TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL
A lone figure, slender, dark-haired, limping and breathing hard, made its way through the endless series of trees that covered the rolling hills of the Kentucky Territory. Though Spock did not know its name, it took little time to process what he was seeing and to arrive at the conclusion that Lt. Uhura had been correct in postulating the theory that they were in Earth’s past. The trees were of the giant variety noted in ancient texts, sometimes referred to as ‘virgin’, and the flora showed none of the influence of off-world species later integrated into the planet’s botany. So far he had observed little of the local fauna, but assumed it would be the same. From what Spock recalled of Earth circa the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, unarmed, he was certain he had no desire to do so.
Completely out of place in the lush green vastness, Spock of Vulcan halted his forward progress and placed one trembling hand on the rhytidome or bark of a quercus alba tree. He gazed up at its leafy cover, which spanned some twenty point five six meters, and shivered. As a creature born to an arid desert habitat, the mean temperature of the Enterprise was a daily challenge to his constitution. Wounded and suffering from significant blood loss, clothed only in a singlet and trousers, he was more than aware that a night in the North American wilderness might well prove as fatal to him as a blast from a hand phaser on setting number three.
He calculated his chance of survival in such an environment at less than 1 in 25.29. He had afforded himself a slight edge for surviving the kahswan trial as a boy, and for passing Starfleet’s survival course with full honors. Still, his system was failing. He doubted he would make it to his goal before losing consciousness. Yet, he had to try. If he had any hope of living, the means to secure and insure it would be found in the remains of the downed shuttlecraft. Even if he was not able to locate the medical kit Dr. McCoy had so annoyingly predicted he would need, there might be other items from his own time that he could utilize, along with local plants, to synthesize something that would keep him alive – at least long enough for the Enterprise to locate them.
Spock drew a deep breath and held it against the nausea and weakness that threatened to return him to the ground. “Illogical,” he muttered, correcting himself. There was no reason the Enterprise would think to look for them in Earth’s past. Other than the Psi-2000 effect and the Guardian of Forever, there were no ways to travel through time. Correction. No other way known to Starfleet. Obviously, he chided himself, since he and Lt. Uhura were here, some other person or species had discovered a way. His mind raced through what he knew. Had they been careless? Had someone become aware of the secret files sealed by the upper echelon of Starfleet, which detailed their forays into the past? The potential for utter chaos and entropy were enormous if they had. No. Such puerile speculation would lead to an end more barren than the deserts of Shikahr. He had been with his captain when the admiralty had taken action. Starfleet was more than aware of the dangers such knowledge presented. Jim had also seen to his own ship, speaking in turn with each member of the crew who had access to vital information. All were loyal and efficient crewmembers. And, of course, only he, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and a few others knew about what had occurred on the Guardian’s world.
Denying another shiver, Spock pushed off the tree and headed north once again. Even though the course he took was entirely logical, he had felt a small pang of conscience upon leaving the cave where Lt. Uhura had sequestered him. He had awakened to find her gone. Assuming that she was seeking medical attention for him, he had – at first – followed in her footsteps. Then it had occurred to him that any help he might reasonably expect to find for his own inhuman physiology on this human planet would lie with their own, somewhat damaged, technology. He had thought to leave clues as to the path he had chosen, but had decided against it. Spock was not overly concerned for his own safety, but if the lieutenant followed, then someone else could as well. That might put the communications officer in jeopardy. Assuming she thought logically – which was a considerable assumption in light of the fact that he was dealing with not only a human, but a human female – Lt. Uhura would return to the cave and, finding him gone, await his return.
In a pig’s eye, he heard the absent voice of Leonard McCoy curse in his ear.
The thought of the surgeon directed Spock’s attention to his injured leg. Traveling over the rough terrain had caused the wound to reopen as Uhura had predicted, and as he had known it would. He could feel the blood pooling in his regulation boot once again. He had weighed his choices and concluded that the risk was worth it. If he was going to die, he would rather it be on his feet doing something than lying helpless, waiting for death to come.
Spock stopped short at that thought. He closed his eyes and suppressed the emotion that welled up within him, threatening to overwhelm him. He had known this feeling before though he would have denied it.
It was called despair.
