Dark Frontier

James Kirk couldn’t believe that Star Fleet Command could actually be serious about sending the Enterprise all the way back to Earth–a full fifteen parsecs out of their way-to investigate a series of mysterious deaths and disappearances, all said to have been caused by supernatural means. Just what that means was, the Captain could not have said; he knew only that to believe in the supernatural in this day and age was the next thing to absurdity.

And it was a cinch that if he held this opinion, Spock and Bones would as well. Unfortunately, it was their duty to investigate the deaths, however they had come about, and do their best to make sure that no more lives were lost. He frankly dreaded having to brief them on the subject, but it was necessary, so he might as well get it over with. He reached for his ship-wide command intercom to his First and Science Officer as well as his Chief Surgeon.

“Kirk to Spock and McCoy. Report to me in my quarters immediately.”

“My God, Jim, has Fleet Command gone totally screwy or something?” McCoy demanded, exasperated even more than he usually was–and that was saying something. “They’re sending us fifteen parsecs out of our way to investigate some deaths supposedly attributable to supernatural causes?”

“They can’t explain them any other way. It’s our job to see that there are no more, whatever we have to do–no matter how far-fetched and impossible we may think it is,” the Captain finished.

“Haven’t you got anything to say about this situation, Spock? You’re usually the first to speak up,” the Doctor remarked, surprised at the Vulcan’s uncharacteristic reticence, even for him.

“I did not believe there was anything relevant to say,” the First Officer replied coolly.

That never stopped you before, the Doctor couldn’t help thinking, but remained silent, returning his attention to Kirk. “When are we supposed to arrive at Earth, Jim?”

“At 1700 hours tomorrow,” the Captain informed him. “Admiral Komack has even made reservations for us at the Collinsport Inn.”

“How generous of him,” McCoy returned dryly. “Where the hell is Collinsport?”

“It’s in Maine, on the East Coast, about an hour from the state Capitol of Bangor. I think Komack said it was fairly small, roughly 1700 population,” Kirk elaborated. “It was named for the Collins family, prominent citizens of the area since the 18th century. In fact, that was when the city was founded.”

“Did the Admiral give any estimation of how long it would take to complete the mission, Jim?” the First Officer inquired of his CO and closest friend.

“Depends on how long it takes to catch whoever’s killing people,” Kirk told him.

“Or whatever,” McCoy finished. “What if the rumors are true and the killer is of supernatural origin? Remember what happened with Redjac, how he not only possessed Scotty and killed all those women on Argelius II, but almost destroyed us all when he took over the ship’s life support systems.”

Kirk barely suppressed a shudder at the thought. “Thank God you had that strong tranquilizer.” The Captain sighed and stood up to stretch after rising from his seat at the Briefing Room table. “But all we can do now is wait and hope for the best. Good night, Bones; make sure to tell Christine to report also–and Spock, contact Security and have our best two Security people, one male, one female, report for duty as well…Dickerson, maybe, or Leslie—-then Davidson, the top female Security officer.”

“Yes, sir,” the other two said almost simultaneously, privately wondering just why the Captain wanted one Security officer of each gender, but figured Jim must have a good, if not logical, reason. He usually did.

Either way, this mission was likely to prove, if not the trickiest, the most unusual (even terrifying) one they had ever been on, if even half of what the rumors said was true.

Kirk could not have spoken for his two friends, but he himself was frankly not looking forward to this mission…not one damned bit. He would have denied it had anyone suggested it; neither could he have said just why-but he was scared at the prospect of going to Collinsport. Scared as all hell…and getting more so by the minute.

The ship arrived half an hour before they were due to beam down, as was their custom, to give the landing party time to retrieve any needed equipment and assemble before transport down to the Inn. The Transporter Chief had been given the coordinates which would put them just outside. All they had to do then was walk up a short flight of stairs, then automatic doors would open to admit them.

Spock and the Security people, Andrew Dickerson and Elaine “Lani” Davidson, as she was known to her friends, were patiently waiting for the rest of the landing party to arrive. They didn’t have long to wait. Kirk came in first, followed by the two Medical Officers, McCoy and Christine. All carried travel bags, and the latter two medical paraphernalia, including medikits and tricorders.

