This is an amateur, non-commercial story, which is not produced, approved of, or in any way sponsored by the holders of the trademarks/copyrights from which this work is derived, nor is it intended to infringe on the rights of these holders. And so it goes.


A Star Trek: The Next Generation tale
by Jeff Morris



They walked down the corridor with slow, reluctant pace, the lieutenant, because this was a task he’d done too many times before, and the ensign, because this was her first but far from last time.

With a long sigh, he stopped at the doorway in question, and cleared his throat. “Computer, recognize Corey, Mark Anthony. Lieutenant.”

Recognition confirmed.

“Okay, give your access clearance before Worf gets notified and raises Cain with us for not following procedures,” Corey said to the young woman beside him.

“Oh, yeah. Computer. Recognize Castillo, Paula Renee. Ensign.”

Recognition confirmed.

Corey took a deep breath. “Release seal code on quarters A801. Security clearance Alpha‑bravo‑delta‑zero‑zero‑seven.”

Security clearance approved. Seal released. With a soft, almost mournful whisper, the doors slid open. Corey and his assistant glanced at each other, then walked in.

“You okay, Paula?” he asked.

“I’m fine. Just a little nervous. This is ... kinda spooky.” She glanced over the room anxiously, checking for any ghosts in the shadows.

“Yeah, it was that way for me, my first time.” He checked a PADD over, then handed it to her. “Just my luck it had to be Tasha Yar. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff she owned.” His gaze drifted across the silent room. “Okay, that’s the inventory list. Make sure everything is here, and add any new stuff you find. Next of kin will definitely double‑check, so be thorough.”

“Yes, sir.” Castillo nodded to her right towards the bedroom and bathroom. “I’ll start in there.”

“All right.” He watched her hurry into the other room, then sighed and consulted his own PADD. “I hate this job,” he muttered to himself as he set to work in the main living area.

* * * * *

Castillo walked into the bedroom, looking straight ahead into the mirror just over the washbasin. She found a damp towel and washcloth sitting carelessly next to an equally wet toothbrush; on the opposite side of the sink sat a razor. Making a squeamish face, she decided to start with the clothes closet.

She hurried through the storage area with brisk efficiency. “Duty uniforms ... six.” A small smile played on her lips. “Two different sizes.” She marked an addendum to her information list, then continued. “Dress uniforms, two ... wait a minute.” She double-checked her count, then an idea struck her. “Sir?” she called out.

“What is it, Paula?”

“Did they already get an outfit for ... the, uh…?”

 “Yes, they did. A dress uniform, I think.”

“Okay.” She continued through the closet, marking off item after item, trying to keep her mind on her work and off the person whose belongings these had been. She had just about finished when an oddly‑shaped object sitting in the back caught her eye. She pulled it out and frowned. “Sir, I just found a musical instrument case.”

Corey appeared at the door. “You did?” I found one out here already.”

“Maybe he had two?”

The lieutenant shrugged. “Could be. Anything in the case?”

“I don’t know.” She opened it and peered inside quickly. “Yes.”

“Mark it down.” He turned back to his own work.

“Sir?” She cringed in the exasperation in his movements as he returned his attention to her, but held firm. “I was just wondering. How do you do it?”

“Do what, Ensign?”

Paula winced slightly; Corey tended to address people by rank when irritated. “Well...” She waved an arm around. “Don’t you feel a little bit like a voyeur? I mean, this is someone else’s room! Someone lived here! And here we are, taking notes on everything he owned, wore ... it gives me the creeps, like I don’t belong here!” Her shoulders fell and she looked up at her superior officer nervously. “And yet you seem to be all business, like it doesn’t mean anything to you ... sir.”

He waited a moment before replying. “Paula ... I don’t like this any more than you do. But it’s part of the job. Someone has to do it. And the sooner you get back to work, the sooner we will be done with it. Okay?”

Realization filled her features. “I ... okay, sir.”

“Good.” He trudged back to the living area; Castillo watched him leave, then returned her attention to the closet, leaving the instrument case beside the unmade bed. She began checking off some of the casual clothing, marveling at the texture and quality of some of the shirts. Clothing like this did not come cheap, she knew; perhaps they had been presents.

Eventually she finished with the closet; Castillo stared at the bed for a moment or two, then set her PADD down and started straightening out the tangled, wrinkled sheets.

The sudden sound of a throat being cleared caused her to nearly jump out of her skin. Whirling around, she found Corey standing in the doorway behind her. “Sir?” she squeaked.

“May I ask just what you’re doing, Ensign?”

She glanced down. “I’m ... making the bed, sir.”

“I see that.” His arms were folded over his chest. “Is that going to help you finish the inventory?”

“No, sir.”

“Then I’d suggest you leave it alone and get back to work.”

“But...” Castillo’s protest died in her throat as Corey turned away and returned to the living area. Heart heavy, she left the unmade bed and headed into the bathroom area to rummage through the cabinet drawers when her foot hit something. “Oh, gross!” she cried out.

Corey was there instantly. “What’s wrong?”

She made a face and with the toe of her boot lifted up an off‑white object. “It’s his dirty underwear!”

“Oh, for crying out loud...” Storm clouds darkened behind his eyes. “Paula, it’s just soiled clothing! Now cut the crap and get back to work!”

“But sir ... this is all ... guy stuff...” Her gaze was embarrassed, almost, pleading. “Do you think we could trade places?”

