Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 18, Epilogue

And now, with the Elixir:  three out of three.

So, let us finally return to that lone doctor, leaning against the guardrail, looking out over Boston Harbor, over at Logan International Airport, the planes landing, taking off.

“Beautiful day, huh?” comes the familiar voice, just to his left.

Doc turns to see leaning against the same guardrail, looking out at the same harbor, a tall, fit man in a polo shirt and cargo shorts.

Colonel James T. Kirk.

“Yes, it is, Colonel,” Doc says, smiling. “Yes, it is.”

“God, we were so young when we lived here, weren’t we?” Kirk says, still looking ahead.

“How true,” Doc replies, joining Kirk back in a mutual gaze over the Atlantic.

“So many years, so much war since,” Kirk says.

“True, sir.  How true.”

For a while, both men are silent.

“These two were the easy ones, you know?” Kirk says.

“How so?”

“They only blame themselves for destruction that they didn’t directly cause,” Kirk says. “We both know that soon GI John from Special Forces will be coming to us, ‘the one who caused destruction directly and doesn’t know where to go from there. And GI Jenny, from Ordinance, the one who felt the destruction from that IED (improvised explosive device) in her very brain-ship.”

A gull flies in to perch on the guardrail to Doc’s right, drawing both men’s attention.

“All the more important that we continue being the General’s emissaries then, huh?” Doc says, turning back toward Kirk.

The gull then flies off, pulling their gazes back to it.

“So will we ever be done?” Kirk finally says, looking back at Doc.

“With War?” Doc asks, still looking forward.

“No,” says Kirk. “Come on, we’re both smarter than that.  You know what I mean: you, me, listening, absorbing, releasing eventually, into the waves, into the smiles of our children and their friends, even into our conversations together, yours and mine, alone in the quiet of the night? All to start over the next day, then the next?”

Doc turns toward him.

“You mean ‘done’ as in before we’re done-done?”

Kirk chuckles.

“Yeah. Before then.”

Doc smiles as well.

“What do you think?”

Kirk leans forward. “Knowing us?”

Both men smile, shake their heads, and then mutter in unison, “Probably not.”

At that, Kirk stretches his arms high, turns, and begins to walk back toward the Faneuil Hall Marketplace.

“Where do you think you’re going?” asks Doc.

“To that place that had those great Bloody Mary’s,” says Kirk, still walking forward. “Just a small one, before we head back to the hotel.”

“But it’s not there anymore. We both know that, from the last time we were here in town.”

Kirk stops and, then with only the slightest turn of his head backwards, says, “For you it’s not.”

And with a chuckle, he moves ahead, as Doc only shakes his head, as the Colonel slowly begins to fade, and as a familiar voice, one last time, is heard.

“Colonel’s Log, Stardate Now:

In war, each man, each woman hopes against hope that his or her sacrifices might end up meaning something, something bigger, something more. Yet each also realizes that sacrifices too often come in the small moments, one person at a time, one decision at a time, one horrific, inescapable event at a time.

Yet our brains, our minds, our souls remind us that what we’ve always hoped for did not vanish in those horrific moments.  They remind us that meaning still lives within our brain’s chemistry, within the logical and imaginative wanderings of our minds, within the solidness of our immaterial souls.  

All three remind us of the one Truth that undergirds our cells, our Selves, us: 

Love may not be able to conquer all, but until, and even in spite of Death, Love willwill—conquer what it can.

Kirk out.”

Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 17, GI Jane & GI Joe

So, as Vogler tells us in The Hero’s Journey, it’s time for the Return with the Elixir.

Well, at least for two out of three of our heroes.

Sitting in the empty passenger area of another gate, both Jane and Kirk stare forward.

“So, what was that?” Kirk says, eyeing Jane.

Jane looks at him. “OK, Mr. Brainsmart-Self, I give. You tell me!”

Kirk looks down and shrugs.  “I don’t know. Maybe we should do something with it all?”

Jane shakes her head, eyeing him as well.

“So I’m really stuck with you for the rest of my life now?” she says.

Kirk looks back at her. “As if you haven’t been already?”

Jane chuckles and looks down.

After a minute or so, Kirk asks, “We feeling better?”

“A little bit,” Jane replies. “I guess.”

Kirk looks out a window, toward a runway. “Well, they did say there wasn’t going to be a major life shift from one plane ride, but I guess we know more now than we did before.”  He turns back to her. “Right?”

“You mean” Jane says, still looking down, “that it might be time to stop blaming that girl back there for not knowing what she was doing all the time?”

After a pause, Kirk shifts in his chair. “You didn’t throw away that card the Doc gave you, did you?”

Jane rolls her eyes.  “No!”  She looks at Kirk.  “And yes, I’ll call and get names of therapists in Atlanta from him. Satisfied?”

“Hey,” he says, smiling. “Just asking. We’re kind of in this together, you know?”

“Now I do,” she says, shaking her head.

Kirk leans back and puts his hands behind his head.

For a few seconds, both say nothing.

“Comfy?” Jane finally asks.

“I shouldn’t be?” he replies.

After eyeing him another few seconds, Jane asks, “So if we work together, we’ll figure this combat stuff out, you and I, at least more than we have already?”

Kirk closes his eyes, breathes deeply, and then looks back at her. “I’m game to try. What have we got to lose? What do you say?” He smiles. “Deal?”

Jane smiles as well.  “Deal.”

Jane gets up to start walking toward the baggage claim area, but then notices Kirk reaching into his pants pocket.

“What are you doing?”

Kirk pulls out something.

Ahmed’s chocolate bar.

“Seriously?” Jane says. “You actually have the nerve to sit there and eat that while I don’t have anything in real life?”

Kirk takes a bite, then looks at her and grins. “Rank has its privileges.”

“Just my luck,” Jane mutters to herself. “I’ve got a brain with an attitude.”

“And you’re surprised?” Kirk asks, chomping away.

Jane shakes her head.  And smiles.

“See you later?” she says.

“You always know where to find me, girl,” Kirk replies, as he and the chocolate bar slowly begin to fade.

