TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL
Mingo felt the ropes binding his arms give way and fall to the ground. Massaging his wrists, he untied his feet and then lifted his head to find Nyota Uhura grinning at him. She really was a most beautiful woman, not only in face and form, but in character. He sensed in her a surety, a reliance and confidence that he had rarely encountered before even among men. Mingo watched as she turned to stare at the slaver who patrolled not far away, assessing what risk he posed. Dismissing the man as unimportant for the moment the dark-skinned woman angled her back toward him, extended her bound wrists, and then glanced over her shoulder and asked a question with her resplendent brown eyes.
It only took a moment to untie her.
“Thank you,” she whispered as she crouched beside him. “What next?”
Mingo glanced at her. There was something about Uhura’s voice, her stance, that suggested she was used to following orders and was now looking toward him to command. There was nothing subservient about the action. It was pure military.
He laughed out loud.
Nyota looked at him, puzzled. “I must have missed the joke. Is something amusing?”
“I meant no disrespect. I unexpectedly found myself picturing you in uniform.”
“Well, what’s wrong with – ” She hesitated. “Oh, right. There are no women in the military.”
Not fully understanding what his mind was reaching for, Mingo added intuitively, “Yet.” Then he said with a grin, “I have often remarked that if Rebecca Boone were made a general, this war would end within a week.”
“War?” Uhura glanced at the slaver patrolling again. He was too close for them to attempt a move. Then she asked a peculiar question. “What year is it?”
“What year?” Mingo was even more puzzled. “Why, seventeen seventy-seven. Did you not know?”
The woman smiled. “It seems I’ve been out of touch.” Then to herself she added, so softly she probably thought he would not hear. “About five hundred years out of touch.”
Mingo placed a hand on her arm. “Nyota.”
Her dark eyes sought his gaze. “Yes?”
“Who are you?”
Just as she opened her mouth to reply, another voice interrupted. “They are going away,” Umbele called softly. She had been keeping a vigil as she promised while he and Uhura freed themselves, and had just wriggled through the leaves to join them. “Come and see.”
Together they followed her. Once in position, they looked. She was right. Tume had returned. He stood in front of the lodge and was calling for the slavers to gather about him.
This was their chance.
“Umbele, I think it would be best if I carry you for the first hundred yards or so. Not only will you be hampered by the chains, but if they should make a noise….”
The woman nodded. “I agree.”
Uhura’s gaze took in the other slaves, still bound together and asleep. “I hate to leave them. That man – ”
“If we do not escape, they and we are dead,” Mingo told her. “If we are successful, we can come back for them.”
Uhura considered it. A wistful smile lit her handsome face. “If my friend was here, he would say that was ‘quite logical’.” She drew a breath and let it out in a sigh. “I hope Mr. Spock is all right.”
Mingo’s hand returned to her arm. “Did you say Spock?”
“Yes.” It only took a second for her puzzlement to turn to excitement. “Have you seen him? Do you know where he is? Is he alive?”
He echoed her. “Yes. But there is no time for that now. We must make good our escape and then we can talk. You are the woman he said he was hunting. I can see that now.”
Her smile broadened. “So long as he is alive that’s all that matters.”
Mingo nodded. He didn’t want to tell her that the last time he had seen her friend, the space traveler had been dying. “He was when I left him,” he assured her quietly. Then he gestured to Umbele. “Come. We must go.”
Obedient to his command, the young woman crept closer to him. Mingo rose to his feet and positioned his hands on her waist. Lifting her, he balanced her weight so she rested comfortably on his shoulder. Uhura flanked him as he began to move, looking for all the world like a soldier at the alert for danger.
Who were these curious travelers, he wondered? Why were they here?
And what had the negro woman meant by saying she had been out of touch for five hundred years?
Several miles away, a footsore Leonard McCoy and his slightly agitated companion arrived at the Boone’s cabin. The newly risen moon painted the brown logs a steely blue. The front door stood open, as if it had been abandoned. Rebecca Boone had told McCoy that her husband had taken off to find Spock shortly before she returned to the fort. She had hoped he and Yadkin would find the two of them there when they arrived.
From the looks of things, the pair had never come back.
Yadkin pushed past him and headed up the steps to the porch. “Come on, Doc,” he called. “Best to see what’s in before we go lookin’ for what might be out. Ain’t no use pinin’ over milk that ain’t been spilt yet.”
