DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2003 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Not All At Once
This is a companion piece to Rabble Rouser's excellent "Weeds". You really should read that first...
She betrayed me. She betrayed me, just as she did on the Enterprise. You would think I would have been prepared for this eventuality, and yet I was surprised.
I sit in what is left of our home on Ceti Alpha 5 and watch her, my beloved wife, as she stares blankly at the plate in front of her. I watch her and wonder how she could do it to us, do it to me.
Not that I suspected her at first. It never occurred to me that she would defy me. That she could be so devious, so brutal...so strong. But then one night, when she thought I was inside our shelter, I saw her peering up at the sky where Ceti Alpha 6 should have been, and she was smiling. A deeply satisfied smile. It was then I knew. I didn't have to wonder any longer what had gone wrong, how I could have prevented what had happened. She had done it. Done it to stop me, to hurt me.
I was her hero, her Alexander, her Napoleon. She told me that when we first met. Compared me to all those warriors she so esteemed. When did she stop believing in me? When did she decide to destroy me?
I think of Kati and the child she would have given me, both destroyed now, and my insides twist with rage. This woman, this inferior woman, took them away from me. Took my son or daughter away from me. By what right does she interfere in the affairs of her betters?
By what right does she exist, except that I say she can?
But she did 't realize that; she actually thought she had the right to change our destiny, to shatter my dreams the same way she blew apart Ceti Alpha 6. She bound me to this bleak rock for all eternity. Laid waste the planet...and my chance to exact revenge on Kirk. She did this...my beloved wife.
She will never do it again. Soon she will never do anything again.
She sits and stares at her plate. She is biddable and pleasant as she hasn't been since we were marooned on this forsaken world.
I reach over. Lift her chin gently. "Marla," I say. "What do you want to do?"
She stares. She doesn't know. She has no wish, no volition of her own. She serves me any way I wish. In private, I make her pay for her treachery. No humiliation is too base, no duty too menial. She will give me the devotion and humble love she should have lavished on me in life.
She never knew her place, never fully understood how much better I was than she. But would I have loved her, if she had? Would she have kept my interest at all, if she had not been so contrary?
I think not.
But now she has gone too far. And I will pay her back.
"Eat," I say, and she does.
"Drink," I say, and she obeys, for once without question.
Die, I think, and she will. But not all at once, and not instantly.
Joachim looks up from his meal, shooting me a pitying glance. He does not understand the role she played in the tragedy that has befallen us, believes what happened on Ceti Alpha 6 was a terrible accident. I haven't told him how she betrayed us, how she betrayed me. How stupidly I trusted her, what a fundamental error I made in letting her help me run the project. I was fallible, gullible. I will never tell him that.
And neither will she. She will never again tell anyone anything.
"She is worse," he says, touching her hand for a moment. His fondness for her surprises me. Troubles me.
"She is dying," I say, my voice mimicking the sorrow I do not feel. "The Eel will claim her soon. And I will kill it when it comes out. I will kill it with my bare hands."
He looks at me with pity...and admiration. I am the first among lions.
Marla was never a lioness. A hyena perhaps, but never a lioness. Hyenas are dangerous. They can kill...do kill the noble lion. But they can never be anything but comically ugly creatures, skittering by as if afraid of their own shadow. Pathetic, inferior beasts that should never have been given the capacity to destroy. Marla is like that. Was like that.
She is like nothing at all now.
"Eat," I say again and look for even a spark of rebellion in her eyes. There is nothing. Her eyes have gone cold, dull. Once, I loved to see myself reflected in their depths. Now, I only look to see how much time is left...and if she has begun to feel the pain yet.
I wait for that moment.
"Drink," I tell her.
She does, taking a bigger swallow than she should and choking on it somewhat. Water spills down her chin, and Joachim reaches over with the tattered cloth he uses as a napkin and wipes her face gently.
"You are kind," I tell him. He doesn't seem to realize I am not praising him.
He shrugs. "She is helpless. She is your wife. I honor you through my service to her."
His words mollify me. He is my trusted friend, the son I would wish to have. His devotion is plain, and I tell myself to trust him. I mustn't make him pay for the despicable acts of my wife. Joachim would follow me into hell. And this woman he tends so gently has ensured that hell will always be close by.
