NOBODY’S CHILD: The Saga of Doctor Leonard McCoy-Chapter Two

NOBODY’S CHILD
by Pat McCoy

CHAPTER TWO – Fasten Your Seat Belts!

It wasn’t always smooth sailing as the years passed. Oh, there were the usual bumps, bruises, scraped knees and elbows of a regular childhood that Gramps could heal with a kiss. But before McCoy could blink, the child became a sullen teenager. He remembered his own adolescence but nothing prepared him for the firestorm that hit. To make matters worse, during one of her medical follow-ups at the hospital, the old doctor was informed of something he had long suspected. As a direct result of the repeated abuse she had suffered in early childhood, Patricia would never be able to have children of her own. Her internal injuries were too extensive to be repaired completely. At first the staff doctor attempted to avoid her direct questions until Patricia finally cornered her, demanding an honest answer. There was no way to soften the blow. Realizing that she had been robbed of what other girls have, to never be like other girls her age, she retreated back into her silent shell when she was around adults, angry at everyone.

Doctor McCoy tried everything he knew to try to encourage her to talk about what she was feeling, only to watch her withdraw further. Spock and Uhura also tried, only to watch helplessly as she retreated into her room and lock her door. During the past few years, McCoy had gradually attempted to socialize his Great-Granddaughter with other girls her age in a nearby public school with limited success. Now those children were gone, replaced by different teenagers whose behaviors made him uncomfortable. The old doctor also smelled the tell-tale signs of alcohol and marijuana use. Attempts to discuss his concerns were met with more sullenness and angry silence.

Things finally came to a head when Doctor McCoy found alcohol, along with marijuana and other drugs, hidden in her room and he had no choice but to confront her. Patricia stormed out of the house and did not come home. Doctor McCoy was frantic as he searched for her. The local police told him he had to wait 24 hours before filing a missing juvenile report when he had to acknowledge that his Great-Granddaughter had left the premises under her own volition, after an argument, and that she was having emotional issues. They told him that teenagers often did that and, eventually, she would cool off and come home on her own. McCoy found small comfort in their “advice” and enlisted the assistance of Spock and Uhura in searching for the teenager, who was clearly troubled. Uhura was able to trace Patricia’s steps to an abandoned building, where she was joined by Spock and McCoy. Entering the dilapidated structure, they find Patricia, along with several other teenagers, under the influence of intoxicants. She recognizes none of the elders and reacts, in a rage, by throwing an empty whiskey bottle at them, screaming curses. When they do not retreat, she picks up another bottle, smashes the bottom off and brandishes it as a weapon, slashing in their direction. The trio still do not leave and only approach closer, attempting to reason with her. Spock sees a flicker of recognition in her eyes when she focuses on him, Uhura, and then her Great-Grandfather. He sees devastation in her face when she realizes who she has just threatened. She starts to turn the broken bottle on herself, ready to stab, when Spock quickly intervenes with a nerve pinch, tossing the broken bottle aside. He lifts the unconscious teenager in his arms and turns to look at the old doctor as he examines the other young people, who are lying on the ground nearby, unconscious.

The remaining teenagers are too heavily intoxicated to react to anything. McCoy quickly scans them with his medical tricorder and realizes that several are on the point of death. He summons emergency medical responders to the scene and all the teenagers are transported to a nearby trauma center. At least one of the other teenagers is dead on arrival and two others die a short time later. One is determined to have permanent brain damage and is in a persistent vegetative state. Patricia and one other teenager are the only two who are determined to have a viable chance of surviving without permanent brain damage from the overdoses they ingested though both remain unconscious.

Once Doctor McCoy was reassured that his Great-Granddaughter would survive her overdose he walks into an empty room and breaks down. Uhura comes in and hugs him. “She’ll be all right, Len. We found her just in time.” Spock enters the room, looking somber. McCoy looks up at his two old friends. “She’s safe THIS time! What about the next time? Or the next? We don’t know for certain how long she has been doing this to herself! I’ve caught her drinking and drugging at home and tried to intervene. That’s why she ran away. I have NO idea how often and how much she has been doing this outside of the house with this group she had been hanging out with! Then there is the suicide attempt that Spock was able to stop. How can we help her? This may be the first suicidal gesture we know about! There’s a very good chance she has made other attempts we DON’T KNOW about! She’s been seeing therapists for years and their only approach has been to toss more pills in her direction and to suggest that since her ordeal is in the past, she should just get over it and forget about it! I wish they could see her when she wakes up in the night, screaming in terror, because she’s reliving everything in her nightmares! I’m terrified that I’m going to lose her!”

Uhura sits down beside him. “Len, you are doing everything you can humanly, possibly do.” Doctor McCoy gestures helplessly. “But it’s not enough! I fear that the next time, I will be too late to save my Great-Grandbaby!” Spock also sits down with his friends. “Have you had the opportunity to speak with Patricia-kam since she was brought into the hospital?” Doctor McCoy shakes his head. “They tell me she’s going to be out of it for several more hours. I won’t be able to see her until tomorrow.” Spock nods. “Under the circumstances, Leonard, I would suggest that you go on home and try to get some sleep. There is nothing more that any of us can do for the time being.” McCoy looks haggard. “What then? What do I do next?” Spock gives him a gentle look. “As I have previously mentioned, we shall cross that bridge when we come to it, my friend.”

Patricia wakes up with a raging headache and feels nauseous. She remembers some of what occurred the night before, including her threatening her loved ones with a broken bottle. She turns to face the wall and starts to cry, knowing that she will now be discarded for sure. She wishes that garbage can was nearby to crawl back into. She hears motion as one or more people enter the room but she doesn’t dare turn her head to look at anyone. She curls herself into a fetal position, wishing that she could just simply go to sleep and never wake up. “That would solve everyone else’s problem”, she thinks to herself, “I’m nothing but worthless garbage anyway.” She senses that these people are still in the room with her but no one says a word. “Why are they bothering with a piece of garbage like me?”, she wonders silently, “Why couldn’t I have been left, with the rest of the garbage, in that abandoned building? I’m nothing but a defect that deserves to be thrown away, just like I was thrown away, like trash, when I was little!” She continues to cry, then attempts to wipe at her eyes. A handkerchief is held out for her even though she is unable to see who is offering it. She takes the handkerchief, wipes her eyes, then blows her nose. Finally she takes a deep breath and lets it out. “Feel better, child?” She turns her head and sees her Great-Grandfather standing beside her hospital bed, looking sad and tired. “You came to see me?”, she asks with confusion. Doctor McCoy smiles at her. “Of course, child!” She sits up and realizes that Spock and Uhura are sitting nearby. She looks from one to the other, completely confused. “You WANTED to see me?” They nod in response. “But…why?” McCoy sits on the side of her bed. “Because, child, we love you and care about you…and you are family. That is what family members do, they love and take care of each other, no matter what.”

