TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL
Mingo pressed his reddened shoulder against the heavy wood and was rewarded as the door to the Boone cabin gave way. Still, as relief welled up within him, fear also overtook him. The cabin was empty. Where was Rebecca? And where was Israel, whom he had commissioned Silver Fox to see home? The only thought that quieted the pounding anxiety in his breast was the possibility that Daniel had returned early and removed his family to the fort. Mingo staggered across the floor, bearing his burden. If it was so, the move – while fortuitous for the Boones – might well prove fatal to the dying man he had all but carried through the forest to this oft-visited haven of recovery and rest.
Spock had regained consciousness shortly after Mingo finished applying the cooling salve to the his skin. Brooking no argument, the stranger had insisted on rising to his feet and making the journey to the cabin under his own strength. All too soon fatigue coupled with the blood loss had overcome him, and he had weakened almost unto death. Halting, Mingo had left Spock leaning against a tree and gone to fetch water, hoping to cool the rising fever that raged through the man’s lean form. Upon returning, he had found him slumped on the ground. For a time, Mingo had feared the stranger gone. Placing an ear against the man’s chest, the Cherokee warrior had found no heartbeat. Still, when he felt the Spock’s throat, he found the blood still pulsed through his veins. Rousing him at last, Mingo had forced a few drops of water between Spock’s tightly clenched lips, and then bodily lifted the man and carried him to this place.
Now the stranger lay, pale as death, in Daniel and Rebecca’s bed.
Though the morning light was dawning and creeping across the rough boards of the Boone’s floor, Mingo crossed to the table and lit the single oil lamp Daniel possessed. With it, he crossed back to the bed and stood looking down at Spock. Fortunately for the stranger, he was not unaccustomed to unusual countenances. While in England, Mingo had seen more than his share of East End shows that featured – and took advantage of – men taken as captives from foreign lands. This one bore a resemblance to the ones called Asian. Still, there was something about the cast of his lean, angular face that was different – and it wasn’t merely the tilt of his black eyebrows or his oddly-shaped ears. Mingo placed the lamp on the side table and sat down at the stranger’s side. It’s golden light illuminated Spock’s recumbent form. The Cherokee warrior reached out and fingered the unusual black fabric that clothed it. It startled him when the soft cloth stretched and then reformed as he let it go. What remained on his fingertips startled Mingo as well. He rolled the substance between them and then lifted the stained digits to his nose. It was blood. Not red, but black. Or no, perhaps….
Mingo rose to his feet so quickly he nearly knocked the chair over. Ill at ease, he crossed to the window. He was amazed and terrified as no seasoned warrior had a right to be.
The man’s blood was green.
Even as a kind of terror he could not describe gripped the ebon-haired native, the wounded man opened his eyes and sighed. It took a massive effort, but finally Spock managed to croak. “No. Not a man.”
The stranger seemed to have read his mind. “Are you a…demon, then?” Mingo asked, his voice hushed with both awe and fear.
“No.” Spock drew a shuddering breath. “There is no…easy way to…convey what I am. I come from…one of the stars in…the sky.”
“One of the stars?” Mingo’s dark eyes returned to the window and the lush vista beyond. “Another world? You mean, as in Voltaire’s Micromégas?”
The stranger fell silent for a moment. Then he nodded. “Yes. I am a…space traveler.”
Mingo returned to the chair by the bed and sat back down – hard. A demon would have been easier to deal with, and to believe in.
“What? From where….”
“There is no time…and…even if there was…I am not at liberty…to tell you.”
Mingo nodded. He had seen enough to recognize when a soul was close to shuffling off its mortal coil. “You are dying.”
A slight smile lifted one corner of Spock’s green-tinted lips. “It would seem…so.
“Unless?” he leaned forward.
“I must enter a…healing trance.” The traveler’s voice was growing weaker. “It…is the…only chance….”
“I am familiar with trances,” Mingo answered. And he was. He had witnessed many and the miracles they could bring. “My tribe’s healer has often – ”
“Similar…but not the same.” Spock’s jaw tightened. “I will appear…almost dead. The trance will…render me unconscious and…unable to be moved.” He gasped for air. “When the time comes, you must…wake me.”
Mingo was silent for a moment. He contemplated whether or not the choice to extend the space traveler’s life was a safe – or a sound one. “Why do you have no heartbeat? Do you have no heart?”
Spock traveler must have heard the fear he tried to hide. “Lower down. Different place….”
When he had been known as Kerr Murray, Mingo and his fellow students had postulated the idea of life other than that which they knew. Oxford, of course, had been a seat of radical thinking. The current scientific age bred, among the educated and wealthy, a desire to think outside of the conventional ‘box’. For centuries the church had disallowed such thinking, but now – in this new age of enlightenment – what the church forbade many embraced. After all, was it possible that the Creator in His infinite wisdom and power had created only one world of children? Looking at the battered figure lying before him, how could he not call him a man?
