McCoy said, "Remember what he did to Ensign Lucie and Lieutenant Nawtanba."
McCoy waited, but the Vulcan didn't mention the holes in his hypothesis. "Humour me, Spock," he said at last.
"I intend to. We have no other working theory at present."
McCoy closed his eyes and moved into his spot against Spock's side. The Vulcan warmth was relaxing, even if the Vulcan himself was not.
When he woke later, the sun was beginning to light up the curtains.
"What time is it?"
"I do not know," Spock said. "You slept for two hours, fifty-eight minutes. The housemaid entered fifty-five minutes ago and left a tray of tea and sandwiches on the table by the door. The tea will be cold."
"Cold will be fine." As McCoy stretched, the Vulcan got up and brought the tray.
"I didn't realize how hungry I was," McCoy said, taking a sandwich while Spock poured. "This is some sort of vegetable spread. I don't believe there's any meat in it."
Spock took a conservative sniff, then nodded. "No, there is not."
They ate their meal silently, but comfortably, sitting propped up on some pillows against the headboard. As McCoy stacked the dishes, he said, "You have your phaser, don't you, in case you find this creature?"
"You are convinced your vampire exists."
"Like I said, humour me," McCoy said gruffly.
The Vulcan put a hand on the doctor's arm. "I apologize, Leonard."
Spock stroked down McCoy's arm to his hand, grasped it, and leaned forward to kiss him.
Hand touches didn't do much for McCoy. He preferred kisses, but he knew the touches affected Spock. He put his other hand on the Vulcan's and caressed the long fingers. The Vulcan's arousal became evident against McCoy's leg.
"Let's hope there are no more errant housemaids," McCoy murmured. Spock covered his mouth again, probably to prevent him from saying anything more.
They wiggled until they were flat on the bed. Spock began moving down McCoy's body, rolling up his shirt and kissing the skin underneath.
McCoy could only see the top of the Vulcan's head and the shining, black hair. He ran his fingers through it. Spock looked up briefly at the touch. Then he bent back down, undid McCoy's pants, and took the doctor's hardened penis in his mouth.
It was sweet. It was all McCoy could do not to buck up into Spock's mouth. Instead, he chewed his lower lip, held onto the sheet under him, and tried not to moan in the pleasure of it. But when the heat of the Vulcan's palm covered his testicles during a particularly hard suck, McCoy cried out and came in a sharp, deep burst.
Spock moved up until he was straddling the doctor's chest.
His hands clutched the headboard as McCoy took the ponderous Vulcan cock in his hands and drew the tip into his mouth.
McCoy rubbed his tongue over the glans and gently tugged at the passage that was already starting to open in anticipation. A blob of seminal fluid seeped out. He sucked the head into his mouth as his hands tightened on the shaft. Spock's legs began to shake.
Then, either the headboard gave way or the Vulcan's knees.
Spock suddenly jerked forward, his penis rammed into McCoy's throat, and the latter choked.
McCoy put a hand to his throat as Spock leaped back.
"Ssh," McCoy told him, all that he could say between coughs.
When he could breathe again, he pushed Spock onto his back.
"We'll do it this way. Let's hope nobody heard that."
No one in the household had heard, or else they weren't going to inquire. At least nobody came to the door while McCoy stroked Spock's penis. The Vulcan had lost his erection, but regained it when McCoy took the head once more into his mouth. A few minutes later, he closed his eyes, groaned, and, while remaining entirely still, ejaculated.
McCoy went into the washroom, because he disliked swallowing.
When Spock came into the room, the doctor was still in there, looking into the mirror with a peculiar expression on his face.
The mirror was over the sink. Spock was forced to wash up by reaching around McCoy.
"She did it to herself," McCoy whispered.
"Look." McCoy pointed at his throat. A faint outline of a handprint was beginning to form under his jaw. "That's where I held my neck when I choked. It's an instinctive motion when something hits the back of your throat. Thanni's grandmother had the same handprint this morning."
"She tried to choke herself?"
"No, it wasn't that," McCoy said. "The dreams are sexual.
Guess what's he doing to these women in their sleep? I was told that the ones who dream and walk in their sleep do so because they want to."
"Leonard, these people display an interest in sexual activity only two or three times in their lifetime," Spock said.
"This entire planet is afraid, no, panic-stricken over sex.
They truly believe that giving in to physical desires causes sickness. Spock, it's not that these people don't feel desire; they've just shoved it down into their subconscious.
No wonder this demon's been here before and why he came back.
This is easy hunting for him. He goes after people in their sleep when they're vulnerable and the conscious mind's control is negligible. They get up and walk right to him."
"For what purpose, Leonard? To drink their blood?" Spock sounded skeptical.
"Spock, night shifts in Engineering are boring. People fall asleep. Even Scotty has," McCoy said. "Ensign Lucie and Lieutenant Nawtanba were homosexual. They fell asleep. This creature decapitated them, drank their blood, carefully cleaned up afterwards, and went back into his crate. And laughed at our incompetence."
"This is conjecture, especially the laughter," Spock said.
"We have encountered vampire-like species before." McCoy headed out of the washroom. "We have to move fast. He knows much more about us than we know about him."
"You will hypnotize the women and two men?" Spock questioned.
"Yes, and you will set your phaser on kill."
It was a weary afternoon. Taking the horse and cart, and one of Gargrave's men to drive it, McCoy went to every house he'd visited the night before, and many others as well. News that he could stop the sleepwalking had spread quickly.
Men waited for him in the lanes and roadways, and called to him when he appeared. Women begged and clutched at his shirt every time the cart stopped. They offered him gifts. They pleaded with him, and called him the Great Doctor of Starfleet and the Expeller of Demons. An unremitting crowd accompanied him through the town.
In was in the midst of such a horde that he opened his communicator and signaled Spock.
"Any luck?" he asked, trying to be heard over the noise.
"Not as yet, though I have a partial confirmation of your theory." The Vulcan paused. "Where are you?"
"I'm near the jail."
"Is there a disturbance?"
"No, just a lot of people around me. I'm surprised you didn't hear them without the communicator."
"I am in the back laboratory. Why didn't you call from someplace quieter?" Spock asked.
"There isn't one," McCoy muttered. "What sort of confirmation?"
"Yesterday evening, one of Doctor Gargrave's neighbours saw a man in a red shirt and black pants run out of his front yard and down the road. It was no one she recognized," Spock said. "She stated that he ran bent over to one side, with his hands scraping the ground. I checked the road and found corroborating tracks in the dirt. Unfortunately, the trail ended at a field."
"He should be easy to spot," McCoy said, glancing around the crowd.
