Year 01, Alpha Quadrant
"Unless you need anything else, I'm was planning to leave in about 15 minutes," B'Elanna told her supervisor.
Nine months ago, Commander Pete Harkins took her onto his team for Owen Paris, a friend since childhood. His unspoken agreement with Owen was to keep an eye on Torres' personal and professional development. As part of the technology development unit, he was used to working with unorthodox geniuses who often had extraordinary personal problems. To his relief, Pete had had little reason to worry about her most of the time. B'Elanna proved to be resourceful and stable. She'd even found a way to work with Reg Barclay, overcoming his strange fascination with her and all things Voyager.
But Pete knew the anniversary of her return to Earth was today, and he'd seen her become a little more agitated each day of the last two weeks. Torres had been professional, and yet there was an angry undercurrent to everything she did recently. He looked at her carefully now, and wondered if she'd slept much the last few days. Seeing that no one else was in the immediate area and could not overhear them, Pete asked her, "Are you feeling alright?"
"Pete, I'm fine. I just have a commitment to keep. I want to get out of here," she snapped at him. B'Elanna knew that her tone was harsher than she'd intended, and regretted it as soon as the words were out. Pete's gentle features registered his shock. Immediately, she apologized, "I'm sorry. Look, I'll be better tomorrow."
Harkins knew the last words were a request to trust her and not to press about her plans tonight. He was still concerned about her, but Pete thought he might be reacting the same way if he'd been through such an event. Hoping she'd allow someone to be with her now, he asked, "Are you going to be alone tonight? We don't have to talk about it, but you're welcome to come to our house for dinner again."
B'Elanna was softened a little bit by his genuineness. "I'm actually going to a friend's place now, but I'll be back for my shift in the morning, so maybe we can do dinner tomorrow."
"No and yes," Pete responded. "No, you're not coming to work tomorrow. Stay with your friend, go see your parents, or come over and collapse on our couch. Then, yes, we'll have dinner tomorrow night if you feel up to it. If not, I'll take a raincheck."
"Pete, I'm okay to work tomorrow."
"No, you're not. Take a few days, you've earned the time," he answered. B'Elanna looked as if she was going to object, but he added, "I'll make it an order if I have to."
As easygoing as Harkins could be, B'Elanna knew when he was serious. When he saw her acceptance, Pete squeezed her arm gently. "Good. Now get out of here. I don't want to be the reason that you're late."
Although B'Elanna could have transported directly inside her destination, she always set her coordinates about six blocks away, the same place she and Harry had chosen during their last night of leave together before he left for DS9. Harry had wanted to absorb the neighborhood and atmosphere first, then come upon it slowly from the outside. She'd initially thought that was silly and just wanted to get there, but Harry'd been right. It was all part of the experience.
She stood quietly for a moment and closed her eyes, absorbing the sounds and smells. B'Elanna smiled, feeling his presence here. Opening her eyes, she walked comfortably to the place she knew so well.
The outside of the building always looked as if it was about to collapse from decay and dirt, but B'Elanna knew that was just an illusion to keep the tourists away. Ignoring the "closed" sign on the front door, she walked inside and felt as if the place wrapped itself around her like a warm coat. "B'Ella, mon ami! I'm so glad you made it!" the owner said, "Sandrine's is yours tonight...."
Year 01, Deep Space Nine, Alpha Quadrant
It took Major Kira Nerys about an hour to find Harry. She could have had the computer find him instantly, but she didn't want to draw any attention to the fact that she'd been looking for him. She and Harry had developed a close friendship since his arrival. It was purely platonic, but it was a unique bond that nobody else really understood. She wasn't in the mood for Odo's strange reaction or Quark's quips about her social life, so the Major walked nonchalantly around the station. Surreptitiously, she looked for Harry.
Kira finally found him alone in a conference room, reading the newly posted casualty reports. Starfleet had pushed the Dominion back, at least temporarily, but it had been a very expensive victory. As if sensing her thoughts, Harry turned to her and said, "So many people, so many ships. It's like losing 10, even 100, Voyagers every week."