“What must I do?” Mingo asked at last.
Spock seemed to relax. His hands, which had been tightly clenched, released their hold on the coarse fabric of Dan and Becky’s homespun sheets. “While I am… healing…I will be completely vulnerable. I ask…that you keep watch.” The space traveler drew a shuddering breath. “When I ask you, you must…strike me. Hard. With all…your strength.”
“Strike you? A wounded man?”
“I must be…forced to consciousness. Otherwise, I will die.”
Mingo failed to understand. “How long will it take for you to recover?” he asked.
The stranger grimaced. His voice was fading. “Unknown.”
The Cherokee warrior pondered the request. Then he nodded. “I will keep watch. And, when the time comes, I will do as you ask.”
Spock nodded as well, having no more strength for words. His dark, deeply pained eyes closed. His breathing evened and then almost halted, and he fell silent.
For some time Mingo remained where he was. Then he moved to the traveler’s side. Placing his ear on Spock’s chest he listened. As before, finding nothing, he felt the stranger’s pulse and throat. Still uncertain, he crossed to Rebecca’s bureau and picked up her mirror and returned with it. Placing the glass to the wounded man’s lips, he did not relax until a telltale mist clouded it. Dropping the mirror on the bedside table, Mingo let loose a disbelieving sigh –
Just as the door to the cabin opened and a familiar copper-haired figure stepped over the threshold. It took Rebecca Boone a second to realize that her home was not empty. When she did, Daniel’s beautiful wife stiffened and reached for the broom she always kept propped by the door, intending to wield it as a weapon. Then, something must have alerted her – a familiar scent, or perhaps the outline of his tall figure by the bed.
“Mingo?” she asked.
“Yes, Rebecca, it is I,” he answered, placing himself between her and any vision of the man on the bed.
Suddenly alert, she took a step toward him. “Is it Dan?”
“No. I have not seen Daniel.” He frowned. “Has he not returned home? I assumed since no one was here – ”
“Dan’s been and gone,” she answered, drawing closer. “He took Israel and me to the fort before heading out. I came back for supplies.” Rebecca’s blue eyes narrowed as she sought to peer around him. “Mingo, who is that in my bed?”
So Israel was safe. Mingo closed his eyes and gave thanks to the Creator for that. “Silver Fox was here then?” he asked as he reopened them.
She nodded. “He said he was going back to Chota. Dan was looking for you. You didn’t see either of them?”
“No. I was…preoccupied.”
Rebecca scowled at him and then moved past. There was nothing Mingo could do to stop her. It was, after all her home he had invaded. He watched as she halted and glanced down at the silent figure. The morning light was streaming now through the open window. It lit Spock’s lean form. Still, there was hope. At a casual glance Rebecca Boone might easily miss the telltale signs that the man in her bed…
Was not human.
Leonard McCoy growled as he adjusted the thick white cravat that circled his neck and refastened the jeweled stud that held it in place. Accompanied by the still unnamed traveler, he had located a replicator in a near empty section of the ship and requested appropriate attire from the Enterprise’s computer, asking for a costume that would suit a 19th century healer from Earth. The first round the damned machine had kitted him out as a native, replete with a rattle and snake-shaped wand! When he had said, damn it, he meant a Caucasian healer, the blasted machine had adjusted and provided him with what looked like an undertaker’s Sunday best. To the amusement of the alien who accompanied him, it had taken three more attempts to get it even close to right. Finally, just about the time the disgruntled surgeon was certain Jim Kirk would call and demand to know what the hell he was doing, McCoy found himself attired in a simple black suit, a linen shirt replete with a diamond stickpin, an elegant waistcoat, and a dark gray cloak. He wore breeches – which made him feel like a damned school boy – and a pair of clocked or decorated socks that disappeared into black leather shoes decorated with shining silver buckles. The computer assured him the buckles – like the stickpin – were a necessary mark of station.
More likely they would make him a necessary ‘mark’ for every passing highwayman and vagabond. Grumpy already, McCoy turned to the amused creature watching him and asked abruptly, “Do you have a name? If I’m going to get court-martialed for following you God only knows where, I think I deserve to know your name.”
“My people do not have names,” the willow-thin woman answered.
“Well, then, I’m just gonna have to make one up.” McCoy scowled. “Scout, maybe? Voyager or Wanderer? No. That’s not it.” He looked her up and down, thinking about his mental description of her. “Maybe just Willow.”
