Round Robin

Part 14

by Maureen (mobrien at

I meant to write more of this, but got stuck. Then Angel sent me an email jumping in, so I figured I'd just insert what I had in such a way that it wouldn't mess up her story.

Funny how so many of us think she's an orphan. Well, I guess that is how heirlooms fall into one's hot little hands, unless nobody else in the family cares about said priceless heirlooms. And she's such a loner, our Lestrade....

She didn't cry at her mother's funeral.

Dad did. Dad, who was so strong and tough. Dad, who'd been a cop over in England for years, and then got a job over here in Canada after he met Mum. With all the stuff that he'd seen on the job, she'd expected him to deal with it the way he dealt with everything else.

But Dad was crumbling. It was like half of him was gone, too. She stopped looking at him and just held onto his shaky hand. When she heard people whispering about them, she gave them a dirty look. Somebody had to.

Mum was a soldier, a hovertank squad commander, doing her bit in the war down south. Somebody talked about that, and about the war, and how brave she and her squad had been before they all got turned into mush. They said some prayers, took off the flag with the blood-colored mapleleaf, and put the coffin in the hole -- it'd been a closed coffin, and Dad hadn't let her look -- and then they threw dirt down it. There were pebbles in her dirt, so she threw it down hard. It made a scrabbly noise. Everybody looked shocked. She gave them another dirty look.

Dad squeezed her hand, not nicely, and she stopped.

Then another tanker -- a colonel -- came to talk to Dad. He was sorry about Mum, but she'd been very brave. And by the way, had she sent us any letters lately? Or presents?

Dad's face stayed the same, but she felt his hand stop shaking. Oh, no, he said, even though they'd gotten a letter just last week. Not for a while. There was something the matter with the mail lately....

The colonel said that was too bad, but just for a second he looked happy. Something in her stomach went cold as the colonel said goodbye and went away. Her father's hand held hers tightly, warningly. She didn't say anything until they got in the car to go home.

"Mum's squad -- that wasn't just the war, was it?"

Dad met her eyes. "Doesn't sound that way, does it?"

As soon as they got home, Dad got out Mum's last letter and went into his den with it. They'd usually gotten email every day or two, and if Mum'd sent a package, it came through the military. But Mum had sent this letter and package by surface mail, with all kinds of actual postage stamps. He looked at the letter for a long time. "Nothing," he said. "It must be in your present, Beth."

Beth handed him the hololetter and its player. It was kinda gimmicky. What good was it to record yourself in 3-D so you could play it back on the dinky little player's stage? Making a videoclip on your computer to watch on its screen made a lot more sense. But if you wanted to send someone a message....

Dad carefully unscrewed the bottom of the tiny holoplayer. Hidden in the bottom among the holochips was a tiny piece of paper. Something was written on it. She leaned over Dad's shoulder and saw a list of names: Zwicki, Terrace, Garn, Jones....

Dad covered the paper with his hand and looked back at her over his shoulder. "Stay out of this, Beth."

"But Dad...."

"But me no buts. This is dangerous. It killed your mother, and I don't want to lose you, too." He looked into her eyes. "Don't worry. I'll get 'em."

She nodded reluctantly. "I know, Dad. I know you will."

A week later, Dad was dead. An accident with his cruiser, they said. How convenient, Beth thought, but she didn't say anything. Not at the funeral, with police from towns for miles around driving their cruisers in procession and a bagpiper skirling "Amazing Grace", nor when she got home and found signs that the house had been expertly searched. She just touched the envelope and the holoplayer in her pocket and bided her time while the Cales (her mother's side of the family) packed up everything she owned and arranged for the rest to be shipped.

She was going to England, apparently, to live with her Lestrade grandparents. She'd only seen them a couple times and she didn't know them too well. It didn't matter. Nothing much did; everything except the case had gone a little gray. Besides, a remote base of operations might be better for what she had in mind.

Mum knew a lot about computers and techie stuff. Hovertank drivers had to, and commanders had to know all kinds of cyber stuff, so they could see the signs if their electronic intel was being compromised. So Mum had made sure that she'd learned more about computers than what they taught you in school -- right down to the code and hardware. Dad thought you ought to learn stuff that could be useful, and computer stuff was useful. So she'd kept on learning.

And one of the things you learned, as soon as you started looking into security and programming, was how you could sneak in or mess things up.

Not that you would, of course, but you could.

There were ways to find stuff out, if you looked. There were ways to figure things out on your own, and test your ideas very carefully. And once she had all that down...well, it might be interesting to look into those names from the piece of paper.

She didn't remember much of the next few months. Her grandmum and granddad were nice enough, but they really didn't register. About the only things that broke through the gray fog of grief and the blacker one of fury were the original journals of Dr. John Watson, sitting in a locked cabinet and stuffed with info "for which the world is not yet ready" (and neither was she, according to Granddad), and the coffin in the hall closet with the honey-covered hawknosed old man inside.

She supposed they should have made her feel guilty. She was planning a series of computer crimes for which, juvenile or no juvenile, she could very easily be crypnotized or sent out to the prison asteroids. But instead they comforted her. Sometimes, you couldn't just sit around waiting for justice; sometimes, you had to just make it yourself, like they had.

A kid setting herself up as judge and jury. She had never seen the ridiculousness at the time. If she had, her plans might not have succeeded -- and certain terrible events might not have occurred.

She bit her lip. Her mind returned fully to the present day.

There! Lots of room for other people to work out Lestrade's mysterious past! And how do you like Lestrade's Canadian relations?

On to Part 15!

Back to part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, and part 13.

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