TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL

 

Chapter Eleven

 

 

It wasn’t often Daniel Boone had met a man who could outpace him.  The frontiersman’s long-legged stride – with his height topping off at near six and a half feet – left most men far behind.  Spock, though several inches shorter in height and leg length, was giving him a run for the money.  The man moved with the grace and power of a panther in spite of the fact that he was still hurting from whatever had happened to him.  Still, Dan had noticed, in the last hour or so the other man had begun to slow down.  The frontiersman’s lips twitched with a budding smile.  The stranger’s slender form, clad in a plain shirt of blue cloth and a pair of breeches and boots that Dan had brought from the cabin, was now only five feet in front of him instead of fifty.  As he watched Spock halted.  The stranger shook his head as if arguing with someone, and then one trembling hand shot out as a brace against a nearby tree.

It only took Dan a second to catch up.  “What’s the matter?” he asked.  And then added with a low whistle as he rounded the tree, “You don’t look so good.”

Spock was breathing hard.  A slight sheen of sweat made his sallow skin appear brassy in the late afternoon light.  A spasm clenched the stranger’s jaw and he shook his head again, but said nothing.  Spock’s eyes closed briefly, as though he were concentrating, and then opened a moment later.  In front of Dan’s eyes he was transformed.  The other man’s ragged breathing had grown even and he had stopped trembling.

Still, the frontiersman wasn’t fooled. 

Dan leaned on Ticklicker’s stock and waited until Spock met his gaze.  “You think maybe you should take a rest?” he asked, his tone friendly but firm.  “You look beat.”

Spock’s near black eyes crackled at what he apparently took as an insult.  “I assure you, Mr. Boone, that I am fully functional and capable of continuing so long as it is necessary to locate both my missing comrade and yours.  Until five point three six minutes ago, I was outpacing you by a distance of eighteen point seven five yards on average.”  He drew a breath.  In spite of his best effort, Spock’s lean body shook with it.  Resolute, he ignored that fact.  “If I comprehend the colloquial meaning of the word ‘beat’ in its eighteenth century North American context, as pertaining to someone who is exhausted or worn out, then the facts obviously do not bear out your supposition.”

Dan pursed his lips. After a minute, he asked, “You sure you ain’t been to Oxford?”

One black eyebrow peaked toward Spock’s perfect hair.  He didn’t sigh, but he came close.  “Mr. Boone, I fail to see what relevance matriculating at a university in Oxford, England could possibly have on our current situation.”

The frontiersman shrugged.  “Maybe it don’t.  Then again, maybe it does.”  Dan’s hazel eyes remained locked on the other man’s face.  He looked even more like Mingo now with a dark knitted cap covering those ears.  “It’s just you ain’t the first soft spoken, so-well-educated he don’t know how to use a contraction, bull-headed, prone to charge into danger without thinkin’ and get blind-sided man I ever known.”

Spock didn’t quite frown.  Then, “Ah.  You are speaking of Mingo.”

“I am.”  Dan nodded.  “Can’t count the times I’ve had to pull that Cherokee’s bacon out of the fire.”  He looked thoughtful.  “You reckon I’ll have to do the same for you?”

“I beg your pardon?” Spock looked genuinely puzzled.  “Bacon, from what limited time I have spent studying human’s gastronomic preferences, is the salted and smoked meat from the back and sides of a pig.  What exactly is this ‘bacon’ which you refer to?”  The stranger looked almost offended.  “I assure you, though different from yours, there is nothing in my background that even remotely relates to any variety of Terran swine….”

The tall frontiersman continued to suppress the grin.  “I thought maybe that was where you got those ears.”

It took him a moment, but Spock finally figured out that his leg was being pulled by an expert.  The corner of his mouth quirked.  “I too am reminded of someone I know. “  The stranger paused.  When he spoke his words, though controlled, rang with unspent emotion.  “I only…hope that I will see him again one day.”

“A friend of yours?” Dan asked, curious.

Spock met his stare.  “My captain.”

“So you’re military?  I suspected as much.”

