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[2006: JAN-FEB] Homecoming, home finding.


Ryan Horn
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“Shuttle craft Blake, requesting permission to land.”

Ben heard the pilots words, and sat down as he was requested. All of this was done entirely mechanically, following the instructions without any conscious thought. All of his concentration was with the reception to come.

Ben looked down at the letter in his hand once more. He knew what it said, had someone asked he could have repeated it verbatim. Still, he couldn't help reading the flowing script from his captain one more time.

“Ben,

This letter marks the one year anniversary of your father's death. During this past year, I have done all that I could to convince you of the need to go home. However, one crisis or another has always provided you sufficient reasons to remain on ship. You have made no effort to contact any of your family since that point. And, if the reports I am still receiving from sickbay are any indicator, you have not made peace with his death. As your Hru'hfirh (Head of House) I am responsible for more than simply your presence on ship. Therefore, you are ordered to spend not less than 2 weeks with your family....”

The letter continued on, the Captain wishing him well and telling him where his surviving family could be located. But somehow, this first paragraph kept haunting him. Was she right? Yes he trained hard in the holodecks, the closest he could come to the rigorous physical and mental training of his youth, but he wasn't making foolish risks...was he? Had he been pushing to make himself better, or was he punishing himself for his failure to find his father's killer? Ben shook his head slightly to clear it, and sighed mentally. Based on the “coincidental” docking of his ship, he was within a days travel of both his mother and his stepmother.

Moments later as the shuttle touched down, he stepped out of the shuttle. This landing area was little used, but was thankfully in the interior of the building, not in the open air. Rationally, Ben realized that it was unlikely in the extreme that the Tal'Shiar would try anything here on Terra. However, years of training would not allow him to drop his guard. Walking out in a seemingly relaxed stride, Ben moved to the front exit of the building. He'd have to acquire some ground transport to reach his stepmother's estate. As he considered the best way to proceed, a shadowy figure moved closer to him. He blindly strode forward, apparently unaware, only to quickly grab the outstretched hand of the assailant. Twisting his body, he began to throw his attacker, only to find his own attempt countered. Turning to face his attacker, Ben groaned.

His attacker was wearing a bright pink skirt, a small white domesticated animal visible against the fabric. An equally ridiculous shirt, in Ben's mind, of white frilly material adorned the girl's torso. Her maniacal grin would have sent him running, had he not recognized who was behind it.

“Jolan'tru (Formal Greetings) Sister, how has the House been in my absence?”

Llunih giggled. “Oh Benny, are you still stuck on that? We aren't on Romulus, last I checked at least.”

Ben groaned mentally. “Llunih our customs, our...”

“Your customs Benjamin Walker, not mine.” Her interruption was as brisk as the change in her attitude. After a moment she regained her previously sunny attitude. “In any case, Mom's waiting at the house, and I'm the fastest way to get there.”

“The fastest perhaps, definitely not the safest.” Ben grinned wryly as he saw the shocked look on her face. “I have picked up a few new tricks as well.”

His sister made a face as they got into the vehicle, “Nothing like what I learned, now hold on!”

Had Ben not recently been through a mission in a F120, he doubted he could have held back from trying to override the controls. As it was, he managed to look mostly calm as he got out of the shuttle. A look only slightly betrayed by the shaking of his legs. He and his sister had traveled comparatively far into the country away from the bustle of the city something which indicated either great influence or perhaps someone who was simply a great inconvenience. The house itself looked like something from Terra's far past. It had an odd shape to it, mostly rectangular, but with several places where the windows expanded outside of those bounds. At those locations the windows bowed out of the house, obviously allowing better points for reconnaissance. There was a entry point in the front of the building, with a small area for waiting outside. There were several chairs, and a railing around it. Additional support beams held the upper area of the building above it. As he continued examining the building in front of him, a stately woman walked out onto the porch. She moved with a deliberate grace as if each step was choreographed. She tilted her head, acknowledging his presence but the icy coldness in which she greeted him spoke volumes.

“Jolan'tru(formal greetings), Son of my husband.” the words were said with no more emotion than could have been said by a machine.

“Jolan'tru (formal greetings), Lady of the House of Walker”, Ben replied, his voice cautiously mimicking the tone set before him.