His Vulcan mental disciplines must be breaking down. Their loss was a clear indicator of the diminishment of his physical strength and stamina. Spock’s keen mind ran through the calculations at lightning speed. He gave himself – at most – another twelve, perhaps thirteen hours in which to find a solution.
The use of that word would have delighted Dr. McCoy.
For a full minute Spock did not move. He stood, motionless, summoning every ounce of strength and mental control at his command. Even if his body refused to continue, it was not the stronger. His mind, his will could overcome the physical. He was a Vulcan.
Vulcans did not quit.
Jaw tight, hands clenched, Commander Spock, first and science officer of the Starship Enterprise, willed himself to move. Slowly, one foot began to fall in front of the other. Slowly but surely, they carried his fevered frame forward one agonizing step at a time. In this mode Spock continued for he knew not how long, until he noted the grass beneath his feet was no longer green. It was black and scorched. He followed the shuttle’s exhaust trail for another 39.2 minutes before stopping. The sun was setting in the west. Hours had passed, but he had reached his goal.
The wreck of the shuttlecraft lay before him, its silver nose half-buried in the gorse and shrub that covered a low hill.
Spock fought the urge to glance around before permitting himself a sigh. He stumbled forward, lunging; catching himself at the last second by placing a hand against the vessel’s wounded hull. For a moment he didn’t move, grounded as he was in the reality of what had been.
Of what was to be.
Then he heard a deep-throated snarl and whirled just in time to see a massive black animal the size of a Vulcan lematya cub charging toward him. It leapt and struck Spock in the chest and drove him to the ground, knocking the wind out of his lungs. The animal paused with its paws on his chest to study him. Saliva dripped, pelting his cheek, as it’s purple-gray lips peeled back to reveal a set of razor-sharp fangs. Spock held very still. It wasn’t hard really. He had no strength left to fight.
The animal, which he believed to be a massive example of Canis Lupus of the Northern American variety, sniffed him. It started at his neck and ended at his wounded leg. As it reached the bloody bandage, the Vulcan felt the wolf stiffen. Then it began to howl – terrified, no doubt, by the first truly alien scent it had ever nosed.
“Mkateewa!” a rough voice called out unexpectedly. “Nagadan!”
Spock blinked. The fact that he had the energy to do so both surprised and encouraged him. His depleted mind repeated the words even as it began to analyze them. The reference was ancient. Something to do with the indigenous population of the North American continent. The common term was ‘Native American’, though long before that the members of various tribes had been referred to, erroneously, as Indians. The language was a root one with several off-shoots. Algonquin, he thought. Specifically Shawnee. Spock almost snarled. No, he didn’t think. He knew! Various words and phrases passed through his mind, but none seemed to suit his current…situation.
Licking lips dry and cracked with fever, Spock said at last, “Can-a. Friend.”
“Can-a?” The man replied. “Match-le-ne-tha-tha!”
Spock considered the archaic phrasing. His eyes nearly rolled back into his head as he pondered its meaning.
Mingo had been running hard for some time. He was only slightly winded, but had decided as the sun set to rest for a few minutes and to gather strength for the remainder of the journey. He had an intuition that what lay ahead would tax both his body and his spirit. The Cherokee warrior had followed the trail of burnt grass as if it were tracks left by an animal. A slight smile curled his lips at the thought. His mother’s people would have said it was; sign left by a celestial panther that had crossed the sky the night before, dragging its fiery tail. The trail had led ever northward, past Chota and toward the lands held by the Shawnee. Several times he had noticed footprints running beside and crossing it. A man and a woman’s by the look of them. The prints were strange. Both appeared to be wearing boots, but the imprint of their soles was like nothing he had ever seen. As he sat munching on a piece of jerky, Mingo opened his bandoleer and drew out the strange box. It had made no more sounds. The curious pattern that had wound like a clock spring still moved, but ever more slowly as though it were winding down. He knew now that the entire thing was made of metal. It did not look to have been forged. The box resembled, more than anything he could think of, the sort of intricate and elaborate work commissioned and afforded only by those extremely well off. If it belonged to whoever had left the boot prints, they must be counted among kings.