Patricia looks down at her hands, at the handkerchief that she still holds. “But I threatened you! I deserve to die for that!” Spock shakes his head. “No, Patricia-kam, you do not deserve to die.” She continues to look confused. Spock continues, “Patricia-kam, I learned from our mind-melds that other children had been killed because they attempted to fight back against their abusers. You were taught, ever since you were a baby and during your captivity, that they deserved to die and that you deserved the abuse that you received. You survived in spite of them. Your abusers lied then and they continue to lie…in your mind. No child deserved what happened to them. You never deserve abuse and you certainly do NOT deserve death!” Patricia continues to look down as she twists the handkerchief in her hands. “But I did the wrong thing.” “Patricia-kam”, Spock quietly replies, “You made a mistake. You can learn from mistakes so you can do better and do what is right.” She looks the elderly Vulcan in the face. “But what if the right thing to do is to kill myself? That would solve everything. That would solve the problem that all of you must deal with! I won’t be a defective burden to you anymore.”

Spock stands up and walks over to her hospital bed to stand beside McCoy; Uhura joins him. “Patricia-kam”, he replies sternly, “You are NEVER a burden to us.” She attempts her logic once more. “But I AM DEFECTIVE! I will NEVER be like the other kids. I’ll NEVER be able to have friends, or a family of my own IF I grow up! I can’t keep up with the other kids. I can’t understand things the same way as other kids. I keep having these…seizures. They make fun of me and call me names…” She starts to cry again. When she is able to catch her breath, she resumes. “Drinking and drugging made things hurt less! Why can’t they give me more of that stuff to make the hurting stop? Why can’t they just give me enough so I’ll never wake up again?”

The old doctor feels a lump in his own throat as he listens to his Great-Granddaughter. He feels helpless. He looks over at Spock, then Uhura, and mouths the words: “Now what?” Spock reaches over and brushes the hair away from Patricia’s face. “Patricia-kam, do you trust me? Do you trust your Gramps? Do you trust Captain Uhura?” She nods. “Do you remember what I often told you about Vulcans?” She nods again as she repeats the words back to the elderly Vulcan: “Vulcans never lie!” Spock nods. “That is correct, Patricia-kam, Vulcans never lie. Your Gramps and I, along with Uhura, are here…for you…we will not abandon you, no matter how difficult any situation may become. Now, are you ready to come home?” She nods then pauses. “By the way”, she asks her elders, “What about my friends, Billy, John, T’gai, Szhen, and their other two friends, Lily and Muri…are they okay?” Doctor McCoy gives her a somber look. “Child, only one of your other friends, Muri, has survived well enough to go home. Her parents have already taken her out of the hospital and have left the planet for their home-world. They don’t plan to return. One other, T’gai, is in a coma and it appears that he will remain in a persistent vegetative state due to brain damage, and the others…”, his voice trails off. “Are dead.”, Patricia finishes for him. She falls silent.

Her recovery continues to be slow. Doctor McCoy and Ambassador Spock take turns spending time with her, talking with her, attempting to draw her back out of the shell she has retreated into. Uhura offers to help but the elderly doctor suggests that it might be best, at this point, to avoid sensory overload and to wait until Patricia feels ready to include additional people in her social circle. For now, Uhura is to remain on standby and she agrees to this strategy. At one point, Spock suggests that the two of them go for a walk through the shopping district just to pass the time. In his opinion, a change of place, as well as some fresh air, might be helpful. As they walk, Patricia would occasionally glance at a shop window, or two, then silently continue down the sidewalk. One shop window catches her attention and she stops abruptly, pointing to it. “That looks strange. What are those things?” Spock looks where she is pointing. “Those things, Patricia-kam, are antiques. Would you like to take a closer look at them?” She nods yes and they proceed into the shop.

She picks up one item after another, peering closely at them, and asks Spock if he knows what each item is. He is able to answer some questions. Other items puzzle him as much as they puzzle her. The shopkeeper would then step up and explain the item and its history. She picks up an object and inspects it with curiosity. “What’s this?” Spock looks at it, indicating its components. “That, Patricia-kam, is a whistling tea kettle. It is used to boil water for making tea. When the water is hot enough, the resulting steam is ejected through that valve, making it whistle. Your human ancestors used items, such as this, before replicators were invented.” She looks up from the tea kettle. “Can I have it? Can you teach me how to make tea with it?” “Of course, Patricia-kam.”, the old Vulcan nods. The shopkeeper wraps it up and gives it to Patricia. As they leave the antique shop, she looks up at Spock. “Can we find tea somewhere?” Spock nods and indicates another shop nearby.

When they walk in she stops, closes her eyes, and breathes in the fragrances of the various teas and sighs with contentment. Spock is pleased to see her change in mood. She proceeds to wander up one aisle and down another looking at all the varieties. Spock patiently lets her take the lead in exploring. She picks up a container of blossoming tea and holds it up to him. “This looks interesting. Can we try this?” Spock takes the container and looks it over. “Fascinating. Yes, Patricia-kam.” The container is wrapped up and placed in the bag with the antique tea kettle. They return home and they are greeted by Doctor McCoy, who notices that Patricia is carrying some shopping bags.

