Matthias Bentley was exhausted. Sleep had eluded him following Tom’s visit in the middle of the night. In the hours that followed, his mind raced as it bounced between digesting the news of Gret’s death along with the reason Tom had been such an asshole since the Challenger left Earth. Now he felt like crap and was certain that he looked it. His need for coffee, combined with a need to get out of his quarters, saw him searching out one of the ship’s smaller lounges where he nursed a large mug of black coffee.
His visit with Gret’s widow hadn’t gone exactly as he’d expected. They’d done the usual condolences and the teary reminices. But Mrs Larell had also taken him aside and confided in him that her husband had become paranoid, believing that there was a conspiracy to kill him. That paranoia only intensified after the arrival of Commander Oreth. Matt tried to reconcile the Gret that he’d been dealing with recently with the version of the man his wife talked about but couldn’t figure it out. Before leaving, she’d given Matt two data storage modules that Gret had asked her to give to the Federation diplomat if anything should happen. He’d stored them in his quarters for safe keeping but hadn’t looked through the data they contained yet.
A figure stopping beside the table drew Matt’s thoughts back to the present and caused his gaze to travel upwards. He’d expected to find Tom standing there, but instead he found Alex Mitchell holding a mug of his own. “Mind if I join you?” It seemed that Mitchell’s question was rhetorical because without waiting for a reply he slid into the chair opposite. “How’re you holding up?”
“I really wish I hadn’t taken this job.” Matthias admitted sourly before taking a long sip of his coffee. “I didn’t know what I’d find on Darox when I arrived here but it wasn’t this. A political class so out of touch with their constituents that they’re about two minutes from exploding into civil unrest.” His hand gestures were becoming more animated and his voice getting louder. “I mean we’re talking about the possibility of the people overthrowing the democratically elected leaders because those leaders have stopped listening. How in the hell did they let this happen? What did we spend months doing here four years ago?”
He watched as Alexander leaned forward and rested his arms on the table. “You did what you could.” Alex told him. “You gave them the tools and the counsel they needed to succeed. That’s all you could do. After that it was up to them what they did with it.”
“Yeah.” Matt rubbed his eyes and his shoulders slumped. “And Tom hasn’t made things any easier. Pushing me away since our meeting with Commodore Vega because he thought Gret and I were lovers and instead of talking to me, he shut me out.”
Alex closed his eyes and dropped head. After taking a deep breath and letting it out loudly through his nose, Alex met Matt’s gaze. “You know he’s not good with relationships. He’s only had one serious relationship. His entire adult relationship has been in pursuit of the centre chair. You guys are good together.” Alex leaned in closer and adopted a softer tone. “Give him a chance to make it up to you, Matt.”
“I do like him.” Matt replied, a wistful smile playing on his lips but that disappeared as quickly as it came. “But I’ve seen an ugly side to him since leaving Earth. A side that said things specifically to hurt me.” He shook his head. “I don’t need that kind of person in my life.”
Letting out a sigh, Alex sat back in his chair. “Look, he’s not perfect.” Alex admitted. “Who amongst us is? But he cares for you. He may have difficulty showing it, but it’s true. And I know you care about him.” He sighed. “You guys are good together, you owe it to yourselves and each other to see how far this thing goes.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Matt told him, his frustration bubbling to the surface. “Tom’s made it clear that he isn’t interested in a long distance relationship and I’m on the first transport back to the Alpha Quadrant once we’re done here.” Alex opened his mouth to speak again but Matt held up a hand to stop him. “I get you shilling for him, but it’s over. The best thing we can do now is go our separate ways and move on.”
Matt stood and picked up his coffee mug. “I’ll see you later.”
The Prime Minister’s funeral was held the next day. Acting Prime Minister Renos led the mourners with the several members of the cabinet speaking about Gret Larell. Tom and Matt were invited along with Commander Oreth and his First Officer. Larell was cremated with the ashes handed over to his wife in a small decorative urn.
The sky was a bluish-green, a few grey clouds moved slowly across it. Tom’s dress uniform wasn’t providing much protection from the cold Daroxi morning and he was looking forward to beaming back to the Challenger and changing back into his duty uniform. “It was a lovely service.” Tom mused but the comment drew little more than a hum of agreement from Matt.
As they walked away from the crematorium, two Daroxi security agents approached them and one of them asked, “Are you Doctor Matthias Bentley?”
“Who’s asking?” Tom asked, instantly on alert. The former security officer knew the tone the two agents were using, he’d adopted it plenty of times himself in the course of an investigation.
The lead security agent ignored Tom and kept his eyes focused on Matt. “Doctor Bently, we have a decree for your arrest.” He reached out and grasped Matt’s upper arm.
“What’s the charge?” Tom asked, deep down already knowing the answer.
The lead agent finally addressed Tom, meeting the captain’s gaze. “The murder of Prime Minister Gret Larell.”