“The Long Road”

Stardate 73688.2; September 08, 2396

 

Episode 40

 

Written by Chris Adamek

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day had been long.

 

And as Kendall Johnson crossed the threshold from the corridor to the inside of his quarters, he knew the sentiment was, without a doubt, an understatement.  When he had arrived in the science lab earlier in the day, Kendall had noted his desk was lost in a mountain of PADDs that needed his attention.  He was needed in the cetacean lab for final approval of some stupid energy transfer.  The worthless bioneural gel packs on deck nine were malfunctioning, and his incompetent team couldn’t figure out why…

 

Five minutes into the “exhilarating” first PADD on his desk, his communicator had chirped; he was needed to solve some trivial problem in the mess hall.  Certainly, somebody else could have done it, but no…because the Captain had found the problem, it had to be solved now. 

 

An hour later, Kendall had been able to return to work in his office, only to be interrupted—yet again—by Christopher.  The Captain had read the report Commander Harrison had filed regarding Johnson’s brisk—and unauthorized—departure from the Starlight to join Talyere’s rescue party.  Following another lengthy talk, the Captain finally issued a “stern warning,” and put a reprimand on Kendall’s permanent record.

 

When lunch finally rolled around, Lucas popped in and invited Kendall to the mess hall for a quick something.  But Kendall had to refuse; after letting Lucas get shot during the rescue mission, he found himself unable to congregate with his “friends” without feeling utterly worthless.  Surely Lucas could find better company…someone that wasn’t as hopeless a human being.

 

Someone that wasn’t a failure.

 

 

 

The Elorg guard stood and taunted Kendall Johnson’s poor marksmanship; laughter echoed throughout the corridor, rubbing in the fact that Kendall was a cowering chicken…

 

 

 

Lucas was on the floor… dying for all Kendall knew… “Fire!”… The words emanated from Kendall’s mouth as he stared down the Velora warship.  But to his chagrin, the barrage of weapons fire that followed did little to dissuade their new nemesis.  Instead, countless pillars of light filled the bridge—the ship was being boarded.

 

The Velora systematically shot—and apparently vaporized—every member of the bridge crew, until Kendall was all that remained.  As he stared down the barrel of the Velora weapon, Kendall—out of fear for his life—backed down into the command chair.  “I surrender!  The ship is yours!”

 

 

 

What kind of person would allow his friend to get shot?  What kind of person would surrender his starship to save his own life?

 

The answers quickly came to Kendall.  “A failure,” he muttered under his breath.  Slowly, he peeled off his hefty gray jacket and carelessly threw it on the floor.  Usually, such clutter would bother him, but not today…  Never again would such things bother him.

 

He approached his desk in the corner of the room and sat down before the computer terminal.  A quick touch of the screen brought it to life with a vivid LCARS display, ready to perform whatever menial tasks Kendall desired.  Fortunately for the computer, he had but one meager task for it to do.  “Computer,” he said softly as he reached into his desk drawer, “deliver message Johnson-Omega to Captain Alan Christopher in exactly one hour.”

 

It chirped pleasantly.  “Acknowledged.”

 

 

 

He looked up and nodded sullenly.  “This is all my fault!” he snapped.  “Last night, I dismissed our alien attackers as background radiation just because I wanted to go to bed! …But I knew that radiation was more than what it appeared to be.  I just didn’t want to deal with it.  So I ignored it, hoping it would go away and that everything would fix itself.  And as usual, everyone is paying the price.”

 

The Mersah Tolidas had ravaged the Starlight, leaving the vessel in shambles; had Kendall been more competent, the situation could have been avoided.

 

“Kendall, this is ridiculous!” shouted Rachael Meyer.  “You can’t blame yourself for every little thing that goes wrong on the ship!”

 

“Yes.  I can,” he insisted.  “I am a failure.  There is no other way to put it.”

 

 

 

After resting in the drawer for several moments, Kendall’s hand finally emerged…with a type-two phaser in tote.  He brought the weapon to eye-level and placed it under close scrutiny.

 

It was sleek, the apex of Starfleet hand-held weaponry.  Not that Kendall cared anymore.  It had other qualities that he admired, now more than ever.  It was efficient.  Quick.  It would get the job done in no time…

 

Slowly, he distanced his face from the weapon and ran his fingers over the discharge settings.  As was standard Starfleet protocol, the phaser was set on level one, stun.  Anyone in the path of such a beam would suffer quite a jolt of energy, but little more than that.  Damage to the body was negligible.

