‘Tis Charity to Show
Rand was still smarting from the nasty fall she suffered earlier, and when she recovered she had to muster up every ounce of willpower inside her to withhold the urge to sock Riley in the jaw. Instead, she had elected to go to her quarters and lie down for a while.
Rand stood in the dining room and was pleased to see that the table and chairs were exactly where they were supposed to be; nothing was missing, nothing was in disarray, so dinner could be served. She could thank Dr. Begay and Scotty for putting all the furniture and other things back where Riley had found them. She even gave kudos, albeit reluctantly, to Nurse Rose for fixing Riley with a healthy shot of hypo right smack in the arm.
Satisfied, she walked over to the kitchen and saw Scotty busy at the coffee pot, measuring coffee and gingerly pouring it into the metal filter. This sight made Rand smile, so she walked over to Scotty at the counter and decided to needle him a bit.
“So, you’re trying to steal my job, eh?” she asked teasingly, leaning in over the countertop to where Scotty was.
On hearing Rand, Scotty turned from behind the counter and smiled bashfully.
“Wuh, w-well, r-r-ruh-regardl-luh-lesss of w-w-whose on m-m-muh-meeal d-duh duty, ya-ya-you always m-m-muh-makke the coffeee. I wuh-wuh-waaanted t-to ga-give yooou a b-bree- break,” he stuttered, standing proudly over his handiwork while the coffee percolated in the pot.
“Oh, that’s so sweet of you, Scotty! Thank you.”
Poor Scotty. She hoped that she wasn’t wincing too much while he had been talking to her, but Scotty’s stuttering had gotten much worse, and understanding him was becoming more difficult.
No, difficult wasn’t the word to use here. Difficult was being kind.
The word was brutal, but it was certainly more accurate.
Scotty’s smile faded from his face as he turned away from Rand, reached for a coffee cup and a saucer from a basin under a small cart, and placed them in front of her. He seemed sad, the look on his face betraying a kind of turmoil.
“I-Immm s-suh-sorry about th-th-thu-thiss st-st-stuh-stuttering. I cuh-can’t unnderstuh-stand ittt. I-h-h-huh-haven’tt st-st-stuhttered s-since I w-w-wuh-was a w-w-w-weee little th-thing.”
He shook his head hopelessly, drawing his lips tightly together.
“I never knew you had a stuttering problem as a child, Scotty,” Rand said softly.
Scotty nodded his head timidly, almost in an apologetic manner.
“Yup,” he said. It was the only word he was able to say without stuttering. “I-I-I knuh-know-I t-t-tuh-tollld Kh- Khuh-Khhobrannn. We t-t-t-tuhkk- a l-l-l-luh-lottttt.”
“Oh, really?” Rand asked warily, wondering why Khobran never told her this little fact, since they shared just about everything together. Well, who was she kidding after that little fiasco of hers.
She quickly pushed any thoughts of Khobran away, not wanting to experience any loneliness at all, not wanting her heart to dwell there, not wanting to even think about the hurt.
She smiled gently at Scotty and reached for his hand that was on the counter and patted it reassuringly.
“Don’t worry about it, Scotty Ol’ Boy. Things have been kind of crazy around here, in case you haven’t noticed.”
They both laughed. Rand couldn’t speak for the others, but she knew that she never mentioned anything about Scotty’s stuttering out of embarrassment for him, and had tried to act as if he didn’t have the problem at all, even after Riley’s cruel remark in the meeting room earlier.
“Do I see Scotty making coffee?! Heart be still! I sure hope I don’t get the runs after drinking it,” Riley said on entering the kitchen.
Then don’t drink it, asshole.
Scotty’s mood brightened as he turned to Riley and shook his fist playfully at him.
“Y-yuh-you n-n-nuh-neeeed the r-r-ruhns ‘caussse yuh-yourre f-f-f-fuuullll offffff ittttt!”
“I’ll second that,” exclaimed Dr. Begay not too far behind Riley. “But Scotty, I’m warning you, it better be good, because no one makes a cup of coffee like Janice!” He flashed a smile at Rand, placing a hand over his heart.
She smiled back at Begay, but there was something about his demeanor that struck her; something tightly coiled and edgy behind the good naturedness.
Rand shrugged. “Oh well,” she thought.
It was like she just told Scotty, things were kind of crazy around here.
Everyone was on edge.
When the pot finished percolating, Scotty took it by the handle and poured Rand a cup.
“Oh, talk about first class service! Thanks, Scotty!”
