A FOLD IN THE WOLF (a Star Trek fanfic)
This story was initially submitted for STRANGE NEW WORLDS VII (volume 1) and didn't make the cut. Normally, I would retool a story like this and sell it as an original piece but, as you'll see, this one is just too deeply entrenched in Star Trek mythology to be anything but. So, I guess, it now counts as fanfic. Hope you dig. Energize!
A Fold in the Wolf
War found Murder spread in pieces across three parsecs of the western spiral arm. He wouldn't have stopped normally but he'd been sulking over his own troubles for some time.
His failed attempt to set the Romulan Star Empire against the Tholian Confederacy weighed heavily on him and, he felt, the distraction of helping to heal his brother might be curative to himself as well.
War was rarely at a loss. He didn't take to it. He'd spent, well, a long a time- even by his standards- ruminating on his failure.
He'd just gotten the Romulans all set to blast the Tholians into chunks of crystalline dust when the whole thing had just fizzled.
Shoddy materials, thought War as he drifted aimlessly through space. It's like the fire has gone out of the galaxy.
War was a solitary being, at least when it came to his own
family, and did not seek their company if it could be avoided. The company he avoided most scrupulously was that of his brother, Murder.
While most of their siblings tolerated Murder's idiosyncrasies, his moodiness and his occasional attempts to kill more than one of them more than once, War always gave his brother a wide berth.
Murder was trouble.
Still, trouble or not, he was family. Murder was one of the
last sixteen Pandorans in existence and he was in such obvious distress- so much of him spread over such a distance- that War felt compelled to assist.
In the manner of their kind, War counted the near infinite and nearly infinitely dispersed bits of Murder and drew them together.
It was tedious work, the sort which was only satisfying once done and then only barely. War was patient. His own recent difficulties had taught him to apply himself more diligently to the details of a given project and this one would not be the first exception to that rule.
Murder, true to his nature even in this state, was not
helpful. Each bit of him seemed not only to resist contact with War but with one another as well. War was persistent, though, and durable.
It took him some while, even as members of his relatively unique family reckoned time, but eventually he did manage to get most of the bits into one place.
"All right," he said to Murder. "What happened?"
Murder did nothing at first, the sparking bits of his essence merely glowing balefully at War in the interstellar dark.
"Murder," said War, in irritation. "I've just spent a good
little time getting you here. The least you can do is straighten up and talk to me."
Again the fiery crimson motes refused to bind. War began to get angry.
"Murder," he said thinly. "If you make me make you, I promise, it will hurt."
A moment passed and then, grudgingly the nearly infinite
number of glowing flecks coalesced into something that resembled a tiny red star.
"No one asked you to help me," said Murder eventually.
"That's true," said War. "But I was nearby. While I loathe you nearly as much as you loathe me, family does have obligations."
"Well," said Murder. "You've done your good deed. Now you can go."
War would have but there was something... something in Murder's demeanor...
"Are you sure you're all right, Murder?" he said.
"Stop calling me that," said Murder. "My name is Rejaq."
"You're Murder," said War. " I am War. This Rejaq business is meaningless to me."
"Just go," said Murder.
Again War made to depart and, again, something about his sibling made him stop. War was the younger brother by a considerable time yet he always felt that, of the two of them, he was the more mature. Murder, by contrast, had always thought War an insufferable prig. That he hadn't tried to kill his brother on sight was the surest
signal that something was seriously wrong.
"Are you... crying?" said War.
"Of course not," said Murder. "You need tear ducts to cry and you need a body for tear ducts."
"Normally," said War. "I'd agree. But you're obviously crying. Since you are Murder, the fact that something has brought you to tears is of potential interest."
"Do you have to talk that way?" said Murder bitterly. "You
sound like a Metron."
The Metrons, secretive little do-gooders who flitted from
world to world testing the Lesser species, sifting to see who they might elevate to higher status, were, to War, a pack of near mindless idiots who did not deserve even a tenth of the power Fate had seen fit to gift them.
As if any of the Lessers could be elevated and, even if
they could, who needed the competition? The rest of the Family was trouble enough.
"Your insults have lost their bite," said War. It was
a little bit of a lie. His brother's words had stung somewhat.
"So have I," said Murder.
He didn't speak again for some little while and War actually managed to become concerned.
"Tell me," he said as gently as someone named War could. "Tell me what happened."
Murder considered considering killing War for a moment but found even the planning of the activity beyond him. He was broken. That his sibling, once his most hated sibling and the one who hated him the most, that that sibling had been moved to compassion by his state...
Well, it was almost more than Murder could bear. The only
thing worse the weight of War's compassion was the memory of his recent experience.
Trouble shared is trouble halved, he remembered someone saying once, right before he killed them.
"All right," he said to War. "You remember the last time we met?"
War did. It had been at a family gathering, one of the few,
one at which attendance had been mandatory. All sixteen of them had assembled in the lee of some binary star and tried to work out what direction the Family might take for the foreseeable future.
