TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL

Chapter Nineteen

 

Time was out of joint and so was he. 

D’Ayron knew he was trapped in a web partially of his own devising.  He had left the device for calling the Initiators back in his camp, not daring to wear it as he led the Shawnee to battle.  He had sent S’Tahl to locate it and return it to him.  The teleportation device was also located near the camp and was currently inaccessible to him.  Also, somewhere, there was Spock, and he would not leave his great-sire to the questionable mercies of this era.  His intent in all of this had been to preserve the Vulcan.  In the end there would have been no starship, no peace-loving Starfleet for Spock to return to.  D’Ayron had hoped – no dreamed, envisioned – that the Vulcan would join him in the Empire.  There was much good about the Praetor’s state.  If a more logical approach to rule could be suggested from within – a less heavy-handed one – then the Empire could  become what it had been intended to be, the flagship of the galaxy.

The Romulan sighed.  That dream had ended.  He would have to find a new one.

D’Ayron moved through the forest quickly; quietly as a creature born to it.  His journey was deliberate, though he had no notion of where he was going.  There was something – a mental thread – that drew him forward, aiming him as surely as an arrow sent from the bow toward his destiny.  The resonance of the mindmeld with his Vulcan forebear was still with him.  Though the link had been stolen – and not welcomed or given freely – much of what his great-sire knew had been transferred to him.  Within D’Ayron’s own conscience a voice had begun to shout days before, warning him that the Initiators were not to be trusted.  There were games within games here – with him, his men, and the men and women of the Enterprise used as pawns.  Now the Vulcan’s steady, logical, and rational voice was added to his own, leading to one final unanswerable question: 

If those he served were all-powerful –  what did the Initiators need with him?

The Romulan commander broke through a thick stand of man-high grasses and stopped.  Physical exhaustion did not force him too.  He was barely winded.  But he needed to think.  So many things – so many thoughts assailed him.  There had been a barricade in Spock’s mind he had not been able to breach.  It shielded memories of the Vulcan’s youth and all that went before.  But beyond that, there had been eighteen years of service in the Federation, and eleven of those by the side of a man named Kirk.  When he closed his eyes, D’Ayron could see them together.  There was a bond there that he envied.  His men were loyal to him, they respected and feared him for the punishment they knew he could inflict, but this was different.  These two were different.  Fear did not enter into the equation.  The quantifying factor was love. 

And yet, both were warriors.  They walked among sheep, but they wore the pelt of the wolf under their soft uniforms.  The Romulan had watched them with his mind’s eye, fighting, killing, almost dying.  From these vision he had gleaned a sense of why.  They fought for their brother – for one another – but more than that, for what they believed in; for the Federation that he had sought to destroy.  D’Ayron knew now that he had been wrong and he was glad his scheme had failed.

He only hoped he lived long enough to let his great-sire know.

He was a renegade now in more ways than one.  The Shawnee had turned on him, but worse than that, his own men would report his actions to the Initiators.  The one it would bring the greatest joy would be Tume.  Most likely, the alien had already made them aware of the fact that he intended to spare Spock.  Of all on board the Enterprise, according to the Initiators’ will, the Vulcan was targeted to die.  It was Spock who had engineered the Enterprise’s initial trip into time, thereby awaking those who walked outside of it to the presence of those within it who might one day strive to join them.  When he accepted this assignment, D’Ayron had known it meant encountering the Enterprise, and from the beginning had known it meant as well that he must betray those who were his masters.  He would do it for his blood.  As commander he had used the device that employed the thought energy of the Initiators to open the time tube that had caught the shuttlecraft Columbus in its grip, bearing Spock to the past and him.  He would not let them kill him.

Not then.  Not now.

D’Ayron stilled his mind and reached out, seeking the fine filament that bound them.  His only training in the Vulcan disciplines of the mindmeld, link and probe, had been done surreptitiously, using the Empire’s databases on the hated Federation and its allies’ secret practices.  But it was enough.  A moment later he found the Vulcan.  Probing deeper, he sought to feel him as well.  Success brought an unexpected emotion to the young Romulan: fear.  Spock’s breathing was labored.  The staccato beat of his all too weary heart was far too rapid.  Something had changed.

The Vulcan was dying.

Rattled, D’Ayron came out of the renewed link only to find he was no longer alone.  Tume, or Tor’mahg of the House of Torath as he was truly called, stood before him.  The alien’s black eyes bored into his soul even as the barrel of the ancient flintlock pistol Tor’magh held did the same thing to his chest.    

“Now, Romulan,” the altered Klingon sneered.  “We do things my way.”

