TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL
Lieutenant Nyota Uhura was not a woman given to despair. Well, that wasn’t quite true. Occasionally she did despair of ever saying anything other than ‘hailing frequencies open, sir,’ or of playing a more vital role in the life of the Starship Enterprise than that of chief communications officer. But that was a featherweight despair, shaken off as easily as a bad dream. This one was heavyweight.
Spock was going to die, and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.
Uhura turned from the entry of the cave to look back at him. The Vulcan science officer had not protested too much when she brought him here, though he had chafed a bit at her womanly ministrations. She had lowered him to the ground and then proceeded to unwrap his bandaged leg, only to find that the bleeding had been controlled by the tourniquet she had applied, but not stopped. She felt like a fool when Spock carefully inspected her work and explained that the pressure point she had chosen, while quite correct for a human, had been wrong for a Vulcan-human hybrid whose heart lay on the left side of the torso, between the ribs and pelvis. Uhura had apologized, been reprimanded for doing so, and then thanked quietly by her patient as she reapplied the tourniquet in the correct place.
She had left Spock then, propped against the cave wall, to go in search of supplies.
The first logical place to look had been the remains of the downed shuttlecraft. In her haste to escape the wreckage and find Spock, she had not checked it very thoroughly. It was, at most, a mile and a half north of the cave she had chosen to shelter them. On her way she marked her trail with stones and scratches on rocks just as she had learned in survival training. As the new day dawned around her, in spite of everything, her spirits had lifted. The land she walked had been lush and verdant; the color of the grass and leaves a deep blue-green, and the sky, blue as anything she had ever seen. It took about twenty minutes to reach the crash site. Setting about scavenging the wreck, she had found herself humming an ancient Vulcan tune. The memory of how she learned it made her smile. When Mr. Spock first mentioned it – as they prepared for their joint presentation at the conference – he had hesitated to perform it for her. She had wondered why until she coaxed him into it, and then she had understood. The melody was plaintive, but it was also sweet and rich with the emotion of a mother’s love for her child. Spock told her that it belonged to the days before Surak and admitted, though it did not follow the standard form of Vulcan music, that the tune was revered as deeply as their ancestor’s memory.
She had wondered at the time if it had been Spock’s Earth-born mother or his stoic Vulcan father who had sung it to him.
Uhura fell silent as she crossed the cave and walked to the Vulcan’s side where she stood looking down at him. She had spent several hours rummaging in the wreckage, but had managed to salvage very little. She had found a spare set of engineer’s overalls that she had brought with her and used to make new bandages. No food had remained – not that they had brought much aboard to begin with. Still, there should have been emergency rations. Footprints painted in Deevers' blood indicated what had became of them. A wolf, or some other large predator had discovered the food in their absence. Uhura shuddered at the thought. It was fortunate she had taken time after the crash and before beginning her search for Spock, to use one of the shuttle’s standard phasers to dig a grave for the navigator, or else Lt. Deevers' corpse would have been the main course at the animal’s feast.
The Bantu woman knelt by the starship’s first officer. She had returned to find Spock prostrate on the cave floor, unconscious, his lean body feverish. She knew the Vulcan was capable of going into some sort of healing trance, but so far he had not done so. She could only surmise that, as commanding officer, he felt responsible for her and knew, if he did, that she would be left alone. But then again from what she understood of Vulcan physiology, the purpose of the healing trance was to mend internal injuries. Who knew if it could produce significant quantities of blood to replace what he had lost? Somehow, she doubted that it could. Uhura glanced back at the lush forested world outside the cave mouth. She sincerely doubted they were going to find any copper-based blood donors here.
If only they hadn’t lost that medikit!
She had searched for it on her way back to the cave. It had to have fallen out of the shuttle at the same time as Spock. Still, that knowledge did her little good. At the speed the doomed craft had been traveling, the kit could be anywhere within a two or three mile radius. It might be anchored high in the crook of a tree branch, or even have been driven into the earth by the force of the fall.
With a frown and a sigh Uhura reached out to brush the perfectly straight, precision cut hair away from the Vulcan’s forehead. It was a useless gesture, but it made her feel better – until Spock opened his eyes.
