Author: Alan Decker
STAR TRAKS: WAYSTATION
“Lost The Way”
By Alan Decker
It had been such a good day. Nice weather, a pretty wedding. She’d rescued some refugees, gotten her station back.
“Um…where’s my station?”
Captain Lisa Beck looked from the empty space outside the runabout viewport to Lieutenant Commander Craig Porter, who was frantically checking the ship’s sensors. “Did we make a wrong turn somewhere?”
She knew what his answer would be before he even began to reply. It wouldn’t be as simple as that. It never was.
“No,” Porter said, shaking his head in confusion and confirming her fears. “These are the right coordinates, but Waystation’s gone.”
She’d repeated the same thought in her head a dozen times now, but just couldn’t comprehend it. The idea was ridiculous.
It was more than ridiculous. It was absolutely impossible.
Beck shook herself out of her thoughts and came back to the present. Commander DeVoss was looking across her desk at Beck, her face filled with concern.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Beck said, restoring her posture to something more befitting a cadet at Starfleet Academy.
“There’s nothing to apologize for, Lisa. You’ve had a terrible shock, I know. If anyone is sorry, it’s me. I’m sorry I had to be the one to give you the news,” DeVoss said sympathetically. Beck felt her chest tighten. The last thing she needed or wanted right now was sympathy. They were gone!
They were gone.
Her parents were gone.
Her parents were dead.
“What happened to them?” Beck said, unable to prevent her throat from catching on the last word.
“I can let you read the comm,” DeVoss said, starting to turn the monitor on her desk toward Beck.
“Please,” Beck said quickly, her voice wavering as she fought to keep herself together . “Please just tell me.”
DeVoss saw the struggle on Beck’s face and turned the monitor back to its original position. “All right,” she said softly, leaning back in her chair. She let out a deep breath of her own before continuing. “Your mother and father and three other Astro- Tech personnel were on a long-range shuttle to the N’Vasst Shipyards at Andoria when their ship experienced some kind of catastrophic failure…”
Beck’s jaw tightened. Catastrophic failure? Is that what they’re calling it? My parents are dead!
“…which killed everyone aboard. Astro-Tech has not been able to determine the cause of the accident yet, but they have recovered the bodies and are transporting them to Earth.”
Beck nodded her understanding as DeVoss finished. It was all she could do without crying. The Commander let her sit silently for several moments, as her mind thrashed between devastation at the loss and rejection of the entire concept.
They are gone.
Not coming back.
Mom and Dad are dead.
Mommy and Daddy are…
Beck gazed over at Commander DeVoss. “What happens now?” she choked out, looking very much like the lost little girl she was feeling like at that moment.
“Do you know who the executor of your parents’ estate is?”
Beck shook her head. They’d never discussed it. Why hadn’t they discussed it? Mom and Dad were off-planet on a regular basis. Surely they had to consider what would happen if they died.
“Don’t worry,” DeVoss said, reaching across and putting a soothing hand on top of Beck’s. “Somebody knows. I’m sure they’ll make all of the necessary arrangements. And you will, of course, be granted bereavement leave to attend the memorial service. Go home. Be with your family.”
Family? What family? Mom and Dad were dead. It was just her and Kathy now.
Who told Kathy? Somebody had to have told Kathy already. Please let somebody have told Kathy already. Beck couldn’t. Her sister would have to find out from somebody else. Beck just couldn’t bear the thought of saying the words.
Beck numbly got up from the chair. “Thank you, Commander,” she mumbled before turning toward the door.
“I’m very sorry for your loss,” DeVoss called after her.
Beck nodded quickly, the first tears falling as she escaped into the corridor.
The space outside the runabout just looked so…empty.
“What happened to them?” Beck asked without looking away from the window.
“I’d be real happy if you could tell me,” Porter said. “I’m not picking up anything. No residual energy left over from an explosion, no debris, no transporter signatures, no subspace tears, no anything.”
“So they just vanished into thin air?” Beck demanded turning on Porter.
“Thin space really, but that’s what it looks like so far.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“I don’t either, but I can only report what the sensors are telling me. I’ll keep working on it, but if I don’t know what I’m looking for…”
“You’re looking for Waystation!” Beck snapped.
Beck dropped into her chair. “I’m sorry, Craig. That was unnecessary.”
“You’re upset. It’s perfectly understandable,” Porter replied. “Hell, I’m upset. That’s 100 decks of our friends that disappeared out there.”
“What if they’re cloaked? You’ve done it to the station before.”
“Yes, but unless the Romulans dropped off another cloaking device while we were on Multos, they’d have no way to do it. And why stay cloaked? Surely they see us sitting out here.”
