Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“A Bridge Way Too Far”
By Alan Decker
Rookie mistake. Commander Walter Morales couldn’t help but curse himself as he pursued the Selvan’s fleeing runabout after losing several valuable moments locating the path that the Roanoke had taken. How could he have let himself fall for that? One moment he was dodging behind a moon. The next the Selvan was gone, having sent his craft leaping into warp the second Morales was out of his way.
Rule Number One of Combat: remember your goal in the battle.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t rule number one. Rule number one was probably something like “Don’t get killed,” and really Morales’ goal hadn’t been the problem. He was there to get Captain Beck’s Selvan-possessed body back. What he hadn’t taken into account was that the Selvan had no interest in fighting Morales. It just wanted to get to its next destination…wherever that was.
Of course, it didn’t really matter to Morales how far the Selvan intended to go. Morales would follow, and he would get Lisa Beck back. There was no way he would allow himself to fail.
“I think we failed,” Joan Redding said taking another look at the chronometer backstage at the Save Waystation Telethon. With less than five minutes left, they were still close to 115 million credits away from the amount needed to stop Bradley Dillon from buying the station’s naming rights.
“So we’re a we now?” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter asked.
“I live on this station too, you know,” Redding shot back defensively.
“Funny. I didn’t see you doing much to help.”
“I’m a reporter. It’s my job to not get involved.”
“Too bad. You should try it sometime. The universe a bit different when things actually mean something to you,” Porter replied, his eyes locked on the events occurring on stage.
Yeoman Tina Jones, still moving with almost frantic energy, had just bounded back out in front of the holovision cameras to introduce what would be the last act of the telethon.
“We’re coming down to the wire here, folks!” Jones said. “I know we can do this. I just know it! If you’ve held off on donating until now, don’t wait any longer. There’s still time to save us from living on Bradley Dillon’s Waystation. And to drive that point home…or really sear it into your mind, here’s Ih’mad, the proprietor of our very own Ic’hasssssst V’kelsnet Andorian Restaurant, with an incredible display of cooking on the fly!”
“She doesn’t give up, does she?” Redding said as she and Porter watched from the wings.
“That’s the whole being involved thing I was telling you about.”
“Pull!” Ih’mad shouted. One of his Andorian waiters launched a hunk of meat into the air. Ih’mad fired the heavy device resting on his shoulder, sending a stream of fire at the arcing steak. It hit the ground as a charcoaled cinder.
“Oh yeah. That should bring in the credits,” Redding muttered.
The stage/makeshift studio was suddenly filled with the sound of cackling; loud, borderline-hysterical cackling, as Lieutenant Sean Russell leapt up onto the stage from the nearby bank of “operators” drafted to take incoming donation comms.
“We did it!” Russell cried, waving a padd in the air madly.
Jones barreled back onto the stage, knocking over Ih’mad in mid-shot and sending a stream of off-course flames into his hapless assistant.
“Ooooooh! Sorry!” Jones said. “Can somebody get him a doctor?” She quickly turned her attention back to Russell, snatching the padd out of his hands as Porter and Redding jogged over.
“One hundred sixteen million credits,” Jones said, reading the padd.
“Who in their right mind…” Redding began, drawing glares from Russell, Porter, and especially Jones. “I just wanted to know who made the donation,” she added.
“It’s anonymous,” Jones said. “But the credits have already been transferred, so it’s no trick.”
“I guess we can tell Bradley he can cancel the order for new signs,” Porter said.
“Sir, can I tell him?” Jones said eagerly. “Please please!”
“I’m okay with that,” Porter replied. “You are the one who beat him, after all.”
“I guess I am, aren’t I?” Jones said. “But first…” She stepped to the front of the stage. “Thank you ladies and gentlemen! You’ve been great! We don’t know how to thank you! Hope you enjoyed the show!”
“I die, Horatio!” Russell gasped, stumbling up beside her.
“Oh get off it, Sean,” Jones snapped. “Goodnight!”
While Jones ended the telethon, Porter headed off stage, shaking his head and chuckling. “Unbelievable,” he muttered.
“Tell me about it,” Redding replied. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy about it, but…wow. I wonder who made the donation.”
“You’re going to find out, aren’t you?”
“Damn right,” Redding said confidently. “So where are you headed?”
“Food court. I’m surprisingly hungry for the middle of the night.”
“Good plan,” she said, leading the way to the exit. “You coming?”
“It was my idea,” Porter said confused. And when did it include you, he added to himself as the pair left for the nearest turbolift.
“I don’t really want to ask this, but I have to,” Captain Lisa Beck said as she and what appeared to be Leximas sat in the living room of her parents’ beach house. “Are you really you?”
“If I said yes, would you have reason to fully believe me? For that matter, are you really you?” the former Waystation guru replied. Like Beck, Leximas was without a physical form, but hers had been blown up during an attack on Waystation a few years earlier. Physical death had done little to stop Leximas, though. Instead, she’d gone on to another level of existence.
“It’s you,” Beck said with a grin. “You have no idea how glad I am to see you. What the hell is going on?”
“A great many events in the history of the universe have come to pass in the name of either love or vengeance.”
“And this…whatever it is, is about vengeance. I figured that part out. But who’s this Selvan doing the vengeance bit? Who is it after? And what does any of it have to do with me?”
“You, unfortunately, are the bridge.”
“Let’s go about 100 percent less cryptic here, Lexi,” Beck said. “I’ve had about all the double-talk I can stand.”
