THE SHADOW THAT PASSETH AWAY
Things had not gone exactly as planned.
Spock shifted his body and pulled once again on the iron shackles that bound him to both the wall and floor of the Beagle. Though he had broken with ease the restraints that had once confined him to the Enterprise’s sickbay bed, which were composed of a material far superior in tensile strength and flexibility, he did not seem to be able to make these budge. It was partly due, he knew, to the odd angle at which he was confined – his wrists were bound to the wall and his feet, to the floor. And due as well to the fact that metal spikes had been driven into the floorboards and then bent back up, before being secured both above and below with iron fastenings. Whoever had created the holding cell in which he found himself had no intention of allowing any prisoner to escape.
It had been his intention to attempt an escape during the transfer from the stable to the ship. This had proven impossible after Maeve stunned him once again with the phaser. His muscles ached and he was weakened from two such episodes in so short a time. The 18th century woman could not know that the repeated exposure to nadion particles would eventually break down his cell structure and lead to collapse and death. He appreciated the irony. If Maeve did not cease her repeated use of the weapon, her prize catch would soon be dead.
Shifting again, Spock eased the ache in his back by bracing it against the ship’s wall. Closing his eyes, he drew on his Vulcan strength – that inner reserve of alien power he reined in on the mostly human Enterprise – and channeled it into his arms. Bracing his feet against the thick iron squares that rooted his shackles to the floor, he began to pull. After several minutes’ effort, he felt them shift…slightly. Gasping, Spock released the chains and let them fall to the floor with a clank. Then he opened his eyes.
And found Maeve watching him.
The Irishwoman was standing in the doorway; one shoulder pressed against the jamb. As she met his eyes, she straightened and stepped into the room, pulling the door nearly closed behind her. Heedless of the nest of ropes and unoccupied chains, the fetid nature of the floorboards and the lack of light, Maeve made her way directly to him and knelt by his side. For a moment, she said nothing, but simply extended her hand and ran it along his arm, feeling his strained muscles.
“You’re trembling,” she said, her voice a husky whisper.
“I can assure you, Madame, it is not from your touch,” he remarked quite ungallantly.
Maeve laughed. Her fingers dropped to his chest and then trailed down towards his waistband. “No? Perhaps if I touched you somewhere…else?”
Spock hesitated. He had no interest in the woman whatsoever. He did, however have an interest in escaping – and would need aid in doing so. The logical thing to do, therefore, was to lie.
“Even if such a touch could be calculated to elicit the desired response, little could be gained so long as I continue to be restrained,” he commented dryly.
“Ah, a restrained man? Is there such a thing under Heaven?” she asked with a coy sigh. Maeve raised a hand then and lay it alongside his face. The minimal light that pierced the ship’s side, entering through a small round portal opposite him, highlighted the two of them. The situation he found himself in was entirely uncomfortable. Maeve, tall, slender, handsome from a human point of view, reminded him entirely too much of Christine Chapel. Though a year and more had passed since the events of Psi-2000 and the influence of the planet’s water that worked like alcohol in the blood, he still remembered the human woman’s painful expressions of love for him. Her longing. As well as the almost human impulse in him to respond that shamed him still.
Leaning in, the woman kissed him. Spock hesitated, uncertain what to do. Then, steeling himself, he pretended to respond as she pressed her body into his.
“Be careful, Maeve,” a familiar voice remarked, “women who fall in love with Vulcans die of broken hearts.”
The form beneath Spock’s fingers stiffened. Maeve’s eyes lit with barely concealed hatred for a moment, before she turned and greeted the newcomer with a polished smile. “You know me, darling,” she breathed as she rose to her feet. “Tis not love I’m after.”
At the sight of Lt. Cmdr. Happer Clayworth, every fiber in Spock’s being reacted with disappointment and disgust. He noted the emotions, put them down to stress and exhaustion, categorized them as useless, and then quickly suppressed them.
“Commander Spock,” Clayworth said, “I am most gratified to see you well.” Spock noted that the Starfleet officer’s accent was decidedly more British than when on the Enterprise. The historian was dressed as a colonial, in a suit cut of a fine cloth, navy blue with a black corduroy trim. His manner had altered as well. When in command of himself, Happer Clayworth was unassuming, even mild. He moved with agitation now, as if he too had been injected with cordrazine. Spock knew, however, that was not the case. It was a lack of medication that had brought Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth to this pass.
“You would not expect me to render felicitations of the same type,” he said at last. “Not in our current circumstances.”
