Landing the Invicta in the harbour seemed like a good idea at the time, especially as his parents owned one of the docks, but James wasn’t expecting to see a small crowd pose by it to take holo-photographs shortly after they landed in the water. Returning back to his childhood home had been a rare thing for the Odyssey’s commanding officer. Ever since he left to attend Starfleet Academy, he had lost the close connection he had with his parents after they disapproved of him and his brother joining Starfleet. That rift further escalated when his youngest brother abandoned Starfleet and joined the Maquis prior to the start of the Dominion War. His brother, Horatio, like him loved being among the stars but after being posted on assignments near to the former Cardassian demilitarised zone as well as rescuing fleeing Maquis refugees, Horatio gave up his promising career and became a pilot for the freedom fighters. Unfortunately for James, his first ship (the Audacious) had been assigned to the Bajoran Badlands and ended up catching Horatio and his entire cell. It had been one of the toughest missions he had endured so early on in his career. Having to explain to his parents what had happened and then hearing them both berating Starfleet for turning their youngest into a criminal was enough to drive a deep chasm between them and their other two sons. Thankfully, at the time, James had his oldest brother Conrad to turn to for support over it all.
Making his way towards his parents’ hotel, the Red Lion, made him stop and remember some childhood experiences and he hoped as he watched his sons walk ahead of him (while Karyn held his hand) that he hoped that none of them had to go through what he and Conrad went through because of Horatio.
Stood tall and grande like a castle, the Red Lion hotel was a well known establishment in the area. Its restaurant and bar was extremely popular with the locals and tourists, his father had strong connections within the community as a steadfast businessman while his mother was renowned for her hospitality. The building itself was wide and four floors high. It was painted mostly in white with red tiles, with a bold gold sign that read the name of the establishment. There was a sense of rich decorum with a number of its features, but it had a warm welcoming feeling to it. One thing that had remained almost the same was the flag that flew high with the race of a red lion on it. The flag itself had a white background and his mother had always said it reminded her of her home town when she was a child and living in Britain. There was something regal about it all, James and his brother had heard a number of stories as children from their mother about the history of famous kings and queens from Earth’s history, especially those from Britain. Their father had sometimes referred to the hotel as a palace when James’ mother was fussing over the maintenance of the building.
The hotel had been their home for as long as James could remember. The fourth floor was dedicated just to the McCallisters while the first, second and third floors were guest rooms. The ground floor played host to the famed restaurant (including its kitchen) and the bar. The basement though was dedicated to the offices and storage for almost everything needed to run a hotel. At the back was a beautiful swimming pool, a basketball court and a tennis court. Surrounding the whole hotel was an impressive garden, something that his mother was extremely proud of as she maintained it herself.
Approaching the main gates of the hotel, Alfie had already pushed them forward allowing them to all enter and automatically there was a scream of pure delight coming from the veranda near to the main entrance. Stepping down the steps, wearing an almost cream ensemble of light clothing, was the matriarch of the McCallister clan: Francesca McCallister.
Arms open wide, she made her way across the pebbled courtyard in almost rush as her feet made a range of crunching noises against the small stones beneath them. “Oh I am so pleased!” she said as she greeted her family.
Francesca McCallister was a strong-willed woman, even in her late seventies, she had never slowed down and wasn’t planning to do it anytime soon. Her frizzy and somewhat curly silver white hair bobbed with excitement as she hugged her three grandsons. After letting them go, she pulled in Karyn before embracing her son.
As she let go she shared her glee, “It’s so good to see you all.” She added. “Your father is currently out in town getting some supplies for tonight’s meal.”
“Sounds good mom.” James said, smiling to see her.
Looking at them all, Francesca smiled more. “You all look so well.” She looked back at her grandson, “And I cannot get over how tall and handsome you three are getting!”
The boys all smiled in response. All of them were expecting her to say about putting them to work in her hotel, but the words did not leave her mouth. Instead she linked arms with their mother instead. “Now come on, I’ve got all of the bedrooms ready for you all.” She said as she squeezed Karyn’s arm. “I know you can only stay for one night, but I promise you all that I plan to take advantage of every single second!”
James smiled at his mother’s enthusiasm, one that he wasn’t expecting, and shot a confused look at his wife who threw one back to him. “Thanks mom,” He said as they followed her up and into the hotel. “How have you guys been?”
She pushed the door open as she answered, “Well I can’t complain, I don’t think there’s many muscles left in me that aren’t mine anymore but your father continues to refuse to have his hip replacement operation.”
“How comes Frankie?” Karyn wondered, calling her mother-in-law with the name that she had been told to use after they first met. “I thought you said in your last letter that Jack was going to have it at the start of the year?”
Shrugging her shoulders as she led the group up the large first flight of stairs, Francesca went on to share an anecdote of how her husband had changed his mind last minute. “That poor holographic doctor was so confused, I tell you Karyn I was surprised he didn’t glitch out on us with how much Jack had changed his mind.” She took them through a corridor that took them up to a private lift. After the computer controls recognised her, the doors parted open and allowed them all to get in. It was an almost tight squeeze with all of the hand luggage but they all got into the glass elevator. The view from the back of it showed the impressive swimming pool. There were a few guests in it while others sat around the edge. As the weather was pretty warm, it made sense for a number of guests to be enjoying what the hotel had to offer.
