During and after A Debt Repaid
The wooden planks of the archaic railroad platform creaked loudly and seemed to bend, giving alarmingly beneath the strain of her weight as she paced back and forth along the length of the structure.
She looked again at the unattended ticket booth, just paces away. The small, windowed enclosure was shielded by a fabric shade, pulled down to conceal whatever was kept within.
The shade, which had maybe once been blue or black, had faded. Its original hue had been violently extracted from it, its edges curled and the whole of it turned a pale and sickly gray-green by the intensity of the sun. The same sun which had all but completely also bleached the message from a small sign affixed to the shade, reading "Closed".
She held a hand up to try to divert enough sunlight away from her eyes to see off into the distance, but she couldn't see far. This place was truly a desert and dry, tan earth stretched on as far as her eyes could distinguish, its surface only decorated by a single, silver set of train tracks.
The sky above was solid azure, not a cloud in sight, not a drop of moisture present within it or promised by it. The piercing rays of the sun were white hot, and she knew that she'd been out here too long. She looked down at her hands and saw that the tops of them were crimson; she reached up and touched her face, and it smarted. She could only imagine the color it must be after so much exposure to the elements.
The damn train was never going to get here.
She'd been waiting for. . .forever. She tried to find someone, anyone, to sell her a ticket to ride or even just tell her if this station was still in use at all, any longer.
She thought it strange that in all the time she'd been waiting, night never came. The sun never relented, stubbornly refusing instead to relinquish its spot straight overhead. It kept bearing down on her, scorching the landscape until the ground was cracked and parched; too dry to be grainy with sand, and too hostile to support even a single leaf of grass. There was no wind, the air was deadly calm. Not even enough to blow by the occasional tumbleweed.
She expected there to be tumbleweed here, for some reason.
Maybe it was that she'd watched too many of Reece's 'motion pictures' with him over the years. Maybe she wasn't really here, maybe this was a holodeck program, or a hallucination. Or an alien method of mind control- by which she was being tortured or tested.
"Too many John Wayne movies." Lair concluded.
She wandered down a rickety staircase at the entrance to the station, and kicked a stray stone down toward the abandoned tracks in frustration as she once again strained to see if there was anyone else here who might know what was going on.
She saved her breath in trying to call for anyone's attention. She'd tried that when she first got here, whenever that was, and all she'd done was tire herself out and make her throat dry for the effort. She could find no source of water from which to draw herself a drink, and she knew that had to be a bad sign.
*I mean, no one can live long in heat like this without water, right?*
Kellyn kept walking along the tracks, but no matter how long she walked she arrived at the same destination. After a little while, she found herself facing the same decrepit wooden staircase leading back up to the barren station; and she was getting very sick of the sight of it.
She stomped up the stairs dejectedly and resumed trudging her way back and forth across the platform. She looked up at the sky again. The sun had not changed position at all. She and everything here seemed to be stuck in some kind of suspended animation.
"Wherever the hell 'here' is," She growled, her voice hoarse and weary.
She rotated on her heel once she reached the end of the platform, turning to pace back in the opposite direction. Mid-spin she observed the ticket booth once again, and had a thought. If she could break into it -which, of course she could, she was a Starfleet Master of Engineering - she could maybe find some information about where she was; about the train schedule. At the very least, perhaps the small booth could afford respite from the heat and sun.
She moved closer to the booth, approached the side door and grabbed hold of the old fashioned knob type handle. It was hot to the touch, having fallen into the line of sunlight, and she yanked her hand back and spat out an epithet.
She looked the door and booth over again, top to bottom, discerning that there were no electronics here. Not on the station as a whole, and apparently not keeping the ticket booth secure. She needed something she could use to pick the lock, as the knob held an actual keyhole, and had refused to turn when she'd tried it.
She patted her belt, but all of her tools were mysteriously missing. She was in uniform, but her communicator was gone, her hair had no manner of pin or barrette securing it that she could use. Her earring, the parts of which she had bastardized on previous occasions for operations as sensitive as diffusing the triggering mechanism of an explosive device, offered her no help here.
