Faraway Stars

By JadziaKathryn

Rating: G

Genres: drama

Keywords:

This story has been read by 774 people.
This story has been read 1177 times.


Summary: He was a man with a past but no future.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns the main characters, etc, etc. The line from Hamlet isn’t mine either.

 

 

 


 

On good days they would let him leave the confines of his room and the small courtyard, and he was free to roam anywhere within the fences and watchful eyes of the nurses. He could sit under a tree and dream about how things used to be.

On bad days, he only left his room to eat, and at that he nearly had to be dragged out. The rest of the day he sat, ramrod straight, in his chair and mumbled incomprehensible things.

Every Monday night, by special arrangement and some string-pulling from Starfleet, he was taken out for an hour under the starts. If it was raining, which fortunately it wasn’t often, he would be in a bad mood the rest of the week. He never wanted to go back inside after the hour was up. Dr. Amalsto, who personally supervised these excursions, said that anyone who saw him under the stars could almost believe he was lucid.

“From here the stars look nearly identical, yet no two stars are exactly alike. Each one has something distinct and different about it.” Then he would get that lost, little boy look in his eyes. “They don’t make them like they used to.” He said that every week, but never explained himself, no matter how Dr. Amalsto tried to coax him.

“It’s not fair,” he muttered towards the general direction of his bed. Nurse Smith-Renolds agreed as she walked by to the room next to his. Such an amazing mind, shattered. “It should have been maroon,” he went on.

He didn’t have very many visitors, it seemed. His sister was the only family member who came with any frequency, although his mother always came on his birthday. Yet there was another way his case proved unusual: over time, his visitors became more numerous.

Professor Sato was the first of his former shipmates to return to Earth. Every other Thursday, she would come and simply sit with him. His muttering ceased when she was nearby. Sometimes she would talk, and fill the silence with stories, but often she was a silent companion. It was not what the staff expected from an accomplished linguist, but this woman seemed to communicate through not only words but silence. She stayed two or more hours with every visit, and he spoke even less than she. Nobody expected that these visits would last the passage of time, but month after month, year after year, she returned.

“Trip” Tucker was the next to return to Earth, and he visited three times a every month. Once he brought his wife, Linda, but she was distinctly uncomfortable and never returned. Unlike Sato, he talked nearly the entire time he was there. “I like bein’ head of Starship Designs, but once in a while I’d just love ta feel the engine runnin.’” “It’s a boy! We named him after you.” “Dr. Phlox just wrote a book on those slugs a’ his.”

The cheerful doctor visited every few years, whenever he happened to be on Earth. He listened to the incomprehensible mutterings and put up a façade that they constituted an actual conversation. As a general rule, the staff did not look forward to his visits. He was too cheerful for the place, unwilling to accept reality as it was. His presence upset the somber order that defined everyday life.

The first time T’Pol of Vulcan scheduled a visit, she upset the order by a factor considerably greater than Dr. Phlox. After that, her annual visits ruffled the feathers of only new staff members, as they realized just who this man in their care was and what he had done. T’Pol accepted reality and her cool, calm presence was less intrusive than the bubbling personage of the doctor. Like Professor Sato, most of her visits were spent in silence. News she felt compelled to share was kept brief, and he would say things to her right before she left. Nobody ever heard what he told her, although most suspected it was of little consequence.

One intern, Rhonda Wasler, had proposed that the two of them had been lovers. “Why else would a Vulcan come to a place where everyone is insa-” she had asked, before a sharp rebuke left the rest of her question unspoken and the whole of it unanswered.

Later, the janitor had taken a moment to explain, “They were friends, all of them. We don’t know what they went through out there.”

“How did he get to be…?” she let the sentence trail off when Ed shook his head and resumed his mopping.

“None of our business,” he said.

Alone in his room, he occasionally played out in his mind the scene that led to his incapacitation. K’larat tantalized him, holding the remote beyond the reach of his bound arms. The remote in his hand controlled the barriers that held the entire crew captive. “You can’t do anything to save your precious ship,” he taunted. “You’ve failed, Malcolm Reed.”

In his mind he saw K’larat move to the side, following his movements. Energy crackled behind their tall captor, holding the crew captive. He looked into K’larat’s flaming eyes. “Really?” Then he dove, and the energy crackled loudly.

His memory had not been affected, according to his file. It categorized him as a man with a past but no future. Cognitive ability impaired beyond repair due to immense electrical energy shock to the upper brain. Unable to formulate cohesive thoughts. Suicide risk. Over time, the last sentence did not seem to apply. In all other respects he deteriorated, but the passage of time lulled him into acceptance, as far as anyone could presume.

Jonathan Archer had not survived the incident with K’larat, but the rest of the Enterprise crew had. On his wall the medals of valor he’d earned in Starfleet were displayed. Sometimes he’d stare at them for hours, and once or twice the nurse monitoring him heard him exclaim “Captain!”

It was twenty years before Travis Mayweather stopped roaming the stars and retired, but when he did it became his immediate habit to bring a breakfast to his old comrade every Saturday. More than anyone else, he struck a balance between talking and listening, even when there was nothing to hear. Few of the nurses or doctors remembered back twenty years to when Malcolm first arrived, and amazement at the strength of the bonds formed in space struck the staff when after two decades Mayweather, who retired at the rank of Captain, came as though it had merely been weeks.

