a cycle of events
by Julia Harden
The shuttle left Risa on the morning of 237906.05 heading for SB13 where Ruth would be met the following day and would resume her life and career as the Chief Medical Officer on board the USS Forsaken. Engaged to be married, she’d wanted to stay on Risa with John the extra day but the shuttle wasn’t going to be there the next day. So she said goodbye and sadly climbed aboard. John stood there at the doorway of the shuttle bay, his smile plastered on his face tricking himself into thinking of their next meeting.
3.25 hours later, the shuttle lost all power. It was slammed against the gravity of Caligula; it spiraled through the atmosphere and came to a shattering stop on the outskirts of Antonia City. Because it was a small planet with a gaseous envelope of air around it and the envelope being a mere 560 kilometers deep, the shuttle maintained its configuration, only losing little more than the outermost hull.
There were no survivors. That is, none reported.
Starfleet recovered the six bodies and informed the bereaved of the deaths of their loved ones within the following 8 hours. John was inconsolable. His teammates tried, the captain made him take three days off and he was sentenced to six sessions with the counselor within those days.
Three years had passed and still John couldn’t reconcile himself to the death of his fiancée. The ache in his heart went deep; a chunk had been torn viciously out of it leaving a gapping hole. Their plans of marriage, of children, had been tossed aside as if they had no meaning.
John picked up the mug of Blood Wine the waiter set in from of him then handed over the proper amount in payment [just enough, no more]. Sitting at the doorway of Galal’s bar, John sipped the Wine watching the promenade fill up with the crew of his ship as they were released from their duty. His eyes crept from one person to another. Crew that he knew and crew that he didn’t. Beings from the station, aliens from throughout the galaxies.
He had taken one lover through the years. She didn’t last long because he was unable to make her take the place of his true love. She’d looked like Ruth, she’d even used the same scented soap he bought for her.
John shook the thoughts from his mind. He didn’t need to be thinking of her or of Ruth. He took a long draught of his wine.
The mug fell from John’s fingers, unseen and unheeded. He stood, his feet moving forward, lurching, faltering as he stared at her. His feet were getting in his way.
Ruth had walked sedately along the avenue of shops, a tall and slender 23 year old. Smiling, the young lady leaned forward to stare intently at a dress made of a shimmering blue, almost the color of his eyes. Her mind was momentarily diverted from him then brought back like a winged creature. She saw his face, his lieutenant’s uniform, the gold collar of security. Sighing, she turned from the window to see her soul mate coming toward her. But now he wore a Lt. Commander’s pips and the red of command. Her dark auburn hair spilled forward, sliding over her shoulders in a cascade of warmth.
“Ruth?” he whispered half in hope, half in despair.
Ruth took in the face of her love, lost to her when she’d died. “Yes, John,” she whispered back. Emotions encircled her. Her lungs lost the capacity to breathe. Tears sparkling in her eyes, she held them back. She would cry but not here, not now.
The newly promoted Lt. Commander swallowed hard, his breath catching in his throat, his heart skipping then speeding up in tachycardia. Ruth grabbed at his arm, steadying him. Her eyes softened, her voice taking on a huskiness as her own emotions held her entranced.
“Sit... I’ve got to sit down,” John managed to say haltingly. “Ruth? Are you really Ruth?”
“Yes, John,” she said again, this time with more force, more in control of herself. “Over there is a bench. I need to tell you what happened.”
John was nodding, his sight still on the woman he loved and had never replaced. His Ruth who had died before they could began their life together. Was this a second chance? Tears blurred his vision. They sat, Ruth entwining her fingers on her lap; squeezing, releasing. John turned in the seat so he could place his arm on the back of the bench. He held tightly onto his knee with his other hand, afraid to believe yet knowing he was awake and this was, in fact, real.
“The whole thing was an experiment, John,” she began. “My memories were harvested with my DNA. While Starfleet was deploying a recovery team, the Caligulan’s were extracting whatever cells they could without the missing cellule being noticed. Of course, not all of them were useful.” She looked up through her long dark lashes, “Can you believe that I’ve come back? That I never really died at all?”
John blinked rapidly. His tears had dried in their nexus creating a grittiness that he dare not wipe away for fear she would be gone from him again. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her with the passion of a man that had been too long without.
“You’re a clone,” he said flatly. She nodded at his back, unobserved. “How can I accept a clone?” he muttered it without looking at her. “There are differences, small, but differences. I wanted you back so bad. And now that you’re here, I can’t... I just can’t...” His voice stopped with a hitch. He stumbled to his feet, those same feet that took him across the promenade to her.
Ruth lay under the coverlet, her hair splaying over the pillow still indented with his shape. Wetness spilled from her eyes, falling into the hollow he’d left behind. She blinked quickly and gazed at the back of his neck, at his hairline, his upper arm; the scar on his shoulder was unfamiliar to her. Did he have the scar before? Or was it new? She didn’t know. He was correct. There were subtle differences; lapses in her memories. She didn’t remember the touch and feel of him. She only remembered vague hours on Risa. The most precious time of her life and she couldn’t recall all of it.
John didn't look back. He wobbled his way into the small bathroom to shower and dress. He left her there in bed, oblivious of her tears and the heartbreak he caused. She curled into the fetal position, hugging his pillow as she sobbed.
John stood in his quarters on the ship, three rooms that were big enough for two. His gaze wandered to the window overlooking the skeletal frame of drydock. He felt as if his breathing had stopped. It was good that he hadn’t brought her onto the ship. Good that they’d spent their time together on the base. There would be only his hopes and prayers in these rooms.
His head fell forward. He had lost her, found her and now she was gone again. Would he regret these last hours when he had so heavily walked away from her? John sat at the personal computer then dropped his head in his hands.
[2007: JAN-FEB] a cycle of events
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