At that she turns and begins to walk forward.

______________________________________________________

 

 

Standing in the far corner of the Logan Airport terminal, Joe looks out the huge glass window, toward the planes and the ocean beyond, his weathered backpack on the ground next to him.

“So,” comes the familiar voice behind him. “We done?”

Joe turns to see, in casual, civilian clothes, Colonel James T Kirk.

“Don’t you even go there,” Joe mutters.

“Go where?” Kirk asks, stepping right up to him.

“You know what I’m talking about,” Joe says. “I don’t know what that was back there. I don’t care. I’m not going back into therapy, period. Out of my face!”

“So sorry, pal,” Kirk says, not moving. “Hate to remind you, but my face is your face, and I ain’t going nowhere, got it?”

For several seconds, they stare at each other.

“Look,” Kirk says, “I don’t want to go through therapy again any more than you do, plus it’s clear that you and I aren’t ready for it anyway.  But we now know what we need to do if we’re ever going to hope to get over this. I’m as tired of seeing Top every night as you are. We have got to do something.”

“Do what?” Joe says, turning back toward the window.  “It’s been fifty years.”

“And it’s still almost every night,” Kirk says, approaching even closer. “And we now know that it isn’t you fifty years ago who’s yelling at us.  It’s us, you and I, right now, today!  God damn it, Joe!”

Kirk’s voice catches.  He steps back.

Joe looks down at ground. “I don’t know.”

After a few seconds, Kirk whispers.  “Please. Call Junior.”

Joe whips around. “I am not going to call him.  We’ve . . .

Kirk grabs Joe by the shoulders.

“We’ve what?” Kirk says through clenched teeth.  “Managed to blow every conversation with him in the last 30 years because we’re both Class-A a**holes?  Jesus, Joe, we’re the f***ing parent, not him! You know what we’ve got to do.  We can’t keep living like this, Joe.  We can’t keep pushing everyone away.  We’ll get the service dog, fine, I don’t care, but Joe…”

Kirk’s voice catches again. For seconds, neither says anything.

“Right there, in your right pocket,” Kirk whispers. “Take it out. Call him. No big deal. Just call him. Please.”

Joe stares at him, not wiping away the tear that has formed in his own right eye.  He looks down at his pocket, looks back up.

“It’s 7:30 in the morning. He’s in Saint Louis. It’s only 6:30 there, he won’t even be up, and…”

Kirk backs up, laughing.

“What?” Joe asks.

“Well, my friend,” Kirk says, putting his hand on Joe’s shoulder. “Actually it is 10:00, and actually you’ve been standing there for the last two and a half hours, and actually I’ve been the one who’s been trying not to get ourselves arrested on suspicion of being some crazy, old hippie-terrorist.”

Joe backs up. “Two and a half hours?”

Kirk nods.

Joe wipes away the tear. And smiles.

“So,” Kirk says, “given that, sir, how about we move and you give Junior a call?”

Joe looks down, picks up the backpack, flings it over his shoulder, looks up at Kirk, then walks right past him, toward Baggage Claim. Yet after only a matter of yards, he stops and turns to see Kirk staring at him.

A few seconds, and then Joe nods and waves Kirk forward.

Kirk nods and does so.

Joe turns back, and just as Kirk catches up, Joe pulls the phone out of his pocket.

Joe stops. Kirk stands next to him.

Joe looks at the screen, looks at Kirk, walks forward, presses a button on the phone.

Kirk smiles.

And fades as Joe lifts the phone to his ear.

 

Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 16, The Return

Ah, shades of high school English class:  we’ve come to the dénouement, the unraveling of the story’s knot, the “climax done, let’s get going” moment.

Well, yes. And no.

For as Christopher Vogler reminds us, in the Hero’s Journey, there’s still a Return of the Elixir that must be dealt with.

And that?  Perhaps not today.

By hovering the cursor over a Star Trek character or location, see corresponding brain function/site.

Ahmed steps back to join the others, and slowly they begin to fade, all except Chekhov, who steps forward.

“Always at your service, ma’am,” Chekhov says as he then too begins to fade. “While memories can be of realities both good and bad, never forget: they can be the stuff of possibilities as well. When all the Crews work together, we can take what has happened, begin to make sense of it and, yes, even begin to forgive ourselves. It’s not magic, but it still can become very, very real.”

Upon Chekhov’s disappearance, MAJ Uhura steps up to her, along with Lieutenant Colonels (LTC) Troi and Spock.

“The Doc wants you to know that this is how it can work,” says Uhura.  “By letting others help you, by drawing on the strengths and memories you have, it can get better. Therapy and recovery from combat are hard.  They don’t just happen on a single, cross-country plane ride. But perhaps you now can begin to hope that they can one day happen for you.  If he can be of any help connecting you with someone to talk further about this, please don’t hesitate to contact him.”

“Don’t be alarmed that body has healing to do,” says LTC Troi, “This has been a start.  Remember: you now know where to find me.”

“And believe or not,” says LTC Spock, “even the imagination can reveal to us our greatest logic. Sometimes sense can be made in the most unforeseen places.”

At that, the three officers too begin to fade away.

“And if I might add,” comes a voice down in the Transporter Room.

Jane turns to see McCoy.

“I can promise you, ma’am: you and I will still have our challenges ahead. But remember this as well: I’m not always the monster I make myself out to be.” He smiles to the General, who is now standing next to him. “In the right company, I can always become more, shall we say, flexible.”

And with that, McCoy nods to Jane, steps back, and all the Transporter Room soldiers, except for the General, begin to fade.

“I’ll always wear a Private’s uniform, Jane,” the General says, also slowly fading away. “If you don’t keep looking for me, you might start missing me again. But I’ll make you a deal: you keep looking for connections in this world that I can grab onto, and I’ll keep hold of the ones we already have in here.”

Then, just as he fades off, he says in a deep, soft, feminine voice, “Deal, Baby?”

Wiping a tear from her eye, Jane says, “Deal.”

And with that she leans back—and finds herself sitting in a chair.

On the Bridge, in the Colonel’s chair.

