TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL
The second floor of Cincinnatus Jones’ tavern and inn looked like a hospital ward in a very strange war. Jim Kirk paced the hallway, waiting for the ship’s surgeon to complete his work with Spock. As he did, he glanced into the other rooms. In one lay Daniel Boone. A stunning redhead, who had been introduced to him as Rebecca, Daniel’s wife, sat at the frontiersman’s bedside holding his hand. They had had to pull a fast one with Boone, switching out the space age pressure bandage for old style linen, but Bones had proven – as he often did – that he was up to any challenge.
Even a Romulan with a wound from a flintlock.
Kirk had set Uhura to attend to D’Ayron. The Romulan, like Spock, had not yet regained consciousness, though it had been nearly a day since they had carried the two men to the inn. Mingo, who had left them to scout the area, had returned providentially with a horse in hand. Kirk had ridden it, bearing Spock’s still form before him like a warrior from the field. D’Ayron, they had rigged a travois for. The Klingon…
Well, someday some archeologist was going to have a field day with those bones!
Spock’s condition worried him. There was only so much any man – or Vulcan – could take. The cumulative list of his first officer’s injuries was staggering. Bones had ticked them off one by one – the fall from the shuttlecraft, the wounded leg, the tetanus infection, some sort of injury to his neck, burns to his back and arms, the blood loss…. For some reason the 19th century had been particularly hostile to his friend. If Spock had been totally human, he would have lost him.
But then, that had been true many times before.
Kirk paused by the door to the Romulan’s room. As he did, Uhura looked up and smiled. She had a book in her hands and was dressed – for propriety – in one of Rebecca Boone’s gowns. It was cut of a deep blue cloth and fit her curvaceous form well. Lit by the morning light spilling in the open window, his communications officer looked stunning. When she saw him, Uhura rose and placed the book on her seat. Then she came to the door.
“Good morning, sir. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes,” he lied. He hadn’t slept at all.
She accepted the prevarication as any good officer would. “I’m glad to hear it, sir.”
He nodded toward the motionless figure on the bed. “How’s our patient?”
“Has he spoken yet?”
“No, sir. Dr. McCoy said it will most likely be another day at the very least. He has him pretty heavily sedated.”
Kirk mulled that over. And the surgeon had done it without an order from him. Wonders would never cease. “I heard you last night, about 3:00 in the morning. You and Bones moving around. What was that?”
Her smile said it all. “I thought you were asleep, sir.”
He shrugged. “Hot chocolate break.”
“It was…well, providential, sir.”
“This is the room Boone’s son, Israel, and his sister occupied. When we arrived they moved to a friend’s cabin nearby. I couldn’t sleep, and was tidying up and….” Uhura paused and walked to the other side of the room. She returned with a cloth sack and a Starfleet issued medical kit. “The boy must have found it when he was in the forest with Mingo, sir.” At his confused expression, she added, “This is the one Dr. McCoy prepared for our trip – with Vulcan blood. The doctor said the extra amount probably saved D’Ayron’s life.”
“The Romulan, sir. Mr. Spock mentioned it before he lost consciousness.” She pursed her lips. “Or so you said….”
“Oh, right. Right.” It wouldn’t do to admit that he was tired, but he was. After he rubbed them, Kirk’s eyes returned to the Romulan enigma lying on the bed. Family, Spock had called him. For a Vulcan there was no meaning to that word other than the one a person would suppose. Somehow his first officer and this Romulan were related by blood.
And he’d thought he had a headache before….
“Sir, how is Mr. Spock?”
He shook his head wearily. “Bones is with him now.”
“Will he recover?”
Kirk hesitated. “I don’t know. Continue on, lieutenant.”
She straightened to a military posture. “Yes, sir.”
It was amusing in the colonial dress. She looked like a skirted peg driven into the ground. “At ease, Lieutenant,” he said with a weary smile. “Oh, and good work.”
Uhura beamed. “Thank you, sir.”
