Dedication III: The Search for Bones
Chapter 14 - The Meaning of Defeat


The group of twenty Caitians tore across the field toward the main building. By then, the people in the main building must have realized something was amiss at the slaves' quarters, because several of Khan's people were outside the guard wall, marching toward the huts. Jim and his team ran behind the Caitians, and were treated to a scene of carnage as the Caitians gleefully ripped Khan's men to shreds. Jim found it both frightening and oddly satisfying. He did, however, pity Spock having to witness the scene.

When he could get a clear shot, Jim fired on the people the Caitians didn't catch, but he kept his main focus on getting to the palace. He was peripherally aware of Spock beside him, picking off enemies along with him. His presence was encouraging - a familiar feeling that took Jim back to their earliest days serving together, running across the field, weaving through dangers, and covering each other with the uncanny accuracy and coordination that had always made them seem like two parts of the same person. It was invigorating, and Jim felt the intense excitement of well-executed battle maneuvers with a partner that knew him inside and out.

With the help of the extremely effective distraction from the Caitians, Jim and Spock soon reached the high wall around Khan's so-called palace. There were guards stationed at the entrance they approached, just as they had seen in Kol's visions. The guards were staring in open shock at the main battle, not paying attention to the two figures sneaking toward them. Jim switched his phaser to stun, and fired at the man nearest him. Less than a second later, Spock's beam took out the next guard, and they rushed toward the gate. There was a number pad on the gate, and Spock quickly melded with the stunned guard and let them inside.

Once inside, Jim and Spock took cover quickly, ducking behind some equipment to one side of the enclosure. The palace was exactly as Kol had shown it to them - a large building, with a main center section, and wings extending from each side. Indeed, though it was obviously built of a strong metal alloy, it had been designed to resemble the type of elaborate state building that had been popular in Khan's time, with decorative trappings, broad, impractical windows, and even a statue in Khan's likeness, standing imperious on one side of the outer yard.

Several of Khan's soldiers raced out of the gate to meet the rest of the battle. In the confusion, Jim and Spock crept quickly and quietly to the side entrance Kol had described to them. They slipped inside and made their way toward the central section, where Bones was being held. They made it through the east wing of the palace without major incident, but when they reached the central body of the building, they came upon a small group of Khan's warriors preparing themselves for battle. Jim froze at the sound of the commanding voice, shouting out orders.

KHAN.

Jim tensed and tightened his hand on his phaser, but he and Spock stayed in the shadows outside the room where the voices could be heard. Jim waited until most of the people trooped out, heedless of the two officers watching them. When the tall, dark-haired, muscular, handsome man stepped into view, all of the fury and hatred that had been building up within Jim, and growing ever stronger since the Second King had shown the visions of Bones, suddenly came welling up, and he felt himself beginning to tremble with absolute rage. He managed to wait until Khan and the men had almost made it to the main door, when his rage boiled over.

"KHAN!!" Jim shouted, springing forward from the shadows.

Khan started, and turned to the sound of the voice, his eyes widening perceptibly when he saw Jim and Spock standing in the doorway they had just come through. Khan recovered quickly from his shock and smiled at the pair. "Well, Admiral. We meet again. And you've lost your limp, I see. Strange, but so much the better."

Jim seethed, his body tensing with the adrenaline pounding through his veins. Four of the men who'd been in Khan's party had heard Jim's cry and returned to Khan's side. They stared at the two intruders, their own bodies tensed, waiting for the order to strike.

Suddenly, as if a bell had gone off, though not a single one of the seven men had moved a muscle, the fight began. Jim fired his phaser at Khan, but there was no discharge. The dampening field Spock had identified in his scan must interfere with their phaser operation, as well as blocking transporter beams. Khan laughed, and Jim's shock turned into anger in under a second. He sheathed the useless weapon, but before he could find a substitute, one of the men Jim had seen in the conference room the day he lost his ship rushed at him.

"No, Joaquin!" Khan snapped. "All of you! Leave Kirk to me!"