“Guess there’s only one way to check for certain,” Beck said, typing commands into the console in front of her. The runabout slowly eased forward toward the position that should have been occupied by Waystation. Porter reflexively braced himself for a collision.
It never came.
“So much for the cloaking theory,” he said.
“Wasn’t much of a theory,” Beck muttered.
“It gave us something more to work with than ‘they aren’t there anymore,’ which is about as far as I’ve gotten.”
“You just need a bit more time to work on it.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I’m literally not seeing anything to work on. There’s not so much as a stray anomalous particle out there. I don’t have a clue where to even look for a clue.”
“Then we’ll stay here,” Beck said. “It’s not like we have anywhere to rush off to. I want answers.”
“So do I,” Porter said. “Unfortunately, the universe doesn’t always feel like giving them.”
Cadet Lisa Beck hadn’t been to many funerals in her eighteen years of life. The last one had been about six years earlier for a great-grandmother she’d barely known. Today was different. The two caskets on the dais at the front of the room contained two of the closest people in the world to her, the thought of which was, of course, the cause of incredible grief, but also, she found herself thinking, more than a little surreal.
Her parents were inside those boxes.
She could just walk up, lift the lid, and see her father or her mother. They were in the room with her, yet gone forever.
Part of her actually did want to go see them, despite the warnings from Astro-Tech and the morticians that they’d both been badly burned in the accident on their ship. Horrible as the experience would be, there would be a kind of closure in looking at the bodies. She didn’t move, though, instead remaining in her seat, silently accepting the condolences from the others at the service.
Kathy sat beside her, dressed in a simple black dress that made Beck feel out of place in her cadet uniform. Beck knew that her mother would have wanted her to wear it, though. Both her mother and her father had been so proud when Beck was accepted at Starfleet Academy, achieving a dream that neither parent had been able to fulfill themselves. Christine and Nathan Beck had done all they could to ensure that their daughter would become a Starfleet Officer, particularly Christine. She was absolutely determined that Beck would be selected to attend the Academy.
At least they’d been able to see Beck achieve that goal. She was a Cadet now. She was on her way to becoming a Starfleet Officer. But her mother and father would never see her graduate. They’d never see her off to her first posting. They’d never…
She caught herself before she was completely overcome with grief as well as fury at Astro-Tech for allowing this to happen.
Another well-wisher, Mrs. Lendak, who lived across the street from their family home in North Carolina, stepped up to Beck and Kathy and gave both girls a big hug. Beck tried to focus on what she was saying, not that it really mattered. Everyone said the same things. “I’m so sorry.” “They were such wonderful people.” “Please let us know if we can do anything.” Beck just couldn’t stop looking at the two boxes at the front of the room.
The boxes holding her dead parents.
Finally the memorial service started. Beck had never met the officiant, and she was fairly certain that her parents never had either. He spent a quick 20 minutes uttering platitudes about her mother and father, reciting back whatever details he’d been able to glean from whomever had hired him (Most likely Uncle Paul. He, as Beck found out soon after learning of her parents death, had been named executor of the estate.). While talking about Beck and Kathy, the officiant gave them a smile and a wink. A wink? Beck was sure it was supposed to be comforting, but it just felt…wrong. Her parents were dead in boxes behind the guy. This was no time for winking.
And then it was over. The gathered throng filtered out, once again expressing their condolences to Beck and Kathy, until no one but the sisters remained silently staring at the caskets on the dais as a couple of funeral home employees attached anti-grav units to them in preparation for moving them off to the crematorium. From there her parents ashes would be combined in a small container and sent off to their final resting place: the rings of Saturn. Dad had always wanted to spend eternity there for some reason.
“Do you want to see them?” Kathy asked softly, breaking the silence.
“No,” Beck lied. Of course she was still considering it, but the last thing Beck wanted was for Kathy’s final image of their parents to be the damaged corpses in those caskets. “Better to remember them as they were.”
“Uh huh,” Kathy said, not sounding entirely convinced.
“Girls?” Uncle Paul’s voice said from behind them. The sister’s turned to face their mother’s brother. “You two okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Kathy said, looking at the floor.
“We just wanted to see them off,” Beck said, glancing back as the caskets were floated off of the dais into the back corridors of the funeral parlor.
“Take all the time you want,” Paul said with a sympathetic smile.
“We’re done,” Beck said, drawing a quick, startled glance from Kathy. “We should probably get back the house anyway. People will be there soon.”
“No one is expecting you two to play hostess. It’s all taken care of. But tomorrow morning we’re scheduled to meet with the attorney about the wills. I know it’s awfully soon, but…”
“It’s okay,” Beck said. “I can’t be away from the Academy for too long anyway.” This prompted another startled look from Kathy.