Scotty bowed his head, smiling broadly.
“God, I’m starving,” said Nurse Rose, grabbing a tray of food from the counter and hurrying to the dining room.
Rand placed her cup of coffee on one of the trays and took it, carrying it to the dining area to sit down for supper. Claiming their chairs, everyone sat around the table and engaged themselves in conversation, all except Mr. Spock, who sat quietly at the end of the table, steepling his hands over his food, lost in thought, closing himself off from everyone else, into his own world.
“Well, good of him to join us for dinner,” thought Rand sarcastically as she found her place at the table, placing her tray in front of her.
It was never too difficult to be intimidated by Mr. Spock, most people were. But, there was something particularly uncomforting in his presence since the mission had started, so Rand just assumed sitting as far to the other end of the dining room table as possible if she was going to have a fairly relaxing meal with the rest of her colleagues.
Riley was sitting across from Rand, talking incessantly, throwing around gestures and posturing; his was the loudest voice at the table. Rand rolled her eyes. She’d just about had her fill of Riley. The other members of the landing party, however, had their necks craned out in his direction, eager to listen in.
When Riley turned his head towards the giggling Nurse Rose, Rand spotted a small cluster of whiteheads right in the center of his cheek. They hadn’t been there when they had their little run-in in the meeting room earlier.
“Riley? Are those pimples on your cheek?” she asked rather bluntly. She was still pretty pissed at him and didn’t give a rat’s ass about his feelings right now.
Visibly perturbed with the interruption, Riley reached over with his left hand and brushed his fingers rather hastily over his right cheek.
“Oh, yeah,” he said flatly, shrugging his shoulders. “I guess they popped up during the afternoon or something, I don’t know.”
Riley cocked his head to the side just then, his eyes aimed upward, like an idea had just come to him. “Funny though, since I haven’t had any kind of acne since junior high school. The girls used to call me ‘connect-the-dots-face’…” His voice trailed off before he shrugged his shoulders again, this time with more emphasis.
Shaking his head vehemently, Riley reached up and waved both hands in the air in violent, dismissive movements, like an angry spectator in the bleachers of a ballgame. He changed the subject without missing a beat, resuming back to his ravings about how he was going to beat Mr. Russo at his own game. He went on about being royally screwed on his GPA to the point of exaggerated idiocy. Even Nurse Rose began to show signs of impatience, her own eyes rolling while her head bobbed back and forth in a gesture that clearly said she’d heard this all before.
“Look, Riley! At least he didn’t fail you! He gave you a C. Not a D. Not an F. Not an incomplete…”
“That’s not the point! I had a perfect 3.5 GPA until Mister Tough Guy brought it down so that his little weenie would feel bigger!”
“Weenie? What is this with guys and other guys’ penises?” thought Rand.
She took a deep breath before entering the conversation. “Look, Kevin. I’ve met people who were on their way back home because they couldn’t make it through the full training and were asked to leave! Count yourself lucky, Mister. You’re here, they’re home.”
Scotty, Rose and Begay punctuated their nodes of agreement with muttered phrases like “that’s right” and “you got it.” Rand didn’t think this would stop Riley from his tirade of self-pity, but one can always hope, even if that sense of hope was dim.
Riley smirked and snorted at what Rand said. “Russo was petty and jealous of my special abilities,” he pronounced slapping his hand on his chest, his other hand pointing up in the air at absolutely nothing.
Oh, give me a break.
“I notice you have your finger pointing to the sky. May these gifts you speak of be of a divine nature?” asked Rand raising her brows mockingly.
During this whole conversation Spock continued in his semi-frozen state at the end of the table, detached from the others, his head slightly bent down over his meal, his hands still steepled. The only things active were his dark eyes, darting back and forth under his lowered brows like a predator bird.
Rose, on the other spectrum, was shoveling food down her mouth like she hadn’t eaten in days. Rand turned to her, noticing this behavior.
“Hungry, I see,” she said to the nurse with a small insincere smile across her lips.
Rose giggled, rather embarrassed, placing her head delicately over her mouth. “I know. Isn’t it terrible? I guess I didn’t realize how hungry I was, huh?”
“Guess not,” said Rand.
Their conversation was drowned out by Riley, who started to go into babbling detail about how low his GPA got, and how many As he needed to get his average back to its former glory.
“Exactly what is it that you do? Sit up all night and calculate these numbers for your records?” asked Dr. Begay in a biting tone.
Rand could see that his patience with Riley was also running thin, his earlier good spirits put on the back burner.