“Any interesting discoveries while you were out?”, the old doctor asks from his recliner. Spock gives him a slight smile. “Wait and see.” Patricia takes her parcels into the kitchen and Spock follows her. Doctor McCoy is napping in his recliner when he hears an unfamiliar sound. He gets up to go and investigate. In the kitchen, he discovers that Spock has set up a hot plate which the antique kettle is on. Steam is pouring through a valve in its spout, making it whistle. Patricia is watching and listening with fascination. McCoy grins. “Well, I’ll be! I’ve heard about this and read about this but never thought I would actually see a whistling tea kettle in action in my own kitchen! Where did you find this?” “Patricia-kam actually found it”, Spock replies, “She wanted to learn how to make tea with it.” McCoy nods. “Good! Let me get the tea cups.” The old doctor sets up three tea cups and saucers. Patricia picks up the container of blossoming tea and starts searching for the instructions. As she looks the container over, she continues to chatter about the antique shop and how much she would like to go back there again. She describes, in detail, the various antiques and their histories, along with how their ancestors needed to use them before replicators became available.

She opens the container, pulls out three small packets, opens them, and looks at the tightly wrapped buds within. “These look really WEIRD!”, she exclaims. Spock patiently takes the three packets of tea and places a tightly wrapped bud within each tea cup. “Patricia-kam, there is a pot holder nearby. That will protect your hand from getting burned when you pick up the tea kettle.” She picks up the pot holder and grasps the tea kettle’s handle. Spock explains how to carefully pour the boiling water into each tea cup so she won’t accidentally splash and scald herself. When she sets the tea kettle aside, she gasps in amazement as she watches the tea buds blossom into flowers. “Wow!”, she exclaims, “What looked really weird turned into something really pretty!” She sniffs at one of the tea cups. “And it smells nice too!” She looked thoughtful then turns to Spock and McCoy. “I could be like that…all shriveled up and weird-looking then blossom into something better?” The two elders nod approvingly at the analogy. Spock looks at McCoy then back at Patricia. “This leads me to ask you to consider something, Patricia-kam, regarding therapy.” She tenses up and angrily snaps back, “I’m tired of dealing with those idiots who keep trying to tell me to forget about what happened to me then give me more pills that don’t do anything except make me feel worse!”

Spock nods in understanding. “I was going to suggest a different approach, Patricia-kam. I believe it is time to consult, again, with the Healers on Vulcan…to help teach you meditation techniques along with exploring different paths regarding how to address your nightmares.” Patricia looks at him with curiosity. “Why can’t you teach me that?” Spock folds his hands on the kitchen table. “Because, Patricia-kam, there are many things that I am not qualified to help you with. Meditation is just one approach in dealing with the nightmares that continue to trouble you. I am not trained, nor am I qualified, to address the cause of those nightmares. The Healers can assist you by teaching you how to fight back against those night terrors.” She looks pensive. “I understand. When can we consult with the Healers?” “As soon as you wish, Patricia-kam.”

Patricia is still uncertain if the Healers, on Vulcan, will be able to accomplish what the human therapists could not. She had come to realize, the hard way, that she could not safely drink alcohol nor continue drugging. Once she started, with any addictive chemical, she couldn’t stop and those mood-changing chemicals had nearly killed her just as it had killed some of her friends. She realizes that the only way to stop alcohol’s, and drugs’, deadly effects was to not pick up that first drink, pop that first pill, or smoke that first joint. She had contacted the organization, Alcoholics Anonymous, and they were more than happy to send her literature and a copy of the latest edition of their Big Book. She was able to tie in with Alcoholics Anonymous Loners Interplanetary, as there were no groups readily available where she was, as well as where she was traveling to, on Vulcan, as she prepared to enter their treatment facility. When she arrived at the Vulcan Academy of Sciences Hospital, she didn’t know what to expect.

Spock and Doctor McCoy accompanied her as she was checked in and examined, given that she was still, legally, a minor. Then Patricia encountered a “glitch”. Hospital rules dictated that only family members would be permitted to visit with her and participate in her treatment plan. This placed a huge burden on Doctor McCoy, who was also looking into finding a professional that was willing to conduct an assessment for the possibility of Autism Spectrum Disorder, back on Earth, as well as attending support and therapy groups himself as part of the family treatment protocol. There were no other blood relatives to help relieve her Great-Grandfather when he needed to take a break. Patricia found this unacceptable and insisted that Spock be permitted to visit, and participate, as well.

The hospital administrators attempted to deny her request, stating that it was illogical for non-family to be allowed in, and the McCoy Stubbornness manifested itself. Spock was aware that getting Patricia into treatment was crucial to her recovery and a meeting between the McCoy’s, Spock, and the hospital administrators was convened. When the administrators realized how adamant their patient was, regarding the elderly Vulcan, she was asked how could she possibly view Spock as a family member. The administrators demanded that she explain her logic about this issue. She looked over at her Great-Grandfather, at Spock, then back at the hospital administrators. “Gramps and Spock are like brothers. They’ve served together aboard the star ship Enterprise. I’ve heard them tease each other, even verbally spar with each other, like brothers. Based on that, as far as I’m concerned, Spock is my Uncle! If my Uncle can’t visit me from time to time, then I want to go back home!” Spock looks over at the administrators. “Healers, it is imperative that Patricia-kam get the help she needs that we have been unable to find on Earth. Her life depends on it. Even though she is legally a child, unless she is able to cooperate with her treatment, denying her request would be to her detriment. Stubbornness runs in her family, even though I concede that it is illogical. My concern is that her stubbornness could result in relapse and death.” The administrators confer with each other. “It is agreed. For this instance, we will make an exception and permit you to visit her, as her ‘Uncle’. Are you prepared to participate in her treatment plan?” Spock nods. “I am prepared.” “Very well”, replies one of the administrators, “Let us proceed.”

Each day, Patricia would attend classes that discussed a variety of topics relevant to her situation. She found many of them boring as the counselors often talked over her head. She struggled with the meditation techniques as depressing thoughts often repeated themselves in her mind and she felt irritable. Some of the Healers and counselors would perform a mind-meld to help her organize her thoughts and to counteract the depression. To make matters worse, she was the only teenager there, human or otherwise. She wondered, aloud, how could she possibly relate to anything given that everyone is so “old” and had no understanding of what she thought or felt. She pushed back against everything, challenged everything, questioned everything. She found it maddening that the counselors and Healers would simply nod back at her in approval, encouraging her to speak more, to express what she thought and felt. She was often reminded that she was born a Human and that it is illogical to try to be a Vulcan, which she is not. During one of Spock’s visits, she blurts, “Why don’t they just throw me out?! Why don’t they just throw me away?! Why are they wasting their time with something like THIS?!” as she points to herself.