“Okay,” Paul said, noticing the anger growing on Kathy’s face. “I’ll leave you two alone. I’ll be outside whenever you’re ready to leave.” He made a quick retreat from the room, leaving the sisters.
“You’re going back?” Kathy exclaimed angrily once Paul was gone.
“Of course I am,” Beck said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“What about me?” Kathy demanded.
“I’m sure Mom and Dad made arrangements,” Beck said.
“Arrangements? You mean send me off to live with someone else. I don’t want that! I want to stay home! In OUR home!”
“What do you expect me to do about it?”
“Why are you being so stupid about this? Come home!”
“I can’t do that, Kathy. The Academy…”
“Fuck the Academy! What about me? You’re my fucking sister! This shouldn’t even be a question for you. You have to come back.”
“Mom and Dad wouldn’t want that. Not after all of this. They wanted me to be in Starfleet. I’m not going to throw my career away.”
“No. Can’t have something stupid like family get in the way of Starfleet,” Kathy snapped before storming toward the exit.
“Kathy!” Beck shouted after her. “Stop it! You’re being ridiculous.”
Her younger sister stopped and whipped back toward her. “So wanting to stay in my house with my sister is ridiculous, huh?”
“You’re not looking at the big picture. You’re only three years away from 18. You’ll be able to go wherever you want. Do whatever you want. But if I leave the Academy, what happens to me? They aren’t going to hold my spot for that long.”
“You could just enlist. Lots of people do.”
“That’s not what I want.”
“And, of course, it’s all about you,” Kathy said, turning back to the doors. “It’s always been about you.”
Beck opened her mouth to respond, but Kathy was already gone. Not that it mattered. She wouldn’t listen to anything Beck had to say anyway. Kathy just didn’t understand or want to understand. The universe wasn’t going to reshape itself for her. Yeah, moving would suck, but this wasn’t exactly fun for Beck either. Kathy needed to get over herself and realize that Beck wasn’t going to stop her life just to make Kathy happy.
Right now, Captain Beck did feel a bit like her life had stopped. The first few minutes after the discovery that Waystation was missing had been a frantic flurry of activity checking sensors and readouts. But now the runabout seemed to have been sitting in the same place looking at the same patch of nothing for an eternity.
Porter’s console blooped, indicating yet another negative result on yet another search. Beck was sure that it was just her imagination running away with her, but the bloop almost sounded sad. Like the computer too was growing despondent that Waystation would ever be found.
“We’re not getting anywhere, are we?” Beck asked solemnly.
“I didn’t want to be the first to mention it,” Porter replied, leaning back in his chair and rubbing his tired eyes. “Waystation isn’t there, and I can’t find any hint as to where it might have gone or how it went there. It’s like the station was never here in the first place.”
“We know it was here. I checked our coordinates. You checked out coordinates.”
“And then we rechecked them a few times. I know. But the runabout’s sensors can’t find a thing. Maybe if we had a science ship here, we could dig a bit deeper, but even then I’m not sure that we’d detect anything.”
“But it was here,” Beck insisted. “We just left yesterday. What could have happened that fast? It’s like someone was just waiting for us to leave before they struck.” Beck was silent for a moment, following that particular train of thought. “Maybe that’s it. Somebody caused this on purpose, and they did it after they knew we were gone.”
“Who? And why?” Porter asked. “And why leave us sitting out here? Unless…” Porter trailed off.
“Unless we’re completely wrong about this.”
“You lost me.”
“Maybe we’ve been looking at this the wrong way,” Porter said. “What if nothing happened to Waystation?”
“What do you mean ‘what if nothing happened’?” Beck snapped. “Look! Waystation isn’t there. Something damn well had to happen to it unless…” She stopped, suddenly getting Porter’s point. “…unless it happened to us,” she finished.
Porter nodded. “It’s certainly easier to grab a runabout than an entire space station…not that I’m saying we were grabbed. We could have just as easily shifted somehow.”
“Shifted? You mean like to another universe?”
“Or in time.”
“Oh please not that,” Beck said, rolling her eyes.
“It would make sense. There’s no sign of Waystation because it hasn’t been built yet. Or maybe it was destroyed centuries ago.”
“Assuming you’re right, which I’m really hoping you’re not…no offense…can you tell when we are?”
“Not from here. The runabout doesn’t have detailed enough information in its computer system. We need to head toward one of the Federation core worlds. Preferably Earth. It knows Earth inside and out. You’d think it was the center of the universe or something.”
“And being somewhere else in time isn’t that bad. I’d actually be relieved. One slingshot maneuver, and we’re home.”
“Slingshot? In a runabout?”
“It’s been done before. I imagine it’s a bumpy ride, but better that than trying to figure out how to breach a dimensional barrier or something.”
“Point taken,” Beck said. “But before we go running all the way back to Earth, let’s check on something a little closer.”