She walked close to Harry and looked at the lists herself. "Did you know any of them?"
"A few. Sedek and Castorelli were in my class at the Academy. Pektok was a few years behind me. I tutored her in quantum mechanics. Some other names are vaguely familiar." Harry laughed bitterly, "I guess that's one advantage of having been in the Delta Quadrant for so long. I didn't get a chance to become close friends with as many people here. So, these deaths aren't as personal as they might have been if I'd known more of them."
"War always creates the worst kinds of irony," Kira answered. Hoping to shift Harry's attention, she changed the subject slightly. "I thought I should give you notice. Everybody knows what day it is, so they're going to be looking for you. Ben is probably cooking and Dax mentioned something about new music she hoped you might like."
Harry smiled. "That's nice. Don't worry, I'll be ready when they come by my quarters."
Since his arrival, Kira knew that Jadzia Dax, Ben Sisko, and to some extent Worf, all took a sort of parental interest in Harry. They respected his talents, but their awareness of his painful arrival into the Alpha Quadrant and his relative youth brought out a certain protectiveness in them. In a weird way, this youthfulness had been a shared element of his relationships with her and Julian Bashir. All three of them knew the frustration of being newer professionals, wanting to prove themselves and be taken seriously. She knew that Harry was all too familiar with this experience from Voyager and he handled it well.
"Actually," Kira smiled, with a conspiratorial tone, "that's why I wanted to find you first. If you don't want to be with them tonight, then I thought we could make plans of our own. Or, if you'd rather be alone, then I could head them off before they showed up at your door. Either way, you'd be 'unavailable'. What would *you* like to do?"
Harry didn't immediately reply. What did he want? Harry wanted Voyager to come bursting through the wormhole and for this war to be over. He wanted to be making tea for his mother or playing cards with his father. Kira couldn't give him anything of the things he really wanted, so he simply said, "I don't know."
Kira could read Harry's thoughts on his face. Another war, another time, she'd had the same kind of experiences, the same awful anniversaries for dead friends. Surprising herself, Kira hugged him a little, and disclosed, "Eventually, it gets a bit easier. You just learn to live with it. You get through a day. And then you get through another one."
"Any suggestions of how to get through this day?" he asked.
Thinking for a moment, Kira suddenly smiled with inspiration. "Yes. It won't solve any problems, it won't win a battle, but it will be a minor victory. And maybe a little fun."
Harry responded to the twinkle of mischief in her eyes. He knew Kira well enough to realize that she rarely let this side of her personality show. Curious, he asked, "What do you have in mind?"
Moving toward the door, and hoping Harry was intrigued enough to follow, she said, "Ever since the war started, Quark has been charging exorbitant fees for holosuite time. He argues that it's simply a matter of supply and demand, but given the inherent protections we provide on this station, I think that soldiers have earned the right for free time, at least temporarily. Didn't you tell me once that you have experience 'tweaking' holoprograms?"
"What about Odo?" Harry asked. It took him a long time to earn the Security Officer's trust, and Harry didn't want to blow it on a childish stunt now.
"Oh, don't worry," Kira assured him with a grin, "Odo enforces all the important laws, but nobody enjoys seeing Quark getting his just desserts than Odo. Besides, he knows there is nothing illegal about high prices, so it's up to us to correct this injustice."
Harry hesitated momentarily. Did he have the right to do something fun like this today? He wasn't sure, but then he remembered the promise to his parents and to Grace Paris. Maybe this was part of living again. "Okay," Harry finally decided. "While we're there, I'd like to look at some of the programs. How do you think Julian or Miles O'Brien would react if they finally won the Battle of the Alamo?"
Laughing at that image, Kira replied, "That would be great. Let me give you just one piece of advice. Don't touch Ben's baseball program. He takes the game very seriously."