“Of course,” Leximas said with a slight bow of her head. “The Selvan have not existed in physical form for over a millennium, since the time of their transcendence to a higher level of existence. At the time of their transcendence, though, they found that they were not exactly…welcome, into the community of higher beings. The Q Continuum decided that the Selvan were not ready for omnipotence and imprisoned the entire race in a dimensional rift. That rift is where the Selvan have been ever since, until recently that is.”
“Lucky me. What changed?”
“Nothing as such. Centuries of imprisonment united the Selvan in one goal: revenge. But to attain it, they first had to escape the confines of the rift. Divided, they could not succeed, so they found the strongest of their number and focused their energies to send him out of the rift to seek vengeance against the Q. But to hurt the Q, the Selvan must first reach the Continuum, which is why you are the bridge.”
“Yeah, but why me? What makes me this bridge? I…” Beck trailed off as the realization struck her. “Karyna,” she said softly.
“That is correct,” Leximas replied with a sage nod. “When she passed the powers of the Q to you, you became linked with the Continuum. You may no longer have the powers, but the link still exists. And while the link is very faint, it is still enough for the Selvan to use to breach the Continuum.”
“Okay then. You go warn the Continuum, and we’ll get this settled!” Beck said.
“I have tried,” the silver-eyed alien said. “But they…won’t take my calls.”
“The Q have a rather high view of themselves. In most circumstances, the Directors, Critics, and Ushers prefer to ignore them unless they do something that warrants attention. For their part, the Q do not react well to being called, summoned, or warned. They are supremely confident in their own omnipotence.”
“So is the Selvan really even a problem?” Beck asked. “He gets into the Continuum, and they swat him. End of story. I mean, what are his chances?”
“If the Selvan breaches the Continuum, quite good. They are vulnerable there. And if the Selvan succeeds, he may also bring about the end of everything. The Q, while…difficult, are now an integral part of the underlying structure of the universe. Remove them, and the rest collapses in an instant.”
“Maybe the Selvan won’t even get there. He tried the bridge once and didn’t make it.”
“The Selvan needed a location with more of a link to the Q, a location he has almost reached. Another attempt will be made soon. At that time, you and I will attempt to subvert the Selvan’s efforts and warn the Continuum.”
“If this bridge thing hurts as much as it did the last time, they’ll hear me screaming from here,” Beck said.
Leximas smiled slightly. “I have missed working with you, Captain.”
“We miss having you around, even Bradley Dillon.”
“Indeed,” Leximas said, her smile fading as she rose from the sofa. “We must prepare.”
“I’m all for that,” Beck said, following Leximas out of the illusory house to the beach.
Another barren world. Just what was the Selvan looking for?
Commander Morales steered the Penzance into orbit above Karakkis Four and started scanning for the Runabout Roanoke’s landing site. The Karakkis system wasn’t exactly a hotbed of activity. Eleven planets, none inhabited. Karakkis Four was the only Class M world, and even it was borderline. Nobody came here. Nobody wanted to come here…until now.
The Penzance’s sensors quickly picked up the runabout and the one human life sign walking along the planet’s surface toward a slight rise in the topography. Morales could end this right here. Snatch the Selvan off the surface with the transporter, then race back to Waystation.
But what if the Selvan killed Captain Beck in return? Could Morales be sure that it would even leave her alive long enough for him to complete the transport sequence?
On top of that, his own curiosity was getting the best of him. Why was the Selvan here? What had it killed a man, robbed a museum, and traveled across several star systems to accomplish?
There was only one way to find out.
The Lisa Beck body required more rest, but the Selvan did not much care at the moment. The goal was so very close. Once it was attained, there would be time for rest…assuming the human’s body survived, of course.
If it didn’t, it mattered little. The Selvan would shed the body like a soiled garment and return to its true form. But he was getting ahead of himself. Why jump ahead when there was still vengeance to savor?
Clutching the Glyph of Ranit-Del in Beck’s hand, the Selvan climbed up the gently sloping hillside to the plateau at the top.
The Selvan found that it was already occupied.
Commander Morales felt his throat catch as Captain Beck stepped up onto the plateau. “It’s not her,” he tried to tell himself. “It’s her body, but she’s not there.” Still, he felt himself wilting under the glare of his commanding officer’s angry eyes. He wasn’t prepared for this. Talking to the Selvan over the comm was one thing, but this…with her standing right in front of him. In Morales’ mind, somehow facing the Selvan meant dealing with some anonymous force, not Lisa.
“Do not interfere,” the Selvan warned. “These matters do not concern you.”
“If they concern Captain Beck, they concern me,” Morales replied, taking a step forward.
“I doubt she would agree.”
“Let’s ask her.”
“Lisa Beck is indisposed at the moment,” the Selvan said with a cruel smile. “And if you attempt to do anything, such as raise that weapon you have hidden in your right hand, she will be disposed of permanently.”
Morales opened his hand, revealing the small palm phaser he’d been carrying. So much for the element of surprise.
“I could still fire this and stun you before you could do much of anything,” Morales said.
“I only need an instant to kill this body. And your weapon will not touch me at all. Now, you will stay out of this.”
“What is this? What’s so important?”
“Revenge,” the Selvan said. “What else is there?”
“Against who? For what?”
“The Q will pay for their crimes against the Selvan people. They will pay with their existence.”
“And the other Selvan agree with this?”
“I AM THE SELVAN!” the creature controlling Beck bellowed furiously. “The others merged what they were into me, giving me their strength to carry out my task, then they melded into the ether, joining with our prison. I am all that remains because of the Q!”
