In Search of Hope

In Search of Hope

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Summary

His wife has been missing, presumed dead for two years. Even his teenage children believe it, but Picard doesn't. His search leads him into some very dangerous waters.

Summary

His wife has been missing, presumed dead for two years. Even his teenage children believe it, but Picard doesn't.
His search leads him into some very dangerous waters.

Chapter1 (v.1) - In Search of Hope Pt. 1

Author Chapter Note

His wife has been missing, presumed dead for two years. Even his teenage children believe it, but Picard doesn't. His search leads him into some very dangerous waters.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 18, 2012

Reads: 402

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 18, 2012

A A A

A A A

In Search of Hope

 

 

The hover car cruised slowly down the street in the black, cold night. It was oh one thirty on a Sunday night and most of the homes they passed were dark, but the home at the end of the street seemed to brood in its darkness. The young man at the helm steered the little craft into the driveway and, after positioning the vehicle correctly in its parking spot, carefully settled the car onto the ground. He switched off the lights but kept the power on, maintaining the interior heat against the cold of the exterior, the gentle hum of the reactor the only sound in the otherwise silent cabin.

His companion, his sister, sighed in the darkness, her eyes trained on the house before them. She sighed again deeply and when she spoke, her soft lilting voice showed her worry.

“Do you think he made it to bed tonight?”

James Picard shrugged brusquely and although his heart squeezed in sympathy, his voice was derisive.

“Probably not.”

Adele Picard turned to her brother and gently admonished him.
“Don’t be so hard on him Jim.”

The eighteen year old grunted and shook his head.

“He’s so bloody stubborn! Why Delly? Why won’t he just accept the truth?”

“Because he can’t Jim, to do so would be to admit she’s gone.”

In anger and frustration, James hit the steering yoke.

“But it would help him Delly! He’d be able to grieve and get over it. God…the way things are now…and have been for the past two years…surely it would be a relief to him.”

Adele closed her eyes against her pain and sighed.

“He can’t Jim. He’ll keep searching…and hoping…to do otherwise…”

The young man’s eyes glittered in the darkness and he muttered,

“You know about the drinking don’t you.”

Adele lowered her head and nodded, saying softly,

“Yes.”

“If he shows up at Headquarters pissed he’ll lose his job, his reputation…all those bloody years in the fleet, all he’s achieved will count for nothing.”

“I don’t think he drinks during the day, just at night. Maybe it helps him to sleep.”

James snorted.

“Oh yeah…sleeping at his desk in the study doesn’t count Delly. Besides he’s not asleep, he’s passed out.”

The callous disregard for the man saddened the young woman deeply. She sighed.

“Come on Jim be nice, he’s going through hell.”

James turned to look at the darkened house and growled.

“It’s a hell of his own choosing Delly. I can’t find sympathy for a man who insists on wallowing in self delusion.”

Her patience beginning to wane, Adele’s voice sharpened.

“It’s not self delusion James. Look, try and see this from his perspective. There was no body…no incontrovertible proof of her death! You’re asking him to accept the unacceptable. He loved her…loves her with every molecule of his being, James! Until someone can prove to him that she’s really dead he will go on searching and hoping until he himself dies. And James…he needs our support, not our derision. We may not agree with him…we may think he’s chasing phantoms, but he’s our father and he deserves more from us than to be discounted as a fool.”

The shoulders of the young man slumped and he sighed.

“You’re right I suppose.”

He turned to look at his sister, his voice sad.

“I just feel so helpless Dell. I see his pain…his anguish and it kills me. And you know…we miss her too.”

Adele looked up at the house and whispered sadly,

“Yeah.”

They sat in silence for a while before Adele lifted her head and smiled.

“You certainly were getting cosy with Sarah Thompson tonight.”

James folded his arms across his chest and flicked back the lock of dark brown hair that habitually fell across his forehead. He huffed and shook his head.

“I knew there was a reason why I didn’t want to take my seventeen year old sister to that party.”

The girl giggled.

“Oh come on…you needed a chaperone!”

In mock outrage, James pointed to himself.

I needed a chaperone? Who had their tongue down Adam Carnegie’s throat?”

Adele flapped her hand, somehow sounding bored and embarrassed at the same time.

“We were just kissing, Jim.”

Her brother sounded disgruntled.

“Yeah well…find someone else to kiss in future. Adam Carnegie is a dweeb.”

Adele’s voice betrayed her amusement.

“He’s a dweeb who’s taking the same degree as you.”

James snorted.

“Oh yeah…I can see it now. The only thing that slob will ever design is an outdoor toilet.”

His sister chuckled wryly.

“While you on the other hand…”

James made a fist and shook it for emphasis.

“Will design grand edifices!”

He grinned at his sister.

“I am going to be the most famous architect in the Federation.”

Adele’s eyes shone with love and admiration for her brother and when he took her hand and squeezed it, she grinned at him. He shook his head and said softly,

“What about you Delly? Have you decided yet?”

Her grin faded. She lowered her head and sighed.
“No, not yet.”

James tilted his head to see under her brow.

“You haven’t got much more time to make up your mind. You have to choose your subjects for next year. Your final year Dell.”

Adele disengaged her hand and gathered her auburn hair, pulling it back off her neck. She tilted her head back and stared at the roof.

“I know Jim…but…it’s just that…”

James waited patiently while his sister tried to find the words to explain. Eventually she sighed and let go of her hair.

“I want to be a doctor…I really do…but I also want to be an archaeologist.”

She looked at her brother, her eyes troubled.

“Either way I still have to pass my exams for this year. Will you help me with my physics?”

The young man shrugged.

“Yeah of course, but Dad is better at physics than me, he’d be a better choice.”

Adele sighed.

“I know but he’s been so busy with the treaty…and he’s so tired all the time…”

James’s voice grew hard.

