The Return of Charlie Evans-Chapter 8

Riker wordlessly knelt beside Charles Evans and gently closed his glazed, lifeless eyes. There was nothing much left to do. Sito was still chanting. He knew, of course, that the Bajoran death chant was over two hours long. He was curious as to why she was chanting over someone who wasn't Bajoran. He must mean something to her, he thought. In death, Evans looked completely human. Tears involuntarily welled in his eyes. Tears of regret? Empathy for the intriguing twenty-third century yeoman? He sighed deeply and, like everyone else in the room, tried to keep his emotions in check. Perhaps it was a little of both.

He slowly stood and wiped the dust from the hard wood floor off his acquired jeans with his hands. The male Q, finally convinced of the young man's mortality, vanished to parts unknown, casually and callously thanking poor grief-stricken Amanda for her 'services'. He saw the honest hatred in her face when she told the other Q where to go. He merely smiled as he vanished.

Amanda lingered, looking like a lost child, bewildered and frightened—not at all like the virtually immortal and omnipresent being she was supposed to be.

"It's not your fault, Amanda." Will addressed her compassionately.

Amanda Rodgers did not answer immediately. It was her fault. She had done the male Q's dirty work….She had murdered another human being. She halted this thought, forgetting again that she was not human. Having lived as one for seventeen years, it was a hard habit to break. She looked into Riker's eyes and saw the grief in them; grief she unintentionally caused.

"I'm very sorry, Commander Riker." She whispered her voice barely audible. "I didn't mean to kill him. Please believe that."

"We all do." Will answered without a moment's hesitation. He saw that the young woman needed some comforting. She started to cry as he crossed to her and put his arms around her.

"I'm so very sorry…." Amanda repeated, making no effort to keep her tears from streaming down her cheeks.

Riker held her tightly and kissed the top of her head tenderly.

"It was an accident. Besides, the blame rests solely on the male Q. If he hadn't had wanted Charlie dead, the kid would still be alive." He paused and glanced back at the corpse, then looked back at her with compassion. "What are we going to do with the body?"

He heard Sito gasp in astonishment and she quickly got off her knees. Looking back, he watched as Charlie miraculously stirred and sat up. They all stared at him for a long moment in disbelief. As if in a dream, Riker looked back at Amanda.

"Your doing?"

"No! I…."

Evans smiled wanly.

"Of course not, Mr. Riker. Amanda is not as practiced in the art of life and death. It was the Thasians. They helped me fake my death long enough to fool the male Q." He paused and scanned the drab little room. "Where's Janice?"

"I sent her back to the original Enterprise." Amanda answered. "Why did you pretend to die?"

"I had to get that blowhard off my back somehow. I also did it so he wouldn't try and kill any of you. Making myself look dead was the only way. He bought it, I take it."

"We all did!" Vickers said. "Hook, line, and sinker!"

"I see you are well versed in twentieth century slang, Mr. Vickers." Evans gave him a crooked little smile and stood effortlessly. The smile soon evaporated and was replaced by a puzzled frown. He felt different.

"What is it, Charlie?" Sito asked. She and Charlie had become good friends after she was rescued from a fate worse than death by the Thasians. She had promised him a genuine Bajoran funeral if the Q made good on his threat.

"I'm not sure. I…feel strange. Am I…human?"

The reply to this question did not come from any of the people present. It came from a wavering shadowy phantom; a Thasian.

"Yes, Charles. You are now fully human. Because you chose to sacrifice yourself for the good of others, we decided it would be best to return you to your own people. Humans may not be perfect, but you have great potential. Your race has grown from barbarism into maturity. You all still have much to learn, but we are not the ones to teach you. You will eventually develop into what we are in the eons to follow. Goodbye…Charles."

"Wait! Please!" Charlie begged. "Janice must know I'm alive!"

"She will know. Amanda…."

"Yes?"

"That task now befalls you, but, first, you must return the others back to where they belong."

"At once, sir!" Amanda said happily.

When Rand awoke from Spock's neck pinch, she felt as if every person she had ever loved had left her. She was numb—emotionally detached. She heard the voices around her asking her where she had been, but she could not bring herself to answer. Counselor Noel had asked to speak with the captain in private. Janice was quietly ordered to her quarters, after McCoy took the restraining straps off the diagnostic bed she had been lying on. They still wondered why she was brandishing a knife, but she seemed harmless now. Christine escorted her there, concern on her face. She never saw Janice in this kind of state before and it worried her. The yeoman looked worn and drained; listless and extremely sad. They had not received any information from her; just two words over and over again: "He died!" They could not find out who she was talking about. Not yet, anyway. Spock reluctantly offered a meld, but Noel voiced professional concerns against it. In her present state, it might do more harm than good. Also, it was against the Vulcan way to intrude upon a mind without consent. He would have to wait like everyone else for an explanation.