Then, it occurred to her.
There was an underwire in her bra.
She hurried to reach around her back, unclasping the hooks which held it secure against her skin. Without taking off her tunic, she juxtaposed her arms in a manner that allowed her hand to slide up inside her opposite sleeve, to her shoulder, and loosen the strap. A moment and a few swift motions later, she had pulled the whole thing off and out through her sleeve, without ever removing her shirt. She nodded with satisfaction.
"Uniform Code instrument of torture," she regarded the garment with disdain, dangling it over one finger by one strap. "Your end is nigh."
She ripped the material at the bottom of one of the cups, and pulled out the underwire, then cast the bra aside. She pulled on the wire to straighten it from its currently curved position, and surveyed her handiwork approvingly.
"Worth a shot." She spoke aloud again, just to hear the sound of someone speaking after being alone with her thoughts for so long.
She bent down and pushed the wire into the keyhole. It took a little while of moving its position, tilting up, down, left and right before she finally heard a triumphant little 'click' and pulled the wire out.
She reached for the knob again. Remembering that it was hot, she took hold of the bottom of her tunic, using it to protect her palm at least a little as she turned the thing again.
The door creaked open, and as Kellyn eased it toward her, she heard a startling crack and suddenly, the whole door simply fell off its frail frame. The wood was so warped and weakened by the sun that any motion at all was enough to dislodge it from its very hinges.
As it slammed down onto the tips of her feet, Kellyn was grateful for reinforced toe, Uniform Code safety boots.
She couldn't help but roll her large blue eyes upward at the now empty door frame. If she'd given it a moment's more thought, maybe she would have realized that the booth was so pathetically worn down that she could have yanked the door free without paying any heed to the lock, and she could have saved a perfectly good underwire bra.
She only imagined the look that Salvek would be giving her if he were standing here.
At the mere thought of his name, Lair was seized by a shocking and sudden pain in her head. It stabbed through her, and her hands released their hold on the door, sending it crashing to the platform beside her.
She doubled over, nauseated by the brute force of the sensation, and tried to remember how to breathe. She leaned against the door frame, and after a few moments the pain seemed to subside enough that she could once again stand upright. She inhaled deeply and exhaled as shallowly as possible, feeling starved for air, until she had finally seemed to catch her breath.
She returned her gaze to the small booth before her and tried to remember why she'd wanted to get into it to begin with. It was dark inside, and she decided that it would be a good thing, at least, to be away from the baking heat just for a little while.
She took a tentative step into the booth, and then found that it was so dark inside despite the fact that the missing door should have allowed a lot of light into the space, that she couldn't see at all. She reached forward and tried to pull up the shade that obscured the ticket window.
One yank, and instead of springing upward or moving back, the whole shade pulled free of its roller and clattered to the small counter beneath it.
"They really need to invest in better building materials around here." Kellyn thought aloud, as she tried once again to figure out where 'here' was.
She discovered a pile of papers on the counter and began to rifle through them. As she analyzed each one, she wondered why they were all blank. Until, she found one rectangular scrap that must have, at some point, been sitting in the withering rays of the sun, because it too was faded almost to blankness just like the papers that had been sitting on top of it.
It was a ticket.
The final destination was missing, completely erased from it. But the origin of the intended traveler was still intact.
Lair sighed as she comprehended the name of the station where she found herself. The first two letters of the word were plainly visible, N and O. They were followed by very faint, faded letters; w, h, e, r, e. The second word was also clearly printed, it was "Point".
The technical name for her location was Nowhere Point- but when Kellyn looked at it quickly after looking down at her boots in despair for a long moment, she saw quite clearly what this obsolete ticket was really telling her.
The message was received loud and clear, and that message was, "No Point."
Lt. Commander Lair Kellyn
Still unconscious in Sickbay
USS Serendipity NCC-2012