Spock gives her a gentle smile. “Because, Patricia-kam, you are some ONE WORTHWHILE. We are going to keep reminding you of that fact until you are able to accept it for yourself. Have you been able to read your Big Book from Alcoholics Anonymous?” She nods. “Yes, Uncle. I’m reading the chapter on ‘How It Works’ where the 12 Steps are listed. The First Step I can easily understand: ‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.’ I know that I am powerless over all mood-changing chemicals and my life is a complete and total MESS!” Spock nods with approval. “For many others, who also struggle with addictions, that First Step is often the most difficult. There have been others who continued to deny they had a problem…to the point of death!” Patricia nods sadly, “Like my school-mate, Billy. He was the one who gave me my first joint. Now he’s dead…alcohol and drug overdose, along with my other friends that you found with me in that abandoned building. I learned, not too long ago, that Muri committed suicide shortly after she arrived on her home world.” Spock looked at her sadly. “I grieve with thee, Patricia-kam. Muri was only a child herself.”

She pauses then looks at the elderly Vulcan with confusion. “I’m struggling to understand the rest of the 12 Steps…Step Two – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, Step Three – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God, Step Four – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves, Step Five – Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another sentient being the exact nature of our wrongs, Step Six – Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character, Step Seven – Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings, Step Eight – Made a list of all sentient beings we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all, Step Nine – Made direct amends to such sentient beings wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others, Step Ten – Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it, Step Eleven – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out and, finally, Step Twelve – Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.’ There’s even a sentence in this book that states: ‘What an order! I can’t go through with it!’ That’s how I feel, Uncle, I feel overwhelmed and inadequate!”

Spock looks at the Big Book that Patricia is holding in her hands, then looks up at her. “Patricia-kam, consider this…how do you walk?” She looks at him, confused. “Huh?” Spock repeats the question, “How do you walk?” She puts down her book and slowly stands up, limping across the room looking at her feet. She stops and looks back at him, still puzzled. He continues, “Do you remember learning the Waltz?” “Yes, Uncle.” “Do you remember counting as you practiced, Patricia-kam, when you were learning your numbers?” “Yes, Uncle.” “When you were counting as you were Waltzing, how many numbers did you count to?” “Twelve, Uncle.” “And what were you counting, as you were waltzing, Patricia-kam?” “My steps.” “How do you walk, and Waltz, Patricia-kam?” She looks down at her feet then back at Spock. “I walk, and Waltz, with steps, Uncle.” Spock gives her a slight smile as he folds his arms. “Do you walk two or three steps at a time?” She shakes her head, still looking confused. “No, Uncle. I move my feet one at a time so I don’t fall.” He nods approvingly, “Yes, Patricia-kam, one step at a time.” The light of understanding suddenly glows on her face. “Twelve steps in the Waltz for my physical therapy, my physical recovery. Twelve Steps in the Big Book for recovering from my addictions. I need to work, one step at a time just like I walk or Waltz, one step at a time!” Spock gives her a rare smile. “Precisely, Patricia-kam, one step at a time!”

Patricia continued working on studying the Big Book as well as attending individual and family therapy sessions according to her Individualized Treatment Plan. She also continued to study Vulcan meditation techniques in an effort to combat the night terrors that still plagued her sleep. Doctor McCoy attempted to learn as well, with limited success. “It’s all right, Gramps”, Patricia reassures him, “It’s more important for me that I learn this. I’m the one with the nightmares, not you, remember?” Before she knew it, Graduation Day arrived and it was time to leave the treatment facility. To celebrate, her elders took her to a nearby restaurant that offers a variety of food to off-worlders, much to Doctor McCoy’s delight. As they ate, Patricia commented, “I don’t know why, but this food tastes a LOT better than hospital food even though I was allowed to eat meat and other food geared to human metabolism! Illogical, isn’t it? Why is that?” Doctor McCoy chews, then swallows. “Child, hospital food NEVER tastes as good as this or home-cooking. I can’t explain it…it just happens to be that way.”

Patricia nods. “By the way, Gramps, I thought I should share with you and Uncle Spock what I learned with the Healers. Here I was, trying to be as Vulcan as Vulcan and the Healers pointed out that my human physiology is not designed that way. Vulcan physiology can deal with suppressing emotions. With humans, it’s destructive because the human body reacts by secreting stress hormones that wreak havoc with all of the internal organs.” She turned to Spock. “Before we left Earth, I had a chance to read some of the Enterprise’s logs where you commented to a crew member about having his adrenal glands removed because of his emotional reaction to a crisis. Illogical for a human to do that. It would destroy homeostasis and cause death. Did you know that, Uncle?” Spock raises an eyebrow at her while he continues chewing on the mouthful of food he has just taken. She turns back to her Great-Grandfather. “One curious thing they noted…my body temperature is very similar to a Vulcan even though all my organs are in the usual places for a human. They couldn’t find any infection anywhere that would account for the high body temperature. That could explain why I feel so cold, all the time, when you have the room temperature set for your comfort. So strange!” Doctor Leonard McCoy looks at her, stunned. “WHY didn’t you say something before about being cold all the time, child? All this time, I thought you were running a constant fever from an infection I couldn’t find. No matter what I did, I couldn’t bring your temperature down to what I thought it should have been…98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.” He looks over at his old friend. “Even Spock was stumped about the cause of your high temperature when everything else appeared healthy. He scanned you several times to see if I missed anything only to confirm my findings. We finally decided to just leave it be and continue to observe for any possible problems.” Patricia shakes her head ruefully. “Sorry, Gramps. I was so used to keeping my suffering to myself that it never occurred to me that I COULD have told you. Old survival habits are hard to break.” She looks down, sadly, not certain what else to say.

