Ghosts (Star Trek: TOS story)
|Fandom:||Star Trek: The Original Series|
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
It was published in the print zine First Time #50.
"Kirk and the landing party are captured after beaming down to a planet dressed to fit into the cultural castes there and Kirk is drugged and forced to relive his fears and his “truths."
Reactions and Reviews
I decided to do a loc for this story because of the very mixed feelings I have for it. Firstly I must say that I am not the best person to appreciate the subject matter as I simply don't like rape stories, but I do recognise that there is a lot more to this story than that. It starts off well, yet the tone seems to imply that we are about to read a fairly light hearted story - which is not the case.
I got confused when Kirk became excessively concerned that he had offended Spock by playing out an imaginary betrothal with him. Since Spock constantly asserts that Jim has done nothing to upset him, I can not see where Jim is coming from. The mind link was an interesting idea especially Kirk using Spock's strength. Then again something I did not follow, how did Uhura understand what was going on when even McCoy did not?? Good mind meld again later when McCoy gets semi-accidentally caught up in it and provides a focus that saves them all. Then again I was puzzled, Kirk says he said no to the bond, when, where? Though I think that may have been in the 'discussion' during the meld, I was not clear.
In this story Kirk is portrayed as someone who has a very nasty side to him and whilst this is perfectly possible (see 'Enemy Within') we are given little sign of this except the killings (when he was drugged anyway) and his history, yet when he is, in his right mind, not even particularly ruthless-the two sides seem very divided indeed.The last scenes return to the tone of the first scenes and are equally nice, and well written. In short I would say a nice style and tone in the beginning and ending though an interesting story was a bit spoiled by some confusion in the middle. 
Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Uhura all have to go to a reception on a planet wearing the culture’s traditional attire which includes long hair which is considered high status. So they all get a hair growth accelerator except that the side effect is an itchy scalp! I just loved this whole part of the story—so charming and such a neat idea. And Kirk shows up wearing tight pants; his chest bare; sporting a metal armband and barefoot. I visualized a Chris Soto drawing and it was so vivid.
A really adorable moment happens right after Kirk beams down, dressed as he is, and a female ensign comes running in to see him, just misses him and is all disappointed! So there’s Kirk at the reception looking hotter than hot and evidently it’s perfectly acceptable behavior for all the guests to grope and fondle him. Spock suggests he pull his hair to the left side to indicate betrothal to stop the groping. And Spock suggests himself as the future groom. What a great idea! Suddenly, the ballroom is under attack by a warrior/terrorist. I was a little unclear as to why the warrior, Septus, attacked them. He says something about how terrible the Federation is and that they lie like dogs. The personal force field, described as a security shield, is a very inventive idea. And a very good, tense scene when Septus has the ambassador injected with some kind of truth drug and then asks him to tell his innermost thoughts and secrets. I really enjoyed the Sybok (“Give me your pain”) kind-of idea with the ambassador admitting to having set this whole thing up, and then the commodore admitting to in the past having let his crew die. So many small details that enrich the story—like when Septus says that he doesn’t “understand this head shaking. Answer me with your mouth”. So much happens and I won’t go and tell it all! But it’s all really nicely done and very exciting. Except when Kirk goes on a rampage and ends up killing a whole bunch of the terrorists, it’s a little difficult to accept. Even though he’d been drugged and it’s later explained that he was flashing back to the events on Tarsus, it’s kind of thrown in when we learn something about a cousin killed by Kodos and Kirk’s rape. These are fine reasons for going on a rampage, but it’s not fully realized enough to support such a horrific action by Kirk. Another unrealized event was Septus’ capture— “off-screen”—I think this is something we needed to see. However, I loved that the ambassador apologizes profusely and realizes what a mistake he made. Great wishful thinking! Although the mind meld with McCoy involved was a wonderful idea, the scene is too brief and mostly told. It’s only after, when McCoy tells Kirk what happened, that the reader learns, too. It might have been more effective to have shown the event as it happened instead of telling about it afterwards. I really liked what McCoy says to Spock after: “All in a day’s work. Don’t think for a second it means I’m going to be nice to you or something inane like.” Such a beautiful scene when Kirk wakes up and he and Spock talk about the bond. Except for this: “First, if we can’t keep each other happy sexually, either one of us can get what we need someplace else.” Spock thinks this is acceptable. Hmmm.Then a lovely ending to a fine, involving story. 
