January 09 Challenge: Write a story inspired by a song. No more than 5000 words. The title must be derived from the song's lyrics but cannot be the same as the song's title.
I’ll Never Look Into Your Eyes Again
A Star Trek Short Story Inspired by the Song ‘The End’ by The Doors
July 27, 17:32 FST
If it hadn’t been for his crisp white dress uniform, he would have easily blended in with the many other Starfleet officers who were making their way across the scenic green landscape.
He stood alone, just about fifty meters from the large bronze statue that had been erected on the small hill a couple of years ago. Three Starfleet officers, a human, a Vulcan and a Bolian stood around a Federation flag, each with one hand firmly gripping the tall pole and with their heads cranked upwards to watch it waver in the wind.
Just beyond it a few children were enjoying the warm summer breeze, playing on the neatly trimmed grass. Most of them too young to understand the significance of the monument nearby.
A young boy spotted the Starfleet officer as he reverently watched the statue. And the officer saw him too. The child, with a large grin plastered on his bright face, waved to the man, impressed by his shiny uniform.
The man looked at the boy for a moment and then waved back. But only hesitantly as if it was an altogether foreign concept to him. What the boy couldn’t see and probably wouldn’t have been able to comprehend were the tears in the man’s eyes.
Finally the boy gave him a serious looking military-style salute and then turned around to join his playmates again.
The man watched him leave.
Then he knelt down and retrieved an amber, pistol shaped device from a bag he had brought. He stood and raised the weapon.
The many civilians around him where at a loss at what this Starfleet officer was doing, the device in his hands mostly alien to them. Some ignored him entirely, some just watched him curiously.
Most of the other Starfleet personnel however knew exactly what he was holding in his hand and after a few seconds of stunned hesitation they jumped to action, yelling or shouting at him to drop the weapon even while they carefully approached.
It was all way too late.
And it was all over in an instant.
People screamed in terror when the phaser went off and the white-clad Starfleet officer fell face first into the soft grass.
* * *
Department of Internal Affairs, Starfleet Headquarters
July 28, 08:32 FST
“Would you mind removing your boots from the furniture?”
Lieutenant Junior Grade Stanley Colburn turned his head to see his partner, Lieutenant Maxine Bernhardt enter the office and a large smile formed on his lips. She didn’t appreciate that he had put his feet up onto the desk again, a pet peeve which apparently really bothered her.
“And a good morning to you,” he said and left his boots exactly where he had placed them.
She sat down on her side of the desk with a fresh cup of raktajino in hand. “Pretty early for you,” she said.
“It’s this suicide from yesterday. Did you hear about it?”
“Of course,” she said. “It’s on every newsfeed in the city. Damn shame.”
Colburn nodded absentmindedly. His entire focus was concentrated on a padd he was studying.
He peaked over the padd and looked into her stern visage which gave no doubt that Bernhardt had been a fighter once. Much unlike Colburn. “Yes, ma’am,” he said and put them down.
Bernhardt rolled her eyes. She hated to be called ma’am
. It made her feel old. And judging from Colburn’s boyish grin, he knew it all too well.
“Lieutenant Commander Varnado Goodspeed. Distinguished Starfleet career, more medals than I got fingers. And one day he just decides to walk right into a public place and fry his brain in front of hundreds of people,” said Colburn and looked out of the window. He couldn’t see the spot where Goodspeed had decided to take his own life but it was within walking distance.
“They say he was on extended leave for medical reasons. He’d been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Sadly a rather common occurrence since the war. Some people just didn’t deal with it well. I’ve seen it myself.”
“We need to look into this, Max.”
“Trust me, nothing gets to me more than to see a fellow officer die like this but this isn’t anything that hasn’t happened before. If there is anything to look into here, it’s why the counselors didn’t catch the warning signs sooner.”
“What about his note? ‘Remember Alteres VI’. I looked at his service record. In ’75 he and his crew responded to a distress signal from a small research outpost near the Cardassian border in the Alteres system. They were too late. By the time they arrived everybody was dead.”
“Well, yeah, seeing something like that will mess with your mind for years to come.”
“But the outpost was on Alteres III. Alteres VI is a small and uninhabited Y-class planetoid. There is nothing there, I looked it up.”
