‘Tis Charity to Show
Rand felt herself materialize onto the desert planet surface of Tijus. She gave her body time to get its bearings, for her feet to feel more secure to the ground and her vision to stop shifting. When she was finally grounded and centered, she, along with the rest of the landing party, started to take in their surroundings.
The archeological site was like a ghost town, the wind making loud hollow groans as it coiled its way through the abandoned structures, like a serpent. In the middle of this site was a hole dug wide and deep, surrounded by scaffolding and digging tools of various types and sizes, that swayed on the hooks of their tool stands. Unearthed ancient artifacts were placed neatly in a rectangular box, each item separated by compartments while padds, pens, and flashlights lied next to these boxes. The desert sand had accumulated around these tools and findings, almost covering them from sight. The buildings where the archeologists had resided surrounded the spot, the one-story rectangular structures stretching vertically behind them, making narrow alleys in between, that acted as tunnels for the howling winds.
Rand noticed how the planet itself was a dune of burnt-orange lying underneath contorted, sloping boulders of a rich deep chocolate hue, placed in various distances from one another, like a vast, endless zen garden. All this was blanketed by a solid, cloudless turquoise sky with a blood orange sun hovering over the precipice of the horizon, getting ready to set. Purple configurations, like ribbons, flowed and twisted against the sky, radiating from the flaming ball of the sun in abstract-expressionist patterns. Rand soaked in the desolate beauty around her, her attention away from the site and the other members of the landing party. She looked down at the burnt-orange ground underneath her feet, and noticed that the pant legs of her jumpsuit were now the same exact color of the desert sand. When she looked up from where she stood, she saw that the rest of the landing party was clad in the same burnt-orange shade. The terrain suits were designed to function in many different climates. Besides camouflage, these outfits were able to regulate the temperature of the fabric so that the wearer would be able to survive in more extreme climates, like a desert, or an arctic tundra.
The landing party was gathering around Spock, so Rand pulled herself away from her communion with the alien landscape and walked over to join the other crewmen, who were posing questions about their mission to Mr. Spock.
“Do you think that these archeologists were kidnapped by beings hostile to the Federation?” asked Scotty, placing his hands on his hips and squinting his eyes, looking like an old movie sleuth.
Spock looked pensive as he brought his hand up to his chin and cupped it with his long, elegant fingers.
“If that is what has happened, then we will indeed find the evidence that tells us so,” he said simply.
“Do you suppose that circumstances arose that gave them no other choice but to leave, like a plague or something?” asked Riley.
“No evidence of such has been picked up by any of the planet-wide scanning searches,”
said Spock with finality.
Rand looked ahead of her and could see all the needed equipment standing obediently by, a few feet in front of the landing party, just as Khobran had assured they would be.
Rand felt a pang in her chest as she visualized his face, his hurt face. She hoped that their time away from one another would heal the emotional wounds that she had inflicted upon him.
“Is that a greenhouse?”
The question came from Nurse Rose, her low horsey voice cutting through Rand’s thoughts. Rand turned to where Rose was pointing and, sure enough, spotted a large greenhouse that stood a few feet above the other buildings, its prism glass glinting with the deep red of the evening sun.
“Probably where the archeologists cultivated much of their food supply. They were here for the long term,” said Spock.
“Do you think there will be clues inside as to what might have happened to them?” asked Dr. Begay.
“It’s worth a look, Doctor,” said Spock.
The landing party started towards the greenhouse. There was an eerie quiet surrounding them as they gained ground to the asymmetrical building, its girth widening menacingly the closer they got to it. Rand was softly on edge, cautious and watchful, turning her head sideways and behind her, grateful that she was not the last in the group as Riley and Rose were close in back of her.
They reached the greenhouse and stood in front of it. There was no initiative to enter the greenhouse by anyone in the landing party, but one by one, they began to take a look around the surrounding area, being mindful not to stray too far from the group. Rand walked up to the building, unable too see clearly because of the play of light on the glass, flickering back and forth slowly, with ease. She leaned her forehead onto the window and cupped her hands over the sides of her eyes.
Rows of plant life of various colors, sizes and types filled up her view with vigorous, unbruised vitality.
“At least the greenhouse is working. Real convenient for us. The produce we brought with us is packed in ice,” she thought.
Having grown up on organic food, the thought of eating fresh produce sang of absolute heaven for Rand. The fruits and vegetables on the Enterprise were usually packed in sub stasis for so long that what resulted in taste was a freezer-burn residue. Yuch. But now she was overjoyed as she spotted corn and carrots over to the right in the corner of the greenhouse.
The produce was swimming in a rich amber light from the setting sun, it’s color mixing nicely with the greens, yellows, oranges, reds, blues, purple; all the hues represented by the comely bounty in this place. It all had a very soothing affect on Rand, putting her earlier prickliness to rest, ebbing away into a seductive calm.
That seductive calm seemed to do something to the leaves, stems, and roots of the plant life in the greenhouse. The characteristics of colors changed in a blink of an eye, becoming more intense while the membranes of the plants turned more pliant in texture.
Rand spotted a flutter of movement among the foliage, and assumed, at first, that it came from a small animal.
“Maybe a lizard snuck in through a crack in the building,” Rand thought.
But then the fluttering started to ripple through the plants and produce, fingering its way outward, like waves from a pebble that was tossed in a quiet pond. In her confusion, Rand tried to find out where the movement was coming from, but then, something happened. The foliage began to widen, stretching outward, reaching forward, magnifying their presence against Rand’s view. The tips and veins of the leaves, stalks and stems started to convolute out of shape, bending and wriggling into amorphous clumps which grew limbs, heads and torsos, muscles writhing underneath what now appeared to be flesh. Mouths opened grotesquely, male members sprang up, necks pulled forward, and arms reached out while waists, ankles and buttocks carved themselves into existence.
