STAR TREK Beyond Forever Part I Chapter 6 – Down Bubble

21 01 2017

The hard, sharp plastic needle dug into the groove cut into the black wax disc. The hi-fi, they called it, Jim remembered. He had bought it at the new shopping center just outside of town, on the edge of town – – the suburbs? – -just a few days ago. And the two heavy speakers made of actual wood that had carved wooden touches at their corners suggesting the exotic Far East, speakers from which he’d heard the music as he’d approached the newly built Ranch-styled house.

No – – he hadn’t had to pay for it, buy it, the music maker – – he’d offered, pulling out the black leather wallet, the paper money – but the young man in charge of the store had shaken his head.

“No, sir. We wouldn’t thinka that. It’s an honor, Captain.”

He’d set it up, at her suggestion by the well-stocked wet bar in the main guest space just off the living room. Bending over bit by bit, trying to read the label at the center of the revolving disc – – an LP!…. a way of presenting recorded sound, usually music – – he couldn’t help but move his head in time to the gentle fall of recorded piano as it upped tempo.

“Cast your fate to the wind.”

Jim looked up and across from where he leaned over the turntable. Carol was standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame, a dark drink fizzing over ice in a tall, cold-slick glass. She looked at him a little wide-eyed as if expecting him to reply… to say anything, he realized. He slowly stretched up straight, turning to face her.

“You think that’s the kind of man I am?”


Carol approached and even within the comforts of their home, and of their intimacy, she moved with a crisp economy and Jim felt himself, pleasurably, being swallowed whole. She stopped close to him, her body lightly pressing his and her arms came up, wrists crossing behind his neck.
“Only when it counts.” She kissed him lightly, quickly, and yet meaningfully the way she used to back on the – – on the – –

“Good God, you just don’t change. Liz called you on it from the start,” Gary Mitchell’s voice may have been low and quiet for technical tactical reasons but it still had a light, friendly manly rasp.

Jim jerked his head away from the submarine’s bridge utility bulkhead. He rubbed his eyes as if to clear them after sleep. Only he hadn’t slept. He could recall everything clearly and perfectly and correctly since he’d modified, off the top of his head, a twentieth century variation for a US nuclear submarine of an Academy plebe’s earliest graduate test of space-warp defense, the Cochrane Deceleration….

He’d had Maria respond and agree to the La Fayette’s orders assuming, correctly, that a Navy commander of the era would be assured by a woman’s voice his target wasn’t military; and the general European tone of her accent would likewise, he thought from the old spy novels and holos he knew, cement the notion the experimental craft was on scientific exploration, perhaps having lost its bearings. As soon as the adversarial subs breached near each other, Jim threw his old Academy drinking friend a familiar glance and Mitchell ordered their ballasts blown and the Nautilus sank like a stone.

Before Navy had barely reacted, the agent, Roger, ignited an emergency engine re-start and almost simultaneously shut it down; to the twentieth century crew it had felt like an after effect of the deep sea drop and they were distracted by a flare of systems failure lights. Roger, though, had propelled the sub forward so fast it had, for all purposes, vanished from the La Fayette’s point of view. Leaning down by the wary sub driver’s shoulder like he had in his earliest missions with Mister Sulu, Jim quietly plotted a guide path with a forefinger that put them at a null-engine drift stop where the Navy Captain would likely never bother investigating: practically hull-scraping the aircraft carrier Toad had left damaged and now listing….

The Nautilus had been hanging beneath the carrier for nearly twenty minutes, appearing like a large piece of floating damaged metal off the ship above, and Jim could describe every anxious moment and decision, both routine and challenging, with a Commander’s sense of detail that defied an opportunity to day dream just as he knew those images, that “suburban” fantasy hadn’t come in the neural flashes of sleep; he’d never seen a centuries old house like that Ranch-style – he even hadn’t known you called it that – but he knew there was a big room, the den, on the immaculately kept basement floor with shelves stacked and stuck full of books and paper magazines, newspaper clippings, and record albums. That song, called maybe, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind;” he’d never heard it but could hum it now, every beat, and he knew a crewmate native to nineteen sixty-four would join in. And there was Carol. A Carol he didn’t quite know – – did he? – – but was her.

Sense memory may have accounted for the feel of her body, briefly, against his – – hard here, soft there – – and the taste of her kiss in his mouth, like a peach or a Christmas orange, clean and fresh, but it didn’t mean much, that explanation of autonomic responses, when he realized in the recurring experiences Carol still straightened herself a little before slightly cocking her head when she smiled broadly but he could read the tight arrangement of ideas and emotions layered atop one another deep back behind her wide eyes.

No, these images and experiences, these feelings… Her…. they weren’t simply Desire manifested by Desperation. Jim knew, in fact, what this place was and where it was, and had since he stood on the deck of the ship above as Toad intruded upon his messed up reverie staring at Carol’s old-styled photo, but he could put it into no voice any more than he knew he’d just, perhaps somehow only moments ago, made her laugh with his hyper masculine act in their Ranch house bedroom, making love to her and showering with her as she worried over the cocktail party they were throwing that night to welcome new neighbors. Or had the party already just happened?