“No. And this is not how I intended for us to meet.” The historian cast a look at Maeve that did not bode well for the woman in the immediate future. “Maeve has been playing her little games. Still, I cannot fail to note the leverage her rebellious actions have given me.” Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth approached him and knelt at his side. “If you do not agree to assist me, you will remain in this place.”
There was a light of madness in Clayworth’s eyes. From his studies of Earth medicine, Spock knew that – while in a manic phase – such people could think themselves not only absolute and consummate, but gods. There would be no reasoning with him.
“I do not intend to assist you, Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth.” Spock emphasized the man’s rank, hoping to remind him of his duty. “You have already compromised this…place…by your actions, and continue to do so even now. I have come here to stop you.”
“Spock. You of all should understand. A man cannot survive divided. Neither can a country. Mother England will not see her sons and daughters slaughtered needlessly. Eight years, Spock. Eight years of death and destruction to come, and for what? So a group of ragtag rebels can take over and reinvent themselves, basing their laws and the land they create on what England has already established? No. No. Two thirds of this country did not want this war, or the end it brought them to. England must win, and it will begin tonight.”
Spock’s eyes flicked to Maeve. The woman was taking all of this in. ‘Did not want’ and ‘the end it brought them to’. It was obvious Clayworth was speaking of something that had already happened – at least from his point of view.
“Send the woman away,” Spock said softly.
“Why? Maeve already knows all about me. Though she doesn’t know about you. Shall we show her?” Clayworth laid the phaser alongside the wig Spock wore. “Shall we really show her the future?”
“You have violated the Prime Directive, Lt. Cmdr. Clayworth, more than one time. Starfleet regulations demand – ”
“What?” Clayworth took hold of Spock’s chains and shook them. “What?” His voice was rising in pitch, becoming hysterical. “What are you going to do about it? Court martial me?”
“Clayworth, get hold of yourself. Your conduct is unbecoming of an officer of rank.”
The other man shook his head sadly. “I should have known, Spock. I thought of everyone maybe you would…but I should have known you wouldn’t listen. I thought, maybe, you could understand since you are as divided as this country is now – as divided as your world once was. I thought maybe you would want to make a difference, like me. But I was wrong.” Clayworth rose to his feet, the phaser still in his hand. “You are nothing but rules and Starfleet regulations. You are of no use to me.”
Spock’s gaze flicked to Clayworth’s finger. It rested with some weight on the phaser’s trigger. He was not certain he would survive another blast, not even on stun. “No,” the Vulcan said truthfully, “I am not.”
“I wonder,” the historian mused, “what would happen if you died here in the past? Would you then exist in the future? It is a pretty puzzle, isn’t it?”
“Don’t kill him, Happer.” Maeve’s voice held a barely concealed plea.
“I should, just for that,” Clayworth snarled without looking at her. “What is it with you, Spock? Do they all want you just because they can’t have you?”
Spock did not dignify that with an answer.
“Tis not that,” Maeve continued, hardening her tone. “We’ll have to return the money to Captain Brighton, and it’s too great a fortune to part with. This one will be gone tonight with the tide. Happer, listen to me. We can buy a good many informants with that gold.”
Clayworth blinked several times. A thin sheen of sweat covered his features. Spock noticed the hand holding the phaser was trembling. He estimated the odds that the man would vaporize him at five to one.
Maeve’s head swiveled toward the door. “Happer. Captain Brighton’s calling.”
Clayworth’s steel blue eyes glinted like polished metal. He leaned in close, still threatening with the phaser, one lip curled in a sneer.
“Enjoy England, Vulcan,” he snarled.
And then he took the phaser and struck Spock hard against the temple, leaving him unconscious and dangling from his chains.
Elizabeth was terrified – but excited. Under cover of darkness, she had managed to board the Beagle. There was such a hustle and bustle of crates and other cargo coming and going, as well as passengers who were boarding early for the trip back to England, that she had gone unnoticed. She had waited until an older couple started up the gangboard. Keeping close to them, she gave the seaman minding the entry the suggestion that she was their daughter. Then, as the couple turned toward the stair that led to the lower deck with its staterooms and thirty-odd berths, she had slipped away into the shadows. As she hesitated, uncertain of what to do, the captain of the ship had emerged from a different stair, closer to the rear of the ship. Once on deck, he joined Maeve McGinnis and the stranger who accompanied her.
Elizabeth had listened to their conversation with interest.