 

As a small boy Spock had grown very sick.  In fact, he had almost died.  The Vulcan healers had been at a loss as to what to do.  Their medicine had proven triumphant in his conception and birth, but when it came to keeping their prize hybrid experiment alive, all of the combined knowledge of the medical wing of the Vulcan Science Academy had proven far from adequate.  His mother had been away at the time and he could still remember the stoic face of the Vulcan nursemaid he had, staring at him through the mesh of an oxygen tent, shaking her ancient head.  His body, always too lean and long, had developed a series of  two to four millimeter red papule with irregular outlines.  A thin-walled clear vesicle appeared on each, which in turn broke, releasing a fluid that left a crust that itched like the bite of the Vulcan desert fly.  He felt ill and was feverish.  At first, it was thought he would survive the infection with little residual damage, but then infection set in and his temperature soared.  Due to an inhalation of the droplets, the mucosae of  his upper respiratory tract was affected.  Viral proliferation occured in regional lymph nodes.  A second round of viral replication occurred in his body’s internal organs, most notably the liver and spleen.   Soon, his small body was a mass of infection and it was logically accepted that the only son of Sarek would die.  Then his mother came home.

He had the chickenpox.

Hard as he fought to deny it, he was half-human.  And it was that half that was killing him now.  The interrupted trance had healed his physical wounds to the point where they were tolerable.  He would still need Dr. McCoy’s rather dubious ministrations to be completely rid of them, but he could function.  He limped, but he could walk.  His neck hurt, but it was no longer bleeding.  And the burns from the flash of the shuttlecraft’s immolation were not infected.  But whatever bacteria had entered his bloodstream via the open wound in his leg was raging through his system like a fire kindled in a deciduous forest.  And due to the loss of blood and the general weakening of his system, it was a conflagration that his Vulcan physiology could neither ignore nor restrain.   At first he had thought it might be a simple staphylococcal infection.  But during the course of the last several hours the muscle contractions he experienced had increased in both rapidity and strength, and the restless almost irritable feelings he had been suppressing had grown more intense.  Logic dictated that, most likely, it was the bacterium Clostridium tetani.  His mother had called it tetanus.  She had spoken on it once when he had cut himself on an ancient piece of wire during a trip they had taken to earth, on a visit to her uncle’s farm.  The bacteria was found in the soil and in animal and human intestines.  19th century Earth would prove a most efficacious breeding ground.

His encyclopedic mind ran back through the medical texts he had scanned at the academy, seeking the progression of the illness.  The tetanus neurotoxins caused the muscles to tighten in continuous contractions.  The jaw was often locked by these violent spasms.  Muscles throughout the entire body were affected, including the vital muscles necessary for breathing.  When the breathing muscles lost their power, drawing a breath became difficult, if not impossible, and death most often occurred unless extreme life-support measures were taken.  The disease’s progress on average was one to seven days.  There was no timetable for fatality.  Spock sighed.  Dr. McCoy, even with his ‘beads and rattles’ could cure him with one shot of a hypospray.  Without that, in this time period, he was doomed to a slow and horrible death due to repeated, excessive muscle contractions or, alternatively, cardiac arrest and pulmonary edema.

Better to die on his feet, he thought as he stirred, seeking to make his irrational choice to remain on his feet rational. 

Spock roused from meditation and rose from his seated position.  He stretched like a cat and was instantly and savagely punished when the muscles in his injured thigh contracted and drove him back to the ground.  He used what was left of his Vulcan strength to massage the knot out, and then rose and began to hobble forward.  He was still linked to D’Ayron.  He had a sense that the Romulan was in peril; that – ironically – for the other man, time was also running out.  It was cold comfort to realize that his own disintegrating emotional control was directing him, and making it possible for him to hone in on his descendant. 

The question was: could he remain viable long enough to locate him?

D’Ayron was the key.  The Romulan was in contact with the Initiators.  Spock had brushed his knowledge of them during the mindmeld.  There was an answer there to the riddles that plagued them, but it was hidden – masked by his own inability to concentrate and understand just what it was he had ‘seen’.  He needed to link to D’Ayron again to find out what this was all about.  The Initiators were not what they appeared to be.

Though he did not as yet know what they were.

As Spock walked, the pain in his leg eased, but he felt a tale-tell flicker of a muscular contraction along his jaw.  It was only the beginning, he knew.  Clostridium tetani had the ability to cause such powerful spasms that bones could break and joints dislocate.  It was known for causing risus sardonicus, or what was referred to as a sardonic smile.

If he survived, McCoy would never let him live that one down.

 

Tor’magh’s sneer was enough to make D’Ayron wish that Klingons were as non-emotional as Vulcans.  There was something in it of ultimate triumph, and that sickened him.  Why the Initiators had chosen to plague him with a third in command culled from the ranks of that gnashing, brooding batch of rabid dogs he had no idea.  Klingons were infinitely inferior to Romulans.  All brute strength and barely any brain.  And yet, Tor’magh had relished his part in their scheme – or so it seemed.  It had been he, along with S’Tahl, who had come to this place ahead of D’Ayron and planted the seeds that would allow Rain of Stars to become the Shawnee war chief.  And it was Tor’magh who had gone to the settlements, spreading word of that war chief’s fame.  Perhaps the dog was not so stupid as he seemed.  All along the altered Klingon had been a ‘man’ with a plan, and now D’Ayron’s own bungling had paved the way for him to put it into practice. 