"Yes. For that reason, I suspect he is in hiding. When we receive an answer to your emergency beacon, we should send a message to Starbase Six Hundred to ascertain if they experienced any deaths or unusual occurrences."
"And if these occurrences suddenly stopped after we left," McCoy muttered.
"When will you be returning?"
"I don't know. I'm going to see the woman who's been locked up. Why?"
"Dusk is approaching. You said that night is when the creature is active, and you have been threatened."
"If he wants to come to me, at least I'll know where he is."
"Do you have a phaser?"
"I didn't bring one on this mission. I have a pitchfork."
"A what, Leonard?"
"It's a big pointy thing. I borrowed one from a farmer."
Spock was silent for a moment. At last, he said, "I will meet you at the jail in ten minutes."
"If you want, but I think my pitchfork will work pretty well," McCoy said.
McCoy closed his communicator and turned to Gargrave's servant. "You have the key as I asked?"
"Yes, Doctor of Starfleet." The man opened the jail door, but backed away from it immediately, as if he thought the woman inside might leap out.
Looking at the crowd, McCoy added, "Could you please ask these people to go home? Tell them I'll visit them, but I don't want them standing outside in the street."
When McCoy went in the cell, he found the weaver's wife sitting on the bed and looking out the window, the same position he'd left her in. Someone had been in, swept up, and left more food and water. As before, the food was untouched.
"Mrs. Wihil?" he asked.
She looked around, surprising him. "Who are you?"
"My name is McCoy. I'm a doctor."
"I know you."
"I was here before," he said. "Do you remember?"
"My Master told me that you take away his beloved ones. He said I was not to let you come near me."
"Your Master came here?"
"He speaks to me."
"You don't have to listen to him," McCoy said. "What has he done for you, other than leave you cold and alone and locked up in this room? And give you a spider."
"He said you would speak lies to me and whisper false words of love. Only my Master loves me," she said.
McCoy stopped several feet away from her and crouched, so that he would appear unthreatening. "Your Master doesn't love you."
She put her hands to her ears.
"If he loved you, he would come here. He has abandoned you."
"My Master loves me! He has promised that he will take me away and make me his queen. I will have dresses with long trains, and carriages with ten horses."
"He doesn't have anything like that to give you," McCoy said.
"He traveled to this planet as a stowaway in a wooden box because he doesn't have a ship of his own. He steals clothes because he has nothing to wear. He hides in the darkness because he is afraid."
"My Master fears nothing!"
"Then where is he?" McCoy asked. "He knew I was coming back to see you. Why didn't he stop me?"
"He will kill you, Doctor of Starfleet."
"No, Mrs. Wilhil. He will kill you. Death is all he can offer you, but I can offer you a chance to live. I can protect you." McCoy stood, but when she drew back on the bed, he remained where he was. "Can you speak to him right now?"
She paused, as if listening to something inside her. "I can't hear him."
"See? He leaves you alone to face me." McCoy took one step towards her.
Her eyes widened in fear. She screamed. McCoy stepped away.
And collided with something that hadn't been there before.
He felt his arm being grabbed even as he jumped forward again and swung into another crouch. The swoop brought him down to the pitchfork he'd left lying by his feet, but also threw him off balance. His shirtsleeve tore as he fell backwards, and a sharp pain went through his arm, followed by sudden warmth.
He knew he was bleeding, but he didn't dare take his eyes off the figure before him.
Ensign Lucie stood in the doorway. He wore the shroud McCoy had wrapped around him, but it was torn and grisly yellow from the antiseptic used during the autopsy. Some of the paro-vinyl compound at his neck had fallen away, and his head lolled at an angle where the skin had separated.
"Ensign," McCoy said, slowly getting up on one knee.
Lucie hissed, then brought one hand up in front of his eyes and regarded it. The fingers were speckled with blood and threads of McCoy's shirt. As the doctor watched, appalled, Lucie licked each finger clean. Then he closed his eyes and mewed in pleasure.
McCoy rose to his feet, pitchfork in front of him. "Ensign," he repeated.
Lucie's eyes snapped open. His expression narrowed with hatred as he hissed again. His muscles tightened, and that was the only warning McCoy had before Lucie leapt.
When Spock entered the jail cell, McCoy was on his knees, breathing hard. Lucie's body was on the floor, a pitchfork in his stomach and his head under a table on the other side of the room.
Spock stopped short.
'I spent two damn hours...putting his head back on!" McCoy gasped angrily.
Spock extended a hand and helped the doctor up. "We now know who was in the second crate," he commented. "You have been injured."
"He clawed me," McCoy said before glancing behind him to where Wihil cowered on a corner of the bed. "Are you all right?"
She stared at him in fright.
"We can't leave her here," McCoy said. "It's not safe."
"Where do you suggest we take her?" Spock asked as he opened McCoy's medkit and began cleaning the wound.
"Gargrave's. Too bad if he doesn't like it," McCoy retorted.
"He's the only one with enough men on staff to protect her.
And we'll have to do something about Lucie. I don't know if he's, ah, really dead this time. I did a post-mortem dissection on him on the ship, and that didn't stop him.
Nawtanba's probably walking around too. Damn, I hope Christine's ok."
Spock finished bandaging McCoy's arm. Then he pulled out his phaser and dispassionately vaporized Lucie's body and head.
Sparks flew off the pitchfork as it clanged to the floor.
Surprised, McCoy said, "Well, that worked."
"It was the course of action you suggested."
"Yeah? When have you ever listened to me before?"
"He was not wearing a red shirt," Spock said.
McCoy took a second to catch up. "That means the other creature is wearing an Engineering uniform." He considered Wihil. "I have an ethical dilemma, Spock. I'd like to hypnotize her, but she's in no position to give me permission."
"We will have to speak to the husband."
"Hopefully Gargrave's man out there knows where the husband is."
Spock didn't say anything.
"What is it?" McCoy asked.
"The man is dead," Spock said. "I believe Ensign Lucie killed him before he entered the jail cell. The woman should not see the scene. It is bloody. As well, Doctor Gargrave was called to the Mayor's house as I was leaving. Alencon has died too."
"I do not have details, only that it was described as violent."
McCoy picked up his pitchfork and went outside. It was a few minutes before he returned. "What did you use to cover him?"
"The blanket from the horse," Spock said.
"Ensign Lucie didn't drink his blood," McCoy mused.
"Lack of time?" Spock suggested.
"Perhaps he couldn't swallow very well. His head was, uh, coming off when he came in here." McCoy sighed. "Listen to me. Have I gone mad?"
