THE SHADOW THAT PASSETH AWAY
When Spock awoke, it was to the sound of Leonard McCoy’s voice. The Vulcan’s stomach churned from one of the doctor’s noxious potions and, surprisingly, he felt slightly euphoric.
“Damned if you weren’t right, Jim,” the surgeon sighed. “It’s a good thing I came along. I’d hate to think what would have happened to Spock if one of those Continental surgeons had tried to remove that ball. It was lodged so close to the Vulcan equivalent of the subclavian artery, he’s lucky he didn’t bleed to death.”
“Is he going to be all right, Bones?” His captain’s voice was worried. “He looks…well, greener than normal.”
Spock wanted to assure Jim that he was functional, but when he tried, he found instead that he was not. He could neither wake fully nor speak.
McCoy lowered his voice. “That could be the chloroform. I was only able to manufacture a crude form of it, but under the circumstances it had to do. Even with that Vulcan stamina of his, I wasn’t about to dig a bullet out of his shoulder with a steel knife without putting him under.” Spock felt the doctor’s touch on his left side, checking the pulse of his heart. “He’ll have to be monitored for a while. Chloroform can cause fatal cardiac arrhythmia. Used to be called ‘sniffer’s death’.” McCoy sighed. Spock felt the surgeon rise from the edge of the bed. “Though with that racehorse heartbeat of his it would be hard to tell.”
“I need to talk to him, Bones. We have to know what it is we have to stop. Spock’s got that knowledge locked up in his head.”
“He’s not going to answer anything for a while!” McCoy announced indignantly. “This would have been a dangerous operation under normal sterile circumstances, Jim. God knows what little bacteria were clinging to that knife. I hope we end this soon and I can take a good look at him on the ship.”
Ship. Spock’s senses reeled. Yes, they came from a ship. From far away.
Was it in the center of the world?
“If we have a ship.” Jim Kirk’s voice had a hard edge. “God knows I don’t want to risk Spock’s life, but Bones, we have to do what we came here to do. We have to stop Happer Clayworth.” His captain’s voice fell off to almost nothing. “Spock would understand. Bring him around, Bones. Now.”
He did understand. He wanted to answer. But he couldn’t.
“A stimulant? Jim. No. Coupled with the strain the use of the chloroform placed on his heart? No. I won’t do it.”
“That’s an order, Bones.”
“Damn your orders! There isn’t even a Starfleet yet!” McCoy’s fierce devotion to life rang in his outrage. “How can I disobey a damn order when there isn’t any damn service yet?”
They were arguing because of him. Just as his parents had years before. He didn’t want anyone to argue over him. Reaching deep into himself, Spock sought to throw off the effects of the foreign drug that had been introduced to his system. Vulcans’ air pathways were extremely sensitive. It felt as if they had been burned by the introduction of the foreign substance. He concentrated on following the path it had taken, on repairing the damage it had done – at least enough that he could throw off the lethargy and wake.
Captain Kirk was standing over him. Jim’s right hand was out. His voice was grim. “Bones, give the hypo to me. I’ll take responsibility.”
There was a pause. “No. No. It’s safer if I do it.” Spock recognized the sound of the hypospray applicator moving as the surgeon prepared it. “I’m sorry, Jim. It’s just damned unfair. The whole thing is damned unfair. I’m not a violent man, but for what he’s done, I’d like to take Clayworth out and shoot him at dawn.”
Spock felt the weight of the hypospray applicator press against his arm. Mustering all of the strength he could find, he lifted his hand and caught the doctor’s wrist before the surgeon could administer it.
“Spock!” McCoy declared. “You’re awake!”
It took him a few seconds. “Yes,” was all he managed before dissolving into a fit of coughing.
“Damn! I was afraid of that. Get him some water, Jim.” Spock felt McCoy’s hand on his back, lifting him up. “Here, Spock. Drink some of this. Sorry about that chloroform, it’s hellish stuff.”
“A…necessary evil…doctor,” he rasped even as consciousness brought a keen sense of the pain throbbing through his body. Spock drew in air, coughed again, and then asked, “Where….”
Jim Kirk’s voice held awe. “George Washington’s camp. Spock, I’ve already seen both Generals Wayne and Greene. It’s amazing.” Seeming to realize that he was gushing, Kirk continued in a more subdued manner. “Robert Larkin brought us here. He’s gone to join his regiment. We arrived just as Sergeant Boggs did, with you and Lafayette in tow. The marquis went off to join General Washington. The army is on the move. It’s nearly three. One hour, and the battle will begin in earnest.”
