TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL
Spock moved like a caged panther – albeit a wounded one – as he explored the confines of the cave he had been placed within. After a long exhausting walk through the forest he had been thrust into the shallow cavern, barred from leaving by a loose construction of branches and hide strips serving as a door, and then left alone; his guard taking up a post some ten feet away around an outcropping of rock. The dawning light cast Levar’s shadow across the cave’s threshold, so he knew D’Ayron’s man was still there. The Vulcan could have, under normal circumstances, simple torn down the door. Weak as he was, the odds were favorable that he still could. But Levar was armed with an energy weapon and logic dictated that the attempt would have little or no chance of success due to his current physical limitations. Immediately after being incarcerated, he had been forced to inaction as a result of a series of uncontrollable tremors. The cumulative toll of his injuries was one he could no longer deny. The fever, indicative of the rampant infection held at bay by sheer willpower for some days now, was steadily rising. At the current rate, he calculated he had no more than three or four hours before becoming incapacitated.
Several more, and the odds increased exponentially that he would be dead.
As before, death did not frighten him. In a way, it piqued his curiosity. It would prove most fascinating to die, especially if one could return and therefore analyze the experience. Spock quickly suppressed the thought as idle. He was deteriorating rapidly indeed if he was suddenly given over to fanciful notions.
In order to rest he had entered a light trance and for some time lain on the cold stone floor unmoving. The period of semi-stasis somewhat restored his flagging energies; at least enough so that he could go on. He had used the brief time he was immobile to cogitate upon current events. It was most disconcerting. One did not often meet one’s progeny – no matter how many centuries removed – fully grown. He thought again of the striking Romulan women D’Ayron had shown him. She had matched him strength for strength and, in a way, weakness for weakness. He had no desire to seek a mate. His experience with the koon-ut-kal-if-fee had mitigated that need, he hoped forever. Still, he could understand what his older self had seen in the Romulan commander – a proud bearing and nobility, a keen intellect mixed with wit, not to mention the added inducement of encountering – if not embracing – something of Vulcan’s ancient emotionally driven past. He wondered, with the foreknowledge he had, when he met Dyan at last would he deny his feelings and choose to do what was logical?
Or was that what his future self had done?
Beyond the intriguing problem of the Romulan Commander, lay others that he had also bent his mind to. D’Ayron was the greatest among them. The Romulan had not been entirely honest with him – nor with himself. D’Ayron’s elemental task, given to him by the Initiators, was to eliminate those on the Enterprise who had intimate knowledge of the mechanics of time travel. That meant the bridge crew. Spock paused in his pacing. He pursed his lips at the thought of the threat to the dedicated men and women who had become so much a part of his life. Had any of them died due to his selfish choice? Due to a…momentary indiscretion? Did McCoy survive? And what of Jim? After all it was he, along with Engineer Scott, who was responsible for discovering and refining the formula that created the matter and antimatter mix that had saved the Enterprise from destruction as it spiraled down toward Psi-2000. It was his actions that had propelled them three days into the past. He was the originator, or rather, the guilty party.
And yet, here he was alive.
It was clear from their earlier contact that D’Ayron’s loyalties were divided. While the Romulan had gone about his assigned task, he had also been actively pursuing his own agenda that was diametrically opposed to the Initiators’. The actions he intended to take this night involving the Shawnee were the current manifestation of it. D’Ayron’s scheme was to alter the past in favor of North America’s indigenous population, creating – ultimately – a confederation of more aggressive states. In this way he hoped to change the very nature of the United Federation of Planets from a peacekeeping, into an empirical force. And why? Not to further the agenda of the Romulan Empire or to gain personal power and status. Simply put, it was to assuage D’Ayron’s own rather emotional feelings of unworthiness. Spock’s left eyebrow peaked.
The fault must certainly lay on his mother’s side.
The Vulcan observed his prison door, noting both the position of the rising sun and the guard. He felt, if the opportunity arose and he could talk to D’Ayron, that it might be possible to persuade him to relent. While self-revelation was something Spock regarded with distaste and avoided as surely as he did Doctor McCoy’s dubious ministrations, in this case sharing how he…felt…as he matured might well prove beneficial. Walking in two – or three – worlds was not an easy task, but there were benefits as well as detriments. To sum it up in human terms, it was best phrased by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. ‘That which does not kill us makes us stronger.’
If there was anything of him in D’Ayron after two centuries, anything of the Vulcan in the young Romulan’s veins, then he might be able to convince him.
Spock walked to the branch and thong door. He gazed out of it, noting Levar’s exact location. Crossing to the cave wall directly behind his prison guard, he prepared himself by opening and closing his hands several times. Then he shut his eyes in concentration. After a moment, he opened them again and leaned in toward the wall. For several minutes the Vulcan probed it, reaching out with his mind. As he felt the first faint stirrings of the other man’s intelligence, Spock began to project the image that he had escaped, that the cave was empty, that Levar must open the door and step in to check. The effort made the Vulcan tremble. A cold sweat broke out on his fevered skin. It did not stop him. Even as his knees threatened to buckle, Spock continued to broadcast the image that he was no longer there. Finally, he felt the man outside stir, shift, and turn to check.