"There is madness on this planet," Spock said.
"Vampires, Good Lord," the doctor muttered. "And talking about them is becoming normal."
Spock briefly rested his hand on the doctor's. "Leonard, there is a drinking establishment a few doors away. Perhaps you could inquire about the woman's husband while I stay with her. I will stand in the doorway as lookout while you go."
McCoy nodded. He went back outside, passed the poor servant's body, and found the bar by the noise of the patrons.
The bar was little more than a low room with a few tables, but it was crowded with men. They quieted when he appeared.
"Great Doctor of Starfleet," said one respectfully, with a nod. "Will you sit with us?"
"I wish I had time," McCoy, uncomfortably aware of all the eyes upon him. "There's been a death tonight."
"Our Mayor. The beast ripped her throat apart," said another man.
"There is also a man dead by the jail in the same manner," McCoy said. "You know why I am here." He kept the pronoun singular. The Vulcan's pointed ears had spooked these people and, with the murders tonight, he'd rather not remind them that Spock was nearby. "I intend to find the one responsible for these deaths and for the sleepwalking." He glanced around the bar, wondering if the creature might be within the crowd.
"I wish to speak to the weaver's wife, the way that I spoke to your wives and daughters this afternoon. I need permission from her husband before I do so."
A man at the back of the room stood up. "I am husband to Wihil. Can you heal her, Great Doctor?"
"My name's McCoy. Just McCoy. In answer to your question, I don't know. Her symptoms are different from the others. But I'd like to try. Would you come with me while I speak to her?"
The man looked uncertain. "Does she touch herself still?"
"I haven't seen her do so, though she still speaks of the creature she calls Master."
The man nodded and followed McCoy.
"My friend is with me, the one named Spock," McCoy said as they went to the jail. "He is not the beast we're looking for. When the Mayor was killed, he was in Doctor Gargrave's house." McCoy pointed ahead, at the bundle outside the jail door. "The man who was killed tonight is one of Gargrave's servants."
The weaver halted in terror at the sight of the bloodied blanket and the shape of a person underneath it. "Did he dream?"
"I don't believe so," McCoy said. "After I speak to your wife, I wish to take her to Doctor Gargrave's. She will be safer there than anywhere. I will also ask you to bring men and a cart, so that we may return this man's body to his family. I ask that you bring at least four men."
"Why, Great Doctor?"
"McCoy," he repeated. "This man may be infected. He cannot hurt you if there are many of you together. He wouldn't have the strength. If he is not infected, we can bury his body the way that you have done with the others. If he is infected, we will need to burn his body. Also, his family doesn't yet know he has died."
"It is a bad night," the weaver said. "Please save us. We will do whatever you tell us to do."
"Come with me." McCoy led the way into the jail cell. Wihil was still curled up in a trembling ball on the bed. Spock stood just inside the door.
The weaver started upon seeing the Vulcan.
"I vouch for him. He is my husband," McCoy said. "I am going to speak to your wife now."
McCoy gave her a shot of tranquilizer, then brought a chair in front of her and sat down.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"I am no one. I wait on my Master."
"Your name is Wihil. My name is McCoy. Do you know where you are?"
"I am in a locked tower, waiting to be set free."
"Does your Master visit you here?"
"He speaks to me."
"Can you hear him now?"
She didn't answer. McCoy turned to the weaver. "Do you love her?"
"I take care of her. When my time comes, I will lie with no other."
"This monster comes here and offers words of love." Aware of Spock standing by the door, McCoy said, "Some people need to hear the words. Will you tell her you love her?"
The weaver took a few, awkward steps towards the bed. "Wihil, it's your husband."
"Tell her," McCoy said.
The man swallowed. "Wihil, I...love you."
"Could you be a little more convincing?" McCoy said. "What would you say to her if it was your time?"
"We don't speak of such things," the weaver said.
"I'm trying to give her a reason to choose you over the monster that's trying to kill her," McCoy said. "I'm trying to save her life!"
"Great Doctor, we don't...I don't..."
"How did you choose her to be your wife?"
"Our families chose. Before she became ill, we were happy."
"Some part of her wasn't," McCoy said. He gave up and turned back to Wihil. "Do you hear your Master right now? Answer me!"
"Yes," she said, in almost a cry. "I hear him."
"What is he saying to you?"
"He says you would take me away from him. He says you are a foul liar and I am not to listen to you."
"Wihil, why does your Master leave you in this locked tower?
If he loved you, he would have released you by now."
"Go away, McCoy," she said angrily.
"Your husband is here, Wihil. He loves you and has come for you."
"My husband left me here too!"
Which was true, McCoy thought glumly. Hoping the creature was able to 'listen' through Wihil, he said, "Your Master lies, then laughs because you believe him. He takes pleasure in leaving you alone. He is never coming for you."
"Don't!" she screamed, covering her ears again.
McCoy pulled her hands away. "Wihil, tell him that I'm waiting for him. Tell him I'm laughing at him. He is no one's master, Wihil. He is no one at all."
"He promises," she said. "I hear him."
"He is a coward." McCoy insisted. "Wihil, if I were to take you out of this locked room right now, could you take me to your Master?"
"Only my Master can set me free."
"Wihil, I walked in and out of here a few moments ago, and I can do so again. I can take you outside this tower right now. Come with me and we will go and see this Master."
He lifted her up off the bed and led her outside, shielding the view of Gargrave's man from her. "We're outside, Wihil.
Take me to him."
She looked around, confused. "Master?" I am here!"
"Where is he, Wihil?" McCoy asked. He noticed Spock and the weaver studying the surroundings, Spock quietly and the weaver nervously.
"Wihil," McCoy prompted.
"Master?" she called. She began to cry.
McCoy lowered her to the steps. "Spock, I don't dare question her anymore right now. We'll take her to Gargrave's, and I'll give her a sedative."
"Doctor Gargrave may insist that she be in a locked room," Spock said.
"He can lock her up in any room he wants," McCoy said, "as long as it's a room at his place." He lifted Wihil's chin until she was looking at him. "I'm taking you away from the tower. The Master isn't coming. Do you hear me?"
"I hear a priest," she whispered. "His voice is like a bell and he wears a dewdrop in a blue ocean."
McCoy frowned, unsure what to make of that. Instead of responding, he directed the weaver to get several men and return Gargrave's servant to his family.
"The body must not be left unattended, even for a second," McCoy said. "There must always be at least three men watching it. More of you also need to go to the Mayor's house and keep the same watch."
After the men left with their dismal cargo, Spock said, "It would be safer to phaser the bodies."
