THE SHADOW THAT PASSETH AWAY

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

 

 James Kirk had been in battle before – at Ghioghe, on Cestus III with the Gorn, and countless other times throughout his career at Starfleet – but nothing he had experienced could compare to being on the ground during an all-out conflict between two armies totaling nearly thirty thousand men.  Regarded as one of the largest and bloodiest battles of the revolutionary conflict, the Battle of Brandywine had been mandatory reading at the academy.  Kirk had studied it, worked his way through the battle moves, even engaged in a simulation of the battle itself, but the reality of oppressive heat, drifting fog, gun smoke, cannon fire, blood, guts and unending death was another thing entirely.  In his head he knew nearly thirteen hundred Americans were dying.  He had to ignore that fact.  He had to divorce himself from the reality of each and every man and boy – and dear God there were so many boys – that lay dying; shedding their lifeblood to paint the green grass crimson red.  He wanted to save them all, but he couldn’t think about that.  He had to concentrate on saving only one – one French boy.

The son of the nobility, the elegant marquis christened this day by fire as the American Major General Lafayette.

Kirk knew from history that Lafayette, who was serving as an aide to General Washington, rode to survey the flanking assault and arrived just after the British Second Light Infantry and a regiment of Hessian Jaegers scattered the men.  The British soldiers charged up Birmingham Hill toward General Conway, who was holding the top.  Lafayette dismounted and attempted to rally the men.  It was at this point that he was shot.   The young general proved an easy target for a British sharpshooter due to his blue uniform.  Lafayette refused to leave the field until his men were able to make an organized retreat, and would not allow treatment of his wound until they found shelter some twelve miles away.

Somewhere between the Frenchman taking a bullet in the leg and that haven of safety, Happer Clayworth meant to change history.  

Kirk knew the historian was here in the midst of this chaos.  Happer wouldn’t be able to stay away.  Allied as he was with Washington’s troops, Jim had been steadily working his way toward Birmingham Hill.  Under cover of fog, with the benefit of the noise, confusion and chaos of battle, the starship captain had employed his phaser on a low setting to cut a pathway so he could move more quickly.  The Starfleet Brass wouldn’t like it, but if it worked, they’d never have to know.  That was the weird thing about time travel.  Once things were set right, it was as if all the wrong ones had never happened.

At least he hoped it was.  He’d hate to think there was another reality somewhere where Jim Kirk had saved the woman he loved, only to lose his country and future to a murderous dictator.

Casting aside such gloomy thoughts, Kirk continued to plow his way through hundreds of screaming, fighting men.  The phaser, unfortunately, provided no protection and so he was bloodied and had several wounds from where musket balls had cut through his clothing and burnt or grazed his skin.  It bothered him to know that Bones intended to follow him into this.  He had to hope that, once the doctor had arrived, McCoy would have the good sense to remain at the edge of the conflict where he could tend to those whose pain he could ease. 

At least Spock was unconscious and safe in Washington’s camp.

Kirk ducked as a bullet whizzed past his head, so close it left his ear ringing.  He was almost at the hill and, amidst the insanity that swirled and whirled about him, he could hear one voice rising above all of the rest.  As he drew closer, Kirk ran into men who were simply standing still, staring, with stunned looks on their faces.  A few were pointing.  The ones who pointed weren’t stunned.

They were in awe.

And then Kirk saw him, the young man he had been introduced to as Paul de Motier.  Lafayette was at the front of the line, astride his horse, riding back and forth as he alternately chided and encouraged his men.  He was calling on them to regroup.  In spite of the danger Kirk stopped to watch.  The young man’s brown hair blew in the breeze born of the discharge of thirty thousand weapons.  His pale face was blackened with powder and dirt.  His brown eyes blazed and his back was unbent.  He was the picture of certainty in the Cause.

“Are you children?” Lafayette shouted.  “Or are you men?  What will you tell them when you arrive home?  Will your children sit at your knee and hear stories of valor and courage?  Stories of how you held the field in triumph?  Or will they call you weak for running?  Will they name you cowards?