“So…” comes the familiar voice.

Standing to her left, smiling broadly, is Colonel Kirk.

“Nice chair, huh?” he says.

“How did I end up…”

“Oh, don’t worry.  Too complicated to explain, anyway. But it really does fit you nicely. Don’t you agree?”

Jane smiles. “At this point, I don’t have a clue.”

Kirk raises an eyebrow.  “As to whether we’re finally done?”

“Done?” Jane pauses, and then whispers, “For now, yes. For now.”

Then to her right appears MAJ Sulu.

“The plane has landed, ma’am. May I show you the way?”

“Yes, Major,” she says, “that you may.”

Yet when she stands up, she finds herself standing in the aisle of an airplane, empty of all people except the man in the back picking up the leftover napkins and blankets—and the older man sitting in the aisle seat in front of her.

Joe looks up to her.

“Hey, kid,” he says.  “Quite the ride, huh?”

Jane bends toward him.

“You OK, old man?”

Joe nods.

“OK, enough,” he says. “Don’t worry. You go ahead. I’ll be fine.  Catch up with you later today.”

“All right,” she says, a bit unsteady on her feet, but she turns and walks out onto the ramp leading to the gate, only to find at the gate’s end a tall, fit man in stylish civilian attire.

Smirking at her.

Colonel James T. Kirk.

 

Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 15, The Medic

As author-editor Shawn Coyne of The Story Grid, says: the Crisis is the point of a decision, and the Climax is the decision made.

It is at this point, at a story’s end, we find out if, as Christopher Vogler says, our Hero will finally experience Resurrection.

No gimmicks. No Cavalry riding onto the scene.

Just a Hero. And a decision.

For a few seconds, Jane-Now stares at the Corporal.

“Long time no see, soldier,” she says.

“Yes, ma’am,” he replies, but then pauses. “In a way.”

“In a way?”

“Permission to speak freely, ma’am?”

She hesitates, but then, “Of course.”

“In another way, ma’am, you, I, and this young medic before us have been together at all times, in all places, for years now.”

For a few more seconds, neither says anything.

“True, Corporal,” Jane-Now then says, more to herself. “How very true.”

She looks to McCoy.

“Would you like your soldier back, Sergeant Major?”

McCoy smiles. “While we’ll still be having to call on him at times, ma’am, rest assured: he’s always welcome with us.”

Another pause, and then Jane-Now looks back at the Corporal.

“Dismissed, soldier.”

“Thank you ma’am,” he says, as he steps over to join the other Emotions.

For the next several seconds, Jane-Now then stares at Young Jane, the younger woman still kneeling, still lost in thoughts and tears.

“Mr. Scott?” Jane-Now finally says.

“Yes, Ma’am?” Scott replies, stepping forward.

“You know,” she says, still looking at Young Jane. “I’m not sure who this young woman and I even are now, what with the Corporal gone. Funny, isn’t it, how PANIC and GRIEF can become a very part of you?”

“Yes, ma’am,” says Mr. Scott.  “Among other things.”

Jane looks at him.

“Other things?”

Scott says nothing.

Jane-Now then nods.

“I see. So, my younger self is just a ghost as well, is that it?”

“Yes, ma’am,” says Scott.

“I see.  So the question is what we should do now, correct?”

“Perhaps, ma’am.”

After a pause, Jane looks to the General.

“I can’t help but notice that you’re not jumping in on this one.”

The General steps forward.

“I am always here, Ma’am. My soldiers are always here, ready.  But sometimes we do our best work by our presence, not our action. ”

Jane frowns.

“So it’s up to me, is that what you’re saying?” she asks.  “I’m the only one who can free her?”

“With all respect, ma’am,” the General says, “you’re the only one who’s been calling her forth, as the Corporal said, day after day, year after year. You’ve been the only one, ma’am, who’s been unwilling to forgive her youth—and let her go.”

They stare at each other, motionless.

“Ma’am,” the General finally says, “sometimes the greatest act of caring is simply telling the truth.”

With that, he and Scott step back in line with the others.

Jane-Now remains motionless, staring at the spot where the General had stood. Then slowly, she focuses over at the Young Jane.

“Hey, kid!” she finally says.

Young Jane goes still, but does not look up.

“We made it, kid,” Jane-Now continues. “I’m here. You’re here.  But…but you shouldn’t be, should you? Here, that is. At least not down there.”

Young Jane, weeping having stopped, still looks down.

“Although I’m not totally convinced myself right now,” Jane-Now continues, “I’ll admit, they are all probably right, you know, right about there having been nothing we could have done.”

Breathing deeply, Young Jane continues to look down.

“There really wasn’t, kid,” Jane-Now says, wiping a tear away.  “There…really wasn’t.”

At that, Jane-Now looks away, at nothing in particular, as more tears fall down her cheeks.

“He really was a cute kid, wasn’t he?  Remember when . . .?”

And then Jane-Now stops.

She turns to her left and looks directly at Major (MAJ) Chekhov.

He smiles.

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Remember,” Jane-Now whispers to him, although as if to herself.

“Yes, ma’am,” he says.  “Remember. It’s your ship, your brain. Your memories.”

He smiles even more.

“Memories made back then,” he continues. “And memories made even as we speak.”

A smile begins to form on Jane-Now’s face as well. Wiping away a tear, she looks down at the Boy.

And she snaps her fingers.

In an instant, Ahmed pops up.

He looks at Jane-Now, confused.

But then he looks down into the Transporter Room area.

And beams.

“Miss Jane!” he shouts, bounding out of his bed, rushing toward the Mezzanine guardrail.

Young Jane’s head pops up as well. And through her tears, she too beams.

“Ahmed?” she whispers.

“Hello, Miss Jane,” he yells in a slow, accented English, jumping up and down at the guardrail. “It’s me. Ahmed, your rag-a-muf-fin!  See, I told you I would remember that word!”

Slowly Young Jane stands up, speaking as if only to herself.  “It is you, Ahmed. It…is.”

Jane-Now approaches Ahmed on the guardrail, her eyes, though, now looking back at her younger self.