“Mr. Spock! I thought you were unconscious.”
He gritted his teeth and attempted to sit up. “I have been…conserving my strength.” Spock shook his head as she reached out to steady him, once again denying the touch, and managed to lean back against the wall. “The blood flow has been curtailed, but it seems….” The Vulcan’s body shook with a tremor. “It seems some foreign bacteria has entered the wound and it has become infected.”
“Can you shake it if you go into a healing trance?” she asked, hopeful.
His near-black eyes sought hers. “Unknown. The trance is not a…panacea for all ills. Even should I attempt it, I doubt you would have the strength to bring me out of it.”
She hadn’t thought of that. Uhura remembered hearing from Christine how it had taken all of Dr. M’Benga’s considerable strength to bring Spock back to consciousness. The healer had been forced to strike the Vulcan brutally over and over again.
“Then, what are we to do?” she asked.
Spock thought a moment. “Do we have a working tricorder?”
She shook her head. “No such luck. We have our communicators, the mediscanner and a phaser, though I used some of its power to bury Deevers.” Uhura smiled at his frown. “I know it wasn’t logical, but it was human.”
“I fail to see how being ‘human’ serves as a justification for an act that has used in part – if not for the most part – the only remaining energy supply we have,” he replied, his tone cold and controlled. “And for the sole benefit of a dead man.”
“There are predatory animals here,” Uhura replied curtly, chiding herself for being angry with him for being what he was. “I didn’t think it wise to attract them.”
The Vulcan fell silent for several seconds. Then he nodded. “Most logical. Was there anything else?”
Uhura rose to her feet and crossed to the mouth of the cave where she had left the few items she had salvaged from the craft; her own suitcase with most of its contents – which included several long, colorful flowing robes – a few tools, and another case that belonged to Spock. His did not contain clothing or food or anything remotely useful, but something far more precious. Picking it up, she returned with it to the first officer’s side and held it out to him.
Pure unadulterated joy entered the Vulcan’s pain-wracked eyes, but it was quickly suppressed. “It is most unfortunate that one of the few things to have survived the wreck of the Columbus would prove to be of little intrinsic value in our current situation,” Spock said, his voice far from dispassionate.
Uhura watched as he placed a reverent hand on the wooden case that was adorned with Vulcan symbols. “It’s intact,” she said softly. “I checked.”
“Most…efficient of you, Lieutenant.” Spock’s breathing grew labored as his fingers fumbled with the lock. “I should like to see for myself.”
The Bantu woman nodded. She took the case in hand and tripped its hidden catches. It had taken her some time to figure them out, but before she returned it to him, she had wanted to know. The case opened to reveal an elegant instrument tucked safely inside. It contained the beautifully designed and crafted Vulcan lyrette the first officer played. Spock was taking it with him to the conference. She understood it was incredibly old.
As she watched Spock’s fingers strummed the strings and the instrument seemed to sigh. Then, quite unexpectedly, he slumped forward unconscious.
Uhura caught him and eased him to the ground. The Vulcan was always warm to the touch, but he was burning up now.
“Spock!” she called, shaking him gently. “Spock, you have to try the trance.” He didn’t hear her. Fretting, Uhura wondered if he had to make a conscious choice to enter the healing trance. If so, he was beyond it now.
Uhura removed the harp from beneath his fingers and placed it back in its case. Then she laid her hand alongside the wounded man’s face and gazed at him. He was an enigma, this one. So cold, so calculated, so precise. But that was the Vulcan Mr. Spock. He was also human, and he was funny as well – wittingly, she believed, though she knew he would deny it to his dying breath. Spock was honest and honorable, and most of all, strong. It was no wonder half the female crew of the Enterprise were in love with him – or rather, with the idea of him. Of course, she did not count herself among them. Spock was her colleague and she respected him more than any man with, perhaps, the exception of Captain Kirk.
She was not about to let him die.