He couldn’t argue with that. Still, as Yadkin passed over the threshold, McCoy hesitated. He reached into his medical bag and palmed his mediscanner. Checking first to make certain the frontiersman had gone inside, he set it for a wide range – and Vulcan physiology – and then turned in a circle seeking some sign, some direction. When the scanner remained silent, the surgeon cursed under his breath. He was just replacing it in the bag when Yadkin’s blond head poked out the open door.
“You deaf?” he asked, screwing his face up. “Come on inside. You gotta see this, Doc. Ain’t no one here, but there’s a God awful lot of blood on the linens and it’s a mighty funny color.”
McCoy nodded and followed with alacrity. Once inside, he saw that Yadkin had lit an oil lamp. After the near oblivion of dark in the forest, the single ray of light lit the interior of the Boone’s home like the sun at noon. He actually squinted as his eyes settled on it.
Then they went to the bed.
“Good God,” he murmured.
There was a bloody smear about where a man’s back would have rested, and several more showing some kind of wound to the neck or head. But the greatest amount had been shed at the lower torso. McCoy walked over to examine the thick black substance. As Yadkin said, it was mighty funny. That, of course, was because it was dried Vulcan blood.
“As I told Mrs. Boone, there are certain freaks of nature whose blood contains more copper elements than iron. My missing patient is one of these.” McCoy’s face twitched with the lie. “If you saw him bleed, you might think the color was…green.”
Yadkin’s blue eyes were wide. “You joshin’ me?”
“Joshing?” McCoy frowned. “Oh. Am I kidding? No.”
The blond man got a far-away look in his eyes. “Wonder what them Shawnee would think of a man’s bleedin’ green? Probably think he was some sort of a god….”
“Or demon,” McCoy added wryly.
Yadkin snapped his fingers. “That’s it! We could send those Shawnee packin’ with someone like that. Scare the pants…er…breechclouts off of them!”
For some strange reason McCoy suddenly found himself imagining Spock in a breechcloth. He shook the image away. “Well, we’d have to find him first to try it, now wouldn’t we?”
“That’s the way my stick floats,” the blond said as he pushed past him and headed for the door.
The frontiersman paused by the opening. “Consarn it, if you ain’t the most citified fellow I ever met! That’s the way I see it. Now, come on. Time’s a wastin’!”
At that moment Leonard McCoy would have traded his right arm for a universal translator. But then, he thought, that would have been pointless. Yadkin’s lingo probably would have shorted the highly sensitive machine out.
Grabbing his bag, he followed after the other man with a shout that he was, ‘Coming!’
Outside McCoy found the frontiersman on all fours in front of the Boone’s home. He almost stumbled over him in the dark. Catching himself, the surgeon let loose a curse and then said, “Damn it, man, I thought time was a wastin’!”
Yadkin looked up at him, a giant grin on his face. “That was one bodacious curse, Doc. You’ve got the hair of the bear.”
“Is that a good thing?”
The blond laughed as he turned back to the ground. “Been a whole passel of feet trompin’ on this here parti-ca-lure patch of earth. This one is Becky,” he pointed to a foot print with a slight, tapered toe. “And this one’s Dan’l’s.” Daniel Boone’s print made two of his wife’s. “You know this one?” There was a tone of puzzlement in the frontiersman’s voice.
McCoy bent down to look. He recognized the sole of a regulation issued 23rd century Starfleet boot. “Er, yes. That’s my friend.”
“Well, he’s walkin’. Ain’t walkin’ well, but he was on his feet – and outpacing Dan,” Yadkin added with a bark of laughter.
“What about all these others?” McCoy asked. The ground was literally trampled with prints, and it appeared something or someone had been dragged over some of them.
“Got me buffaloed,” the blond said as he tipped back his hat.
McCoy knew that one. It meant he was confused. “And this? Was someone injured?”
“Dragged like a sack of potatoes.” Yadkin rose to his feet. “Weren’t Dan or your friend, nor was it Becky….” His voice trailed off. Then he snapped his fingers. “Mingo!”
“Mingo? Who or what is ‘mingo’?” He wasn’t sure if it was a name or just another expression in Yadkin’s never-ending dictionary of 18th century colloquial speech.
The frontiersman knelt again and checked the track. “Wasn’t no one short or lightweight. Gotta be Mingo. He’s half-blood Cherokee. Friend of Daniel’s. There’s not a man on God’s green earth got a greater talent for getting’ into trouble.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” McCoy muttered under his breath.
“What was that, Doc?”
“I asked, ‘Are you sure of that?’”