“See, kid! He’s not gone! I mean, he is, but then…so are you. You’re gone, and…”

Jane-Now stops, wipes away another tear.

“And you’re not, are you.”

A realization.  Not a question.

“I have something for you, Miss Jane,” Ahmed shouts down to Young Jane, suddenly putting his hands behind his back.

“You do?”  Young Jane laughs, then points to herself.  “For me?”

Ahmed nods vigorously.

Young Jane hesitates.

“Hey, kid!” Jane-Now says to her.  “Come on! He’s right here.  Look, I’ll help you.”

And with that, Jane-Now stretches her hand over the guardrail, down toward the Transporter Room.

“We’re it, kid, you and me. We’re it. And Ahmed.”

Young Jane looks at her, and then slowly approaches. As she does, Jane-Now turns to Ahmed.

“See, Ahmed, there she is! Miss Jane, just like before.  Here, give me your hand.”

Ahmed turns to her and smiles.

“You’re Miss Jane too, aren’t you?”  he says.

Jane hesitates.

“Yes, Ahmed, I was,” she says.

She pauses, first to wipe a tear, but then to smile.

“And I am,” she says. “I am.”

As Ahmed extends his hand to Jane-Now, she takes it with her left hand.

Just then, Young Jane reaches the guardrail’s edge and extends her hand up.

With her right hand, Jane-Now takes it.

“See?” Jane whispers to both of them. “No need to be apart anymore.”

With that, she draws the Boy’s hand into the Young Medic’s.

But in an instant, she realizes: she is no longer linking two hands together.

Instead, she looks forward to find Ahmed, standing before her, his right hand in her right hand, both of them on the Mezzanine.

When she looks beyond him, she then finds standing with MAJ Chekhov: Ahmed’s Mother, and Grandmama—and Young Jane.

Ahmed squeezes her hand, then pulls his back, reaches into his pocket, and looks up at her.

He hands Jane-Now a chocolate bar.

And winks.

“See, Miss Jane. I told you. For you. You back then. And you now.”

Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 14, The Mother

In the brain, as in Life, a Crisis always involves more than one decision.

“It’s his mother,” the translator says.

At those words, Jane-Now seizes the Mezzanine guardrail.

But the translator has disappeared, leaving Young Jane standing alone in the Transporter Room, facing a woman screaming in an Arabic so guttural, so desolate, Jane-Now’s knees again buckle.

The translator’s disembodied voice persists, in heavily-accented English, trying to make herself heard, shouting out word after word after word.

“Why?  Why did you keep talking to him, giving him all that chocolate? Why did you keep teaching him the English he wanted to learn?  Why didn’t you ask him who his father was?”

As the Mother collapses to the ground, another Iraqi woman appears, her Arabic violent, enraged.

“You should have known that her husband was one of you Americans’ interpreters,” the disembodied translation continues. “When my brother heard that the others had found out, he ran. We have no idea where he is. Ahmed was her only boy! The others always punish, always! She and my nieces have no one now!   How could you expect a boy not to brag about the American woman who gave him chocolate and taught him words that even his father didn’t know?”

As the second woman fades away,  so does Young Jane’s protective gear, leaving her wearing only her T-shirt, trousers, and boots.

Leaving two women, one prostrate on the ground, the other standing motionless.

Both defenseless. Both utterly alone.

“Baby!”

Jane-Now turns to see her Grandmama, slowly descending the steps from the Mezzanine to the Transporter Room.

“You were good to that boy,” her Grandmama says, reaching the bottom, walking over to the Young Jane.  “He kept showing up out of nowhere, kind of like that Wilford boy you used to teach in Vacation Bible School, remember? Ahmed so loved your chocolate He was so excited to learn the words you taught him. He wanted to speak English better than his Daddy.”

Grandmama reaches Young Jane.  She looks into the younger woman’s face and, with gentle brushes of hand, begins to wipe her tears.

“Honey, it was good. That boy loved seeing you.  You didn’t know, Baby.  He said he’d found an old language book.  You saw how smart he was! Of course he could have taught himself, of course!  He didn’t tell you, Sugar.  You didn’t know.”

Pulling her hand back, Grandmama pauses, smiles, and then turns, bends over, and lays her hand on the Mother, who doesn’t move.

“She was just a mama, Baby.  I’d have done the same thing for you.”

With her hand still on the Mother, she looks back at the Young Jane.  “He did what he did. You did what you did.  It’s done, Honey.”

As Grandmama stands, the General appears next to her.  He turns to Sergeant First Class (SFC) Chekhov Sr., who has also appeared, and nods.

Once again, wisps of smoke swirl, with specks of light, bits of sound mixed in. Once again, the  smoke darts to and fro around the Mother as the Emotions appear, surrounding her, pulling some wisps in, pushing others away. Once again, SFC Chekhov Sr. pulls out a camera and begins filming the entire scene.

Soon, once again, SFC Chekhov Sr. lowers the camera, looks back at the General, and nods.

Once again, the General whispers to the Young Jane, “It is done.”

The General then looks up at Jane-Now, smiles, and gestures toward her left.

Jane-Now looks over to see, next to the dead Boy, his  Mother, sad, but no longer shouting, stroking Ahmed’s hair.  Next to her stands Major (MAJ) Chekhov.

Next to him is Grandmama.

From behind Jane-Now comes the familiar voice.

“So,” says Kirk, “are we done?”

Jane-Now turns to him and sees all the rest of the Senior Officer crew standing behind him. She looks down to her left, and there in the Transporter Room are the General,  Command Sergeant Major (CSM) McCoy, and  all the other soldiers, all at parade rest, all looking at her.

And then she gasps.

The General leans forward. “Ma’am?”

“Sergeant Major,” Jane-Now says, latching onto the handrail. “Not all your soldiers are present, are they?”

McCoy steps forward and then pauses. “No, ma’am. That is correct.”

“One is missing, isn’t he?” Jane says.

McCoy nods. “Yes, ma’am.”

Jane then turns to Kirk.

After a few seconds, she whispers, “Then, Colonel, I guess we’re not done yet.”