“Never that, Benjamin, not in this life or the next by D'ravsai.(Ancient Deity)” A small smile cracked the impassive facade she'd been maintaining. “However, I do offer you the sanctuary and safety of my home.”

Ben bowed and replied, “Which I gratefully accept.” He turned just in time to catch the bag he'd packed as it flew through the air towards him. His sister grinned impishly at him as she moved around the shuttle.

“About time the two of you got through that, why you can't simply ring the doorbell I'll never know.” his sister quipped as she entered the building.

Ben looked in no little confusion as he moved to the room that he'd use during his stay. There was a utility of purpose to most rooms he'd been in, everything in a position to best fulfill the purpose. However, here was many things that seemed inherently contrary to those rooms. There were mirrors, both of silvered metal and fully holographic, placed at many locations. The colors of many of the rooms seemed to be in reds, pinks, and whites, with flowers decorating many of the horizontal surfaces. A glance into his sister's room more than explained the reasons behind that. As he walked, gawking through he house, it wasn't until he reached the room that had been prepared for him that he realized exactly who the former occupant had been. He stood in shock at the doorway as he realized where he was. They'd prepared the room his father had used as a study for his bedroom. Ben felt the weakness rise inside him as he quietly entered the room. All the frustrating hours examining the footage, all the while knowing deep in his heart who was behind it. The endless searches for some additional proof, that final key that would allow him to act in good conscience if nothing else. The number of times he'd violated his oaths to Starfleet in order to try to gain what he couldn't legally. All the while knowing that his father did not rest easily, that he was writhing in Areinnye(Romulan Hell), while his murderer remained free, unpunished. Ben sat down heavily on the portable bed, his head in his hands, while pictures of his father looked down on his sobbing form.

Hours later, he moved downstairs toward the dining area. Knowing his stepmother, he'd dressed in his formal uniform. Unsurprisingly, his mother was already seated, her position where it would be if his father were present. He moved to his proper position, hating the silence of the moment. Time dragged on as his sister, apparently continuing a pattern from early childhood, came in late and dressed as casually as ever.

“Paenhe(daughter), can you not dress appropriately for our evening meal?”

“Mom, it's the three of us, and Ben hasn't been home...” She hastily corrected herself, “hasn't seen us since his graduation. This shouldn't be a funeral.”

As the words left her mouth, his sister froze and his stepmother acted as if she'd been slapped. Then, his stepmother turned and glared at Ben.

“Obviously we do not have a reason to have a proper funeral yet, do we Benjamin?” The words slid like greased daggers into Ben's heart. He paused a moment before responding.

“Mother, I have done my best, but there has not been sufficient proof...”

“Hra'vae?!? (Oh Really?)What proof is required? Your father's been dead a year, and there has been no irrhaimehn(reckoning).”

Gamely, his sister attempted to intervene. “Mom, please. I'm sure Ben's been doing his best, he's as hung up on mnhei'sahe(Romulan Honor) as you are.”

“Lies. If he had done his best, your father would not have died. Or at least rest easily. And if you don't agree, you have no honor.” came the cold reply.

“What a surprise, as you have no life.” Llunih got up from the table and angrily threw her napkin down on the table. “Great to see you Ben, you always bring the life to the party.” Suddenly realizing that her sarcastic reply cut too close to the issue, she flushed and retreated from the room. Moments later, the sound of the front door slamming was punctuated by the roar of the shuttle leaving.

As Ben turned to look back at his stepmother, she looked as coldly regal as if nothing had happened.

“So tell me Benjamin, while you haven't been avenging your father's death, what have you been doing?”

Ben cringed at her words as the food was brought into the room. He glanced up as he realized the dishes were those his father had liked best.

“I've gathered a great deal of information on the killer, his height and the means used to kill..”

“We both know the Tal'Shiar were behind it. What have you done to them?” his stepmother interrupted.

Ben paused before responding. “Mother, we both suspect. There is no proof.”

She slammed her palms down onto the table, shattering the strained calm.

“We both KNOW they have done this.” After a moment she calmed, then in a reasonable voice added, “and if you, or your allies, require proof, then simply create it.”

“What?” Ben sat there, completely stunned by her suggestion.

