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Old September 11 2010, 08:25 AM   #1
unusualsuspex
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September Challenge - Secrets

THE PRESIDIO
SAN FRANCISCO,
CALIFORNIA, USA
EARTH
26th April 2053 – 0747 PST (1547 UTC)


When Dan finally rematerialised and was released from the transporter effect, it was with a deep sense of misgiving. The whole idea of remaining where they had been in Mongolia was that they had an almost zero chance of changing the timeline in any way. Gabe’s inexplicable departure had changed all that.

Dan had been forced to weigh the consequences of allowing Gabe to disappear into the 21st century, whatever his reasons, against the disruption any inadvertent act he committed could cause. The bottom line was that he had no choice but to follow.

Leaving orders to keep a permanent transporter lock on him, he had quickly changed into clothing that wouldn’t go amiss in this century and stepped into the world of the past.

As the transporter effect cleared, Dan found himself alone in the park land of the Presidio. From his left and slightly above came the noise of early morning traffic streaming north on to the Golden Gate Bridge, a sound which by the 24th century was non-existent. By his era, the bridge carried the maglev that ran in both directions in tunnels.

Misaki had programmed a medical tricorder to scan specifically for Gabe’s bio-signature which, out of time as it was, differed enough to make it traceable if he was lucky. Ducking behind a low wall, he opened the tricorder and set it to scan praying that Gabe hadn’t taken some from of transportation away from the area.

Around him, a damp and cold fog blew in from across the Bay spotting his clothing with fine droplets of water and chilling him to the bone. While the tricorder scanned, Dan had time to marvel at the eerie feeling of witnessing history first hand. While they had spent some short while in the forests around the lake, it was easy to believe they were simply in their own time. Here, with the huge span of the Golden Gate Bridge disappearing north into the fog and the land that would one day house Starfleet Academy remaining empty around him, he at last felt the full impact of when he was.

His thoughts were interrupted by the double bleep of the tricorder advising him that it had discovered readings matching those of the programmed search parameters. Studying the small screen he saw that the target, if it was Gabe, was stationary just about 1000 metres north of his position. He looked up towards the towering edifice that was the Golden Gate Bridge and a chill ran down his spine.

Heading up on to the 10 foot wide walkway that ran the length of the eastern side of the bridge, Dan set off at a brisk jog discretely checking the tricorder each time he got the chance. Whether it was because it was early morning, or perhaps the inclement weather he didn’t know but there was a distinct lack of foot traffic. Every so often he passed a CCTV camera mounted on a pole and attempted to keep his face turned away from it without looking suspicious in his actions.

Damn it Gabe, just what the hell are you up to? The thought ran around in his mind as he slowed his jog some 15 minutes later. He was about to make one more sweep with the tricorder when he saw a figure standing by the barrier. There was no mistaking Gabe even from this distance. Dan quietly but openly strode towards him.

Leaning on the barrier, he said “I don’t recall authorising any sight seeing trips Gabe.”

In a voice devoid of emotion, the big man replied “If you had, the weather would have been better.”

“For God’s sake this is not a joke Gabe. What the hell’s got into you?”

Looking about him as casually as possible, Dan saw a CCTV camera some twenty metres away but it was mainly shrouded by the curling tendrils of fog. Other pedestrians, few as they were, seemed in no mind to take notice of them.

“Does it matter?”

“What?” For a moment Dan had been distracted as he attempted to find a way to defuse the situation without attracting undue attention.

“Does it really matter?”

“You really need to ask that after all these years man?” Dan was starting to feel angry and had to hold himself back from shaking some sense into Gabe.

“Let me ask you something Dan, you ever had a secret? A really dark, personal secret?”

Dan felt a sense of foreboding when he heard those words. He’d believed that in all their years of service and friendship, there was nothing that Gabe would have kept hidden from him. It seemed he might have been wrong.

“Look, let’s discuss this back at the runabout Gabe. We’re on thin ice here.”

When Gabe at last turned to face him, Dan saw the tears in his eyes and the bleak, desperate expression on his face.

“Seriously Dan. Something you never told me about?”

“Honestly Gabe there’s nothing so…”

“Because I have.” It was as if his friend was asking questions to which he didn’t expect answers. “Something that I should have told you of all people.”

“And we have to discuss it here?”

“To be honest I was hoping that you’d have used common sense and not followed me. Here’s as good a place as anywhere though.” He looked out to the East where San Francisco lay wrapped and muffled in the shrouds of fog. “Actually here’s the best place funnily enough.”

Dan faced a real dilemma. If they stayed here long enough to discuss whatever it was that had so disturbed Gabe, there was the chance that they would be approached or questioned, especially under the wartime climate. On the other hand, it might be the only way he could get Gabe back to the runabout without making a public transportation.

“If we discuss this now, will you come back with me?”

For a moment Gabe seemed unsteady on his feet. “Back? What to the runabout or to the 24th?”

Dan was about to answer but Gabe cut him off. “Doesn’t matter. Let’s walk.”

Without waiting Gabe turned away, his hands buried deep in the pockets of the long dark overcoat he wore. Taking a deep breath, Dan followed.

“I wish I’d told you before Dan but…it…” Gabe shrugged in the chill of the wind blowing in and Dan was sure there had been a suppressed sob in his voice before it trailed off to silence.

“C’mon Gabe. Whatever it is, we’ve been through enough together for you to trust me.”

The big man shook his head. “It’s not about my trust in you Dan. It’s about shame, my shame.”

Placing a hand on Gabe’s arm, Dan stopped him. “So tell me.”

Suddenly, the man that Dan had called his friend for twenty years seemed to physically shrink as if the weight of this secret was compressing him.

