TWO WORLDS IN WHICH WE DWELL

Chapter Twenty-two

 

Kirk paused to speak to Cincinnatus Jones as he left the older man’s tavern.  The tavernkeeper and Yadkin were sitting on the porch.  The blond man gave him a wink and a nod and patted his rifle to indicate he was keeping watch.  Daniel Boone’s beloved gun had been returned to the frontiersman and rested in a corner of his sickroom, almost as a talisman against his death.  Yadkin insisted on standing guard, even though the Shawnee threat was over.

Carolina Yadkin had just about as much love of the Shawnee as Kirk had of Klingons.

“Where Mingo?” the starship captain asked the older of the two.

Cincinnatus was puffing a pipe.  He took a long drag and let the smoke out slowly.  “Umbele wanted to return to her people.  He took her.  Said he’d be back by nightfall.”

“She went back to slavery?”   Kirk was stunned.  “When she had a chance at freedom?”

A lazy, smoky ‘o’ drifted by in the air.  “Seems she has young’uns.”

“Oh.  I see.”  Young ones born to work for white masters for nearly another two hundred years.

“What are you up to?” the older man asked.

“Me?”  Kirk shrugged.  “I thought I’d take a walk.  Maybe to the Boone’s cabin and back.  See if Spock left anything there.”

“That’s a fur piece,” Cincinnatus told him, as if he didn’t know that Kirk knew.

“I’m feeling…claustrophobic.”

Yadkin scowled.  “Claws to…what?”

Kirk waved a hand.  “Never mind.  I just need some fresh air.”

“How are the patients?” the tavernkeeper asked.

Kirk took a moment to tell them.  Boone was mending, as was Rain of Stars.  Cincinnatus frowned at that.  The tavernkeeper was still chagrinned at having the acting war chief of the Shawnee nation in one of his beds. 

Little did he know….

My friend is…holding his own,” was all he said of Spock.

“That there doctor of yours is a miracle worker,” the older man said, taking another puff.  “If he saved Daniel, I’m sure he can save your friend.”

“McCoy is all right,” Yadkin affirmed.

“I don’t….”  Kirk fell silent for a moment.  “Yes,” he said at last.  “I’m sure you’re right.”

“Always am,” the tavernkeeper snapped.  Then he grinned.

Kirk excused himself.  As he walked through the frontier settlement, he permitted himself a moment’s distraction and tasted all of its sights and smells.  The town was waking.  Breathing was the same as eating.  The aroma of wood smoke and freshly baked bread, mixed with bacon, sausage, and syrup filled the air.  Children were up and going about their early morning chores, feeding the animals and watering both fauna and flora.  He smiled at Jemima Boone as she approached with her little brother in tow.  Their mother must have sent them to the store.  Israel carried a sack of flour and the Boone’s daughter, a basket filled with apples.

“Fresh baked pie tonight, Jim,” she said as she passed by.

He swallowed over his hunger and waved her a goodbye.

One of the guardsmen saluted him as he walked through the gate.  Word of his title must have spread.  He returned it, knowing he was brother to any military man from any era.  The pair warned him there were still a few Shawnee on the loose.  He thanked them, but he wasn’t worried.  He had a flintlock pistol tucked safely in his belt along with a bag of powder and everything he needed – as well as McCoy’s hand phaser secreted in the bag. 

He was going to find one of the Initiators.

Kirk strode forward, his footsteps powered by indignation.  He wasn’t sure where he was going, and he didn’t know exactly what he was going to do or how he might accomplish his goal – other than by sheer cussedness – but he was bound and determined to find one of those damned interfering time travelers and make them answer for what they had done.

Chess.  Chess.

It had all been nothing but a game. 

“Very astute, Captain James T. Kirk,” a light voice spoke from close behind him.  “For a mind so immature as yours.  But then, it was not you but the Vulcan who came to that conclusion first.”

He whirled, pistol at the ready.  It was the one McCoy called Willow.

“You have a lot to answer for,” he growled.

“I answer to no one.”

“You are not God!” Kirk all but shouted.

Her smile was infuriating.  “How do you know I am not?”

“I’ve dealt with other self-satisfied, supposedly omniscient beings who lack the conscience of even a spoiled child before.  You’re nothing new.”

“Oh, but there you are wrong.”  Her reed-thin face sobered.  “Where the others live outside of time, we move through it.”  