“Well, Bones, are you ready?” Kirk asked as everyone assembled on the transporter platform preparatory to beaming down.

“No, but you wouldn’t let that stop you,” McCoy groused. “Besides, somebody’s got to go and keep a medical eye on you, what with your and Spock’s penchant for going in where angels fear to tread.”

“Stay here, then. Christine can look after us.”

“Not even Christine could handle you two alone,” the Chief Surgeon retorted. A moment later, before Kirk had time to draw breath for a reply, the six members of the party dissolved into gold shimmers and were gone.

They materialized in front of a building which looked as though it had been plucked right out of the 19th century. A fancy wooden scrolled sign painted in green and gold with “Collinsport Inn” depicted in black Old English lettering hung on two hooks, a wooden pole with a curved beam sticking out over a green, well-tended lawn. The sun was well down and the shadows were beginning to lengthen as the party made their way up the short stairway to the door.

As they stepped inside, Christine saw a tall, dark and ruggedly attractive man in a dark, high-collared, tiered and floor-length cloak standing nearby. What little she could see of his clothing otherwise was a well-tailored suit and tie with a white shirt. She then turned back to follow the others for check-in. At that moment, a warm, pleasant and cultured male voice with a touch of a British accent spoke to her.

“That suitcase looks heavy, my dear. Will you allow me to assist you?”

Christine looked up at him; his eyes were a warm brown and he had a sallow, almost olive complexion, similar to Spock’s. The bangs of his black hair were situated in several points slanted across his forehead.

“It’s very kind of you to ask, but I can handle it,” she said with a smile. She didn’t notice Spock turning his head in her direction and raising one questioning eyebrow before turning away again.

“Please. It’s no trouble, I assure you.” The newcomer took the suitcase and carried it to where the rest of the Enterprise party’s luggage was. This time the entire rest of the party gave her a funny look; Christine shrugged and smiled apologetically.

“Thank you…uh…” Her voice trailed off.

“My name is Collins. Barnabas Collins. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, dear lady. And your name is…?”

“Christine Chapel,” she supplied. “Good evening, Mr. Collins. I’m Assistant Chief Medical Officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise, and these are my shipmates.” She introduced her new acquaintance to the others, then turned to follow them as they started for the elevator.

The inside of the building was every bit as old-fashioned looking as the outside, but something told her that the Inn must have all the current modern conveniences or else it could not have stayed in business for so long.

Barnabas called to her. “Might I not spend some time with you while you’re here?”

“Your invitation is appreciated, Mr. Collins, but I’m afraid we’re going to be very busy,” she told him politely but factually. “We’re here to find out who’s behind all the recent killings.”

“Call me Barnabas,” he told her. “Besides, I highly doubt that you will be occupied with your mission 24 hours a day.” That put her off-guard, if only for a moment–a lapse which Barnabas took full advantage of. He met her blue eyes, as beautiful as those of many of his lost loves, including Josette, with his own. Christine found his eyes as compelling and hypnotic as Spock’s; one could easily drown in their fathomless depths without trying. She found herself giving in to him against her better judgment.

“What did you have in mind…Barnabas?” she asked.

“Dinner, perhaps, or a show? There is an excellent movie house just down the street. I would be honored to escort you.”

“What’s playing?”

He named a current favorite of hers–surely just a coincidence, but a favorite nonetheless.

Christine smiled and nodded. “I’ll see what I can do. However, I doubt that the Captain will let me go without one of our Security people along as a precaution.”

Barnabas smiled, instantly attracted by her lovely smile and sparkling eyes–eyes the color of the morning sky, which he had not seen for more years than he cared to count. “Quite understandable. One cannot be too careful.”

“Where may I contact you to let you know one way or the other?” she asked.

He seemed uncomfortable, even uncertain, for a moment, then said, “I am staying with a cousin at the moment. I’ll give you his comm number.” He handed her a slip of paper. “I’ll be waiting for your call. Please do not disappoint me.” He reached for her hand and raised it to his lips. “Until later tonight, my dear.”