Robert Larkin. Spock knew the name. The images from the Guardian had contained it. Robert’s death had spurred his younger brother on to do great things. Boggs he had not heard of, but he knew Lafayette must live – and that he was in imminent peril. He had saved the young Frenchman from Major Tarleton and yet, they were still here. The Guardian had not returned them to the future.
Things had not yet been set right.
The images of what happened were locked in his mind. Somewhere within them was their answer. But he was so tired. Even his Vulcan strength was failing. It would not be long before he was forced to retreat into a healing trance or die.
“Jim,” McCoy’s mediscanner was whirring, “he’s too weak. We can’t press this.”
“Bones, we have to know.” Kirk paused. “Will it kill him?”
“Probably,” the surgeon growled as he snapped off the scanner in frustration.
“Captain…” Spock croaked.
Jim leaned in closer. “Yes, Spock.”
He could hear the puzzlement in his friend’s voice. “What? What, Spock?”
His lips did not want to respond. The Vulcan wet them with his tongue. “Mind…meld.”
“No. No, Spock!” It was McCoy. “You’re too weak.”
“Which is more of a risk, Bones? Me melding with him, or the stimulant?”
“Damn it, Jim, both can kill him! And if you meld with him and he goes into cardiac arrest, you could die to!”
Another pause. “I’m willing to take the risk. Spock, how? Do you have the strength?”
No, he did not. But he would find it.
Slowly, gathering every ounce of strength he had and combining it with what he often denied, the inheritance of stubbornness from his human mother, Spock lifted his hands and touched his captain’s face. Their minds had met only once before and the energy of James Kirk’s keen intellect and personal strength had nearly overpowered his own on that occasion. He was weak now. He did not know what would happen.
But Spock knew he must try.
He had been here before. Well, not here, but here, in Spock’s mind.
This time, as the hustle and bustle of George Washington’s camp faded around him, Jim Kirk found himself on a seashore. It was a peaceful place. And a surprising one, considering Spock was a creature of desert and sand. He walked along the beach. The water was calm, placid; blue as inner space. Somewhere close by there was the sound of other water running fast, like quicksilver, over stones. A fountain, maybe? And then, for just a moment, he thought he heard laughter. But he had to be mistaken. He had joined with Spock’s mind.
Spock didn’t laugh.
Captain. A familiar voice greeted him as Spock’s lean form appeared near the water’s edge. He was dressed in his familiar regulation blue and black. The Vulcan’s keen gaze was fixed on him; his black eyes unreadable.
Spock. Kirk looked around. Where are we?
His first officer looked somewhat chagrinned. In times of distress, Vulcans are taught to seek their center – that place where they are most at peace. This is mine.
It’s beautiful. Where is – or was it?
The Vulcan hesitated.
If it’s too personal, Spock….
No, Captain. You are here. You have a right to know. It is Earth, not too far from where we are now. The Chesapeake Bay region.
Earth? Kirk was surprised.
As a child I visited here with my mother. An ancient aunt lived near Sandy Point. Spock hesitated. In the meld there are no secrets. I am at peace here.
Jim heard the laughter again. Suddenly he understood. Your mother, he asked?
Spock’s face was a stone mask. Yes.
I’m sorry for intruding, he said, and meant it.
You alone would I allow here. There is no condemnation in you, Jim, nor accusation.
No. God knows you have seen the darkest and brightest parts of me.
Yes. Rest. Mother laughs for you as well.
Kirk started to give in to that laughter, to the sense of peace and contentment it brought. Then, suddenly he recognized it for what it was. Spock was weakening. Giving in.
Spock! No! Fight.
It is peaceful here. Join me in that peace.
Kirk shook himself. No! Spock you have to remember. We are fighting not only for ourselves, but for the future. For everything we know and love. For the ship, for Scotty and Uhura, for the Vulcans and my people, for everyone! I need to know what the Guardian showed you. You must show me.
I’m tired, Jim.
The human weariness in Spock’s tone was frightening. I’m tired too, but there is no time to rest now, no time to walk by the sand. Amanda must wait. Commander, we have work to do.
Use my strength, Spock. Draw on it. I have enough for both of us.
There was a flicker of amusement. I believe the good doctor would say, that is usually my line.
Do it, Spock! Take some of my strength. Enough that you can share what you know.
After a pause his first officer’s weary voice responded. Very well.
And then it hit Kirk in a burst, images flying past at light speed, visions of his country in the midst of its labor pains, grunting and groaning to be born. He saw the first shots at Lexington and Concord, he stood in the chamber in Virginia as freedom from English oppression was first proposed, he paced the halls with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, waiting for the Declaration to be approved. Kirk drew a breath and then he was in the midst of the battle. He saw thousands of men – crimson and deep blue – moving in lines across the fields outside of Chester. He saw Robert Larkin, his brother Jeremy, Henry and Isak. Lafayette.