“Might I be informed of the logical progression of thought that brought you to that conclusion?”

Dan shrugged.  “Been there myself.  Sides, it ain’t hard to see you’re used to command.”

The dark eyes crinkled with unspoken emotion.  “Believe it or not, Mr. Boone, I prefer to follow.”

Dan studied him for a moment.  “I believe it,” he said at last, “if you got the right man to follow.  This captain of yours, he’s such a man?”

 “There is no better.”  All business once again, Spock straightened the blue shirt he wore and nodded toward the trees before them.  “We should continue on.  The men we seek – ”

“Don’t know we’re seekin’ them.  And are most likely asleep themselves.”  Dan stepped forward and laid a hand on the other man’s shoulder.  “You should do the same.  You can’t do Nyota any good in the condition you’re in.  You’re still hurtin’.  There ain’t no denyin’ it in spite of what you say.”

Spock had tensed at his touch, but did not throw it off.  Nor did he challenge him.  Instead, a shade of weariness entered his eyes and he actually listed to the right.  “Perhaps you are right, Mr. Boone.”

“Daniel.”

The stranger pursed his lips and nodded.  “Daniel.  I am fatigued.  It is only logical that a period of sleep would prove beneficial both to me and to our mission.”  Spock’s sharp gaze flicked to the star-speckled vault above their heads.  “I estimate we have four point seven five nine minutes until sunrise.  That should prove more than sufficient.”

Dan wrinkled his brow.  “Four point seven five nine?”

Spock appeared chagrinned.  “Four and three-quarter hours.”

The grin erupted.  “Well then, why didn’t you say so?”

 

Spock opened his eyes precisely one and three quarter hours later.  He was far from rested, but that did not matter.  Going after Lt. Uhura and Mingo did.

And he needed to do it alone.

Spock’s sensitive hearing had detected the fact that Daniel Boone’s breathing had evened and the frontiersman had finally fallen asleep.  The Vulcan had not been sleeping,  but spent the time meditating on the current situation, while seeking to advance his body’s repair.  Neither venture had proven particularly successful.  While the brief healing trance had nearly sealed the cut on his leg and eased the pain of the burns on his back and arms, it had done nothing to remedy the infection raging within him.  For the moment, the sickness was held at bay by the power of his mind.  But at some point – he didn’t care to calculate how long it would be – it would claim its due.  Neither had his Vulcan physiology been capable of producing the significant quantities of blood needed to replace that which he had lost.  He was suffering from hypovolemic shock and its resulting symptomatic conditions.  His usually hot skin was pale and curiously cool to the touch.  He was weak and, at times, disoriented.  Due to the fact that he was on his feet and not resting as the good doctor on the Enterprise would have insisted, the mental and emotional symptoms were also, most annoyingly, making rapid progress toward a disturbing end.  His found himself confused at times – such as when he had almost blurted out Lt. Uhura’s rank.  He had begun, as well, to experience something he had not known since the dreadful time of the pon far.  He was anxious and felt, at times, irritable to the point of anger.  Of course, he suppressed all of these symptoms by employing the Vulcan mental disciplines, but as the hours wore on and he grew weaker, it became increasingly clear that the battle he was fighting would, in the end, prove a losing one.

Still, he must extricate Lieutenant Uhura from the situation she was in and repay his debt to Mingo.

Spock’s dark gaze returned to the frontiersman who lay on the other side of their makeshift camp, wrapped in a blanket with only his boots and curious animal skin cap showing.  Logic dictated he needed the other man in order to continue his quest, but this was one time when he felt Dr. McCoy’s constant advice must be heeded and logic be damned.  He could not take Daniel Boone with him.  The frontiersman was a major figure in Earth’s colonizing period.  Boone’s actions had deeply affected the nascent country and the millions who came after him.  Spock could not in all good conscience place the pioneer in danger.  To do so might compromise the timeline.

If it was not already compromised simply by their being here.

