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."
The St'or did amuse for awhile. Their innate desire to make profit made some of them particularly easy for him to Inhabit and to Guide. Ultimately, they were too dry a species for his liking, too passionless.
So it was that Murder, with the help of a particularly violent St'or tradeswoman, made his way to the western spiral arm of the galaxy and to the planet Earth.
He'd crashed the ship in a remote area, jumping from the
trader to a passing member of the local dominant species; a human being.
Humanity had only reached a nominal level of civilization at that time, even by Lesser standards. They had barely discovered internal combustion much less the fantastic variety of Life in the heavens above them. There was something about them, though; they were clever but vicious, inventive but myopic, loyal but avaricious enough to rival even the St'or.
For Murder, the period the humans called The Industrial
Revolution was the closest he had ever come to heaven.
He settled in a place called London by its inhabitants and cut a bloody swath there before moving on to a place the Londoners had paradoxically called The New World.
In actuality it was simply another continent but one that had been conquered by and was now peopled with humans who were so perfect for Murder's needs he might as well have designed them himself.
He stayed among the Americans, as they called themselves, killing, jumping to a new host when things got dull, killing and jumping again. He repeated this process for centuries, barely noticing the two near scorchings of the planet's surface at humanity's own
hands or the near collapse of human society.
He did notice, however, when the little monkeys finally hit upon Warp drive. He noticed because of the Vulcans.
"I know the Vulcans," said War. "Of all the Lessers they are the absolute worst."
"Yes," said Murder. "They fairly well ruined my lovely humans with all their Galactic Community this and Logic that."
"Logic," said War, his tone made it clear how little he
thought the concept.
"But it couldn't be helped," said Murder. "The Vulcans were there and they were going to do their best to drain all the fire from humanity. The best I could manage then was the occasional blood spree and bide my time.
As humanity stretched out into the larger galaxy, I went
with them. I planted myself on each new human colony, sifting, culling, moving on to the next. I did this for longer than I care to say and, for a time, I was content."
"Unusual for you," said War.
"As I said," said Murder. "The plan worked."
"Actually, you said that it worked more beautifully than you could have possibly imagined," said War. "So far it sounds like pretty tame fare indeed."
"You think so?" said Murder, expanding himself to nearly full stature. "That's because you don't know about Argelius."
"Argelius?" said War. "Who is Argelius?"
"Not who," said Murder. "Where. Argelius is a planet. A planet of soft, pleasure loving, beautifully bleating sheep."
"Ah," said War.
It was a soft world, Argelius, as soft as the silk draperies
that hung in all of its windows. It was as if the entire place had been designed and constructed to bring sensual pleasure to its inhabitants.
There was almost no predation on Argelius, at least none above the level of the insects who kept the planets trillion plant species pollinated. The plants secreted chemicals which mildly stimulated the pleasure centers in most mammalian brains.
The Argelians themselves were a gentle people; intelligent, graceful who considered politeness to be the greatest of all virtues. Their sole raison d'être
seemed to be the pursuit of pleasure in all its forms.
They'd been violent once, but that period was so distant that it was only spoken of in the context of legend.
Murder could scarcely believe his luck when a Rigellian
transport deposited his host, an unassuming looking human called Hengist, on Argelius.
Hengist, of course, was far from unassuming. Despite his
smaller-than-average stature and his genial demeanor, internally Hengist seethed with the same fires which had destroyed the Chosen and all they'd built. Even before Murder had found him, Hengist had taught
himself the pleasure of the knife.
When Murder had stepped inside the little man he'd been delighted to find a truly kindred spirit. He felt something similar with the Argelians. They too seemed
placid enough on the skin but, their collective protestation to the contrary, their past had been as bloody as any other mammalian species.
Indeed, though they'd managed to control and channel those passions for millennia, Murder was sure he could bring them out again.
So intoxicated was he with the Argelians and their
civilization that the planet made half a solar revolution before he started killing.
That is, he would have started killing. In spite of the
obvious perfection of the place and the prey, something prevented him.
It took him the rest of the solar revolution to figure out what.
"Well," said War, caught up in Murder's tale in spite of himself. "What was the problem?"
Murder seemed to be thinking, searching for the right words perhaps. When he got them, he continued.
"What am I?" he said.
"That's a broad question," said War judiciously. "You are one of the last Pandorans, as am I. You are my closest sibling in age and inclination..."
"No," said Murder impatiently. "You said it before. I'm
Murder, as you, brother, are War."
"This is self evident," said War. "The point?"
"But what is Murder?" said Murder. "I admit you and I are similar. Why are we both necessary?"
"Fate knows," said War. It was what members of the Family said when confronted with unanswerable questions.
"I know. I learned from the Argelians. Murder is not War," he continued. "War is about acquisition, battle, strategy. Murder is personal."
War was about to correct some of Murder's obvious
misconceptions about his Nature when he stopped.
Close enough, he thought.
"Murder," said Murder, "is primal, immediate. It is about rage and terror."
"If you say so," said War.
"I do," said Murder. "And that was the problem with the
Argelians. There was plenty of passion in them but no rage. Plenty of caution but no fear. I couldn't find purchase. It was maddening."