“Yeah well if he’d get a decent night’s sleep occasionally instead of wiping himself out every night with alcohol maybe he wouldn’t be so bloody tired.”

Instead of reacting to the angry words, Adele just sighed. After a few moments James spoke again, this time softly.

“Delly…why do you want to be a doctor or an archaeologist?”

Irritation crept into Adele’s tone when she said,

“That’s a dumb question.”

James kept his voice light.

“Why?”

“Because it just is!”

Taking his sister’s hand, James tried to see into her eyes, but in the darkness it was impossible.

“I think you should ask yourself why you would choose professions that our parents are interested in that’s all.”

Adele glared at her brother and pulled her hand from of his grip.

“Well I think that’s a stupid thing for you to say!”

Displaying the calm patience he inherited from his father, James gave a small smile.

“Fair enough, you’re entitled to your opinion but Delly…ask yourself what you’d like to do…not what you think our parents would like you to do.”

Her brows knitted together in a deep frown, Adele activated the door release, saying as she got out,

“I’m going inside. You coming?”

In answer James deactivated the power then exited the car and fell in step with his sister as they approached the front door. While James inputted his security code Adele said softy,

“Will you want my help in getting him to bed?”

The porch and entry way lights came on automatically and Adele caught the look of resigned disgust in her brother’s eyes.

“No thanks Dell, I’ll manage.”

Quelling her sadness, Adele nodded.

“Okay, I’m going up to bed. Goodnight Jim, thanks for taking me to the party.”

Giving his sister and affectionate kiss on the cheek, the tall young man smiled.

“No worries. Goodnight.”

As Adele climbed the stairs to her bedroom, James went through the living room and down the hall to his father’s study. The door was slightly ajar, light spilling out into the dark hall. Taking no care to keep quiet, James pushed the door open and stood still, staring down at the man asleep at his desk with anger and disgust. His head was pillowed on his arms and in front of him the computer monitor glowed soft blue in standby mode. Beside the monitor an untidy pile of PADDs teetered precariously and a half eaten sandwich sat amongst crumbs on a plate. But what caused James’s reaction was the three empty wine bottles standing on the desk in mute testament to what James saw as the man’s weakness.

Striding over to the desk, James took care to save the work on the computer before he turned it off. He then took the bottles; glass and plate to the disposal unit then went back to the desk and tidied the pile of PADDs. He straightened and looked down at the sleeping man, shaking his head as he leaned forward and took his father under his arms.

“Come on Dad, time for bed.”

Ambassador Jean-Luc Picard started and opened his eyes. He blinked and lifted his head, searching for the source of the voice. In a rough deep mumble he managed,

“James?”

James didn’t bother to keep the disgust out of his voice.

“None other. Now come on, get up. I’ll help you up the stairs.”

Jean-Luc stood without his usual grace and, as he turned, staggered and nearly fell. James grabbed him, snarling,

“Jesus Dad…stand up will you!”

The anger in his son’s voice made Jean-Luc look at his son. Even in his inebriated state he could see the disgust and it made him briefly close his eyes. Instead of addressing the boy’s anger, the Ambassador sighed with melancholy, slurring.

“Why don’t you call me Papa any more?”

Ignoring the putrid smell of his father’s breath, James gritted his teeth and slipped the man’s arm over his shoulders as he took him around the waist.

“Because I’m grown up now, Dad.”

James manoeuvred his father out of the study, down the hall and up the first few steps of the stairs in angry silence. Oblivious to his son’s mood, Jean-Luc suddenly lifted his head and said,

“You don’t speak French any more either. You used to speak French with me all the time.”

James ignored his father as he concentrated on negotiating the stairs. At the top he turned right and steered the man down the hall to the master bedroom. He deposited Jean-Luc on the bed; made sure he was sitting relatively steadily, then took off his boots and jacket.  Having divested his father off enough clothing, James none to gently made his father lie on the bed with his head on the pillows. He threw a blanket over the man and made sure there was a glass of water on the side table. Before he called for the lights to extinguish he looked down at the man to see him asleep. James closed his eyes against his despair and sighed. The anger dissipated and he bent and kissed his father’s brow. In a sad whisper he said,

“Bon nuit Papa.”

He stood abruptly and as he strode from the room he muttered,

“Lights out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James met Adele at the top of the stairs next morning. They shared a quick greeting, but the smell of freshly brewed coffee hastened their steps down the stairs. They entered the kitchen to see their father leaning against the counter, a cup of steaming coffee in one hand, a PADD in the other. He looked up and smiled.

“Good morning you two.”

Adele studied her father, noting the dark circles under his eyes, his obvious weight loss and pallid complexion. However he had showered, shaved and was dressed conservatively in a light blue polo shirt and dark blue trousers. She also noticed he wasn’t eating.

“What do you want for breakfast Dad?”

Jean-Luc offered a quick smile before returning his attention to the PADD.

“I’m not hungry Adele, besides Captain Mason is due any minute.”

James snorted softly and went to the replicator, ordering scrambled eggs on toast. His muttered comment made his father lift his head and frown.

“I beg your pardon.”

James looked at his father, defiance flashing in his eyes.

“I said…there’re not many vitamins in a bottle of wine.”

Anger flared briefly in the older man as he glared at his son, but it was gone just as quickly. His eyes softened and he sighed before returning his attention to the PADD. Adele watched the two males, a frown marring her comely face. Both Adele and her brother bore a striking resemblance to their father, although Adele’s hair carried the red of her mother and her hazel eyes were lighter than her brother’s. The only things that differed significantly between father and son were James’s full head of dark brown hair and his height. At just on two metres he was tall by any standard. As Adele watched, Jean-Luc lifted his eyes from the device he held and looked up at his son, offering a small conciliatory smile.

“How was the party?”

With a shrug, James chewed on his mouthful, swallowed and made a dismissive wave with his hand.

“Not bad.”