“Okay,” Morales said, holding his hands up. “You’re angry. The Q hurt you, but why harm her? Why do you need Lisa?”
“That is none of your concern.”
“Like I said, if it concerns her, it concerns me. But here’s what I think. If I stun your body, you can’t do whatever this revenge is. You could kill her, but then you still won’t accomplish your big revenge.”
“What are the Q to you?” the Selvan asked. “Is it worth killing the woman you love just to stop me?”
“If I let you go ahead with this, how do I know you’ll release her?”
“I will have no further use for this form,” the Selvan said approaching Morales. “I can give her back to you just as she was. Or I can make her better.”
“Better?” Morales squeaked as Beck’s body was almost pressed up against his.
“You’re nothing to her now. Yes, you work together, but she only sees you in a professional capacity. I can change that. I can rebuild her mind to your specifications.”
“I just want Lisa,” Morales said, his voice quivering.
“She’ll still be your Lisa Beck, but with one difference. She will be madly and deeply in love with you. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?”
“Yes,” Morales whispered.
“Then I can proceed without further interruptions?”
Morales looked into the eyes of the woman in front of him, the woman who would soon be his. How could he say yes to this? He would get her back, but it really wouldn’t be her. Lisa Beck didn’t love him. This person would.
How could he say no?
Morales nodded his head, unable to actually voice the word.
The Selvan smiled Beck’s smile. “Excellent.”
She’d been tempted to comm him right away and hopefully wake him up in the middle of the night, but Yeoman Jones decided to wait until the next morning when Bradley Dillon would be waking up smug in his belief that he was now living on Bradley Dillon’s Waystation.
“Getting an early start?” Bradley asked spotting Yeoman Jones waiting for him as soon as he exited the turbolift into the wood paneled corridors of the Dillon Enterprises complex.
“I wanted to talk to you before you got too busy,” Jones said, standing up from her seat on the edge of the fountain dominating the corridor junction.
“I’m sure Gisele could have found time in my schedule for you to make a proper appointment. There was no need to trouble yourself like this.”
“It was no trouble at all.”
“So I take it there was something specific that you wished to discuss.”
And now for the moment she’d been waiting for all night. “You lost, Mister Dillon. We got enough credits to save our name.”
“I know,” Bradley replied, completely nonplused. Actually, he almost seemed to be smiling.
“You know?” Jones asked.
“Of course. You didn’t think I’d miss your telethon, did you? Creative idea, by the way. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
“Wait. The anonymous donation. Did you…” Could Bradley have made the donation himself? It was possible, but why would he…
Bradley ended Jones’s train of thought with a laugh as he shook his head. “Oh no. I believe that you’ll find those credits came from the coffers of one John Edward Simms, Junior. And so, he’s the one who lost. Not me.”
“Wha… How? What does that mean?”
“Mister Simms made the mistake of thinking he could just waltz onto Waystation and threaten me and my business. His so-called docking arm was nothing less than an all-out assault against my home, and I could not allow it to occur. So, I bought the station’s naming rights.”
“You lost me.”
“Ego, Yeoman. Ego is a powerful thing. Simms could have very easily ignored my purchase and gone ahead with his plans, but his ego would not allow it. Can you see him producing ads announcing Simms Ship Lines’ new service to Bradley Dillon’s Waystation? He’d die first. So once Simms found out about the naming rights problem, thanks to you and your telethon, he determined that I had to be stopped at any cost. The cost just happened to be 116 million credits.”
“You used us!” Jones cried.
“I prefer to think of it as utilizing my resources. I knew that you and the other officers would try to find a way to keep the Waystation name, and most likely your efforts would result in Simms getting wind of what was happening. I didn’t expect your solution to be quite so industrious. You impressed me, Yeoman Jones. Starfleet is wasting your potential.”
“What about Simms?” Jones asked darkly, controlling herself before she showed Bradley her potential in the area of kicking his pompous ass.
“The rest of this was up to him,” Bradley continued. “He did what I expected him to, which was to drain his liquid assets to stop me. Now, he doesn’t have the resources to build his docking arm, and he may find himself facing some rather unpleasant business choices in the near future.”
“All of this was to break John Simms, Junior. Everything we did, all of our work, just helped you destroy him.”
“He’s not destroyed, but I believe by the end of the day he’ll be feeling a bit more humble.”
“But what if he didn’t go for it? What if he let you have the rights?”
“Then I’d have the rights, and my name would be forever coupled with Waystation. It would be great advertising for Dillon Enterprises and do wonders for strengthening our brand name and increasing our profits.”
“So either way, you win.”
“That’s the only kind of game to play, Yeoman,” Bradley said with a smug grin. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have several meetings to prepare for. Have a pleasant day.”
Bradley strolled casually off down the corridor to his office suite, leaving Jones fuming in his wake.
The door chime sounded, drawing Lieutenant Commander Porter out of the padds of paperwork he’d been slowly sifting through. Commanding a place as large and complex as Waystation brought more than its share of bureaucratic crap to deal with. Supply orders. Personnel changes. Maintenance reports. The list went on and on and on.
Porter was grateful to look up and see Doctor Amedon Nelson waiting outside Captain Beck’s office.
“Come in,” Porter called.
“Taking up residence?” Nelson asked, strolling into what was normally Beck’s office.
“Hopefully not,” Porter replied, signing off on the latest status report from Lighting Control (Well, who do you think deals with all of the lights in a space station? Engineering?). “This is just way too much fun for me. Any casualties from the celebrations last night?”