Some of the men had stopped.  Others were still milling about, and many, fleeing in fear.  The young marquis reined in his horse abruptly and leapt from its back to the ground.  Once there, he took the flat side of his sword and struck the two men closest to him.

“This day is a day to remember!  This day will live forever in men’s hearts!  Choose to stand and fight and to be a part of it!”  The young marquis’ voice cracked.  He was near to exhaustion, though exhilaration carried him forward.  Choose to be men!”

And then it happened.  Kirk saw the Frenchman wince, but he didn’t miss a beat.  Moving into the thick of things, Lafayette continued to rally the men.  The starship captain knew from eyewitness accounts that the young man had not even realized he had been hit.  It was only later, when the loss of blood became bad enough to overflow the top of his boot, that he was forced to stop and retreat. 

Kirk had to follow him.  He had to be there as that happened.  The starship captain had witnessed the rip in history clearly in his first officer’s mind.  Another man, a frontiersman of some sort, had been helping the marquis to escape.  They had paused at the side of the river, hidden by a clump of high grasses, and then history had been changed.  A British major – it had to be Tarleton – had ridden up on his white horse with half a dozen men.  All had taken aim.   The Marquis de Lafayette had fallen, his lean frame riddled with bullets.

And died.

Shaking off the image, Jim Kirk pushed through the wall of unwilling men.  As he did, someone gripped his arm and held it tightly.  Puzzled, he pivoted, wondering if it was some frightened soul determined to prevent him from continuing the fight.  It wasn’t.

It was Happer Clayworth.

“I’m afraid I can’t allow you to do what you’ve come to do, Captain Kirk,” Clayworth snarled.  “Not when I am this close.”

“Happer!  For God’s sake, man, think what you are doing!” Kirk shouted as he pulled away.  “The future can’t survive this – ” 

The historian’s eyes were wide and wild with manic fury.  “The future will survive, Captain, but you won’t.”  Kirk felt the barrel of a flintlock pistol pressed into his ribs. 

He had only a second to prepare himself to die.

 

Jeremy Larkin reached out to steady Commander Spock.  The ebon-haired man had stopped suddenly and jarringly.  The two of them were on their way to the battlefield via a circuitous route that Spock had directed him to take, which placed them on the opposite side of the river.  Before rescuing Isak and Henry from the prison tent’s interior, his strange companion had wound a linen bandage around his head again to disguise his more unusual attributes.  As they left Washington’s camp, Spock had dispatched Henry and Isak to town, telling them to retrieve the charges they had prepared as they would be needed to guard the army’s rear, and to wait for them at an appointed place. 

They were due to rendezvous with the two men in fifteen minutes.

The  rebel leader could tell the other man was unwell, though Spock had given no indication of it other than his slightly unsteady gate and occasional harsh breathing.  Or at least he hadn’t until a moment ago.  As he halted, Spock paled and lifted a trembling hand to his face.

A name escaped his lips like a prayer.  “Jim….”

“What is it?” Jeremy asked.

The ebon-haired man shook his head.  “I cannot be certain.  I had a sense of extreme fear from a man who knows none.  It is gone now.”

“A sense?  You mean you are…connected to another somehow?”

Spock met his puzzled stare with dispassion.  “It is the way with my kind.”

“Who is he?”

“My captain.”  The unusual man grimaced.  “At least he was.”

“Is he dead then?”

It took a few seconds for Spock to reply.  He swallowed hard before speaking. “Unknown.”

“Can you travel?” Jeremy asked him.

His companion nodded.  “There is no choice.”

By the time they met up with Henry and Isak, the two already had the canisters in place.  Spock inspected their work, nodded his approval, and then said, “The British pursuit will materialize soon.  Wait until the soldiers are deep in the water, and then use these to convince them that you are more than three.”

“Aye, it can work,” Henry agreed.

“Wait.” Isak’s hand shot out, clutching Jeremy’s sleeve.  “What is that?”  With his other hand he pointed to the river bank.  “They’re right in our line of fire.”

The rebel leader drew a sharp breath.  It was just as Commander Spock had described.  Lafayette and Sergeant Evans were working their way up the bank.  Jeremy turned to the curious stranger to comment, but found him gone.