“As you wish, ma’am,” Kirk says. He steps back.

When he does, Jane-Now looks back down at the Transporter Room and, one more time, snaps her fingers.

No swirling vortex this time, however. Instead, all the soldiers in the Transporter Room, from the General on down, step back.

And there, in front of them, kneels a young woman, sobbing.

A young medic, defenseless, utterly alone.

And walking up behind her comes a young Corporal, who assumes a parade rest, looks down at the one women and then up at the other.

And nods.

Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 13, The Boy

We’re finally here: author-editor Shawn Coyne’s (The Story Grid)Ending Payoff“; Christopher Vogler’s (The Hero’s Journey) “Resurrection.”

As Jane discovers, however, resurrections don’t necessarily pay off in one fell swoop.

Especially on the brain’s USS Enterprise.

The triage area is chaotic with the sounds of soldiers and alarms. In a corner near the front races a much younger Jane toward a newly-arrived casualty.

Suddenly a voice cries out from the far corner.

“Oh, God! Isn’t this the kid Jane’s been talking to?”

The scene freezes. On the Mezzanine, Jane-Now grabs the guardrail.

In the Transporter Room area, Young Jane turns, the only one on the scene to move.  As she does, all the other soldiers and casualties fade away, leaving her standing across the room from a stretcher, on which lies the body of an eleven-year-old Iraqi boy, shirtless, shoeless, covered in dust, with a gaping gunshot wound in his abdomen.

In the Doc’s voice, the General speaks to Jane-Now from the Transporter Room.

“Breathe, Jane,” he says.  “See it all, feel it all in your body, for what it was, for what it is.”

As Jane-Now inhales, she hears humming. She turns to see still standing next to Major (MAJ) Chekhov her Grandmama, eyes closed, swaying slightly, humming what she always hummed when she held Jane as a crying baby, as a crying young woman: the old spiritual, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

Meanwhile Young Jane in the Transporter Area edges her way toward the stretcher, finally reaching it, her eyes fixed on the dead Boy.

Now in his own voice, the General says to Jane-Now, “Let me go help.”

Jane nods, still gripping the guardrail, a tear forming in her eye.

The General walks over to stand behind Young Jane, tears streaming down her face.  After placing his right hand on her left shoulder, he whispers, “He was already gone, Jane. We both know that. There was nothing more anyone could have done.”

The General then looks to his side and nods.  Sergeant First Class (SFC) Chekhov Sr enters the scene, followed by the Emotions.

As they do, wisps of smoke appear, with specks of light, bits of sound mixed in. The smoke darts to and fro around the Boy as the Emotions surround him and start pulling some wisps in, pushing others away. SFC Chekhov Sr. pulls out a camera and begins filming the entire scene.

“Nothing more could have been done,” the General repeats to the Young Jane, still in his own voice.  “As the Doc is saying, just breathe, and see it for what it was.”

SFC Chekhov Sr lowers his camera, looks to the General, and nods.

Grandmama stops humming.

The General whispers to the Young Jane. “It’s done, Jane.”

He then turns to look up at Jane-Now. “It’s done.”

With that, he turns to look at the far side of the Mezzanine. Jane-Now does the same.

There, next to Chekhov and her Grandmama, lies the Boy on a bed, not alive, but dressed in clean white, lying on the cot.

“That’s where treatment can take us,” the General says to Jane-Now. “We’ll probably always feel some of War’s pain, at least to an extent. But in treatment, we can take those painful fragments of deep experiences, pull them together, and make a film—tell a story—that can finally allow us to feel, from Bridge to Engine Room, that it is indeed done.  No more reliving. Just
remembering.”

At that, on the Mezzanine, Kirk walks up to Jane-Now.

“So,” he says, “I come to ask you again, Jane. Are we done?”

Wiping a tear from her cheek, she turns to him and says, “I think we both know the answer to that question.”

Kirk nods. “You know what you have to do, then.”

A moment’s pause, and then Jane-Now snaps her fingers. Once again a vortex of smoke forms over the Transporter Room, enveloping Young Jane, until it explodes open.

There again, in the middle of the Transporter Room, stands Young Jane, in the full gear she wore as she walked through the local Iraqi town, reaching out to local women and children.

Next to her is her interpreter.

And in an instant, across from her is a distraught Iraqi woman.

Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 12, The Ghosts

We’re coming to the end of what Story Grid‘s Shawn Coyne calls the Middle Build.  After this point, there’s no turning back until we get to the Ending Payoff.

You’ve got to give Jane credit: many who’ve gone before her (e.g., Joe) have not been so willing to go on.

“Ghosts?” Jane says.

“Remember, Jane,” Sergeant First Class (SFC) Chekhov Sr. says, stepping forward, “in a freeze, I don’t pick up my camera, so the events are not recorded as having been completed, as having, in a deeply-felt sense, happened. Plus while the Emotions experience those events, they cannot grab them, mold them into more coherent experiences that can then be moved, as young officers, up into the remainder of the Cortical Ship.”

“Consequently,” says Major (MAJ) Chekhov, approaching her on the Mezzanine, “these experiences fly past me as fragments, invading the cortex and flying through the memory system as haunting, intense emotional responses, not remembered, but rather relived, over and over.”

“Only by their being returned to the Transporter Room,” says Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Spock, “can SFC Chekhov Sr. and his crew of Emotions complete what they were never before able to start.”

“Their being returned?” Jane says. “How? By whom?”

The crews of both Transporter Room and the Mezzanine stand silently, looking directly at her.

“Me?” Jane asks. “Fine, then, tell me how!  I don’t want to keep living like this!”

At that, MAJ Uhura appears on the Mezzanine, stepping toward her.

“I’m receiving a communication from the outside,” she says.  “It’s the Doc.  He sees how distressed you are. He says that even though you can’t do therapy on a plane, he’s more than glad try to help you begin to understand better what you might eventually be able to do to make a difference.”

LTC Troi then steps next to MAJ Uhura.

“Plus, Jane,” she says, “look to your right.”