“No. Everyone was fairly orderly…or asleep. And it’s not like saving our name was the same as winning the Dominion War or something.”
“Don’t say that in front of Yeoman Jones.”
“Definitely not. Anyway, that’s not why I’m here. We need to have another chat about the guest in my morgue. You heard anything from Commander Morales?”
“He sent us a brief comm saying he was in pursuit of the Roanoke. That was several hours ago, though. He may still be chasing her.”
“I just don’t know how much longer we can sit on this, Craig. I saw Joan Redding sniffing around you last night. We can only dodge her for so long.”
“Actually, she didn’t mention Phillip Harper at all,” Porter said. “But you’re right. Somebody’s going to start looking for him before too long.”
“But you’re not going to do anything in the meantime,” Nelson said.
“Nope. Not until I hear something else from Morales. So continue to sit on it, Doctor.”
“You just enjoyed saying that, didn’t you?”
“Maybe a little.”
He’d said yes. What the hell was he thinking? Morales had to stop this. Right now. Just pull his phaser and zap Beck’s body. The Selvan was bluffing. It had to be bluffing. There was no way it could overcome the effects of a heavy stun blast.
So why wasn’t he moving?
Morales told himself it was because he couldn’t risk Beck’s life on the chance that the Selvan wasn’t telling the truth, but the reality was much less palatable. He was willing to let the Selvan do whatever it wanted just as long as he got Beck for himself. If it turned out there really was a hell, he’d probably just booked a direct flight.
“Have you had a chance to take a look around?” the Selvan asked, breaking into Morales’ thoughts.
“Is there something to see?” Morales replied, standing off to the side of the plateau as the Selvan stood at the center holding the Glyph of Ranit-Del.
“Not so much anymore, but then time isn’t kind to many worlds. Take this for example,” the Selvan said, holding up the Glyph. “Before our transcendence, my people traveled to Da’saani many times and watched as this object was used to save the essences of the world’s High Priests. But now, no one even knows the name Da’saani. I spent hours in your computer records compiling enough information to piece together where Da’saani and my former homeworld were located. Of course, sometimes better sources of information present themselves.”
“If you have a point, could you get to it?”
“Impatient to have your female back?” the Selvan asked. “Of course you are. I’ve touched your mind. I know the loneliness that resides there.”
“Drop it,” Morales said through gritted teeth.
“Certainly. We have more interesting things to discuss than your miserable existence. For example, do you know where you’re standing?”
“Not a clue.”
“How about a Q?”
The Selvan smiled. “My last attempt to create a bridge to the Continuum may have failed, but I was able to just brush the realm of the Q. The touch was enlightening. In fact, I found out their dirty little secret. As much as they’d like the denizens of the galaxy to believe otherwise, the Q have not always been as they are now. They too were once flesh and bone. They too lived on a planet. This one.”
Morales looked out from the plateau across the barren landscape and tried to imagine a thriving culture of Q living there. Of course, imagining the Q as anything less than omnipotent was a bit of a stretch for him. Thinking of the Q as doing the mundane little things like going to work, eating a meal, or even going to bed seemed beyond odd.
“It’s kind of poetic when you think about it,” the Selvan continued. “The source of the Q will bring about their end. I’m just sorry you won’t get more of a show for you to watch when it happens. I’m actually enjoying having an audience for our final vengeance. Are you ready?”
“Uh huh,” Morales replied unconvincingly. Just a few minutes, and this would all be over…he hoped. How long did it take to create a bridge and destroy the Q?
The Selvan moved to the center of the plateau, raised the Glyph of Ranit-Del into the air, and began to chant.
“Ghemorra lokk ni soon. Khanit raal lenik kaa.”
The not-Gurat was looking none-too-pleased at the fact that Captain Beck’s “visitor” was still present as Beck and Leximas made their preparations on the beach. For her part, Beck was seated cross-legged in the sand while Leximas walked around her, speaking in hushed tones. The human’s eyes were closed in concentration, concentration that was strengthening her mental resolve.
The Selvan would not approve of this. The human was to be the bridge. If she were to resist, all could be lost.
“You will not lose yourself,” Leximas said. “Focus on your center. Be the bridge and also separate from the bridge. Focus.”
“I did a lot of focusing the last time…on the pain,” Beck replied.
“The pain will return. Possibly worse than before. Know this. Accept this. Overcome this.”
“Easy for you to say. You don’t have to feel it.”
“But I will. You will not be in this alone, but we will only succeed if you maintain focus.”
“No pressure,” Beck said with a slight smirk.
“No more than usual,” Leximas replied. “You have overcome greater obstacles than this. Karyna. The Critics.”
“True, but neither of them were trying to destroy the universe.”
“All the more reason to focus.”
“It’s certainly motivating.”
Beck tried once again to follow Leximas’ advice and focus her resources inwardly. She’d never been much for the whole meditation, visualizing inner power thing, but if it was the only way to stop the Selvan, she was all for it.
“Very good,” Leximas said softly.
The not-Gurat had officially had enough. “You do not belong,” it said, storming over to Leximas. “You must leave.”
“Do not break your focus,” Leximas said to Beck as she turned her silver gaze on the not-Gurat.
“You have given up much,” she continued. “But you have done so only to serve your own spite. The anger of one will not consume all.”
“The Selvan is all we are. The Selvan is our salvation. We will serve the Selvan. You will depart!”
The not-Gurat lashed out with its arm, smacking its hand directly on Leximas’ chest. Leximas looked down at the hand, unfazed, as not-Gurat stared with fury and confusion.