The curt answer made Jean-Luc grit his teeth, but outwardly his face was calm.

“Did you meet the people you will be sharing lectures with?”

“Yeah.”

Knowing her brother would maintain his desultory replies, Adele tried to inject some humour into what was becoming a tense situation.

“Jim spent some time with Sarah Thompson. They were…close...most of the night.”

James glared at his sister while Jean-Luc sipped his coffee, a frown creasing his forehead.

“Sarah Thompson…would that be Douglas Thompson’s daughter?”

James sighed, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah.”

“She’s doing architecture? At the same university with you?”

The young man turned in his seat and gave his father a challenging look.

“Yeah…so?”

Jean-Luc smiled.

“Oh nothing really, it’s just…I went to the Academy with Douglas.”

Adele smiled at her father, then sobered.

“He died a few years ago didn’t he?”

Before Jean-Luc could answer, James muttered,

“A lot of people die in Starfleet.”

The Ambassador glared at his son and this time his anger wouldn’t settle. He tossed down the remains of his coffee and strode from the room.

Adele went to the replicator and while she waited for her order to materialise she said succinctly,

“You can really be a bastard sometimes James.”

The young man shrugged and returned to his breakfast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Della Mason was deep in thought as she eased the hover car into Hastings Street. She had made this journey most mornings and evenings for the past ten months. She would pick up her boss, drive from the leafy outer suburbs into the heart of Melbourne then transport half way around the Earth to start their working day at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco. Her brilliant mind was a perfect foil for her boss. He, calm and analytical, she quick tempered and mercurial, they made a formidable team, one that worked with well-oiled proficiency. That she was also darkly attractive was completely lost on her boss. He either never saw, or completely ignored the admiring looks she garnered from the men she encountered, although they were brave if they kept up their pursuit, one look from his steely dark eyes usually made them quickly retreat.

They had known each other in the distant past, in fact they’d been intimate for some very torrid months, but time and their careers pulled them apart. When she had been assigned as his aide she’d hesitated. She knew he was married and recently widowed, but although he had seemed to go on with his life, she had never stopped loving him.

As she steered the car into his driveway, she let out a gasp and braked heavily. There, standing in the gravelled drive was her boss. He quirked a look at the driver and stared pointedly at the very small distance between the front of the hover car and his head. Swallowing to wet her dry mouth, Della landed the car and opened the door.

“Sorry Jean-Luc…I didn’t expect you to be outside.”

The Ambassador gave a nod and found a small smile.

“Indeed.”

He climbed into the car and settled his briefcase on the back seat. When he made no attempt at conversation Della shrugged and lifted off, backing out of the drive and cruising down the street. As she drove she cast a sideways glance at her old friend and frowned at what she saw. He felt her scrutiny and gave her a sharp look. Snapping her eyes back to the controls, she flushed slightly and smirked to herself.

“My God…after all these years he can still make me feel like a bloody first year cadet.”

They flew in silence for ten minutes, Jean-Luc staring out the windows. His sudden, quietly worded question startled Della.

“Have you read this morning’s despatches?”

“Yes Sir.”

“And?”

He asked the same thing every morning and it was slowly driving Della to despair. She sighed and cast her passenger a sympathetic look.

“Jean-Luc…”

His face, so often a stoic mask, hardened even further and he gritted his teeth.

“Is there any news, Captain?”

Della focused her attention ahead and slowly shook her head.

“No Sir, no news.”

Jean-Luc gave a curt nod.

“And what of your enquiry to Penarra nine?”

Della swallowed and briefly closed her eyes.

“That will take some time Sir. My contact there cannot get to a communication device often and he told me the people he needs to talk to would be hard to find.”

“I see. I take it you sent him all we knew.”

Della nodded.

“Yes Sir, but you have to admit…that wasn’t much. A report of the debris analysis and an unconfirmed sighting of an unidentified ship.”

Jean-Luc turned his head and said quietly,

“You think she’s dead too.”

Della risked a quick look at her boss and tried to ease his pain.

“Jean-Luc I’m just trying to follow what we’ve got. She was on the shuttle that was destroyed. What do you want me to say?”

The Ambassador stared out of the windscreen, his deep voice insistent.

“There was no body…not even any evidence of her remains!”

Della spoke quietly.

“Jean-Luc the shuttle was atomised.”

He shook his head, doggedly refusing to believe what the evidence told him.

“Then there should have been remains at the atomic level.”

Patiently Della explained.

“But you know that in an explosion like that which destroyed the shuttle, any organic matter would have been vaporised. Jean-Luc please…it’s time you accepted…”

His harsh voice made her wince.

“NO! I refuse to accept that my wife is dead! If she had been on that shuttle when it was destroyed there would have been evidence…something…”

The pain and despair in his eyes made Della’s stomach sour. She shut her mouth, returned her attention to flying the craft and the rest of their journey was taken in silence.

Later that day, over a working lunch, Della was gratified to find Jean-Luc a little happier. Her grandmother was from Betazed allowing Della the gift of partial empathy. While Jean-Luc was occupied with his lunch, Della closed her eyes and concentrated her meagre ability to find him calm and in a receptive frame of mind. Taking a deep breath, Della asked softly,

“Do you have to go straight home tonight, Jean-Luc?”

Lifting his eyes from the report he was reading, he frowned and slightly shook his head.

“Ah…no, Adele is studying with a friend until nine thirty and James is researching an assignment at the university library. I don’t expect him home until eleven or so. Why?”

Offering her most charming smile, she flipped back her long black hair and hoped her eyes showed her affection.

“How about coming home and having dinner with Tony and me?”

His eyes darkened and he shook his head.

“I don’t think so, Della, but thank you.”

The Captain weighed the risks and decided to press ahead, regardless.

“Oh come on Jean-Luc…I know you, you’ll go home, have nothing to eat and bury yourself in work until you fall asleep on the sofa. Come on, have a home cooked meal with us.”