“Joke about it all you want, Doc, you have no idea the work it took to get my GPA…”
“Yeah, yeah, I know! Russo fucked up your GPA! Russo was jealous! Russo has a tiny dick! Get off it, man! Ease up! No one here gives a flying fuck about your goddamn GPA! If you consider that failure, then you don’t know what failure is! A GPA can be fixed! Some things can’t be fixed or undone! Ponder that one for a while! Just shut up about your school tragedy! I’m out of here!”
Dr. Begay violently pushed himself away from the table, his chair skidding and falling behind him, and stomped away, out of the dining room. Everyone fell silent, including Riley, who sat dumbly in his own chair.
The crewmembers exchanged confused and startled looks across the table until Rose finally asked: “What’s with him?”
Rand shook her head. “I don’t know, but I’m gonna find out.” With that, she pushed herself away hurriedly from under the table and followed Dr. Begay.
“Mathias! Hey, wait up!”
She followed him out into the dimly lit hall and picked up her pace.
“God, this guy walks fast,” Rand thought to herself as she finally caught up with him, grabbing him by the arm. “Whoa, hold it! Mathias! Are you all right? I know Riley’s been a real pain in the…”
“Pain?! That’s putting it mildly, Janice!” The ferocity in the doctor’s voice jabbed her.
“Mathias. Look at me. What happened in there?”
Dr. Begay turned to face Rand, his eyes filled with sadness and rage. “Oh shit!” he spits out, throwing his hands in the air. “He gets me so damn sick and tired of his pathetic little vendetta against this Russo guy! Riley really needs to get a clue!”
Rand stood square in front of the doctor. She glared at him hard, her resoluteness making headway into Begay’s anger as he finally started to soften. The sadness in his eyes had overtaken the rage that had accompanied it just moments ago, showing itself in a deep-set hollowness.
Begay just stood there at first, looking away from Rand, not saying anything. Then, he looked up at the ceiling and took a deep breath before he finally spoke.
“I thought I put those memories behind me…” His voice was so soft Rand barely heard him.
“I’m sorry, I can’t hear…”
“Ever since stepping onto this planet they keep coming at me…”
“What keeps coming…?”
Begay shook his head absently, looking away from Rand. “They started out small. I was able to shrug them away and go on with the rest of the day. Now, I think about it every single waking moment! God, I thought I had put this all behind me! I thought I forgave myself…”
His voice rose in awkward, strained ramblings as if he was desperately trying to brainstorm a solution that wasn’t going to come. He was like a man in a lifeboat with a hole in it, splashing wildly while the sea closed in on him.
“Mathias! Just start from the beginning. Tell me what these memories are. That’s all you have to do.”
Rand took Dr. Begay by his chin and brought his face back to her own. She nodded her head just then, gently urging him to unload his burden. Begay drew his lips tightly together and folded his arms over his chest. He looked away from Rand again, but he calmly nodded, resigned to talk about what had been haunting him.
“I had literally just graduated from medical school back in the Midwest, and in lieu of a four year internship I took a paying job on an outpost on Gamma II. I honestly thought it would be better because I was getting paid, and it was professional experience in space under my belt, since that’s what I hoped to do in the future.”
He paused and shook his head, laughing ironically. “Let me tell you, I was in for a shock. The outpost was a run-down mining colony, almost makeshift in the way it was set up, like one good gust of wind would throw a building over. The place was desperate for resources—because they had none! Talk about isolation, it was so isolated that at times it could be days before any of our off-of-planet messages were answered.”
He paused before he went on. “Man, I should have taken the internship,” he said, his voice drifting. Dr. Begay walked away and positioned himself against the wall, leaning on it as if doing so might give him some much-needed strength, or so it seemed to Rand.
“Well, one day, there was an accident. Who am I kidding! It was a catastrophe! A faulty pipeline blew up under a residential complex that looked like it was put together by baking dough, yeast, wire, and spit. Trust me when I tell you it wasn’t even fit for a dog, the place was so poorly constructed. Families of miners lived there. Their children…their children…”
“Go on,” Rand urged softly, not moving from her spot.
“There was chaos everywhere! It was bedlam. The few doctors, nurses, and EMS personnel that were stationed there were completely overwhelmed with what they had to deal with. The resources we had were precious few so we scrambled around like rats for what we could get, what we could do.”
Begay’s arms uncurled from his chest to hug either side of his ribcage. He looked up at the ceiling, his breath shallow, like a man suffocating. He paused and took a long, shuttering breath before he started again, his words cracking under his emotional purgatory.