“You have no power over me,” Leximas stated placidly.
“This is our realm. We have power over all.”
“There are forces larger than your realm and your Selvan, a simple fact that your species has not comprehended at the risk of us all. You will now leave us.”
Leximas’ eyes flashed momentarily. “LEAVE US!”
The not-Gurat gasped, then suddenly launched backwards as though swatted with a large bat, sliding to a stop in the sand several yards away.
“Maintain your focus,” Leximas said calmly.
“Focusing,” Beck said, resisting the urge to open her eyes to get a look at whatever had just happened out there.
Suddenly, it was the last thing on her mind.
“Unnh!” she grunted as a wave of pain struck her.
“It has started,” Leximas said.
“Good guess,” Beck gasped. She felt the guru’s hands on her shoulders. “Focus on yourself. Accept the pain but do not surrender to it.”
Beck nodded quickly. “I’ve…had enough…with surrendering,” she said determinedly.
Beck closed it all out. The sand beneath her. The sound of the waves. The ocean breeze. The smell of salty air. All of it.
There was only her.
Not just her.
Leximas was with her. She could sense it.
There was pain. Ravaging horrible pain, searing through her mind and body with terrible force, threatening to consume her from within.
But she held.
There was only her and Leximas.
And then there was the bridge.
Even with the pain shoved aside, the sensation was disconcerting. Beck felt as though somehow her mind was out of her control and being stretched up into infinity, leaving her at the bottom of a deep dark hole.
“What am I supposed to do now?” she thought.
“Travel the bridge,” Leximas’ voice said from all around her.
“How do I do that?”
“You are the bridge. Be at the other end.”
A blinding flash erupted in front of her (Beck had decided it was best not to focus on the metaphysics of how she was “seeing” anything inside her own consciousness.). The light subsided, leaving a swirling blueish sphere of pulsating energy that was rapidly ascending the mind column toward what Beck assumed was the Continuum.
“The Selvan,” Beck said.
“Yes,” Leximas replied. “We haven’t much time.”
“Be the other end. Right.”
“It’s the theme of the day.” Beck did just that. It was her mind that was being used as the Q expressway here. She should be able to travel it at will. She wanted to go to the Q, so she would…
Beck abruptly found herself smashed up against a milky opaque barrier above her metaphysical head. She looked down, seeing the mind column/bridge stretching below her.
“We have arrived,” Leximas said.
“Nice of them to leave the door open,” Beck grunted. “Should I knock?”
“A bit more will be required,” Leximas replied, suddenly with her. Actually, the guru seemed to somehow almost be superimposed over Beck, her arm a ghostly transparent form revealing Beck’s own underneath as they reached out in unison to touch the barrier.
Beck felt the barrier resist, then slowly give way as they pushed as though moving through thick mud until finally…
Beck squinted in the light as the warm sun shone upon her, Leximas, and the neatly trimmed hedge maze surrounding them. Her eyes adjusted quickly, allowing her to appreciate her environment. Perfectly puffy white clouds drifted by in the picture-worthy blue sky. A slight breeze gently ruffled the petals of the rainbow of flowers planted in a great round bed at the center of the maze clearing they were standing in.
“Is this the Continuum?” Beck asked.
“Today,” Leximas replied.
“It’s…nicer…than I was expecting.”
“What were you expecting?”
“Well, the only Starfleet Captain to come here reported seeing it as a road in the desert…and then a Civil War battleground.”
“And today you perceive a garden,” Leximas stated.
“Was that supposed to be an explanation?”
“As much as is possible. Come. The house is this way,” Leximas replied, heading off into the hedge maze.
“Oh. That house,” Beck said in soft amazement as she gaped at the massive structure in front of her. It reminded her a bit of the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina, but the Biltmore would barely be considered a guest house in comparison to this place. This was Versailles on steroids.
Leximas was already halfway up the steps leading to the mansion’s front door.
“Hang on!” Beck said, charging after her.
“The Selvan will arrive shortly,” Leximas called back. “And I doubt our arrival here will be met kindly. We will need time to explain ourselves.”
The front door suddenly swung open revealing a husky man in servants garb holding the leashes of five truly gigantic rottweilers.
“You are trespassing,” the man snapped gruffly.
“I must see your lord,” Leximas said. “Your lives depend on it.”
The doorman laughed. “Our lives. Do you know who we are?”
“Yeah. You’re about to be the morons formerly known as Q,” Beck said, ignoring the dogs and storming toward the door. “You let us in or…”
“I am here on behalf of the Directors,” Leximas said, interrupting Beck in mid-threat. “I believe your lord will spare me a moment of time.”
The doorman stepped aside, glaring suspiciously at Beck.
“So name-dropping works on the Q, huh?” Beck asked as she and Leximas entered the vast marble foyer. The doorman released the dogs, which promptly vanished, then led the pair down a long corridor of tall white doors.
“Depending on their mood. Now that we are inside the Continuum, they are more likely to listen to us. When I was attempting to reach them from outside, invoking the Directors was useless.”
“Good thing you had a bridge around,” Beck said just as the doorman stopped in front of a pair of double doors, which he threw open revealing a vast ballroom filled with men and women in 17th century French finery.
“Anyone else feeling underdressed?” Beck muttered.
“What is the meaning of this?” a stocky older man with a bushy white mustache demanded, striding forward in an ornate white suit. “A human? Q! Q!!! Are you behind this?”
“Most assuredly not,” another man in the crowd replied curtly. “I don’t even know this human.”