Spock finishes his last bite on his plate. “Patricia-kam, it would be illogical to blame yourself for something that none of us understood at the time. As for your comment about what I said to a young crewman years ago, your point is well taken. To change the subject, once you return home, have you thought of what you will do? What is your aftercare plan?” She shrugs, “I don’t know. I really don’t know what I CAN do! Of course, I need to continue working my Recovery Program to stay clean and sober. I have more schooling that I need to complete, but I don’t want to go back to classes with the other kids. I just don’t fit in. I’m tired of being taunted and called names. I’m just TOO different!” Spock nods, “I understand, Patricia-kam. I have been in a similar situation.” Patricia gives him a puzzled look. He continues, “Do you recall seeing an image of my parents during our mind-meld?” “Yes, Uncle. I remember you telling me that your father’s name was Sarek and your mother’s name was Amanda. I found it interesting that my middle name is the same as your Mom’s given name. That would be neat if it turns out we are related!” Spock gives her a slight smile. “Yes, Patricia-kam, you are correct about my parents. Did you notice anything, unique, about them?” She shook her head. “I guess I wasn’t really paying enough close attention, Uncle.” Spock nods again. “That is perfectly acceptable, Patricia-kam. To help your understanding, the marriage of my parents was considered an Interracial marriage. I am only half-Vulcan. My mother, Amanda, was human. The fact that my parents married each other was considered quite controversial on my home-world at the time. There were also humans, on Earth, who objected to this marriage. Not everyone accepted their relationship on either planet nor did they approve when my mother gave birth to me. I was shielded from this for a time after I was born. When I started attending school, then it became quite a different matter. I was…bullied because I was not like the other children…and my mother was also called names that were not flattering.”

Patricia frowns at this. “Didn’t the other parents, other teachers, other ADULTS, teach these kids that behaving that way is illogical?” Spock shakes his head. “Unfortunately, the other children were simply repeating what they heard their parents say at home.” Patricia shakes her head angrily and slams the table with her fist. “THAT is so UNFAIR!” Doctor McCoy reaches over and covers her hand. “Yes, child, it WAS unfair! I can only wish that people were more enlightened whenever they meet someone who is special in her or his own way instead of reacting with bigotry and hatred. I know you feel compelled to change the universe to an ideal place and, maybe, in the future, you will accomplish that. For now, it’s time for us to go home and deal with life on life’s terms.”

Upon their return home, Doctor McCoy arranges a “Welcome Home” party for his Great-Granddaughter. With her permission, he invites his former crew mates from the U.S.S. Enterprise and they have a cook-out in the backyard. Captain Uhura and several others attend and Patricia listens, fascinated, as each guest shares her or his story of adventure during an away mission or on board the Enterprise. She envisions what it must have been like to meet Klingons, Andorians, Orions, Gorn, Romulans, Tribbles, Harry Mudd, etc. Spock and McCoy describe camping trips they used to take with Captain Kirk. Her favorite story was about when the crew traveled back to the 20th Century to obtain two hump-backed whales…named George and Gracie. When the old doctor gleefully described Spock’s swim in the whale tank, Patricia stared at her Uncle, wide-eyed, with her jaw on the floor! Spock attempted, unsuccessfully, to be nonchalant about that detail in the story. Leonard McCoy was clearly having fun with him! At one point, during the party, Spock brings out his harp and entertains his friends. The guest of honor could not get enough of this! When the party ended, Patricia began dreaming of the possibility of entering Star Fleet as she wanted to see these worlds for herself.

Home-schooling resumed while Doctor McCoy continued his efforts to locate a professional willing to conduct a neurological assessment on his Great-Granddaughter, to no avail. Now that she had become a teenager, a recovering alcoholic and a recovering drug addict, any problems were quickly attributed to those issues and dismissed. The old doctor finally gave up, but Patricia did not. Once she overheard her Uncle Spock and her Great-Grandfather discussing Autism Spectrum Disorder, she began studying, on her own, what that is and soon realized that Asperger’s Syndrome was an apt description for her being so… “different” in regards to her perceptions and emotional melt-downs. She showed this information to her Great-Grandfather and Spock. “That’s EXACTLY what I have been trying to tell these so-called ‘experts’ for YEARS, child, but they simply do NOT want to hear it! If it doesn’t fit THEIR TEXTBOOK, it doesn’t exist! You would think, that after all these centuries of research, they would be more enlightened! I’ve come to understand that if you meet one person with Asperger’s Syndrome, you have only met ONE person with Asperger’s Syndrome. No two people will have the identical symptoms. The concept of Spectrum should tell these so-called ‘experts’ SOMETHING!” “Unfortunately, Leonard”, Spock replies, “Not everyone is open to new ideas. Experience has taught us that.” Doctor McCoy growls, “Yep! Just like the Capellans were, when I first visited that planet! Thankfully, things started to change when the Te-er’s widow gave birth to the royal heir and she became regent.”

Patricia shakes her head sadly. “According to what I’ve read, there is a limited amount of time for therapeutic interventions with Asperger’s. That window is now closed. I’m too old to be worth the bother. They only focus on little kids.” Doctor McCoy growls, “As far as I’m concerned, child, you are NOT too old to be worth the bother! Those so-called ‘experts’ are nothing but idiots!” Patricia is frustrated. “But that doesn’t help me at all, Gramps! I need to look ahead to becoming a productive adult and I have no clue where I can fit in or what I could be qualified to do. I’ll be finishing school…soon. I would like to go to Star Fleet Medical Academy but…”, she sighs. Doctor McCoy peers at her intently, “But what, child?” She sighs again as her shoulders slump. “Because I’m … different … defective … wouldn’t that disqualify me from everything?”

Spock shakes his head. “That would not disqualify you, Patricia-kam. In fact, because you have never been officially diagnosed could work in your favor when you apply to Star Fleet Medical. Have you considered which specialty interests you?” She looks from Spock, to her Great-Grandfather, and back at Spock. “I’m fascinated by Interplanetary medicine, like you, Gramps, and forensic research, analyzing evidence from crime scenes. Would that…could that…be a possibility for somebody like me?” “I don’t see why not, child!”, McCoy interjects, “Besides, Star Fleet can also teach you how to defend yourself if anyone is stupid enough to attempt to bully you again!” Patricia squares her shoulders with determination. “Okay, then I’ll try. That’s the best I can do!” Doctor McCoy grins at her. “That’s my girl!”