"But not respectful. These people bury their dead." McCoy led Wihil to the cart. The horse, spooked, shifted from hoof to hoof. As McCoy stroked the animal's nose gently, he added, "I don't know if I can help her."
Spock glanced at Wihil. "She may have suffered from a mental disorder before the creature affected her. Was it wise to issue a challenge?"
"Give me a better way," McCoy said. "I sat with Lucie's body for a day and a half. Is there a timetable? Does it take three days? Four days? How long does it take for these people to get back up?"
"You thought you saw him move once. You changed the position of your chair."
"I was alone. Why didn't he come for me?"
"This creature preys upon the weak and the frail," Spock said. "Still, we should not underestimate him."
They drove the cart across the road and up Gargrave's driveway.
"He's letting us take her," McCoy commented. Spock made no answer. Gargrave, however, had a lot to say.
"She may not stay here," he said. "It is unsanitary!"
"Your man has died and Mrs. Wihil is vulnerable," McCoy shot back. "She can't hurt you."
"Her actions are unseemly. My house is respectable," Gargrave said. "In the space of two days, Doctor, you have removed my daughter from my home and brought this sickness in."
"At least you can't say I'm not doing anything," McCoy replied. "You asked for Starfleet's help. While I appreciate that you opened your home to us, this is part and parcel of being helped. You have a safe place, so Mrs. Wihil comes here."
"Put her in her own house and let her husband guard her."
"I would, but he's busy watching over your dead man. Other men are at the Mayor's house, watching her body. Everyone has something they don't want in their house. Now, what room may I put her in?"
Gargrave fumed, "The attic, and the door will be locked, Doctor."
"I was about to suggest it," McCoy said.
After the weaver's wife was settled, Spock said, "Diplomacy is not your strength, Leonard."
"I'll leave that to you," McCoy said. "I want to check on Thanni's grandmother."
"I will accompany you."
"Spock, I also have a few other houses to visit." McCoy thought for a moment. "On the other hand, if you're visible, at least no one can accuse you if anything else happens."
After restocking his medkit, he looked out the window. The garden was in fierce motion under the night breezes. The windows of empty house beyond the fence watched in disquieting blankness.
"What's at the back of the garden?" McCoy asked abruptly.
"No," Spock said. "The trees thin until they reach the fields beyond. There is a farm."
"Who lives on the farm?"
"I do not know their names, but I have seen them tending to the crops."
"In the daylight?"
"Yes," Spock said.
"Have you been in the house next door?"
"The doors are locked and chained. They have been so since the house was sold. The leaves and debris at the doors have not been disturbed."
"Where is he hiding?" McCoy asked. "He should be easy to find." He turned from the window. "I think we should check every empty house, including that one next door."
"Locks appear to bother you, Leonard," Spock said, and McCoy chuckled.
"Good thing you don't wear a chastity belt."
Thanni's grandmother was finishing her supper when McCoy and Spock arrived. The grandmother studied Spock before saying, "You are not the man in my dreams, but you are close. It may not be safe for you to be in Bremen. Two died tonight and everyone is frightened."
"I remain with him," Spock said, indicating McCoy.
"This is your husband, McCoy?" she asked, sounding amused.
"It is a wonder that you do not also dream."
"I have no need to," McCoy said, and she smiled.
"Thanni is asleep, so I can tell you now about my mother's books. They have been handed down through the women in my family since before anyone can remember. I wonder if they might be useful to you?" she asked.
"Are they about the legend of the man in your dreams?" McCoy asked.
"No, but they contain forbidden knowledge. They will one day go to Thanni, despite her father." She opened a small cupboard and pulled out a few books. "There aren't many," she said apologetically.
The doctor read the titles to Spock. "An Accordance on Her Holiness Dau Soo-Lyn Who was Forced Into Untimely Battle. A Record of the Believer's Roles and Duties. Congress of Women in the Confines of Marriage."
Spock opened one. "It is a history book."
"These are mostly histories of our people before the laws changed. Now men deny that women were ever rulers, or that men and women used to sleep in the same beds."
"The Mayor was female," Spock pointed out.
"It meant nothing," she said. "She answered to her husband."
Spock opened another book. His eyebrows suddenly shot up.
"Ah. I understand your use of the word mostly."
The grandmother nodded at the pictures inside before picking up her cup of tea. "That is a marriage manual. Men and women used to love each other."
The Vulcan showed the book to McCoy. The doctor tilted his head to get a better look at one particular illustration and said, "That would do in my back."
Spock put the book down and picked up another. "Mysteries of the Pilgrimage and the Hymns of Awe."
McCoy reached into the cupboard and drew out a small pamphlet. "The Dreams of Mina. What's this?"
"A work of fiction," the grandmother said.
Spock finished skimming the text in his hands and glanced through another. "These are valuable historical and religious records, but they do not seem to refer to any folklore."
"I might have something." McCoy read from his pamphlet. "We are in the city of specters. We crossed through the tunnel and fire consumed our horses and the specters ate of the charred remains. One asked, "Is this your wife?" We were afraid and locked ourselves in a tower."
"A pleasant story," Spock said.
"Mrs. Wihil mentioned being locked in a tower," McCoy said.
He sat down with the book. "Mina the Silver, being pure in spirit, but rosy between her legs, let the specter come upon her and kept him with her until the moons left the sky. The suns rose and the specter, realizing his mistake, howled in great disturbance until his skin turned to ash in the air. We could not revive Mina and we wept for her purity and her life that had been vilely taken from her. She had not died in vain for the death of the specter refreshed the land. The tunnel of fire was no more and the creeping plague was erased from our minds."
"Allegorical?" Spock offered.
"There are similarities," McCoy said. He returned the books to the cupboard. "Do we know where Alencon was killed?"
"She was found on the shore in front of her house," the grandmother said.
"Outside," McCoy said. "They're always outside." He turned to Thanni's grandmother. "Can you give us directions?"
They went to the shore, but the sand had blown in the wind and there were no clues. Then they went to the homes McCoy had promised to visit, Spock waiting outside in deference to the anxiety of the people. Though they spent much of their time alone on roadways, peering into the shadows beneath trees, they saw nothing, the tricorders registered nothing, and they were not bothered.
Dawn was still several hours away by the time McCoy and Spock returned to Gargrave's house. A weary-looking housekeeper let them in.
McCoy sank into the bed, not bothering to undress or pull down the covers. "I've insulted him, stopped all the holes I could find, drawn a line in the dirt, and dared him to cross over it."
Spock folded his clothes neatly before joining McCoy in bed.
"We're taking too long," McCoy added.