“Too bad,” Beck said, stepping into the center of the room. “If you guys don’t do something, this human is about to get you all killed.”
The room erupted in laughter.
“Kill us?” the elder mustached Q snorted. “Bah! We’re omnipotent.”
“And blinded by your own sense of superiority,” Leximas said, joining Beck in the middle of the Q. “Your treatment of another species is about to come back to you.”
“And take a big hunk out of your ass,” Beck said.
“Can we remove them?” another voice from the crowd called. “I want to waltz!”
“Does the name Selvan ring any bells?” Beck shouted in frustration.
The Q murmured amongst themselves, but no one answered.
“You don’t even remember to do?” she continued. “Just another species to torment. One of who knows how many groups you’ve shoved around over the eons. Well, this one’s coming back, folks. And if you were paying a damn bit of attention to the rest of the universe out there, you might have been able to prevent a lot of crap from ever happening.”
“That’s not our concern,” the mustached Q said, stiffening.
Beck turned on him, eyes blazing. “The hell it isn’t! That bastard came to my station! It took my body! It…” Beck trailed off, her eyes beginning to tear up. “It killed Phillip.” She grabbed the elder Q by his coat and shook him violently. “IT KILLED HIM! And you god damn bastards are to blame!”
She tossed the Q aside and pointed an accusatory finger around the room. “All of you! If it didn’t mean we’d all die, I’d be just as happy to let him come. Let the Selvan kill you all! Hell, I’d take a front row seat. Let me watch the fun. I hope it hurts. I hope the Selvan slices through you the way he did Phillip. I hope you bleed to death slowly, the whole damn bunch of you! I…”
“The Selvan is here,” Leximas said simply.
“Impossible,” the elder Q snapped back.
“We are here,” Leximas replied. “She is the bridge, and soon your barrier will again be breached.”
The Q who had disavowed knowing Beck earlier suddenly emerged from the crowd and approached her.
“Don’t even try it,” Beck said defensively.
“Calm yourself,” the Q said disdainfully. “I just want to…” His eyes widened. “You have been touched before.”
“If you mean I’ve had Q abilities, then yes,” Beck replied. “That’s evidently what got us into this mess.”
A deafening thunder clap rumbled through the room as outside the curtained ballroom windows, the sky darkened.
“The Selvan is here,” Leximas said.
“Better get in those last dances now before…”
The elder Q waved his hand, and Beck was suddenly elsewhere. Just where this elsewhere was, she wasn’t sure, though. It was dark, cold, and silent.
She couldn’t move. Her limbs, not that she really had any here, were pinned to the cold dank surface her body was laying on.
“Leximas,” Beck called.
A light. In the distance. Dim. Almost invisible, but there was a light.
“Focus,” Beck ordered herself. She concentrated everything she could on her right arm, willing it to move. To reach for the dim light.
Instead the light came to her. Slowly moving closer, growing as it came.
Until it enveloped her.
So much for the idea that the light might be soothing and calming. Captain Beck found herself in the middle of a maelstrom of swirling colors pushing back and forth around her.
“Captain, can you hear me?” Leximas’ voice said softly inside her mind.
“Yes. Barely,” Beck said. “Where am I?”
“A battleground,” Leximas replied. “This is how your mind is processing the battle between the Selvan and the Q. The Q are learning how much power the Selvan has obtained.”
“Can you help them?”
“I am as much as I am able. We will see if it is enough.”
“What can I…” Beck suddenly had a flash. Barren landscape. Her own body. The Selvan was losing his grip.
“You must leave,” Leximas said.
“Working on it,” Beck said, trying to focus on the feeling of being inside her own skin.
Another flash of herself. Was that Commander Morales standing nearby? She felt her grip slipping again. Concentrate. Hang on.
Should could sense the Selvan with her, attempting to tear her fragile grip on her body away from her again. His power was immense and…
…and coming mostly from that stick in his…er…her hand. Her real hand.
She focused on her hand to no avail. The Selvan may have been distracted with the Q, but there was no way he was letting go of his one advantage.
Beck quickly changed tactics, moving away from the hand and entrenching herself farther in her own mind. If she couldn’t make him let go herself, she’d get help.
He wasn’t positive, but somehow Commander Morales had the sense that the Selvan’s attack on the Q wasn’t going according to plan. The Selvan in Beck’s body had been still for a long time, but now it was practically writhing in some sort of struggle Morales could not see. The Q must be fighting back. Of course, the fact that the Selvan could withstand a Q attack at all was nothing short of astounding.
“Commander,” Beck’s voice grunted.
“What do you want?” Morales asked cautiously.
“Walter.” Beck’s face contorted, fighting to form the words. “Shoot me.”
“Lisa?” Morales asked surprised.
Beck’s head bobbed. “Shoot.”
Morales had his phaser up in an instant and fired, sending a stun blast slamming into Beck’s chest. Her body went limp and collapsed to the ground, the Glyph of Ranit-Del tumbling out of her hand into the dirt.
She was resting now. Unconscious in one of the beds at the rear of the Runabout Roanoke. Commander Morales sat in a nearby chair wondering just what he had done.
Was Beck really back? By following orders, had he actually doomed her? And if she woke up, how could he face her?
He’d betrayed her, just as surely as if he’d handed her over to the Borg. He’d been willing to give Beck up, just to have some pale copy of her love him. Morales told himself it was because he wanted her to live on in some form. He should have known not to underestimate her, though. If there was a way back, Beck would find it, and she had…he hoped.
“Morales,” Beck’s voice croaked.