“Gramps, I have another question”, Patricia continues. “And what is that, child?”, replies the old doctor. She looks at the two elders. “You two went camping with Captain Kirk. What is it like…to go camping? What do you do?” McCoy looks over at the elderly Vulcan. “I think she’s old enough to experience that. Wouldn’t you agree, Spock?” Spock nods. “I would concur. I would recommend that Captain Uhura accompany us so that Patricia-kam will not be the only female on the trip. This should be an interesting Away Mission.” McCoy nods in agreement. When Uhura is contacted and informed of the planned camping trip, she agrees under certain conditions given her age…that the campgrounds can also provide the facilities for older folks who can no longer sleep on the ground as well as a separate area for the women. McCoy heartily agrees and the group arrives at the campgrounds within a few weeks.

Patricia starts to wander around. “Child!”, Doctor McCoy calls out, “Don’t wander too far given that you’ve never been here before! I don’t want you getting lost!” “Yes…Gramps!”, Patricia huffs as she rolls her eyes. Spock walks over to the cooking area, carrying various items, and begins pulling out the equipment. “Patricia-kam, may I request your assistance in setting up the outdoor kitchen?” “Sure, Uncle!” She goes over to where Spock is working and follows his instructions. In short order, they have a campfire going and cooking utensils are set up with various foods sizzling over the fire. Uhura has entered the cabin that she set aside for the womenfolk and has begun checking everything within. It passes inspection. When Uhura steps back outside, she sniffs the air. “That food smells DELICIOUS!” Doctor McCoy has joined Spock and his Great-Granddaughter, bringing the remainder of the groceries for that evening’s dinner. The old doctor proceeds to teach Patricia what he knows about campfire cooking and she is a quick study. Before long, Patricia takes over the cooking and shoos the men away. When McCoy walks over to Uhura, he comments, “I hope she doesn’t wind up having anything overcooked or underdone.”

Spock looks at his old friend, eyes dancing. “Leonard, I’ve lost count as to how many times you’ve burned dinner during other camping trips!” McCoy scowls at him. “Hmph!” Uhura chuckles. After awhile, they hear Patricia call out: “Soup’s on!” McCoy, Spock, and Uhura walk over to the cooking area as Patricia dishes out their dinner onto the metal dishes set out for that purpose. She anxiously awaits the verdict of the three elders regarding her first outdoor cooking attempt. McCoy chews thoughtfully, then looks at his Great-Granddaughter. “You pass…with flying colors! Good job!” Uhura and Spock concur. Satisfied with the results, Patricia serves herself and sits down to eat. She also helps herself to the local water source, from the pump nearby. Before the evening is through, unfortunately, the local water backfires on her.

As a precaution, McCoy has brought his medical tricorder with him and he immediately scans his Great-Granddaughter with it. The scan shows that her digestive tract cannot handle the local water. He gives her a hypo-spray to counteract her discomfort. “Who knew I would have THIS problem!?”, she groans, “And I was having so much FUN too!” McCoy scans her again. “Don’t worry about it, child! It’s best we find this out now, and know what to do to address it, then to get surprised with it while you’re in the middle of attending various training scenarios at the Academy!” “Has my application been processed already?”, she asks. Doctor McCoy shakes his head. “Bureaucracy doesn’t work that fast, child! But I see that quite a few things will need to be adapted to accommodate your unique challenges.” Patricia looks up from her cot. “Can Star Fleet do that?” Uhura leans over her cot. “Of course they can. They have to accommodate all needs of sentient beings from every world in the Federation who are members of Star Fleet. Look at the Horta and Tellarites, not to mention other sentient beings who are unable to breathe the same type of air or eat the same nutrition as we do. They can’t deny you accommodations when you are otherwise qualified.”

McCoy nods as he closes his medical tricorder and puts it away. “I’ve had a few challenges of my own over the years and Star Fleet accommodated them without a lot of complaining. Right now, my challenge is getting you rehydrated but using the local water is out of the question.” Spock approaches with a small container. “Perhaps I may assist with this.” Patricia cautiously sniffs at it. “What is that?” Spock gives the container to her. “Homemade Plomeek soup. I brought fresh ingredients from my last trip home to Vulcan. I prepared a batch, before we left, in case I had any digestive upsets during the camping trip. It should help you.” Patricia tentatively tastes it. “I like this! This soup is GOOD!” She pauses. “But I’m taking away YOUR supply of soup, Uncle Spock!” He shakes his head. “I anticipated you might have some difficulties during your first camping trip so I doubled the batch.”

Once Patricia had sufficiently recovered from her intestinal challenges, she resumes her cooking duties for the remainder of the camping trip. As it turns out, Spock has brought along ingredients for a fresh batch of Plomeek soup along with enough bottled water to maintain both her and himself. With Spock’s assistance, she adds Plomeek soup to her cooking repertoire. While in the midst of cooking dinner, Doctor McCoy notices that she is just sitting by the campfire, brooding silently. He sits down beside her. “A penny for your thoughts, child!” Patricia picks up a stick and begins to make idle doodles in the dirt with it. “I was just thinking about Star Fleet Medical Academy, Gramps. I understand there is an Entrance Examination I have to pass before I can be considered for candidacy as a student. I’m afraid that because my brain is wired differently, I perceive things differently from other people, and, as a result, I’m going to mess it up. Look how I still struggle with various mathematical concepts, equations, and visual-spatial stuff. The application process scares me. If I don’t pass, I have no idea what I’m good for.”

The old doctor looks at his Great-Granddaughter with affection. “Child, you’re not giving yourself enough credit. I remember, shortly after you first learned how to read, you grabbed one of my old medical school textbooks because the kids’ books bored you silly. You taught yourself the difference between a pre-ganglionic nerve and a post-ganglionic fiber! You also taught yourself how to use my medical scanner and the items in my Medikit. I had to take the hypo-sprays away from you because you wanted to play with them and inoculate Winnie-the-Pooh! I couldn’t have you using up my supplies treating that old teddy bear! Then there was my old collection of original Kroeker bio-gel packs that you decided to experiment with!” Patricia cringes at that memory but the old doctor just chuckles. “I’ve known some adults who FAIL the portions you taught yourself, on their final exams, before they became licensed physicians!” He chuckles again. “You even taught yourself Vulcan physiology so that when your Uncle Spock accidentally cut himself while slicing vegetables, you knew what to do, which instrument to use from my Medikit, and how to give him First Aid! You have the makings of a good doctor, young lady!” She looks up at him. “You think so, Gramps?” “I KNOW so, child! And Spock would agree with me on THAT score!” Patricia tosses down the stick and turns to look at her Great-Grandfather. “Gramps, how did you get into Star Fleet Medical?”