When Tucker’s visits ceased, Malcolm was left in a sea of uncertainty. His mutterings made less sense than ever before. Nobody could explain to him, in terms he understood, that an explosion on the job had killed him just six weeks before he was to retire. “Trip? Remember the time we went to Risa? It’s all white now. The blue is gone.”

Time was taking its toll, just as it always did. In his sixties, Malcolm began to occasionally have auditory hallucinations. “Porthos got away,” he’d tell the nurses. “I can hear him barking. I don’t need a beagle in the armory!” His eyes would follow empty space, and then he’d let out a sigh, as though he expected to see a beagle any moment.

Still, on Monday nights he was content to look up at the stars. “They don’t make them like they used to.” Month after month, year after year, as different constellations came into view and passed out again, Malcolm Reed looked up at the stars and smiled. When his strides became slower and less sure, the stars renewed his energy. It was as though seeing the night sky was his sole purpose in life. Maybe, it had been remarked among less scrupulous nurses, it was.

When D. Phlox retired and stopped his already infrequent visits, Malcolm could be heard to once in a while remark, “Not the slugs! Maddie, don’t ever get sick when he has the slugs around.” By first year his mother was too sick to visit, he seemed to accept that time was removing some of his visitors. Nobody understood how his mind worked. “Don’t cry, please. It’s just a flesh wound. Mum, I’ll be fine.” Out of all the patients, he garnered the most pity. Perhaps it was because of the unknown nature of his mental state. Perhaps it was because of all he had done before. It was not talked about, but generally understood that Malcolm Reed was the saddest case most of the doctors had ever seen.

Eventually, it became clear that the end was near. His sister had died a few weeks prior, and it was theorized by some of the nurses that on some level, Malcolm understood that age was catching up to his generation. The spark that used to come into his eyes was gone, even when he looked at the stars. That, more than the physical signs, indicated his acceptance of death.

Professor Sato left her retirement party early to be with him when he died. She spent six hours by his side. They were outside, and at her request the doctors left Malcolm alone. “We all know he’s dying, and you’ve already said there’s nothing you can do.” For once, he talked more than she did.

“Really, we should have upgraded the torpedoes three months ago.”

The last hour, Mayweather rushed in, still wearing an angler’s vest and in hip boots. With a loyal friend on either side, Malcolm lay on his back and looked up at the stars for the final night. Not so much as a cloud marred his view. The moon was in its crescent stage, allowing the stars to steal the show in the sky.

“I’m not sorry, you know.” Mayweather and Sato looked at him and then each other, curious as to what he meant. “I like the stars.” He turned his head to look at Cassiopeia, brightly ruling the sky to the west. “They don’t make them like they used to.”

The grass was soft beneath them. Doctors lurked out of sight, monitoring their patient to the end. Hoshi tried to find where Vulcan was, thinking that T’Pol would soon be en route to Earth for the second time in as many weeks. She had paid her final visit to Malcolm, but requested permission to attend the funeral. Hoshi and Travis had planned it, a small, private affair.

“I don’t want to die on a rickety Klingon ship,” he stated suddenly. Hoshi remembered back to that incident so many years ago. What was the name of the vessel? She couldn’t remember at the moment, but she recalled the feelings like they happened just last week. The stench, the fear- it all came back.

“It’s not enough!” They were careening towards the star at a terrifying rate. She had never seen the normally collected Malcolm Reed look so frazzled. He was trying to appear calm, but his body language screamed fear.

“Malcolm,” she said. She took his hand, trying to reassure him. But really, what could she do? There was no way to convince him that this was a peaceful death he was dying. Travis looked helplessly at his old friend, the man to whom so many owed their lives, and thought for a fleeting moment about how fundamentally unfair life had turned out to be for him. “Malcolm, we’re here.” Her voice sounded soothing to Travis, whether or not it did Malcolm any good.

The heart of the star was getting ever closer. The viewscreen got to bright to see, but Hoshi uttered a command in Klingon that filtered the intense light. It seemed nearly hot enough to boil water. Firing the torpedoes hadn’t helped enough. Now they had nothing to do but wait eternal seconds.

Suddenly the comm crackled, and Captain Archer’s voice could be heard. “We have a transporter lock on two bio-signs.”

“Only two?”

His voice was heavy with regret. “One Vulcan and one human. We don’t know who…”

“Energize, Captain,” he said. There was no time for regret.

T’Pol went first, giving him a moment alone with Hoshi. Even she had no words, only a look full of regret. Then she, too, disappeared to safety.

What was it Hamlet had said when he was dying? He hadn’t read the play in years, but suddenly it was important to recall this bit of his heritage as he died in an alien ship.

He’d been squirming, muttering things they couldn’t see, and it was obvious that the night sky was no longer what he saw. Suddenly he shut his eyes.

Just in time, he remembered. It was so simple!

“The rest is silence.”


Comments:

mctrip7

Beautifully written.  So touching: but who is 'Linda"?

willow

:(that was so sad

Linda
I like this more than the other things you have written. Love the way it is written!
blacknblue
I recall seeing this one before. Touching and poignant.
Buurman
So sad. Well written, but sad. :S
justTrip'n
:( Nicely done.

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