Beka Valentine has always believed in moving forward and never looking back, never putting down lasting roots anywhere for too long. The only real ties are those to those she calls her friends and to her ship, the Eureka Maru.
She inherited that ship, no more how humble it may be it was always home. It has meant more to her than any of her blood relatives. While she in her own way she has loved all of them, somehow they drifted apart one by one. The only constant has been the ship.
Beka ponders this as she holds the wafer thin communique in her hands. She's already read it through at least half a dozen times already and the contents and message have not changed only her reaction. The sender is an old friend, an old flame if she's going to be honest with how she feels about him. Bobby Jensen, a member of her crew during her time she spent roving the galaxy. A salvage and freighter captain has passed away, and she has been named next of kin.
The thing that bothers her the most at the news, is that is how in the name of several hells did whoever knew Bobby find a way to get this message to her aboard the Andromeda Ascendant. She has not seen or heard from Bobby Jensen in years, and yet somehow he has remembered her and went through trouble of having the notary and the documents all sealed and written all nice and legal like. That is not the Bobby that Beka remembers. Something's wrong with this picture, it's just that Beka cannot identify exactly what that something is.
Keep moving, because she is absolutely no good to anyone when she has nothing to do.
It's useless to second guess at this late date, after all, she is a Valentine, and if there is one thing she has learned, if you stop moving, eventually you die. If the message and its contents are believable, then it's her obligation, she hates that word, to see her part through. And if she figures the ambiguity of the message is enough to warrant her interest in pursuing the matter that's the next step.
"Better go show this to Dylan," Beka mutters, standing up, stuffing the floppy into a pocket of her flak jacket, and leaving her quarters all in several quick, confident movements.
Beka enters the bridge and approaches Dylan's position at helm ignoring Tyr's solid presence in the pilot's chair. Her face is set in a grim mask that neither of the men present can fail to notice. The message she received is clutched in a tight fist. She has served aboard the ship long enough to know Dylan, interstellar boyscout and do-gooder that he is. Most likely he will not deny her need for time off and extracurricular activities. That's the euphemism that Dylan uses for Tyr's more spectacular departures, but this is different.
"We need to talk."
"Over here," Dylan replies.
"I have good ears," Tyr observes to no one in particular.
"I know, but this doesn't concern you."
"Very well, I shall endeavor to remain neutral and not listening throughout your conversation," Tyr adds.
"Just concentrating on navigating through slipstream, Tyr, because once I finish up here we'll be taking a little sidetrip."
"Hmm, sight-seeing trip, Captain Valentine?"
"Something like that," Beka replies.
"I really don't know how to put this, but I need to go and take care of some family business, so I need to ask if we can take off for a while. An old friend, a crew member from my old days on the Maru has passed away and I've been named next of kin."
"You don't talk about the old days much," Dylan replies, no doubt, in Beka's mind thinking of all the crew men and woman who used to serve with hundreds of years ago in the glory days of the Commonwealth. Beka estimates that being case it will either help or hinder her cause. She wonders when it was decided that she wanted to see this matter through, probably it was sheer stubbornness.
"Who is it?" Dylan ask.
"Bobby Jensen. I need, I want to go retrieve his body for identification."
"Say no more, anything you need is yours for the asking. Beka, I thought you knew that," Dylan says, patting her on the shoulder.
"I want to take the Maru ."
Aboard the Maru
"Somebody went to a lot of trouble to keep people away from this system," Dylan observes as the ship's hull collides with another huge chunk of space debris. "This ship come equipped with shock absorbers, Mr. Harper."
"I'll make sure to add them to do list, boss," Harper replied from where he fighting to maintain his balance by clutching an upright pillar.
"We are not amused," Beka added from where she's belted into the pilot seat keeping the Maru on an even keel and steering around the larger chunks of rock. "It's not like we could have known there was a debris field at these coordinates." Beka paused in mid sentence concentrating on her piloting then she added: "Besides, I'm only following the map that's in the message."
"That's what has me worried." Dylan frowned and leaned back in the padded seat of the co pilot seat. "What do you know about this Jensen character or the people of the planet where the message originated?"