“What’d you have in mind?”
“Starbase 219. If it’s there, we may need to rethink your theory.”
“Unless we get there 10 years ago and throw the timeline into complete disarray with our immense future knowledge,” Porter said as Beck laid in the course.
“Always the optimist, eh, Craig?” Beck said.
“Don’t mind me. I’m sure everything will be fine.”
“No, you aren’t.”
“It might be.”
Beck sent the runabout into warp and actually felt a little bit better about things. They at least had something resembling a plan now. She was confident that the pieces would start falling into place soon, and everything would be fine.
Things had been going so well. Cadet Lisa Beck had all of her classes well in hand, the friendships she had made were strengthening with each passing day, and physically she was in the best shape of her life. She was thriving at Starfleet Academy.
And it only took five little words to send it all spiraling into crap:
“We can’t find your sister.”
Beck stared somewhat dumbstruck at her grandmother’s face on the monitor on her desk in her Academy dorm room. The older woman was near frantic, Beck could tell. And judging by the wild look to her grandmother’s hair and the bleary look in her eyes, Beck gathered that this wasn’t something that had just happened.
“Lisa! Are you listening to me?” her grandmother snapped.
“Yes,” Beck said. “What happened? What do you mean you can’t find her?”
Beck reflexively flinched. No. She wouldn’t accept that. Kathy wasn’t gone. Not like her mother and father. Kathy was NOT gone.
“She disappeared yesterday morning. No one has seen her since.”
“Could she have gone to the woods or something?” Beck asked. Oraster Colony, where Kathy now lived with their paternal grandparents, was known more for its towering forests than its bustling cities, mostly because there were no bustling cities on Oraster Colony. The two hundred or so residents of the colony spent most of their time gathering the berries and fruits of the world’s forests, many of which were key components of medicines used throughout the Federation. It wasn’t glamorous work, but until replicators were able to reproduce the particular properties of the Oraster Colony harvests, the efforts of people like Beck’s grandparents were necessary. Of course, it also helped that the elder Becks loved the idyllic forest setting in which they lived. Judging from the increasingly clipped conversations Beck had had with Kathy since her move to Oraster Colony, her sister was not nearly as entranced.
“That’s what we thought at first,” Angela Beck said, rubbing a weary eye. “But when she didn’t come home last night, we got worried. No one’s been able to pick up her up on scanners.”
“What about caves? Are any nearby?” Beck asked quickly. “She could have fallen…”
“She could be hurt. That’s why she didn’t come back.”
“Lisa, we had three freighters take shipments out of here yesterday. We thought…we thought she might be trying to get to you. She hasn’t commed you?”
“No, Grandma. I haven’t heard anything from her. But I can’t believe that she’d just get on a ship without knowing where it’s going. I know she’s a kid and all, but even she’s not that stupid.”
“If there’s one thing your grandfather and I have learned over the last couple of months, it’s that your sister is no longer a child. She’s a ferociously bright young woman. If she wanted to leave Oraster, I have no doubt that she would find a way.”
“But where would she go? It’s not like she can just start wandering the galaxy.”
“Can’t she?” Angela Beck asked. “This is why I called you, Lisa. I don’t know what kind of contact, if any, you have with Starfleet beyond the Academy, but we need their help. Kathy is out there somewhere, and we don’t have the slightest clue where she’s heading.”
“Don’t worry, Grandma. Everything is going to be okay,” Beck replied. “I’ll take care of it, and I’ll contact you as soon as I find out anything. I promise.”
“I’m sorry we had to interrupt your studies with this.”
“It’s no problem. She’s my sister, after all. I’ll find her.”
“Thank you, dear. We love you, and we’‘ll talk to you soon.”
“I love you, too, Grandma. Bye.”
Her grandmother closed the channel, and Beck leaned back in her desk chair and looked up at the sterile gray ceiling of her dorm room, lost in thought. If Kathy had left Oraster Colony, it was with some idea of a destination. Her sister was many things, but spontaneous was not one of them. The trick would be figuring out where Kathy planned to go, but Beck had a strong feeling that that wouldn’t be all that difficult. And she fairly certain Starfleet’s involvement wouldn’t be necessary.
“Wow are we glad to see you,” Porter said as he and Beck exited their runabout into one of the landing bays of Starbase 219 where a stone-faced Starfleet officer was standing alone in the empty bay, presumably waiting for them.
“I will take you to Admiral Remington,” the Vulcan officer, a commander by the look of her pips, said with a crisp nod and a gesture toward the bay exit.
“Thank you,” Beck said, trying to mask her own anxiousness as they stepped out into the corridor. She wasn’t able to do so for long. “Is there something going on that we don’t know about?” she demanded.