“There was a child. A boy about seven. He was literally eviscerated, his guts were spilling out of his intestinal area like spaghetti. I tried to hold his lower body together by stapling him, but he needed an operation! He was shattered down there! He needed an operation room with the proper instruments and everything else! We have that in Starfleet. Gamma II wasn’t Starfleet. Gamma II was nowhere, and everyone who lived there was treated as such. Forgotten. Even the medical staff--we were all straight out of school because I guess more experienced professionals knew better than to go there. We didn’t.”
He paused before he spoke again. “We waited for the ambulance to come, but the little boy was dead by the time it reached us. Honestly, even if they had made it on time, the resources were so few he probably wouldn’t have survived. Gamma II had a pathetic excuse for a hospital.
“If only we had the resources, that boy and many others would be alive today! I could have kept him alive until the ambulance reached him-- to take him to a good hospital!
“Well, after that fiasco I turned in my resignation and just left. I took the first shuttle to the next space station and went home, back to Earth, to the Midwest.”
He smiled sheepishly, his eyes red. “You know, I always wanted to practice medicine in outer space, but after what happened on Gamma II I almost gave up practicing medicine all together…”
“But it wasn’t your fault, Mathias! To blame yourself for that child’s death is ludicrous! You were working with the cards you were dealt with! Could you help it if this godforsaken place had no resources…”
“Don’t you think I’ve said that to myself over and over, Janice?” he asked defeatedly. “Intellectually, I know I was handed a lousy deal, a contract with a certain amount of ‘missing’ provisions. But when you’re bent over a child whose dying in front of you, and you’re the one who’s supposed to be able to help him…but you fail to…all the reasons in the world…well, you know.”
“You didn’t give up, though. You became a Starfleet doctor—and an officer, I might add.”
“Yeah, right,” Begay chuckled. “After taking the plunge and accepting an internship in a big city hospital I made up for the wasted time an Gamma II, finished the required four years, took the entrance exam for Starfleet, and made it. Now, I work for an organization with top of the line resources, Thank God!”
The doctor slid down against the wall until he was squatting, his forearms slung over his knees. Rand looked at him for awhile, and then walked over and squatted down right in front of him.
“Hey, all we can ever do is learn from our ‘mistakes’, no matter how horrible the situation may be,” she said tapping him gently on the knee with the tip of her finger.
“I know you learn from it, I just don’t want to be consumed by it the way that I have been since coming here.”
“Yeah. This planet’s been doing a lot of funny things to us, all right. Look, I can’t make the thoughts go away but you can at least talk about them with me. Okay?”
“You don’t want to listen to me go on about Gamma II,” Begay said flatly.
“Yeah. Why not?” she asked with a shrug. “You tell me about Gamma II and I’ll tell you how much I’d like to turn Riley into a pretzel.”
They both laughed. “Come on, Mathias. Let’s go back and tackle that stuff Starfleet calls food,” she said hoisting herself up.
Dr. Begay slid up against the wall until he was fully erect and started walking back towards the dining room. When he and Rand entered the space, Spock was gone, and Scotty, Rose and Riley were looking at one another in anger and confusion.
“What’s going on here?” asked Rand.
“Mr. Spock told us to be finished eating in half an hour because we were having a night search,” said Nurse Rose.
“What?! That’s crazy! We’re not scheduled for any night searches on this mission! Where’s ‘Oh Magnificent One right now?”
“Probably in the maintenance room where we store the search gear,” said Riley in disgust.
“I’m too damn tired to go back on a search. Besides, this is our time to relax or continue with any individual work,” complained Rand.
“This is all very strange,” said Dr. Begay. “Very strange.” He placed his hands on his hips and looked at his fellow crewmembers pointedly. “I don’t understand it, but he is running the show. Who knows, he may have a theory that metes itself out and we end up finding something.”
“At night?! It just doesn’t make sense when we’re on a planet with daylight,” snorted Riley.
“Besides, it’s like not these archeologists disappeared yesterday and an immediate search has to be done. This case has been ongoing. These people might not even be alive,” said Rand.
“It’s kinda weird, huh? I mean, what exactly is Mr. Spock trying to accomplish here?” asked Rose.
Scotty stepped forward with authority, placing his hands on his hips and drawing his mouth in tightly. He looked at the faces of the other landing party members like Begay had done earlier, before he finally shook his head and let out an exasperated sigh.
“Y-yuh-yourre g-g-guhess is asss g-g-good as m-m-muh-mine,” he declared.