"Yes," Spock agreed. "If his mind is powerful enough to reach across solar systems, he does not need to stay here. He may have left Bremen."
"Then who killed Alencon? Ensign Lucie?"
"That is the possibility we need to consider," Spock said.
"Communication here relies on written mail. If there have been deaths in other towns, we would not know about them yet."
"We could chase him all over the damn planet." McCoy closed his eyes, but then he opened them suddenly and sat back up.
"No, he's here. Lucie couldn't swallow!"
Spock thought it through. "There was no blood. Alencon's body had been drained. I should have realized."
"We're both tired, and working without half of our equipment," McCoy said. "That bastard. We have to get him, Spock. It's getting personal."
A crash of thunder woke McCoy. His eyes snapped open, but everything was in darkness. It took him a bit to get his bearings.
Lightning sliced the room. Another roll of thunder followed.
The windows shivered under it.
He vaguely remembered a game he used to play as a kid, counting between the lightning and the thunder in order to find out how close the storm was. Would that work on this planet?
When the next flash of lightning came, he began counting. At two, thunder rocked the house again.
Too close, he thought. He reached beside him, to reassure himself of Spock's presence, but the bedding was empty.
He reached for the oil lamp and turned up the wick.
Spock wasn't there. He wasn't in the room. The lavatory door was open and McCoy could see that no one was there either.
The laboratory, he wondered? McCoy made his way downstairs, trying to avoid the creaks in the floorboards, though not, he supposed, that it made much difference in the loud storm.
He'd taken the lamp, but lightning also lit his way, abruptly revealing furniture and doorways before plunging the house back into blackness.
The lamps were off in the laboratory. McCoy edged into the room. A gust of air hit his face, then something crashed and he jumped.
He lifted the lamp and peered around, trying to see in the flickering glow. He couldn't figure out the reason for the bang. Then he saw the back door swing open in the wind, shake, and slam back into the frame.
McCoy tried to grab the latch, but the door swung out again.
As it did, he caught sight of a pale patch of movement outside under the trees. A bolt of lightning pierced the garden for an instant.
As McCoy blinked the blinding white from his eyes, the after-image burned on his retinas.
A figure had stood under the trees.
"Who are you?" he demanded. He raised the lamp, but its light couldn't penetrate more than a few feet.
No one replied. Even the thunder quieted.
McCoy walked out into the yard, following the path and the row of white flowers. By the time he got to the trees, the figure had disappeared. He thought he could hear movement in the bushes, just for a moment, but another rumble of thunder drowned it out.
He paused. He was unarmed, and the lamp was almost useless.
All it did was give away his position. However, Spock was still missing. Had the Vulcan got up for whatever reason, looked out of the window, seen someone in the back garden, and decided to investigate? If that was the case, why hadn't he answered when McCoy had called out?
Perhaps, he couldn't answer.
McCoy set the lamp on the ground. Its glow revealed some broken branches that had dropped from the trees. The doctor picked up the biggest one. Then, leaving the lamp where it was, he walked into the thicket.
Come and get me, he thought. Come on, you son of a bitch.
He made his way slowly through the trees until the last bit of light from the lamp died out behind him. A last, distant roll of thunder echoed above, then the wind stilled. He paused again, listening, but all he could hear was water dripping from leaves.
The sky lightened a little as the storm passed, becoming a blue-gray that gleamed on the wet undergrowth. His eyes adjusted to it, enough that he could discern shapes. He looked around, clutching the branch, and saw it again. A small, white swirl of motion appeared between two trees.
"Who are you?" he repeated angrily.
The figure moved away, but he'd seen where it had gone. McCoy followed, straining to listen ahead, thinking that, at any second, something would drop down on him from the trees. But the figure appeared again, standing just beyond a bush, looking up at the sky.
McCoy inched forward. The figure turned to look at him, and he saw the pointed ears.
"Spock!" he cried. He ran forward and grabbed the Vulcan's arm. "What the hell are you doing?"
Spock looked dazedly at him. Then he blinked and seemed to realize where he was.
"You're not even dressed," McCoy said. He took off his shirt, but it was too small. The best he could do was to tie it round Spock's shoulders. "What were you doing out here?"
"I don't know," Spock said. "I thought...I was on the ship."
The Vulcan's skin was chilled. McCoy hugged Spock, trying to warm him.
"You dreamed," McCoy said. "You told me you never did. You dreamed and you walked in your sleep."
Spock stiffened. "Leonard, my mind is disciplined."
"I know," McCoy said. "Come on. We have to get inside or you'll get sick." He led Spock back through the trees until they reached the lamp. McCoy retrieved it, and they went down the path to the laboratory.
"Hurry," McCoy said. He grabbed the open back door. "Is anyone in there?"
"No," Spock said.
McCoy nodded, then pulled them inside and shut the door behind them. He glanced out the window, heart pounding, before opening one of the crates and pulling out an emergency blanket. He wrapped the Vulcan.
"You're dripping," McCoy said, coaxing Spock forward out of the puddle that had formed at the latter's feet.
"I don't dream," Spock insisted.
"Spock, there's no shame. His mind is powerful." McCoy walked to the hallway and peered out. "We need to search the house. He could have come in."
"To prove a point, he may attempt to take Mrs. Wihil."
McCoy nodded. "You need to get dressed first, then we'll go together."
Halfway up the stairs, they met the housekeeper.
"I heard noises," she said, eyeing them worriedly.
"Someone may have come in," McCoy said. "Please wake Dr. Gargrave and tell him we need to search the house."
She nodded and ran back down the hallway. McCoy and Spock continued to the third floor.
Spock dressed rapidly while McCoy got the phaser.
The Vulcan nodded.
They could hear the household rousing as they went up the stairs. The attic door was locked, as Gargrave had threatened. Spock picked the lock, and they went in.
Wihil lay on a cot, looking out of a small window.
"Is your Master here?" McCoy asked, his eyes darting around the darkened corners of the room.
"You've taken my Master away from me," she whispered. "Not even the storm returned him to me. I am alone."
When McCoy was sure that the room was empty, he went over to her. "I'm sorry. You do have a husband who waits for you."
"My husband does not touch me," she said, looking back to the window. "You've taken my love away. I have nothing. I hate you."
Spock touched McCoy's arm, directing him out of the room.
"She's not wrong," McCoy said.
"Would you leave her to be murdered?" Spock asked, his voice sounding hoarse.
They met Gargrave at the bottom of the attic stairs.
"What's going on?" Gargrave asked. "My housekeeper is terrified."
"I found the back door open in the storm," McCoy said. "Have you searched the house?"