Mingo had first followed the boot prints to a sheltered cave, but had found only more puzzles there. A nest of cloth had been created in one corner – strange colorful cloth that rivaled anything his people could have made using beads and paint. The cloth was soaked through in places with what looked like blood. The dried substance had been more black than brown, but he could think of nothing else it might have been. One of the strangers was wounded. He believed it to be the man. Both coming and going, the man’s stride was uneven and, on the way to the cave, it appeared the woman had been supporting him. From the look of the tracks leading out of the cave mouth and into the wilderness, the woman had left first, heading south. The wounded man had followed shortly after, but had gone north instead.
Mingo had decided to follow the man. If the blood was his, the stranger would be in dire need of assistance soon.
If he was not already dead.
The man’s trail was clear and easy to follow. It seemed the stranger gave no thought to hiding his steps or the way he had taken. Whoever it was, he followed the burning of the earth even as Mingo did. The Cherokee warrior, trained in such things, judged the man to be no more than a quarter of an hour ahead of him.
It was time to move on.
Returning the remainder of the meat to his kit, Mingo knelt briefly, offering thanks, and then rose to his feet and began to run.
“Mkateewa!” the voice ordered once more. “Nagadan!”
The first word was a color. Black, Spock thought. The second a command. Halt? Go? No. Leave. The wolf hesitated, growling its displeasure at doing so with his victim’s throat intact, but finally moved off obedient to its master’s command. The absence of the animal’s bulky shape in Spock’s line of sight revealed the one who had spoken. The native was tall and powerfully built, though not young. He was attired – not surprisingly – in a mixture of native and European dress. Red paint stained the shoulders of his linen trade shirt and decorated his plucked head, which sported only a single lock of black hair. The affectation was known as a scalplock, if he remembered correctly. Below the shirt and royal blue vest a portion of a painted breechcloth showed, worn over buckskin pants. The footwear, Spock thought, was known as swamp boots.
“Fascinating,” the Vulcan breathed in spite of himself.
In a second the man was on him and had the tip of his knife pressed against his jugular. “What are you?” the native breathed in a tone that equally mixed fear and awe.
So the man spoke standard American English, albeit with a thick accent. Most likely an indication that he had been schooled by white men either in America, or across the sea in Europe.
“My name is Spock,” the Vulcan replied matter-of-factly. There was no logic to creating a fantasy, and he certainly could not pretend to pass as a human. Already the native’s keen eyes had fastened on his ears, taking in their alien shape. What, he wondered, did the native think he was? “I am a man, like you – ”
“You are not like me. You are not a man, but a demon,” the native pronounced, his voice hushed.
Old Earth reference identified in many cultures, but noted most commonly in the book known as the Bible that was said to be God’s word given to men. Another confirmation, he noted, that the man was educated and not an ordinary ‘savage’.
“I am not –” Spock began. He halted as the knife’s point nicked his skin. He had been accused of a similar relationship with the biblical Lucifer before. In his current state, he found the man’s irrational fear not only irritating, but tiring. The Vulcan considered the native leaning over him. They were of a like height, but the other man outweighed him by a good twenty pounds and was unusually strong. His age appeared to be somewhere between forty and fifty. To survive in this rank wilderness to that age, the native had to know how to defend himself. Still, Spock doubted the man’s training had equipped him to deal with Starfleet defensive tactics or, if he could manage it, to shake off a Vulcan nerve pinch.
Spock licked his lips again. The native had not moved to harm him, but stared at him with open interest. The Vulcan’s mind was working slowly, he knew that. It took several seconds to perceive that the title he had been branded with might actually be employed to his advantage – though it would necessitate prevarication.
Well, as Doctor McCoy would have put it. When in Rome….
“You are correct. I am not human,” Spock replied, allowing a shade of annoyance to enter his voice – demons, he knew from study, were notoriously arrogant and self-assured. “Do you think a simple knife can harm me, or you stop me if I choose to escape?”
The native’s eyes darted to the weapon. He did not move it, but the hand that held the blade began to shake. “Why do you not escape then?”
“Perhaps,” Spock answered, swallowing, “perhaps I have a use for you. Have you considered that it is I who hold you here?”
The last rays of the sun were fading in the western sky. As the night encroached, the orb sent gilded fingers through the trees, illuminating the land. One struck the two men. It glinted off the native’s blade, revealing – in its true nature – the color of the blood that stained it. Spock’s attacker gasped and pulled back. The pressure on the Vulcan’s jugular lessened imperceptibly, but it was enough. He brought his knee up and – utilizing a tactic he had learned from Jim Kirk known as ‘street fighting – took the man in the crotch. Then, ignoring the excruciating pain it caused to his injured ribs, Spock crunched his lean torso up and rolled over until he straddled the man. Once in position, the breathless Vulcan used his shaking hand to apply a nerve pinch, and then watched the native fall unconscious to the earth.