“Christine!” the Captain called impatiently.

“I’ve got to go,” she told him. “I’ll be in touch.”

Barnabas smiled again and nodded in her direction, then was gone–almost too quickly, as if he had disappeared into thin air. Just as his lips and hand had seemed almost unnaturally cool–even allowing for the night air and time of year, late fall, late October, in fact…near Halloween. But there was no time for her to dwell on it now. She had to get back to the others.

“Coming, Captain!” she called back.

Again, the others all gave her a funny look when she rejoined them.

“That guy sure as hell was persistent,” McCoy observed.

“It is also illogical for you to accept a ‘date’ with a virtual stranger, Miss Chapel. For all we know, he could be the killer.” Spock’s voice was laced with disapproval.

“I agree,” Dickerson concurred. “I don’t think you should go with him.”

She shook her head and laughed, though Spock was more right than any of them could possibly have known. “I doubt that very much, Spock,” Christine said, addressing herself to the Vulcan. “He wants me to accompany him to a movie and dinner. I admit he was persistent, but was also most charming and polite–and had the most compelling eyes! When he looked at me the last time, I couldn’t turn him down.”

“I don’t think that would be wise, Miss Chapel–at least not without one Security officer along as a precaution,” Kirk remarked, an almost tutelary note to his voice as the party headed for their suites.

“That’s what I told him,” she replied. “He didn’t seem to mind the idea.”

“Who did he say he was?” the Captain asked. “I only caught his first name–Barnabas something.”

“It’s Collins,” Christine supplied. “Seems like we’ve already met up with one of the illustrious Collins family.”

“In that case, do you think he’d be willing to talk about his family background? We’re going to need all the help we can get in solving this mystery,” McCoy asked.

“I don’t know, Leonard. I’d have to ask him. I don’t even know how he’s related.”

“Since you insist on meeting with him, it would be logical to find out all you can, Miss Chapel,” Spock put in.

Not too long afterward, they reached their quarters. Christine would be sharing with Lani Davidson, while Dickerson would bunk in with the senior officers.

“I’ll see what and how much I can find out, then let you know,” Christine promised as Kirk and the other men waited to enter their suite. Lani Davidson had opened the door to theirs and stood in the open doorway, waiting.

“Please do,” Kirk told her. “As Bones said, we need all the help we can get to complete this mission.” He then stepped forward into the suite and everyone made their good-nights.

Christine’s eyes met Spock’s briefly but neither of them spoke…and she could have sworn she saw a look in his eyes akin to jealousy at the idea of her going out with another man. She liked the idea, but knowing Spock, she couldn’t afford to take it seriously at this point, when she was so unsure of him and how he felt about her.

Besides, it did him good to be reminded once in a while that if he didn’t have sense enough to claim her, she wasn’t about to sit home when she had the chance for some male company, to be with a man who could openly show his attraction to her. And all the better that it happened to be a man likely to be of immense help to them, especially if he was willing to talk about his family to any extent.

“Coming, Christine?” Elaine Davidson asked, a touch of impatience in her voice.

“Yeah, Lani. Sorry to keep you waiting,” the female Doctor apologized.

“No problem,” the younger woman assured her superior. “At least not as long as we can get into our room right away.” She smiled knowingly. “Besides, you’ve got a date tonight–and since the Captain’s given you permission to go, you’ll have to call and let him know when to come for you…then have time to get ready.”

Christine smiled, chuckled and walked past Elaine into their room; the latter carefully locked it behind them. A few minutes later, after the women had settled into the room, Christine called Barnabas–surprised when his comm showed an audio-only signal. That was strange, since he’d looked okay to her when she saw him–but again, there was no time to dwell on it.

“Barnabas? It’s Christine,” she said when he answered. “I can go. When will you come for me?”

“Marvelous,” came his reply. “It’s six o’clock now–or 1800 hours, your time. Can you be ready in an hour?”

“Sure. My room number is 223,” she told him. “We’ll be waiting…both me and my chaperone,” she teased. “See you at 1900 hours.”

“I am very much looking forward to it,” he replied warmly. “I’ll see you soon. Farewell.”

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