She will know her own version of hell.
I push back from the table. "I must get away for a while."
"But it is dangerous. The winds..."
"What can this planet take from me, that it hasn't already stolen?" I ask, looking sadly at my beloved wife.
He nods and turns back to her. Behind him, on the small desk, the eel that I captured when we first arrived moves restlessly under the sand. I see Marla twitch in time with the little monster's movements.
Soon, I think. Soon, it will start.
The mother eel rears up suddenly, her screaming hiss sending shivers down my spine...as it always does. I remember I felt the same way the night I stole her largest young and held it at the opening of Marla's ear. My wife fought me, but I held her down easily with one hand, while with the other I used the tongs to ease the creature into her ear canal. As it burrowed deeper, she screamed in pain. The sound was lost to the blistering winds she had brought down upon us. No one came to help her.
The eel hisses again, bringing me back to the present. I realize my hands are clenched, and I force myself to relax.
"Marla," I say, as I look down on her.
She looks up at me. No emotion shows on her face.
"I love you."
There is no reaction, no flicker of intelligence. The pain will start soon. She will go mad and I will watch her. And I will enjoy watching. I look away as if disappointed in her lack of reaction.
My only disappointment is that I cannot kill her more than once.
"Take care of her," I say to Joachim.
As I wrap my face against the harsh winds, I hear him try to offer comfort, "She loved you enough to leave everything she knew behind."
I do not turn as I say, "Yes, she loved me."
I open the door; walk out into the blistering wind. This, then, is her legacy. This hellhole that is my prison. Perhaps I acted too hastily; perhaps I should have made her live her life out here, with me, her soft white skin exposed to this blowing sandpaper.
I wonder, for the first time, if she knew that I would use the eel on her. If she was, in fact, counting on that. She didn't seem surprised when I dragged her to the desk that night. Didn't put up much of a fight until that last moment, when the reality of what was happening was inescapable. Perhaps she played me even then, hoping to earn in oblivion the peace she would never find had I kept her alive to suffer at my side.
I was hasty, I realize, and an ironic admiration for her comes over me. She was cleverer than I gave her credit for.
I laugh out loud as I suddenly understand that I once again underestimated her.
"A crafty woman," I yell into the squeal of the wind. Worthy of a superman. Worthy of me. If only she had been loyal.
I walk to the far enclosure and knock softly. Tamara opens the door and pulls me inside. "Sir, the wind is strong tonight, come in with us." Her eyes are soft, full of compassion for a husband she thinks already grieves the loss of the woman he chose to honor with his passion.
I nod and look down. She reaches for my hand, touching it gently, then with more assurance when I don't pull away.
Her voice is low as she moves closer to me. "I know how you love her."
I nod, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. It is a gesture that conveys great emotion.
"I would do anything to ease your pain," she whispers.
I do not look up, just rest my other hand on top of hers, capturing it in my grasp. I whisper, "She is my beloved wife."
"She lived a life few could ever hope to have," Tamara says. "She was the wife of a superior being."
I nod and lean against her slightly. It is only a matter of time before I take her to my bed. But for now, I simply accept her compassion. The others will see my steadfastness, my devotion to my dying wife. They will see, and they will be moved.
All will be moved. All will know I am a leader to follow...even in hell. I hear sand pound the sides of the shelter, scouring it clean. My kingdom is spotless, scrubbed to a blistering blankness by the winds that form the borders of this hell.
My hell. Mine. Better to rule in that place, I have said, and I still believe it.
I pull my hand away. "I must go back to her."
Tamara smiles sadly, while the others murmur their goodbyes. I wrap my face again for the short journey back to my own shelter.
There is no change in my wife. I did not expect there to be.
I turn to Joachim; tell him, "Go over with the others. You do not have to look after us all the time."
He protests, but I send him away.
As the door closes, I turn to Marla. "Alone at last, beloved."
She does not react. But she will. I can make her. Pain is an effective communication tool, and there are at least thirty ways I know of to inflict it without leaving a mark. Perhaps tonight I can think of a thirty-first?
I grab her hair; twist it as I jerk her to her feet. Her reaction is more genuine. She feels this. And I will make her go on feeling it. Until the eel takes over completely. Which unfortunately for her will not be soon, or all at once.