The man Jeremy was seeking was on the ship. She knew she should get word back to him, but hesitated to leave less she miss some vital piece of information. Maeve and the stranger went below while the captain turned to the business of the ship. She watched Brighton, listening to every word spoken, wondering about the hectic pace his men set, and then it dawned on her –
The Beagle was preparing to set sail!
Ten minutes or so later, Maeve and the stranger reappeared. The man was flushed with anger and he pulled the wanton woman along at a quick clip, mindless of her protestations. They passed close by Elizabeth as they headed for the gangway. The Irish woman was sobbing, and the skin beneath her eye was starting to swell. On her cheek, there was the fresh impression of a man’s hand.
Slightly cowed, Maeve said nothing as the stranger hustled her off the ship and away into the night.
Elizabeth chewed her lip and thought furiously. She had grown up around packet ships and knew, once it was decided, that it took very little time for them to be underway. There would be no opportunity to send word to Jeremy if this one was about to sail. If she didn’t do something about the situation, the man he was hunting would soon be on his way to England. Taking courage in hand, Elizabeth abandoned the shadows and walked across the deck as if she belonged. The passenger quarters were on one of the lower decks, so no one would think anything of her taking the stair. From what she remembered of the ships she had visited as a child, the place where they held prisoners would be even lower down, toward the bottom of the hull. The ships usually had a small cramped cargo space in the aft of the hold. That’s where she would head, and if anyone questioned her, she would simply say she had lost her way and let them redirect her up to a higher level. With any luck, she would go undiscovered.
With Providence aiding a just cause, she might even find the keys to the cell hanging on a peg by the door.
As she moved along the galley of the lowest deck, she was mostly ignored. The sailors and seamen were all busy with their duties. There were other passengers coming and going as well, requesting food and drink before they settled in for the night and the long trip ahead. As one man raised his voice, displeased with the reception he was getting, Elizabeth slipped past and out of the area of the bunkers and headed into a dark, cramped section of the ship. At its end there was a barred door. There was no guard. All the sailors were busy elsewhere. Stealing closer, she looked for the expected peg with a ring of keys. She found the peg just to the right of the door, but it was empty. Doubt gripped her, but she refused to give in to it. Providence had not delivered her unnoticed so far only to be frustrated! Casting about, she looked for something that might be used to pick the lock, a spare scrap of metal, perhaps a long nail. There was a barrel by the door. She looked behind it, hoping that she might find a loose fixing and suddenly she knew she had not been deserted.
A ring of keys lay on the floor behind the barrel, dropped there, no doubt, by the last man who had hung them on the peg above it in haste.
Grinning broadly and scared almost to death, Elizabeth shoved the largest key into the lock and was rewarded by a loud click. Turning to check the corridor, she made certain no one was there, and then she pushed the door open not knowing what she would find.
The small room was dark except for the moonlight spilling in and across the rough floorboards from a round porthole set high in the wall. The floor was a web of chains and other hazards. At first she could see nothing, but she could hear well enough. Someone was there. Their breathing was irregular and ragged.
“Hello?” she asked in a whisper. Elizabeth searched her mind for a name. Jeremy had mentioned it. The sound of it was odd on her tongue. “Master Spock, are you here?”
At first there was nothing. Then the sound of cloth shifting on wood and a slight, stifled moan. “Who….”
“Elizabeth. Elizabeth Coates.” She stepped into the room and pulled the door to behind her. “A friend of Jeremy’s.”
The man shifted again and chains clanked with his movement. “Miss Coates. You…should go. Nothing you…can do….”
Steeling herself, Elizabeth moved farther into the room. “I have the keys,” she said. “I can free you.” At least she hoped the smaller keys on the chain were the ones to the shackles Spock obviously wore.
“Too dangerous.” His voice fell away and there was another sound of pain, denied again. “Clayworth would…kill you.”
That must be the stranger with Maeve, she thought. As she picked her way over the chains and other impediments, Elizabeth asked him, “Maeve McGinnis did this, didn’t she?”
“An instrument,” he answered. “Nothing…more.”
She could see him now, sitting against the wall, his long legs bent like bows before him; his wrists and ankles shackled to the ship. A black trail ran down the left side of his pale angular face. Blood, dripping from a wound. Hastening to him, she knelt by Spock’s feet and tried one of the smaller keys. Her hands were shaking so she wasn’t certain if she was the reason the attempt failed, or if it was the wrong key. When she tried again, there was a click and the shackled popped open.
