‘Tis Charity to Show
The landing party stood in a half-circle in the meeting room. The weakened state of their bodies, the deathly white of the their skins, and the ash color under their eyes made one think of photographs of POWs from places like Korea, Vietnam, or the death march of Bataan. Though it had taken some time, Rand was diligent in rousing the rest of the crewmembers from their parasitic slumber. Everyone stood, their faces haggard and shoulders slumped with the weight of both fatigue and uncertain fate. It was only the skittering of their wild eyes that kept the landing party from looking like the walking dead. Riley was not in the circle, but was propped up on a stretcher just a couple of feet behind Begay, who stood with the rest of the crew.
Rand was the first to speak. She began, haltingly, to talk about her argument with Khobran and how that argument manifested itself on Tijus in obsessive playbacks of their fight, intense guilt, distracting loneliness, and consuming hunger for her lover. She went on to talk about how these all tied to the contents of Dr. Ellis’ tapes, the physical deterioration of the crew, the light, and the monster outside.
Dr. Begay took his cue and talked about the tragedy he experienced back on the miner’s colony, and how that guilt came to haunt him, in the forms of crippling depression and grotesque hallucinations that would bring him back to the day of the child’s gory death.
The rest of the crew had a grim moment of recognition that expressed itself in various ways on their faces; a painful, almost degrading kind of making sense of it all.
“I was an overweight child,” began Rose tearfully. “I also had a huge appetite. I was pretty ostracized in middle school, so I changed my eating habits and developed better discipline, and overcame my weight problem. But the way I consumed food on this mission was so unreal! I couldn’t understand why I didn’t gain all that weight back and then some, but I guess I was being fed on, just like you said, Janice.”
Scotty said nothing, but looked on with eyes brimming with sadness. He nodded silently as he listened to Rose and the others.
Spock stood silently as well, his arms folded and head bowed solemnly. After Rose was finished, he raised his head and sighed, his eyes seemingly far away.
“I must add my own account to everyone else’s experiences on Tijus.” He stopped, and then hesitated before continuing. “I have always had a…shall we say, a somewhat shaky sympathy for humans. This ‘sympathy’ would, at times, veer into confusion, and even astonishment. It is quite clear that this confusion and astonishment magnified itself to the point where it became pure, unbridled racism…if you will. It appears as if all of our fears, regrets, past poor habits or ailments, annoyances and prejudges, all seem to return to us far more pronounced. This entity knows all of these regrettable aspects of ourselves, and is therefore able to show us these emotion albatrosses that we have not been able to get over, or to move on from in our lives.”
“’Tis charity to show,” snorted Begay in disgust.
Spock nodded thoughtfully. “Ah, yes. Shakespeare. I do understand the sarcasm behind the quote that you have made, for indeed, there was nothing charitable about this entity showing us these grievances that hold us. The object was to ensnare us before the kill.”
“It was like I said before, this is exactly what happened to the expedition party! Dr. Ellis’ early accounts of their mission started out normal enough, but by the end of the mission all she talked about was her childhood eczema and that light! And it was that light that lured her and the rest of the archeologists to their deaths!” said Rand.
Spock looked around him, and around the room.
“The light is not here at the present time. We all seem to be of sound mind at the moment, but I don’t how much time we have before circumstances turn against us. Therefore, it is imperative that we act as swiftly as possible.” He hesitated for an uncomfortable moment before turning to Begay. “Doctor, please give me a report on Mr. Riley.”
“Well, his condition is stable. I was able to clean and seal his injuries so that infection wouldn’t start, but he’s in great need of reconstructive surgery.”
Spock looked over Begay’s shoulder to see Riley propped up on an upright stretcher, his body strapped securely by his shoulders, waist, and ankles, his wounds covered in a thin, glistening transparent film. He was sedated, his eyes closed and expression blank in a kind of artificial peace.
For a moment, Rand thought she saw something in Spock’s eyes that looked like sorrow, but it quickly disappeared and was replaced by the familiar pragmatic, emotionless template. He nodded his head and then returned his focus back into the circle, back to Dr. Begay.
“In the event that we are able to return to the ship, I will have to surrender to the authorities for my assault on the lieutenant. I expect…”
“Spock! Be real! It wasn’t you that assaulted Riley! It was that thing out there! We were all in its grip—you were not immune,” said the doctor incredulously.
“You know that the captain would never allow you to do that under the circumstances!” said Rand.
Rose and Scotty chimed in their objections and Spock raised his hand up in order to quiet them down.
“I have to say that I am grateful for your protestations, and will consider your concerns. But, right now, we must act as quickly as possible. With the light not present at this time, I must assume that we have a window of opportunity to make our escape.”
“Do you think we’ll be able to contact the ship now? That entity must have been blocking our means to reach the ship!”
“I will attempt to do just that, Yeoman. Meanwhile, you all should start preparing for immediate evacuation.”