“Now boys I’m afraid you’ve got to share a room, but do not worry you’ve got the larger guest room while your parents stay in your dad’s room.” Francesca explained with a sweet smile.
Confused as to why the boys would have to share, when the fourth floor had five bedrooms. The largest one was for his parents, three others that were of a similar size had been his and his brothers while the last one in recent years had become a larger guest room when it had originally served as a study and indoor gym combined into one. When he and his brothers had moved out, his parents had extended the hotel and had turned that room into a larger guest room. When James had visited with his sons before, they all had taken one of the bedrooms that he and his brothers had while he and Karyn had the guest room.
“How come they’ve not got their own room mom?” James asked as the lift came to a stop and the doors opened.
Before Francesca could answer her son, standing waiting for their arrival in the small corridor was James’ older brother and wife: Conrad and Laura. Surprised to see them standing there, James and Karyn automatically stepped off and hugged the couple, followed by their sons greeting their uncle and aunt.
Turning to his mother, James smiled. “How come you didn’t say these two were visiting?”
Smiling back, Fracesca answered him. “I wanted it to be a nice surprise.”
Conrad stepped over to his brother, the eldest McCallister sibling pulled his brother into another bear hug. “J-P, you’re not upset we’re gatecrashing your homecoming are we?” he asked using his brother’s nickname.
Shaking his head, James answered quickly. “Not at all. We’ve got so much to catch up on.”
Karyn looked to Laura, “How long are you both here for?”
Smiling back, Laura answered her brother-in-law’s wife. “A few days, so when we heard the Odyssey was going to be here we had a frantic call from Frankie to get ourselves over here.”
“More like summoned.” Conrad added which was followed up by a quick smack to the back of his head by his mother.
“Don’t make me sound like I’m the Queen of England or something!” Francesca remarked. “I just thought it would be nice for us all to be together before you both go off galavanting across the galaxy one more time!”
Still hugging his brother from the side, James grinned at the gesture. “Sounds good to me mom.”
A couple of hours later and after settling in, James had changed out of his uniform and into something a lot more casual and comfortable. Walking outside into the back of the hotel, he noticed that it hadn’t taken long for his sons to jump into the swimming pool.
“Dad!” shouted Henri, “Are you going to join us later? Uncle Conrad said he would!”
“You betcha but let me catch up with your uncle first!” James answered as he approached where his brother was sitting.
A few years back, his father had built an outdoor bar area and had stocked it with a range of alcoholic beverages from Earth. Conrad was sat on one of the stools, sipping on a bottle of beer and as James approached him he passed him a second bottle. The two brothers clinked their bottles together before sipping on them.
“So, how have you guys been?” Conrad questioned after taking in several sips.
Nodding to confirm they were well, James answered. “Yeah all fine. It was pretty close with the whole thing in Archanis.”
“Yeah I read the after-action report about how the Odyssey was heavily damaged. I take it you and Karyn have recovered?” Conrad asked.
“Yep.” James said. It was nice to be able to speak to Conrad about things. Conrad, like James, was a Starfleet captain and commanded Starbase Three-Seven-Eight in the Alcor sector near the Cardassian Union. He had been in command of it for almost fifteen years now. Like James also, the years of Starfleet service showed through his hair where grey streaks pebbled it. “I have to admit it did scare me when I woke up and was told what had happened in the first attack. Knowing that both Karyn and I were out of it concerned us both about the boys.”
“That’s understandable J-P,” Conrad said before taking another sip. “In fact if you didn’t worry then I would have thought you were a Borg drone or worse a Vulcan for not caring for your sons.”
Wincing a bit, James understood that it was his brother’s way of showing how much he cared. “How’s it been out in the Alcor sector?”
Wobbling his head slightly, Conrad answered honestly. “It’s been okay, nothing too exciting. Thankfully Laura has been closer to three-seven-eight since the League was assigned to permanent detached operations in the sector. If anything happens, she’s normally one of the first to respond, but there’s barely been any action.”
Again, like James and Conrad, Laura was a captain. She was the skipper of the Intrepid-class U-S-S League. The League had been in service since 2374 and Laura had risen through the ranks to command it. In recent years she had been able to keep the League close to Conrad’s posting on Starbase 376. Neither of them had children and both enjoyed their marriage when they were either close to one another or took regular holidays together. A majority of the time they spent their holidays on Risa.
“Sounds a bit boring.” James remarked back to his brother. “Either of you two considered a change of scenery?”
“What, like the Delta Quadrant?” Conrad teased. “Not all of us get to command an Odyssey-class deep space explorer.”
“Don’t you mean the Odyssey-class?” James joked back, emphasising that his ship was the original and prototype for its class. “No, but seriously though have you both not considered applying to join some of the deep space missions and doing something differently?”
Conrad placed his bottle down. “Well we have, but we haven’t made it official.”
Surprised to hear that his brother was considering a change, James wanted to know more. “Seriously? I thought you would never leave that old Regula-class starbase! What have you got in the pipeline?”