Kirk glanced back at Spock’s room, but the door was still shut tightly against him. McCoy’s subtle way of shouting ‘stay out!’ Obedient, for once, Kirk moved on to the next room where Daniel Boone lay mending. He paused at the door. Mrs. Boone’s head was bent in prayer and he had no desire to disturb her. A moment later he heard her murmur ‘amen’. She rose then and turned and gave a little gasp when she saw him standing there.
Kirk raised a hand. “I didn’t mean to startle you. How is your husband doing?”
For a long moment Rebecca Boones said nothing. She just stared at him. He was dressed now as a frontiersman in breeches, boots, and a rust colored linen shirt, so there was nothing out of the ordinary to see. Slightly amused, Kirk pivoted and looked behind him. When he turned back he grinned, “I don’t see any monsters.”
Her look was entirely serious. “Neither do I.”
Uhura had reported that when they brought Rebecca’s husband in, the redhead had taken everything in stride. Oh, she had been horrified to see Daniel’s condition, but nothing Bones or Uhura did or said had seemed to faze her. The lieutenant admitted they had been forced to use some modern methods to save the frontiersman. When they removed the pressure pack, the bleeding had started again and Bones had given the big man blood. They had tried to keep Mrs. Boone out, but she had been adamant about remaining at her husband’s side the entire time.
What did this woman know? And how?
After a moment, Kirk tried again. “You never answered my question, Mrs. Boone. How is your husband?”
“Becky,” she insisted.
He tried it with a grin. “Becky.”
“Dan will be all right,” she answered as she returned to his side. “He’s strong, but I think – this time – if it hadn’t been for you and your friends….. I would have lost him.”
“The world would have lost him,” he murmured.
“Dan’s important, isn’t he?” she asked, her blue marble eyes widening. “I mean, in creating where you come from.”
“I come from Iowa,” he answered easily, not lying this time.
“Iowa?” she asked, puzzled.
Oops. No Iowa yet. He turned up the charm. “A little Indian village not far from here.”
She laughed. “You are a very bad liar, Captain Kirk.”
She nodded. “Jim.” Then suddenly growing serious, her eyes widening with images they were not meant to imagine, Rebecca Boone went on. “I have seen you. On the bridge of your ship, with all the stars rushing by. I have seen you sailing the sky!” She sucked in air as if drowning. “And always, with him by your side.”
If this trip to the past had done anything, it was to dig deeper furrows in his brow. “What?”
“Spock was dying. I…touched him.”
Good God! Daniel Boone’s wife had mind-melded with a Vulcan. What would the historians say about that? Kirk’s lips twisted. Nothing really. They’d probably just file it next to the photos of the Klingon bones unearthed in late eighteenth century Kentucky.
“It’s all right. I’ll keep your secret. You don’t have to worry.” She laid a hand on his arm. “I know you. I know you all and you are good men.”
“Even the one who isn’t a man?” he asked softly.
She turned her face toward the room where Spock lay, fighting for his life.
“Him most of all.”
Kirk met Bones coming out Spock’s room, closing the door behind him. His face was set in grim lines. When the surgeon turned and started for the stairs as if he hadn’t seen him, Kirk caught his friend by the shoulder.
“Bones. How is he? Is he cured?”
McCoy’s eyes were puddles of fatigue and worry. “There is no cure for tetanus in this century, Jim.”
“What about in our century?”
“Piece of cake.” Bones scowled. “You got a cake right now?”
Kirk’s stomach hit the floor. “You mean he’s going to die?”
“Now, I didn’t say that. I was able to administer a general antibiotic and several other drugs.”
“So, he’ll live.”
Bones sighed. “I didn’t say that either.”
“Well, which is it?” Kirk demanded, growing frustrated.
“It’s up to Spock. Normally, with that iron – er, copper – constitution of his I would say there was nothing to worry about. But he was so far down when the infection hit, Jim, and tetanus is as mean as a Klingon and just as tenacious once it takes hold.” Bones eyes met his. There was torture in them. “Vulcans are particularly vulnerable to asphyxiation, which is the chief cause of death.”
Vulnerable. That was a word he didn’t usually associate with Spock.
For several heartbeats Kirk said nothing. Then only, “Can I see him?”
