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 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.”