“Willow?” the wraith-thin alien asked with a smile.
“A type of tree back on Earth. Thin, but nearly unbreakable. It bends with the wind and so, it survives.”
A slight smile parted her near bloodless lips. “I like that.”
“Willow, it is then.” The surgeon placed the tricorn hat the computer had spit out at the last second at a jaunty angle on his grizzled head. “So now what?”
“Since you are not of my people, I must open a time tube for you to travel through.”
“For me to travel through?” McCoy’s ice-blue eyes narrowed. “Aren’t you coming with me?”
“Not now. I cannot.” At his startled look, she added. “I will seek you out later.”
“How much later?”
Willow quivered. Perhaps with fear for him. It made him realize how apt the name he had christened her with was. As she shook, the trailing ends of her white hair brushed her bony shoulders as if shaken by a wind. “You would be in more danger, should I appear with you. Alone, you will be only one more human.”
“How would they know?” McCoy moved toward her. “Do they have advanced technology with them on the planet? Something like a tricorder?”
“Oh joy…” he whispered. “But I can’t take any with me?” She had warned him against it, though without Willow’s knowledge McCoy had stowed a medical kit in his doctor’s bag. And filled it with synthesized Vulcan hemoglobin as well as human. Knowing Spock, the Vulcan already had at least one wound that needed tending to.
Willow looked at him as if she had read his thoughts. “You will do as you feel you must. But do anything outside of the norm for the time, and they will find you.”
“And do what?”
The traveler drew close to him. Unexpectedly, she took his face in her hands. The touch of her fingers was cool. So was that of her lips.
Startled, McCoy pulled back out of the kiss. “What was that for?”
Willow’s fingers slid down his arms. She caught his hands in her own. As she did, McCoy became keenly aware – and intensely uncomfortable – as the fabric of the Enterprise began to fade around him.
The alien’s pale eyes met his and she smiled sadly.
Rebecca Boone lingered at the stranger’s bedside. The full light of morning was streaming in the cabin windows and she was afraid. Mingo had gone outside to fetch firewood so they could warm the cabin and left her with….
The man on the bed was very close to death. Minutes, it seemed, passed between breaths. She had felt for his pulse earlier and finding none – even as he breathed – retreated to the hearth where she had remained for some time. Still, Mingo had made her promise to keep watch while he was gone and so, when she had composed herself, Becky returned to the stranger’s side.
After all, Mingo had brought him here. He couldn’t be dangerous.
At first, their unexpected guest had simply perplexed her. It had been obvious from the man’s clothes, the color of his skin – and his ears – that he was neither white nor Indian. She had asked Mingo to explain, but the Cherokee warrior had only said the man was a traveler and that he was pledged to care for him. She had accepted Mingo at his word and, as soon as he stepped out of the door, had begun the ministrations she would have given to any of God’s creatures. As she removed the bandages from the stranger’s leg in order to see his injuries more clearly and treat them, the wound had begun to bleed again. It was then that she realized – this man was not any of God’s creatures that she knew.
In fact, she wasn’t sure he was a man.
The redhead glanced down at her hands and dress. They were covered in blood.
Shuddering, Becky clasped her arms about her shaking frame and turned toward the door, wishing Mingo would return. In fact, she thought as she grew suddenly alarmed, Mingo should have been back long before now. He had just gone to get wood.
Where was he?
Crossing to the door, Becky placed one hand on the bar that sealed it. She hesitated before lifting it. The traveler’s injuries told several stories. He was battered and bruised, as one might be from a fall or a long plunge down a hillside. And though the gash on his thigh looked as if it had been made by a branch and not a knife, he had obviously been attacked. Was this man a fugitive? Would there be other men in pursuit? Would Mingo have brought him here if he knew there were?
What was it, she wondered, that lay just beyond the door?
Drawing a deep breath, she called out, “Mingo? Mingo, are you there?”
Silence answered her. Becky bit her lip. Of course, he could be too far away from the cabin to hear her call. Coming to a decision, she removed the bar and opened the door just a tiny crack. Peering out, Becky searched the yard, looking toward the wood stack. There was no sign of movement.
This time she heard something. A short exclamation abruptly cut off. Every nerve in Rebecca Boone’s shapely frame tensed at the sound. She darted back through the door and, catching hold of it, thrust it forward crying, ‘No!’ Just before it would have locked into place, the heavy door stuck and refused to budge. Looking down, she saw the reason why.
A man’s elegant boot was wedged firmly between it and the jamb.
Even as Becky pushed with all her strength, the door began to move inward. “No!” she shouted again. “Go away!”
A stranger’s voice, cultured, thick and rich as buttermilk, declared from the other side, “If you value the savage’s life, you will back away from the door, Mrs. Boone.”