Bernhardt took the padd off him. “A mistake. The guy is about to kill himself, clearly he wasn’t thinking straight.”
“What about the fact that he used a Cardassian phaser? Doesn’t military tradition demand that you shoot yourself with your service weapon?”
She glared at him. “There is no military tradition for suicide. At least not in Starfleet.”
“Whatever. All I’m saying is something doesn’t add up here and we should look into it. I think something happened to him and the Von Braun
in the Alteres system during the war.”
“The Von Braun
? Under Koster?”
“You know him?”
“William J. Koster. He’s a war hero. Great man. I served under him shortly before the war. I think he’s an admiral now.”
“A war hero, huh? Like Goodspeed. Like you. Let’s see where this takes us. Let’s do it for the war heroes out there.”
“I’m not a hero, Stan. I just did my duty.”
“Sure. Modesty suits you much better anyway. Come on, let’s go,” he said and was already on his feet.
* * *
July 28, 10:12 FST
“The Von Braun
was lost with most of her crew at the Battle of Cardassia at the end of war,” said Colburn as he walked alongside Bernhardt on the sidewalk of a residential neighborhood. “I’ve already tried to contact the handful of survivors but I’m getting the distinct vibe that they don’t really want to talk to us.”
“Must be your charming personality.”
“That, or they’re hiding something.”
“People don’t like to open up about things like that. It’s painful to think of it especially after losing your ship and all those friends and comrades.”
“I tried Koster. Surviving the Von Braun
’s demise must’ve really flown into his face. Not going down with the ship and all that jazz.”
Bernhardt glared again. She did this quite a bit.
“Anyway, he’s apparently way too busy with conferences and the like to meet with us. But I’ve tracked somebody down who also lives on Earth,” he said and looked at the padd he had brought. “Chief Petty Officer Lesley Medina. He has since retired and settled down right here in sunny Florida.”
“Does he know we’re coming?”
Colburn stopped in front of a plain, white two story house. “Here we are.”
He walked up to the door but before he could knock a middle aged man approached from behind the house, wearing a straw hat and holding large hedge cutters for garden work.
“Who the hell are you?”
“Ah, you must be Chief Medina,” said Colburn.
“I say again, who are you?”
Colburn nervously glanced at the cutters. The blades gleamed in the sun. They were sharpened to a hilt.
“This is Lieutenant Colburn and I’m Lieutenant Bernhardt. We’re with Starfleet’s Internal Affairs and we were hoping we could speak to you about –“
“I’m not in Starfleet anymore and I’ve nothing to say to you. Go away.”
“Maybe if we could just come in and –“
Medina harshly interrupted Colburn. “I know your kind. Always sticking your noses into other people’s business. I had to put up with you for a long time. But not anymore. You will leave my property or I’ll call the Sheriff. He’s a good friend of mine and he doesn’t like Starfleet officers either.”
“Of course. We’re sorry for disturbing you,” said Bernhardt and walked away.
Colburn didn’t. “How well did you know Vernado Goodspeed?”
Medina walked to the door. “None of your business. Now, if you’re still here by the time I reach the com system, you’re going to get real well acquainted with the Pensacola jail.”
“Did you know he killed himself yesterday?”
“Publicly. Right in front of the War Memorial in San Francisco. It’s because of what happened in Alteres, wasn’t it?”
He turned around very slowly. “Goodspeed’s dead?”
“He was always a coward. A damn coward. Bastard thought he could get out of it by killing himself. Doesn’t change anything. Doesn’t make a bit of a difference either way. And you, you get the hell out of here and leave things that don’t concern you alone.” And with that he went inside and slammed the door shut behind him.
* * *
July 28, 18:48 FST
“I must say I was surprised when I heard that Internal Affairs wanted to speak to me. I’m not in trouble, am I? Is this about me taking those two extra R&R days? My CO is still bouncing off the walls about that. To be fair, she gets a panic attack if I’m two minutes late to my shift. She’s a real ice queen, that one.”
Petty Officer Hugh Turner sat with Colburn and Bernhardt at a replimat on the busy promenade, nurturing a cold beer. He had an easy smile on his lips when he spoke, indicating that he wasn’t really that concerned about his superior.