Shaking his head, Corey snatched her PADD from her hand and slapped the one he’d been using into its place. “Get out there and finish up,” he snapped. “And I don’t want to see you, don’t want to hear you, don’t want to know that Ensign Paula Castillo even exists until we are finished and can get the hell out of here! Understand?”

“Yessir.” She rushed past him and moved directly out of his line of sight. She could just make out the soft sounds of exasperated grumbling coming from the bedroom. “You didn’t have to yell, sir,” she mumbled to his unseen presence, then, sniffing back her tears, she focused on the PADD.

To her surprise, very little had been checked off as yet.

She started with the desk. “Commendations. Two horgons ... wait, only one is listed.” She added an entry. “Six books...” she checked them off one by one. “Thoreau’s Walden. London’s Call of the Wild. Kirk’s Memoirs. Collected Works of Ovid. Flipping open the book, Castillo smiled; from the rather passionate dedication, this had been a gift from a long‑ago lover who’d had no complaints whatsoever. “Chappell’s The Way of the Klingon. Knights of the Lesser Boulevards.”

At the center of the desktop was a half-filled cup of cold coffee and a half‑eaten bagel with cream cheese. Castillo stared at it, then glanced at the bedroom area. Quickly, quietly, she put the items on the replicator shelf and pressed the ‘dispose’ button.

Returning to the desk, she opened the drawer and pulled out a huge stack of disks. “Holos.” She switched each on in turn, double‑checking the PADD entries and marking each one off until she reached an outdoor scene.

Castillo had been a ‘fleet brat’, born to two Starfleet officers. Her early life had been surrounded by a succession of starships and bases, never there for more than a few years, punctuated occasionally by planetside shore leaves. Her daily sky was black with multicolored flecks of starlight; how strange it must have been, to grow up under a sea of blue.

How odd, to be surrounded by trees and large bodies of water. To swim, to climb, to simply walk through a forest. She could do those things any time she wanted, but those were representations, ersatz images generated from a computer program.

Even now, she rarely saw the stars from the planetside point of view. And she had no regrets; her entire life had been an exciting, never‑ending odyssey that promised adventure at every turn. But looking at the holo, for the first time she idly wondered if she’d missed out on something, somewhere, somehow.

With a gentle frown, Castillo switched the holo off and continued on her search‑and‑identify mission. The second drawer revealed five packs of playing cards and a single gold poker chip; she twirled the object in her fingers, then set it down on the desk. The third drawer was empty.

Over on an end table, she found a holodisk; switching it on, two lovely women smiled and began to play a pair of musical instruments. Castillo grinned in recognition; one of her classmates at the Academy had owned one of these, and had dubbed the performers “The Two Fabulous Babes”. Remembering one other little detail about that disk, she switched the device off, then back on, but to the right this time instead of the left. The women reappeared, once more with their smiles and instruments, but now without a single piece of clothing on their curvaceous bodies. Castillo giggled softly and switched the holodisk off, then checked it off the list.

Here and there were little knick‑knacks sitting on tables, counters and shelves. Castillo worked carefully, precisely to make sure that every single item was accounted for. And when she could find no other objects to count, she scrolled through the list and found five more belongings that she’d previously missed.

With a smile of satisfaction, she entered her thumbprint on the PADD for authorization and headed into the bedroom. Corey was sitting on the neatly‑made bed, staring down at his entwined hands, the PADD beside him. “Sir,” she said quietly. “I’ve finished the living area.”

He nodded absently. “I’m sorry I yelled at you, Paula,” he said a moment later.

“That’s okay, sir.”

“I was just thinking.”

She sat down beside him and carefully put her hand on his. “What about, sir?”

“I ... we’re in a dangerous business, Paula. Someday, sometime, we’re going to be the ones who die. And someone…maybe me for you, or you for me, or maybe an utter stranger ... someone is going to walk into our cabins and very carefully take inventory of all our possessions. And they’ll never really know why this item meant so much to us, or the history behind that object. We’ll be strangers to them ... and they’ll simply tidy up our messes, box our memories—our lives—away, and it’ll be like we’d never existed. Like him.” He motioned around the room.

“We’ll never forget him, sir. And,” she said shyly, “I’d never forget you, either.”

He smiled tiredly back at her. “You’d be pretty hard to forget, yourself, Paula. And, it nothing else,” his smile widened, “this whole experience should teach you one important lesson.”

“Which is?” She tilted her head, puzzled.

“Always clean your room before you go on an away team.”

For some reason this struck them both as utterly hilarious, and they fell upon the bed, overwhelmed by laughter.

* * * * *

Some time later, ensign and lieutenant recovered enough composure to stand up, tidy the bed again, and leave the room.

Corey made a quick check of both PADDs. “You did a good job, Paula.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“He glanced towards the door, his mood falling back into somber. “You can go now. I’ll ... finish up.”

Her hand wrapped around his, and her eyes locked into his face. “I’ll be waiting for you in Ten‑Forward, sir.”

For a moment it seemed like something might happen, but he turned away abruptly. “All right. Go on.”

They walked to the door, which on cue, hissed open. As Paula hurried out, she saw her out of the comer of her eye. Her face was down, studying the intricate patterns of the carpeted floor; her arms were wrapped tightly around her body, as if this were the only thing keeping her from shattering into a thousand pieces.

And Castillo heard Corey as he spoke.

“Counselor? We’re finished now. If you want to go in and take anything that you think he’d have wanted you to have, you’re more than welcome to...”