“I’ll have you free in a minute,” she promised as she set to work on the other leg.
“Miss Coates,” the man said, his voice gaining strength. “I strongly…suggest you go.” His voice was deep and ran with an undercurrent of genuine concern for her.
“I’m a stranger, why would you care what happened to me?” she asked as she moved to the shackle that bound his right arm.
There was amusement in his reply. “I might ask the same thing of you.”
“Well, we’re even then,” she answered with a smile. “We’re both either very good people or very stubborn.”
He was silent as she moved to his other arm. Then he said, “I calculate the odds to be…extremely high that the reason has more to do with the latter than the former.”
“There! You’re free,” she proclaimed as the last iron fell away. “Can you stand?”
“I shall endeavor to do so,” he answered even as he began to rise. Using the wall as a prop, Spock worked his way to his feet. He stood there with his eyes closed, swaying, so long she feared he might tumble back to the floor.
“Are you all right?” she asked at last.
His dark eyes popped open. “I was…gathering strength. I believe I can – ”
Elizabeth heard it too. Someone was coming! “What should we do?”
Spock looked at her. “Assist me to the door. Position me behind it and then move back where they can see you.”
His voice was stronger, and his demeanor communicated to her that he knew what he was about. She didn’t know why, but she trusted him. Doing as he said, she helped Spock to navigate the minefield of the floor and then left him to the side of the door, hidden in its shadows.
A moment later the door opened and a sailor stepped in. His pistol was in his hand and he was frowning. Elizabeth moved into the cascading moonlight, showing herself. The appearance of a woman in the prison cell so startled the seaman that he let his arm drop as he moved farther into the room.
“What the hell are you doing in – ”
A second later, the seaman lay on the floor unmoving. She hadn’t really seen what had happened, but it seemed that Spock had simply touched the man on the shoulder and he had dropped.
For the first time since entering the dark chamber, she was afraid.
“What did you do?” she asked the man with raven-black hair as he knelt by the sailor’s side.
Spock picked up the seaman’s weapon and placed it behind his belt. Then he removed his coat. He glanced at her as he dropped the garment to the floor and began to unbutton the other man’s uniform jacket. “A useful trick I learned in the…Orient,” he replied. “It renders a man unconscious for several hours.” Rising unsteadily to his feet with the seaman’s coat in his hands, Spock began to pull it on. “Do you see his cap?” he asked.
The sailor had been wearing one. She bent and searched for it and found it quickly enough. Then she handed it to Spock.
As he placed it on his head, he nodded toward the door. “I am going to step out into the passageway. If any alarm is raised, you will conceal yourself and make good your escape later when the way is clear. Is that understood?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
Removing the pistol from his waistband, Spock headed for the door. His gait, while quite certain was still unsteady. Someone had given him a hard blow to the head and he showed every sign of a shaking of the brain. She knew from experience – a cousin had been kicked once into a stone wall by a mule – that such a blow could wait and strike a man later, and prove fatal.
He glanced back at her and then stepped into the corridor. The few seconds it took him to return seemed an eternity. Remaining in the doorway, Spock held out his hand. “Miss Coates, if you would be so good as to accompany me to the main deck?”
They emerged into the fresh air a few moments later. As before, the upper deck was a hive of activity. Instead of heading directly for the gangway plank, Spock steered them behind a tall stack of crates. From there he assessed their situation. Elizabeth did as well, and it was not promising. On the pier two British soldiers leaned against the pilings, deep in conversation. Near them a pair of wagons were being unloaded. There were two men with the first and one in the latter. Each was reaching for a sack or crate with the intention of bringing the goods aboard. At least a dozen sailors were laying hands on a line, drawing the thick rope back in anticipation of soon setting sail. The captain was shouting orders; his attention directed to the aft of the ship.
Spock was silent for a long time. Then he sighed. “The situation is untenable.”
“Pardon me?” she asked, not knowing what he meant.
“Impossible,” he snapped, seemingly angry.
“Is something wrong?” she prodded.
“No. Forgive me. I find I am…frustrated that I cannot come up with a solution.” Spock hesitated and then put a hand to his head. The dark blood that ran down the left side of it had grown to a small river.
“It is…a distraction.” His dark eyes swept the deck again, settling on an empty spot midway along the starboard side of the ship. She saw something kindle in them – a course, perhaps, past that which was desperate.
“What? What are you thinking?” she asked him.
Spock turned toward her, his expression unreadable. “Miss Coates, can you swim?”