“It’s not about your shore leave,” Colburn assured him.
“Good. I don’t need the extra aggravation. Oh and about the ice queen reference. If that could stay between us, I’d appreciate it.” He glanced towards Bernhardt who apparently hadn’t appreciated the comment. Maybe because she wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with it herself.
“Our lips are sealed,” said Colburn. “We’re here to talk about the Von Braun
. The Alteres incident, to be precise.”
Turner nearly dropped his glass. “Alteres, huh?” he said, clearly much more nervous all of a sudden. “I’ve heard about Goodspeed. Damn, what a mess. I guess I should’ve known somebody was going to look into that. But listen, I was just a lowly crewman back then. I wasn’t kept in the loop much. You should try to talk to somebody who was higher up on the food chain.”
“We tried to talk to Chief Medina but he wasn’t exactly forthcoming,” said Bernhardt.
“Medina? Yeah, I bet he wasn’t. There’s a reason we used to call him Chief Crusty back on the Von Braun
“What do you know about what happened in the Alteres system?” asked Colbun.
“Not much. I mean I was just a crewman, right. Nobody told me much of anything. We answered the distress signal and the away team found the crew dead. Massacred, I guess.”
“By the Cardassians?” asked Bernhardt.
“Who else? We were about a stone’s throw away from the border. You have to understand the mood on the ship was low. Real low. We’d just heard about the attack on San Francisco. People were angry. That outpost was just a little research station with a crew of a dozen. They weren’t soldiers or anything.”
“So what happened after you found the outpost?”
“The captain wanted to find the ones responsible. But I don’t think we ever did. We ran some combat drills to let out a bit of the frustration and soon after we joined our fleet again. But as I said, I was just a –“
“Lowly crewman,” said Bernhardt. “Yes, so you’ve been telling us.”
Turner nodded and stood. “I’m awfully sorry I can’t be of more help. My shift is about to start. I have to get back. Maybe if you can track down Redera, you can talk to her. She was pretty close to the command staff. I really have to go now.”
* * *
Department of Internal Affairs
July 29, 11:08 FST
“Turner said to talk to me?”
Colburn nodded to the Bolian lieutenant he was talking to over subspace from her ship, the Venture
which was currently deep inside the Beta quadrant. “Yes. He said that you might know more about what happened in Alteres.”
“I’ll be honest with you, Lieutenant. Alteres is a name I hoped I would never hear again. The truth is, hardly a day goes by that I don’t feel devastated over what happened there. You have to believe me I wish for nothing else than to be able to go back to that moment in time and do things differently. Be stronger this time.”
“There is nothing to be ashamed of, Lieutenant,” said Bernhardt who sat next to Colburn. “It would have been difficult for anyone to see something like that.”
Redera’s sad eyes focused on the investigator and she slowly shook her head. “No, we have much to be ashamed about. In a small way I envy those who never got off the
Von Braun alive. Sometimes I think they didn’t try. I know Goodspeed didn’t. He was perfectly content to blow up with the ship. I found him and carried him to the lifeboat. He never forgave me for that.”
“Why?” asked Colburn. “What could have happened to drive him to that?”
Redera looked away from the screen, contemplating carefully. “I can’t talk to you about it. Not over an open line,”
she said. “I’ll contact you again tomorrow once I’ve been able to make some precautions. Speak to Turner again. If he thinks he can get out of this by claiming ignorance he’s got another thing coming. He was one of the pilots. He saw it all first hand. Redera out.”
Her image vanished from the screen.
“Pilots?” said Bernhardt. “Why would they have needed pilots? And why does she need to make precautions before talking to us?”
“I don’t know,” said Colburn and activated his computer. “But Alteres III has no atmosphere, they wouldn’t have needed pilots to get down to that planet. Alteres VI on the other hand is loaded with high-energy storms and interference which prevent the use of transporters to beam down. What if Goodspeed didn’t make a mistake? What if he did mean Alteres VI?”
“But there is nothing there.”
“Nothing we know of. I’m going to send out some inquires. Maybe a mining company or a local government operates on that planet. In the meantime we should talk to Turner again. I had a feeling he wasn’t being straight forward with us.”
* * *