“How do I know you’re not lying?” she asked, still pushing hard. “Mingo might have gone off hunting.”
“Rebecca. Do not allow them access!” she heard her friend shout. “Rebecca – ” There were the sounds of a scuffle and then a cry of pain – once again cut short.
The stranger answered instead. “Your savage friend is no longer capable of responding. If you would like him to be able to later, Mrs. Boone, you will open this door. Now.”
Becky hesitated only a moment. Then, she released her hold and backed away.
The elegantly dressed black man who entered had to duck. He was nearly as tall as Dan. As he crossed the threshold and entered the room, she noticed that he moved as if he thought himself a king. Two men, old and young, followed him. They were roughly dressed and smelled of sweat and rum. Between them dangled the Cherokee warrior’s unconscious form. With a snort, the black man ordered him released. Mingo slammed into the floor boards.
It appeared he had been struck on the side of the head.
“Who are you?” Becky demanded. “What do you want? What gives you the right to come barging into my home without permission? Or the right to harm a man who has done nothing to you?”
The black man stared at her for a moment. She had a hard time reading his face. He seemed, at least in part, amused. “My name is Tume. And what I do must be done.” With that, the stranger left her and crossed the room to stand by the bed. Silently, he stared down at the wounded man. For a moment, he said nothing. Then, nodding his head, he said – almost to himself – “As I thought. The first officer of the Enterprise.”
Becky’s blue eyes flicked to the figure on the bed. First officer? Was the curious traveler a member of the military? Was he here in conjunction with the Shawnee uprising Dan had mentioned, and did Mingo know about it? If so, things made a little more sense.
Just a little.
As Tume reached toward the unconscious man, Becky said boldly, “You haven’t answered my question.”
The black man turned to look at her. “Mrs. Boone, I am a tolerant man, but you are trying my patience. You will be quiet.”
“Or what?” she snapped as her hands sought and found their accustomed place on her shapely hips.
“Or this.” Tume’s upper lip curled in an unpleasant sneer. “Solomon, bind her! And, as Mrs. Boone is prone to make her opinions known even when they are not wanted, make certain you lodge the gag firmly between her teeth.”
Becky began to back away. “No.”
The black man scowled. He crossed directly to where Mingo lay. Pulling a pistol from behind his belt, Tume pointed it at the Cherokee’s head. “Your cooperation is advised.”
She halted where she stood. “Don’t hurt him.”
The sneer shifted into an evil smile, so vile it chilled her blood. “If I do, let it be on your head.”
Five minutes later Becky found herself bound and tied to a chair near the table. From her helpless position, she watched as Tume ordered the other men to leave and to take Mingo with them. The redhead struggled against her bonds, but there was nothing she could do. The older man took hold of the Cherokee warrior’s unconscious form by the ankles and dragged him out the door; headless of the terrible noise it made when Mingo’s dark head struck the threshold.
The sound sickened her.
Tears stung Becky’s eyes as she turned back to see what other evil Tume intended. Just as she did, the black man reached out and touched the cheek of the wounded man; almost gently. Puzzled, Becky waited – even as the black man did – for some sort of a response. When he did not receive one, Tume did something that both shocked and startled her. He drew back his arm and struck the unconscious man’s jaw with as much force as he could. Becky felt the blow echo through the cabin and her frame.
“Spock!” the black man said, his voice stern; his tone demanding.. “Hear me, Spock!” When the wounded man failed to move, Tume struck him again. “You will hear!”
A low moan answered him, tenuous and sickly.
“Good,” Tume laughed. “Good. It is not time yet, but you will wake. And when you wake and call, there will be no one here to do what you ask. Do you hear me, Vulcan?” The black man leaned in close and lowered his voice so it was hard for Becky to hear. “You will gasp for breath, Vulcan. You will reach out with your mind, but there will be no one to touch. There will be no one to rouse you and to bring you back; no one but a feeble woman who, should she try, will only give you false hope.” Becky shuddered at the caustic smile Tume turned on her. Turning back to the injured man, he added, “You will die, Vulcan. Alone and in agony. You will die, and then he will die as well.”
The moan repeated. It was slightly more audible this time.
The older man had reentered the room – without Mingo. “Tume, why?” he asked. “And why leave her alive?” The slaver indicated Becky with a nod. “Why not take her and sell her? She’d be worth a lot of furs to some old chief.”
The black man left the bedside to cross to her. When he spoke, his words were for her ears alone. “You too would like to know. But I will not say.” Looking at the other man, Tume pronounced loudly, “It is because I say it is so.” The elegantly attired slaver gazed at her and then added, as much to himself as to her.
“The half-caste will not win.”