“It’s about Marina’s death Dan.”

Seeing how much this was taking out of Gabe, Dan guided him by the arm to the four foot barrier at the edge of the pedestrian walkway. Out in the distance, the forlorn sound of a foghorn seemed to add to the melancholy.

Gabe had barely spoken about his wife’s death 15 years previously and Dan had never pried. He only knew that she had been killed in a vehicle accident with their two daughters and beyond that, nothing.

For several moments, Gabe remained silent and motionless, his back leaning against the barrier but at last he drew himself up straight and faced Dan.

“She’s not dead. Not in the physical sense Dan.”

“What?” Of all the things that Gabe might have told him, Dan hadn’t expected that. “But…you…”

“I know, I know.” Tears were clearly running down Gabe’s stricken face and he made no move to wipe them away. “The twins died at the scene but Marina had been thrown clear. Nothing but scratches and bruises.”

Dan was dumbfounded. “I…I don’t understand.”

“Neither did I. By the time I got to speak to her in the hospital, the doctor told me it was too late.”

“Whoa, slow down. Too late?” Dan wasn’t following this at all and was becoming seriously worried about his friend’s state of mind. “You said she was unhurt.”

Gabe stared unseeing over the barrier at the invisible waters of the Golden Gate Straight over 200 feet below. “Her mind was gone Dan. Totally gone.” His voice was barely above a whisper, but each word was so filled with bitterness and resentment, Dan heard them as if he’d shouted them. “Remember that year we spent in Cardassian space?”

In fact Dan remembered it all too clearly. As part of a covert SpecOps mission they had been inserted into Cardassian territory to monitor build-ups of Cardassian ships and bases around Trelka. That had been the year leading up to Marina’s accident; in fact Gabe had barely returned back from the mission when it happened.

“While we were away, Marina apparently was invited several times to Admiral Minshall’s house by his wife.” There was an edge of anger in Gabe’s voice now. “She used to hold exclusive dinner parties. Well it turns out that Marina acquired a habit at these parties.”

Dan’s concern turned to shock. “Drugs?”

“Only the best Dan.” Gabe laughed humourlessly at the thought. “She was an Admiral’s wife after all. Trouble is that Marina couldn’t handle it and ended up looking for it on the street.” He gripped the top of the barrier with such force, it seemed to Dan that he was in danger of bending it. “But the street level stuff…”

And suddenly Dan understood. It was obvious that Minshall’s wife had the money and the contacts to buy the pure stuff, but out in the side streets of Detroit God only knew what it was cut with.

“They say she was so slammed she probably didn’t even know the kids were in the car. She was still alive Dan but she was gone. So were my kids. And you know what? I never went back to visit her. Never. I just couldn’t forgive her.”

Gabe slammed his fist down hard on the steel barrier and Dan was certain he heard bones break but his friend didn’t even notice.

“It was only after the whole parasite mind control thing that I realised just what kind of hell she’d been through." As he spoke he unconciously rubbed at the back of his neck where the parasite had lived and, eventually, died. "A tiny, sane remnant of your mind screaming out for help but nobody hearing.” Gabe shuddered and Dan knew it wasn’t because of the Bay chill. “How could I have turned my back on her Dan?”

Dan was lost for words. For 15 years, his best friend had harboured this and not once had he suspected.

“Did you know,” he said, finally wiping away the tears, “Minshall was posted to a desk job in the boondocks to protect his precious wife and his career? She underwent voluntary rehab for her sins.”

Dan’s attention was suddenly drawn to the carriageway as an SFPD cruiser drew to the kerb, its lights strobing and its driver eyeing them suspiciously. As the window slid down, Dan shook Gabe but his friend wasn’t responding.

“Everything alright there Sir?”

Dan approached the cruiser thinking furiously and a memory from just before he’d beamed out of the Blackwell flashed into his mind.

“I’m sorry officer. My friend and I were both home on shore leave when he heard about Diego Garcia.” Dan recalled Homer whistling in disbelief when he’d heard the broadcast about the cruise missile attack on the base just before his departure. “His sister was there officer.”

“Tough break son,” the police officer said with feeling. “Take care of him; we’re all losing somebody close these days.” When he removed his cap again, Dan breathed a silent sigh of relief. He nodded to the officer who slid the vehicle into drive and pulled back out into the traffic. Hurrying back to Gabe’s side, he took his arm gently and guided him towards the south end of the bridge. He felt no resistance now.

“We’ll deal with this Gabe, I promise. Let’s just get home ok?”

Gabe said nothing, his face blank and his eyes appearing to see little. Arriving back at the quiet spot where he’d initially arrived in the Presidio, he tapped the concealed comm badge and requested two to be beamed back to the Blackwell. Dan held Gabe close waiting for the transporter to take them and he wondered if there really could be a good end to this. As the sparkles of dematerialisation obscured his last view of the Golden Gate Bridge, he found himself doubting it.
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Old September 11 2010, 03:55 PM   #2
Gul Re'jal
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Re: September Challenge - Secrets

Some secrets can eat people alive from inside. This one surely could.

And it's not only the secret itself, but the whole situation, which led Gabe to keep it secret. Hopefully he's going to have his friend's support.
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Old September 13 2010, 09:01 PM   #3
Mistral
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Re: September Challenge - Secrets

You said so much more than met the eye. A covert time mission to WW3? And an agent on the verge of a breakdown?

This was very much about secrets...well done!
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Old September 13 2010, 09:20 PM   #4
unusualsuspex
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Re: September Challenge - Secrets

Thank you so much for the comments, it's much appreciated!
All I can say is go check out the full story! Hehe!
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