Once free he would go to D’Ayron and speak to him. He would, if he could, put a stop to the young man’s madness. Or if he could not – then the odds were less than favorable that both he and the Romulan would emerge from the meeting alive.
Mingo shook his head as he watched the curious weapon Nyota held emit a thin beam of fire and melt through the chains binding Umbele’s feet, finishing the job she had started with the young woman’s wrists. The former slave grinned as the smoldering links of iron fell to the ground. Uhura apologized for leaving the rough iron cuffs. She had been afraid to bring the beam of fire too close to the other woman’s skin. Umbele didn’t care. Thanking her profusely, she darted forward to embrace the one who had given her freedom. Uhura graciously accepted her gratitude. She didn’t say it was nothing, because it was something.
Umbele was free.
“Now what?” Nyota asked as she returned the weapon to her pouch and turned toward him.
“I must go,” Mingo said, his voice sober. “The Shawnee are on the warpath and headed for Boonesborough. I must warn my friends, and then do what I can to aid them.”
“You must go?” she countered. “Not without us, mister.”
“I cannot ask you to put yourselves in such terrible danger – ”
“Who’s asking you to ask? I, at least, am volunteering,” Uhura snapped back. Turning, she asked Umbele, “What about you?”
“I am no child to be left behind,” the young woman stated emphatically.
Uhura turned back. “Well, that’s it then.”
“What about your missing friend?” Mingo asked softly, reminding her that she had other commitments. “Boonesborough is my responsibility, not yours.”
A flicker of indecision clouded her dark eyes, but she extinguished it quickly.
“We’ve lost the trail. I don’t know how to get back to where I was, and you aren’t going to take me. Besides….” Her tone was softened by affection. “If I know Mr. Spock, he’ll end up where the action is.”
“Or be the cause of it?” the Cherokee warrior asked with a smile.
She beamed in return. “Most likely.”
Mingo looked at the pair of them. This one, Nyota, was a war woman. He could see it in her stance, and in the determination that shone out of her eyes. As such, she was not to be denied. Umbele he was not so certain of. Still, there really was no choice – the young woman could not be left alone in the forest, not with the slavers searching for her.
“War is no place for a woman,” he said, trying one last time.
“What is our place? To sit and wait for our friends or lovers or sons to be brought home on their shields?” There was fire in Uhura’s voice. “Give me a pistol or a bow and I will defend what needs to be defended.”
“And you, Umbele,” he asked. “Will you fight?”
Umbele glanced at the other woman and then back at him. “Find me a spear and I will show you what I can do.”
Their firmness sobered and shamed him. “I am honored,” he said at last, “to walk with two such warriors.”
Uhura planted her hands on her hips. “That’s better,” she answered with mock severity. “Now, I take it you have some sort of a plan?”
Mingo grinned. “Daniel is the one who usually devises the plan. I prefer to follow.”
“But I bet, like Mr. Spock, you can come up with some good ones of your own – if forced.”
“Or coerced,” he laughed. “I have extricated Daniel from a sticky situation or two.”
Uhura laid a hand on his arm. “Let’s make it three. Let’s go save Boonesborough.”
The Cherokee warrior covered her hand with his. “What about your fire weapon? Can you use it? Such a thing would terrify our enemy.”
He felt her stiffen. “I can’t,” she answered. “I shouldn’t have used it at all. I just couldn’t see any other way.” Uhura turned and smiled at Umbele. The other woman had moved away to gather up their things. “I couldn’t leave her behind. For some reason I think she’s special.”
Mingo squeezed her fingers. “You are both special.”
“Why Mr. Mingo, you’re making me blush.” Uhura’s smile was winsome.
He leaned in close and spoke softly. “It is quite becoming on you, Miss Uhura.”
She gazed at him for a moment and then laughed. “Boy, do we need you on the Enterprise. You’d make those women stop panting after Mr. Spock.”
Mingo’s left eyebrow shot up. “Spock, a lady’s man?”
Uhura crooked her little finger and then whispered close to his ear. “If you don’t tell him, neither will I.”
The Cherokee warrior laughed.
Umbele, who had just returned to their side, looked at the two of them puzzled. “Did I miss something?” she asked.
Uhura pulled her hand away and shook her head. She was still looking at him. “They sure don’t make them like they used to,” she sighed.