His lips curled in a half smile.

“You cook?”

Della shrugged.

“I can if you want; besides it’s been ages since you’ve seen Tony.”

The Ambassador sat back and considered the invitation.

“How old is Tony now?”

The Captain smiled wistfully.

“Twelve.”

Jean-Luc’s eyebrows shot up.

“Twelve? Good lord, when did that happen?”

With a warm chuckle Della shrugged.

“I know…it crept up on me too. Sam would have been so proud of him.”

At the mention of Della’s deceased husband Jean-Luc’s face shuttered and he lowered his gaze. Della cursed to herself and tried to quell her dismay at her lapse. She plastered a sunny smile on her face and made sure her tone was light.

“So what’ll it be? Pasta? Roast? Fish?”

Jean-Luc held up a hand and was about to refuse when Della reached across the desk and took his hand.

“Please Jean-Luc…Tony would be absolutely delighted to see you.”

He stared into her dark eyes and slowly capitulated.

“Oh very well.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc was quiet on the ride to Della’s home. For convenience she had moved to Melbourne to be closer to Jean-Luc, although she lived several kilometres away, in a different suburb. She could sense he was tired and his emotions were unsettled. She pulled into her drive in a pensive mood. Jean-Luc picked up his brief case, prompting Della to say,

“Leave it in the car Jean-Luc. I want you to relax tonight.”

She was surprised by the stern look he gave her.

“Della we’re meeting with the Antorian Ambassador in three days and if I’m not completely up to date with the current reports we may well find ourselves shut out of the negotiations, negotiations we’ve been working on for ten months! Now you might feel you can relax but I cannot.”

Having been upbraided Della lowered her eyes, bowed her head and offered her apology.

“Sorry Jean-Luc, I just thought…sorry.”

He shut the car door firmly and waited for Della to open the front door. As soon as she entered her home a youthful voice called out over the noise of a computer game.

“Hi Mum.”

Della grinned with doting affection.

“Hi love. Come out, there’s someone I want you to see.”

The noise suddenly stopped and a young boy emerged from the living room. He was short and thin, his colouring dark, like his mother, but unlike her English accent, he had a pronounced Australian accent. He stopped in front of his mother and suffered a quick kiss before his eyes appraised the man standing before him.

“Honey do you remember Captain Picard?”

The boy frowned, his eyes wandering as he thought.

“No…I don’t think so.”

Jean-Luc smiled and offered his hand.

“The last time I saw you, you would have been about four years old, so I’m not surprised you don’t remember me.”

Warily the boy shook Jean-Luc’s hand and looked up into his eyes.

“You’re a Captain? My Dad was a Captain. He died at Wolf 359.”

Said so softly, Tony had to strain to hear.

“I know.”

Della placed a hand on her son’s shoulder and gently urged him towards the kitchen.

“Captain Picard is a Federation Ambassador now, Tony. Now how about you give me a hand in getting dinner”

She looked over her shoulder at Jean-Luc.

“You can settle in the living room if you like Jean-Luc. I won’t be long.”

The man smiled, lifting his eyebrow in query.

“Would you like some help?”

She shook her head.

“No, we’re fine. Help yourself to the bar. There’s a good selection of real spirits, glasses are in the cupboard.”

Before he could say anything further, mother and son were gone. He shrugged and went into the living room, going to the bar and pouring himself a large neat scotch. Having then settled into a comfy chair, he opened his briefcase, took out several PADDs and began to read.

It was with some worry that Della noticed that Jean-Luc kept drinking throughout the meal. He eschewed the wine she offered, opting to continue with the scotch. They chatted through the meal, Tony asking a myriad of questions and Jean-Luc surprising Della by giving good answers, seemingly with limitless patience. After dinner Tony went to his room while the adults settled in the living room.

Della went to the entertainment system and pulled up the music files. She inputted a selection then turned, a wistful smile on her face. Softly she said,

“Remember this?”

The gentle strains of Debussy’s Claire De Lune wafted through the room and Jean-Luc smiled.

“Oh yes. The Seine, autumn, 2340.”

The woman grinned saucily.

“You were thirty five and I was a mere slip of a girl.”

Jean-Luc snorted and took a sip of his drink.

“You make me sound like a cradle snatcher. You were…twenty eight if I remember correctly.”

She came to sit beside the man and leaned her head back on the cushions.

“Ah those were the days. You were Captain of the Stargazer and I was an up-and-coming second Lieutenant. God…those were carefree days weren’t they?”

They sat in companionable silence for a while before Jean-Luc chuckled.

“As I recall, you propositioned me…at a bistro in Paris.”

Della snorted.

“I didn’t proposition you Jean-Luc, I pinched your arse.”

His grin was wicked.

“Same thing.”

“Egotist!”

That brought a muffled guffaw.

“Well what the hell was I supposed to think? I feel my arse getting pinched, I turn around and there’s this gorgeous woman with a saucy smile on her face. How was I supposed to react?”

Della rolled her eyes and flapped a hand.

“Well you certainly didn’t waste anytime in seducing me! My God…we had what…two drinks…then it was back to your hotel room.”

“I was shipping out in a week; I had no time to lose!”

Della turned her head and grinned.

“It was wonderful, wasn’t it.”

His face softened and he took another sip of his whisky.

“Yes…yes it was, and so were the months that followed.”

Della sighed wistfully.

“A grand affair.”

Her eyes sharpened and she moved a little closer to the man.

“Jean-Luc…” she said in a soft voice, “Was your life with Beverly…”

His head snapped around and he glared at his friend and barked,

“Don’t!”

She watched in dismay as he stood abruptly and picked up his briefcase.

“We have a lot to do tomorrow; it’s time I went home. Thank you for a lovely meal.”

He began to walk to the door even as Della was rising from the chair. In some confusion she scooped up her jacket and met him outside, beside the hover car.

