LADY MACBETH exits.
Will she go now to bed?
— Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V scene 1
Here’s it all went down.
By midnight, I’d drafted a delicately worded blog that basically said, without actually saying, “I know what you did in 1990.”
And how did I know what I now knew?
Through the pointy-eared alien informant sitting in my living room. How else?
I pieced together a little of Mr. Spock’s story, from his own terse factoids, and – much more entertainingly – from the doctor, who obviously got off on needling his colleague.
I wasn’t entirely clear on the nature of Mr. Spock’s powers, which in itself kept me slightly unnerved, but it seemed he was half human, and half, uh, Vulcan. From the planet Vulcan.
Uh huh. Mr. Martian Chronicles himself told me this, not even looking up at me while his long fingers whizzed over the keys on my laptop. Like it was no big secret that there are these other boys in the ‘hood, all pointy-eared and slightly superior, just waiting for us Earthlings to answer the doorbell and come out to play.
Anyway, it seemed that Vulcans had some perceptual advantages over regular humans. In this case, it meant that while their shipboard computers were going haywire, flashing those constantly changing reports of all possible futures, the flashes were so fleeting that only Mr. Spock was capable of visually perceiving them. Not to mention that he registered even the most ephemeral data bits and used them to make running calculations of future probabilities.
Even Dr. McCoy seemed to take it as fact, that seemingly superhuman act, and they all seemed to accept that his projections were something they could build their whole plan around.
Oh, and, despite his lean frame, he apparently was stronger than your average puny human, too.
Do I really have to confess this? What girl hasn’t speculated about how Superman would pan out in the bedroom?
I whisked away that random and totally unsolicited thought as fast as I could. For one thing, he still kind of weirded me out. For another, I didn’t know whether mindreading might be one of his things. There you are. People trying to save the world and my mind’s off in the gutter.
Despite the distractions, I managed to draft my blog and even polished it a little, before finally emailing a copy to Worsham, with an invitation to discuss it in the morning, my place, 11 a.m. Otherwise, it would be posted online at noon. I hit the “send” button as if I was literally sealing my own fate, crossing my own personal Rubicon.
There aren’t many occasions when a writer can accurately use the word “literally”. Either this was one of those times, or I was the world’s biggest fool.
Then again, there was a literal space alien in my living room, which I chose to take as pretty strong evidence that I wasn’t completely crazy after all.
I also prepared a long distribution list, ready to send the piece to key people by other means, just in case Worsham’s unseen cyber-goons took down the NOW website. It had been known to happen.
My new team had commandeered Bob’s computer and my brand new iPad. Combining those with their own equipment – after having lived with one tech whiz already, I’d stopped asking the how’s – they developed their own list of contacts world wide, a lot of names I’d never heard of, and some I had, deciding what and how much information they should divulge.
Earlier, I’d given Dr. McCoy a crash course online in 21st century crime drama sleaze. Sex crimes, serial killers, child molesters. He and Captain Jim went to work planning my death, along with implicating Worsham in as many other felonies as they had time to concoct.
The events of the next morning were agreed on. Mr. Spock re-worked his probabilities and told us that the rate of flux within the anomaly appeared to be slowing down, which should allow a window of time for safe transport back to their ship by noon, Earth time, at the latest. I still felt a little something flipping over in my stomach every time the idea of “returning to the ship” came up.
By now, I was just hanging on for dear life.
All I knew – without a trace of doubt – was that my life as I’d known it had simply played out. In these astounding waves of intermittent insight, I kept perceiving that everything I’d ever done had been leading me here. Even the completely unbelievable nature of the situation; it felt like some previously unknown part of me simply would not have accepted anything less, like part of me had been demanding all along that spacemen from the future show up – with their pointy-eared sidekick in tow. Like something in my DNA had been programmed all along for this.
That’s what it felt like, this understanding that the Way for me lay so unquestionably with these suddenly descended strangers, in some vague but alluring future. Maybe the particularly strange Mr. Spock was right. Maybe I’d already been there.
Pondering this, and again half-afraid the Vulcan was picking up my meandering thoughts like some NSC wiretap, I flopped down on the sofa, having just finished my final post. My final post ever. I hadn’t realized how beat I was, but suddenly I felt the heavy weight of fatigue and tension, and my head involuntarily nodded forward, my eyes resisting the effort to stay open. I jerked, snapped to attention, and made an effort to sit up, hoping no one had noticed, but Jim had seen, and came to sit down beside me.