"I feel so much better now, thanks," Dylan griped.
"If it makes you feel any better, boss," Harper shouted to be heard over the sudden roaring and jostling of the ship's engine, "I'd be happy to tell him all about Bobby.
"Not now, Harper," Beka muttered a warning note in her voice.
"A good time as any, Beka," Dylan replies, trying to soothe ruffled feathers and the potential tension in the air."
Enter the new and improved Bobby Jensen, now a cyborg
The husky static-laced voice of the Maru's computer sputtered through the public address system to announce 'Intruder alert, gained access through the cargo bay.'
"We could do with attracting less popularity," Beka muttered concentrating on avoiding making contact with a large chunk of space debris that meandered across her forward viewscreen. That large chunk of blasted and pockmarked asteroid had a good cruising speed on it. If it had made contact or even grazed the Maru might have staved in their flanks. If that had happened, Beka, excellent piloting skills or not, the passengers would not stand much of a snowflake's chance in hell.
"Somebody went to an awful lot of trouble to get people away from this system, makes you wonder why," Harper stated, white knuckled on a pillar at the bridge engineering station, fighting to remain standing upright as the Maru bucked and rolled and jounced with every near miss.
"If the getting through an asteroid belt isn't enough, an intruder would qualify as the last straw," Dylan muttered yanking his High Guard forcelance out of its sheath and stomping towards the exit and out into the access way hatch. Beka put the ship on auto pilot with Harper bringing up the rear.
"Look on the bright side, Dylan," Beka said once they were gathered in the access ways, "It relives the tedium."
"I worry about you sometimes, Beka." Dylan
It is Bobby and it isn't. The dim lighting of the interior passageway usually made distinguishing features a bit uncertain like laying odds in a gambling hall, but then the thrill, the uncertainly were always the best part of the game. Beka realizes at the instant that the light reflecting off the metal deck plates and the barrel of the pulse laser canon that Bobby carries isn't coming from the weapon in his hands, he is the weapon.
"Rebecca Valentine. Been a long time, and you're looking very good."
"In the not so flesh," Bobby spreads his arms wide in a gesture of hail fellow well met, his smile almost as equally wide and Beka feels the memories come back, some welcome others not as much, and she wrestles with whether or not this reunion is a happy one or not.
Dylan approaches warily, a hand extended in polite welcome, "So this is famous Bobby Jensen, I've heard a great deal about you."
"All good I hope." Bobby glances over at Seamus Harper, "If you heard it from him you should learn how to shift the truth from what he wants to the truth to be."
"No, just a very elongated stretching of the truth."
"I hear that," Dylan laughs.
"Hey, I resembled that remark," Harper mumble. "And let's not forget, boss, that everything I told you about Bobby is at least not just filtered through my own jealousy."
"Harper, I told you once I told you a hundred times, give it a rest," Beka snapped.
Standing in the shadows of a rear wall was a very tall humanoid looking shape.
Where solid human flesh used to be now its been replaced with gleaming polished flattened steel. Bobby is alive, but maybe it would have better for everyone concerned if he had stayed dead. He's a cyborg now, and while Beka wraps her mind around that concept and wrestles with coming to terms she can only remotely register the verbal spiel of hate that Seamus Harper is rising; he's worked up a good head of steam by now.
To be honest, a part of her can't find the energy or the will to be angry with her best friend and ship's engineer.
The fight, which you really couldn't call a fight, between Harper and Jensen was never really in doubt. Even before the upgrade to his new cyborg parts, Bobby had Harper outclassed in size, height, reach, and strength. Harper was a scrapper and could handle himself well enough.
'Too bad, I've been itching for action.' Beka thinks and then shoves the thought aside.
Beka leaned back in her chair in her quarters when the Maru's computer sounded general quarters and announced that they were coming up into Mugani space.
On the surface of the planet Beka, Harper and Dylan quickly learned that things were much more complicated than they had been led to believe. Supposedly they were there to drop off and distribute medical and related supplies. Too bad no one had bothered to mention that the recipients of the supplies were in midst of a civil uprising.
"Why are things never easy?"