“I’m here, Captain,” Morales said, snapping out of it. “Are you alright?”
“A little sore. A lot tired. But I’m here,” Beck said. “I never thought I’d say this, but thanks for shooting me.”
“I’m not totally sure,” Beck said, sitting up gingerly in bed. “I think we just saved the universe, though,” she added with a slight smile.
“Yay, us,” Morales said unconvincingly.
“I want to go home.”
“Can you fly?”
“I think so,” Beck said. “That’s why we have autopilot. Did you bring that stick thing?”
“The Glyph of Ranit-Del. It’s out on table in the common area.”
“Take it with you. And lock it up somewhere.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Morales said, standing up. “I’ll see you back on Waystation.”
Beck nodded as Morales exited the room. He seemed to be in a hurry to leave, she noted. Not that she was sorry to see him go, she thought as the memories of the last few days flooded back.
Lieutenant Commander Porter’s face appeared on the monitor in the Penzance’s cockpit as Morales flew the craft back toward Waystation.
“Good to hear from you, sir,” Porter said. “We were getting worried. Any news on the Captain?”
“She’s safe. We’re coming home,” Morales said flatly.
“I take it we’re saving our happy voices until you get here?” Porter asked.
“Everything’s fine,” Morales said. “I’m just…tired. Morales out.”
Morales closed the channel and turned his attention back to the flight console. On the sensors, the Roanoke continued on course beside the Penzance.
She was over there, completely unaware of what he’d done. Beck believed he’d helped save her. And maybe he had, but before that… The deal he’d made with the Selvan…
How could he continue on as her first officer after this?
Beck was glad to have this time to herself. She needed to be alone right now. Alone with her thoughts. Alone with her grief.
For the first time since Phillip had been killed she could finally try to start dealing with it. He was gone. His body was probably on a slab in the morgue right now.
Phillip was gone.
A flash of light from the rear of the cockpit drew her out of her thoughts.
“Leximas,” Beck said, spinning around in her chair.
“Not hardly,” the mustached Q said haughtily.
“What do you want?” Beck demanded.
“We were victorious,” the Q said.
“I kind of figured that out, since you’re standing here. Where’s the Selvan?”
“The Selvan have been dealt with.”
“The ones in the rift as well?” Beck asked.
“All of them. Perhaps they will find non-existence more satisfying.”
“How magnanimous of you.”
“Not really. Despite what I said earlier, I hope you squashed him.”
“We did, but, as much as I hate to admit it, the outcome was in doubt there for a short time,” the Q said, taking the co-pilot’s seat behind Beck. “My fellow Q tells me that some sort of…thank you is in order.”
“You’re welcome,” Beck replied stiffly. “Are we done here?”
“As you wish,” Q said. “You have our gratitude.” The Q waved his hand and vanished in another flash of light.
“Yippee,” Beck muttered.
“Captain’s Log. Stardate 54287.3. We’re home. I can see Waystation out my front viewport. It’s huge, teeming with residents and my crew. They’re waiting for me. They want their captain back. Phillip will be there as well, waiting in the morgue for me to say my goodbyes. I’ve done this too many times in my life. Mom and Dad. Now Phillip. Maybe this is why the Q are so arrogant. When you don’t have to experience death, you take life for granted, which leads you to take pretty much everything else for granted. Can they even experience true loss? True sorrow? But then, why would they want to?”
Captain Beck powered down the runabout and tried not to look at the small crowd of officers gathering in the docking bay. Nearby, Commander Morales was performing similar tasks on the Penzance and also attempting not to make eye contact with his colleagues outside. If they knew what he’d done…
Finally, they opened the hatches to their respective crafts and stepped out into the docking bay where Lieutenant Commander Porter, Lieutenant Russell, Dr. Nelson, Marine Lieutenant Stephanie Hodges, and Yeoman Jones were waiting and smiling.
“Lisa!” Hodges shouted, rushing forward and hugging her friend.
“Hey, Steph,” Beck replied quietly.
“Long week?” Hodges said with a chuckle.
“You could say that.”
“You look exhausted.”
“You could say that, too.”
By this time, Porter and the others had approached. “Welcome back, Captain. We were starting to think you found better friends to play with.”
“But we held things together,” Russell said. “No problems at all.”
“And we didn’t even lose our name,” Jones said.
“Was there a chance we would?” Beck asked.
“We’ll fill you in later,” Nelson said. “But right now you look like hell. Go to bed. Doctor’s orders. I’ll be by in a while to look you over.”
“Thanks, Amedon,” Beck said trudging toward the exit. “Dismissed…or whatever.”
“Is she alright?” Hodges asked Morales.
“The Selvan is gone. But so is Phillip Harper. She been through a lot. I guess she just needs time.”
“Without you, she wouldn’t even be around, so I think she got the better end of this deal,” Hodges said. “You pulled off something pretty spectacular, Morales. Thank you.”
“Yes, we all think you’re great,” Porter said. “Can I give you back command now?”
“Not a chance,” Morales said. “I’m following doctor’s orders and going to bed.”
“Those orders weren’t for you,” Nelson said.
“I’m following them anyway.”
“Hmm…obedience. I like that,” Nelson replied. “I might as well start my exam with you anyway. I’ll walk you back to your quarters and try to fill you in on what you missed. It’s been interesting.”
She should have just transported to her quarters directly. Walking through the corridors, she saw too many people, all of whom seemed to want to exchange pleasantries and ask how her “vacation” had been. Vacation, huh? There was some irony for you. This was probably the least relaxing week of her life.