Kirk was a little peeved that he had been tricked with a fake yeoman. The other Janice had purportedly vanished from the bridge in a flash of light. The way the real Janice looked as she was led out of sickbay tugged at his heart strings. He had fought the urge to go with Chapel and confront Rand. Whatever had happened to her had not been pleasant. She was obviously grief-stricken.

'He died!'

The words echoed in his mind. Who died? Where had she gone? Why the double? Why the sneaking around? He was going to find out. He studied Noel's face. She knew something.

"Well?" He prompted. "You wanted to speak with me, Doctor?"

"Yes, sir. May I have permission to speak frankly, sir?"

"By all means." Kirk said, folding his arms, his eyes narrowing, not with anger, but with suspicion.

"A couple of days ago, an alien woman appeared to me from out of nowhere when I was conducting a counseling session with Janice. She called herself a Q. She said that Q's are an extension of the Thasian race—"

Kirk's eyes widened in surprise. So that was it!

"The Thasians? Does this, by any chance, have something to do with Charlie Evans?"

"You are way ahead of me, Captain. The head Q person wanted to kill Charlie and the woman, Amanda, enlisted Janice's help in attempting to keep him from harm. Obviously, they were not successful."

"Obviously. Why didn't she tell me? I would have given her personal leave. She didn't have to go AWOL—"

"Sir, she had the double appear so she wouldn't be counted as AWOL. Now, here's where I must speak freely. Janice and I have something in common."

"Oh? What?"

"You. We have both been the flavor of the month. Captain, this is me, speaking as a professional psychologist, now. Have you ever had a serious relationship with a woman?"

"I don't see where that's any of your—"

"I believe it is my business, sir. I have heard you have a woman in every port. I am beginning to believe that. Now, don't get me wrong, Captain. I know that, as a star ship captain, you don't have the luxury of long-term relationships. I know that most star ship captains are not supposed to get personally involved with members of their crews, but you invariably do anyway. In short, dear sir, you are an equal opportunity heart breaker. Janice felt as I do now—that you have grown so distant that you are virtually unreachable. Sir, physical attraction goes both ways. All women—all human beings—have needs. We need to feel like we are loved and appreciated."

Kirk said nothing, but his mind was racing. She was absolutely right. The strange part about it was that he had told Charlie essentially the same thing, and, here he was, forgetting that women were people with feelings, too.

After Chapel left her quarters, Janice threw herself on her bed and buried her head in the pillows. She sobbed for several minutes before she realized that someone was standing at the foot of her bed. Strange, she thought. She had not heard anyone enter her quarters. Collecting herself the best she could, she looked around the dimly lit room. Two figures were standing there. One waved a hand and her lights came on. She stared at them in disbelief. A hallucination?

Amanda and Charlie smiled at her.

"No, Janice, you aren't seeing things." Amanda answered her unvoiced question. "Charlie wasn't really dead."

"But…but he had no heartbeat!" She stammered, still gaping at them with wonder.

"Yes, I did, Janice, but I made it so you couldn't hear it." Evans explained gently.

Janice sat on the edge of her bed. Her legs did not seem to want to support her.

"Are you all right?" Charlie asked compassionately.

"I don't know." Janice admitted in a daze.

"I have come to tell you that Charlie is now fully human." Amanda said gently. "The Thasians let him go."

"But they told us that they couldn't let him go or take away his powers!"

"They lied." Charlie said. "They just wanted to study me some more, to find out more about humans. When I became eighteen, I was given the choice of staying with them or joining the Q continuum. I foolishly chose the latter, and it almost got me killed. Thanks to you and the others from the future, the Q thinks I'm dead. He won't bother me anymore."

"I'll see to that." Amanda said solemnly. "Janice, it's up to you, now. Charlie wants to go home—to Colony Alpha Five, where he can live the remainder of his human life span in peace."

"I will make sure he gets there. Thanks, Amanda."

Janice waited until the captain's inevitable visit, and she was ready for him. Charlie had made one last request of Amanda: that she give every woman on both Enterprises a single, long-stemmed pink rose to remember him by.

THE END