"If they were we'd be out of a job." Harper muttered bobbing up and down behind their chosen spot for a redoubt, ducking, and exchanging laser fire in rapid succession. "I mean that in a good way."
"I know, I was being rhetorical," Beka replied She stopped for three seconds to reload the energy battery in her weapon. While she did so she was only partially of Jensen's chosen position. He had gone off on a tangent to provide covering fire as the rest of their small group made their way through the crowded, narrow and dangerous streets of the town.
"Would you two cut it out," Dylan griped.
Beka honestly did not know how she felt, passion for a cause as she'd told Dylan Hunt was always easier to sustain if that cause meshed with her own needs. Bobby understood back in the day when they were together. Things were much less complicated when their lives had consisted of making the next big score, of fighting and scrapping out a living, and making a break from the authorities. Bobby was back, from the dead, and suddenly the cause was one bigger and suddenly more important the relationship between two people. What she couldn't quite figure was why Bobby had gone to such extraordinary lengths to lure her out to this remote corner of space, and had to fake his own death. She smelled the proverbial rat, and she didn't like it.
A few days later
"Beka," Harper peers around the threshold of the open of her quarters, peering into the dimly lit interior hoping its just that way because she's forgotten to dim the lights completely when she left for girl talk in the Maru. When his repeated efforts again and again receive no response he goes in search of her.
He gets if she's angry with him in the way he reacted to her old friend Bobby Jensen, correction the new cyborg Bobby.
In fact he'd been surprised that she hadn't slapped him silly and told him off with the way he'd presented the details of their past as a members of her salvage crew to Dylan, but was that reason enough to be kept out of the loop?
The hatch that Harper's been meaning to oil but somehow always keeps getting distracted by larger and more pressing projects slide open. The hold, decorated with Trance's lonely plant transported here from her garden inside a terra cotta pot and blooming with silvery green leaves, among other additions but he registered the additions and moves on to more pressing matters.
Gathered in a loose semi-circle are the girls: Beka, Rommie, and Trance.
"You look tired,' Trance observes."
"Can I speak to Beka for a moment?"
"Go away, Harper." Beka smiles, but it's a brittle one.
"You always say that."
Beka ruffles her hands through the strands of her blond hair, and considers the request and whether she wants to and then waves him inside.
"Talk," Beka smiles again this one more genuine.
"I was worried about you."
"She's a big girl," Rommie adds. "She can take care of herself."
"I know that, that's why I was worried."
"That is illogical, but then I have observed that organic lifeforms generally speaking do illogical things a great percentage of the time." Rommie replied, then stood. "Dyaln will require my assistance on the bridge, so I will leave now."
"We will resume at a later time, no?" Trance asks at the same time as the Rommie takes her leave. "Trance, come with me."
"Of course," Rommie answers and takes Trance along with her.
"Hey," Harper tries for an opening, gulping in a deep breath of the Maru's hold's recycled oxygen. "If it makes you feel any better I won't utter the words , given that you're obviously doing the same thing right about now."
"It's all right, Harper, you can tell me you told me so, Beka mutters, stomping the heels of her boots on the metal decking. "I even told myself that exact same thing when this mess started; but then I remembered all the good times, what he was like before you came on the scene. I remembered how Bobby used to make my feel, how he could make me live no matter how bad things got, no how matter how bleak, and I said, the hell with it."
"You decided to ignore your instinct and rely on your old the feelings he brought back?"
"Not very sound judgement on my part. I guess I was furious with the bad light you were so busy painting Bobby in, that I wanted to do the opposite out of sheer stubbornness."
"Okay, I guess we were both wrong. For what it's worth, I'm sorry. I didn't want to be right about him."
"How could I have been so blind?"
"Love has a way of doing that to people, so I'm told," Harper grinned. "People change, Bek."
"Humph," Beka mutters folding her arms over her chest and eye Harper with a doubtful look in her blue eyes, then a smile crooked smile creased her lips.
"I saw that!"
"All right, all right it was a smile. Now can you back off from your unrelenting efforts to cheer me up."
"Okay, did it help?"
"Yeah. More or less." Beka smiles and adds, "Nothing for the tin man, huh?
"Looks that way."