Spock rose from his makeshift bed of leaves and pine needles.  Moving with the stealth that had brought him successfully through his kahswan in the Vulcan desert, he crossed to where Daniel Boone lay sleeping and paused briefly at his side.  It bothered him; tricking this man.  In many ways Boone did put him in mind of James T. Kirk.

Of course, logic had dictated that he trick Jim as well from time to time.

Leaving the frontiersman’s blanket-wrapped form behind, Spock made his way to the edge of the clearing.  Moving on another one hundred feet, he paused to get his bearings.  As he did, the Vulcan heard a dull metallic click.  The sound was accompanied by footsteps.  With a frown, Spock raised his hands.  He had not realized his injuries had so affected him that he would make such a simple mistake as being taken unawares by the enemy.  Turning on his heel, the weakened Vulcan prepared to resist.

There was no need.  The man on the other end of the rifle, grinning a lop-sided grin, was Daniel Boone.

The lanky frontiersman shook his head and then topped the gesture off with a lop-sided grin.  “That cuts it,” he said.  “Ain’t no doubt.  You and Mingo come out of the same mold.” 

 

 

Nyota Uhura stirred.  Her large black eyes were closed and she lay on the ground.  She parted her lashes just enough to peer between them and watched as Tume strode back into the slavers’ camp.  It had been the sound of his coming that had awakened her.  After their disagreement, she had been placed in the open with the other black men and women who were being held against their will.  Most were still chained together, but the two women out of the dozen or so held, were bound separately like her.  Uhura didn’t want to think what that meant.  To her 23rd century mind, the thought that such women could be arbitrarily used to bring pleasure to the men who meant to sell them was more than barbaric.  One watched it on the history tapes, but the reality was – to put it mildly – beyond belief.

She had read about old Earth and knew of its many prejudices.  They ranged from simple race hatred to extreme xenophobia.  Uhura had to wonder about Spock.  If the ship’s first officer was alive, where was he?  And what sort of treatment would the Vulcan suffer at this hands of this century’s uninformed and unenlightened inhabitants if they realized what he was?

She really needed to escape and find him.

Uhura shifted back and then sat up, counting on the shadows of the trees and the gathering dark to mask her movements.  She watched as Tume’s party entered the camp.  Solomon was there and the younger, somewhat stupid slaver with the blond hair.  They were dragging something – no, some one between them.  It was a man, tall, with dark hair.  Uhura’s breath caught, but then she saw the man was dressed strangely and his hair fell all the way down his back.  For a moment she had feared – almost hoped it was Spock.

She was so worried about him.

As Tume spoke and the men turned her way, she thought for a moment her conscious state had been noticed.  Then she realized the elegantly attired black man was directing Solomon and the others to place their captive with the slaves.  Uhura sank back to the ground and feigned unconsciousness as they approached.  The men were not gentle.  They picked their captive up and heaved him over the short hastily erected fence that surrounded the area.  His body struck the ground with a dull thud and he lay silent.

Uhura counted to one hundred and twenty before she chanced moving.  And even then, all she did was once again open her eyes.  The man lay no more than five feet from her.  Even in the pale light of the moon she could see he was not what this century termed ‘white’.  His skin was a light brown, baked by the sun but tanned from birth.  His hair shone a midnight blue like Spock’s.  He was very tall and dressed in clothes that, she thought, marked him as a native: a hide vest decorated with paint, feathers and beads, moccasins, and a curious pair of blue wool pants that looked something like those worn by the United States Calvary near the end of the next century.   The native’s muscled arms were bound behind his back.

She couldn’t see his face.

Chancing it, Uhura shifted into a seated position.  As she did, she felt another set of eyes on her.  Glancing to the side, she noted the woman Solomon had called Venus was awake.  Uhura acknowledged her and then turned back to the man –

Who was now sitting up and staring at her.

“Oh!” she gasped.

“I mean you no harm,” he said, keeping his voice low.  “Can you tell me where am I, fair lady, and who that despicable man is?”

Uhura hid her smile.  Fair lady.  The native was obviously well-educated, and a gentleman.  Neither of which she had expected from any male in this century.