When Jane does, she sees MAJ Chekhov standing again at the head of the escalator from the subcortex/Transporter Room. Standing next to him is the smiling form of her grandmother.

“Memories are always available to help us, Jane,” Chekhov says. “This wouldn’t be the first time that the memory of your Grandmama will have given you the strength you need to face what you need to face.”

“They are the ones I can use to help you,” says the General, from below. “Through Doc, I can connect you to a present that wants to support you. Through your Grandmama, I can connect you to a past that can still comfort you. When I’m able to do my job, both Kirk, as the conscious “Decider”, and McCoy, as “Survival,” will step back just enough to allow the Transporter Room crew to do theirs. If you let me bring all of them together, we can begin to show you what it takes to get better.”  The General then assumes a parade rest. “It’s up to you.”

Kirk moves toward her. “So, Jane, the question is the same: are we done?”

Jane paused only a moment. “I have to know what I need to do. No, we’re not done.”

“All right, then,” Kirk says.  “The ghosts are still here in the ship. All you have to do is call them together.”

Jane closes her eyes, breathes in, slowly breathes out, and then looks back at Kirk.

“OK,” she says. “Let’s go.”

“Take a few more deep breaths, Jane, in through your nose, out through your mouth.”

It is Doc’s voice. But as Jane looks down into the subcortex/Transporter Room, she sees that it is coming out of the mouth of the General.

“Focus on my voice,” the General says, “your breathing, your grandmama, on what you know about yourself.”

As Jane does so, the crews of both Transporter Room and Mezzanine step back to create a open area on both levels.

“When you’re ready,” Kirk says, “snap your fingers.”

With a final deep breath, Jane does so.

In an instant, both areas fill with smoke, frantically swirling into a vortex that descends into the Transporter Room and then bursts open.

To reveal the triage area of a Combat Support Hospital.

Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 11, The Corporal

Subplots aren’t always about romance, you know.

But then, that doesn’t mean they can’t be about something just as important.

Upon seeing Joe and the dead soldier’s body, Jane again grabs the Mezzanine guardrail.

Down in the Subcortex/Transporter Room, the General looks at Joe and then turns up toward Jane.

“Joe was one of the best Vietnamese linguists around,” the General says, “and every First Sergeant knew it. One in particular took Joe under his wing, and he wouldn’t go anywhere to meet with nationals without Joe along. He was the father Joe never had, a soldier’s soldier who never sent his men to do what he would not. It was the First Sergeant, ‘Top,’ who’d seen that specialist go down when they were ambushed, who jumped out of the vehicle to cover him. It was Joe who was right behind him when the First Sergeant stepped on that mine.”

“My God,” Jane whispers. “My God.”

“If you call to him,” the General says, “he’ll hear you. Whether he responds or not, we’ll have to see.”

Jane swallows and then speaks.

“Joe?”

Joe quits rocking.

“Hey, old man! It’s me. The kid.”

Joe looks at her.

“Hey, Joe, the General here, he wants to help. I know he doesn’t look like a general, but he is and…and he’s a good man, Joe. Let him help you.”

Joe looks over toward the General. His eyes widen.

“Junior?” he says.

Jane looks over to the General as well. But instead of the young soldier, she sees a thirty-something man wearing sweat pants and a Miami-of-Ohio sweatshirt. He has all Joe’s features, right down to the one eyebrow slightly bushier than the other.

“Dad,” the man said, a voice unmistakably like Joe’s. “It’s me, Dad, the General. Please, Dad…”

Then from the back of the Transporter Room another young soldier blazes forward, out of breath, covered in blood.

The soldier is Joe, around age twenty. No doubt about it.

“How f***ing dare you?” the young Joe screams. “God damn you! Now you show up! Where the f*** were you back then? Where have you ever been, acting as if you want to give a sh** about anything? I was a f***ing linguist, God damn it! What the f*** was I supposed to do, Top bleeding all over me? The Doc just kept screaming for me to get out of the way, but he was already dead, God damn it! Already f***ing dead! I don’t give a God-damn how many times I’ve pushed my f***ing kid away, that doesn’t give you one f***ing right to stand there looking like him and…”

“Soldier!” Joe’s son says, but in the General’s voice. “It’s me. I’m here now. Stand down. I’m here. I’m here.”

The young Joe steps back and transforms into another soldier, a young corporal. He takes a deep breath and then assumes a parade rest.

“Yes, sir,” he says. “Thank you, sir.”

Jane turns to see First Sergeant (1SG) Spock Sr. move forward.

“Ma’am,” he says. “May I introduce you to the final member of the Emotions crew. This is Corporal (CPL) PANIC-GRIEF. I am FEAR, the Emotion that responds to danger of attack. The Corporal is the Emotion that responds to the danger of utter aloneness, of utter vulnerability.”

“We haven’t seen the Corporal of Joe’s crew for years, Jane,” says Mr. Scott, stepping forward. “Like many combat vets, Joe has assumed that he became PANIC/GRIEF that day. When Joe looks back on himself at that moment, he doesn’t see a competent young man who came across a tragedy he couldn’t change. He sees nothing but a raw Emotion that leads him to feel shame and disgust.”

Still looking at the Corporal, Joe Jr/the General says to him, “It’s OK now, soldier. I’ll take it from here. Rejoin your team.”

The Corporal nods. “Thank you, sir.” And he steps into the line.

“Dad,” Joe Jr./the General says, looking back at Joe. “you see? You’ve always been more than that moment back then. I’m not saying to get back into treatment right now. I’m just asking you to let me help you get ready for whatever comes: treatment, life! Doing this on your own hasn’t worked. We both see that. Let me help you, through a friend, through a service animal—through your real-life son who always comes back for another try, even after you’ve screamed at each other. Love gets us humans better, Dad, real connection with others in the world. Sounds hokey, I know, but…it’s all we’ve got, Dad. Each other. Just like you and Top. That’s all we’ve got, Dad.”

On the Mezzanine, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Troi walks up to COL Kirk.

“Colonel,” she says, “Joe’s body is not doing well.”

Kirk approaches the guardrail.