“Where is Spock?” he asked.

Isak shrugged.  “Flying fast through the trees as if the old Nick himself were after him.”

“What do we do, Jeremy?” Henry asked, his face ashen.

The rebel leader turned back to stare at the two men leaving the water. 

“Wait here,” Jeremy said, breathless.  “I will get them.”

 

Spock ran for all he was worth, ignoring musket fire and cannon ball, vaulting over dead horse and man alike, denying the torrent of emotion that crashed into him with every step.  He was too tired and weak to screen it out.  There was so much suffering, so much death.  The tide of unending violence and its accompanying wave of corporate fear and pain were the reason he could not hone in on Jim’s mind.  At least, that was what he kept telling himself.  The only other explanation was that the captain was dead and that was neither a logical nor acceptable alternative.

Spock halted.  Standing as a stone parting the waters of defeat, surrounded by an unending sea of ragtag soldiers beating a retreat, the Vulcan reached out with his mind, searching for his friend.  At the edge of his senses there was a faint answering flicker of consciousness.  Closing his eyes, Spock honed in on it.  Jim was alive, but in grave danger.  Mere seconds counted. 

Jim, he projected.  Where are you? Jim!

With…Clayworth.

Jim, I am here.  The Vulcan could hear the desperation – the emotion in his own voice.  He did not deny it.  Where are you?  Tell me where! 

There was a long pause.

Washington….

And then Spock knew.  The crazed historian had a new plan.  Fearing their arrival and interference would alter his amended timeline, Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth had taken matters into his own hands.  Taking Jim along with him, he had gone to assassinate George Washington.

 Spock’s eidetic memory flew through the details of the battle.  After defeat seemed certain, near midnight, Washington and his men had retreated to Chester.  It was approximately ten o’clock now.  Where would the commander-in-chief be?

Perhaps seeking the young Lafayette?

Since they had not been recalled by the Guardian, Spock knew time had not yet righted itself.  Either Jeremy Larkin had not been able to prevent Lafayette’s execution, or this new gambit of Clayworth’s would succeed.  Logically it was too late to do anything to assist Jeremy and the others.  The last known location of the young marquis had been at the bottom of Birmingham Hill.  With too few facts to correlate the Vulcan was reduced to playing a ‘hunch’.

Concluding that was the only logical thing to do, Spock made his decision and once again began to run.

 

Jim Kirk’s chest felt like a horse had kicked it in.  It was all he could do to breathe.  Happer Clayworth’s antique weapon had misfired, driving the ball into his ribs with breaking, but not killing force.  When he realized Kirk was still alive, the historian had pistol-whipped the side of his captain’s head sending Jim into blackness.  The starship captain had only awakened this moment to find himself trussed both hand and foot, and laying by the side of an overturned wagon.  All about him men were dying.  The pitch of the battle had moved on from here and all that was left was a sad aftermath of tormented screams and broken, bleeding bodies.  Kirk winced and rolled onto his good side, seeking the crazed historian.  He finally found him, kneeling some ten feet away behind the upright bed of a burnt cart.  Happer held a flintlock rifle, which he balanced on the blackened wood.  Citing along it, Clayworth looked as if he was preparing to fire.

Jim Kirk blinked and shifted his head, trying to follow the trajectory.  He was gagged as well so there was no way he could command the historian to tell him what was happening.  A mist of smoke concealed the battlefield to some extent.  Within the manmade fog men moved as ghosts.  Kirk heard several voices shouting signs and countersigns, and then one of them rose above the others.  It was calling out a name.

“Gilbert!  Gilbert!  Are you here?”

Kirk’s heart lurched.  He knew the voice.  He had heard it only that afternoon, rallying the troops. 

It was George Washington.

Struggling against the gag, Kirk tried to call out.  But Happer had been thorough.  The ropes that bound his arms had been looped around his neck as well.  When he pulled against them, they strangled him.  Close to passing out, there was nothing James T. Kirk could do but watch helplessly as George Washington, the hope of his 18th century nation, was assassinated by a man with a diseased mind from five hundred years in the future.