The journey back to Jean-Luc’s home was taken in stony silence. It wasn’t until he was getting out of the car that Della said,

“See you tomorrow then.”

Jean-Luc looked at her for the first time since leaving her home and gave a curt nod.

“Yes. Good night.”

He shut the door on her words and walked stiffly to his door. Della waited until the automatic lights came on then left, her feelings in turmoil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As Jean-Luc entered his home, Adele called from the kitchen,

“Is that you Dad?”

Instead of answering her from the living room, Jean-Luc wandered into the kitchen, smiling at seeing his daughter eating a bowl of ice cream.

“Hungry?”

Adele shrugged, a smile tugging her lips.

“Kinda. Paula and I had some take away but after all that studying I felt I needed a sugar fix.”

Jean-Luc nodded his understanding then asked,

“How’s it going?”

Knowing he meant her exam preparations, she sighed.

“Okay I suppose. I’m doing all right in everything except physics.”

Her father raised his eyebrows.

“Physics? I can help you with that.”

Adele offered a smile, but shook her head.

“You’re too busy Dad, it’s all right, Jim said he’d help me.”

The hurt in his eyes made the young woman inwardly wince. To try and make amends, she went to him and gave him a hug.

“Thanks anyway Dad.”

As he returned the hug, he closed his eyes and rested his head on her shoulder. Adele felt him trembling and said softly,

“It’s okay Dad.”

He abruptly lifted his head, giving it a brusque shake.

“No it’s not!”

He went to leave the kitchen but Adele caught his sleeve.

“Hey Dad…have you had something to eat?”

She could smell the alcohol on his breath and wanted to stall his retreat into his study.

“How about I make you an omelette and a cup of Earl Grey?”

Jean-Luc smiled and shook his head.

“No thank you Adele, I’ve had dinner. What I have to do now is catch up on some work.”

To emphasise his words, he lifted his briefcase. Adele scowled and shook her head.

“Oh Dad…you’re always working! Why don’t you have a night off for a change? Have a long hot shower and an early night? Or maybe you could watch a vid with me?”

Keeping his smile in place, the man gently tapped the tip of his daughter’s nose.

“If anybody needs an early night it’s you my lass. When is your first exam?”

As she rolled her eyes she sighed.

“Oh come on Dad…my first exam isn’t for another week. I can have one late night.”

He shook his head.

“No you can’t! Now it’s…”

He looked at the clock on the wall.

“Ten thirty…high time you were in bed.”

Adele scowled and lifted her hands to flip her hair off her shoulders.

“I’m seventeen Dad.”

He shook his head, trying to keep the smile from his face. He was successful, but it showed in his eyes.

“I’m aware of that Adele, but you still need your rest.”

Outraged at feeling patronised, Adele took a step back and glared.

“Mum let me have late nights.”

At the mention of Beverly, Jean-Luc’s eyes shuttered.

“That may be so, but she’s not here so you’ll just have to put up with me.”

He tried to make his tone light, but his tension was evident. Adele took a speculative look at her father and said in a flat voice,

“She’s not here because she’s dead, Dad.”

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

“If that’s what you choose to believe Adele, that’s fine, however I don’t share your views. Now please go and…”

Adele’s sharp retort cut through his gentle words.

“Dammit Dad why won’t you accept the truth? She’s gone! Yes it’s sad…it’s horrible, but you have to give up.”

Jean-Luc turned on his heel and took a few steps towards the door. Adele went after him and grabbed his arm.

“Dad…please….everyone says she’s gone, Starfleet even held a memorial. Jim says…”

Finally provoked into responding, Jean-Luc’s head came up and his intense dark hazel eyes blazed.

“I don’t care what your brother says Adele…and I expected more from you! Can’t you get it into your head? There was no body! No remains! Doesn’t that tell you something?”

Adele softened her voice and increased her grip of his arm.

“Dad the shuttle was completely destroyed. There would be no…”

Wrenching his arm free, Jean-Luc held up his hands.

“NO! If you have so little faith in me then I don’t want to hear your traitorous drivel!”

He spun around and marched from the room. Adele wiped at the tears that slid down her face and sighed. In a soft whisper she said,

“Good night Dad.”

 

 

 

 

On his way to his study Jean-Luc went into the living room and took a bottle of scotch out of the bar. Having an almost unlimited supply of wine, courtesy of his sister-in-law, he was accustomed to drinking his family’s vintages, but having started the night on scotch, he decided to finish the same way. He tucked the bottle under one arm, a tumbler and his briefcase in his hands; he didn’t bother with the lights until he entered his inner sanctum. He put the briefcase and tumbler on the desk, then took the bottle, screwing off the lid and pouring a large measure. It went down in one gulp. Another followed, before he poured again and activated his computer. He was well aware his drinking was getting the better of him, but the oblivion it afforded him was far better than the dreams that haunted him otherwise.

He closed his eyes as the memory of the last dream invaded his mind. He was in his office at Command. The door chimed and he frowned, his secretary would normally announce any visitors.

“Come.”

As his eyes swept over his caller, his heart swelled and he stood.

“Beverly!”

His wife’s face shone with happiness as she walked the short distance around his desk. They embraced then kissed, first tenderly, then languidly, then passionately. They parted, slightly out of breath.

“When did you get back? You weren’t due for another four days!”

The stunning red head laughed and kissed her husband again.

“Well…we managed to cut a few corners…and exceed a few speed limits…and here I am.”

Jean-Luc chuckled and shook his head.

“You’re incredible.”

“Hey…I’m a Captain now…and head of SFM. You once told me that Captains can do whatever they damn well please! Seems you were right.”

Jean-Luc’s face shone in a rare full grin.

“I love you Captain Picard.”

“And I love you Ambassador Picard.”

They shared a kiss then Beverly sighed.

“What say we get the kids out of school and go somewhere?”