“Joe, it’s me, Kirk. Come on, buddy. Let’s take a Vistaril. It’s not addictive. It’s not going to change the world, but we’ve got to get you back up here. Come on.”

Joe looks up at Kirk and then nods.

Major (MAJ) Sulu appears next to Kirk on the Mezzanine and then snaps his fingers.

At that, Jane sees a drone aircraft maneuver over the Mezzanine, down into the Transporter Room. As it does, it begins to spray a fine mist over the area, whereupon Joe and the entire Subcortex/Transporter Room Crew appear to relax their musculature ever so slightly. The drone then moves back up and out through a side door, toward the remainder of the Brain/Enterprise.

LTC Spock then appears on the Mezzanine.

“Medications aren’t a mystery, Jane. They work at a physical level, in various ways, in various parts of the brain, primarily to decrease physical responses so that the tension throughout the body and brain is not as high, so that the Colonel and I can have some time and space to evaluate the informational intelligence we’re receiving from throughout the Enterprise and make appropriate decisions.”

He nods toward the Transporter Room. Jane looks down to find the body of the First Sergeant gone. Standing in its place is McCoy, at parade rest. He nods toward the Mezzanine.

Jane looks to her left, and there, standing next to COL Kirk, is Joe.

“Thanks, kid,” he says.

“It’s up to you, Joe.”

At the sound of the General’s voice, Jane looks down to see him standing just before McCoy, back to his original form.

Jane looks to Joe. “Up to you, what?”

“Joe has an opportunity now to give back to you,” the General says. “Information. Hard-learned information.”

Joe looks down at the General.

“You can do it, Dad. It’s all we’ve got. All we’ve got.”

The General had spoken in Joe Jr.’s voice.

“But you don’t have to,” says Kirk, approaching Joe on the Mezzanine. “It’s up to you. We can pick it up from here, if you’d prefer.”

Kirk pauses. “So, Joe, are we done?”

Joe looks at Kirk and then at Jane.

“Kid, I’ve not been that willing to give myself fully to treatment, for all the reasons you now know. But there is one thing I’ve learned so far.”

He looks down at McCoy.

“The Sergeant Major isn’t the villain, Jane. He’s just trying to keep us alive, keep us from the pain that stops us cold. He’s not what’s preventing us from getting better.”

He looks back at Jane.

“Kid, our ships are haunted.”

Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 10, The General

We’re still in Shawn Coyne’s Middle Build, but all hope is no longer lost. In fact, after an Ordeal such as Jane’s  on the Hero’s Journey, it’s time to re-group and explore this Reward.

It’s time for a subplot.

After taking his place back with his Subcortex/Transporter Room soldiers, Command Sergeant Major (CSM) McCoy nods at First Sergeant (1SG) Spock Sr.

“Ma’am,” Spock Sr. says, “when I was introducing the Emotions who work under me, I was not, if you recall, able to introduce them all.”

Mr. Scott smiles and moves forward. “Yes, ma’am. As the Officer-in-Charge, it is my honor to present to you the Brain-Enterprise’s—even Colonel (COL) Kirk’s—senior Command, General CARE/NURTURANCE.”

Smiling, the young soldier nods to Scott and then turns back to Jane.

“I know,” he says. “The uniform confuses everyone, military and civilian alike. Hazard of the job.”

“You’re…a general?” Jane says.

“Yes, ma’am.” the young General says. “I am the Emotion that has preserved you from your life’s beginning, all the physical processes that calm you, soothe you when you are meaningfully connected to others in your world. I am what ran through your body when your Mama and Daddy held you as an infant, when your Grandmama hummed her favorite hymn to rock you to sleep. I’m the very opposite of Power. I make joy and meaning possible, for you, for everyone.”

Janes smiles. “Not exactly the kind of general I remember.”

“True,” the General says. “You can’t recognize me by my uniform, that’s for sure. You can only know me by the effect I have when I walk into a room. Of course, therein lies the problem.”

“How so?” Jane asks.

“A lot of folks—if I might add, a whole lot of combat vets—are not, shall we say, ‘into’ touchy-feely connection. They may not mind me every once in a while, when all is quiet. But they sure aren’t going to spend any time with me. And down here, when things get hopping? If the Brain crew hasn’t spent time with me, they often fail to recognize me when I can be of the most help. Instead of seeing a general who has the power to make all work more smoothly, they see a uniform without a marking on it, a “fuzzy,” the lowest of the low in their world, someone who is to shut up and do as he’s told.”

“Work more smoothly, how?” Jane asks.

“If I may,” the General says, “I’d be glad to show you how I’m the ultimate answer to your question about PTSD and getting better. But I will have to ask you a favor in order to do so.”

“A favor?”

“Jane,” he says. “This Brain-Enterprise has become your ship. We are here for you. You happen, however, not to be alone on it at this point.”

Jane nods. “Joe, right?”

“Yes, Jane,” an again-familiar voice says, from behind her on the Mezzanine.

Jane turns to see COL Kirk.

“The Colonel and I have been here many times with Joe,” the General says from below. “But never before on someone else’s ship, someone who might—just might—be able to make a difference for him.”

Jane turns back to the General. “Pardon me?”

“Jane,” the General says. “Joe’s home was not like yours. He had no Grandmama humming him hymns, no Mama and Daddy he could rely on to hold him. He’s not even convinced that I exist inside him. But together you and I might be able to connect with him now just enough to allow him to consider at least some possibility of alternative to the abandoned loneliness he has felt for years.”

“It’s up to you, Jane,” Kirk says, approaching her. “You don’t have to. As the General said, this isn’t our first time in this spot with Joe. We can take it from here.”

Jane shakes her head. “He can be such an ass. But there’s always been something about him.” She looks back down at the General and then back at Kirk. “So it’s my ship, my decision?”

“Yes, Jane.” Kirk smiles. “So, are we done?”

Jane looks back down at the General and nods. “Next step, Sir?”

The General smiles and opens his mouth. Out of it comes a woman’s resonant voice.

“Always knew you had it in you, Baby!”