Returning to her own suitcase, Uhura removed several of the flowing robes from it and then made her way back to her fallen companion’s side. The Bantu woman smiled as she lay the multi-colored garments of her native land across the unconscious man’s form. Not exactly to Vulcan taste, she thought, but they would do to keep the chill off. Uhura returned to the mouth of the cave and found her kit, and then took the phaser from it and proceeded to heat several of the rocks that lay near Spock. If she was to leave him for a time, she had to know he was warm.
There was little else she could do to preserve his life.
As Uhura returned the phaser to the kit, she noticed her communicator. It had been several hours since she had tried to raise the Enterprise and, though the effort was probably futile, regulations demanded it. The ship – if it even knew they were missing – had no way of knowing where they were unless they received some sort of a distress call. She lifted the guard to check the readings on her communication device, only to find it had gone dead. Frustrated, she dropped it to the cave floor and dug in her kit for Spock’s.
It was nowhere to be found!
Uhura’s full lips formed a soft Swahili curse. She looked out of the cave, trying to remember her earlier actions. She must have dislodged the first officer’s communicator from his belt while carrying and dragging him to the cave. Unfortunately, that meant it could be anywhere! She turned to gaze at the Vulcan’s recumbent form, remembering their earlier conversation. Spock had not put much store in the idea of them having been thrust back in time, but it was the only thing that made sense to her. She knew the workings of the invisible and nearly impenetrable web of communications that surrounded her homeworld better than most. She had spent years studying it, and even more years learning its subtleties and nuances. The fact that they had not been able to raise anyone was a good indicator that they were not on Earth as they had known it. And if they had somehow fallen through time to an earlier era, then the loss of Mr. Spock’s communicator meant much more than their last chance to establish a link with the ship.
It meant that the current timeline might be compromised.
Mingo was a Cherokee warrior. He had faced down mighty foes and triumphed over men twice his size, and with greater strength. He had forded rushing rivers and scaled high, lofty crags of stone. Each of those battles paled when compared to the one he was waging now with a small white-haired boy not half his size.
“But Mingo, I don’t wanna go to Chota!” Israel Boone whined. “I want to stay with you.”
“That would be my desire as well, Israel, were it not for the fear of the unknown.” Mingo sighed. “What would your mother think if she knew I took you with me, knowing full well that I was walking into danger?”
“Well…she don’t haf’ta know. Does she?”
“I would know.”
Israel scowled. The boy looked at his feet and used the battered toe of one leather boot to scuff at the pebbles lining the side of the path. Chota lay only a few hours away. As they traveled, they had come across one of his uncle’s warriors, Silver Fox, who had agreed to take Daniel’s small son to the village. The warrior stood by watching them with barely suppressed amusement.
Mingo knelt and took Israel’s shoulders in his hands. “You must do this for me. If you are with me, I will have to think of you first – and that could lead me into even worst peril.”
Israel thought about that for a moment. “You mean, if I go, I’m helpin’?”
“You would honor me with your bravery in doing so,” Mingo said solemnly.
The boy frowned. He glanced at Silver Fox, and then back. There was no fear in Israel’s eyes, only a vague sort of apprehension. “Am I gonna stay in his lodge?”
“Is it full of wimmen?”
Mingo laughed. “Silver Fox’s wife is there, but no, other than that there are two boys – just about your age. And they are friends with Monlutha.”
“Been a coon’s age since I seen him,” Daniel’s son admitted with a sigh. “All right. I guess I’ll go.”
Mingo nodded and patted the boy’s shoulder. In spite of his protests, Israel now seemed quite content to spend the day – or maybe two – in the Indian village. As Mingo rose to his feet, he turned to Silver Fox. “A favor?”
The warrior nodded. “Anything.”
“Deliver Israel and then take word to his mother at the Boone cabin that the boy is all right. We were expected last night, and Rebecca is most likely beside herself with worry.”
Silver Fox was one of the tribe’s swiftest runners. He could make it to Boonesborough in half the time it would have taken Mingo, and return in the same barely winded.
“I will see it done.”
“Thank you.” Mingo turned back to Israel and placed a hand on the boy’s head. “The Great Spirit go with you.”
Daniel’s son looked up at him, and then impulsively turned and gave him a fierce hug. “You too, Mingo. You be careful.”
