‘Tis Charity to Show
The landing party was ready to beam up. Nothing was left to chance. Their equipment was placed just a few feet away from where the crew positioned themselves for their final exit. Lieutenant Riley, still unconscious, was already in his place, his stretcher propped upright by a fold-out metal stand under the foot of the gurney. Standing behind his patient was Dr. Begay, and standing next to him was Scotty.
The two men turned their attention away from the infirmed navigator when Rand entered the meeting room, looks of concern showing on their faces. She was like an accident victim learning to walk all over again, her steps tepid, hesitant. Nurse Rose had both hands placed on Rand’s shoulders to keep her steady as she whispered gentle encouragement to her.
“How is she, Nurse?” asked Spock, who was standing in his beam-up point in front of the others.
“She’ll be OK, Mr. Spock. I’ve given her a concentrated vitamin shot, so she won’t collapse during beam-up. She should be able to stand up on her own now.”
Rand didn’t speak. She didn’t want to, she was so demoralized. She had allowed that thing out there to get inside her, literally. It had known how to lure her, to get inside her head, penetrated her flesh. Allowed was actually too kind a word to use, and she knew it. Truth of it was, she had blatantly offered herself to the beast, and didn’t care about what the circumstances entailed for her or the rest of the landing party. If the crew was unable to get off this planet, she’d be the one responsible, and she didn’t think she was being too hard on herself.
Rand took small, halting steps to her place up front, next to Mr. Spock, with Rose’s hand moving to the small of her back, guiding her. When Rand got her bearings and was able to situate herself, she turned and nodded to Rose, letting her know she was fine, and so Rose moved to her own spot on Rand’s right hand side.
“Very well. Our plan is to beam up to the ship first, and then follow up with the equipment. If the entity is to make our escape difficult, then we leave the equipment behind. Is that understood?”
Everyone, except for Rand and Riley, followed with a resounding “Yes, sir!”
Rand could hear the eagerness and anxiety in their voices; high-pitched, rushed. She could also hear how spent they all were, the thinly-veiled raspy tremor in their exclamations. She turned to the others behind her, and they looked to her like they should have been laid on slabs, toe-tagged, but somehow managed to stay alive. Rand knew she looked just as bad, and felt even worse. She wondered if they were truly ever going to make it back to the Enterprise.
Spock pulled his communicator out of his belt, flipped open its hatch, took a long, deep breath, and then spoke into the receiver. His brows were knitted, and Rand could tell that underneath his Vulcan exterior, he was anxious himself. During this time, the landing party was so quiet, so still, that one could hear the sands in the desert wind brush along the compound.
“Spock to Enterprise. Spock to Enterprise. Can anyone read this message?”
“Mr. Spock! Is that you, sir?!”
Rand ‘s heart leapt from her chest. They were able to make contact! And the voice that came from the ship was Khobran’s. She reveled in its deepness, its beauty.
“It is indeed, Lieutenant. There is no time for explanations at the present moment. What is important right now is that there have been no fatalities, and the whole landing party is accounted for and prepared for immediate beam-up.”
“I’ve already pinpointed your coordinates, Mr. Spock! Please stand by!”
“Mr. Spock! The light! It’s returning! Look!”
Rand’s heart pounded as she looked in the direction to where Nurse Rose was pointing, to a corner of the meeting room where a pin of amber spark started to grow.
“…We are beaming you up now, Mr. Spock!”
For Rand, it was like hearing a melody when the low, scrambling hum of the dematerialization began.
But, then it stopped.
“Oh, God,” she blurted out, holding her face in her hands.
There was a chorus of outcries from the rest of the crew.
“We must stay calm! Stay in your places, please! Do not panic!”
The whole floor of the meeting room was now submerged in crystal amber beams, bolting and fanning out mechanically, like searchlights. They fluttered and strobed, and then froze. Then, suddenly, the light started to rise, like floodwater. There were more vociferations from everyone, even Spock had a look of wild-eyed panic. Rand pressed her hands against her mouth and cried when her solid form was deconstructed, scrambling like a swarm of bees, and the meeting room fell away into a white-speckled blackness.