Their escort didn’t miss a step. “There are most likely many events occurring in the universe that you do not know about. You will need to clarify the question.”
“Then you haven’t heard anything about my station,” Beck said as the trio entered a turbolift, which immediately began its ascent toward the starbase’s command level.
“I am aware that you are Captain Lisa Beck and that you command Waystation; however, I have not visited the facility myself.”
“That’d be pretty hard anyway,” Porter muttered.
“I do not understand the issue.”
“Neither do we. That’s the problem,” Beck said as the turbolift slowed to a halt. The lift opened into a short corridor, which terminated at set of doors. The Vulcan pressed the door chime, then, without waiting for a response, announced, “The Waystation officers are here.”
Immediately, the doors slid open, allowing Porter and Beck to enter a large office. For all of its size, the room was certainly lacking in decor beyond a couple of chairs and a desk, behind which sat a gray-haired Starfleet Admiral.
“Admiral Remington,” Beck said, extending her hand to the officer as she strode toward his desk. “It’s good to meet you.”
Remington ignored the hand, instead waving for Beck and Porter to take the seats across the desk from him. The Waystation officers exchanged a quick glance then did as requested.
“Your visit is something of a surprise, Captain,” Remington said. “Is there something in particular that we can help you with?”
“So you don’t know?”
“Waystation has disappeared!” Beck exclaimed.
“I highly doubt that,” Remington replied. “I would have been informed.” He tapped a command on his desk, then turned his desk monitor around so that Beck and Porter could see the display, which clearly showed Waystation on a long-range scan.
“That’s not possible,” Beck said. “We were just there. Well, not there, but where it should have been, and it wasn’t! There, I mean!”
“Maybe it was just hiding until we went away,” Porter said frowning.
“Something isn’t right here.”
“I should say not,” Remington said. “This was really a poorly thought-out ruse, whoever you are.” He rose from his desk, looming over the pair. “Now who are you and what do you really want here?” he demanded.
“I’m Lisa Beck,” Beck began.
“I doubt she’d agree if she were here, but my guess is that she is currently commanding her station, a station we can clearly detect with our scans.”
“Can I get access to your sensors?” Porter asked. There had to be an explanation for this. First there was a station. Then no station. Then a station again. What was happening?
“Are you out of your mind?” Remington snapped, pretty much shooting down Porter’s hopes of finding out. “You won’t be touching any Starfleet systems!”
“But we are Starfleet!” Beck insisted. “Captain Lisa Beck. Starfleet Serial Number…”
“Save it,” Remington interrupted. “Anyone could get that information about Beck as well as her mother’s maiden name and all of that.” He spun the desk monitor back to face him and tapped another control bringing up another readout that only he could see. “If you’re really Captain Beck, what is your command code for Waystation?”
“Beck-Zeta…” she trailed off, stopping herself. This wasn’t right. She shouldn’t have to do this. She turned to Porter, who was staring back at her, eyes wide. “No,” he mouthed, shaking his head.
“Well?” Remington pressed.
“This is wrong,” she said allowed, aiming the remark at Porter.
“Which part?” Porter replied, shooting a nasty look at Remington.
“No. This is wrong. I can’t explain it, but this whole thing is wrong. It just feels…”
“Wrong?” Porter offered.
“You mean like the fact that no one was in the corridors outside the landing bay…or in the landing bay for that matter except for our oh-so-cheery greeter?”
“And did you hear her actually tell the turbolift to take us anywhere?” Beck asked.
“Now that you mention it, no.”
“You two are insane,” Remington snapped.
“We’ll see about that,” Beck said, nodding to Porter, who leapt out of his seat, grabbed Remington’s desk console, and started typing in commands.
“Stop!” Remington cried. “You are not allowed…”
“I can’t get into the system,” Porter said to Beck, ignoring Remington.
“No. There’s no system. It doesn’t actually do anything.” He reached past Remington and tapped the one command he’d seen the Admiral hit earlier. The image on the desktop console screen shifted to show Waystation. Porter frowned. “This is a static image. And it was taken weeks ago.”
“It’s from Starbase 219’s sensors, but, like I said, it’s old news.”
“What the hell is going on here?” Beck demanded, turning on Remington. The Admiral gaped at Beck, frozen in place. “Answer me!” Beck shouted, reaching for the older man’s shoulders. He vanished before she got there.
“Great. He’s being evasive,” Porter said.
The office disappeared around them, leaving them in blackness. The sudden shift sent a disorienting wave of shock through their heads, leaving Beck and Porter staggering.
“What…was that?” Beck said, grabbing the sides of her head.
“I don’t know,” Porter said. “Didn’t like it, though.”
“That makes two of us,” Beck replied, looking around at their surroundings, or lack thereof. “Where are we?”