The man hesitated, and Jim had time to dash away, back through the open doorway, and make a quick scan of the room. They were in a large chamber that might have been used for relaxing or entertainment. There were plush armchairs, several chaise lounges, and large animal-skin rugs that had once belonged to some creature Jim was not familiar with lay at odd intervals around the room. Of particular interest to Jim was the large fireplace at one end of the room, and the plethora of make-shift weaponry that could be found near it.

Khan noticed it at the same second Jim did, and Jim bolted for it. He was closer to the fireplace than Khan by only a few feet, but Jim was pleased to note that he was able to run faster than Khan. He made it to the stand beside the fireplace and pulled out two heavy metal pokers. He glanced at Spock, who'd been left to deal with all four of the other men, and wasn't doing too well. He'd gotten in at least one blow - one of the men was on the floor a few feet from Spock, looking dazed. But another had Spock from behind in a choke-hold, and Joaquin and the fourth man were taking turns dealing him heavy blows to the head and chest.

Khan might have caught Jim easily by cutting him off on his way to Spock, but he stayed to Jim's left, following him, rather than anticipating that Jim planned to help his friend. Jim nimbly darted away from Khan and rushed to the other combatants. With both pokers gripped in his two hands, Jim swung with all his force against the legs of the man holding Spock. He heard an audible crack, and the man screamed and fell to the floor. Jim barely registered the fact that the man's legs were clearly broken - he was too focused on the remaining threats in the room. Joaquin and the other man had been shocked by the sudden attack, but they were already starting to close in on Spock again. The man Spock had knocked out before was on his feet again, and Khan was hardly two meters away from him.

Jim passed one of the heavy metal pokers to Spock, who tested the balance and immediately swung a bone-breaking blow against the jaw of the nearest man to him - the one who'd been helping Joaquin to pummel him. Jim heard the sharp sound of cracking bone again and saw the man's head whip back at an unnatural angle. Jim turned his attention back to Khan, judging that Spock could definitely hold his own against the two remaining men.

No sooner had Jim articulated the thought than he had to dive out of the way. He narrowly missed being struck down by the large sabre Khan wielded. Jim backed up to give himself some space, but made sure not to trap himself into any corners. Khan had both a knife and his sabre, and advanced slowly with that same damned insufferable smile on his face that he'd worn when Jim first saw the man. Jim pushed the thoughts of the torture he'd endured out of his mind and forced himself to keep his head during the fight. He started with the knife - held in what he assumed was Khan's weaker hand. Jim made a feint for the sabre, then slammed the poker down on Khan's knife hand, nearly smiling himself when Khan let out a shocked cry and the knife fell clattering to the floor.

Jim knew his opponent was no weakling, but he was somewhat disappointed when Khan gripped his sabre with his left hand despite the fact that it must certainly either be broken, or at the very least, in extreme pain. The resultant battle was fierce. Jim honed all his senses and focused all his energies on staying alive and doing as much damage as he possibly could to Khan. He managed to get in several blows, but he wasn't as strong as Spock, and Khan came at him relentlessly, forcing Jim to spend most his time defending himself, rather than dealing attacks of his own. While Khan was able to tolerate blows from Jim's weapon, Jim knew that if Khan got so much as a single good strike in with his blade, that would be the end. As it was, he'd been sliced at least three times that he was definitely aware of. He knew he didn't stand a chance of winning the fight unless he got the sword away from Khan.

Jim could feel himself growing weaker as the fight wore on. He could still hear sounds that told him Spock was still locked in battle, and knew no help could come from there yet. Khan seemed to know that Jim was growing tired, too. His smile returned. "I had hoped you would prove more of a challenge, Kirk," he sneered, seeming to be only slightly out of breath. "But I see that you are no stronger or more clever than any of my Federation slaves." He swung again, but Jim dodged, and got a crack in against Khan's shoulder before the man could turn. He didn't waste words taunting Khan for gloating before the fight was actually won. He just kept up his defenses as best he could.