Doctor McCoy pauses, then sighs. “I wasn’t a young and eager kid like you, on the cusp of graduating with a high school diploma. I was older, already had an established medical practice waiting for me because my father and grandfather were doctors in Georgia. I followed the Old McCoy Family tradition by studying medicine at Ole Miss University. I was also married and had a daughter…your grandmother, Joanna.” Patricia gives him a curious look. “Did Great-Gramma support your decision about Star Fleet?” The old doctor realizes that his Great-Granddaughter’s questions were going to become more difficult, given that she had not been told much of anything, if at all, about her grandmother, Joanna, or her Great-Grandmother, Jocelyn.

He shakes his head. “It was a bit more complicated than that, child. You see, your Great-Grandmother and I were having problems. A doctor’s hours are not always predictable, like working at a 9-to-5 desk job. When a maternity patient goes into labor, which could happen in the middle of the night, and your medical skills are needed…you answer the call…especially if you are a medical student, an intern, and it’s your turn to be on-call during your rotation. You work all kinds of crazy hours while you are studying medicine. I was looking forward to passing all of my exams, becoming licensed, then join my father’s practice…becoming an old country doctor in our little old town in the lovely old state of Georgia! I planned that once I had officially become a doctor, then my wife would be happier because we could be a little more settled.” He pauses again and sighs. “So much for my plans.”

Patricia touches his arm. “What happened, Gramps?” He turns to look his Great-Grandbaby full in the face, wondering how to phrase the answer. Knowing how much this child, correction, this near-adult, often demanded truth, he knew there was no way to avoid responding to her direct question. He sadly hangs his head and states, in a low voice, “Your Great-Gramma decided she didn’t want to stay married to a doctor anymore. She left…and took our daughter with her. She got everything she wanted in the divorce. I couldn’t stay in our little town, near Milledgeville, where everyone knew each other…knew us…knew what happened to our marriage. I just couldn’t face them. When I saw an ad for practicing medicine in space, with Star Fleet Medical, I grabbed the opportunity and ran with it. In reality, I was running away from home to join the circus…or, more accurately, the French Foreign Legion…anything to run away from my pain.” Patricia nods. “Just like I ran away from home and tried to overdose on alcohol and drugs, Gramps, because I couldn’t deal with my pain.”
She looks in her Great-Grandfather’s eyes. “We were both running away from our own pain in our own way…you ran away to Star Fleet and I ran away to addiction to mood-changing chemicals!” Doctor McCoy places his hand over his Great-Granddaughter’s fingers. “Child, if I had not run away to Star Fleet, I would not have had the opportunity to find you and bring you home.” Patricia rests her head on her Great-Grandfather’s shoulder and closes her eyes. “I’m so glad you found me, Gramps, I really am. I want to make you proud of me.” The old doctor kisses the top of her head. “Child, I am ALWAYS proud of you and will always love you!” They smell the beginning of “kitchen bouquet” and Patricia jumps up in time to rescue the evening meal.

Upon their return from the camping trip, Doctor McCoy and Patricia decide that in addition to her high school studies, she would also shadow him as he resumes his medical practice. Being formerly a Chief Medical Officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise, as well as being an Admiral, opened doors for him and he made sure that his Great-Granddaughter was at his side as he lectured upcoming medical students or attended medical consults. She took copious notes and was encouraged to ask questions of all medical personnel. She did not disappoint! One doctor snapped back at her because she DARED to question anything, insulting her intelligence, not realizing that Doctor McCoy was within earshot, and was quickly taken down a peg or two.

At dinner she would study his medical textbooks while eating, soaking up knowledge like a sponge. From time to time, Doctor McCoy would give her a pop quiz to see how much she understood what she was reading and clarify for her if she misunderstood information. In between her studying for her Star Fleet Medical Academy Entrance Exams, he also encouraged her to find something enjoyable to focus on given the old adage of: “All work and no play makes Jack and/or Jill a dull child!” She then switched her focus to studying the McCoy Family History, tracing the family lineage all the way back to when North America was first being colonized by Europeans from Jolly Olde England. Both she and her Great-Grandfather were amazed to discover several ancestors, and distant cousins, who were either veterans of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, famous or very politically active during their lifetimes, including royalty, various Presidents, the author of “The Great Gatsby”, and the composer of the “Star Spangled Banner”! The old doctor knew about some of his lineage, in Georgia, but had no idea about these other branches of the McCoy Family Tree! When the letter finally arrived, inviting her to sit for the Star Fleet Medical Academy Entrance Examination, she felt as ready as she ever would be.

Patricia felt terrified as she and her Great-Grandfather approached the Medical Academy building, in San Francisco where the first step in the Admissions process, the written exams and aptitude tests, would be given. Without realizing it she started to stim, twirling her hands, just as she did during childhood, in an attempt to lower her anxiety. Doctor McCoy takes hold of her hands and encourages her to look him in the eyes. “You are going to be fine, child!” He taps her forehead with two of his fingers. “You have the knowledge you need between those two wonderful ears of yours! You just go in there and knock ’em dead! I believe in you!” Patricia nods, then takes a deep breath. “I’ll keep telling myself that I can do this.” She grabs her Great-Grandfather’s hands and gives them a squeeze. “I’ll do the best I can, Gramps!” She enters the testing room, turns and blows a kiss to the old doctor, then takes a seat. Doctor McCoy blows a kiss back at her, gives her a little wave, then walks outdoors to sit on one of the benches nearby. Spock and Uhura are waiting there for him.