Spock clung to the cave wall as Levar’s shadow slipped between the branches and vines and advanced across the threshold. His jailer approached slowly, as if unsure of what drew him forward. During the mind probe Spock had found certainty of what he had earlier surmised – Levar was a Romulan, surgically altered to appear as a human. Most likely so he could move with ease among the townspeople. As such, Levar’s mind – while not subtle – was strong. The suggestion Spock had planted would be no more than that to him: a suggestion. The Romulan was not fooled, he simply was not certain.
It was difficult to remain completely still. Sweat streamed into Spock’s eyes and he trembled with the effort. His left leg was gripped by a spasm, making it hard to keep his feet. Still, he dare not move. He dare not reveal his presence – not until Levar had opened the door and stepped inside.
Which he did a moment later.
Spock held his breath and waited as the altered Romulan moved into the cave. Steeling himself, he prepared to strike. He knew the alien’s strength would more than match his own and he would only get one chance. Levar had reached the rudimentary bedding they had provided for him, which he had bunched up and padded as best he could to mimic his shape before attempting an escape. From his vantage point, it made a passable imitation of a sleeping body. Spock watched as Levar hesitated, and then bent to shake the bedding’s ‘shoulder’.
Springing pantherlike, Spock struck him when he was off-balance. Desperately, the Vulcan drove his trembling fingers into the Romulan’s shoulder. He was not certain the nerve pinch would work, but calculated it was likely to at least slow his jailer down. Levar did not lose consciousness, but he collapsed to the floor and the energy weapon he carried dropped from his hand. Spock made a grab for it, but the Romulan managed a weak strike with his boot and sent it skittering across the cave floor. Instinctively Spock rolled and went after it, coming to his feet some three yards away with the weapon in his hand. He pointed it at the Romulan, but did not fire. Levar’s eyes were glazed. He looked at the Vulcan without comprehension, and then pitched over and lay still. Spock stared at him for a moment, then he set the phaser to heavy stun and shot him anyway.
Logic dictated he take no chances.
Crippled by the spasm that still gripped his leg, Spock limped past the Romulan’s unconscious form and headed for the entrance of the cave. As he reached it, he paused with a hand to the rocky wall, seeking to clear his head.
Then he stumbled out into the growing light.
The trip to Boonesborough had taken an unexpected turn. They had traveled less than an hour when, suddenly, the forest came alive with heavily painted natives – all running as if the devil himself were on their tail. Uhura crouched in the tall grasses with her companions, watching as the Shawnee warriors they had seen earlier – marching like the Hun’s imperious army to the Battle of Chalons – fled from some unseen enemy. She couldn’t imagine what had happened. The warriors were scattered, moving haphazardly – some stumbling and falling, others actually crying.
Their faces told a tale of terror.
“What do you suppose happened?” she asked Mingo, her tone hushed. When he did not answer, she looked at him and was surprised to find something of the same look of terror in his eyes. “Mingo, what is it?”
He seemed to rouse himself from wherever his thoughts had taken him. “For such men – such warriors – to fly like frightened girls, it must be terrible indeed. Perhaps something of another world.”
There were two sides to this man, Uhura told herself, just like there were to Spock. But while Spock embraced his father’s race, adopting the Vulcans’ cold logic and code of non-emotion, Mingo chose to emulate his mother’s. In doing so, the Cherokee warrior embraced feelings and superstition. She laid a hand on his arm. “I’m of another world. Am I so frightening?”
He smiled. “No.”
Uhura stared at him for a moment, and then forcefully turned her attention to the Shawnee warriors who were fleeing through the forest. “What we need is information,” she said, rising.
“What are you going to do?” Umbele asked wide-eyed.
The woman from the stars flashed a twinkling smile. “Watch,” she said as she stepped out of the cover of the leaves.
One Shawnee ran past her, heedless of her existence. Then another. The third, as he approached, saw her standing there and slowed down. Uhura continued to smile as the native took in her sex, her shapely form, and her unusual garb. When he drew to a halt, she beckoned him forward by crooking one finger. The man hesitated, gazed back at some of his fellows, and then turned back to look at her.
Uhura’s boot caught him in the chest as he did, and then she moved in and delivered an upper cut to his chin. A second later, the Shawnee dropped to the ground.
Her voice pitched low, the Bantu woman turned back to her cloistered companions and ordered, “Help me get him under cover!”
Minutes later the unfortunate Shawnee awoke tied to a tree, with the three of them staring down at him. He let loose a long string of consonants that Uhura supposed were meant to invoke the gods against them, and then fell silent. She stepped back and gave way to Mingo who knelt and began speaking to the man. Uhura listened as they fell into conversation, fascinating by the syntax and structure of what she recognized as an offshoot of the Algonquin tongue. Though she knew several Native American languages, Shawnee was not one of them. She could admire it, but understanding it was a whole different thing.
A few minutes later Mingo rose to his feet and approached her where she stood speaking to Umbele. “Apparently the war is off,” he said with some relief.