“You are very quiet, Romulan,” Tor’magh hissed.  Too quiet.  I do not trust you.  What are you planning?”

“Your date with death, Klingon,” D’Ayron snarled.

“It is I who hold the weapon.”

“Yes.  Yes, you do.  But you do not use it.  Why?”

The sneer curled one cocoa brown lip higher.  “Perhaps it is not yet your date.”

A chill snaked down D’Ayron’s spine.  “What is it you want from me?”

“I want nothing from you, but that you can bring him to me.  I was wrong to try to kill the Vulcan coward before.  There is information I want, information you can get from him for me.  The history tapes reveal that not even the Klingon mindsifter can make a Vulcan talk.  He would die brain-damaged first.”  Tor’magh’s lips parted as the sneer, transmuted into a smile of pure evil.  “But you can make him talk – mind to mind.”

“Why?  What good would Spock’s knowledge be to you?”  Then he had it.  In Tor’magh he suddenly saw a vile reflection of himself.  “You mean to make the Klingon Empire supreme.”

“I have all along.  Did you think I agreed to work for the Initiators for their good?”  Tor’magh’s laugh drove the birds from the trees.  “No more than you.”

That was not true.  In the beginning he had believed in the Initiators.  He had joined them to prevent the Federation from using time travel as a weapon – and then chosen to use it as one himself.

He was without honor.

Like a predatory creature, Tor’magh moved in.  He caught D’Ayron’s arm and pressed the butt of the flintlock pistol under his chin.  This close the Klingon would not have chanced firing an energy weapon, but the ancient pistol could kill him and leave the other man unharmed.  The Romulan commander calculated the likelihood that he would survive such a blast.  Fortunately, the percentage was negligible.

“Now, Romulan, where is Spock?”

D’Ayron steeled himself for the blast.  Even if he had known, he would not have given the Vulcan away.  With his choice, a sort of peace settled over him – a peace that was disrupted by the abrupt impression of a particular mind close by.

No, the Romulan projected.  No, Spock!  Run!

 

Spock had come across the scene quite unexpectedly.  He had been following the thread of connectivity to the Romulan when suddenly the mental link had thinned and all but disappeared.  He did not think D’Ayron dead, just distracted.  As he followed the mind trail, the Vulcan had come to realize that the reason the connection was so vital was that his descendant was seeking him as well.  Theirs were two like minds blended into one call, the result of which was a sort of homing beacon.  For the last mile or so he had instead had to rely on his own faltering abilities.  It was like stumbling in the dark.  He had almost burst upon the scene unawares, but something – intuition, Jim would have called it – had warned him and stopped him in time.  Clinging to the shadows of the trees, Spock waited and listened.  He also learned.  Tume was a surgically-altered Klingon such as they had dealt with on Space Station K-7.  Interesting.  Briefly, Spock wondered if the Klingon’s skin pigment had been altered as well, or if there were both dark and light-skinned races on Klinzhai; then he dismissed the train of thought as wasteful and extraneous.  The presence of the third arm of the triangle that fought for dominion in their galaxy meant something.  Something important.  He only wished he had the capacity to think it through.  Unfortunately, rationally he had to admit that his thought processes were hampered by a body in the process of shutting down.

Klingon.  Romulan.  Human.  And, if you included him, Vulcan as well.  All here.  All a part of whatever scheme or game the Initiators were playing with time.  It was like a great three dimensional chess board upon which they were being moved as players.  But to what end?  What did the Initiators hope to gain – or to find out?

Spock stood now, a hand to one of the trees, battling for control of his muscles.  So far the spasms were fairly mild.  They would not remain so.  The next stage of the disease would bring cramps comparable to the painful bruising of the quadriceps muscle of the thigh that resulted in a muscular hematoma, sometimes referred to as a Charley horse by humans.  He could well be debilitated.  No matter how divided D’Ayron’s loyalties, the Klingon threat was clear.  Though Spock doubted the Initiators would allow Tume’s scheme to succeed, he was not yet certain of his theory and so, for now, he had to act as if the threat was real and present.  Tume, or Tor’magh’s plans for altering time could not be realized.

He had to stop him.

As he stepped out of the trees, the Vulcan heard the mind-scream of his many times removed son shout for him to leave.  He ignored it.

“Tor’magh,” Spock said clearly.  “I am here.”