And then another man appeared, walking out of the mist and straight into Clayworth’s line of fire.  He was pallid as a newly risen spirit and, Kirk feared, soon to become one.

It was Spock.

“Lower the rifle, Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth.  That is an order!” the Vulcan commanded.

“I’ll kill you, Spock.  I swear I will!  Get out of the way!”  Happer’s voice rose with mounting hysteria.  “Get out of the way now!”

Spock did no such thing.  He drew a step closer.  “Happer, you are a historian.  History is your science.  You pollute it by this act.”

“No…..”

“Think.  If in your right mind you would never, in good conscience, consider such a rash act.”  The Vulcan’s voice was completely calm, as if the walk he took was on a beach and not toward the deadly end of a loaded weapon.

Kirk blinked.  Was that Amanda’s laughter he heard calling?

“Spock…” he mumbled, “no….”

The Vulcan’s gaze did not waver from its object.  “Give me the rifle, Lieutenant Commander.  Do not do this thing.”

Ignoring the pain it engendered, Kirk rolled over so he could watch Happer.  He saw a battle enjoined on the historian’s face.  Clayworth was fighting with himself.  He grimaced.  His lips trembled.  He wiped sweat away from his forehead.  His left cheek jerked and one eye twitched.  Happer considered the Vulcan’s approaching figure for a heartbeat or two.

And then his finger closed on the trigger.

No!  Kirk’s scream sounded through his link with Spock as a shot rang out.  No… he gasped.  No….  Washington was safe but Spock….  Spock was….

“Captain.”

Collecting himself Kirk looked up as a hand fell on his shoulder.  It was the Vulcan; pale, exhausted, but alive.  Spock gazed at him for a heartbeat or two, and then crouched and removed his gag.

Kirk sputtered out dirt.  Then he demanded, “Spock?  Why aren’t…you dead?”

As Spock rose to his feet, a second figure appeared beside him.  The Vulcan turned to regard the other man.  “This is Sergeant Daniel Boggs.  Aide to General Washington.  For the second time he has saved me.  He is the one who shot Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth.”

Kirk felt himself relax for the first time since this whole insane affair had begun.

“And saved the American Revolution,” he laughed in spite of the pain.

 

 Doctor Leonard McCoy lifted his head from the ancient medical text he was examining at the sound of someone moving through the hallway.  He turned to find an attractive young lady standing just within the room, staring at the two men asleep in the beds.  They were nearly fifteen miles away from the battlefield in a safe house.  In the aftermath of the Battle of Brandywine it had been deemed wise for the survivors to put as much distance between their enemies and themselves as quickly as possible.   George Washington and his troops had retreated through Chester, moving on to homes, taverns, and churches where they could recoup and their wounded, receive treatment.

The surgeon had spent the majority of the battle on the sidelines, dealing with casualties as they limped off the field.  Once the worst of it was over, he had begun to search for his friends.  He knew Spock and Jim both intended to be near the marquis, so he had asked around to find out what had happened to the young man.  Several witnesses told him that, after taking a ball in the thigh, the Frenchman had been helped from the field by several men, and then finally turned over to one of his aides, a gruff sergeant by the name of Evans.  Sergeant Evans had tossed a frontiersman’s coat over the young general’s blue and buff uniform, disguising him, and taken him along the river toward safety as Washington’s army beat a hasty retreat with the British in hot pursuit.  There had been a moment where they were almost captured – the moment Spock had explained was the fulcrum of the change Happer Clayworth meant to make – but the danger had been averted when Jeremy Larkin risked his life to reach them and bring the pair to safety.  Instead of killing Lafayette, Major Fletcher Tarleton and his British troops had been embarrassed and undone when Henry Abington ignited his explosive charges.  As the major had ridden away, it had been reported that Jeremy Larkin cheekily told the British officer to ‘have a safe crossing.’

All of this was interesting, but it had done little to help him find his friends.  Finally, it had been Sergeant Boggs who had directed him to them.  The surgeon found the pair in the back of a crowded wagon along with other wounded.  Spock’s eyes were open but he didn’t see him.  The Vulcan’s hand was positioned on Jim Kirk’s face. 