Yet before Jane can respond, the General turns to CSM McCoy and, back in his own voice, says, “Sergeant Major?”

“Will do, Sir.” With that, McCoy disappears.

All Subcortex/Transporter Room soldiers step back. The General turns to Jane.

“This is not going to be pretty, Jane. Stick with us, though,” he says. “Just like your Grandmama said, we can do this.”

The General snaps his fingers.

And there, in the center of the Transporter Room, lies the mangled, bloodied body of a solider, a First Sergeant.

And next to him, no longer on the Mezzanine, is an older man, clutching his knees to his chest, rocking back and forth, mumbling over and over, “Top. Top.”

Beam Me Home, Scotty!: 09, The Private

Shawn Coyne of The Story Grid calls it the “All is Lost” moment.  Christopher Vogler calls it The Ordeal of the Hero’s Journey.

Basically, it’s at the center of the story, and it’s the point at which it’s “sink or swim.”  The Hero faces the Dark Force and either gains the Elixir that can be brought back home to save—or doesn’t.

So which will it be?

A familiar voice comes over the intercom.

“Yes, Mr. Scott?”

“Hello, sir,” says the Boy. “Ahmed here.  Good to hear your voice, Colonel. Sir.”

“What?” Kirk shouts. “Scotty, Troi, is McCoy out?”

“I’ve been showing Miss Jane how good my English has become down here, Colonel,” the Boy says. “Why, I think it’s even better than my father’s now. Don’t you think? Ask Major (MAJ) Chekhov. He’ll remember.”

“Good God,” Kirk says. “McCoy, leave Joe and Jane alone, do you hear? That’s an order!”

The Boy smiles at Jane.

“He always says that,” the Boy says. “You know the Brass. They never really know what’s going on where it matters. If you want to survive, you have to pick and choose what you pay attention to. Do you have any chocolate for me today, Miss Jane?”

Jane grips the guardrail and tries to breathe.

“MAJ Sulu,” Kirk shouts. “get her moving, up and down the aisle, to the bathroom, anywhere. We’ve got to get her away from McCoy.”

No one in the Transporter Room moves.

“Poor man,” the Boy says. “He still thinks the reasoning part of the brain runs this ship at times like these. Sad, isn’t it, Miss Jane? Although, come to think of it—maybe not as sad as…me?”

The Boy slams his hand against his abdomen.

Jane grips the guardrail even harder.

“LUST, PLAY, SEEKING!” Kirk shouts. “Get up here, Sergeants! Look, I’ll promote you to lieutenants. Just get up here and get her doing something: drinking, flirting, checking out the movie channel, I don’t care! We need to move!”

In an instant, three members of the Transporter Room crew disappear.

“He always tells them that,” says the Boy, who presses his hand even further into his abdomen. “He always promises that if they run after distractions, I’ll fade away, and everything will be forgotten and fine. They always come back, though, always…oh, Miss Jane!”

The Boy pulls his hand away, looks at it, and then turns his palm toward Jane.

“Look!” he says, “I’m bleeding!”

Jane’s knees buckle. She grips the guardrail even harder as she looks at the blood rushing out of the Boy’s abdomen.

Then she hears Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Troi, who has moved behind her.

“Jane,” she says. “Look to your right.”

When Jane does, she sees one of the other Transporter Crew members, a young man with well-defined features, a private, straight out of boot camp, it appears.

With a slow, yet steady gait, he approaches the Boy.

The Boy begins to sink to the ground.

“The bleeding never stops here, does it, Miss Jane?” the Boy says. “At least it stopped out there. Didn’t it.”

It was not a question.

The Private tries to place his hand on the Boy’s shoulder, but the Boy shrinks away.

“He’ll try to help us, Miss Jane,” the Boy says, his eyes still fixed on Jane. “But he can’t help. We’re both medics. We both know that it’s too late for me. You remember what happened, don’t you, Miss Jane?”

LTC Troi again approaches Jane. “Look at the Private. He’s saying something.”

Jane can’t make it out.

“Don’t waste your time, girlfriend. I already told you. He can’t help you!”

It is now McCoy’s voice coming out of the Boy’s body.

“This doesn’t end well, Jane,” McCoy continues, “and you know it. Stop this now. Get out of here. I’m warning you.”

Then Jane hears the Private. But he is speaking in a woman’s voice.

“We can do this, baby!” The rich voice rolls out of the young Private. “Never give up, baby! We can do this!”

Jane straightens. “Grandmama?”

“She’s dead!” McCoy shouts, still in the Boy’s body. “And she’s not coming back. There’s nothing she can do. There’s nothing this Private can do. We are in danger, Jane. Get. The. Hell. Out. Of. Here.”

“What is going…?”

“If you don’t get out right now,” McCoy shouts, the Boy now lying on the floor. “I’ll crawl up to the damn Bridge myself and rip the controls right out of Sulu’s hands, and you’ll regret it, sister, I promise you. If I have to make a fool out of you, if I have to make you hurt yourself, I will. Survival is survival, even if that means cutting you open and taking our chances.”

The Boy/McCoy lunges to his feet.

“This is it, Jane!” he shouts. “Who’s it going to be? Me? Or the Private?”

Jane stiffens.

‘That was my grandmama!’ she shouts to the Boy/McCoy. “That was . . .”

She looks toward the Private, then turns back to McCoy, and points directly at the young soldier below her.

“I’ll take the Private!” she shouts.

And in an instant, all the lights come back on.

And there, in front of her, is no longer the Boy.

It is McCoy. Smiling. A smile very different from previous ones.

“Well, my, my, Jane,” he says. He then turns toward the remaining soldiers, the three sergeants having suddenly re-appeared. “She really does mean it!”

He turns back toward Jane.

“Good for you, Jane.” He nods. “Good for you.”

At that, he turns toward the Private, who remains standing next to him.

“She’s all yours, Sir,” he says to him. “I’m ready to do whatever you need me to do.”

With a respectful nod, he then backs up to join the other soldiers.

The Private looks up at Jane.

“Yes, Jane” he says, now in his own voice. “You heard that right. He called me, ‘Sir.’”

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