“I think the last few days have given me a fair idea of what you can and can’t – ”

“Such knowledge is dangerous, like fire placed in a child’s hands.”  Willow’s great gray eyes seized on his.  “Unless you know the child is capable of adult restraint.”

 Kirk opened his mouth to protest.  He was angry, very and righteously angry.  Why was it that most super-intelligent, superhuman species seemed to have no concept of the Prime Directive?  Why did it seem that their bread and butter was to interfere?  And how, superior as they claimed to be, did they have no concept of the individual?  He hoped that one day, if his species managed to progress to that point – that the one would always, somehow, outweigh the many.  Shifting his feet, Kirk anchored himself to his anger and prepared to fight.

Then, suddenly, he understood.

“It wasn’t a game,” he stated.  “It was a test.”

Willow did not smile, but her eyes lit with approval.  “Yes.”

“Why?”

“You know the answer, James T. Kirk: Psi-2000.  Captain Christopher.”  Her voice lowered, even here, where no one could know – or go.  “Sector 90.4.  The reason is you.  You are Pandora.”

“And the gods had to see if I was worthy of opening the box?”

“No.  If you would close it.”

Kirk’s head and heart hammered like a blacksmith with a deadline days overdue.  “Spock and Uhura?”

“Were deliberately caught in one of the time tubes by an agent of the Initiators.  We have studied you.”  Willow smiled slightly – frighteningly.  “We knew you could not resist.”

“One of your agents?”

She nodded.  “D’Ayron.”

“The Romulan?  Why is he here?  Why the Klingon?”

“You brought the Vulcan,” she replied, as if that answered it all.

“I see.  You had to test us all.  Romulans.  Klingons.  The Federation.”

“What one knows, the other soon learns.  It is only a matter of…time.”  Her voice broke into muted tinkles, indicating she had amused herself by her choice of words. 

His honey-colored brows popped.  “Did we pass?”

“You did, and your friends.”  Willow’s voice darkened.  “The Romulan we chose was most unusual.  Though he was sorely pressed, he chose true honor.  D’Ayron would close the box.  S’Tahl and the others would not.  Neither would the Klingon.”

“You could have just asked me that,” Kirk groused.  “So, this isn’t real?” he went on.  “When you’re finished we will be back on the ship and all of this will have never happened?”

Willow’s gray eyes did a long, languid blink.  “It was real.”

“My men, on the ship?”

“We apologize for that.  The bio-electronic organism placed in your engineering was altered to stun and sicken, but not kill.  Our operative, S’Tahl, discovered the setting and changed it back.  We regret the loss of life.”

“Sulu?”

“I intervened, Captain Kirk, to prevent death.”

“What about the men I left fighting for their lives back in Boonesborough?” he snapped.

If her narrow shoulders had been capable of it, she would have shrugged.  “A necessary evil.”  Then, as if she read his mind, Willow went on.  “You think I am evil, Captain, but think of the possibilities.  The time war is not a fiction, but it was fought millennia ago, before my people learned control.  Once it ended, we became guardians of time.  As each civilization comes to the place where they discover how to move through time, we come.”

“And do what?  What if the ones who know do not prove trustworthy?”

Willow’s gray eyes shone on a future he did not care to see.  “There are many barren worlds, Captain.  There are some things better not known.”

It chilled him.  This woman was a member of a galactic peace-keeping force, not unlike Starfleet, created specifically to insure that time did not become a weapon.  Even if he had to sacrifice Spock to that truth, was it too much to ask?

You are an Initiator, aren’t you?” he asked somewhat awed.

 “I am one who survived, and who now insures others survival.”

Kirk was silent a moment.  “I have one more question.”

“Ask it.”

“Why here?  Why now?  Why 18th century Kentucky?”

“Our agents – the Romulan and the Klingon – thought the choice was theirs.  It was not.  This moment would have prevented your future selves from discovering time travel.”

“How?”

Willow’s smile was serene.  “Did you not know, Captain Kirk?  Daniel Boone is literally in your genes.”

 

“So that was why Tume didn’t kill Mrs. Boone?  He knew if he did that you wouldn’t be born, and he wanted the knowledge of time travel to be known in the Klingon Empire in his time?”

“Apparently so, Bones,” Kirk replied.  “I was never much for genealogy.  I don’t look back, I look forward.” 

 “So how did a Klingon know?”

“I suppose it’s there somewhere, in the data files.  If someone cares to look.”