Hours later, Harry wrote a description of the days' events in his personal log. Grace had been more right than she knew. Not only would Tom appreciate this moment, but Chakotay, Neelix, and Captain Janeway would enjoy it too. As far away as they seemed at this moment, Harry had to believe that someday he'd get the chance to tell them.
Year: 04; April
Four years, Tom mused, as he walked slowly to VoyCe, the time alone over. He hadn't settled anything in his mind during his short respite from the settlement. Leaning more heavily on his cane than he had in a long time, Tom recognized how much he wanted to delay rejoining the colonists.
Perhaps part of the hesitancy in returning to the settlement had to with the talk he had to have with Chakotay. He dreaded what he must say to Chakotay and the others. Funny, as he neared the outermost buildings of the settlement, Tuvok detached himself from the shade of one of the log shelters. For some reason, it was he that Tuvok approached. Obviously, the town's head security officer had something on his mind yet he wanted the encounter to appear casual to anyone who might see them. But as Tom looked around VoyCe it seemed as if everyone was watching, had even stopped whatever they were doing in order to stare at them.
Although he didn't count them, Tom thought he saw just about every adult in the colony. They were gathered in small groups, standing tensely in doorways. But he didn't see any of the children. Tom developed a very bad feeling about this.
"I trust your walk was a pleasant one."
Oh, yes, something was really bothering the Vulcan. "Fine. What can I do for you?"
"It's Brian Sophen."
In the last four years the man had been a pain in the butt for everyone in the settlement. Except maybe Rebekah Powell. No one could understand it when they married, nor especially when they had a baby and then a second one. Jenny Delaney had tried to get close to Rebekah but the intense young woman had rebuffed Jenny's efforts and kept her own counsel.
"He has beaten Rebekah, left her, and has taken the children into a shuttle."
Tom didn't ask why Tuvok wasn't right outside the shuttle, or even better, in another one, beaming the babies out of danger. Something else was wrong. "And?"
"It's the F'Lang."
The shuttle they had recovered a few years ago from a rift in the ground and converted to use as their primary source of power. "What the hell is the matter with him?"
"He demands that he be allowed to leave with his followers, as he calls them, and threatens to divert the shuttle's power to weapons and destroy us all. So far we have been unable to use another shuttle to beam him out of there. The other shuttles, as you know, rely on the F'Lang for their power. He's shut them down. In fact, he's cut off all energy to VoyCe. We're operating on backup and it will be gone in sixty-seven minutes."
"What can I do?"
"He is asking to see you."
Tom understood then. Brian's threats over the years, even the time he'd waylaid Tom and beaten him unconscious, hadn't been enough to lance the poison inside the man. Chakotay, Tuvok, and others had tried everything they could to rehabilitate the angry man, including house arrest after the violence that had shattered Tom's peace of mind.
And all because Brian thought Tom had somehow switched the DNA in his second child, making Tom himself the genetic father. Faced with conclusive evidence to the contrary, Brian had eventually apologized. The mayor and commissioners expressed their satisfaction. Only Tom saw that Brian's rage and viciousness had simply grown in ugliness and dangerousness over time. But Brian had learned to keep it out of sight of those who would notice. Anything Tom claimed was denied with Brian asserting that Tom still harbored a grudge over the misunderstanding. Bringing himself to confront the present, Tom asked, "What does Rebekah say?"
"The EMH is treating her, but I am unsure how long he will remain online. She has not been able to tell us anything yet."
"Let's go see what Brian wants," Tom said with a sigh. Just what they needed. Incoming aliens were arriving tomorrow, with who knew what agenda, and Brian Sophen had to stage his meltdown now. The only thing Tom could see as a plus was that he didn't have to tell Chakotay anything yet about not flying. It was entirely possible none of the shuttles would fly if Brian continued to hold them all hostage.
Might as well find out what Brian wanted with him. Tom hoped it wouldn't be too unpleasant. Knowing Brian, it would be off the scale into the painful and unwanted range.
End part 12
End Endless IIB: Hitting Home
To be continued in Endless IIC. Look for it in about six months. Feedback? We'd love to hear from you: