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Outpost Phoenix: Personal Com-Net image
Family Matters: Forced Acceptance

Outpost Phoenix: Personal Com-Net


by Lieutenant Lukas Behr & Doctor S. Vasari
[Stardate ]

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Lukas retreated into his suite with several PADDs to avoid his roommate.  He left the space only to contact Farpoint Station with a request to speak with a counselor.  When he saw that Doctor Lindell answered, the German simply shook his head and disconnected the subspace feed.  He had no confidence that the woman could help him. He was starting to believe that no one could help him. The operations officer considered reaching out to an engineer, but he didn’t really want to have to explain.

Speaking it made it true.

It’d been a day and a half since he woke up in Jane’s room.  He hadn’t eaten and exhaustion was starting to set in. Lukas made his way down the stairs, glancing warily around the main floor to see if the medical officer was present.  He relaxed marginally and headed into the kitchen. There was nothing that appealed to him in the fridge. The basket of fruit was rejected. He opened up the pantry and glanced over the shelves to see if anything caught his eye.

A soft sigh escaped him and he shook his head.  Food no longer excited him as it once had. He didn’t want to cook.  He didn’t want to eat. His melancholy was something he might have been able to talk with Jane or write to his sister about.  One woman was avoiding him as much as he was avoiding her and the other was simply a collection of particles degrading in a transport buffer.

Lukas felt all strength leave his body.  He fluidly slid along the doorframe of the pantry and melted to the floor.  His knees were held to his chest as he dropped his forehead to curl on himself.  He had no idea what to do, who to turn to, where to go. Everyone he would ask was gone.  Loneliness became a vice on his chest. The ache was unbearable. His fingers sifted through his hair and he curled them to grip at the dark brown strands.  

“Was mache ich?  Wie treffe ich diese Entscheidung? (What do I do?  How do I make this decision?)” he whispered in question, hoping that someone would have an answer.  The voices of his family no longer chimed in during his sleep. Silence was his companion and the thought of this existence becoming his forever scared him to the point that it paralyzed him.

“Warum hast du mich verlassen?  Du solltest für mich da sein. Und Bodie und Rosine auch?  Warum? (Why have you left me? You're supposed to be here for me.  And Bodie and Rosine too? Why?)” he whined pitifully. “Und jetzt auch Jane?  Was habe ich falsch gemacht um das zu verdienen? Ich würde lieber sterben als so zu leben, bitte. (And now Jane too?  What did I do wrong to deserve this? I'd rather die than live like this, please.)”

His eyes had lifted briefly to the ceiling, as if he could speak to whatever power happened to rule the heavens.  With a shake of his head, he dropped his forehead to his knees and hugged himself. There was no one else who could give him that comfort anymore.

Her days were quiet and uneventful, and Jane couldn’t help but wonder when Lukas became a constant presence in her life.  Looking back on their maybe-kinda-was relationship, she realized that even then, she’d gotten used to him fairly quickly. Only, she had the Academy to distract her from the sudden void.  There was no such luxury on Outpost Phoenix. They were essentially a small village and everyone knew everyone. It took considerable effort not to reveal anything of what was happening to the operations officer.  His lack of attendance was noted by their peers and she was protective of her German best friend.

Jane stood to the side of the kitchen island, completely surprised to see him on the floor by the pantry.  Her heart sank as she stared at the back of his head. The surgeon remained silent for several long beats before she finally found the ability to speak.  Her boots scuffed along the floor as she crossed the distance between them. It was by some wonder that he didn’t hear her when she had entered the kitchen from the backdoor.  “Lukas,” she called out to him carefully, her tone gentle and timid. “Come on. I can replicate you a steak.”

He’d twitched briefly upon hearing her voice but didn’t have the energy to keep his muscles tense.  The operations officer lifted his head to look on her direction, but his irises didn’t meet hers. The shake of his chin was slight.  “Ich-” The rest of his sentence came out as a sigh. He didn’t want steak, he didn’t want to eat. He wanted to be able to save his family.

Her knees bent to lower her to the ground, her arm resting on her thighs.  “Have you had any water today? Food?” She’d been leaving rations, but they were - unsurprisingly - untouched.  Jane simply assumed he was angry with her. She didn’t blame him. She was rather upset with herself for being selfish.  There was a hint of hesitation before her hands rested on his arm and she gently attempted to pull him to his feet. “Come on.  Let’s get you somewhere more comfortable-”

“Nein,” he whispered with another shake of his head.  His arm lifted with her tug but the rest of his body remained heavy with his emotion.  Lukas had simply been answering her question about if he’d eaten. It was his exhaustion that refused to let her help him to his feet.

The computer chirped softly as the viewscreen in the family room flickered to life, the Federation emblem spinning as it waited for an answer.  “Subspace communication for Lieutenant Lukas Behr. Priority level one,” the monotone voice informed the pair.

“Ich bin nicht hier, (I’m not here.)” he whispered with a hint of defiance in his tone.  For the first time in two days, aquamarine met cognac. Despair marred his features and he shook his head at Jane, begging her not to answer it.  As long as he could put it off, his family still had a chance.

The Italian woman stared at him and her hand tightened around his bicep, her attempt to pull him to his feet more insistent.  “I know,” she whispered, assuming he’d told her that he didn’t want to speak to whomever was on the other end of the communication.  “You have to answer, Lukas. This has been going on for long enough.” She could only assume who was attempting to reach the German with such a priority message.  There was no doubt in her mind that it was the transport authority.

Lukas didn’t have the energy to fight her and he groaned deeply as she managed to use her leverage to pull him to his feet.  He gripped the door frame to steady himself. “It can go longer, until I find a way-”

“You have to do this, Lukas,” she urged gently.  “You have to let them go. You can’t go on like this much longer.”  He was in denial, spending days in the office in some attempt to save his family.  Each day he didn’t contact the transport authority, the genetic patterns faded bit by bit in the transporter pattern buffers.  Everyone always spoke about how transporters were safe, but there were a select few - the captain being one of them - who didn’t trust the technology.  They argued that the original souls were killed and what appeared on the transporter pad was not the same person who had left it earlier. If those fringe groups were to be believed, then Lukas was essentially letting his family die bit by bit, the death slow and painful.  Horrifically, their consciousness could be aware of it while they were trapped. Despite not believing it, the thought was certainly not something she wanted him suddenly contemplating. Jane sighed softly and closed her eyes as she steeled herself for what she was about to do.  “Computer- Accept transmission,” she called out without warning.

Low and hissed German curses slipped from his lips as he lifted his gaze toward the family room.  He moved lethargically from the kitchen, unaware of Jane’s assistance in keeping him upright. Lukas stared at the screen as they neared the console.  The weight of the universe seemed to compound on his shoulders.

“Lieutenant Behr,” Richard Vanderbilt greeted with a nod of his head.  His tone was firm yet compassionate. His eyes swept over the space and he barely acknowledged the woman beside the operations officer.  “I have been trying to reach you for several days now. I need to know if I have your permission to officially release your family from the pattern buffers.”

“You have to, Lukas,” she whispered in the German’s ear when he didn’t answer immediately.  Her fingers gripped at his arm, the squeeze gentle and supportive. “You need to let your family go-  You can’t keep them in the transporter forever. It won’t bring them back.”

He felt like he’d aged forty years in the span of a few days.  Resistance to the inevitable kept him from speaking for a very long time.  In his mind, he kept repeating to himself that he didn’t have to do anything.  His family could be saved. They weren’t dead. Maybe- if he’d gotten a chance to say goodbye.  He stared at the screen, wondering if they’d received his letters back to them after the video. There was the slightest movement in his chin to shake his head no.

“Lukas.”  Jane glanced briefly at Vanderbilt and they shared a knowing look.  Her gaze returned to her best friend and again her fingers squeezed his arm gently.  “Lukas. You need to let them go. They’re already gone. Even if you were to keep them in the pattern buffers, they’ll still slowly fade.”  She spoke gently and carefully, sadness tinging her tone. “You have to let them go so you can mourn properly. You can’t move forward like this.  Please, Lukas. Think of your family. Think of your niece. She needs to be able to move forward with her life too.”

The mention of Adelina had his eyes slowly falling closed.  Lukas stepped forward and rested his hands on the desk so he could lean over the console to support himself.  There was the slightest quiver in his elbows before he shifted his thumb to the screen. It took another few moments for the words to form from his lips.  “I give permission-” He blinked and pressed his finger on the signature pad. “To transfer Adelina to my care until I can figure out how to get them out of the buffer.”

Vanderbilt audibly sighed.  “Lieutenant Behr-”

The surgeon sighed softly.  “Lukas,” she pleaded with him.  Reaching forward, Jane let her fingers brush over the console until the appropriate section scrolled into view.  All the transport official needed was his signature. “You’re not going to get them out of the buffer. You need to let them go.”  Her hand lifted and rested on his arm again, her touch light over his skin as she directed his hand towards the appropriate line. “Don’t do this.  Not to yourself, not to Lina.”

“I know it must be really easy for you to say, Jane, but it’s not so easy for me to do.”  He resisted her direction of his hand and stared at her in accusation. “I can’t leave them.”