Before long, Khan was talking again, feeling confident, no doubt, as the force of Jim's blows began to diminish slightly. "I had hoped to keep you alive. Perhaps I will yet, so that you may see my handiwork." Jim scowled, and his enemy laughed heartily, even as he made another pass. "But surely that's why you have come, Admiral. To see your beloved husband - or what is left of him?"

Jim's anger had begun to build again, and at the smug laugh Khan gave him after he'd finished speaking, the fury boiled over. The sudden spike of rage served to give him a burst of strength, and he swung the poker with all his strength, attacking Khan's dominant hand, hell bent on getting the sword away from him. He felt a few more slashes on his arms, but he pushed past that pain and kept swinging, until, with great satisfaction, he saw Khan finally lose his grip on the sabre. Before he could dive for it, Jim let loose with the poker, slamming into Khan again and again. He swung the poker with a preternatural speed and strength borne of the rage that he'd forced down at the beginning of the fight, but now allowed to take him over, completely unchecked.

Before long, the smug smiles were completely gone, and Khan's face began to show concern. It was as good as showing outright fear for Jim, and he kept up his efforts until finally, Khan fell to the floor, and was unable to get up again. Jim stood poised with the poker raised, ready to strike if Khan was pretending to be more wounded than he was. Khan lay on his stomach, breathing heavily, limbs trembling, but otherwise immobile. Jim took a second to look around him, and saw that Spock had defeated the other men, and was busy tying up the man whose legs Jim had broken.

Jim looked back down at Khan. He'd managed to push himself up on shaking hands. He coughed and spat blood onto the formerly pristine floor. Slowly, he turned over, and pulled himself up to a semi-seated position, leaning heavily against side of one of the opulent chaise lounges. Jim didn't need a medical degree to know that Khan had been fatally wounded. He was badly bruised, and his breathing was ragged and stilted. Even still, he managed to give Jim that insufferable smile.

"You cannot beat me, Kirk," he said in a hoarse, labored whisper. "You may have killed me, but... I have done... much worse to you. I have..." He was interrupted by a coughing fit that left his chest spattered with more blood, and his voice somewhat weaker than before. "I've... destroyed you," he said. "I have destroyed him - I have crushed... his spirit. I... have t-turned him... into a dog, fit... only... to obey. I have destroyed him, and... through him... you." Jim glared at him, and Khan laughed. The laugh degenerated into another series of horrible sounding coughs. This latest fit left Khan shuddering and wheezing weakly, though still determined to show a brave face to Jim.

The sight of him dying, yet glaring at Jim through reddened eyes, struck Jim as morbidly pathetic. He felt the urge to offer Khan medical attention, or at least, a quickened death, but the words stuck in his throat when he thought of the pain the man had caused. He saw Bones' face, twisted with pain and humiliation as he was forced to beg for Khan's clemency. T' Paola's anguished eyes when she realized there was no rational explanation for her father's death. Lieutenant Farris, sobbing uncontrollably against his shoulder. The haunted, hunted look in the eyes of the remnants of the decimated Osler and Reliant survivors.

Slowly, Jim felt the last vestiges of his own basic compassion toward another living being drain away, leaving only contempt for this despicable creature. He grimaced, as if the sight of this monster shuddering out its last breaths left a bad taste in his mouth. Jim lowered the poker slowly, then dropped it to the floor. Without a word, he turned away and looked at his friend. Spock had since moved away from the rest of Khan's men, and now stood a few feet away, looking at Khan with an expression that spoke of his own deep revulsion.

"Spock," Jim said, hardly recognizing his own voice. "I won't stop you, if you want to end it quickly."

"I do not," Spock replied, his own voice gravelly and deep. "The doctor is still imprisoned, and his release merits our immediate attention."

Jim nodded, seeing that Spock had come to the same conclusion he had. Vulcans could kill a man humanely in less than five seconds - hardly a delay at all, considering Bones had been imprisoned for over six months - but those five seconds were more than Spock was willing to give to Khan. "I agree," Jim said. "Let's go."

Without even a glance in Khan's direction, Jim and Spock left the room.


Chapter 13
Chapter 15

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