“I’m going to have to go with another ‘I don’t know.’”
“This just isn’t your day for answers, is it, Craig?”
“Afraid not. I promise to give myself a thorough scolding when we get back to Waystation.”
“Let’s just worry about getting out of here first. Wherever here is.”
“Some kind of holodeck maybe? If we can find a wall, we might be able to follow it to a door.” Porter started to head off in a randomly-selected direction.
“Wait. We don’t want to get separated,” Beck said, grabbing for Porter’s shoulder.
Her hand went right through him.
“WHAT THE HELL?” both officers exclaimed.
Porter reached for Beck. His hand passed through her torso without a bit of resistance.
“I’m going to ignore where your hands just were,” Beck said.
“Sounds like all of my dates.”
“Okay. You’re definitely really you,” Beck said.
“Yep. No holodeck fakes here. You?”
“A fake you would say that.”
“I can hurt you, you know.”
“That’s my captain,” Porter said. “So now that we know that you’re you and I’m me, we just have this minor issue of being non-corporeal and in the middle of a big black nothing. Any ideas?”
“Oh sure. Leave me with the hard part,” Beck muttered.
“You’ve got a lot more experience with other states of being than I do.”
“But this doesn’t feel like any of them. It’s different than what the Selvan did to me or when Leximas helped me fight the Critics. This…this is like…a dream. You know the dreams where you know you’re in a dream.”
“So you think we can just will ourselves awake?” Porter asked.
“It’s worth a shot. Concentrate.”
“Working on it,” Porter said through closed eyes.
Beck focused on pushing through whatever state her mind was in back to full-consciousness. She needed to get away from there. She needed to wake up. She had to…
And suddenly she was someplace else.
The house felt strange now. Foreign. Beck hadn’t been inside since she came back for the funeral. All the furniture and decorations were still there. The house was completely the same.
But it wasn’t home anymore.
Home as she knew it was gone. Gone with her mother and father.
This was just a building. The place was full of memories, certainly, but the warmth that came from being with her family was no longer here. Beck would have to find home elsewhere. Not in this museum to the past.
There was just one more bit of business to attend to.
All there was left to do was wait.
Night had fallen by the time the door to the house finally slid open.
“Lights,” Beck’s sister’s voice called from the foyer. The foyer fixture obediently illuminated, its glow visible in the living room where Beck sat in shadow. Yes, it was a bit over-dramatic, but then so was running away and hopping a freighter to get back to Earth.
Beck could hear Kathy let out a long sigh, then head into the living room on her way toward the kitchen.
“Long trip?” Beck asked.
Kathy screamed, leaping back toward the wall as she did so.
“Lights,” Beck ordered, rising from her seat.
“Dammit, Lisa!” Kathy cried. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“You aren’t seriously going to ask me that,” Beck said.
“Yeah, I think I am. What are you doing? No. Wait. I don’t even want to know. Get out.”
“I’m not leaving, Kathy.”
“The hell you aren’t. I’ll call the police. It’s my property. You got the beach house. This place is mine.”
“Not until you’re eighteen. Until then, I’m holding it for you.”
“Fine. Stay. See if I care,” Kathy snapped, storming into the kitchen.
“Neither of us are staying,” Beck retorted, following her. “You’re going back to Oraster. Grandma and Grandpa are really upset.”
“I’ll call them and tell them I’m fine, but I am staying here,” Kathy said. “This is my home!”
“We’ve been through this, Kathy. You can’t live here alone.”
“Then come back!” Kathy cried. “We belong here!”
“It’s…it’s just a house,” Beck said.
“NO!” Kathy screamed, tears welling in her eyes. “IT’S HOME! Everything I have, everyone I know is here! We live here!”
“I don’t anymore,” Beck said quietly. “We have to move on.”
“That’s easy for you!” Kathy shot back, the tears flowing freely now. “You’ve got Starfleet and a bunch of new friends. What about me? You shipped me off to that crappy colony…”
“Mom and Dad decided…”
“They’re not here! You are. And you’re not doing a damn thing about it.”
“No? I just begged for permission to leave the Academy for a couple of days to chase you down. I’m missing class and possibly hurting my future because I’m here dealing with you and your complete inability to GROW THE FUCK UP! You want to live here? Fine. Come back in three years and take the place over. It’ll be all yours. Until then, you are going back to Grandma and Grandpa! You don’t want to go to a new school and make new friends? Tough. What do you think I’ve been doing in San Francisco? It’s hard. All of this is hard. But we’re going to deal with it and get on with living our lives.”
Kathy muttered something under her breath, all the while fixing Beck with an evil glare.
“What was that?” Beck snapped.