“If the only thing holding you back from acting is proof, then create it. Or if you'd prefer not to get your hands dirty, I can create it for you. Here.” Saying this she handed Ben several holographs of a Tal'Shiar leader. “If you look into his travel records, I'm certain it will show that he was in the area that he could have reasonably completed the murder.”

“Mother! What have you done?!? This is..” Before he could finish she stood angrily and pointed a finger accusingly at him.

“What you should have done long ago. Instead I hear that you are out exploring, and taking some trollop as a mate? Did she have to offer herself to you to get you to stop looking? Or were you simply not interested in fulfilling your obligations?” Fully in a rage now, she glared hatefully at him.

Ben struggled to remain calm. “Mother. The woman I will wed is more worthy than I probably deserve. She has nothing to do with father.”

“Precisely, so why do you spend time with her and not bring in his killer? Or perhaps you were too involved with her to prevent his death as well?”

Those words shot straight to Ben's heart. All the worry, the loss, the feelings of failure welled up again inside him. Only to replaced after a few moments by images of his crew mates and friends from the ship. The anger over what she was accusing them of overrode his own concerns. He stood up, as one part of his mind noted the look of victory turn to a look of confusion on her face.

“Mother. Say what you will about me, but not them, and most definitely not my future wife.”

“That...”

Ben interrupted before she could continue. “No. You will let me finish. Were it not for them I would not be here today. Nor would I have what I need to truly find the guilty in my father's murder.”

His stepmother paused as she heard the words. Momentarily she appeared conflicted, her icy calm threatening to shatter. Sadly, the moment passed, and with cold certainty she replied. “Then go to them, you are no longer welcome here.”

A sense of loss yawned open beneath him. His rage over her previous words fading as the significance of what she was saying threatened to overwhelm him. “You…you remove me from the House?”

For a moment he could see her soften, perhaps had nothing else happened things would have mended between them. Unfortunately, the next course came in, Sesketh, a unique dish from Romulus that his father had enjoyed. His mother looked down at it, and Ben could see a single tear fall from her eyes. Those eyes blazed as she turned to face him.

“You are a traitor to this House, and to his memory. Your actions killed him, as surely as if you pulled the trigger yourself. That you fail to live up to the responsibility of those actions only proves how much of a failure you are. Now get out...get out of my sight.” She turned away from him looking up at the picture of his father that Ben, in the tension of the moment, hadn't seen placed behind the head of the table.

Ben felt the cold of the moment settling into his bones. He struggled to find something to say, some way to fix the problem before him. As the silence dragged on, he stood and spoke to her back.

“As you wish.” He turned and left the room quickly gathering his few belongings. A few minutes later, he entered into the shuttle craft that arrived. His stepmother never spoke another word to him.

A few days later, back on his ship, Ben heard his door chime go off. Without looking up he said “Enter”.

Ben wasn't very surprised to see the Captain enter into his room, nor was he surprised to see a mixture of amusement and anger on her face.

“Mr. Walker, I believe I instructed you to be with your family. I did this as your Hru'hfirh(Head of House), but if you won't listen to that authority, I can have you removed from my ship.”

Ben stood up from behind his desk and moved to a comfortable chair, and gestured for the Captain to sit across from him.

“Captain, you said I should spend time with my family. That's what I'm doing.”

The Captain paused, took a breath, then sighed. “OK Ben, explain it to me.”

Ben looked over at her. “There is a reason I named you Hru'hfirh(Head of House). Maybe it was an instinct, maybe it was rushed, but over and over it has been proven true. You are the head of my family. And the people here...even ignoring my betrothed, they are closer to me than anyone else I've ever known. They know me in ways that no one outside of this ship can even comprehend. And when one of us leaves, it feels as if a part of me is leaving with them.” Ben looked up at her, unshed tears bright in his eyes. “Captain, you, and the crew of this ship? They ARE my family.”

Ben's Captain looked at him for a long moment, then stood and moved to the door without speaking. As she reached the doorway, she said in a choked voice. “Well said Mr. Walker, well said indeed.”

--For good or ill, this piece is dedicated to the crew of the Independence, and those who made me feel part of the family there. May you all know the happiness that you gave me in allowing me into your circle.

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