At first, Rand couldn’t quite make out what she was seeing, then after she was able to see what was happening in front of her eyes, she couldn’t believe it!
The plant life, the vegetables, the fruits, the flora, were replaced by doll-sized humanoid forms all engaged in a variety of sexual positions. Clusters of hairless couples, threesomes, sometimes orgies, went at it from where they were. Some bucked and pushed in frenetic and dizzying energy, others caressed and explored one another in gentle, hesitant lovemaking. They were in the same colors as the plant life and produce--red, purple, yellow, orange, pink, blue and green.
Rand pressed herself against the glass, unable to tear her eyes away from the action that unfolded in front of her, her breathing growing more rapid as it fogged the window near her mouth, her hands flattening, adhered to the plate of glass of the greenhouse. Her attention turned to the stalks of corn, the peaks of kernels gone, replaced by large yellow penises bursting out of green sheaves. The tomatoes in the corner were now rounded red plump breasts, the green stems now hardened, puckered nipples, offered freely and openly. Lettuce morphed into light green vaginal folds pulsating out of the rich soil, and the pumpkins were now buttocks of many different sizes and shapes also sticking out of the soil, effectively mooning Rand.
Of all the copulating humanoids in front of her, Rand was drawn to one particular green couple. The young woman was sprawled on her back, lying on the shelf where many of the plants had been, her lithe body undulating and squirming underneath her lover in the throws of orgasm. Her long, graceful, toned legs were spread wide in accommodation as her beautiful face was twisted in wanting heat. Her breasts, though not large, were full, firm, buoyant and round. They bounced along to the rhythm of the woman gliding back and forth, pushing and pulling on her lover as she shook her head frantically.
But what really drew Rand to this woman was that the face and body was her own.
That diminutive creature was her!
The woman’s eyes were shut tight while her hands gripped her lover’s pumping hips. The man’s pace quickened as his own face contorted in ecstasy.
The male figure was powerful, chiseled in lean muscle. His broad shoulders flexed, his head and neck raised, his body shining in sweat.
He turned his face over in Rand’s direction and looked straight at her.
It was Khobran’s face.
He looked straight into Rand’s transfixed eyes, his body shuttering in release, his mouth wide. After his came inside his lover, he jutted out his tongue and flicked it in rapid motion, like a reptile.
Rand reflexively pushed herself away from the glass and gripped her stomach, her eyes still wide like a frightened doe under the double-barrel of a rifle. She hastily looked both ways to see and wondered if the other crew members had witnessed what she had, but she was too embarrassed to dare ask if they had witnessed it. Her hands creeped to her neck and she took a few steps back, then she felt something as she looked down between her wobbly legs.
There was dampness between her folds, though it was just a whisper.
“Shit,” Rand thought while the blood rose to her cheeks, flushing her face with redness and warmth.
“Why on Earth would they dump all those boxes of unused food in there like that? All the heat from the greenhouse will make them spoil! What a waste!” exclaimed Nurse Rose indignantly, her voice muffled by the fact that she was just about pressing her nose and mouth against the greenhouse window.
“What the hell are you talking about? What food? I see a lot of gym equipment, though. It’s like the people just decided to dump it all in there! Why would they put gym equipment in a freakin’ greenhouse, for Christ’s sake?” asked Riley.
“No, you’re both wrong. It’s discarded medical waste-bloodied sutures, old needles, stuff like that. Discarding that stuff where you keep your produce?” said Dr. Begay, shaking his head in amazement.
Rand looked at the three of them, who were peering into the greenhouse just like she had been, and was stunned.
“Why are we all seeing different things in that greenhouse?!” she thought.
Rand turned to see Spock and Scotty standing close behind the rest of the group.
“Three people seeing different things, even though they are looking inside the same place. Fascinating.”
Rand, at least, could be relieved, because she’d have to hide somewhere if everyone saw what she saw!
“Rand, can you tell us what you saw?” Scotty suddenly asked out of the blue, though earnestly.
Rand’s eyes grew wide again, and she was once more aware of the wetness between her legs.
“I…saw…plants turning…into…large, erect, trees,” Rand stammered.
There. That should pass as the truth.
Scotty and Spock looked at each other.
“Did you look inside the greenhouse?” Scotty asked Spock.
“Neither did I. Guess we’ll have to look inside to see what’s in there after all.”
“Yes, I would agree with that, Mr. Scott.”
Everyone stepped aside for the two men when they walked purposefully to the greenhouse door. They stepped inside and looked around, their faces showing no reaction at all. After a short while, Rand, Riley, Rose, and Dr. Begay followed suite and stepped inside. Rand and the others spun around, clearly startled at what they were seeing, exclamations of confusion tumbling out of their lips in quick discordant succession while they took in everything around them. They looked up, and then looked down on the floor.
On the floor of the greenhouse were discarded cardboard boxes strewn around in disarray, empty flowering pots broken in bits and halves, dried pale tan and grey soil fallen underneath them. The plants, the produce, the vegetation which had been colorful and alive to Rand’s eyes only moments ago, hung crisp and limp from shelves, in cracked rows of dirt, and suspended containers. Fruits and vegetables lay rotted, the skins peeling and cracking away from the sun-scorched, juiceless meat. The atmosphere was not moist and warm, but cool and arid like the evening desert outside.
Rand knelt down and picked up a dry, lifeless plant the size of an African violet. She held it up in one hand and with the other hand closed her fingers around the leaves, crumbling them easily like ancient parchment. Tossing the plant back on the ground, she wiped her hands on her pant legs and got back on her feet.
Rand could feel that earlier raw, spooked feeling making a comeback.