Nuzzling her neck, Jean-Luc’s deep baritone was a rumble against her skin.

“Where?”

She mewed softly and pulled his shirt out of his trousers, sneaking her hands under the fabric to caress his back and chest.

“I don’t care…somewhere…anywhere.”

Distracted by her sensuous hands, Jean-Luc trailed his fingers up her sides to gently cup her breasts. She groaned softly and he bit her neck, murmuring softly,

“I want you Beverly.”

Throughout the five weeks of their separation Jean-Luc had kept his desire for his wife under a tight leash. The sub-space communications they shared only served to remind him of how far away she was. Now she was here, in his arms and his body yearned for her. He let go of her breasts and lowered his hands to grip her buttocks and pull her to him, grinding his hips against her. She felt his erection and gently bit his earlobe.

“Here?”

His reply was a deep growl.

“Why not?”

As he kissed his way down her throat Beverly lolled her head back and moaned.

“Yes…”

Jean-Luc suddenly stepped back and began to divest his wife of her uniform. His gaze was intense as his hands worked, his deep voice muttering,

“Computer, secure door, authorisation Picard, Delta five two eight. Henderson?”

From the ceiling speakers, the secretary’s voice sounded curious.

“Yes Ambassador?”

“No calls, no comms. I don’t want to be disturbed.”

“Yes Sir.”

Beverly took the opportunity to strip him of his shirt and open his trousers, pushing them and his briefs down to his thighs.

They made love on the desk, then later, again on the sofa. Jean-Luc squeezed his eyes shut as tears welled and overflowed his eyes. He was now painfully erect, the memories making his body respond. He placed his hands on the desk and leaned forward, gritting his teeth and shaking his head.

“Oh God Beverly…you still command me.”

He took a deep breath, straightened and poured another drink. After downing it, he sat with difficulty and poured again. Finally he looked at the computer screen and grimaced, ignoring his body.

“So…the Antorian Ambassador? What do you have up your sleeve my friend?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The object of Jean-Luc’s query sat back in his seat and studied the man seated with him in the booth. The pub they were in was off the beaten track, a small establishment on the outskirts of the city. A few regulars propped up the bar, but in the main lounge only a scattering of people sat at the tables, the hour being very late.

The Antorian Ambassador pursed his lips and caught the eye of the barman. Holding up two of his seven fingers, he indicated he wanted fresh drinks. His companion watched in silence, his eyes ever restless as they constantly scanned the dim room.

“Is our package all right Darnid?”

The smaller man gave a brief smile.

“Oh yes Ambassador. Safe and well.”

The Ambassador inclined his oddly shaped head, his large violet eyes gleaming on their stalks in the diffused light.

“And she knows nothing?”

Someone approached their booth and the smaller man slunk deeper into the shadows, pulling his cap down over his face. The barman put their drinks on the table and left.

Cold black eyes watched him leave before they continued their never ending surveillance.

“She knows nothing Sir.”

“And she has had no contact with anyone?”

His eyes settled briefly on the big alien before sliding away again.

“In these last two years the only person she’s seen has been her keeper and he’s a mute.”

The Ambassador smiled.

“Excellent. I am well pleased Darnid, you have done well.”

The furtive little alien smiled, showing a ragged row of sharp teeth.

“And how much longer do we keep her Ambassador?”

The big Antorian shrugged his shoulders to settle the cloak he wore. With his eyes situated each end of stalks that protruded from the sides of his elongated head, it was sometimes difficult to see them, as they moved independently.

“Not much longer my little friend, a few more months. Things are moving along quite well but, as the Humans would say, soon there will be a fly in the ointment…and that’s when we will play our little game with the Federation Ambassador.”

Darnid shifted in his seat and frowned.

“I hear he’s a formidable adversary, Ambassador.”

The big alien shrugged again.

“That he is…he serves the Federation well, but I think I have the measure of Jean-Luc Picard…I have his wife.”

The little alien sneered.

“I have seen her Ambassador…she is strikingly beautiful, her hair is red.”

The Ambassador grunted.

“It has never ceased to amaze me…this variation Humans have in their appearance. Hair, eye and skin colour…so diverse.”

Darnid tilted his head back as he drank and the Ambassador stifled a grimace as the folds of flaky skin of his neck parted to reveal grime, sebum and small, red suppurating sores, the odour of which almost made the large alien gag. Smacking his thin lips, his bright green forked tongue appeared to lap up the dribble of alcohol that ran down his stubbled, dirty chin. Beady black eyes briefly settled on the Ambassador and his querulous voice dropped lower.

“And after you play your games Ambassador…what happens to her then?”

The big alien sat forward and shrugged.

“Actually I don’t care; she will be worthless to me once we have Picard in our pockets.”

The forked tongue made another appearance as one of Darnid’s hands left the table to fumble in his trousers. Quelling his disgust, the Ambassador curled his eye stalks and managed a smile.

“She interests you Darnid?”

The little alien’s furtive fumbling increased and he began to pant.

“Oh yes Ambassador. There is a mirror in her bedroom…it is two-way…I’ve watched her…”

With a sharp gasp Darnid’s body stiffened then slowly relaxed. He brought his hand out from his pants and proceeded to lick something thick and milky off his fingers.

“I would very much like to have her Ambassador.”

The big alien steepled his many fingers under his small chin and regarded his employee.

“I suppose that could be arranged Darnid, but it would come out of your earnings. Our agreement never included you ending up with our little prize. After all, it took considerable expense to orchestrate her disappearance and her ongoing upkeep has come at a cost too. No Darnid…if you want her, it will cost you…dearly.”

A scowl crossed the pinched features of the little alien, but be leered soon enough.

“Name your price Ambassador, I will pay.”

Curious about his motives, the Ambassador sipped his drink, his mind sharply alert, but his voice conversational.

“And what will you do with her…apart from the obvious?”

