The Man Trap
McCoy stood in the doorway to his cabin starring down at the repulsive creature at his feet. He didn't know what to think. The mass of tangled hair, with its suction cup limbs, bore no resemblance to the beautiful woman it had presented itself as only a few minutes ago. The captain was slumped over in the chair opposite, breathing heavily, and as the doctor looked up he noticed the angry red welts beginning to form on his face, and a few on his hands where he had initially tried to prise its cold, revolting tentacles off himself, before being rendered helpless.
They looked painful and even in the midst of his own grief McCoy was already observing him with a doctor's eye. There wasn't a lot he could do for the sores on his face, but those on his hands would need dressing to stop them getting infected.
Kirk seemed to be in shock. His complexion was pale and he had started to shiver slightly. Spock, seeing the captain's distress, immediately pulled himself to his feet. He appeared uninjured by the beating he too had sustained, and he began to make his way over to the man. He took the blanket from McCoy's bed and draped it around Kirk's shoulders.
"Are you alright captain?" The Vulcan asked him.
"I feel… so weak…" Kirk's teeth chattered together as he spoke, and the doctor too began to make his way over to the two men – kicking the creature angrily out of the way as he stepped over it.
"Let me take a look at you Jim." He said, placing his palm to his friend's forehead to check his temperature before taking his tricorder scanner from his pocket. He was a little on the warm side, suggestive of a possible low grade fever, but nothing to worry him at the moment. The scans on the other hand showed that internally he was in a bad way. If the creature had maintained its grip for just a few seconds more the captain would likely be dead right now. McCoy had nearly left it too late, he'd fired just in time – and that only added to his feelings of guilt.
"How is he?" Spock asked him.
"Well, his heartrate is slowing, he's weak and there's a decrease in cognitive functioning." He explained. "My diagnosis is a fairly easy one to make under the circumstances – severe hyponatremia."
"What's that?" Kirk asked him weakly – looking up at his friend through tired and sunken eyes. His gaze was glassy and distant.
"Well, as I said, it should be fairly obvious given the circumstances Jim." McCoy sighed. "You're suffering from a severe salt deficiency."
"Will he be alright doctor?" The Vulcan pressed him.
"He'll have to spend some time in sickbay." The doctor told him. "He needs IV fluids and electrolytes, and he'll need close monitoring for the next day or so. You saw what happened to the other poor devils. Hyponatremia can be life threatening, but I think we stopped the creature in time. We need to move fast though, if we delay treatment for much longer he's liable to lose consciousness."
He turned again to look at the creature at their feet. "I can't believe I could have been so easily taken in by such a thing." He said. "Nancy was so beautiful, inside and out. She'd have done anything for anyone, given the clothes off her back to someone who needed them more. It's an insult to her memory that he chose to assume her identity."
"I'm sorry Bones." Kirk apologised as he observed the tears in his friend's eyes. One escaped and made it half way down McCoy's cheek before he swiped it away angrily. The doctor felt the captain place a shaky hand on his shoulder.
"No, I'm sorry Jim." He told him. "I shouldn't have hesitated to use the phaser. I should have fired as soon as Spock told me to. It was my fault that thing was able to get that close to you."
"You have nothing to apologise for Bones." Kirk told him. "I've suspected for a while now that the creature assumed the form of a figure it sensed would be most pleasing to each of us. That would explain why each of our descriptions of Nancy were different when we first beamed down onto the planet."
"Even so Jim, I allowed my emotions to cloud my judgement." McCoy gritted his teeth together in an angry grimace, his hands balling into fists at his side. "I loved Nancy once. I may not have seen her in many years, but seeing her again now, unchanged and unblemished, just as she was when we were both young, brought all those feelings flooding back. It was an infatuation. I was in awe of her beauty and the fact that she'd seemingly remained untouched by the hands of time. But it wasn't real. As a doctor I should have realised that it couldn't have been real!"
"Most of us have loved, and lost Bones." Kirk told him – his voice sounding uncharacteristically weak and lacking its usual conviction. "We all know how that feels. It isn't a crime to love another."