Only to remember he had the native’s pet to contend with.
The animal charged without warning, taking Spock in the chest again and knocking him backward. As its teeth snapped close to his cheek and its fetid breath assaulted his already heavily taxed senses, the Vulcan reached for the blade where the native had dropped it in the grass. With all the strength he had remaining, Spock drove it deep into the animal’s side. Moments later, the creature collapsed on top of him, pinning him to the ground.
Panting, fighting for consciousness, Spock closed his eyes. For a moment he remained quite still, fighting to master even the juvenile mental disciplines he had learned in his youth. Failing that, he drew on the savage strength bequeathed him by his mother and father’s warrior ancestors, and lifted the animal’s carcass and shoved it away. Several minutes passed before he was able to climb to his knees and then, shakily, to stand. His black singlet was stained now not only with his own blood, but with the animal’s. Spock shook the wolf to make certain it was dead, and then glanced at the quiescent form of its master, noting with interest the objects the man wore on his belt. Slightly puzzled, the Vulcan crouched at his side. Along with the standard weapons one would expect among the indigenous population of such a region – knives, tomahawks and an ax – were several objects that he deduced to be of a sacred nature. These included an ornamented rattle and a carved wand tipped with a set of massive bear claws. Their presence seemed to indicate that his attacker was a shaman or medicine man. Spock frowned as he noted another object, partially hidden by the decorative beads and leather thongs that dangled from the rattle. He paused, uncertain in his weakened state that he had seen what he thought he had.
Something on the shaman’s belt had blinked!
Curious, Spock reached out to move the rattle aside. He had to ascertain what he had seen. Nothing could be left to chance when the time stream was so –
The Vulcan realized, a second too late, that the native had already awakened and been playing dead, seeking to draw him in. He must have missed with the nerve pinch or been too weak to make it effectual. Before Spock could react, the shaman caught his wrist and twisted it with breaking force, driving him to the ground.
This time it was the razor-sharp bear claws topping the wooden wand that tore into his throat.
“Rain of Stars thought to use you, demon, but I see the words of the white man’s God are right. You would use him instead. And so now you die!”
Spock braced himself for the end. He had used every ounce of strength he had. There was nothing left with which to fight. Bleeding to death from a mauled throat would not be a quick death, but it would be death.
He was not afraid.
A moment later there was an unexpected whistling sound, and then something struck the trunk of the tree just above the Vulcan’s head. The shaman stiffened and cursed in his own tongue even as Spock recognized what it was – a primitive wooden shaft with a leather-lashed stone projectile point. As he realized what was happening, a second arrow winged past them – this time slicing the air less than an inch beyond the cheek of his attacker. It struck the side of the shuttlecraft with a metallic thunk.
“Drop the knife, Unemake!” a strong voice commanded. “Drop it, or the next one will take the feathers from your hair. Or, if my arm grows weary, your ear from your head.”
This native voice was different; cultured and more refined, with a hint of a foreign accent. England, perhaps. Yes. London more precisely. Spock attempted to look, but the bear claws stopped him as they bit deeper into his flesh.
“You do not know who you seek to save, Cherokee!” the shaman shouted. “He is a demon from Sheol. He will be your doom!”
“Then release him to me. I will take my chances.”
Another arrow flew past, this time clipping the shaman’s shoulder. Spock felt Unemake flinch, but the native’s hand did not budge.
“The next one will be through the heart, Unemake. Be reasonable – ”
Even as the newcomer fell silent, Spock became aware of a growing heat at his back. For all that it felt most welcome in the chill air, the Vulcan knew instantly what it meant. The projectile points of the current period were made of flint. Flint struck against steel was the modus operandi for starting fires and had been for centuries on Earth. The action produced sparks that were used to ignite tinder. Only a moment ago the arrowhead had hit the shuttle’s metal hull. The resultant spark had ignited the desiccated plant life around them –
And was only seconds away from igniting the shuttlecraft’s spilled fuel.