Darnid’s hand went inside his trousers again.

“She would please me Ambassador…as often as I wanted and, when I tired of her…which could take a very long time, I would recoup my losses with the Orions.”

The Antorian sat back and closed his eyes as Darnid brought himself to another climax. Disgust clouded his voice as he said,

“Yes well, we’ll see, shall we? I will go now, expect my payment at the usual time.”

He glanced at Darnid and wished he hadn’t. The diminutive alien had his fingers in his mouth, sucking and licking them. Around his digits Darnid muttered,

“Same time next month?”

The Ambassador nodded and pulled his cloak around his massive body. The next time Darnid looked in his direction he was gone, a surprising feat for one so large.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James took the stairs three at a time as he made his way up to his room. Shrugging off his backpack, he elbowed his door open and called for lights. It was just on one am and he was tired. With a very full day of lectures ahead of him, he kicked off his shoes and pulled his jumper over his head. His hands began to strip off his pants when he suddenly stopped and frowned.

“Oh hell,” he muttered. He pulled up his pants and left his room, going down the hall to the master bedroom. One quick look told him all he needed to know. With anger simmering, he went back downstairs and straight to his father’s study. Sure enough, the man was asleep at his desk, the bottle of whisky all but empty.

James closed his eyes and tried to stop the anger from spilling over.

“Damn you.”

None to gently he grabbed his father’s shoulders and shook him.

“Wake up Dad.”

Jean-Luc came awake abruptly and sat up too fast. A vicious cramp knotted the muscles of his back and he groaned, trying to get his fingers to the source of his pain. Heedless of the man’s discomfort, James gripped his father under his arms and hoisted him to his feet. Jean-Luc took an angry swipe at his son and lost his balance, causing both men to fall to the floor. James shoved his father to one side as he scrambled to his feet, growling menacingly,

“Look you stupid old drunk…get to your bloody feet so I can put you to bed.”

Anger turned to fury as Jean-Luc struggled to get his feet under him. He made it upright and surprised his son by grabbing fistfuls of his shirt and backing him up against the bookcase.

“You cocky little upstart! How dare you talk to me like that?!”

The tall young man looked down at his father and gripped his wrists. Like Jean-Luc, James’s voice became deadly soft when he was truly angry.

“Let me go, Dad.”

Even drunk, Jean-Luc was a match for any man. His own voice softening dangerously, his dark hazel eyes bored into their twin’s.

“You will apologise to me first my boy.”

James snorted and increased his grip of his father’s wrists.

“For what? For calling you a stupid old drunk, or for being your son?”

Pain sliced through his anger and Jean-Luc gaped.

“What?”

“You heard me! Now let go of me before I hurt you.”

Shocked, Jean-Luc loosened his grip of James’s shirt. In a hushed whisper, the man looked up at his son and asked,

“What’s happened to you James?”

James pulled his father’s hands free and let them go in disgust.

“Me? It’s not me, Dad, it’s you! You’re a deluded fool who won’t accept the simple truth of your wife’s death. Instead you crawl into a bottle! I’m ashamed of you Dad! I’m ashamed to be your son!”

With one final derisive glare James stalked out of the room. Jean-Luc’s legs failed and he slumped to the carpet, staring at the place where his son had stood. He slowly slid to one side until he was lying curled on the floor. He was still there when the sun rose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun that greeted the woman in the bed only served to remind her that another day of incarceration had begun. With absolutely no contact with anyone or anything, she had no idea where she was or indeed, why she was there.

From the outset she’d marked the passage of days with a small stroke on the wall. As she lay in her bed, her cerulean eyes travelled over the marks, making her sigh. With little else to do with her time, she counted the marks fairly regularly and she knew that there were 738 grey marks. She sighed and struggled to keep her tears at bay.

“Two years. Two long years.”

Her routine well established, she rose from the bed and went into the bathroom to relieve herself. Then she showered and dressed, her clothing, like everything else, provided by unseen means. The futility of her incarceration had dulled her mind over time and, as she sat at the table and stared at the door, her thoughts centred only on the coming meal.

She had no way to measure the passage of time other than watching the shadows as they crept across the room as the day progressed.

When the door suddenly clicked open, her eyes flicked to the wall and noted her keeper was on time…as usual.

The alien who entered was an impressive specimen. He was over two metres tall and massively built. The clothes he wore, like hers, were nondescript, giving no hint as to his origins. His dusky brown skin, iridescent green eyes and naked high domed head gave the woman no clue as to his species. From the moment she had regained consciousness in the bed, this was the only person she had seen. For the first few months of her capture she had tried every method available to her to communicate with the being, but his total lack of response afforded her little hope that he either heard or understood her. Not once had he giving any sign that he was even remotely interested in what she was trying to do. Not even sign language raised any reaction in him. One morning, two weeks into her imprisonment, in sheer frustration she had attacked the alien as he brought her meal, striking him several times with what would normally have been telling blows. Without uttering a sound he calmly dropped her tray and grabbed her wrists, squeezing until the woman was on her knees, keening in agony. Having gained her capitulation, the being released her and left the room, returning half an hour later with a fresh breakfast. While she stood by the table, glaring and shouting obscenities, he stoically cleaned the mess on the floor, then silently left. That incident took something from the woman. The hope that had burned so brightly inside her dimmed and she contemplated, for the first time, that she might be in worse trouble than she had previously thought.

Captain Beverly Picard stared at her tray, her hand automatically picking up her plastic cutlery. As she reached forward, the black electronic bracelet she wore caught her eye and she scowled. There was another one on her ankle and embedded in her chest was yet another device. She knew from bitter experience their purpose. The bracelet and anklet gave her captors her position at all times. The device in the muscle under her left breast activated when she approached the door leading to the outside. It caused mild pain, but the closer to the door she got, the worse the pain became. She had only once made it to the door but the agony caused her to lose consciousness. However she learned her lesson. Since that day she avoided the door.