"Yes," Gargrave said. "McCoy, this demon that you think exists--"
"He does exist," McCoy cut in.
"Then he comes here for the woman!" Gargrave pointed towards the attic.
"What would you have me do?" McCoy asked. "Would you have me leave her on the stoop?"
Gargrave looked down. His voice lowered. "McCoy, do you believe this demon can enter into any house he pleases?"
"I'm not sure."
"My daughter and my wife's mother are alone." Gargrave took a breath. "I'll bring them here."
"Good idea," McCoy said, but Gargrave's next words stopped him.
"You are from Starfleet. You have instruments such as I have never dreamed of, and knowledge far beyond mine. Bremen is a small place to you. McCoy, why have you not found this demon and destroyed him?"
Gargrave left without waiting for an answer, not that McCoy had one to give him.
"Leonard," Spock started, then coughed.
McCoy eyed him, then put a hand to his forehead. "Damn.
You're burning up."
"I can still function," Spock said. "Leonard, I have accounted for all logical possibilities, and there are none we have not attempted."
McCoy managed a small smile. "Go to our room, ok? I'll meet you there in a second. I want to get some antibiotics out of our supplies in the lab."
When McCoy got back to the bedroom, Spock was in bed with the covers pulled around him. After loading several hypos, McCoy said, "You get some sleep and I'll keep watch." Before the Vulcan could protest, McCoy added, "It's logical. Even a couple of hours of rest will help your immune system."
"Two hours, Leonard," Spock said.
"Yeah, I'll set my watch," McCoy replied. He pulled a chair beside the bed and sat down.
The Vulcan's eyes closed. Very quickly, he was asleep.
McCoy set down the hypos. Two had been filled with wide-spectrum antibiotics. The third had held a sedative.
He got up and opened a small satchel he'd also brought upstairs. He withdrew four straps, the type that were used to secure patients to gurneys, and, returning to the bed, tied the Vulcan's ankles and wrists to the head and foot-board posts.
"I know we've never said this, but I do love you," McCoy said quietly. Chuckling, he added, "I have no idea why."
He sobered again. "I'm not self-sacrificing. The thing is, Spock, I don't think this monster is going to show unless I'm alone. If worst comes to worst, remember I did tell you that I'd rather die among strangers. It's less fuss."
He returned to the satchel. One hypo remained in it, which McCoy held up in the faint moonlight coming in through the window. Then, rolling up his sleeve, he emptied it into his arm. He retrieved the amulet that Thanni had given him and picked up Spock's phaser.
McCoy gave Spock a last look, then went downstairs and out the back door into the garden.
Rustling noises sounded within the trees. A twig snapped.
"Here I am," he said. "Where are you?"
McCoy had picked up the lamp, but he set it back down. " What are you waiting for?"
The trees seemed to lean towards him, the air growing even darker below them.
"Coward," McCoy said. He walked the path once more, without the lamp, phaser before him, and entered the grove of trees.
Shadows descended around him as branches overhead shut out the sky. He could hear little scurrying creaks coming from seemingly everywhere. "We are in the city of specters," he said. "We crossed the tunnel and fire consumed our horses.
However, I am not locked in a tower and I am not afraid."
Not quite the truth, but McCoy could play poker with the best of them.
He walked through the trees, mostly by feeling his way ahead.
Every bush looming up was potentially the demon. He had to force himself to touch each one, to feel the wet leaves or rough bark. Eventually he reached the end of the grove and the farm beyond.
"This isn't right," McCoy muttered. He was playing that game of cold, warm, hot. Even without the cues, he knew he was getting colder. He was off the trail.
"Wihil is the last line I've dared you to cross," he said.
"You won't be too far from her."
He backtracked through the trees. Halfway through, he knew he was warm. Actually, he could feel it. Steam rose off the ground from the heat.
McCoy followed the steam until he came to the fence separating Gargrave's house from the empty one next door. The planet's two moons reflected off the rows of windowpanes. If anything walked inside the house, he couldn't see it.
Scaling the fence was out of the question, though twenty years ago he would have attempted it.
I'm old, he said to himself. And stupid to do this alone.
But Spock was affected now. Gargrave would be guarding the women.
He cursed softly as he searched along the fence for an opening. Eventually he found a rotted part and pushed through.
The ground grew cooler as he circled the building, checking the doors and lower windows. Everything was locked with chains or caked in what looked like years of undisturbed dirt.
McCoy returned to where most of the mist was rising. As he poked around, he suddenly stumbled into what he thought was an animal burrow. Kicking the leaves away, he found a wooden door embedded in the earth. At one edge was a wooden ring.
Very stupid, he thought as he grabbed the ring and yanked.
The door opened easily and silently. Fresh oil shone on the hinges.
A blast of heat hit his face as he looked in. "Got ya," he whispered. He retrieved the lamp from Gargrave's step before lowering himself into the opening.
He found himself in a tunnel. The air scorched his face and a smell like rancid meat hit his nostrils.
The tunnel veered off in two directions. He picked one way, but halted when the air began to clear. Nope, he thought. He turned back, and knew he'd picked the right way when the odor made him gag.
He walked for several minutes, stooping at the low parts, until he judged he must be in the cellar of the empty house.
His assumption proved correct. A wooden panel lay against the end of the tunnel. The panel moved easily and he stepped into a large, musty room, empty except for a few supporting struts and a flight of stairs leading up.
McCoy paused to check the setting of his phaser, then started up the stairs, avoiding the worn, middle part of each step. A peep would give him away.
He reached the first floor and began a slow search, the lamp casting a dim glow ahead of him. As he moved past the windows, he realized why he hadn't been able to see through them. The insides had been painted black.
He went from room to room, ending at another flight of stairs. The top floor was shrouded in shadow.
Choosing the edges of the stairs again, McCoy crept up.
Little by little, the shadows gave way to the lamp, but, as before, he found empty rooms and painted windows.
Until he came to a small bedroom with no windows at all.
Inside, he found the creature's bed, a few, gray mattresses on the floor covered in spots of brownish-red.
The smell was exceedingly foul, and he discovered why when he lifted the lantern. Parts of a dead animal lay at one end of the room, grisly pieces of skin, a tail, and most of the head. It looked like one of Gargrave's horses.
He moved back into the corridor and took a few, shallow breaths as he tried not to retch. Then he heard a slight, scuffling sound from below.
McCoy glanced quickly around, tried to determine which side of the house would face the sunrise, and picked the closest room. He left the lamp in the doorway and backed up against the farthest wall.
A stair creaked, then came a thud as something was dragged over a step. McCoy shivered as he listened to a slow progression of footstep, thump, footstep, thump.