They were standing, talking quietly, in a corner of Spock’s room.  Kirk had returned near sunset, fearing what he would find.  When he left the tavern, he had known he could come back to an empty bed and an open grave.  Instead, he found his highly proper and usually impeccable first officer sleeping normally and curled up on the cord bed like a tot.

“The crisis passed shortly after you left,” Bones murmured, looking at the sleeping Vulcan.  “Nearly broke my arm with that last cramp.”  The surgeon held it up.  His skin was mottled and there were imprints of fingers in his flesh growing purple and blue.

“Bones…ouch!”

“I trust I did not injure you, Doctor McCoy,” a weak voice said, startling them both.

Kirk looked.  Spock had shifted slightly and was studying them.

“I’m sorry, Spock.  We didn’t mean to wake you.”

“I have been conscious for some time.  I was merely…conserving my energy.”

“I…see.”  Kirk moved to the side of his friend’s bed.  The Vulcan had looked sacked out to him, but he wasn’t going to press it.  He suppressed a grin.  “Welcome back, Mr. Spock.”

That eyebrow winged, a sure sign that all was right with the world.  “From where, Captain?”

“The edge of the grave, you green blooded hobgoblin,” McCoy snarled as he whipped out his medical scanner and it began to whine.

“This time, I believe, Doctor McCoy, it was the red blooded half that almost killed me.”

“He’s got you there, Bones.”

The surgeon harrumphed.  “Blood pressure near non-existent.  Heartbeat, a little fast.  About 290.  Almost no traces of the infection.”  McCoy beamed.  “Not bad for beads and rattles.”

“Applicable in this era, Doctor.”  Spock’s face was deadpan, though he looked quite rakish with the growing beard.  “Thank you.”

Kirk spoke into Bones’ stunned silence.  “You were right.  About the chess game.”

“There was no other conclusion once all of the facts came together.  I simply do not understand why it took me so long to make the connections.”

“Maybe because you were under duress?” the surgeon snapped.  “Starting with the moment when you fell about, oh, sixty feet from the shuttlecraft to the ground?  Gracefully, I’m sure.”

“I was not injured upon impact, Doctor.  The wound was sustained in the plunge itself.”

“What difference does that make?”

“You implied, by your words, Doctor, that the cause of my cognitive difficult arose from the fall.”

“Oh, for Heaven’s sake!”

“Gentlemen.  Mr. Spock, while I am happy to see you are feeling well enough to be ornery,” Spock’s insulted look made him draw a breath, “there are still things to deal with.  Such as the Romulan in the next bed, and getting out of Dodge.”

“Willow didn’t say she’d send us back?” McCoy asked.

Kirk had told him about their conversation.  “‘When it is time,’ is what she said, Bones.  I’m not sure I want to rely on the Initiators’ time table.”  He winced at the pun.

“D’Ayron is alive?” Spock asked, his voice a hoarse prayer of thanks.

The tension in his tone caused Kirk to turn toward his friend.  He was not prepared for the open, ragged emotion he glimpsed in the Vulcan’s face for a split second before Spock got it under control. 

“He’s alive, Spock.”  Kirk’s hazel eyes struck him, phaserlike.  “You care to tell me why you care?”

“He…assisted me.  Tor’magh, the Klingon, meant to kill me.  D’Ayron took the bullet that was intended to end my life.”

“A Romulan, saving a Vulcan?”  Bones rolled his eyes.  “What is this world coming to?”

Kirk could sense it.  There was something else there.  Something Spock was… ashamed of?  “And why would this Romulan want to save your life?”  When his friend said nothing, Kirk added quietly, “You said he was family.”

Both ink slash brows peaked this time.  “Indeed?”  Spock was silent a moment.  Then he made a request of McCoy, something that rarely happened.  “Doctor, would you mind if I spoke to the captain alone?”

The word ‘mind’ was thrown in there on purpose, and it worked its charm.  McCoy huffed and complained, but he left.

Kirk sat down.  “Well, Spock.  What is it?”

“Do you remember, Captain, last year when we spoke of Vulcan….biology?” 

The last word was almost swallowed, but he heard it.  He nodded.  “Yes.”  It had been the time of the pon far; the Vulcan ritual of mating.  It had almost killed them both. 
”What has that to do with this?”

“I’m sure you have heard the crude jokes, Captain.”  Spock’s voice was formal.  “Referring to a Vulcan males’ sexual appetites being satisfied only once every seven years.”

“Never listened,” he lied.