Further still, beyond, deeper than pure sense memory, was the effect the clarity of her – – her voice…. now Jim felt the slow shadow of something unsettled, something just plain not right, creeping over him. Her highly educated Brit accent, so posh and polished – – and privileged – – to a bar-hopping Iowa genius hotdogger, was sharpened by a deadpan absurdist sense of outlandish comedy and made sharper still by a no-nonsense take-charge taskmistress’ bearing that made him crazy equally with a Captain’s frustration and a lover’s excitement. Jim struggled with the memories – – her voice as she warned him again about how some of their old area friends may not take too kindly to the new neighbors, was still buoyed by her smarts, her cosmopolitanism, but it was heavy with an everyday flatness…. no accent…. like she’d been raised in Tacoma or the Victoria Aquaplex. But this was Carol. She had to be….

Mitchell laughed quietly, almost to himself, leaning against the utility station’s access cabinet beside Jim. Jim looked up at Gary with practiced, comic familiarity, hectoring, “You don’t think being responsible for nearly five hundred souls, leading them into a never ending void has made me…. anything more than a self-obsessed arrogant jackass? That is what you regularly called me?”

Gary smiled, nodded, let out a pull of air that carried a laugh, as he reached up and curiously pinched either side of his nose, keeping his eyes squeezed shut as he wiped those odd, special black lensed glasses on the corner of the old Hawaiian tourist’s shirt he kept unbuttoned over a Navy white tee. “Yeah, well – – Actually I was thinking of the first game we played for the Western.” He used the athletes’ slang for Starfleet Academy’s highest tier campus, the Frisco grounds within throwing distance of the long restored and maintained Golden Gate. Jim stiffened a little, uncertain where his presumed dead friend was headed.

“Hammond assembles what may well be the best young team in the game’s history and with three genuine nova QBs – Grimsby, Luton and what’er name–? Rowe? Cathy Rowe – and who does Hammond choose to throw the ball, first possession? The smart-ass plebe from Iowa who showed some promise in exhibition play. And what do you do on the Fast Flight up to Juneau? You fell asleep like it was nothing. You’re still asleep when McCoy and I haul you from the hotel to the locker room and you only wake up when the running back, plays pro now, Mars Voyagers – – Verna Mackie, she finds a basic way to get your head in the game. Being all exposed for her edification.”

Jim shifted, pulling lightly at his groin. “That’s one snap of a wet towel I’ll never forget.”

“Biggest game in SFSA’s annals and only Bones and me know you’re no cool Cardassian sunrise but half conscious with an imploding hangover.”

“And became a star when I pretty much single-handedly won the game for us,” Jim added with a phony crooked smile.

Gary shook his head, seemingly amused, but Jim’s stab at good humor drifted and he made no effort to chase it. “Well?” he said, almost a grumble, turning from the former hell-raiser with a noncommittal shrug. “Print the legend.” Mitchell clucked his tongue quietly, shook his head.

“In your case, you are the legend. The real thing. Or on your gods honest way. Not many humans recross the Styx.”

Jim gave him a level look, unmistakable in its quietly restless judgement. “Just the two of us.”

Gary shifted his weight from the bulkhead and stood over his old friend but looked down and away. “Liz likes to quote Twain when it comes to me, the report on my death – -”

“Liz Dehner knows? She knows you’re alive – -?!,” Jim hissed in a whisper.

“That comm pic she sent you before we took our midshipman’s assignments, about the decision I’d made that you wouldn’t understand?”

Jim shook his head; so simple and trusting he’d been and just a few years ago – – he’d sincerely thought “Hot Lips” was warning him Gary had uncharacteristically settled for an “average” career plan running those shuttles, tugs and colonists’ transports along familiar trade routes.

“Of course, ” Gary amended with a smile Jim felt too friendly, “she wasn’t happy about signing a gag order and loyalty oath to Section Thirty-One. But you know her, she gets what she wants.”

Kirk looked at Gary, measuring how or if he could maintain that trust any longer. “What do you mean?”

“Part of her deal for putting her husband in the line of fire.” Gary held up a hand, his wedding ring. “Contract work for Thirty-One. What they call StellarPsy-Ops – – We keep a lake house on Bellaraphon, a thousand klicks from Serling. Very private.” Gary paused, glancing across the nooks and crannies of the claustrophobic bridge that had snapped to low level red emergency lights the moment they hit two hundred with the drop, cleared his throat a bit….

“Look, Jim– I know there are things you want to, uh, deal with other than old football games–”

Jim held up a hand to interrupt Gary buy Mitchell spoke over him, past him.

“And I owe you. I know that. But hell, Jim, when I heard who they’d roped into this mission – – not just Captain of the flagship but goddamn crazy, out-think-him-or-sink like a god damn stone Jim Kirk who can’t get roped into anything for nothing let alone a mission that’s this hairy. The Kirk I knew and still read reports on is not suicidal. Self-destructive, hmmm–”

“You , of all people, think you know me? Now, Mister Mitchell?,” Jim practically spat. “I’m pulling my customary rabbit and then I’m heading home.”

“Aw, don’t give me your “no no-win scenarios” horseshit. Or is that what you sold to Toad?”

Kirk rested his head back against the bulkhead. He’d discovered one more meaning of self-sacrifice the hard way…. the way they seemed reserved for him…. if he’d only managed to hide those two bodies – – or, better, had tossed them overboard – – but they didn’t have the time; he smiled bitterly at the thought…. or if they’d found the time…. Or made the time as if they were the Guardians.

He’d told Toad to lead the way….




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