I certainly enjoyed this unique story—a variation on one of my favorite scenarios, where Kirk and Spock are forced to declare or act on their love through some public trial they're being put through.
Let me get out of the way my comments on some writing problems: the misplaced commas, and some amount of told exposition, and no clear POV. But I didn't care. Besides a sweet and strong K/S love story, this also had some interesting Federation/Starfleet business and action—enough to make it a realistic ST tale, but not too much so that the setting is more important than the K/S. Same with the other characters—somehow, in an economically short story, they're fleshed out so they're distinguishable, but they don't play huge parts outside of the K/S. As usual, Kirk and crew know what they're doing, and the Federation ambassador and commodore types try to force their hands, leading to a disaster. This involves a planet seeking admission to the Federation, and the ambassador and commodore insist the Enterprise crew beam down to the diplomatic reception in the local attire—including hair. This was a simple but excellent touch, where each aspect of the way each person was dressed, and their hair, had a meaning in the society. And this gave us Kirk (a "warrior") in skin-tight leather pants and no shirt, and barefoot, and curly locks down his back, oh yes. I adored the little scene of the two crewwomen in the transporter room after they'd all beamed down, having gotten a hot eyeful of the captain like that. As an unmarried warrior at the reception, Kirk is subjected to countless advances and groping. Then, this is so cool—he's complaining about this to Spock, and Spock suggests he put the left side of hair back, indicating he's betrothed. Kirk says, but I came in as if I'm single. Spock says, say I just asked you. Oh, I love it! Spock asks him in a gorgeous formal Vulcan way. Then they have to make like it's for real, and receive congratulations, etc. There are some lovely words between them, about valuing their friendship. Really, really nice interchanges. I loved this: K: "Come on, my betrothed." S: "You do not have to call me that." K: "You're no fun." S: "Thank you." Of course there are bad guys—warrior-class anti- Federation guys, disrupting the reception...and a melee ensues. In which Kirk is beat up, shot and raped...but even so, he and the crew save the situation, win the fight. All the details were good, about the Enterprise's security and other crew during and after all this. But the detail didn't slow down the action. And it wasn't just a mindless shoot-out; there was a truth-serum involved, that the bad guys shot the ambassador, the commodore and Kirk with. "Ghosts" has to do with what Kirk was saying under the truth serum. It's a good theme for our captain—the pain he lives with from all who have died because of him. There was an odd thing, though. I think it would have been nicer if we'd been reminded during the fighting, with Kirk taking all these guys out, that he was still naked. We were reminded of this only at the end of this action scene. Okay, I won't go into all the details, but this situation leads to all the K/S stuff—a good use of Vulcan ways, the link/bond between them during all the action and after; Kirk's injuries, his life in danger, and Spock's responses and actions; Kirk later suffering the consequences both of his abuse and of his part in the killing; and their love and acknowledging it. McCoy plays a good part in it, too, in a unique psychic-landscape rescue. Oh yes, another odd thing is Spock thinking: Kirk had not wanted to bond; Kirk had not wanted to be lovers. When was this that Kirk had felt or said this and Spock knew it? No place that I read, I don't think. And later Kirk says, "I said no bond. Now we're bonded." Again, when had he said no bond? The ending is wonderful, their talk, and beautiful lovemaking—uncommon but clear word-images; really nice.This was a very satisfying story. 
I can readily believe the author's portrayal of Kirk, even to his reaction to his rape and it doesn't sound or feel off center. I don't like rape stories at all, but strangely enough this isn't exactly a rape story, perhaps because Kirk killed his rapist and could direct his rage to some extent, or because he wasn't going to let that rape dictate the course of his life. 
- from The K/S Press #42
- from The K/S Press #44
- from The K/S Press #44
- from The K/S Press #50