“It is not true.  The pon far and the koon-ut-kal-if-fee are for the purpose of binding two households together and for producing progeny.  Not for pleasure or to satisfy desire.”

“Well, one would hope some…pleasure was involved.”  Kirk swallowed.  He hoped he wasn’t blushing.  “Why are we discussing this, Mr. Spock?”

The admission was totally human.  “Jim, I am not immune to such desire.”

Abruptly, Kirk recalled what Bones had said about the Romulan’s biology.  About the Vulcan and human factors in his blood.  His mind did the mental gymnastics.  He could understand why, but he couldn’t come up with how.

“You aren’t saying D’Ayron is – ”

Spock’s voice was gravel in a jar; all of the weariness and disease of the last few day’s rattling it.  “Is my great-son – centuries away, and many times removed.”

 

Spock stopped briefly in the doorway of the Romulan’s room, clinging to the frame in an attempt to keep his feet.  He stumbled over to the bed and leaned on the empty chair beside it.  Lt. Uhura had left.  Dr. McCoy was sleeping, and he could hear Jim in the next room speaking softly to Daniel Boone who had only just awakened.  Spock could still see the captain’s face.  The Vulcan didn’t know if the shock that had registered there was from the fact that he had issue in the far distant future, or from the idea that he might have indulged himself in the…actions it took to create one. 

Upon D’Ayron’s revelation, he had to admit, he had asked himself the same thing.

As a child of two worlds, he knew he would never truly belong to either.  He did not know where the emotions he battled on a daily – no, hourly – basis originated.  With his human half?  Perhaps.  But many eons before his father’s people had, as Dr. McCoy liked to remind him, given the human race ‘a run for it’s money’ in that category.  In denying emotion he was, in a sense, denying both of his heritages.  And yet, in order to survive – to exist – divided as he was, he knew he would never dare give in to them.  It was something the surgeon would never understand.  He did not think even Jim began to.

It was something the young man lying unconscious before him must.

Spock dropped into the chair with a sigh.  His muscles had only begun to heal and each step was agony.  Fortunately, his concentration had improved, and so he was able to apply the rudimentary Vulcan disciplines of pain control taught to him as a child to the problem.  Once they returned to the ship, he would be forced to indulge Dr. McCoy and place himself into a deep, healing trance in order to return to his duties.

 For a few minutes the Vulcan remained completely still, eyes open, listening to the waking sounds of the settlement; allowing the dawning light to play over his lean form and warm his always chilled skin.  Then he closed his eyes and steepled his fingers.  A moment later he leaned forward and applied them to D’Ayron’s still fevered flesh.  Instantly, he felt how close the Romulan had come to losing his life. 

For him.

D’Ayron, he called softly within the meld.  Hear me.

I am here.  Why have you come?

To thank you.

For what?

For my life.

A ghostly image of the young man flickered into existence.  This time he wore neither Starfleet blacks nor the regalia of the war chief of the Shawnee.  The mental image he projected of himself was Romulan.  It wore the uniform of a commander of the line.

I told you I would not let you die, D’Ayron said.

You did not tell me it might be at the cost of your own.

Just payment for my choices.  The Romulan’s amber eyes were bright as the flames in the altar that pulsed back in Spock’s quarters on the Enterprise.  Just payment for past sins.

The term is human.

So am I.  So are you.

Spock’s astral self nodded.  Yes.  But also Vulcan.

There is that in me as well.

As I am a child of two worlds, you are a child of three.  Do not feel you must choose one over the others.  Be the best of all.

D’Ayron’s mind-self moved closer.  Irony laced his tone.  Is that what you have done?

Spock’s mind smiled as he could not do in the flesh.  It is a parents’ prerogative to want the best for their child, even when they are not able to accept it for themselves.

If I am not completely Romulan, I do not belong.

Then belong elsewhere.  You might try Starfleet.  He hesitated.  Does it still exist?

Oh, yes.  The Romulan Empire will not for long, though, unless it changes.

Be the one to change it.  Show the Romulans that there is infinite pleasure to be found in infinite combinations of diversity.

There was a long pause.  Then D’Ayron answered.  I will try.

Spock felt the young man stir under his hands as consciousness returned.  D’Ayron drew a deep breath.  One more thing, Spock said before breaking it.

D’Ayron licked his lips.  “What is that?” he croaked.

The forbidden smile returned to the Vulcan’s mental face as memories of his battles – professional and personal – began to flow through the touch. 

A gift.