Her prison was pleasant enough. There were three moderately sized rooms, a bedroom, bathroom and larger living room. The living room had a sliding glass door that led to a small courtyard that had a table and a chair. Surrounding the courtyard was a dark plastishield that let in natural sunlight, but remained opaque to the Captain. She had no idea what lay beyond the confines of her little world, no sights or sounds ever reached her.

She had access to generic reading material and a computer, but all it would do was play basic games and display scientific papers that were at least ten years out of date.

In one corner on the living area was situated some exercise equipment.

There was a small treadmill, a static cycle and an assortment of moderate weights. Beverly spent a lot of time using the equipment; the only other breaks to her otherwise stultifyingly boring days were the regular appearances of her keeper as he brought her meals.

As she mechanically ate her morning meal her mind drifted, her thoughts going, as always, to her husband and children. The ever-present ache in her heart swelled to agonising proportions and she closed her eyes, shaking her head as she savagely quashed her pain. She knew if she didn’t keep her anguish under tight control she would certainly go mad. In the early days of her imprisonment she pined for her family, her husband especially. In her waking hours she thought of him and her children…what were they doing? Were they all right? Were they searching for her? Would they ever be able to find her? Her anguished thoughts were bad enough during the day but at night, when sleep finally took her, her dreams invaded her mind and tortured her anew. Visions of her beloved Jean-Luc being tormented by her captors, her children forgetting who she was and not recognising her when she was finally reunited with them or worst of all, Jean-Luc in the arms of another woman. She so often woke, sobbing and distraught, that she slowly taught herself to sleep only very lightly, mostly avoiding the deep sleep her body cried out for. Over time, this quasi sleep deprivation altered her mind leaving her a parody of her former self. Dull, listless and compliant, no one who knew her would recognise the person she had become. Along with her hope and spirit, she successfully buried her self and merely existed. It was the only way she could survive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Della surreptitiously watched Jean-Luc as she piloted the hover car into Melbourne. Habitually taciturn, he was even more withdrawn than usual and, as she studied his wan features, her worry increased.

Nothing was said as they transported to San Francisco and, as they entered the suite of rooms that constituted their work place, he walked into his office with a brusque,

“I’ll take my messages in ten minutes.”

 Lieutenant Jeremy Henderson stood, his mouth opening to acknowledge his instruction, but his boss was already closing the door. The young man cast Della a look of concernand she summoned a small smile.

“He’s a little grumpy this morning.”

The Lieutenant raised his eyebrows and puffed out his cheeks, letting out a long breath.

“Oh great.”

The Captain offered a sympathetic look before going to her own office. Once behind her desk, she activated her computer and scanned through the accumulation of headers. Near the bottom of the list a line of text caught her eye. She sat back and stared, her heartbeat accelerating. Swallowing, she touched the screen, bringing up the message and began to read.

Ten minutes later she was knocking at Jean-Luc’s door, a PADD in her hand. She ignored Jeremy’s,

“Captain, the Ambassador doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

As she brazenly opened the door and marched through.

The Lieutenant was behind her, offering his apologies as Della approached the desk, proffering the PADD.

“I think you’ll want to see this Sir.”

Jean-Luc scowled at Della, but then his eyes settled on the PADD. With a flick of his hand he dismissed his secretary and took the device, grunting his permission for Della to sit.

He read for a few moments, his face a deepening scowl. Looking up, he shook his head.

“This makes no sense.”

Della shrugged.

“I know, but my source is sound.”

Jean-Luc rubbed his face.

“But why would the Antorians even consider this?”

The Captain sat forward and speared Jean-Luc with a measuring gaze.

“One upmanship.”

Jean-Luc shook his head.

“Oh surely not? I’ve been dealing with Ambassador Tar Taz for months now…he gave no indication that anything like this was on his agenda. In fact he’s been very careful to appear very compliant. No…there must be another reason, either that, or your source is wrong.”

With an emphatic shake of her head, Della refuted Jean-Luc’s claim.

“No! My source is absolutely rock-solid.”

Jean-Luc tossed the PADD onto the desk, sat back and folded his hands behind his head.

“All right, what then? I can’t believe it’s as simple as one upmanship.”

Della raised her hands and sighed.

“I don’t know. Like you said, it makes no real sense, besides we’re not offering admission into the Federation. This whole process has been about trade.”

The Ambassador sat forward and picked up the PADD. He read for a while then snorted.

“Well insisting on a delegation at the next sitting of the Council, as well as access to our weapons program…it’s absurd to even think we’d allow it. Those sorts of things are for Federation members only.”

Della waved a hand.

“Which they insist they don’t want. I don’t know Jean-Luc, I smell a rat.”

Tossing the PADD back onto the desktop, Jean-Luc fisted his hands and shook his head.

“Well time will tell. If your source is correct Tar Taz will be making his play soon. The talks are due to end by the end of the month.”

Della gazed at her friend and frowned. Risking his wrath, she said softly,

“Are you getting any sleep Jean-Luc?”

His glare faded and he sighed.

“Not really.”

“Want to talk about it?”
He shook his head.

“No…not unless you can tell me why my son hates me.”

A surprised woman gaped.

“James? James hates you? I can’t believe that.”

Jean-Luc’s face showed his derision.

“Oh you can believe it. He told me as much last night.”

Della lifted her hands and shook her head.

“But why?”

With a dismissive flick of his hand, Jean-Luc snorted.

“Does it matter?”

“Of course it matters Jean-Luc! Look James is eighteen years old. Boys that age often find conflict with their fathers…but that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Talk to him Jean-Luc.”

The Ambassador gave the woman a speculative look then closed his eyes. When he opened them, the subject was done with. Della took the hint and stood, saying gently,

“Would you like to co


© Copyright 2018 Heather Smyth. All rights reserved.

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