Rocking T Ranch, Terra Alpha Colony: November 28, 2372…
The sun sent slivers of light through the dark grey clouds that were now breaking up over West Morris Mountain range; towering over the New Milwaukee valley over 12,000 feet. Below in a bowl of green nestled the small college town of Brookville. The golden lines of Tomichi Creek and the Gunnison River snaked their way from opposite stretches of the valley meeting in the middle and continuing west to the barely discernible glean of J Picard Reservoir.
The sun was starting to set in the late spring and the air felt chilly from the recent rains… and snow as the high peaks had been recapped in a fresh layer of snow. It was here facing the west Rebecca sat her left foot hooked behind the back leg of the tri-legged stool as she dabbed various gradients of oil pigments upon the canvas.
The crunch of gravel drew Rebecca’s attention but, she made no motion to give the intruder any indication that she had heard him. The steps were heavy and uncertain and the breathing was heavy… A male.
“Not used to high altitude are we? In fact I’m sure you’ve never been anywhere that was not paved or padded decking,” Rebecca replied without looking away from the canvas.
“Astute,” the intruder replied.
Still Rebecca did not look away from the painting, “You must be an aide to Admiral Whatley.” There was a moment of silence before the voice spoke again, “They did not tell me you were Betazoid.”
Rebecca sighed setting the palette down and stood up to face the intruder. “No, I am not.” She regarded the heavyset human who was in his early forties. His white cheeks were flushed with exhaustion. The thinning dirty blonde hair matted against his skull. “Anyone from around here would know how to walk this terrain and by the way you stumbled up this hill I’d bet I could count the times you’ve been climbing any kind of mountain on one hand. The labored breathing suggests living at sea level or on board a pressure controlled starship or starbase. And, lastly,” she concluded with a grin, “Admiral Whatley has been asking for over a week to get me to re-join Starfleet.”
He chuckled, his round cheeks turned up in amusement, “Still amazing powers of deduction.”
Rebecca turned to start packing her things. Snapping the lid to her color palette, she slid it into her leather bag that contained a jumble of brushes, paints, and rags. “It’s just logical since your boss’s office has been hounding me for a week, and no one else would have the resources to find me here.”
“It’s horrid,” Rebecca replied waving the compliment away. “Art is just not my calling.”
“Perhaps you should reconsider your chosen profession?”
Rebecca laughed as she slung the now folded stool over her shoulder, “Like what? Starfleet?”
”That’s why I’m here,” he replied with a grin stepping forward with an extended hand, “Commander Jacob Turner.”
Rebecca shook his hand and then gathered up her easel careful not to smear the drying paint. “I’m sorry Commander I’m not interested. Starfleet tried promoting me after Wolf-359 to stay but, I saw too much death that day and I no longer want to see any more. I’ve done my part for King and Country.”
Turner nodded, “I know Commander. Wolf-359 made far too many officers to resign.”
“You know nothing,” Rebecca snapped. “And what part of not interested do you people not understand? Starfleet has taken everything I have loved. First my mother, then my fiancé and family, and now my mentor and many friends including Jennifer Sisko. How much more do I need to give to the Federation? Will you not be satisfied until I lie in a torpedo casing with the flag of the Federation draped over me? Maybe you would prefer my vaporization. No burden of a body, and all you have to send my father is a stock letter saved on some hard drive.”
“No,” Rebecca interrupted. “You are not sorry. And, don’t pretend to know what I have gone through. Now go.”
Turner sighed and handed Rebecca a PADD that he had been carrying. Rebecca nearly batted it away from his grip, but accepted after a few tense moments. “Commander Rebecca Talon. That is your recall paperwork. Admiral Whatley wanted me to get you to volunteer, but obviously your mind has been made up. You are to report to the U.S.S. Denver tomorrow as her executive officer. Starfleet needs officers of your caliber.”
“I won’t,” Rebecca replied coldly.
“Then you will never see this beauty,” Turner replied his arms outstretched indicating the land around him. “Failure to report will result in your arrest.” He tapped his combadge. “Commander Turner to Hood one to beam up.”
There was an acknowledgement on the other end, and before the transporter swept him up there was sorrow in his voice, “My brother died at Wolf-359, and my wife was killed on the Odyssey at the hands of the Dominion. I may not have lost as much as you but, I still know how it feels.”
Turner vanished in the a transporter beam leaving Rebecca standing in shock. Sighing she finished packing up her things, and started down the hill towards her house.
The house was made of logs and river rock. Someone told her that it was rustic, she wanted to build it with her own hands, and rustic wasn’t the goal. Walking into the yard her boxer Odysseus barked his greeting and was practically wiggling out of his skin.
Rebecca patted him on the head and a wet pink tongue came out to lick her hand, and she laughed. “It’s good to see you too Ody.” She climbed the steps to the front porch and pushed the front door open, and Ody pushed his way inside the house. “Ody!”
“Hey mama,” one of the twins said without looking up from her tablet.
“Hey,” Rebecca said as she started to stack up her art supplies near the door, “What are you doing?”
“Nothing, just watching videos.”
“Where’s your sister?”
“Upstairs I think.”
“Hey,” Milo greeted poking his head around the corner, “Did Commander Thomas find you?”
“Turner, his name is Turner, and yes he found me, and thanks for that. I was avoiding them.”
“They want me to return to active duty, which they forced my hand.” She dug around in her bags and handed him the PADD Turner gave her. “I’ve been recalled.”
Milo didn’t take the PADD and wiped his graying mustache with a thumb and forefinger. “Sorry about that.”
Rebecca sighed, “It’s okay, well, it’s not okay, but you didn’t do anything wrong. They would have found me eventually.” She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a peck on the cheek. “All sins forgiven.”
“Is that more of that Catholic nonsense?”
“Nope, not this time,” she said with a grin. “Just not mad.”
“Then I reckon I married me one hell of a woman. Oh, I heard from Ethan.”
“Oh?” Rebecca asked as she followed Milo into the kitchen.
“It seems he and Trinity are expecting.”
“Well, that’s something isn’t it? What’s for dinner?”
“Oh,nothing special. I got pork chops on the grill and I replicated mashed potatoes and corn on the cob.”
“Good enough for me. It is a week day.”
“Yes, it is. So, when do you have to report?”
Rebecca slid onto one of the bar stools and sighed, “USS Denver, I got a week. They are getting repairs done at Starbase 86.”
Milo sighed and placed both palms on the counter that separated them. “Still, I don’t like this, but the Dominion has to be stopped.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “I was just hoping it didn’t involve me. What do you say we all go to Santa Fe. I should see my dad before I ship out.”
Milo nodded, “Yeah, sounds like an idea. I need to get down there and get his horses shod. My dad always took care of my mom’s horses. I figured I would be the same for me. I didn’t figure I’d be caring for my father-in-law’s.”
Rebecca laughed, “Love me, love my dad. Girls! Come and eat!”