At long last, she arrived at her own door and paused, remembering what had taken place inside. Maybe she should sleep somewhere else tonight. Ops could find her some open guest quarters…
No. Phillip was gone, but she was still here. She had to move on and reclaim her own life. These were her quarters, and she was not being driven away.
Beck stepped through the doors and into the sparkling clean rooms. Porter must have had the place scrubbed spotless while she was gone. Not a trace remained of the attack that had occurred. That would make it easier to be here without Phillip.
Beck’s head whipped around toward the source of the noise where a figure leaned against the bedroom door frame.
She was on him in an instant, her arms locked tightly around him.
“How?” she stammered through teary eyes.
“I’m not sure. I was here. Then I was laying in the morgue looking up at Doctor Nelson. Seems I caught a case of death for a couple of days.”
“Q,” Beck said laughing through tears.
“Not cute! Q!”
“What about the Q?” Phillip said.
“Never mind,” Beck said, grabbing Phillip in a kiss. We’re even, she thought.
Commander Morales was going to have to leave his quarters at some point, but he just didn’t feel ready yet. He and Beck had been back for 24 hours now, but other than getting some sleep, he wasn’t feeling any better. How long did it take to “get over” betraying someone? Probably a very long time.
He’d already declined a breakfast invite from Tina Jones, so when the door chime sounded, he just assumed it was her coming to check up on him in person.
“Captain,” Morales said, somewhat alarmed as he stared at the woman standing outside his quarters.
“May I talk to you for a minute?” Beck asked. There was no hint of anger in her voice…or gratitude for that matter. She sounded simply professional.
“Sure,” Morales said, standing aside and gesturing for her to enter.
“I felt I should thank you again for what you did. I’m not sure that coming after me alone was the wisest thing to do, but I understand why you did it. I’m grateful.”
“We didn’t want to lose our captain,” Morales replied, attempting to sound as professional as she did right now. No bringing up personal issues.
“I heard. Doctor Nelson told me yesterday. I’m very happy for you.”
“It’s wonderful,” Beck said, staring at Morales unflinchingly. “But for the rest of my life I’m going to have this image seared into my brain of you killing him. Slicing him up.”
“I know that, but it was your body. Your face. That’s what’s in my mind, in my dreams at night. Honestly, I don’t know how I deal with this, how I can look at you everyday.”
Morales stepped back, unable to be this close to Beck seeing the hurt in her eyes. “I…I’ll request a transfer immediately.”
“No. I don’t want that,” Beck said, starting to pace. “I may not know how to deal with this, but I’m going to. You haven’t done anything wrong. I just wanted you to know why things between us may be a bit…strained for a while.”
Morales just nodded. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Yeah right.
“Okay then. Commander,” Beck said.
“Captain,” Morales replied. Beck quickly turned and left.
Commander Morales collapsed on his sofa with a weary sigh. Maybe Beck didn’t know what he’d done, but he would be punished appropriately. He’d still spend every day working with her, yet be farther away from her than ever.
Morales also decided that it was time to do something he should have done ages ago.
“Commander Morales to Counselor Miller.”
“I need to make an appointment.”
It was all starting to feel normal again. Actually, with Phillip alive, Captain Beck had managed to slip back into the regular routine of her life in a matter of hours. Now she was seated in the food court of Starfleet Square Mall soaking in the surroundings of her station again while she tried to straighten out the paperwork Porter had attempted to complete while she was away.
“The prodigal captain has returned, I see,” Bradley Dillon said jovially, taking a seat across the table from her. “Welcome back. I hope your…trip was enjoyable.”
“Thrill a minute,” Beck said. “I saw some interesting sites, got some exercise, ran into Leximas…”
“Leximas!” Bradley exclaimed surprised. He quickly regained his composure and leaned closer to Beck, whispering to her almost conspiratorially. “How…”
“It’s a metaphysical thing. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Fine as far as I could tell. The non-corporeal life seems to suit her.”
“Good to hear,” Bradley said thoughtfully. His grin soon returned to his face, though. “I guess life is good all around, then.”
“Yes indeed. I just received word that John Simms, Junior is being forced to sell OmegaMart. Seems he’s short of capital right now, and the Orions made him an offer for the chain. I’d prefer he sold it to me, but I’ll take what I can get.”
“What an amazing turn of events,” Beck said, returning Bradley’s smile.
“Isn’t it?” Bradley stood up from the table. “Well, I should get back to the office. Wonderful chatting with you.”
“Come by anytime,” Beck said. “Oh, and Bradley?”
“Yes,” Bradley said turning back to her.
Beck’s face instantly darkened. “If you ever pull anything like that naming rights crap on my station ever again, I’m going to stuff you into a VERY small cargo container and shoot you into the nearest sun. Are we clear?”
“Very,” Bradley said hoarsely, beating a hasty retreat.
Beck didn’t even have a chance to return to her paperwork before her commbadge chirped. “Ops to Captain Beck,” Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter’s voice said.
“I hate to interrupt your fun paperwork, but we’re receiving a distress call from the freighter S.S. Carthage. They were on their way here when they ran into a small problem with their ship.”
“What kind of problem?”
“There’s an elephant rampaging through it.”
“Small problem, huh?”
“It’s a nature transport. At least the rhinos didn’t get out, too.”
“Uh huh,” Beck replied, gathering up her padds. “Prep the Wayward, get Russell, and meet me in the docking bay. This I have to see.”
“On our way. Ops out.”
Yes indeed, everything was returning to normal.