As with all such gatherings nothing was resolved, feelings were hurt and everyone went their separate ways with the unshakable opinion that it had been a mistake ever attending at all.
The only sibling to come away unscathed, indeed invigorated, had been Murder, War suddenly
recalled. Murder had been positively giddy. War had noticed at the time and had broken tradition by asking why.
"Because," Murder had said before spinning himself off into the aether like the rest. "Unlike you and the rest of our putrid siblings, I have a plan."
Murder had vanished then, leaving War with a bad taste in what would have been his mouth had he been Inhabiting an appropriately evolved corporeal form.
"I suppose," said War, "your great plan didn't work as well as you hoped."
"Oh, no," said Murder. "It worked beautifully. It worked better than I could have possibly dreamed."
The first world had been pre-cerebral, almost pre-organic.
Murder had chosen it for its simplicity. There were three organisms on the first world; all single-celled, all just learning about Life and how to live it.
Murder could see the potential for cooperation the
three species shared. Already they were learning to help one another, to rely on one another's strengths. It had to stop. Murder had chosen one exemplar, nearly at random, and taken possession of it.
The Chosen species was smaller than the other two but faster and it had an asset that neither of the others possessed. The Chosen species had the genetic
potential for teeth.
Murder was a big fan of teeth.
While he Inhabited the members of the Chosen species, he nudged their collective potential upward a few rungs on the evolutionary ladder. In a single generation The Chosen species had given up cooperation with its cousins in favor of eating them.
Murder positively vibrated with the pleasure of his success. He stayed with the Chosen species, Inhabiting all of them at first and then inside selected individuals, until the Chosen developed space travel.
By then the Chosen were a hardy lot, their bodies having evolved to withstand and deliver all manner of violence. They were armored inside and out. Their tissue regenerated almost instantly from all but the most
destructive of intrusions.
They were quick and smart and completely devoid of pity. Their entire society had devoted itself to the creation of newer and more efficient means of killing. Their teeth, long, retractable and serrated were like icing on the proverbial confection.
Murder had loved those teeth almost more than the Chosen themselves.
Even the vacuum of space had proved undaunting to them. Their planet revolved three hundred more times around its star before The Chosen species consumed itself in an orgy of fiery death.
"That doesn't seem like success to me," said War when Murder paused. "I could have told you things would end that way."
"You weren't there," said Murder. "I wasn't trying for warfare; I wanted killers."
"You succeeded in that."
"No," said Murder. "Not really. I wanted killers. I got
"Ah," said War.
"The plan was sound," said Murder. "It had worked well until I forgot I wasn't you."
"It took the destruction of an entire civilization for you to
realize War and Murder aren't the same thing?"
"You're sounding like a Metron again," said Murder.
"Apologies," said War. "Please continue."
Murder drifted for a while, Inhabiting the body of the last
surviving member of the Chosen species. He was thinking, refining his plan.
His Nature was not that of his siblings, he realized.
While he could Guide large numbers of the Lessers in whatever direction he chose, the experience was always too diffuse somehow, too much less than personal.
He wanted things personal, he realized then, floating
inside the body of the organic engine of destruction his whim had created. He wanted things red and sticky and ringing with screams.
He couldn't get that by millennia of genetic tampering. He could by Inhabiting the right Lessers in the right societies. Yes. The right Lesser in the right environment could provide endless pleasure.
It was then that Murder was discovered by the St'or.
An ancient race of merchants, the St'or had long been
respected by the Great Civilizations of the galaxy for their fair-mindedness and honest business dealings. They were ubiquitous, friendly and gregarious; the perfect traders.
They were a rugged lot for all that, not the sort that pirates would consider easy pickings. The few beings stupid enough or suicidal enough to board a St'or ship
uninvited, almost never lived to tell the tale.
So it was providence of a sort when a lone St'or trade ship, slightly off course, happened upon the Last of the Chosen species floating, apparently lifeless, in space. Seeing a potential for profit in the biotechnologies markets, the St'or had dragged the Last of the Chosen aboard for evaluation.
Murder, in the form of the Last of the Chosen, had attacked the St'or crew, killing four of the ten before they realized that even this formidable species was susceptible to plasma fire.
They ultimately lured Murder into their central engine core and initiated a full burn. As the storm of plasma rained down, dissolving the Last of the Chosen where it stood, Murder had jumped from that now useless
body to the youngest member of the St'or crew.
He spent the next four weeks of their journey killing off the remaining members of the crew. It was a revelation.
By the time the St'or ship rendezvoused with its brethren Murder knew what was missing from his plan and how to finally, truly remedy the situation.
"I think I remember the St'or," said War, almost wistful. "Blue, veiny, overly concerned with bits of shiny metal?"
"Yes," said Murder. "That's them."
"Well," said Murder brightly. He was warming to the story at least, seeming a little more like himself. "The St'or got me where I wanted to go."
"Where was that," said War.
"Earth," said Murder. "The planet Earth."