“I said, ‘Convenient for you, you fucking bitch.,’” Kathy said, carefully enunciating each word.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“What do you think it means?” Kathy shot back. “You get what you want. Starfleet. The Academy. And I get stuck at the ass end of space. What about what I want?”
“It’s not realistic,” Beck said.
“Yeah, I’m getting that. How stupid of me to think that my own sister would love me enough to want to keep our family together in our own house.”
“Forget it.” Kathy spun and headed back toward the foyer.
“Where are you going?” Beck called. She tapped a couple of commands into the console on the end table beside her before chasing after her sister.
“Away from you,” Kathy replied, starting up the steps leading from the foyer to the second floor.
“You can’t stay here.”
“You’re going to stop me?”
“If I have to.”
“Just leave. It will be easier on both of us.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Then you’re going to be stuck here a long time.”
The front door chime sounded.
“I don’t think so,” Beck said.
“Who is that?” Kathy demanded.
“You didn’t leave me any other choice.”
“WHO IS IT?”
Beck activated the front door, which slid open revealing two local police officers. She had contacted them as soon as soon as she arrived in town, filling them in on the situation with Kathy. Another message sent when Kathy walked into the house, brought a patrol car to the house, where the officers had been waiting for Beck’s signal, a signal Beck had hoped she wouldn’t have to send. But Kathy hadn’t left her any choice.
“Miss Beck, you’re going to need to come with us,” the lead officer said to Kathy. He turned to Beck. “We’ll see that her guardians are informed.”
“Thank you,” Beck said as Kathy slowly descended the stairs, glaring at her older sister as she went.
“I’m sorry, Kathy,” Beck said. “I love you, but…”
“Get me out of here,” Kathy said to the officers. She pushed past them and out the door.
The lead officer gave Beck a sympathetic look and a nod. “It’ll be okay,” he said. “Night, ma’am.”
The door closed, leaving Beck alone in the empty house that somehow felt even less like home than it had before.
Beck blinked several times to clear her vision. She was on her back on some kind of table, looking up at a ceiling made up of gray metal panels. From the soft thrum she could hear in the background, Beck guessed that she was on some kind of ship.
And something was on her head.
Beck snatched at whatever it was, yanking a vaguely-helmet-shaped mass of metal and wires off of her skull and throwing it to the floor. She was on her feet in an instant and moving to the table beside hers, where Porter lay. She could see his eyes rapidly moving behind his eyelids. He was fighting. Struggling to break through to consciousness.
Before Beck could move to help him, the door to the room opened, and a Multek woman rushed in, blaster in hand.
“How did you do that?” the Multek demanded.
“Who are you?” Beck demanded right back as she took a step toward their captor. She stopped, staring at the newcomer. “Do I know you?”
“We’ve met,” the woman said darkly. “I am Pophlie!”
“Not ringing any bells.”
“I captured you and the other human!” Pophlie said, striding forward and waving her weapon at Porter.
“Give me a minute.”
“You were going to make me rich!” Pophlie said threateningly, moving closer to Beck with her blaster.
“Wait. You were the one who wanted to display us in the sideshow kind of thing, right?” Beck asked.
“YES!” Pophlie shouted, now mere inches from Beck.
Beck suddenly hit her with a quick right cross, knocking the Multek to the floor. “I remember now,” Beck said, scooping the blaster up from the fallen Multek. “I wasn’t real happy about all that. And this definitely isn’t improving my opinion of you.”
“You weren’t supposed to wake up,” Pophlie said, getting to her feet as she watched the gun in Beck’s hand warily.
“Yeah well, plans don’t often go the way they’re supposed to. Now wake him up.”
“What if I refuse?”
“I’ll kill you, then figure out how to wake him up myself. But this way is faster and doesn’t end with you as a corpse. Move it.”
Pophlie quickly stepped over to a large console dominating the far wall of the room and got to work. A few moments later, Porter groaned and began to stir.
“It’s okay, Porter,” Beck said, rushing over to him. “Take it slow.”
“Only speed I’ve got right now,” Porter mumbled as Beck removed the helmet from his head with one hand, all the while keeping the blaster trained on Pophlie with the other. “Where are we?”
“Captured by a Multek with a grudge.”
“It’s not Pophlie is it?”
“See! He remembers!” Pophlie said excitedly.
“How did you know that?” Beck asked, helping Porter sit up.
“She’s the only Multek with a grudge against me, I think. And she was kind of hot.”
“Thank you,” Pophlie said flattered.
Beck rolled her eyes. “We’re getting out of here. Where’s our ship?”
“In my landing bay, but…what are you going to do with me?”
“That’s for the Multek authorities to decide,” Beck said. “Now how many lackeys are we going to have to fight between here and the landing bay?”
“Lackeys?” Pophlie asked confused.
“Followers. Employees. Guards.”
