"It's not fair!" Five-year-old Jimmy Kirk glared at his big brother, chubby legs planted firmly on the Iowa soil and hands bunched into fists at his side. "You can't have the same name," he declared.
"Oh, yes, I can, squirt, and I do," George retorted, reaching out to ruffle his little brother's blond curls, a movement that only enraged little Jimmy more, as did the nickname he hated.
Jimmy jerked his head away from George's hand and backed away a couple of steps, out of the older boy's longer reach. "He's my dad, too!" he blurted, then turned and ran away, angry tears blurring his vision.
Jimmy dashed across the yard, headed for his favorite sanctuary. Pop. He had to find Pop. He'd fix things. Pop always fixed things. Jimmy reached the huge barn and shoved the heavy door aside, using every bit of his five-year-old strength to manage the task. But the barn was empty except for his pony and the rest of the livestock. Sparing only a moment to rub Alexander's nose, Jimmy darted back out of the barn. He was half-way to the fence enclosing the pasture when he remembered to turn back and close the barn door again.
Never leave the barn door open unless you're inside, he remembered Pop telling him, only realizing at that moment that the closed door meant his grandfather was some place other than the barn.
Jimmy ran through the pasture, keeping plenty of distance away from the bull. Another of Pop's nevers: Never get too close to Solomon. Jimmy never violated Pop's nevers. He didn't dare.
As he reached the far side of the pasture, at the edge of row upon row of corn, Jimmy heard the sound of the new combine moving through the cornfield. That's where Pop would be, trying out the new combine. Samuel Kirk never allowed any of his employees to operate any of the farm machinery until he had personally tried it out and was satisfied as to its performance. And woe unto any employee who didn't get the same efficiency out of the machinery that Samuel could.
Jimmy climbed the fence and ran along side it until he reached the two men who were sitting on top of it, watching Pop operate the combine. He climbed the fence again, perching precariously on the top rail.
"Hiya, Jimmy." Jed ruffled Jimmy's curls, eliciting a reaction distinctly different from that young George had received for the same gesture. Jimmy beamed up at the rawboned farm hand, grinning into the bright blue eyes that peered out of the weather-beaten face.
"Hiya, Jed," he echoed. "Hiya, Dave."
The two men exchanged amused glances as they watched the little boy stick a blade of grass into the corner of his mouth and lean forward to rest his elbows on his knees in obvious imitation of their own positions. They laughed out loud when he leaned too far and almost toppled off the fence, saved only by Jed's quick grab for the back of Jimmy's shirt. They cut the laughter off quickly, however, when he flashed a stern glance their way, then grinned again when he returned his attention to the combine in the field.
"What's up, Jimmy?" Dave asked when he was sure he could keep from laughing again.
"Wanna talk to Pop," the boy answered.
"Anything special?" Jed prompted.
"Could we help?"
At that moment, Samuel Kirk brought the combine to a stop and stepped down, motioning to Dave to take his place.
Jimmy climbed down from the fence and waited impatiently for his grandfather to finish giving Dave step-by-step instructions on how to operate the gigantic machine. It was all the boy could do to refrain from interrupting the grown-ups. But that was another of Pop's nevers.
Finally, Samuel waved Dave off to the combine and turned to see Jimmy stretching up on tiptoes, as though the extra couple of inches could catch his grandfather's attention quicker. Samuel brushed his hat against his thigh and replaced it on top of his head, then strode quickly to where the boy waited.
Samuel Kirk was stocky man on the far side of eighty, but he looked a good twenty years younger...moved it, too. It would be another ten years before his grandson realized the old man was old. For now, he was just Pop--grandfather, father and best friend all rolled into one. The one person Jimmy could always depend on to talk to him man-to-man and not treat him like a little kid. Pop never ruffled his hair.
"Well, Ti, what're you up to today?" Pop asked when he reached fence and boy.
"How come George has the same name as Dad?" Jimmy blurted out.
"How come George has the same name as Dad? Why don't I?"
Samuel looked down at his young grandson for a minute, contemplating the stubborn look on Jimmy's face. Realizing that there was as much hurt as anger in that expression, the old man thought carefully before answering.
"George was named for your father because he was born first." The truth was always the best answer when dealing with this child, Samuel had learned from the time young Jimmy first began to talk.
"But that's not fair," Jimmy protested.
Samuel sighed. "Life's not always fair, son," he replied. "That's something you'd better learn early." He paused, then added. "But, in this case fairness had nothing to do with it. George was born first and was named for your dad. You weren't here, so they weren't being intentionally unfair to you."
"They could've saved the name for me."
"And what if you had turned out to be Georgette instead of George?"
Jimmy glared at him, indignant at the possibility.
Samuel placed one hand on his grandson's back, urging him back toward house and barn. "You can't take everything so personally, Ti." Samuel was the only one who called the boy Ti. To everybody else, he was little Jimmy. That was one of the things Jimmy liked about his grandfather. Ti sounded more grown-up, and it was something special, just between the two of them--although Jimmy wasn't sure why Pop always called him that. "George was named for your dad, but you were named for your grandfather."
"For you?" The eyes glowed at the possibility.
"No, your other grandfather."