McCoy shrugged, “Can’t hurt.” Then a weary smile lit his haggard face. “And I’d like to think it might even help. Tell him you need him, Jim. Make him fight.”
Kirk nodded. Then, as McCoy moved away, he caught the surgeon’s elbow. “Did you tell him you needed him, Bones?”
The older man’s eyes narrowed and he pulled away. “None of your damn business,” he murmured as he headed down the stairs.
The only sound in the room was the rattle of his first officer’s labored breathing. Kirk understood now why the door was closed. McCoy had placed a portable respirator over the Vulcan’s nose and mouth. From what the surgeon had told him, in advanced cases death most often resulted from a constriction of the muscles involved in breathing. Vulcans had few weaknesses.
That was one of them.
Kirk pulled up a chair and sat down beside his friend. Spock looked like he had walked through Hell. His face was unshaven and shaded with several days’ growth. He had lost weight – which was something he didn’t have a lot of to lose. Kirk had never seen him looking so pale or pained. Whatever Vulcan disciplines Spock normally used to mask the agony were gone; lost along with the world they had left behind on that big starship in the sky. As he watched, the Vulcan’s lean frame twitched and convulsed. It was a minor tremor, but still enough to elicit a gasp from the unconscious man. Knowing what that meant – and not knowing what else to do – Kirk reached out and took his friend’s hand, making contact.
“Spock. I’m here,” he said, projecting as well as saying it. For all the good it would do. “Spock, you’ve got to fight this. You’re strong. You can win.”
He felt his friend’s arm go rigid, and then the Vulcan’s form was wracked again – stronger, this time; the spasm arching his back.
Kirk frowned. The figure on the bed couldn’t speak, not with the respirator. He answered in kind, projecting his thoughts. Spock?
Nothing matters except your recovery.
Put your energies to that.
Damn logic, Spock!
He didn’t know how, but Kirk knew the mental eyebrow had lifted. Need…to know, the Vulcan went on. Chess.
Had he heard that right? Chess?
Initiators. Jim, all…of this.
Kirk hadn’t realized he had closed his eyes. They were open now. Gripping his shoulder was a very irate and completely nonplussed Leonard McCoy. “What the hell do you think you are doing? Trying to kill him?”
It took him a moment to remember where he was. “Bones?”
He felt fingers prying at his. “Jim, let go!”
Kirk’s hazel eyes moved to Spock’s inert form. The Vulcan was white as the bedding – if still slightly tinted green. His breathing was no longer labored. In fact, it didn’t seem he was breathing at all. The starship captain looked at his ship’s surgeon and barked an order, “Report!”
McCoy’s scowl deepened. He released Kirk’s arm and moved to pick up his medical scanner. He ran it and then snapped both it and his comment off. “He’s alive. No thanks to you.”
Kirk found he was the one breathing hard now. “Not me, Bones. Spock. He had something he wanted to tell me.”
McCoy pointed to the respirator. “He can’t talk!”
“Here,” the blond man tapped his forehead.
“Oh. Vulcan voodoo. What was it?” The surgeon’s tone softened a bit. “I hope it was worth his life.”
Kirk lowered his eyes until they rested on the Vulcan’s quiescent form.
“So do I, Bones. So do I.”
James T. Kirk mulled the words he had exchanged with Spock over as he descended the stair to the common room of Cincinnatus Jones’ tavern. Upon leaving the Vulcan’s room the scent of freshly made coffee – real coffee – had assaulted his senses and drawn him like a Klingon to a brawl. He hadn’t slept in several days, not more than a few minutes at a time, and he would need the caffeine if he was to solve what remained of this mystery. For the moment he would have to push his concern for his friend aside. Spock would live or die. There was nothing he could do to change or affect his recovery. Still, if Spock died….
If he died, then Kirk needed to make it count for something.
Chess, he repeated. Chess? What had the Vulcan meant by that?
He turned to find a pretty brunette offering him a steaming mug. Gratefully accepting it, he rewarded her with his most charming smile. “Thank you. Miss Boone, isn’t it?”