 

Kendall touched the button on the right, and the power indicator slowly climbed upward.  Level two…level three…level four…five…six…seven…eight…

 

He paused.

 

Level eight was beyond stun.  If someone were unfortunate enough to get in the path of such a beam, death was certainly a possibility.  But most of the time, it merely generated agonizing pain, so much, that the unfortunate victim would certainly wish death upon himself.  So…that wouldn’t do…

 

Nine…ten…eleven…twelve…

 

Kendall gulped.  Death was a certainty at that level.  But it was messy.

 

Thirteen…fourteen…fifteen…

 

Level fifteen was the penultimate phaser setting.  It would vaporize its target with ease, but unlike level sixteen, nothing else.  Structural damage would be negligible, and Kendall Johnson would be dead.

 

Yes, level fifteen would be sufficient…

 

 

 

Erin looked into his deep green eyes, and smiled faintly.  “Look, Kendall, you’re definitely one of the smartest, funniest people I know.  And it was very sweet of you to ask me out.  I was glad that you did.”

 

Johnson could have died right there; the woman he had loved for so many years was rejecting him.  And as the pain shattered his already broken heart, her warm words did little to help…  “Why are you doing this?” he asked.

 

“Kendall, after three years, I couldn’t just tell you ‘no’ and walk away.  You’ve become a good friend, someone I can trust and depend on.  But you’re not somebody I can fall in love with.  I’m so sorry, Kendall.”

 

I’m so sorry…

 

So sorry…

 

              So sorry…

 

                       So sorry…

 

 

 

“So sorry,” he muttered, gazing down at the phaser.  It was his ticket to freedom…all he had to do was redeem it.

 

Just imagine the burdens you would be lifting from this crew, said his mind.  With you gone, the ship won’t fall into danger as often, because you won’t be there to make the stupid mistakes.  In fact, this crew is probably better off without you!  End your miserable life already!

 

If Kendall Johnson had learned one thing in his entire life, it was that one cannot deny his innermost feelings, for they were the ones that came from the heart.  And though his was an empty one, Kendall’s heart still spoke, and when it did, he listened.

 

With little hesitation, he raised the phaser to his head and trained its barrel in the middle of his forehead.  Pulling in his last few breaths of air, Kendall Johnson closed his eyes, mustered his courage and…

 

And…

 

And the door chimed.

 

Kendall tossed the phaser to the ground.  “Damn it!” he cursed.  As the weapon clinked around on the floor under his desk, Kendall turned his attention to the doors.  “What is it?”

 

Rachael Meyer’s slender figure appeared at the door moments later.  She stood at the threshold, utterly still, and peered into his darkened quarters.  “Is everything okay?” she asked before taking a hesitant step into the room.

 

No was the obvious answer, but Kendall did not choose to enlighten the counselor with it.  Instead he sat in his chair, his arms folded, malevolence glimmering in his eye, and stared outward into some distant netherworld.

 

The counselor approached his desk.  “Kendall?”

 

He sighed.  “What?”

 

She produced a faint smile.  “Is everything okay?”

 

Utterly exasperated, Kendall rolled his eyes and shoved himself away from his desk.  “Yes,” he lied.  “Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

 

Rachael shook her head.  “I think work can wait,” she said softly.

 

“I think not,” he replied, recalling the mountain of PADDs on his desk.  “Unlike some people on this ship, I actually do work!  And it’s people like you that keep me from doing it.  Now unless you have something important to say, please leave.”

 

Rachael was obviously taken aback by Kendall’s outburst—so much so that she had absolutely nothing to say.  His actions were so unexpected—so out of character—that something had to be amiss.  But it was clear that answers would not be forthcoming at the moment.  And so, Rachael slowly stepped away from Kendall’s desk, and made her way for the exit.

 

Once the doors hissed shut behind Meyer, Kendall’s eyes went straight to the floor beneath his desk.  Immediately, he spotted the phaser and plucked it from its home.  “Now is not the time,” he whispered before setting it back in the drawer.

 

“Computer,” he grumbled, “cancel message to Captain Christopher…”

 

 

 

Proceed to Chapter One

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