“His name is Tume,” she answered.  “That’s Swahili.  It means agent or messenger.  As to where you are, your guess is as good as mine.”  She smiled at last.  “Probably better.”

He nodded to Venus who was also listening.  “You are this man’s prisoners and, as such, in grave danger.”

A statement of fact.  The kind of thing Spock always did.  “Yes.”

“I see.”  The native turned and looked back.  “These are reprehensible men, capable of anything.  I fear for the friends left behind when I was taken.”  He paused.  When he continued, his melodic voice rang with rage.  “I had thought to find them here, but they are not here.  And that makes me fear for them even more.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, not knowing what else to say.

At that moment any resemblance to Spock was blown away as the native smiled the most stunning smile.  “How very gracious of you.  I am certain you have your own sorrows that are more than equal to mine.”

She nodded.  “I too have left a friend behind.  I am worried about him.  He was injured.”

“Ah.”  The native continued to observe the camp.  So far, no one was paying them any mind.  Tume had disappeared into his lodge.  “Then we have even more in common.”

Uhura stared at him a moment longer.  “Nyota Uhura,” she said, almost adding the obligatory ‘of the starship Enterprise.’

“I would take your hand, but…”  He indicated his bound wrists.  “Cara-Mingo of the Chota Cherokee, though my friends call me Mingo.”  He smiled again.  “I would enjoy counting you among them.”

  Her own prejudices showing – to her chagrin – Uhura admitted, “You are not what I would have expected from a Cherokee in this….  From a Cherokee.”

“‘Surprise me to the very brink of tears.  Lend me a fool’s heart and a woman’s eyes’,” he quoted with a mischievous grin.

“Timon of Athens,” she murmured.  Yes, a most unusual Cherokee.

“I attended Oxford, Nyota,” he offered in explanation.  “My father thought my education somewhat lacking without the classics.”

She could see it then; the Caucasian blood.  Like Mr. Spock, this man belonged to two worlds.

Mingo took in the camp again and then looked back at her.  “Are your hands free?”

She’d been working at it.  “No, but they’re close.”

“Enough so that you could work at the ropes that bind mine?”

Uhura thought about it.  She wiggled her fingers.  “I think so.”

“Then, perhaps, together we can free one another.”

Her dark eyes took in the camp.  Solomon was patrolling, walking a lazy arc about ten yards out from their prison wall.  There was no way of knowing when he might come by to check on them.  “We’ll have to keep an eye out.  One of the men – ”

“I will keep watch,” a light voice whispered in the darkness.

Uhura pivoted.  It was Venus.  “You speak Earth stan – English?”

“I interpret for my people.  For the trade.”  The young woman shifted forward.  As she did, the chains on her wrists and ankles clanked.  “I will keep watch,” she said, meeting Uhura’s anxious gaze, “if you promise to take me with you.”

The lieutenant in her frowned.  “We will have to travel fast.  It would be better if you stayed here and waited – ”

The woman shook her head.  “Something is to happen tonight.  Whether I am to be sold or killed, I do not know.  I would rather die in the wild with chains on my feet while attempting to escape.”

Mingo nodded solemnly.  “I can carry you.”

“If I cannot keep up,” she agreed, “that would be acceptable.”

Uhura hid her smile.  The woman sounded like one born to rule. “Okay, then it’s settled.  We three go together.  Mingo,” she pointed to the native, “Uhura, and….”  She was sure the woman’s name was not Venus.

“Umbele,” the young woman replied.

Umbele, Uhura mused, how appropriate.

 

This time Spock did sleep.  There seemed little point in evading it with a six and a half foot tall, fully armed man keeping watch over him – both to protect, and to keep him from proceeding on his own. 

So it was to his surprise to find that he wakened alone.