Doctor McCoy takes a deep breath then exhales sharply. “I know she can do this! She has the knowledge and the ability. I think I’m more nervous than she is!” Uhura reaches over and pats his hand. “You’ve taught her everything about medicine that you know, Len, along with sharing your experiences on various worlds. She just might have more knowledge than any other applicant in there!” Spock nods. “I concur with Nyota. Since Patricia-kam has been in your life, from the age of six, she has learned many things that will be an asset within Star Fleet Medical!” Doctor McCoy looks at his two old friends. “We know what she is capable of…her abilities as a medical student. I can only hope that the Medical Brass will recognize those abilities and give her a chance to prove herself.”

At the end of the written exams and aptitude tests, Patricia and the other applicants are directed to wait in the student lounge as each hopeful is called into another room for Step Two of the application process: the private interviews. When it is Patricia’s turn, she struggles with the urge to stim and grips her hands tightly together to stop them from shaking. Various officers and instructors ask her a variety of pertinent questions to determine her character and her attitude. One of them, a Captain Robert Smith, challenges her about her history of addictions. She looks him square in the face and provides him with an honest answer, talking about how the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous has helped to save her life, keep her clean and sober, and that she is open to the opportunity to help others as the Twelfth Step suggests. Captain Smith gives her a stern look. “What if the alcoholic or addict doesn’t get clean and sober? Wouldn’t that be a failure on your part?”

Somehow, Patricia feels her fears subside. “No, sir. It won’t be a failure on my part because I will STILL be clean and sober myself. Helping those who are still struggling with their addictions keeps my memories green. Their suffering reminds me of what is still, patiently, waiting for me should I ever pick up a drink or a drug again. Addiction is a patient disease, waiting for a relapse. If I ever pick up again, the disease simply picks up from where it left off. If the addictions do not stay stopped, then it leads to jail, insanity, or death. The best I can do is offer the Tools of Recovery to others. Just like I had to take that First Step on my own, admitting that I’m powerless over alcohol and drugs, my life becoming unmanageable, so do others have to take that First Step themselves. I cannot walk the walk for them…just like I can’t walk for you, sir. I can help them if they WANT the help. NEEDING to get clean and sober and WANTING to get clean and sober are two different things. Until that person WANTS what I have, and is willing to go to any length to get clean and sober, all I can do is wait, with the Tools of Recovery, until they are ready to accept what I have to offer.” The other officers murmur and glance at the Captain while Patricia is speaking. Captain Smith looks thoughtful after she finishes her response. The officers and instructors have no further questions and she is excused from the room. The final hurdle in the application process is Step Three: Advanced Aptitude, Practical & Stress Tests.

Patricia is uncertain how well she will be able to handle this portion of the Admissions process. She is barely able to tolerate the physical checks even though her Great-Grandfather explained what would be done, how and why. It didn’t make it any easier. The Advanced Aptitude and Practical tests helped her calm down as she recognized what needed to be done and knew how to do it. Doctor McCoy had taught her well. In the middle of a test, she heard an explosion nearby. All the applicants were ordered to vacate the room. Some took one look toward the disaster area and ran in the opposite direction. Patricia instinctively ran toward the source of the explosion, fearing that her loved ones might be caught up in it. She was grateful that Gramps had provided her with a Medikit of her own, in case of any emergencies if he wasn’t available.

Upon reaching the disaster site, she quickly began assessing and making triage decisions. She barked orders at passersby to provide assistance, or go get more help, as she also helped carry victims out of the danger zone to the triage/treatment areas. Once she was certain that the disaster area had been cleared of all living victims, she started going from one victim to the next, providing what help she was qualified to give and reassuring others that more help was on the way. One victim began to cry and she sat with him, holding his hand, reassuring him that he was going to be just fine. Another victim became combative and attacked her from behind. She instinctively responded to the attack and was able to subdue him without aggravating his injuries. As she continued to check, and re-check each victim, she discovered one person had accidentally aspirated food into his trachea, blocking his breathing. She quickly performed the Heimlich Maneuver and cleared his airway. She continued to monitor his condition until another doctor arrived on the scene. She explained what happened to this victim and the other doctor took over his care.

Once she was certain that enough professionals were on the scene taking charge, and that her loved ones were not among the victims, she walks over to the side, sits down, shaking uncontrollably. She feels a hand on her shoulder and she looks up into the face of Captain Smith, one of the instructors from the private interview. He smiles down at her. “Good job!” She blinks in amazement as all the “victims” get up and brush themselves off. “Huh?!” The instructor responds, “This was the Stress Reaction Test, to see how applicants would respond to medical emergencies or disasters. You ran toward the disaster scene while some of the others ran away. Why?” She swallows hard. “To be honest with you, sir, I was afraid Gramps, or Uncle Spock, or my friend, Captain Uhura were caught in the blast and were hurt. Once I realized they were safe, I knew anyone else who was hurt would need First Aid until the Emergency Responders could arrive. Gramps had taught me what to do and it was my responsibility to do what I could until someone with more experience could take over.”

The instructor nods approvingly. “Your Gramps taught you well. Normally, applicants are not admitted to Star Fleet Medical Academy on the first try. I was about to recommend that you apply again next year, but after seeing you in action, I believe you will be an asset in spite of the challenges you live with. Welcome aboard!” He holds out his hand and she shakes it, feeling shocked and surprised. The instructor helps her to her feet. “Now go find your Gramps and give him the good news! He has every reason to be proud of you!” He slaps her on the shoulder and walks away. She stands there, stunned, not certain what to do or say. Other officers and instructors, passing by, congratulate and welcome her. She walks away in a daze, looking about for her loved ones.

She finds her Great-Grandfather, Spock, and Uhura seated on benches near the Neil Armstrong building. Doctor McCoy sees the dazed look on her face and fears the worse. He starts to get up and Spock places a restraining hand on his shoulder. “Let her speak first, Leonard. She needs to be able to verbalize in spite of her emotions.” Patricia stands before the three elders who had been helping her since the day she was rescued from the slavers, looking from one to the other as they wait with bated breath. Then she triumphantly punches the air and screams with joy: “WOO-HOOOOOOOOO! YESSSSSSSS!” She starts jumping up and down, dancing in circles. She pauses in her celebration to look at her loved ones, seeing heartfelt grins in return…even Spock cannot contain a grin of his own. She dances between Doctor McCoy, Spock, and Captain Uhura, wrapping each in a bear hug, laughing and crying.

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