“Are you sure about all this, Hanalie? About… everything?”
I could only nod at this point. I was. Sure. Just so tired I couldn’t think clearly about how I got to this point.
He reached out and covered my hand with his. His hand was strong and steady, and I felt the heat as he gave mine a definitive, confident squeeze before letting go. “I just want you to know, you won’t be alone,” he assured me. “Whatever happens, we’ll be there to protect you.”
I just nodded blearily. But then, something occurred to me, one more loose end. I looked over at Jim, who barely showed any signs of fatigue, while I was feeling limper than the leftover Udon noodles from supper.
“We’re really doing this?” I asked, a seemingly inane question, considering all our feverish work for the past few hours. I guess I needed to hear it one more time. “We’re really leaving Earth in the morning? For good?”
“You’re having second thoughts?” he asked, looking concerned, whether for my own welfare or because, at this point, changing my mind would’ve screwed up everything, I don’t know.
“No,” I shook my head. “No. It’s just…It’s just that I need to…dispose… of some stuff. You guys are pretty good hackers. Can you do something for me?”
They could, and did. It was done. I calculated the time on the west coast and looked up a phone number I’d seldom had occasion to use, old pals of Bob’s. I had to dig deep for enough adrenalin to pull off a few minutes of breezy normality.
“Hi, Melinda. It’s Hani Surat. Yeah, long time. Yeah, thanks, no, I’m doing okay. Working away, you know, keeping busy. How are the kids? Really? God, that’s precious. Listen, Melinda, I just wanted to give you a heads up. I think you’re going to get a pretty big anonymous donation to the Foundation. No, sorry, I can’t say where it’s coming from. You know, I just hear things, but I think it’s solid. You just might want to check in the morning for wire transfers. Yeah, no, I don’t get out that way very much, but maybe this summer. I know, I love Seattle in the summer, too. Sure. I will. Listen, I need to go. Good to talk to you. Give my best to Bill, okay? Bye.”
As that one last very large bridge went up in flames behind me, I sagged back onto the sofa, barely able to hold my head up, yet still wound very tight.
“She needs to get some rest, Jim,” The doctor spoke up firmly. “No”, he went on, cutting short my protest about not wanting to miss anything. “It’s going to be a hard enough day tomorrow. Come on, I’m going to give you something to help you sleep for a few hours. And I don’t want any arguments.”
Jim nodded in agreement, and Dr. McCoy followed me back to my bedroom with his medical kit. He said he wanted to do a preliminary body scan so he could have my chemistry to work with. I guess my expression gave me away again.
Nothing invasive, he reassured me. Tomorrow we would have to do some swabs, and blood work, the primitive 21st century way, but for now, just what he called a “routine scan”.
So, on my last night on Earth, I brushed my teeth, washed my face, put on the same old oversized, shapeless t-shirt I wore almost every night, another faint bequest from my dead husband. Emerging from the bathroom, fatigue winning out over the oddity of a strange man in my bedroom, I made a beeline for the bed and crawled under the covers. And yet, Dr. McCoy’s (very respectful) presence in my bedroom actually felt almost as natural as Bob’s always had. What was it about these people that felt so damned… familiar?
He took out a device no bigger than the palm of his hand, and ran it up and down, never touching my body under the covers.
“Good god. What…”, he blurted, then cut himself off, sharply, with a quick apology. “Sorry, Hanalie, didn’t mean to startle you. It’s just…well, plenty of time later to talk about your health, and what used to pass for enlightened surgical treatment; never mind that now. And I’d forgotten about the state of environmental pollution in this era. The level of pollutants in your body is astounding. Don’t worry; that, at least, we can fix. When we get to Starbase we’ll put you through a full detox.” He smiled, “A little present to welcome you to your new century.” He busied himself with another device. “I’m going to give you something to make you sleep for a while. No hangovers, I guarantee. And a little hemo-boost, since I’m going to have to take some blood from you in the morning. I can replicate part of it, but I have to have a real sample to work with.”
And he lifted up the raveling sleeve of Bob’s ratty t-shirt, pressed something against my bicep, patted my arm and I was asleep.