"Oh." Some of the sparkle faded from his eyes. "Granddad." The young voice was flat. "I'd rather be named for you."
"Your grandfather's a fine man."
"So are you."
"Yes, but..." He paused, then added, "I gave you your middle name."
"You did?" Jimmy's green-gold eyes, shining again, were wide in his sunburned face.
Jimmy thought about that one for a moment, then turned to his grandfather. "Why'd you name me Tiberius?" he asked. "That's a funny name. A stupid name," he added indignantly.
"It's not a stupid name, Ti. It's an excellent name."
"Well, whose is it?"
"Yeah, but who else's? George's is the same as Dad's, and my first name like Granddad's. Who else was Tiberius?"
"Emperor? What's an emperor?"
"A country's leader." Samuel considered how much he should tell Jimmy about the man he was named for. "Tiberius Claudius Nero Caesar Augustus, second emperor of the Roman Empire."
"Tiberius Cau...Cla..." Jimmy gave it up. The name was too long to remember. But it sounded important. "Second emperor? Who was first?"
Samuel laughed. "That's not important, Ti. What is important is that he was a great leader, and a great warrior. He led his troops into battle when he was only twenty-two and not only conquered his enemies, but also won the love of his men." Samuel carefully refrained from telling Jimmy about the great emperor's later years. No need to spoil the obvious hero-worship he could already read in the child's eyes.
"Ti-ber-i-us." Jimmy sounded the name out carefully, syllable by syllable, then turned to his grandfather. "Ti. That's why you call me Ti."
Samuel nodded, smiling a little at this latest reminder of the child's precocious leaps of understanding. "It's the name I chose for you, so I can call you that, or at least a part of it that doesn't sound so burdensome."
"I like it." Jimmy thought again a minute. "It's our own special name, right?"
"Kind of like a secret between us?"
"Yeah, sort of."
Jimmy thought about that one for a minute.
"If you have a special name for me, then could I have a special one for George?"
"I don't know why not, if you want...as long as it isn't anything cruel or mean."
"Nah. Nothing mean. Something like Ti." He thought again. "Does George have a middle name?"
"Samuel." Samuel Kirk held his breath for a minute, hoping his grandson wouldn't ask where that one came from. Everyone on the farm called him either Pop or Mister Kirk. He wasn't sure if Jimmy had ever heard him called Samuel.
"Samuel." Jimmy wrapped his mouth around the name carefully. It was quite a mouthful. But so was Tiberius, and Pop had shortened that to Ti. Why couldn't he...?
"Sam," Jimmy pronounced.
Pop nodded. "Sam it is." He nodded toward the farmhouse. "Why don't you go tell him?"
"I think I will." Jimmy grinned at Samuel, then raced back across the pasture ahead of his grandfather, crossed the farm yard and yanked open the back door to the house, letting it slam behind him in defiance of his mother's rule. Only Pop's rules mattered to him right now, and Pop's nevers concerned the farm, not the house, which was Marjorie Kirk's only domain.
Running through the kitchen (another of Marjorie Kirk's no-nos), he bounded up the stairs, forgetting for once to wish he could take them two at a time like his frequently absent but always heroic father. He reached his brother's room and shoved the door open, hard, banging it against the wall behind it and causing George's school science fair trophy to teeter dangerously on its shelf.
"Hey! Watch it, squirt," the older boy ordered.
Ignoring the directive, Jimmy planted himself firmly on the floor, feet a little apart as he'd seen his grandfather stand a thousand times, fists on his little-boy hips. "From now on," he announced, "you're Sam."
Before George/Sam could respond, Jimmy whirled around and marched back out of the room.
Jim Kirk stared down at the small boy who lay sleeping in the sickbay bed. This child was all that was left of Kirk's beloved big brother, the big brother who had become his best friend as the Kirk boys grew up on that Iowa farm. Sam had outgrown his compulsion to tease his little brother, and Jimmy had, in turn, outgrown much of his belligerence. But he had never outgrown his stubborness, or his insistence on calling his brother Sam.
It hadn't mattered that everyone else called him George. To Jim, he was always Sam, even when the reason for the decision to rename him ceased to matter. In fact, even more then. The name had come to be much more than a little brother's insistence on separating his older sibling from his father; it became a special bond between them, something that was theirs alone, just as "Ti" had been special to him and Pop.
Pop had been gone for years now, and Dad even longer. Now Sam and Aurelan were also counted among the beloved fallen. There were just five of the Kirks left now. Marjorie, Jim's mother to whom he would soon have to speak about the news no parent would ever wish to hear. The infant Marc, thankfully not on Deneva when the plague struck, though who he had been sent to stay with was yet a mystery. Sweet but troubled Georgie, the oldest boy sent away for his own good. Finally, there was the young boy before Jim, who was suddenly Jim's responsibility, and who had worlds of hurt ahead of him. Jim prayed hard that Bones was wrong about possible nerve damage.
Kirk resisted the sudden urge to gather Peter in his arms and sob against his tousled hair. He didn't have time for grief now. There was a whole colony down there that needed help if they weren't all to die the same agonizing death as Sam and Aurelan. There would be time for grief later--time for grief and time for Peter.
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2229-2265 THE BEGINNINGS1
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