“That’s a pretty name,” he answered, broadening the smile to include her instant infatuation. Then he took a sip. As his eyes lit, he added, “And this is better than a pretty good cup of coffee. It’s excellent. There’s nothing like this on the ship.”
“Are you a naval officer?” she asked, all innocence.
“In a way.”
“What’s it like? Sailing over the seas with the wind at your back and the sails snapping? With only the stars for a pillow and the sea for a blanket?” Her brown eyes were wide with the wonders woven by her own words.
“‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,” Kirk quoted, “and all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, and the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking, and a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking’.”
“That’s lovely. Who wrote it?”
Unfortunately, it hadn’t been written yet, and wouldn’t be for more than a century. “A friend,” he lied as he took another sip.
“I wonder if I will ever see such things,” Jemima sighed. “Sometimes it seems the four walls of a log cabin are all I’ll ever know.”
Kirk couldn’t recall the Boone’s daughter’s history, other than the fact that she married Flanders Calloway and had a passel of kids. And lived to a fairly good age. “I’m sure you will find your place, whether it is here or somewhere else.”
She glanced back at him. “You sound like Mingo.”
“He’s a good friend of your family, isn’t he?”
She nodded. “I feel sorry for him.” Then she caught herself, “Oh, not like pity, never that. It’s just. Well, he’s so alone.”
“Well, coming from a mixed heritage is never easy. My friend…Spock…is the same. He chose to sail the…seas…where he doesn’t have to fit in with either culture. Where he can be his own man.” Kirk took another sip, all but finishing it off.
“Would you like more?” she asked, noticing.
He held the cup out. “Please.”
“How is Mr. Spock?” the girl asked as she poured more steaming liquid into the pottery cup.
“Holding his own,” Kirk answered, hoping it was true. As he accepted the cup, he fell into a silence, once again thinking about what his first officer had said.
“Chess,” he murmured out loud.
“I beg your pardon?” Jemima asked.
“Oh. Sorry. Just talking out loud.”
“You want to play chess?”
“No. No.” He took a gulp, nearly burning his tongue. Savoring the heat as it flooded through him, he answered, “Spock said the word, in his delirium. I’m just wondering what he meant.”
“Does it have to mean anything?”
He glanced at her and laughed. “With Spock? Yes.”
She put the coffee kettle down and pursed her lips, bending her young mind to it. “Well,” she said at last. “It’s a game. I know. Mingo said he played it in England.”
Why did that not surprise him? “Oh.”
“It’s a board game played by two, with sixteen pieces each. The object is to checkmate the other’s king,” Jemima said, doing a passably good imitation of Spock.
He laughed. “Yes, it’s all about strategy. What you do before you move a piece is far more important than the piece…itself….” His voice trailed off.
He glanced at her. For a moment, he said nothing. Then a smile broke across his face like a new moon rising. “Would your mother mind if I gave you a kiss?”
Jemima Boone blushed like a new bride.
“Just a little one, on the forehead.” He leaned forward and did what he said. “Thank you.”
He left her reeling as he headed up the stairs to find Dr. McCoy.
His enthusiasm faded when he opened the door. Bones was attempting to hold Spock down, the muscle spasm that had struck the Vulcan was so violent. Kirk pitched in a hand. Even weakened almost beyond recovery, it was all the two of them could do to keep him on the bed. When the spasm had passed, Kirk dropped into the chair beside the bed again and used his weary eyes to ask McCoy the question.
“He’s at the crisis point,” the doctor said. “We’ll know soon.” Bones ran a hand over his face. He was soaked with sweat. “Now, what did you want?”
Kirk had almost forgotten. “Can I touch him again? To talk to him?” he asked.
“What if I say ‘no’, is it going to stop you?”
He pursed his lips and considered it. “No. I promise I won’t tire him out. It’s only two words, but he needs to know.”
“Two words?” Bones’ lifted eyebrow was ironic and challenging. “Not three?”
Kirk contemplated wiping the smirk off his face, but he knew it was there solely for his benefit. “Two.”
“What are they?” the surgeon demanded.
Kirk lifted the Vulcan’s hand, which was unnaturally cold.