The noises got to the top of the stairs and stopped.
McCoy held his breath and raised the phaser.
He heard a snake-like hiss. A soft, sibilant voice said, "Who is in my house?"
The doctor waited, ears pounding until he was afraid he wouldn't be able to hear anything else.
"Foolish," said the voice. There was a laugh. "Come to visit me, have you?"
A black shape stretched into the doorway and the lamp's light wavered. A white hand reached around the frame.
McCoy's fingers tightened on the phaser.
An arm followed the hand. Then the head emerged out of the darkness. The vampire stepped into the room and looked at McCoy.
The body looked like it had been made from the sticks of a scarecrow. Long and bony limbs stuck out of the remnants of an engineering uniform, but the head was oversized, with large eyes sunk under the brow, a round, fish mouth, and elongated, pointed ears.
The hands ended in long, sharp claws.
Fetid breath accompanied his words. "I see you."
McCoy fired the phaser.
The creature laughed as the beam bounced harmlessly through him. "I eat flesh, but I am not flesh. Your little boxes of metal cannot detect me. Do you have any other tricks?"
"One or two," McCoy said. As the vampire crept into the room, he tried to move away, but he was already against the wall.
His back hit a windowsill.
"Who are you that you think you can hurt me?"
The vampire reared and shrilly hissed. "McCoy! That one!"
The creature began moving along one wall. McCoy went the opposite way. They circled each other until the creature was at the windows and McCoy was at the door.
"You can't run from me, McCoy."
"I wasn't planning to," the doctor said. Without taking his eyes from the creature, he felt behind him until he found the doorknob. He shut the door and melted the knob with his phaser.
"Foolish human," the vampire said. He began circling back.
This time, McCoy didn't move.
"You've taken away everything and everyone I loved," the creature said. "Who are you to stand in my way? I am a god!
I will destroy you! I will rip out your throat while you scream. You will die and I will eat blood fruit on your grave and suns will fall from the skies."
McCoy stood his ground. He thought of Roswa, Lucie, and Nawtanba. He thought of Spock, walking in the garden and thinking it was the ship. And he thought of Jim and wondered if he would ever see him again. He stood, scared and angry, as the cold breath of the creature traveled over his neck.
The vampire paused, perhaps unsure why the doctor was simply standing there and offering no resistance. Then his blanched lips curled up in a smile. "Do you want me too, like the others did? It's so easy. They begged to be touched."
McCoy looked away. He heard the creature laugh. Then icy fingers pulled his collar away from his neck.
Suddenly, the creature hissed and spat. McCoy turned to find the creature had jumped several feet away.
"That is not enough to protect you," the vampire seethed.
McCoy touched the amulet around his neck. "I didn't think it would be."
The vampire screamed and lashed out. The blow threw McCoy to the floor. He skidded several feet and hit the wall under a window. Then the vampire was upon him, trying to rip the amulet from his neck. McCoy kicked and was gratified to connect with something. The creature yelled again and backed off.
McCoy searched for his phaser. It was just beyond his reach.
But as he'd looked around, he'd noticed a gleam by the door.
McCoy turned back and saw that the gem from the amulet was on the floor by the vampire's feet, and apparently not bothering him.
He felt the twine around his neck. The garlic was still there.
"I will return for you, McCoy!" the vampire said. He grabbed the melted doorknob and tried to twist it.
McCoy leaned over and grabbed his phaser. Then he asked, "You don't want to touch me?" He sat against the wall and, with a pin from his medkit, scratched his arm. Blood beaded up along the cut.
The creature turned. His eyes went to the blood. "What game do you play, McCoy? You take away the ones I love and come here in their place?"
McCoy smeared the blood along his arm. He could smell it, so he was sure the creature could.
"Are you wanting to die, McCoy?"
"I'm told you offer pleasure with death."
The vampire took a wary step forward. "You take pleasure with the one named Spock."
"I get nothing from him," McCoy said. "A moment here and there. That's all. The women I took away from you were willing to give their lives for the delights you offer. I want that."
"My enemy comes begging," the creature said with a little moan, staring at McCoy's arm.
"Since I've begged, I ask that you take me slowly so that I do not miss a single feeling." Then McCoy added, "Master."
The vampire dropped to his hands and knees, then inched forward until his mouth hovered over the bloodied scratch. "I will give you delights such as you have never dreamed," he whispered before covering the wound with his lips.
It felt as if slivers of ice were being sucked out of his veins. Pins and needles invaded his arm. McCoy ached to pull away.
All of a sudden, the vampire sat up. "It is wrong. It tastes bitter."
"It's only Human blood," McCoy said. He scratched his arm again until a drop of blood ran down into his palm. "Don't leave me."
A second stream joined the first and a splatter of blood fell to the floor. The creature watched, mesmerized, before bending down and locking his mouth against McCoy's skin.
Icicles spiked through McCoy's body as the vampire began drinking deeply. Teeth tore at his arm, opening the cut further, and the doctor gasped under the pain. He looked away from the vampire's obscenely bobbing head. The cold was now invading his legs. He couldn't move them.
The creature halted once more. He rose up, blood over his lips, and shuddered as he tried to swallow. "My throat burns. Your blood is bad there. Perhaps here--"
But the garlic around McCoy's neck stopped him. Instead, he moved down the doctor's chest. Pausing just below the ribcage, he rolled up the shirt and bit.
McCoy gritted his teeth at the knifelike pain. The vampire sucked hard and moaned. "I will love you, McCoy," he murmured before nuzzling to another spot. "Such warmth."
His hands fluttered over McCoy, caressing between his legs as his mouth drew more and more blood. The touches and hollowing pain mingled, producing a sickening, abhorrent excitement.
He pressed his hands hard against the floor, appalled at his body's violation. He was dying, and his body was craving it.
The vampire licked McCoy's stomach, leaving red-streaked spittle. "Do you feel it?" he asked before taking another bite.
"I feel nothing," McCoy managed.
The creature scowled. "Your blood is old. You are old."
McCoy glanced at the window. It was still too soon. "Try somewhere else."
"Your neck!" But the garlic there halted the vampire again.
The doctor closed his eyes against a whip of vertigo.
Vaguely, he wondered how much blood he'd lost.
He felt the creature's mouth on his side and a sharp rip in the skin there. But, abruptly, the creature left him. He heard something slide to the floor.
McCoy squinted and tried to see. His eyes were cloudy.
"McCoy! What have you done? My body burns!"
The vampire tried to get up, and fell again. His mouth opened and closed a few times. Then he choked and vomited a bloody mess to the floor. He screamed.