"I can imagine," said War.
"No," said Murder. "I don't think you can. I was a forest fire waiting for a spark that would never come, a hurricane waiting for the first drop of rain."
"Now who sounds like a Metron?" said War.
"In any case," said Murder as if his brother hadn't spoken. "My problem was solved when the humans arrived."
"Humans?" said War. "I thought you said the Vulcans had
"Mostly, yes," said Murder. "But, indirectly, they did solve
Murder, as Hengist, had taken the job of Administrator to the Argelian royal caste. All the day-to-day work of running Argelian society was handled by off-worlders imported for that task. Hengist's duties, as described, were the oversight of the Argelian law enforcement entities.
In practice his job amounted to following Prefect Jaris around and agreeing with his observation of a particularly beautiful sunset or of the attractive curve of a female Argelian leg.
He was, in fact, in the middle of just such a conversation
when Jaris informed him that a Starship from the so-called Federation of Planets would be arriving soon with a crew the Argelians were expected to entertain.
Hengist would be expected to handle any problems that might arise between the native population and the more
rough cast humans that would soon be beaming down.
"You're one of them, Hengist," said Prefect Jaris. "You'll
know how they think."
"Oh, I do, sir. I do," Hengist said. "Just leave everything to
The humans, it turned out, had not been as corrupted by
contact with Vulcans as he'd remembered. At least this lot weren't.
Their Captain, a man who concealed his obvious talent for violence beneath a veneer of military order, was of particular interest. He'd brought two of his officers with him, nondescript things by comparison, but with just as many lovely passions.
Indeed the one they referred to as Scotty had an especially volatile nature. Murder had to concentrate to keep Hengist's body from salivating whenever he was in their presence.
After some initial and interminable diplomatic necessities, the humans were allowed out into Argelian society on their own recognizance.
Murder followed the trio through a night of drink and mild
debauch until they settled on a traditional eatery in District Rouge.
There was a girl there whose skill with the Fire Dance had gained her local fame and the humans were eager to see it performed.
Murder knew humans. The mixture of liquor and overt sensuality which Argelians considered light entertainment was precisely the spur which had caused humans to disembowel each other as often as not.
In their way humans were to Argelians as Klingons were to humans; savages. They just needed the right trigger to let their baser natures flow. Murder had followed the new arrivals- at a discreet distance, of course- hoping to see some of that old magic but had been frustrated
at every turn.
Whether it was the Vulcan taint or some other blemish,
these humans had near total control of themselves even when intoxicated.
To say Murder was frustrated was to understate the situation by light years. He fairly vibrated with hunger for the kill, for the attendant primal terror, but, without a body to Inhabit- Hengist was a good vehicle for stealthy kills but taking this dancing girl in the midst all these patrons...
It wasn't the first time Murder missed the body of the Last of the Chosen.
"All right," said War. "I understand the circumstances
frustrated you. What did you do? What left you in the state I found you?"
For the first time since his brother had pulled him together, Murder radiated pleasure.
"I killed the dancing girl," he said. "Myself."
War was dumbfounded. The time Murder had spent discorporate had clearly addled his mind.
"What do you mean you killed her yourself?"
"I wanted to use Hengist or one of the humans," said Murder. "I'd done it so many times before I thought it would be like slipping on a second skin. But I couldn't."
"But you just said," War began.
"I couldn't Inhabit any of the humans," said Murder with more fire. "I don't know if it was something the Vulcans did to them or some natural defense they'd evolved but I was blocked."
War truly hated the Vulcans. He'd nearly wiped them out in their distant, angry past but that damned saint of theirs, the Logic Bringer, had salted their mental soil against all things Pandoran. It was so disgusting the entire species might as well have been transformed into - ugh- machines.
"And, of course," Murder continued. "The Argelians were still useless. I was frustrated, disgusted, enraged- all of it. So I struck at the girl myself."
"But," said War, incredulous. "But, how?"
"Hengist kept a ceremonial knife for his killing which I liked as well," said Murder. "It was always with me, so..."
War's mind recoiled from what Murder was saying. They were Pandorans; as immortal as the Organians, as powerful in their way as the mysterious Q, as ephemeral as a lighting flash.
Entire Lesser species worshipped them as gods. They could do many things which Lessers might consider miraculous but the direct manipulation of Matter was not among them. The Pandorans could transmute but they
couldn't touch. To do something as simple as lifting a stone, even War needed a host to Inhabit.
It was the one true weakness shared by all the members of the Pandoran Family. Yet it was a weakness that Murder, if he could be believed, had gotten around.
"I don't understand," War managed eventually.
"Neither did I," said Murder. "But it was glorious. I killed
the first girl and implicated one of the humans. I killed Prefect Jaris' wife right in front of him. I even Inhabited the starship which had brought the humans." No, this was too much. Murder had taken a Machine as his host? The very idea of such an abomination sent chill ripples right to War's core. Still...
"Glorious," said Murder, remembering. "Glorious."
War watched his brother relive the experience and a little
pang of envy shot through what would have been his soul. If Murder had discovered a way to influence Matter directly...