“That man’s poor bull and that be a sure fact,” he said with a shake of his head as he rose to his feet.
“Poor bull?” McCoy stopped himself from scowling. He was getting a headache. “I take it that means ‘yes’?”
Yadkin turned toward him and then slapped him so hard on the back the surgeon took an involuntary step forward.
“You’re learnin’ fast, Doc! For long, you’ll be talkin’ just like me.”
McCoy rolled his eyes. Now wouldn’t that give Mr. Spock endless hours of delight?
Mingo ran much farther with Umbele in his arms than the young woman would have liked. Uhura kept pace with him. Though her stride was much shorter than his, the journey did not tire her. Indeed, she seemed energized. When he finally signaled a halt, some two miles beyond the slavers’ camp, the dark-skinned traveler was barely winded. Signaling her, he indicated they should duck into the cover of the trees. As he lowered Umbele to the ground, the chains around her ankles caught and she almost fell. Mingo frowned as he steadied her.
“The first thing we need to do is to find something to remove your fetters,” he told her.
“I will not continue to burden you,” Umbele said, her jaw tightening. “I can walk.”
“You are no burden,” he assured her gently. “I merely wish to see you free. Those chains bind you to slavery in more ways than one.”
“And how is that?” she asked, her head held high.
Mingo had not had a chance to examine her. Umbele was thin as a river reed, with long dark hair woven tightly about her head in one thick braid. Her eyes were large by nature, and made even more so by her emaciated condition. Still, she was beautiful. At Oxford, the study of ancient Egypt had been an idle pastime for him as for many of his fellows. Umbele compared with the stone masks of its most beautiful queens. Her neck was slender, her poise naturally graceful, and there was about her an unmistakable aura of royalty.
The Cherokee warrior reached out and placed a hand on the iron encircling her slender wrist. “First, you are bound and are not free. That is bad enough. If seen wearing these, you will be immediately identified as a runaway. Otherwise, we might be able to pass you off as a freewoman like Nyota. And, so long as you wear them, these chains will bind you to the men who took you, both physically, and in your soul. There can be no forgiveness where – ”
“There is no forgiveness!” she hissed.
“I understand. I did not mean now, or for the men who took you. I meant for your own sake….”
Uhura had remained silent until that moment. Abruptly she said, “I can remove them.”
Mingo turned to her. “The chains? How?”
Her dark eyes were troubled. “I am not certain why, but when I was taken I was not searched.” She glanced at him and a wry smile curled her lips. “Forgive me.”
Then, as he watched, Uhura began to strip.
She laughed. “It’s all right. I have another dress on underneath.”
Mingo’s eyes grew wide as he saw what she called a ‘dress’. It was less modest than any woman’s underpinnings. Any strumpet’s for that matter.
“You call that a dress?” he asked, dubious.
Uhura shrugged as she let the outer covering she had doffed fall to the ground. “Where I come from it’s standard issue.” She pursed her lips and then rephrased. “This is the standard mode of dress.”
The Cherokee warrior’s lips twisted with amusement – and just a hint of interest. “You must take me there sometime.”
The woman in crimson cloth actually laughed. Then she stepped forward and took him by the arm. “May I speak to you alone?”
Umbele scowled, but did nothing as they stepped several feet away. “What is it?” he asked.
Uhura placed a hand on a small pouch she wore suspended from a light strap that ran over her shoulder. “In here, I have something that can cut Umbele’s chains. It is…a magic from my land. I am not permitted to use it in front of strangers, but I fear…. I fear if I do not that those men will recapture her and us. I can’t let that happen. I have to find Spock.”
Mingo’s eyes flicked to Umbele who had seated herself on a rock. They had already tarried too long. The slavers must be aware of their escape by now.
“We should get going,” he insisted.
“It will only take a second.”
“A second? To cut through several inches of forged iron?”
Uhura drew a breath and let it out slowly. Then she reached into the pouch and drew out what appeared to be an odd gun. She checked something on the top of it and shrugged. “It is almost dead,” she announced, glancing up at him. “I hope there is enough power left.”
The Cherokee in him fought a rising fear. “Dead? Then, was it…alive?”
The traveler frowned. Then she smiled. “No. I’m sorry. I meant dead like a fire dies. Not that it was or is living. It holds within it a kind of flame. It concentrates it so it burns very brightly and is very, very hot. I can use it to…melt the metal. But….”
Her head shook. “It is dangerous that I show you – and Umbele.”
