Daisy holds her hand to her earpiece as she listens to the other voice. “Excuse me Captain,” she speaks up. “But I’m getting an urgent message from Deep Space Probe One Eighty-seven; their navigator is on the horn.”
Carolyn looks up from her seat as she whirls around in her Captain’s chair. “Navigator?” she snaps. “Why isn’t the Captain calling? Put it on audio, Lieutenant.”
“Yes ma’am,” Daisy crisply replies after touching some places on her work station.
The filtered sound of Chely’s voice fills the bridge as she repeats, “DSP-One Eighty-seven to J-class Nineteen Sixty-seven; urgent, please respond. Over.”
“Chely, we’re here,” Carolyn responds affably enough. “We’re reading you. Where’s Walt?”
“Hi guys,” Chely’s disembodied words, clipped short in her emotion, return. “Walt’s with me but he’s in bad shape; we’re headed to the island. Need you and Mom to meet us there.”
“Understood,” Carolyn tersely barks back after she exchanges glances with Brandy, who by now is standing next to her. “Helmsman, change course to three-zero-nine mark twelve; best speed to the Sol system.”
Hector repeats, “Three-zero-nine mark twelve; hyper light engines in about a minute and a half.”
“Very well,” Carolyn levelly pronounces. “Chely, how bad is Walt?”
“Bad,” Chely blurts out, barely choking back a sob. “I’ll explain more when we meet you there; DSP out.”
“Sharon,” Carolyn next announces out after hitting a button on her panel. “Your darling baby girl has just informed me that Walt’s in bad shape and we’re rendezvousing with them at the island.”
“Understood,” the electronic reproduction of their chief medical officer’s voice confirms. “Have you informed Carmen as well?”
“Shoot,” Carolyn exclaims in self-reproach. “I knew there was something I was forgetting. Thanks for the reminder.”
“I’ll handle it, Captain,” Daisy interjects from her communications seat.
“Thank you Lieutenant,” Carolyn replies after exchanging glances with Brandy. "Also inform all post delivery bases of our delay; I'll copy Admiral Niko later. You needn't bother her."
“What do you suppose happened?” Brandy mildly inquires of the Captain even while Daisy is advising Walt’s supervisor Carmen of recent events.
Carolyn frowns in dark digestion. “Whatever it was, it doesn’t sound good.”
Once back on Earth at the medical center on the island, Chely is able to explain more even as Sharon does a full body scan on Walt with the rejuvenator. "See, Walt had seen all these old 'What's My Line?' reruns and he got this idea in his head that I couldn't talk him out of, so yeah, we go back to the Nineteen Fifties on Earth in Manhattan and at first everything's fine; we're getting along with people and meeting new friends and all this kind of stuff. But then we got separated, and all of a sudden Walt's locked up and—you can fix him, right Mommy?"
Sharon and Carolyn exchange eye signals even as Carmen sighs and glances down in the wake of the silence that opens up when nobody says anything right away. "Look at this," Sharon finally lectures her daughter in full reproach mode while pointing out something on her bio scanners instead of directly answering her question. "They did a lobotomy on him. Do you know what that is?"
This sets Chely off as nothing else could. "I know!" she exclaims to her mother in full horror even as she degenerates into the ugly toddler she was while sobbing in full force. "I know what it is! And it's all my fault, O.K. Mom? Are you happy now? Are you all done now? Are we through parenting enough so you can get back to being a doctor?"
For an answer, Sharon touches a few places on her panel and Walt slowly enters the MRI-like cube. Once all the way in, Sharon presses a few more buttons on the graphic screen and the machine hums for a while, some lights flash and gizmos in general do their thing. After he slowly slides out, all the women present grab hold of him to transfer him to a monitor bed.
Chely sits down in the seat next to Walt, to be there when he awakes. As she is still quietly crying, the others hang back to confer. "I think that's enough lectures for one day, Sharon," Carolyn quietly advises her chief medical officer in a voice so low that Chely can't hear.
"Well if she hadn't said something I would have," Carmen next speaks up. "This isn't funny; it stopped being funny a long time ago."
"O.K., both of you–just cool it," Sharon advises the other two. "She's my daughter and if I want to say something to her I will. Looks like he also got raped a few times, if truth be told."
Carolyn sighs while face palming. "I'm sorry," she admits after a minute. "I'm just upset about Walt."
Sharon places a reassuring hand on her Captain's shoulder. "He'll be fine," she enunciates with the practiced calm that only true care givers can deliver.
"I know, but you have to wonder, how many times do we use this stupid machine before something finally goes wrong?" Carolyn gives voice to everyone's unspoken fear.
"The aliens have their act together," Carmen supplies when no other replies are forthcoming.
"If we don't use the technology that we have available, mankind will never advance," Sharon earnestly offers in her turn. "This is progress."
"Is it?" Carolyn tersely rejoins and then walks away from all of them in a huff before anyone can manage an answer.
A few hours later Walt wakes up. "Hey there Sleeping Beauty," Chely greets her boyfriend.
"Hi Chel," Walt eventually responds once he sits up in bed. "Guess we're in trouble again, huh?"
"Oh, you got it, brother," Chely sardonically confirms. "Prepare for the scolding of your life."
