He found her in her quarters with a security guard posted outside the doors. Although the Krellonian intelligence master was ostensibly on their side and had certainly assisted their ongoing efforts to stop the subspace aliens, the captain was still not entirely comfortable to have her roam the ship unsupervised, especially since she had already displayed more than once what she was capable of.
Lif exchanged a quick nod with Ensign Andrus Stadi guarding the door and then activated the annunciator.
There was no initial response.
“She’s definitely in there, sir,” the Betazoid security officer confirmed.
When there was still no response on his second attempt, he shot the other man a concerned look.
Stadi used his security override code and the door panels hissed open to reveal the dark interior of the guest quarters.
Lif thought he could see a dark shape sitting on the far couch, outlined by the bright backdrop of the Amargosa’s volatile Moebius cluster visible through the large forward-facing windows.
The figure stirred slightly. “I suppose privacy is not a consideration held in high regard on Federation starships.”
Lif indicated for Stadi to stay at his post outside as he stepped into the quarters, allowing the doors to close behind him again. “A little dark in here, no?”
“Suits me fine.”
“Computer, increase light levels by twenty-five percent,” he said.
A subdued trill confirmed the order and the room was bathed in soft light, allowing him to see Garla stretched out on the sofa in front of him. She had raised a hand over her eyes to shield them from the new light.
“What do you want, Liftu?”
“I thought I’d come and see how you’re doing? We haven’t had much of a chance to talk since the Yellow Rose.”
“Not much to talk about. Both our doubles are dead as is everyone else we’ve met in that universe. Gone, as if they’ve never even existed,” she said without so much as a single glance cast into his general direction.
“I can’t speak to your line of work,” he said as he walked toward a nearby chair and sat down. “But in mine, that’s not something I’m used to. Certainly, nothing I’ve ever been trained for. Nobody ever told me that there might come a time when I am going to meet myself and then be forced to kill him … me.”
Garla sat up on the sofa and for the first time since he had stepped inside her quarters, she turned to look his way. “I know that couldn’t have been easy for you. I certainly didn’t take pleasure in killing my double. But you had no choice. If you hadn’t done what you did, I wouldn’t be around. You probably would have met his fate instead.”
He nodded slowly. “There’s a big difference between understanding this on an intellectual level and dealing with it emotionally,” he said, suddenly finding it very difficult for his mind to keep from going back to that time and place. To see his own face, his own eyes, staring back at him while the life was draining out of them, all the while feeling the heft of the weapon he had used to slain him still in his hand.
His memories didn’t linger there. They went back further, not too far, just a few more days earlier when he had taken part in a mission that had resulted in a whole shipload of Outlanders being sent to their certain death. And then, not too long before that, the day he had faced a frenzied Buoth bearing down on him with deadly intent until he had somehow--he was still not certain how he had accomplished it exactly--managed to dispatch the massive ursine before he had been able to tear him limb from limb.
“There’s been a lot going on lately and not much time to process any of it.”
He had been responsible for a lot of killing over the last few days, he realized. And all those terrible encounters seemed to have one common denominator. He lifted his head slowly to look at his aunt. The woman he had once admired as a child, considered the strongest person he had ever known. She certainly was still that. But also, so much more. He was starting to wish he had never sought her out in the first place back on Piqus. How much death could have been avoided if he had just stayed away, he wondered.
She seemed to be able to read his thoughts. “Don’t give me that look,” she said snappishly. “Yes, things have been tough. Whole universes are going up in smoke. But this is hardly the time to feel sorry about yourself and ponder the unfairness of it all.”
He shot her a glare. “I’m not the one hiding away in a dark room.”
“And what exactly do you expect me to do? My plans to repair the Star Alliance I’ve worked for years have come to nothing, now that it is clear that they were all based on the lies these subspace aliens peddled to me to secure my cooperation. And just when I thought I found a home where our people didn’t make the same disastrous decisions that put the entire Star Alliance on a course toward self-destruction, I lose that one too. Now I’m stuck on this ship, surrounded by people who obviously do not care for my opinions or even trust me enough to not have me guarded around the clock.”
“Now who’s feeling sorry for themselves?” he mumbled and then stood. “And how exactly can you blame them for being cautious? Not so long ago you were trying to get us all killed.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic. I tried to take you into custody after your people attacked mine,” she said dismissively.
“I can still feel that iron grip of yours around my throat,” he shot back.
“I have a temper, so what? You betrayed me, Lif. If I had wanted you dead, we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.”
The ice-cold tone in her voice forced him to find her eyes.
Her stance softened slightly. “We’re family. I would never try to harm you.”
“Yes, well, you could have fooled me when you put a phaser to my head.”
She rolled her eyes as if to imply that he was exaggerating.
The ship shuddered slightly under their feet as it continued to traverse the treacherous Moebius cluster.
“As for you,” she said. “Aren’t you supposed to be the best pilot on board? Shouldn’t you be on the bridge making sure we’re not flying into a star?”
It was a decent point, he had to admit. Especially since Srena was still recovering in sickbay from a neck injury, leaving them a bit shorthanded at the conn. However, the transphasic shield had been working just as advertised, significantly reducing the challenge of traversing this highly volatile area of space.
“I wanted to make sure you were all right,” he said.
“Well, don’t worry about me,” she said as she walked toward the exit. “Perhaps, if we ever manage to find our way back home, I follow your example for a change and abandon our people as you’ve done. At least that way I spare myself the pain of watching them tear themselves apart.”
She had already slipped out of the doors before he had time to come up with a reply. He uttered a sigh as he watched her leave.