"Jim –" McCoy started, but this quickly turned into an exclamation as the man suddenly collapsed forward and doubled over in pain. "Jim!"
"I'm alright Bones." He tried to bat the doctor's searching hands away as they reached for him, but he was as physically weak as his voice had suggested and the motion couldn't have swatted away a fly. Spock quickly caught the captain by the shoulders before he could pitch forwards off his seat.
"M'ok…" He mumbled into the hand he was now using to rest his head on as he pinched the bridge of his nose. His whole body felt as though it was made of lead, and his tongue and lips tingled with a strange numbness. He knew that he was slurring his words. "M' just a little dizzy that's all. My head hurts." He said.
He became vaguely aware of McCoy hovering over him – he was scanning him again, the small tricorder hovering over him like an aggravating insect. His head was spinning and there was a high-pitched ringing in his ears which wasn't coming from the doctor's scanner. He felt strange. His heart was racing, but he didn't know why. It wasn't due to physical exertion, and he wasn't in any danger – at least none that he knew of – but he couldn't escape the feeling that something was wrong.
He glanced up at McCoy and noticed, with a slight sinking of heart, the concerned look on his face. There was a frown deepening the creases in his forehead – and he could still feel Spock's stabilising hand upon his shoulder.
"Jim we need to move you to sickbay now." The doctor was telling him, but his voice sounded distorted – as though it were being picked up on a weak radio signal. He was struggling to wade through the fog which seemed to have settled over him, muddying his brain. He felt very tired all of a sudden, and very confused – unsure anymore of where he even was. Logically he realised that he must still be in McCoy's quarters – he couldn't remember going anywhere else – but he had the strange notion that he was really on the bridge. His crew were waiting for him to give them their orders. He tried to open his mouth to speak, but no words came out – only a few garbled, nonsensical sounds.
What was happening to him? Was he hallucinating? He wondered.
"Jim, do you think you can walk?" McCoy asked him.
His legs felt like jelly, and he wasn't entirely sure that they could support his weight long enough for him to even stand, let alone make it all the way to sickbay, but his pride would not allow him to admit so much – not even to his two closest friends. He knew that McCoy would have a portable bio-bed and a medical team down here to transport him as soon as he said no. He nodded.
He felt strong hands grasp him as Spock took him by one side and McCoy the other – although the Vulcan's grip was significantly more vice-like than the doctor's – as both men attempted to lift him. His vision began to blur and darken around the edges. There was an explosive pressure inside his head – the pain was bad and his skull felt as though it was in danger of cracking like an egg. The high-pitched buzzing intensified until he could hear nothing else besides the unpleasant droning inside his own head. He tried to tell McCoy to stop – that he wasn't going to make it – but again no words came out.
He stiffened, the top of his right leg going into an agonizing spasm. It made him cry out. He was still vaguely aware of McCoy and Spock holding him, but he could feel himself pitching forwards – the ground coming up to meet him as he fell. His legs had given way beneath him, just as he'd feared they would.
His two friends weren't prepared for what happened, and hadn't steeled themselves to take his full weight.
He felt himself make impact with the ground. The last thing he registered was the excruciating pain which erupted throughout his entire body, before everything went black – and he welcomed the darkness when it came.
"Jim." McCoy gasped, bending down to turn him over as his whole body suddenly went stiff and began to convulse. Spock did the same, kneeling down beside his friend.
"What's the matter with him?" He asked.
"He's having a seizure." McCoy explained, already preparing a hypospray and quickly emptying the contents into a vein which bulged in Kirk's neck as he continued to seize. "Get the pillow from my bed and put it under his head." He told him, and watched as the Vulcan did as he instructed. He put two fingers to his throat to check his pulse, but when the seizure still hadn't abated after a couple of minutes he administered another dose. He waited patiently for the drugs to take effect, consumed with concern that the seizure wasn't showing any sign of stopping, but after another minute had passed the convulsions finally started to ease, his breathing started to improve, and Kirk's body went lax.
McCoy breathed a sigh of relief.