“As always,” he smiled. There was real fear in Israel’s voice. Did the child too sense that something waited around the next corner, ready to spring? “You know I always come back.”
“Yeah, but you usually got Pa to pull your bacon out of the fire,” Israel replied stoically.
Mingo didn’t laugh. Silver Fox did. Out loud.
“If the boy’s father is at your home, I will tell him he is needed. Bacon burns quickly in a comet’s tail,” the warrior remarked dryly.
“Good enough!” Israel exclaimed.
Silver Fox waited until the boy had crossed over to him and then, with one arm, lifted and swung Israel onto his back where Daniel’s son clambered onto his shoulders. Once he had a firm grip, the warrior signaled a farewell, and then began to run.
Mingo watched them until they disappeared, and then he turned and did the same.
Since she had seen nothing in the way of civilized life in the direction of the shuttlecraft, Uhura headed south from their present location. She was fairly sure she could find her way back but, just in case and as she had before, she left a trail of markers she could easily locate later that would lead her back to Spock. When she left him, the Vulcan had seemed to be sleeping rather than unconscious. Still, she couldn’t be sure. She had to get some help for him.
Though she had no idea of what kind of help she might find.
Was this the present-day Earth? Would she find a substation or wilderness outpost nearby equipped with the latest in technological equipment and hopefully a fully stocked infirmary? Or, rather, stumble onto some eccentric who had chosen to live as their ancestors had two hundred years before, eschewing all of that? There were still ‘mountain men’ as they called themselves, and they were known to be notoriously suspicious of strangers. One might even take a shot at her with one of those antiquated weapons they called flintlocks! Or maybe, just maybe, they were in the past, and if that was the case – there was little she could do for Spock.
If his own system didn’t save him, nothing could.
Uhura pulled the neck of the loose linen dress she had tossed over her uniform close about her throat. It was roughly floor length and woven of a natural flax fiber with only a stripe or two of color for decoration. The gown fastened in the front and acted the part of a cloak well enough. The new day was dawning brilliant but cold. The storm front of the night before had brought about a change in temperature. Even the budding flowers and bushes looked as if they wished they had a coat.
She wouldn’t dare wander too far. The rocks she had heated would only provide Spock with three or four hours of warmth.
Moving briskly, Uhura covered several miles of territory in record time. No more than an hour and a half had passed when she stumbled upon the camp. At first, she hung on its edge, trying to assess the situation. The men who occupied it were dressed simply enough – in buckskin leggings and long colorful shirts known as frocks, if she recalled the costume portion of her ancient art class correctly. Two of them were loading a wagon. Another, about one hundred yards away near a dark tree line, walked back and forth striking a whip against his thigh. She squinted, but could not make out what it was he guarded or chastened. She thought there were other men, weaving in and out of the trees, but couldn’t be certain without moving closer – which was something she was not quite ready to do.
Uhura’s eyes went to the wagon. It was primitive; made of wood with iron wheels. It’s presence seemed to validate her time travel theory. Still, she had no idea how far Earth’s new mountain men went to emulate the old. Perhaps they refused to use anything modern. The Bantu woman glanced down at her clothes. Fortunately, the ethnic dress hid her short uniform and legs. If she was in the past, she knew it was not proper for a woman to show skin.
Five minutes of observation revealed nothing alarming. The men seemed intent on their business; so intent they still had not noticed her. Uhura gnawed her lower lip. Time was ticking by and Mr. Spock was growing weaker each minute. Finally, she decided to dare it. Stepping out of the shadows, Uhura cleared her throat and addressed the group of men.
“Sirs. I am in need of assistance,” she said as the late afternoon light highlighted her shapely form. “Is there anyway you can help me? I have had to leave a wounded comrade behind and he needs medical – ”
Uhura froze. While she spoke, the man at the edge of the trees on the opposite side of the clearing had moved forward. The whip was gone from his hand. In its place was a thick iron chain and, spaced at even intervals along that chain, were a half-dozen ebony-skinned men and women. It took her a moment, but all too soon Uhura realized with horror the reality of their condition, which was underfed, ill-clothed, beaten and bruised.
She had been right about falling through time. They were in the past.
The men and women were slaves.