Appearing somewhat nervous in what he was about to say, Conrad took a breath and blurted it out. “Retirement!”
Almost choking on the swash of beer that he had just put down in his mouth, James stumbled to keep it all in before looking at his brother surprised. “Retirement?” He repeated after swallowing his drink. “How come?”
Shrugging his shoulders to show it didn’t mean much to them yet, Conrad explained. “Starfleet isn’t quite what we both signed onto almost thirty years ago, plus deep space assignments are far and hard to find. The only offer of a new command I was given was to take command of Deep Space Nineteen.”
“D-S-Nineteen?” James repeated and stopped himself, realising he was becoming his brother’s echo. “That’s a great assignment. I didn’t know that Rear Admiral Templeton was moving on?”
“He isn’t, Starfleet has given him command of the task force assigned to start deep space exploration of the Beta Quadrant. It included joint missions with the Romulan Republic, but he needed someone to command the station, where he remained based at.” Conrad explained. “Laura and I discussed it and there was no way the League would be sent and we hate it that we don’t get to spend so much time with one another anyway. Being that far apart would mean we would only see one another once a year on Risa.”
“So retirement is the answer?” James asked.
“We think so.” Conrad replied. “In fact we were discussing last night about helping mom and dad here at the hotel.”
Shocked to hear that, James looked at his brother concerned. “Are you sure you’re not a Borg drone or a Vulcan?” He took another sip. “Helping here at the hotel? Are you serious?”
“We’re considering it.” Conrad answered.
“Don’t take this the wrong way Conrad, but mum and dad have all the help with the staff they have here. They have someone manage it for them while they keep their toes in with it. Why would you want to change that?” James questioned.
Hesitating to answer his brother straight away, Conrad fiddled with the top of his bottle before he answered him. “Horatio is home.”
Pausing on taking another drink, James placed his bottle down. “What do you mean Horatio is home?”
“I mean Horatio has served his time and is now home.” Conrad explained. “And before you get angry and cross at anyone…”
Conrad’s words were late and James just shook his head in disbelief. “Are you kidding me? How long was it going to be until one of you told us?”
Raising his hands in defence, Conrad stopped his brother from getting up and starting another family argument. “James, just stop and listen to me. Please.” Conrad pleaded with both hands up in front of his younger brother. “Blame me, not anyone else. I know how hard you took it for being the one bringing Horatio in. I wanted to check the lay of the land first before I told you what was going on.”
Confused and bewildered at his brother’s words and the conversation they were having, James couldn’t understand what was going on. “So are you telling me that you and Laura are planning to retire to not only help mom and dad out but to ensure Horatio doesn’t return to a life of crime again?”
“Sort of.” Conrad said. “It’s complicated, but I reached out to him last year to see what he was planning when he got out. It took a lot for him to answer me, he was ashamed of what he did but you also need to understand that a lot has happened to him.” Conrad explained.
Rubbing his face with both hands, James tried his best to remain calm. “Con, none of this is making sense to me.” He looked out towards his sons who were enjoying themselves before looking back at his brother. “You and I had the biggest argument of our lives with mom and dad just over there.” He said pointing to the sideline of the pool. “Both of them were berating the uniform and oath we took, both of them blamed Starfleet for destroying Horatio’s life and pleaded for us both to leave before it destroyed us as well. You and I made a pact to prove them wrong…and now…now you’re telling me you’re giving it all up, but for what?” James paused. “To correct the wrongs of our family?”
“I know it’s not easy to understand, but I need to do it.” Conrad said and he gave out a sigh. “James, I’ve been diagnosed with irumodic syndrome.”
Completely flabbergasted at that, James didn’t think he could take anymore shocking revelations today. “Oh my god Conrad.” James got up and gave his brother a hug. As soon as he let go, he sat back down. “How long have you known?”
“A year or two.” Conrad said. “I promise you it’s nothing that at the moment I can’t keep on top of, but it makes you stop and look at life.”
“I bet.” James said as he picked up his beer. “So is that why you want to retire, got in contact with Horatio and came home?”
Nodding, Conrad wiggled his head “Yeah, sort of.” He took his own beer. “The doctors say I’ve got a few more years left before any of the symptoms truly appear. Laura and I have said we don’t want to waste what time we have serving in Starfleet anymore. We don’t have any children of our own, so it makes sense to come back here and help mom and dad. Plus I don’t want to go not knowing I didn’t try to sort things out with Horatio.”
Taking a moment to breathe, James started to understand his brother. “So where is our younger brother?”
“Out with dad.” Conrad answered. “I told them to go out while I spoke to you and cleared the air. I was hoping you wouldn’t refuse a dying man’s wish. Plus please don’t be cross with mom or dad. I told them not to say anything to you or Karyn. ”
Finding it hard to process everything all at once, James just nodded. “Okay, I’ll see him but I don’t want the boys meeting him yet.” James said. “I need to speak it over with Karyn first.”
“I get that.” Conrad said as he stood up and hugged his brother again. “I appreciate it.”
James returned the embrace, wondering just how the hell he was meant to respond to everything his brother had just dumped on to him.