He stared at her for several moments. “You have not asked about Spock,” he said at last.
The statement caught her off-guard. “I had almost forgotten….”
“There is no time now. But you are like him, a space traveler, are you not?”
The black woman was stunned. Her words were breathless. “Did he tell you that?”
“Yes. He was bleeding profusely.” Mingo paused and then added with a slight grin, “He had some trouble explaining the green stains.”
“I can see why….” Uhura nodded at last. “Yes. We come from the stars. But I cannot tell you more. I dare not.”
Unexpectedly Umbele appeared beside them. “Someone is coming,” she whispered as her chains clanked, sounding through the still night air.
Mingo looked back the way they had come. He could see a light approaching through the dense trees. He caught Umbele in his arms and lifted her. Together, the three of them dove for cover. Once concealed, they hunched down together and waited for whatever was to come.
A minute later the first man walked past their hiding place. Then two more. Then a half-dozen. And then, ten, twenty, more.
“Who are they?” Uhura whispered, her lips brushing his ear. “Where are they going?”
Mingo didn’t reply even though he knew the answer, just as he knew many of the men. They were native; their faces and shirts painted red. The Shawnee had awakened and were on the warpath.
They were headed for Boonesborough.
Tume stood at the edge of the clearing, staring at the remaining prisoners. Crumpled at his feet lay the body of the inept and ignorant white man he had left to guard them. Solomon had failed him. He had left his post when Tume had called for the others and for the desertion, had been executed. The elegant black man shrugged as he toed the cooling corpse. It was no great loss. There were plenty of other gullible Earthers he could get to do his bidding.
The loss of the prisoners, though, that was another matter.
The Cherokee had been taken to use against Daniel Boone. Tume had been ordered to secure and hold him for D’Ayron in case something went amiss with the Romulan’s scheme. As such, his loss was not of too much import. The Federation woman and Umbele were another matter. Nyota Uhura was from the future. With her knowledge, she could betray or delay their schemes. And Umbele…. Well, Umbele was the key so far as Tume was concerned. Let the Romulans play with the Indians. He had other darker allies in mind. The African population of this nascent country was vast. Male slaves, those who did the hardest labor, were well fed and grew strong and tall, often towering above their white masters. Nearly one third of the population of the United States was black. Armed and angry they would make a formidable force, as had been shown in incidents that had erupted throughout the land. Armed with superior weapons and knowledge, in time they would become its rulers and kings. That was, if no one arose to tell them different, to weaken their resolve and call for peace. In little more than one hundred years, Umbele’s offspring would arise and be just such a man. In time, he would become something of a king. Better that he not be born. Better that he not be given a chance to undo what Tume intended to be done.
Better that the woman die here and now.
Tume stirred from his musings and turned to look at his second-in-command. Marcus was a time traveler like him, and like him had been genetically altered to fit in. “Yes?” the black man asked.
Marcus stepped over Solomon’s corpse as if it were nothing more than an anthill. “Word has come, Tume. The attack has begun. D’Ayron’s men are on the move. Along with the Shawnee, they will arrive at Boonesborough tonight. When the cocks crow in the morning, before the settlement can wake, they will attack.”
“Is D’Ayron with them?”
His lieutenant shook his head. “No. S’Tahl leads.”
Tume mulled that over. The Romulan Commander delayed so he had time to play with his prize. “And what new orders does D’Ayron send? Did any arrive with his messenger?”
“D’Ayron repeats his order to bring the Federation woman to him.”
“Does he?” Tume ran a hand over his chin as he gazed at the space the missing woman had occupied. His face was beardless now and always felt odd. “And the order was the same? The hour is now?”
“It said ‘as soon as possible’.”
“As soon as…possible.” Tume’s dark fingers played with the hilt of the knife anchored to his waist. “Well, since the lady is no longer our guest, it is not possible at the moment. Is it?” His lips curled with a sneer. “Unless, of course, we recapture her.”
Marcus hesitated. A shiver, barely suppressed, shook him. “You will not go then? You will defy him? D’Ayron is powerful. He is Romulan and…more. He – ”
“He bleeds green like any other Vulcanoid,” Tume growled. “He is not invulnerable. Nor is he immortal.” The black man stretched out a hand and placed it on his lieutenant’s shoulder. “We will seek the woman. We will find her – and Umbele – and we will return with them. Then we shall report to D’Ayron.” Tume’s fingers gripped his lieutenant’s shoulder, startling him.
“And then D’Ayron will die!”