Jim’s waistcoat had been covered in blood.

Fortunately, the blond man’s wounds had been mostly superficial, though the impact of the musket ball had broken several ribs.  For a time, McCoy worried about the effect of shock.  Still in the end, with Spock’s help, Jim had pulled through as he always did.  There was nothing the surgeon couldn’t put right with James T. Kirk once they got back to the Enterprise.

Whenever that would be.

Spock he had practically had to sit on.  Once the Vulcan knew Jim was all right, he had stated his intention to return to the field to claim Happer Clayworth’s body, thinking that was why they had not yet been returned to their own time.  McCoy had absolutely forbidden it.  There were other men that could do the deed, he told him.  Sergeant Boggs for one.  McCoy told Spock in no uncertain terms that it was his belief that their weakened condition and wounds were the reason they were still here.  Jim was in no shape to travel to the grocer, let alone through time.  And if Spock would only admit it, the same went for him.  McCoy had left the Vulcan sitting silent by his captain’s side, and returned half an hour later to find him prone and in a deep, healing sleep.

McCoy stirred and set the book down, realizing just how long he had left the poor girl standing in the doorway.

“Elizabeth, come in,” he said.

The brown haired woman advanced toward him, her eyes on the bed that held Spock’s sleeping form.  “I came to see if Spock was awake.  I have to leave soon.  I managed to get word to my uncle that I had been staying with a friend out of town.  I told him I found Goodwife Berth’s company unacceptable.”

“Will you be all okay?” the surgeon asked.

She smiled sweetly.  “Uncle is cross with me, but relieved to find I am all right.  I will get a tongue lashing, little more.”   Elizabeth hesitated and then advanced to the end of Spock’s bed.  “A most unusual man,” she said, almost to herself.

“Yes, he is that.”

 McCoy studied her for a moment.  Elizabeth Coate’s interest in Spock was based solely on what he had done for her and her country, and not on any pre or post pubescent attraction.  The surgeon rose and stretched.  Then he smiled at her.  “If you would keep watch for a few minutes, I think I’ll go get a cup of coffee.”

She nodded, grateful.  “I will.  And…thank you.”

With a nod, McCoy left the room and descended the stairs.

 

Elizabeth Coates watched him go, and then turned back to find Spock watching her.

“Oh, you’re awake!”

“I have been for some time now,” he said as he gingerly righted his body and leaned against the wooden headboard.  “I was conserving strength and meditating on our current situation.”

“I see.”  She moved forward and, with his permission, sat on the edge of the bed.  Glancing at the blond man in the other bed, she asked, “How is your friend?”

Spock’s near-black eyes flicked to the quiescent form and back.  “Healing.  Jim will be all right.”

“I’m glad.”  She fell silent then, feeling a little awkward.  “I wanted to….  Well, I felt I should say….”

The look he favored her with bore the shadow of a smile.  “You are welcome.”

She laughed.  “Can you read my mind?”

“Not without touching you,” he answered seriously.  “Humans feel a predilection to express gratitude when one is only doing one’s duty.  I had assumed you wished to thank me for saving you.”

 Humans.  She shuddered at the use of the word as it suggested he was something other than human – as he was something other than human. 

“You are upset,” Spock said.

“No….  Yes.”  She scowled.  “I don’t know.  It’s hard to forget what I have seen.”

The ebon-haired man studied her a moment.  “Would you like to forget?” he asked quietly.

“Yes.  And no.”  Elizabeth laughed this time.  “I sound like a silly woman who cannot make up her mind.”

“You are not silly, Elizabeth.”

She met his cool black stare.  “Can you really make me forget?”

He nodded.

“But I wouldn’t want to forget you,” she protested.  “Can I just forget…what you are?

Spock thought about it a moment.  “Selective memory loss.  I believe that could be achieved.”

She squirmed a bit.  “Will it hurt?”

He lifted a hand and placed it on her arm.  “Does this?”

Elizabeth shook her head.  “No.”