"What was that you gave him doctor?" Spock asked him.
"An anti-convulsant and muscle relaxant." The doctor responded – his voice sounded tense and strained. The Vulcan noticed that his eyes appeared haunted. "I've also given him a mild sedative." He explained. "It's a potentially deadly combination if the dosage isn't calculated correctly, but it was necessary I'm afraid. The muscles in Jim's neck were so tight they were obstructing his airway – suffocating him."
"Will he be alright now?" Spock frowned. The Vulcan was evidently concerned, despite his usual tendency to deny his ability to feel such emotions.
"It seems to have worked for now." McCoy nodded. "He's no longer in any immediate danger, but we need to get him to sickbay. He'll be vulnerable to further seizures now, and I can't carry out a proper assessment of the damage done here."
Spock gently scooped the captain up in his arms. Jim was of quite a muscular build, and Spock wasn't of large frame himself – taller and thinner than he was broad. The ease with which he lifted him was testament to his Vulcan strength.
"Sickbay then doctor?" He asked him – Kirk's body limp in his arms. A tiny trickle of blood dribbled out from the corner of his mouth where he'd bitten the inside of his cheek during the seizure, and McCoy gently wiped it away with a tissue – carefully looking inside his mouth to check the damage done. It was a superficial flesh wound, deep but not serious – but it would need keeping an eye on to make sure that it didn't get infected.
He nodded. Spock was already part way out the door when he turned back to observe the doctor, looking down at the creature with eyes full of sadness and painful regret. McCoy's heart ached. He thought about everything that might have been if it really had been Nancy. It felt as though he were losing her all over again.
"Doctor?" The Vulcan frowned – pressing him.
"I'm coming Spock." He said, turning to follow. He ran the tricorder over Jim one last time, checking for any signs of respiratory distress, before stopping to secure his quarters as he followed him out. The first officer would dispatch a security team to remove the body once they'd settled Jim in sickbay. He would be happy if he never set eyes on it again, but he felt sure Jim would want an autopsy performed on it when he regained consciousness.
Kirk's breathing was even and regular, the anticonvulsants were keeping the seizures at bay for now. He could feel Spock's eyes one him, watching him closely as they walked. He in turn watched Spock, as he carried Jim with surprising ease, and gentleness. He observed his gait and the way he held himself as he walked for any signs that he'd been hurt in his own brush with the creature, but to his relief he appeared uninjured.
"I know what you're thinking, but this is not your fault doctor." The Vulcan eventually ventured to speak. They'd just exited the lift shaft together, and were nearing the sickbay now – he realised that it would be his last chance for a while to disclose what was on his mind. McCoy looked at him and frowned.
"Oh, and how do you make that out Spock?" He asked him, he couldn't keep the anger he felt at himself from leaking out into his tone.
The Vulcan's response was a simple one, but predictable to anyone who knew him. "Because you're letting your emotions get in the way of logic." He told him. "You couldn't have known what that thing was, and what it was capable of. There was nothing you could have done to save those men. You know that."
McCoy didn't respond. There was perhaps a very small part, buried deep down inside of him, that realised Spock was right, but that didn't make him feel any better about the situation, or the guilt he felt any easier to bear. He knew that he couldn't expect the Vulcan to understand though, and so he decided that it was best not to engage with him on the subject while the wound was still so raw. His emotions were not what mattered right now. He watched as Jim's body suddenly stiffened in Spock's arms as he began to convulse again, and McCoy immediately grabbed him off him as they reached sickbay, and laid him down on the nearest biobed. The Vulcan was immediately pushed aside as both Nurse Chapel and Doctor M'Benga rushed forward to assist him with the captain, who's arms and legs were flailing – his body gripped by the violent seizure. McCoy's heart began to race, and the adrenaline flooded his veins, the bloated corpse of creature in his quarters temporarily forgotten.
There would come a time when, later that evening, he would find himself seated at his friend's bedside in sickbay, and inevitably Jim would be the one to make him see that Spock really was right – but he had to stabilise his condition first.