Pophlie looked down at the floor, shuffling her feet a bit. “I…I don’t have any,” she said embarrassed.
“What happened?” Porter asked. “You had your own horde!”
“The authorities really cracked down on people in my line of work.”
“You mean kidnappers and smugglers?” Beck said pointedly.
“I couldn’t pay my men any more, so they left,” Pophlie continued, ignoring Beck.
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that,” Porter said. “Well, not really, but still, it’s obviously tough on you.”
“Would you stop flirting with her, so we can go?” Beck said.
“I’m not flirting,” Porter said.
“Yes, you are.”
“She’s right,” Pophlie said. “I like it, though.”
“That’s it. I’m shooting the next person who talks,” Beck said. “Out the door. Both of you!”
“Runabout Cumberland, you are cleared to land in Docking Bay Two,” Commander Walter Morales’ voice said over the runabout’s comm system.
“Thank you, Morales. We’ll be right in,” Beck said, unable and unwilling to stop the broad grin from spreading across her face.
“I have never been happier to see this place,” Porter said.
“You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” Beck said.
“Are we resorting to cliches now?”
“Abject sentimentality,” Beck said.
“But when we thought the station was gone, I…I about lost it, Craig. It hit me just how much you all mean to me. I’ve already lost one family. I don’t think I could have faced losing another.”
“I was pretty much hanging out in the land of denial about the whole thing myself,” Porter said. “But no matter what, you wouldn’t have been alone.”
“I know,” Beck said, smiling at Porter. She suddenly reached over and hugged him. “You’re a good friend, Craig. Thank you.”
“Always,” Porter replied, returning the hug.
“All right. Enough of that,” Beck said, breaking the embrace. “Let’s go inside, grab the others, and get thoroughly drunk.”
“Now you’re talking. I’d say that after having our minds messed with by a Multek with a pointless vendetta, we’ve earned it.”
“Absolutely,” Beck said, steering the Cumberland into the waiting docking bay. “I just have wonder what the hell Pophlie thought she was going to be able to do with my command codes if she got them. Take over the station single-handedly? That’s just crazy.”
“You need to drink.”
“That’s not going to make her plan any clearer.”
“No, but after a few drinks, you won’t care.”
“You have a point. She’s the Multek authorities’ problem now anyway. Let them deal with her.”
“I ran into a small snag,” Pophlie whispered, leaning close to the comm unit in front of her.
“What kind of snag?”
“I was arrested.”
“Yes. This is my one comm I’m allowed.”
“What about Beck?”
“And our equipment?”
“Confiscated by my government.”
“This is an unmitigated disaster.”
“Not entirely,” Pophlie protested.
“I think I have a chance at a date with the human named Porter when I’m released.”
“We will no longer require your services.”
“I’m still getting paid, right?”
“Please do not contact us again. We will be proceeding through other avenues.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Good bye, and our condolences on your incarceration.”
Much drinking had indeed occurred, and Beck had a made point to spend some time talking to each of her officers and friends. She managed to control any more bouts of unbridled mushiness, but just being with each person, enjoying their presence, was sufficient to warm her heart. That combined with the effects of the synthehol was enough to make her downright toasty.
Now, back in her quarters, she knew she should just allow herself to revel in her drunken state until sleep claimed her.
But she found herself pushing away the synthehol, sitting down at her desk, and pulling up a comm address long buried in her personal data storage.
She’d kept track of Kathy’s movements over the years, not that there had been much to track. Her sister had taken over their parents’ house as soon as she was old enough and even followed in their footsteps, taking a position at Astro-Tech after completing her doctorate in advanced propulsion theory.
In all of the years since that night in their house, though, they hadn’t said word one to each other. Beck had asked to speak to Kathy the first couple of times she commed her grandparents after Kathy was returned to them. After Kathy refused each time, Beck got the hint. She didn’t pursue it, deciding that Kathy would talk to her when she was ready.
That moment never came. Beck knew she wasn’t blameless in the situation, though. She’d never tried to contact Kathy again. Honestly, she didn’t even think about her all that often. What she’d told Porter on the runabout was pretty much right. She’d lost her sister as well as her parents.
But no more. They were sisters. No amount of time could change that.
Beck opened the comm channel and waited, wondering how Kathy would react upon seeing her face.
She never got to find out.
“The party you have reached is not available. If you would like to leave a message, please stay on the line.”
Beck moved to cut the channel, but stopped herself. Even a message would be a start.
“Kathy. Hi. It’s Lisa. I…I just wanted to talk to you. To see how you were. It’s been a long time. Too long. I’ve been thinking about you. Comm me back, if you get the time. I hope to hear from you.”
She closed the commline and sighed, leaning back into her desk chair. She’d tried. Only time would tell if her sister was still lost.