And he knew what he must do.
Spock, he called. Spock, I have it. And then with real regret, he added, I have to go back.
It is your choice, Captain, the Vulcan said, you must break the meld for I have not the strength.
Will you survive it?
I do not know. But it does not matter. If I do not, Amanda is laughing.
Spock, hang on to my voice. Feel my face beneath your fingers. When I pull away, come with me. Amanda would want you to wait. You have many things to do.
Jim…. I will try.
Kirk gasped and reared back. He was trembling and sweat streaked down his forehead, burning his eyes. His hands held Spock’s. The Vulcan was pale as death and unmoving. Kirk laid his friend’s hands on his chest and then looked from him to Bones. The surgeon was watching the tiny screen on his medical scanner. A very deep frown marred his face.
“He’s alive. Barely.” McCoy looked up. “You look like hell, Jim.”
“Thanks.” Kirk breathed in deeply again and shifted to the chair beside Spock’s bed. He felt like he had already been through a battle.
“What’s it like in there?” Bones asked softly as he injected something into the Vulcan’s shoulder.
McCoy nodded toward Spock and then tapped his own forehead. “All dry dust and stacks of equations?”
Kirk thought of the placid water and of the sound of Amanda Grayson’s laughter.
“Sure, Bones. What else would you expect?”
An half hour later James Kirk stood outside the tent where Spock lay deep in a healing trance, watching something he never could have hoped to see – George Washington rallying his troops before they entered battle. The older man’s tall martial figure on his white charger cut against the green trees like a lightning bolt. In spite of the fact that he knew the Continental Army faced a massive defeat in the next twelve hours, Kirk found himself believing the commander-in-chief’s words. He had never seen or felt anything like it before. Washington’s presence was electric.
The young Frenchman rode at his side. Perhaps he had been left somewhat sensitive by his meld with Spock, but it seemed to Kirk that he could sense the growing bond between the two men. There were some pairings that went beyond explanation; love and loyalty that crossed boundaries not easily understood. Sarek and Amanda were one example. Kirk’s being remembered her infectious laughter. How had the serious stoic Vulcan ambassador dealt with it, he wondered? He and Spock were the same. Like fire and water in many ways, but instead of extinguishing one another, they were compliments. And this man, Washington – aged, in fear of dying, worn out to some extent – had been given new life by an ebullient French teenager who loved liberty more than his own life.
No wonder losing Lafayette so soon after finding him had been more than the old man could take.
But not this time. Not today. Happer Clayworth would not win. The British would not win. Not so long as James T. Kirk had anything to say about it.
He had to make certain Lafayette made it through the battle. One step had already been taken. When Spock had rescued the Frenchman, Major Tarleton had been captured. In Spock’s memory, Tarleton was the one who had killed the marquis near the edge of the river, when the battle was nearly ended. Kirk had asked and received permission to join the marquis’ regiment. He would be there to make sure that the young man made it off the battlefield as history demanded. He would make certain Lafayette escaped from danger after that. And he would see him to Bethlehem and the healers there. And somewhere along the way, Kirk knew, he would run into Happer Clayworth. They couldn’t go back without the historian. That was probably why they were still here, he told himself as he watched Washington and the young major general march away. Spock had saved Lafayette, but the Guardian would not take them until they had tied up all the loose ends. That was it.
Kirk turned to find Sergeant Boggs approaching him. The frontiersman led a fine brown horse by the reins. “You’ve been assigned to Sergeant Evans unit,” he said as he drew abreast. “He’s a good man. He’ll be keeping watch on the young general.”
“You’re not going?” Kirk was surprised.
“I’ll be there, but with General Washington.”
“I see.” Kirk took the reins. He stared at the other man, sensing something. “Sergeant Boggs, what is it?”
Boggs’ eyes went to the tent where Spock lay. “How’s your friend? We owe him a great deal.”
“Mending,” Kirk replied. “You didn’t answer me.”
“It’s probably nothing. God knows there will be five thousand British soldiers in the field today.” His shrug was not quite convincing. “What’s one more?”
Kirk felt his stomach flip. “One more?”
Sergeant Boggs nodded. “I just got word. Major Tarleton overpowered his guard and escaped. I pray Providence lays that villain in my line of sight.” The older man’s jaw grew tight. “If so, life shall see the end of him this day!”
Major Tarleton had escaped.
There was going to be hell to pay.