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[2008: SEP-OCT] Vanished


Toni
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Vanished

By Toni Turner

Lt. Perin Anders stared blankly at the view screen. One minute she had been watching the USS Prosperity bringing the Away Team back to the USS Shadow, and in a split second, it had vanished. She was stunned, frozen in her seat, thinking her eyes were playing tricks on her . . . but they weren't. The Runabout was gone, and with it, the lives of six of her closest friends and her husband, Jeff.

A flurry of commotion filled the Shadow's Bridge, officers at every console confirming the disappearance. It had vaporized, leaving no trace . . . not even a sign that the Prosperity had even existed. She blinked her eyes, hoping it was some kind of cruel mistake, a glitch that would correct itself, but the action only reaffirmed the decimation of the spacecraft.

Helpless to do anything else, she kept thinking about the time she and her husband had wasted. Time they could have shared with each other, had duty not kept them apart. Now, duty had taken him away from her, and she couldn't do anything about it.

Her heart sank in despair, but even the grief she felt could not stop the fury that had begun to rise from within her nonplused mind. Tears misting in her eyes, she entered a plea, “Captain, the Prosperity couldn't have simply vanished. If we analyze the relevant sensor data for spatial anomalies, and we find anything, it may be possible to retrieve it.”

Captain Hyder spoke distinctly, seemingly unruffled, but that was a false facade. He was as bewildered as the rest of the Bridge crew, and would make every effort to either find the Away Team or find out what happened. “Try it, Lieutenant,” he replied, then gave the Science Officer similar orders. “Set up a tachyon detection grid, and check for thermobaric clouds, anything that could have trapped or masked that ship.”

With the entire Bridge crew pitching in to help, they worked tirelessly for three nights and days intent on one goal, finding the Prosperity. Finally, after they had exhausted every test and scan known, Captain Hyder, sadly, called for a larger search party, then returned the Shadow to its space station.

For weeks Perin went through the motions of living life as if Jeff would be walking into their quarters at any time. She pushed thoughts of the possibility that he might never come back out of her mind. It was too painful for her to think. She realized that sooner or later she may have to face it, but not now, not when she still had hope that he could turn up. Not when the memory of his touch, the sound of his voice, and his smile was so fresh and clear to her.

The void he had left in her life was constant, and she had to think of a way to fill it. Insulating herself with work was the only thing she could think of that would do it. Still, there was the loneliness of the night and memories of those moments that they had shared their sweetest secrets only with each other. ::

After months of living in limbo, Jeff's belongings still lay dormant, scattered on the night stand as he had left them. Sitting down on the bed, she lifted the pillow, hugging it close. A faint woodsy scent filled her nostrils and tears filled her eyes. Whispering his name, she hugged the pillow closer and lingered in the cold silence wanting desperately to hold him once again. Realizing the futility of her actions, she laid the pillow gently back on the bed and smoothed it lovingly, then packed his things in a box, and stored them away.

Years passed into oblivion. She had never allowed herself to love another, and had remained devoted to him. Now, the Captain of the Shadow, she had done well in her Starfleet career, realizing Jeff's goals as her own in tribute to him. But still, the loneliness of being totally cut off from him was immeasurable.

Happenstance had taken her to the area where the USS Prosperity had been lost, and although she reasoned that an attempt would prove fruitless, her desire to find closure grew more intense. She wouldn’t endanger the crew by taking them on a personal journey. Instead, she left orders for her First Officer to take charge of the ship, and slipped out of the flight bay alone in her personal shuttle. An hour’s trip put her in the same coordinates the Prosperity had been when it disappeared. The shuttle stopped, hovering in place, while she ran scans, convinced that something . . . anything, from the runabout would still be there . . . but she found nothing.

Sighing heavily, she leaned her head back against the seat. She was spent, weary from almost a lifetime of hope. Closing her eyes to rest before returning to the Shadow, she heard a faint sound. Startled, her eyes flew open. She blinked, and the cluster of stars before her opened up. She saw what she wanted to see. In their place, the Prosperity appeared.

“Jeff?”

Her question was answered by Jeff's loving tones. “Yes, Perin. I’ve come to take you home.”

She smiled when she saw him, then in a blink of an eye, she was gone.

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