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Linda McInnis



The room was spacious, opulent, draped in shimmering curtains and furnished in soft, rich shades of rust, gold and chocolate. Kirk lounged on a pile of large pillows placed in the middle of the room, enjoying a rare feeling of laziness and well-being. His usual burden of responsibility and duty were gone, leaving only a faint bitter-sweet memory.

There was a soft rustling behind him, and he rolled over on his stomach to see what made it. The curtains that shrouded the rear half of the room parted and a vision stepped through. She was tall, blonde, and walked toward him as if blown on a breeze. Her eyes held him with their blue flame, and he felt himself holding out his arms to her, beckoning her to come to him and stay.

"Darling!" she murmured, folding herself against him. He forgot the room, forgot the nagging memory of the unwelcome feeling that told him not to stay there, forgot even who he was in her all-consuming embrace.

"I love you, I love you," he whispered, lips buried in her golden tresses.

"Yes, I know. I've always known." She pulled away ever so slightly. "Shall we go for a walk?"

"On the beach?" he smiled indulgently.

"Yes, the moon is so lovely on the waves this time of year. And maybe we'll find a secluded little alcove where no one will find us..." Her voice trailed off deliciously.

He chuckled deep in his throat. "We'd both like that, now, wouldn't we?"

She nodded, her lids demurely lowered.

"What are we waiting for?" He tucked her hand in his, and they headed for the door.

They never made it. Before they had gone three steps, a deep sinister thrumming noise filled the room. It wasn't loud, only barely noticeable, but it shook the floor powerfully. Kirk felt the woman shudder against him.

"Oh, no!" she sighed, "not yet, please, not yet! I've only begun..." She pulled away from him violently and pointed to the walls. They began to move, closing inexorably in on them. The pillows, the curtains, the soft lamps were gone. The walls had changed from their soft wood paneling to hard grey/silver steel, cold and blank. Closer they edged.

Kirk grabbed the woman and whirled her to face him. "Rand!" he shouted, "you've got to get out! I'll stay here and try to stop the walls, but you've got to get out! Now, damn it! Go!"

With a stifled groan, she tore herself away and bolted through the door. He took one more quick glance around the room that had suddenly become frighteningly familiar, and started to follow the woman. The door was gone. There was no seam in the wall, no crack to indicate that it had ever been there. He was trapped, and the walls had not stopped moving. He stood now in a space four feet square, and even as he watched, it shrank.

He pressed his hands on the cold walls, pushing with all of his strength, but it did no good. The walls, and now the ceiling, continued to press in on him. He was crouched down now, waiting, waiting. He couldn't breathe, and as he approached unconsciousness, he heard a harsh buzzing in his ears, insistent, demanding.

This is it, he thought wearily. She's finally taken it all now. His sight faded as the buzzing grew louder.


His trembling hand jabbed at the intercom to answer the summons. "Kirk here," he rapped out harshly.

"Captain?" It was Uhura's voice. "We're approaching the next planet on our roster. Assuming orbit in two hours."

Kirk took a deep breath to regain control of his voice. "Thank you, Lieutenant. Tell Mister Spock I'll be on the bridge shortly. Kirk out."

He fell back on the bed, exhausted from his brief sleep, and worried. He had been sure the madness was over. And now the hideous dream--Rand, the beach, the walls closing, closing on him. He shut his eyes to block out the ceiling above him, afraid that if he stared at it too long, it would begin to descend on him.

He sat up and put that image away from him. Planting his feet firmly on the deck, he stood and walked the length of his quarters. This was his ship. He commanded her, not the other way around!

"All I need is a tall dark ship and a star to steer her by..." he said aloud. Well, he had the ship, and all the stars he could travel to. He paced to the closet and pulled out a fresh uniform, examining it closely before putting it on.

The gold shirt--same color as the pillows he'd been lying on. He put the shirt on the bed and stared at it, deliberately reliving the dream. It was just a dream now. It held no terror, no secrets, only a faint tinge of the oppressive feelings that had been released on Psi 2000. He and the rest of his crew were well past that. The walls remained firmly in place, his breathing was easy, and they were coming up on their next assignment. He was captain of the Enterprise, and he was ready.

Still...there was no beach to walk on, alone or with someone he loved. Nonsense, he told himself fiercely. I may want that every now and then, but here is where I belong. He looked around his quarters fondly. My lady, you are home. He marched firmly to the door of the room, and as it slid open, stepped forcefully out into the still-empty corridor. He headed for the turbolift, knowing that these halls, these rooms were all the beach he would ever need.

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