She was more forceful with her grip.  “You have to, Lukas. You don’t want to remember them this way.”  A pained expression crossed her features as she stared into his muddled hues.  They had once been such bright aquamarine, vibrant and full of life and joy. The ache in her heart grew at seeing it gone.  The German was holding onto hope, but there was none. Their patterns were gone and he was only forcing himself to remain in misery.  He didn’t want the burden of pulling the proverbial plug. A horrendous realization hit her hard and she swallowed the lump in her throat.  “Mi dispiace,” she whispered. There was a surge of energy as she forced his hand forward, her own resting over his as she forced his print on the glassy surface.  “You have his permission, Mister Vanderbilt. Please send word of all details.” Before Lukas could protest, she hurriedly ended the transmission.

His reaction was far too late and he found himself without the strength to pull his hand away.  “No!” he wailed as he turned and stared at the blank screen. Horrified, Lukas struggled to comprehend what had just happened.  He tapped on the console, desperately attempting to reconnect with the transport authority so he could rescind the approval. “Why did you do that?!”  His heart had leapt into his throat and raced with the implication of his forced action.

Her breaths came quickly with the sudden influx of adrenaline.  It took considerable effort to appear unaffected and her eyes grew glassy.  She forced herself to breathe steadily and she took a step forward. Her hands reached for his to stop him from possibly making the subspace communication.  “Lukas, listen to me. You need to breathe.” Her voice quivered with the force of her emotions, which were quickly colliding together. “You need to breathe.   They’re gone. They’re gone, Lukas.”

“You made me kill them!  I could have saved them! They weren’t dead!”  His efforts to pull away from her were weak. The emotional roller coaster that he rode left him cold and empty.  He was angry with her for taking advantage of his exhaustion one moment, then deeply remorseful that he didn’t have the strength to do it himself.  He regretted joining Starfleet that pulled him away from Earth - he could have been there to be sure the transporter worked perfectly. He cursed being assigned to Phoenix, which left him more than two months away from them and unable to run home to save his family.

His words cut through her and the dreadful realization took root in her heart.  The weight crashed upon her with such force that it left her breathless, but Jane was focused on him.  She made the decision for him, took the burden from his shoulders and knew what was to come. It did nothing to ease the blow or stop her from attempting to reason with him.  “No, Lukas!” she attempted to keep her voice calm and tender despite raising the volume. She failed miserably. “They were dead! Before you even knew about what happened! They were dead!”  When it was clear he didn’t want her to touch him, the surgeon lifted her hands and stepped back to give him the space he needed. “You couldn’t have saved them! It wasn’t on you to save them!”

The moisture in his eyes finally became too much for his lids to contain.  Salty tears streamed down his cheeks as realization moved over him. A stuttering breath left his lungs as he shifted his gaze to the Italian woman.  “Who the hell do you think you are?! God!? It’s not enough you have to break my heart, you have to take away my family, too?! Are you going to kill me next?!”  Lukas’ features hardened as he stared at the woman, his fists closing at his sides. “What else do you need from me?! I have nothing left to give you! Just leave me again!”  

Despite knowing that he was going to lash out at her, Jane couldn’t stop the shock that moved over her expression.  Each sentence dug deeper into her heart, the phantom ache suddenly quite real. Tears fell from her eyes without her knowledge, the salt slipping past her painted lips to tinge her tongue.  “I’m here, Lukas,” she assured him. She reached out for him, taking a step forward in an effort to wrap her arms around him and hold him. “I wouldn’t-”

“Why,” he hissed as he stepped back and swatted her hand away.  “Am I that good a lay? Can’t get enough of other boytoys that you have to use me too?”  The surge of adrenaline that accompanied his anger quickly left his system.

“You had to let them go,” she explained desperately.  She knew he was speaking out of anger, but it did nothing to lessen the blow.  “You can’t do that to yourself- To Lina-”

“Leave my niece out of this.  You have no right to speak for what she needs- you just killed her parents.  Now I get your fascination with the morgue. You must enjoy dead people more than living ones- except to sleep with them.”  He raised his hands to wipe harshly at the moisture in his eyes. Lukas turned away and took a few steps toward the staircase.  There was a pause as he turned to look back at her. “Why me? All I wanted was to care for you, and this is how you treat me?” He watched her for a few moments to see if she could explain, but decided he didn’t want to hear it.  “I hate you,” he seethed. The German reached for the bannister and pulled himself up the stairs. The sounds of her crying were ignored. His steps were heavy and echoed in the main space until he disappeared into his suite.


   
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