The elegant black man whirled, bringing a captured D’Ayron with him.  Tor’magh’s flintlock pistol was firmly wedged under the young Romulan’s jaw.  Spock studied him, seeking the Klingon bone structure.  It was there, though subtly altered.  Unaltered was the look of pure racial hatred burning in his black eyes.

“You will tell me what I want to know, Federation puppet, or I will blow a hole through this one’s head!  Do you hear me, Vulcan?” Tor’magh shouted as he fingered the trigger.  Spock held very still.  He had to assume the pistol was already primed and loaded. 

“I hear you,” Spock answered.  He continued walking until he was several feet away, and then stopped and linked his hands behind his back.  The Vulcan fought a rising spasm that threatened to lock his jaw.  When it passed, he asked evenly, “Why do you think I would betray my duty and honor for a Romulan?”

Tor’magh faltered.  Spock had deduced the correct approach.  Tor’magh knew D’Ayron had sought him out, but obviously he did not know why.  “He is your ally!” the Klingon shouted.

“He is not,” Spock said as he moved a step to the pair. 

“Do not lie, Federation dog!  I know this one brought you here and sought you out.  The Federation is in league with the Romulans!  You seek to use time to bring the Klingon Empire to its knees!”

Spock remained calm.  And took another step.  “Vulcans do not lie.  Can the same be said of Klingons?”

“To lie is to be a Klingon,” D’Ayron rasped and was rewarded with a slap against the head.

Spock sought D’Ayron’s gaze.  He did not think Tor’magh knew of their link, though obviously the Klingon knew of the Romulan’s ability to extract or plant information in someone’s mind; he had seen it used on Unemake and others. 

Do not antagonize the Klingon, D’Ayron, he sent.  There is no need for you to die.  Tor’magh will get nothing from me as I will soon be dead.

No!  I will save you.

You can not.  You are not a healer.  And I am not certain even a healer could help me now.  You must live so you can stop this game.

Game? D’Ayron asked, wide-eyed.  What game?

Insufficient data to elaborate, Spock returned.   

“You’re very quiet, Vulcan.  Are you scheming?” Tor’magh growled.

“Vulcans do not scheme,” he replied, keeping his tone completely flat.  “That is for Klingons who are without honor.”

What he had been waiting for happened.  Tor’magh lost his temper.  The Klingon swung the end of the pistol away from D’Ayron’s throat and pointed it at his chest.

“Do they die?” he screamed as he fired.

As the ball left the chamber D’Ayron struck the Klingon’s arm, sending the shot wild.  It took mo more than five seconds before the two men’s positions were reversed.  The Romulan kicked Tor’magh’s legs out from under him and drove him back and to the ground.  Sitting on top of him, D’Ayron pulled the Klingon’s knife from his waist belt and pressed it into his throat.

“Now you die!” he growled.

“D’Ayron, no.”  Spock walked haltingly toward him.  “There is no need to kill.”

The Romulan’s amber eyes were wild with blood lust.  “He would have killed you!

The Vulcan nodded.  When he spoke, his words were fiercely quiet.   “Then, since the threat was to me, it is for me to decide.  And I say ‘no.’”

Every sinew and nerve in the young Romulan that had been bred of his mother’s warrior line cried out against Spock’s thousand years of peace.  D’Ayron’s body went rigid.  His mind clamped down.  He glared at the Klingon who was sputtering under the strength of the hold he had on his throat.  Then, faster than Spock’s eye could follow, D’Ayron’s arm that wielded the knife rose and came down with savage strength – bringing the weapon to bear butt first.

Tor’magh groaned and pitched onto the ground senseless.

D’Ayron stared at his fallen enemy for a moment and then staggered to his feet.  None of them had had rest or food in many hours and their lack was tolling.  The Romulan hesitated and then crossed to where Spock was standing and held the knife out to him.

I will not kill…today, he projected through the link.

Spock accepted the blade.  It is a start, he sent back with a gentle mental smile.  Then, clutching his back, the Vulcan crumpled to the ground as a violent spasm rocked his ravaged frame. 

D’Ayron fell to his knees beside him.  For a second he was at a loss.  Then, before Spock could think to stop him, the Romulan planted his fingers on either side of his face and poured his own life energy into him.  His descendant’s amber eyes glazed over and a sheen of perspiration broke out on his bronze skin.  A moment later the pain eased and Spock was able to lie flat.  The occurrence left him gasping for breath.

D’Ayron, on the other hand, seemed to have stopped breathing.  The Vulcan wanted to strike his hands away, but he hadn’t the strength.  One hundred heartbeats later the Romulan shuddered and stirred.  He sucked in air like a mammal who has held its breath too long beneath the water and commanded, “You will not…die!”

“He will, Rain of Stars,” a new voice pronounced.  “But you will die first.”

Spock turned his head even as his vision faded.  He knew the man who spoke.  It was the shaman, Unemake.

Behind him, there were at least twenty well-armed Shawnee.