“Or this?”  His fingers moved to her face, positioning themselves along its side.

“No.”

“Elizabeth,” Spock said, his deep voice resounding through her, “listen to my voice.  Our minds are coming together.  Our minds are one….”

 

Jeremy Larkin nearly ran Elizabeth down as she left the room where James Kirk and Spock lay recovering.  It was time for them to go and though he hated to hurry her, he had things to do.  He needed to assist his brother.  Robert and his men were on their way to the Springfield Tunnel.  He had to help General Lafayette as well.  The Frenchman had informed them that the British had hurt them badly.  Perhaps mortally.  In one morning, almost without a struggle, the enemy had taken their most priceless possession: eighteen guns of the line.  All the artillery Washington’s army had.  It would take months to replace the guns and, without them, the Continentals dare not take the field.  It was Jeremy’s intention to take them back.  Henry had a plan.  Isak was willing. 

He could not wait.

“Bess,” he said softly as he caught her by the shoulder.

A little sound escaped her as she seemed to come awake.  When she saw him, she beamed.  “Oh, Jeremy, I was just coming to look for you.  Spock wants to see you.”

“He’s awake then?  Good.”  Jeremy brushed her cheek with his fingers and planted a kiss on her brow.  “I would like to speak to him as well.”

Elizabeth regarded him silently, and then returned the kiss with feeling.  “I’ll meet you at the wagon,” she said and then drifted down the stairs.

Spock was sitting up in the bed, waiting for him.  Jeremy entered the room, walked to the foot of the bed and then stood there, not knowing what to say.  Finally, he attempted to begin.  “Sir, for all you and your companions have done for us, there are no words….”

“None are necessary, Captain Larkin.”

Jeremy still felt odd when he heard that title.  Lafayette had commissioned them after they had rescued him from the field, but few had given voice to it.  “I do not agree,” he replied.

“I have my duty as you have yours.”  Spock straightened up, wincing just a bit as he did.  “It was my duty that compelled me to send Elizabeth in search of you.  As you are aware, we are from the future.  Once our mission was accomplished, we should have been recalled.  We have not been.”

“Why do you think that is?” Jeremy asked.

One of Spock’s ink black eyebrows shot up.  “I believe it is you, Jeremy.”

“Me?”

Spock’s deep voice was sober.  “The knowledge I was forced to share with you must, in time, compel you to take a different course from what was intended.  I do not know what will engender this change, but I feel certain that – whatever it is – the ultimate outcome is the reason we are still here.”

“Well, I cannot have done anything yet.  Unless it be to kiss my girl,” he grinned.

“Such a course might engender a change – in the young lady – but I do not think that is it.”  Spock’s face was deadpan, but Jeremy recognized the jest.  The alien man hesitated.  “There is a remedy.”

“And what would that be?”

“I can make you forget, but I must have your permission.”

Jeremy hesitated.  Make me forget?”

“I have the ability to…plant the suggestion that this never happened, or that it was a dream.  You will remember the events of the day with crystal clarity, but you will have no memory of the information I was compelled to share with you.”

“You can do that?  Is such a thing possible?”

Spock nodded slowly.  “It is.”  His near-black eyes shifted to the open door.  “You have just witnessed the result.”

Jeremy frowned.  He turned toward it and then back.  “Elizabeth?  She knew the truth about you?”  A new respect grew within him for this woman he desired.  To have had such information, and to have kept it to herself….

  “Yes,” the curious stranger replied.  “There was no way I could conceal what I was when we were dependent on one another in the woods.”

“I see.”  Jeremy did not want to forget.  This was beyond anything he could ever have imagined or dreamed.  And yet, it was also the only way he could repay the stranger’s kindness.  To rescue them, he must sacrifice his own desire.  “Do what you have to do,” he said at last.

Spock nodded his head, acknowledging the gift.  He beckoned Jeremy to lean forward and then placed his hand lightly on the blond man’s face.  When he spoke at last, the words he spoke were intoned like a priest’s.

“My mind to your mind.  My thoughts to your thoughts.  Our minds are drawing closer.  Closer.  Our minds are one.

“Forget.”