"You're lucky Walt," Sharon comments after she reads some data off of her scanners. "Your mom's back on her ship, so all you get are echoes of an imaginary lecture, made all the more terrible by the horrors of your own limitless internal universe."
"Whatever," Walt rudely dismisses this attempt at poetry. "So am I free to leave or what?"
"I don't see anybody holding you back," Sharon eventually replies.
"So what happened?" Chely inquires of Walt as soon as they are alone.
"I don't want to talk about it," Walt informs his girlfriend in a hollow voice as he gets dressed.
Chely heaves a deep sigh. "Here we go again, right?"
"Let's just get back to the ship," Walt duly informs his only crew member.
"Yes sir," Chely replies in suitably contrite fashion.
Once back on Deep Space Probe 187, Walt begins opening up to Chely. "I remember parts of it," he volunteers to her after her silent treatment toward him grows stale. "But you have to understand, drugs were involved a good deal of the time, so--"
"O.K.," Chely cuts him off while raising both her hands, palms facing his way. "I don't want to hear any more."
"Anyway," Walt crisply segues. "Carmen should be coming through with orders any time now; let's just resume in the sector we were last in."
"Yes sir," Chely replies in kind as she touches a few places on her navigation panel.
Because Walt doesn't want to talk and/or is grappling with some internal demons of his own, Chely spends most of her time reading and rereading her Worldly Philosophers book along with an anthology of yuri manga while Walt busies himself in the computer, going over star charts, where they've been and where they're going next.
This continues for a few days until Carmen does check up on them. "How you crazy kids doing?" she energetically inquires of both of them over the radio.
"Great," Chely unenthusiastically eventually replies when Walt is slow to answer.
"We're fine here Carmen," Walt does speak up after he finds his voice. "What is it."
"Well just checking in," Carmen's voice crackles in response as she picks up on Walter's mood from the tone in his reply and the lack of inflection on his question. "Just seeing how things are going. But if this is a bad time, I can always call you later."
"No it's not a bad time," Walt repeats after blinking a few times. "Navigator, would you give Carmen a report please?"
"Certainly Captain," Chely affably picks it up from her work station. "We're seven clicks out of Rigel and proceeding to the next star system."
The airwaves go silent after all collectively realize how pointless this conversation is, as what Chely just told Carmen she would know already from the scopes on her end. "O.K. people," Carmen eventually comes back with in as dead a voice as she can muster. "Keep up the good work; Carmen out."
"Walt, how much longer are you going to keep this up?" Chely lashes out at Walt once the carrier wave to Carmen is audibly broken.
"I don't want to hear it," Walt immediately yells back at Chely. "And I also don't care to have a fight with you. Just go back to your little book and leave me ALONE!"
"No!" Chely also immediately rejoins. "Because–”
But she is interrupted by the intercom whistle and then, "J-class Nineteen Sixty-seven to DSP One Eighty-seven; come in please."
Walt sits back down. "Hi Mom," he calls out in a more normal voice. "How are you?"
"Hi sweetie," Carolyn's nasal intonations drag out over the airwaves. "I'm fine. How's every little thing?"
"Everything's fine here; same as always," Walt bravely lies through his teeth to his own mother. "So Carmen called you, I guess?"
"No, not at all," Carolyn brazenly returns her son's lies with one of her own. "Not in the least; just thought I'd check in ya and all." When this produces no response, she continues with, "So how's Chely?"
"I'm here Aunt Carolyn," Chely speak up from her seat without looking at Walt. "And yeah–everything's fine here. We're all fine. Everybody's fine."
"Well you don't sound fine," Carolyn continues. "Sounds like you guys are having a fight again." More silence. "But if it's none of my business, then it's none of my business, so talk to you later; J-class Nineteen Sixty-seven out."
Chely sits without saying anything for a while but doesn't pick up her book. Slowly, eventually, she draws up. "Walt, did someone hurt you?"
"I don't know," he quietly admits. "It's hard to tell. Without any pain."
"The reason I ask is because you talk in your sleep."
"And what do I say?"
"'Get off me! Get off me!'"
"Oh. I see," Walt quietly responds. "Unfortunately, that fits. Some memories I've been having."
"You know you can have those erased," Chely earnestly offers him.
Walt sighs. "I know. But," he continues. "I was just thinking; all this effort people have put into distancing themselves from pain. Maybe some kinds of pain are important."
"To remind you?" Chely suggests.
Walt nods. "To remind you of lessons learned, you know. The hard way."
"Listen Walt–I just wanted to say, I didn't run out on you. It's just you seemed to be having so much fun with that girl and you two were really hitting it off and I didn't want to intrude. And then I met this guy, and we started having so much fun ourselves, and then I saw you leave with her and–”
"I didn't leave with her," Walt hastily but honestly interrupts his girlfriend. "You left with your guy; I saw you together with him."
"Oh Walt," Chely replies in resignation to the truth, that the entire situation back in time was a giant misunderstanding that only new people, alcohol and hormones can elicit. "I'm so sorry; this whole thing was my fault.. Entirely. How can I make it up to you? What can I do?"
Walt thinks for a moment before he offers, "Well, maybe we can think of something together that might be mutually satisfying, but in the meantime, let's get back to work."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Chely crisply concurs.