Stretching, Spock lifted his face to the night sky.  For a moment, he allowed himself the emotional luxury of enjoying what he found.  On the Enterprise viewscreen billions of stars were visible, but they whirled past at blinding speed and were a thing he contemplated only in so far as they could aid in his calculations.  Here, they seemed to hang on the ‘vault of heaven’ as Shakespeare had put it, and even though he knew they were in constant motion – that what he was seeing was the dying gasp of worlds so far removed from Earth their reflected light appeared only after their demise – still, that bit of his mother’s people that was in him delighted in their beauty.

Or at least it did for fifty point three two seconds until he reminded himself that he was Vulcan and immune to such things.

Rising to his feet, Spock took a quick inventory of his failing system.  The fever, for the moment, remained held at bay.  His mind seemed reasonably clear, though he felt if called upon for any complex computation he might not be able to render it accurately.  Worst of all, he was weak to the point of feeling faint.  That realization brought him to another.  He was not functioning fully.  It had been more than thirty-six hours since he had eaten and he had not thought of it until this moment.

He desperately needed sustenance.

For a moment Spock stood with the night air rustling his well-ordered hair, contemplating his next move.  As he was alone, logic dictated he begin his search for Uhura and Mingo.  Whatever had compelled Daniel Boone to leave and leave him alone was proving most fortuitous, as it aided his desire to do so without the frontiersman as a companion.  However, logic dictated as well that he would not make it far without fuel, so – at this time – the need for food superseded the need to protect his unrequested companion.

He only hoped he would not have reason to regret bowing to that logic.

Earth history had been mandatory in both his Vulcan and human educations, the focus, of course, being more intent during his years at the academy.  Still, America’s colonial period had not fascinated him with its barbarous policies of conquest and colonization, and so he had learned what was necessary, but little more.  There was always the ship’s computers to supply the missing knowledge if a more specific need arose.

Spock swayed where he stood.  “The arrogance of the young,” he mused to himself.

From what he remembered, the prevalent diet of the indigenous population should suit him well enough.  There were many varieties of plants common to the wood – nuts, berries and roots – which would prove efficacious in erasing the hunger he felt.  A tricorder, of course, would have proven most helpful, allowing him to confirm his own findings and to ascertain which indigenous species were harmless and which were, well, harmful.  His gaze rested on a variety of fungi popping out of the grass near his feet.  Either lactarius volemnus or chlorophyllum molybdites, as memory served, though he knew not which.  One was consumed regularly by the local populace.  The other promised violent gastrointestinal upset and, if consumed in mass quantities, the possibility of death.

With a sigh, Spock moved off into the trees to search for nuts and berries.

He had not gone far when a sound alerted him to danger.  It was most curious, belonging as it seemed to neither his own time nor to the one he currently occupied.  Forsaking his quest for food, he headed in its direction.  Several minutes later the Vulcan arrived at a small clearing.  The starlight streamed down through the thin ceiling of leaves and branches that partially occluded it, casting the forest floor as a reflection of its parent above.  In its center there was a disturbance.  The leaves and bracken stirred and, as he watched, rose in a whirlwind until they danced just above the surface of the thick carpet of grass.  Then, as if some unseen foot had trod upon them, the green blades flattened.  Above them a shimmering vortex appeared. 

Spock frowned and moved closer, still retaining the cover of the now wildly agitated leaves.  The vortex grew in substance until it resembled most the effects of a highly sophisticated transporter beam.  In its heart was a figure.  No, two.  One held on to the other as though its life depended on the touch – which it most likely did.  The Vulcan’s near-black eyes narrowed, seeking to discern the shapes that were still in the process of materializing.  One was relatively tall, lean but well-muscled, and of seemingly alien mien.  If he was not mistaken, Spock could just make out a pair of pointed ears.  The other was smaller, though still powerfully built.  It was a man with tousled blond hair, wearing a pair of black pants and a thick gold shirt.

In spite of his Vulcan training Spock felt a surge of hope.  The man wearing the Starfleet uniform, it was Jim –

He heard the footfall a second too late.  Spock whirled and found himself face to face with the black man who had left him, only hours before, for dead.

“You’re a hard man to kill, Mr. Spock,” Tume intoned

It was only then Spock noticed the phaser in the slavers’ hand.