“Rain of Stars, that’s the current Shawnee war chief, addressed the men tonight in preparation for sending them into battle. During his speech, he seemed to somehow glean that there were spies listening. He sent the warriors out to find them.”
“Spies?” she asked, somewhat anxious. “What kind of spies?”
“Two men. The Shawnee gave chase.” Mingo paused. It almost seemed as if he did not want to continue – as if he was afraid to say what he had to say. “From this man’s description, I think one may have been Daniel Boone.”
She understood the fear now. She felt it for her friend as well. “Was the other Spock?”
“No. Blackknife said the second man was white, with hair like honey.”
“What happened to them? Were they hurt?”
“That is unclear. Blackknife claims the men were wounded and that one took…a killing blow.” He raised a hand to silence her. “We cannot be sure. If he is without honor, he would not choose to admit defeat.”
Uhura’s heart was pounding, hard. Now she was afraid and she didn’t know why. “What did they do with the men? Where are they now?”
“The Shawnee chased them to a place not far from here, a rocky ledge overlooking a shallow grassy bowl. They trapped them there. Two men, with only one rifle in hand to fend off over a hundred enemies.”
“Then they are dead,” Umbele pronounced matter-of-factly.
Mingo shook his head. “They should be. But they are not.”
“You mean the Shawnee didn’t pursue them once they were wounded? Why? And why were these men running away? Surely not from one white man with a gun.” Uhura held the Cherokee warrior’s gaze. Something remained, something yet unspoken. “Mingo, tell me.”
He turned from her and lifted his handsome face to the sky. The moonlight streamed down, turning his black hair to midnight blue. When Mingo spoke, awe resonated in the depths of his silken voice. “Blackknife spoke of the Thunderbirds, but I do not think it is the Thunderbirds he saw.” He looked straight at her. “The Shawnee says that a light came out of the sky – a crimson light thin as a taper, but with the power of the Thunderbirds’ gaze. It struck the ridge above them and the rocks exploded. Several warriors were killed. Blackknife believes the men died because their act this night offended the gods.”
If she could have paled, Uhura would have. “Someone fired a phaser?” she gasped. “But that’s impossible.”
“My…my fire weapon,” she explained.
“Then, it would seem it is not impossible.”
“But who?” It couldn’t be Spock, she reasoned. The Vulcan didn’t have his weapon on him. But who else in this time period could be carrying a Starfleet issued weapon? Then a thought struck her. Had the ship made its way into the past and located them? Had a landing party beamed down? If so, then rescue might be close at hand. “Mingo,” she said at last, “we have to go there. To the ridge. Now.”
The Cherokee warrior met her intense gaze; his own uncertain. “I know the place. It is not far from the settlement. But I do not think – ”
“These could be my people,” she told him. “If so they can locate…. They can help me find Mr. Spock. And if Dr. McCoy is with them, then he can give him the medical treatment he needs.”
“Uhura, there will be many Shawnee between here and there,” Mingo countered. “Some of them are not frightened. Some are rightfully angry. Blackknife says they seek the one who brought this upon them, as well as the shaman who aids him. The warriors believe both are false.”
“Who brought it upon them? Do you know him?”
“Of him,” Mingo replied. “He is called Rain of Stars.”
Spock followed a thin lead that had no logic to it. Upon finding himself free, he had moved off into the forest. He had been uncertain how long the Romulan would remain unconscious, and it had seemed prudent to put some distance between himself and his jailer. For some time he traveled without purpose. Logic eluded him. He could not, as humans put it, think straight. After approximately thirty minutes, he gave up. Dropping to the ground, he positioned himself as he had been taught and focused, calling on the rudimentary disciplines he had learned as a child. Instead of success, he found his efforts ineffectual and himself, frustrated. Ashamed, he was forced to admit that he was simply too exhausted to identify, seize, and defeat whatever obstacle lay between him and rational thought.
And then he felt it – a connection, tenuous at first, but growing stronger as he reached out to embrace it.
A connection to D’Ayron.
They had linked minds before so it was not totally unexpected, but usually no such resonance remained unless it was desired. Such things had been known to occur between close associates and family members. There had been links that reached through space – if not time. Spock inhaled and let the breath out slowly, centering. Yes, it was there. Clear. Precise. Almost, intimate. If nothing else, the nature of the connection went far to prove the Romulan’s claim that they were indeed related.
Not as if he doubted it. Within the link there was no dissembling.
Satisfied that it was necessary, Spock hearkened to the call of the one who was beget of his future self. Through the link he became aware of what had transpired, if not in detail then in abstract form. D’Ayron’s scheme had failed. Something or someone had interfered, causing his men to lose faith. He was blamed for what had happened. The young Romulan commander was alone and vulnerable. It would be the optimum time to confront him – if only Spock could get to him quickly, before someone else did. The Vulcan sensed his descendant’s fear.
The hunter had become the hunted.