Somehow, the quarters Eden shared with her parents had gone mostly unscathed in the fighting, though Eden’s ability to sleep in them was gone. Gone with her mother, ripped from the world by a monster from outside space-time.
The Wanderer – that was the only name they had for it – had ripped the hull over the infimary open. Eden’s mother had been seeing to patients until her last moment, when she was pulled into space and killed in an instant that had seemed – to both her and the daughter to whom she was inextricably telepathically linked – an eternity.
While Eden was sleeping in an emergency bunk in the ruins of her father’s office, she had come down to the quarters to pack some of her belongings. The station’s superstructure had survived, but the research conducted aboard it was ending and the station itself being decommissioned. The damage was simply too great to repair.
Her father went through the motions. Each day, he rose, did the work that needed doing to prepare the remaining crew for evacuation and the station for demolition, ate something, returned to bed. There was, as yet, no word on where they were going next.
This had been Eden’s home her entire life. She wondered, in the parts of her mind that were ready for thoughts of the future without focusing on the absence of her mother in them, what it might be like to live on a starship, or maybe a bigger starbase. Perhaps even one of the deep space stations where visitors from a dozen new species a day arrived…
“Eden.” Her father’s voice was still deep, but something had cut under it, taken the effortless authority out of it and replaced it with a profound weariness and pain. “Come here.”
He sat on his bed, and Eden joined him, sitting at his side. He took a few breaths before speaking.
“I’ve submitted my paperwork for retirement,” he said quietly. “I don’t think I can serve any longer… not now.”
Eden nodded, leaned closer to him. She had hoped this wouldn’t be what happened, but… all she’d felt from him, apart from brief moments of warmth and wonder toward her, had been pain. He was wounded maybe even more deeply than she was by the hole in their lives. “I guess we won’t live on a starship, then… where?”
“Earth,” he said quietly. “New Orleans, where I grew up. We have friends on the planet, and people are there who can help you. Therapists, teachers… people who can help you with your pain, help you with your empathy, in ways I can’t and that we’d have a hard time finding in Starfleet.”
Her mother helped her with her empathy, helped her build her barriers then exist around them. Without her…
“I understand.” It was a half-truth. She did understand, in the end, but she hated it. Planets were too loud, full of people feeling things and saying things and doing things, without the discipline and control of a starship or starbase. Without Starfleet.
But she had to be strong. If Arianna Starling was gone, Eden would be as strong as she would have been. She hugged her father, rose to her feet. Went to the replicator.
“One tea. Orange blossom, hot. One raktijino au lait, cow’s milk, hot.”
The drinks appeared, and she started to carry them back to the bed. Tea for her father. Coffee for her.
“We’re on our way back to Roosevelt,” Luvrodo said as he came in. “Starfleet is sending a team to Cestus to investigate and secure the Tkon archive, though your friend Powell has already managed to get the right for local scholars to access it. Starfleet seemed less than joyful about what it might contain.”
“Starfleet is looking for Tkon beacons,” Eden said. “And the archive is going to become diplomatic trouble at some point. Imagine the reaction on Cardassia if a garden world that had once been a few light years from their system was moved half a million years ago to Romulan space.”
“Reasonable people would say that since neither the Cardassian Union nor the Romulan Free State existed when the system moved, it belongs to the power whose borders it falls in,” Luvrodo said with a small smirk. “So the Detapa Council would likely do the opposite.”
“Exactly. But that’s a problem for the diplomats and the flag officers.” Eden took a long swallow of Klingon coffee. “We did the job today. Learned more about the secrets of the galaxy, helped advance knowledge. Maybe we didn’t find a strange new world, but we certainly found some of our worlds a lot stranger than we thought.”
“That’s true.” Luvrodo joined her at the table. “You think there’s anything like that on Betazed? Hints of a past long forgotten?”
“Between the Tkon, the Iconians, and a thousand other dead empires like them, I’d almost be surprised if there wasn’t.” Eden leaned forward to look at him. “It wasn’t easy, being here.”
“I know,” Luvrodo said. “I felt it. But you seemed to want to deal with your thoughts alone.”
“They’re not thoughts… not feelings… I share easily,” Eden whispered. “But maybe… maybe I’m ready to try. Some time soon.” She smiled. “Not yet, though. Sleep well, Luvrodo.”
“Sleep well, Eden,” he said before rising. “I must admit… I was rather hoping you would invite me to stay.”
“So was I,” Eden said. “But I have a lot to think about. Thank you.”
He left her alone with her thoughts, and Eden let them rise for a long moment before tapping her console. “Computer,” she whispered. “Authorization Enigma Tango Seven Zero Zero One. Please pull up a list of Starfleet counselors without current assignments…