The doctor had to take several breaths before he was able to speak. "I injected...a garlic extract...in my blood, you...bastard."
He raised the phaser and blew out the windows. Sunlight burst into the room, catching each shard of glass in a dazzling fury.
The sun caught the vampire. He looked upwards into it and raised his hands. His cry cut off as his body exploded.
Hot ash blew over McCoy. It was the last thing he saw before his vision went black.
A murmur of low voices invaded his dream. He was on a lake in his father's boat, under a clear, blue sky.
Then he opened his eyes and he wasn't on a boat at all. He was in a bed. The blue sky became a yellow ceiling.
A man appeared beside him. "Good morning, Doctor McCoy."
McCoy blinked. "Gargrave? Am I alive?"
Gargrave smiled. "You are."
"The spirits looked out for you," said a new voice.
McCoy looked over. Thanni's grandmother sat beside the bed, a cloth in her hands. She ran it over McCoy's face.
"How did you find me?" McCoy asked.
"We saw the windows break next door, and Commander Spock said that you had fired one of your weapons at it," Gargrave said.
"He pulled the doors off the hinges to get inside the house.
I have never seen anyone so strong."
McCoy raised up on his elbows. He was in the room he and Spock had shared, but the Vulcan wasn't here. "Where's Spock?"
"He rests," the grandmother said. "Thanni is with him. He nearly died too."
"What? But I saw the creature explode!" McCoy tried to get out of the bed.
Gargrave put a hand on him. "Doctor, he will be fine. When we found you, what was left of the demon was burning beside you. You were bleeding badly. There was so much blood on the floor. Thanni and I offered our blood, but Commander Spock checked with his machine and said ours was not compatible, that it would cause occlusions. He said that he had some Human parts to his blood. If we were to filter it, it would help to restore you." Gargrave shook his head. "His blood was green. Most of it we couldn't use. I took as much from him as I dared for he grew very weak. Thanni and I went to the kitchen, to brew a restorative draught that I hoped might help. While we were there, he set up the filter and tubes, and sent his blood to you again. He was unconscious when I found him and had almost no breath. It took us several tries to revive him and his heart was worrisome for some time afterwards."
"But he's all right?" McCoy insisted.
"Yes," Gargrave assured him. "He was awake and speaking to me before I came to see you. You have slept for two days. For the first day, we did not know if you would survive. We have taken turns to stay with you."
"Thank you," McCoy said, allowing the grandmother to gently push him back down onto the pillows.
"It was a privilege," Gargrave said. "The demon is no more, and the people are safe."
"I was too slow," McCoy said. "Spock and I brought the creature here, in one of our crates, without realizing it.
And then it was in the house right beside us."
Severely, Thanni's grandmother said, "Great Doctor, I told you that the demon had been here before. He would have found his way back, by whatever means. We did not destroy him the first time, and we would have failed this time as well, for he was an old legend to us. Most of us did not believe he existed."
"I did not believe in him as anything other than an old tale," Gargrave said. "Doctor, you may have brought him here, but you also destroyed him. Let it be a balance."
"And Mrs. Wihil?" McCoy asked. "How is she now?"
Gargrave shook his head. "The housekeeper found her hanging from a rafter."
"Damnit," McCoy swallowed.
"It was her choice. She did not wish to live without the demon," the grandmother said.
Gargrave stood. "I will tell your husband that you have awakened."
After he left, the grandmother offered McCoy some broth. "You are honoured, McCoy. So much food and so many gifts have been brought during the last two days that I cannot get from the front door to the back door unless I go outside. Everyone has been most anxious to know how you are doing." She fluffed the bedclothes, then smiled at him. "I hope that Thanni learns courage and compassion from you. I hope, that when she marries, she marries as well as you."
Startled, McCoy took a few moments to find a reply. "I don't know if I was brave so much as angry."
"Might it not be the same thing?"
"As for my husband," McCoy said. "He never speaks of love."
"Neither did mine, and yet he loved me," she said. "Your husband would die for you. Our actions betray us." She pointed at a string tired to a bedpost. "He tied this here before giving his blood to you. Is there a significance?"
He chuckled. "Yes. It's a wish. Or else he was making a point about my leaving him tied to the bed."
"When we found him, and I explained that I had tied myself to the bed because of the walking dreams, he said it was--" the grandmother frowned. "Logical. Is that good?"
"It means I'm forgiven."
"I will put the kettle on to boil," Thanni's grandmother said, but when she got to the door, McCoy stopped her.
"I never found out your name."
"My mother wrapped me in a red blanket when I was born, so my father called me Red Hood. I never liked it."
"I'll have to tell you sometime about a Human fairy tale called Red Riding Hood."
She nodded agreeably. McCoy heard her greet someone in the hall. Afterwards, Spock came in.
The doctor sat up too fast. The room spun. As he waited for his head to clear, the Vulcan made his way wearily to the bed and sat down.
"Gargrave said you were all right," McCoy said, touching the Vulcan's arm.
"I am recovering," Spock replied.
"Don't you ever do that again!" McCoy said. "It's not possible for you to give me enough blood. You don't have enough Human cells."
"I calculated that I had sufficient, and I was correct," Spock said.
"You stupid, stupid--" McCoy wrapped his arms around the Vulcan.
Spock hugged him in return. They were silent for a few minutes, listening to household noises of people downstairs and the quiet brush of a breeze through the curtains. Then Spock said, "The Enterprise answered your communicator's emergency beacon forty-eight minutes ago, and will be here within twenty-seven point six hours. The captain told me that Lieutenant Nawtanba began walking and attacked crewmembers.
Security had to use a phaser. There were no casualties."
"Thank heavens," McCoy murmured.
Spock eased away so that he could meet the doctor's eyes.
"Leonard, you asked me if we would be together in a year. Did you believe that one of us would die and prevent our remaining together?"
"No," McCoy said. "I didn't know if you wanted me."
Spock kissed him, a deep, hard kiss that he usually reserved for lovemaking. Then he said, "We will make a promise to each other. I will inform you that I want you, and you will no longer attempt to die among strangers."
McCoy kissed him and pulled him down so that they were lying against the pile of pillows.
"Leonard, my logic failed."
"What do you mean?"
"I saw what you saw, but I refused to accept it," Spock said.
"We can keep that between us. We don't have to tell Jim."
"As we will not tell him that you tied me to the bed."
McCoy laughed. "He'd probably just think we like that."
"I do not," Spock said.
McCoy looked at the Vulcan. A mischievous grin crossed his face. "Are you sure?"
Slowly, an amused eyebrow rose.
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