Very Different Journey, Very Different Hero (I)

So with such a title: just what’s that supposed to mean?

Well, any good “Hero’s Journey” tale needs a good setting, after all, so let’s start there.

In my current job, I have been hired primarily to work with combat veterans to determine whether medications might help them in their journey toward healing.  Easily stated.

There is, of course, a great deal of complexity to that subject, requiring an understanding of the body’s chemistry and function that I must continually keep current. Researchers do their job to learn more about those chemistries and functions. I do my job to keep learning what they learn, complete with tables of data, graphs, and long Graeco-Latinate words attached thereto. (And, admittedly, some very ingenious trade names that would make any Don Draper of any Mad Men episode quite proud).

Yet even with that complexity, my job is relatively straightforward. Sad to say, while researchers continue to work hard, they are tackling a subject so complicated, they are not setting off fireworks of new practice and insight with every monthly journal publication. We’re all doing our best, but there you have it.

That means that topics for my medication discussions are certainly worthy of consideration, but they are anything but unlimited. Mechanisms of action and side effect profiles tend to cluster in certain groups, with particular trade/generic names within such clusters tending to differ from each other more in degree than in kind.  Jointly with the combat vet, I discuss the highlights of the groups, the pros and cons, the particular applications of possible meds to their particular cases and, once the vet decides what he or she wishes to do with his or her body (my gold standard), I type into a computer to notify some distant pharmacy, and voilà, there we go: we give medication A (or E or K or…) a try.

Or not. Not everybody is into meds. That’s their right. And I mean that.

All together, that does take time, but just some. Time does not march on during our sessions, in other words. It may just shift in place. Slightly.

So…

What else do we have to talk about?

Well, how about psychotherapeutic treatment focused specifically on combat trauma?

Another complicated subject.

In most of the systems in which I have worked, my particular job has not been to provide such particular treatments, although I have been expected to understand them and to be able to work jointly with those who do such treatments.

Trauma-specific psychotherapies focus on helping combat veterans confront, in some way, memories of the experiences that still distress them so that the vets can begin to feel such experiences to be less “live,” less tormenting in the here-and-now.  Practitioners of such treatments are expected to have specific training in such modalities and are expected to use their clinical judgment in doing so in a gentle, yet sustained manner.

Again, easily stated. Or at least easily enough.

Trauma-focused treatments are not things to dabble with. Combat vets who have done them know that far better than many of the rest of us could ever imagine.  One does not revisit intense emotional experiences for an hour or so and then head off to a round of Putt-Putt afterwards.

In other words, given my limited time after a medication discussion, I do not delve into that prototypical Pandora’s box. Unlike the myth, if I were to do that, it is quite likely that neither the combat vet or I would get to the Hope that the story claims is at the bottom of that box.

So I leave that for others.  Happily, for many combat vets, such treatments can be life-changing.

Interesting thing, though: many of the combat vets I get to serve have already “been there, done that” with such treatments or, having considered doing so, have concluded with a “thanks, but no thanks,” sometimes hesitantly, sometime anything but.

In other words, much of my day is spent with individuals who have either decided not to try that particular life-change or, more sadly, have found themselves less-than-satisfied customers of the changes those treatments did not—or even worse, did—produce.

Thus, I am faced with a choice.

I could, for example, urge them to give another, good-old college (re)try at trauma treatment. That can work, sometimes. Emphasis on the some.

Or I could assume the role of Wise Mentor in their Hero’s Journey toward healing and begin offering sage advice on life, love, and Hope after War.  Yes, I, the Mennonite who has never worn the uniform.

You’d be surprised at the number of combat vets who would be kind enough to listen to my “professional wisdom” if I were to offer it. I guess most of them were so used to enduring ridiculous platitudes, having nothing to do with real-life, coming out of their military superiors’mouths, my pathetic attempts at such platitudes would be for them just memories of another day at the office.

Or, I guess the combat vet and I could look at each other and honestly ask each other, “”So whose journey should this be, Doctor? Do you really want to know about War?”

Come to think of it: if my combat vet friend hadn’t taken quite a journey already, would s/he even be sitting there? So if one of us already taken a journey, isn’t it at least fair that the other should be willing to consider a journey of his own?

Maybe, for example, as a “hero” who willingly takes a chance and who has to make active decisions along the way, rather than just comment on the plays on the field like some quarterback who’s seen better days?

Well, come to think of it: I guess that would indeed be a different journey for a different hero.

My, my. We’re back where we started this essay.

My, my.

More to come.

Plus ça change . . .

plus c’est pareil.  Or so say the French.

In other words, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Meaning what, you might ask? Well, two things.

First, the change:  Yes, indeed, finally I have finished a draft of Beam Me Home, Scotty!: How Star Trek Can Help Us Make Sense of the Brain, PTSD & Combat Trauma. Click on that link, and you’ll get a PDF file.

What a change. I finally got it done.

In the future, I’ll likely record portions of the story and add them to blog entries. Who knows: maybe even I’ll do a whole performance and put that on as well.  We’ll have to see. But for now, and for any who are interested, there it is. Feel free to read. Feel free to download. I hope that you find it helpful.

Now, as for staying the same…

As any of you who have been following for a while know, over the past three or so years, I’ve not found myself as able to write longer essays about my encounters with the veterans I’ve had the honor to serve. Working during those years with active-duty soldiers, it became too difficult to maintain confidentiality, plus, as I’ve said elsewhere, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I was hoping to accomplish with the essays.

During that entire time, however, I continued Listening to War, what had been the tentative title I had chosen for a collection of those essays. As a I return to a less conspicuous work, I find myself wanting to return to an old way of writing.

Plus c’est pareil.

In these past weeks, as I’ve enjoyed the changes in my own personal life, I have also reflected on the work of Dr. Edward Tick, whom I had the pleasure of hearing and meeting several weeks ago. I have long recommended his seminal work, War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I enjoyed hearing him speak of his most recent work, Warrior’s Return: Restoring the Soul After War.

Dr. Tick has long championed the idea that Western society has forgotten how to care for the warriors we send out to fight in our names. Even worse, we have, for the most part, even declined to accept fully our indispensable role in our having sent them into war—and thus our indispensable role in helping them return.

And what, according to him, is an indispensable part of that role?

Listening. Really listening. Listening in order to learn, to be changed, not just in order to teach or to change. Listening until it hurts. Listening for as long as it takes to listen.

And then fully taking responsibility for what we have heard.

I am no stranger to psychotherapy. I “grew up” in it an older time, with older teachers. From the beginning, I was taught that listening was, is, and always will be the greater part of doing.

But even we old-timers have to be reminded of what we know.

And so, I return to Listening to War. Even more, though, I hope to push myself to listen (and to write) not to show how smart or skilled I might be, but rather to show how, perhaps finally, I know not only my obligation, but even more my honor to make someone come alive inside my soul, no matter how much that might hurt, so that a combat veteran who once had to hurt in the body and the soul can know that, yes, what happened was real and, even more, what might one day happen in its place can be filled not with horror, but with hope.

If an old man in northern Indiana, of all places, is willing to feel the truth, then hopefully much younger men and women (and yes, older men and women as well) might begin to believe that old truths can be made into new ones, old tales of tragedy can be retold as tales of meaningful life.

And that the crew of the USS Enterprise can boldly go where once combat veterans, young and old, had feared that they never could go before.

I am a most fortunate man, in my family, in my work.

More to come.

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.

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