Eight days later, Janet Riddowski was standing on the rooftop of her parent's home back in Chicago.
It didn't seem like it had been that long to her. It seemed like she was being rushed, that she'd closed her eyes in Tiverton to blink and opened them in Chicago. After Dane's disappearance, everything had happened fast. The Navy and the local Tiverton cops had tried to sort everything out.
The night of the vanishing act, Janet had called the Naval Office and alerted them of her position and that of Ted Compton and the rest of the stolen weapons. In no time, the forest was filled with Navy EOD personnel judging the state of each individual bomb and preparing them for transport to a safer facility, where they would be stored and studied further for contamination or failure.
While that was going on, Ted and her were both treated by medics. Ted, though he had been through a violent car crash, was mostly free of trauma. The main problem the crash had caused for him was that it had knocked him unconscious for a short time; he had woken up by the time Janet had reached him, and a concussion was ruled as probable by the medics. He was told he would have to rest for a couple days and avoid strenuous activity, and that he'd be back in action before too long.
Janet had been dealt only a few scrapes and bruises. She was cleared from the hospital almost upon entering it, but chose to remain to see what Ted's condition would be. After he was confirmed to be stable, she left and returned to the Newport base to sleep.
It was a relatively warm night for Chicago, and Janet barely needed her spring jacket. This wasn't the first time she had been on the roof, of course. She'd been going up there since her parents bought the house with the money they'd saved up. It had only been a year before she went off to college, but it was enough time for her to get used to it. And it was certainly better than apartments. In the short time she had been there, it had become her home.
The house was located in a small residential area inside Chicago. Even though both her parents worked in the medical field and got a rather large sum of money for their work, she wasn't sure how they could afford such a beautiful place to live. But they had done it, and she was proud of them for it, among other things they had done. She knew they were proud of her for her own accomplishments, too. She didn't doubt that for a second.
The day after the vanishing act, Janet returned to the hospital to visit Ted Compton. He was in much better shape than he'd been the night before, and Janet was relieved beyond belief to learn that he wasn't in any pain.
"Despite the crash that madman put me through, I'm feeling just fine," he reassured her. "How much of that is due to the painkillers, I have no idea, nor do I care."
She laughed softly. "It would take a lot of them to get you through that wreck," she replied.
Ted looked shocked. "Do you doubt me, Ensign? That wasn't the first crash I've been in, you know."
"Well, then it won't be the last, I'll bet," was Janet's reply.
Ted chuckled a bit. "Look, Janet, I just want you to know that you did a great job on this mission."
"But Dane got away!"
"Yeah, but you still found the missing weapons. Without them, Dane isn't a threat anymore."
"He killed several people."
"Be that as it may, he's just a man. If he turns up, we'll get him."
"Yes, I absolutely am."
Janet was silent for a minute as she contemplated her next question. Ted waited patiently, seeming to know that something important was on her mind. Finally, she found the words she needed.
"What about the rest of us?" she stammered. "What happens now for you and me?"
It was Ted's turn to think for a minute before he answered. "Same as any other case. I know it wasn't a normal case in any way, and I know it was your first, but we need to accept that it's over and move on. You'll be going home for a short time, and then you'll be off somewhere else, working on a new case."
Janet didn't waste a second before asking, "And what about you?"
"This is my home," Ted explained. "I've lived here as long as I've been in the Navy. When the doctors say I've fully recovered, I'll go back to work in this part of the world."
"Is this where you wanted to be?"
"I wasn't sure where I wanted to be, just what I wanted to do. The Navy chose this area for me, and the Navy will choose a place for you."
"Oh," was all Janet could say.
He must have sensed her nervousness, because he told her, "It'll be okay. You might end up here, you might end up near Chicago, or you might end up way out west. But wherever you end up, you'll make it into your home. Don't worry. It seems strange at first, but you'll get used to it."
"Thank you, sir."
"Glad I could help, Janet."
It was then that the nurse came in to check on Ted Compton. Janet didn't know what to do, so she just stood in the room awkwardly as the other two people carried on a conversation. When the nurse left, she said, "You were right about one thing, sir. I'm leaving for home tomorrow. I don't know how long I'll be there, but I imagine it will be a short time."
"Congratulations, Ensign," he offered. "Whatever your next assignment is, you can face it knowing that you'll be ready. And that it won't be as messed up as what happened here."
"In the meantime, enjoy your time off. Maybe I'll see you in a while, but who knows? In any case, it was a pleasure working with you." He held out his hand.
She shook it. "Same to you, sir."
"You've earned the right to call me 'Ted'," he smiled.
"Ted, then. Goodbye."
Standing on the roof of the house she wished she'd grown up in, Janet Riddowski smiled again at the memory. It was the last night of her time off, and the next day she'd be on a plane heading to the state of Minnesota to deal with a soldier who'd been accused of selling drugs to other soldiers. It was a more typical case for an NCIS agent; at least, as far as she was told, it was. It was a simpler errand, and she didn't think she'd have to face an ordeal like the one she had just gone through. Then again, she hadn't been expecting all of this on her first mission, either. On any mission, for that matter. But Ted had faith in her, and that made it easier for her to have faith in herself.
In Chicago, lights were on at all hours of the day and night, and they were always bright. It was easier to notice at night. Living in the large city all her life, she had rarely seen the stars, and few were just barely visible in the distance. But they were enough for her. They were enough to remind her of how vast the world beyond earth was, and how many secrets there could be. They reminded her of Dane, and she couldn't help but wonder if maybe he was up there, flying around in some strange contraption, protecting his younger brother from creatures she couldn't even imagine. After all, he was somewhere, why not there? The universe held secrets she had just begun to discover.
The stars in the sky told her all of this as she stood upon the roof of her parent's home. They told her a more important message as well. Those stars, shining brightly in the distance and significantly less so
closer to the city, filled the nighttime air with their glow. There were unfathomable distances between them, but that didn't stop or disdain them in the least. Those stars would never back down, and they would never be alone. Just like her.
Janet smiled at the stars, then she turned and climbed down the ladder. She then entered her house and went to sleep, preparing for the next day.
Soon after she left, a bright object flew across the sky. It could have been some sort of spaceship, flown by entities that had scarcely been seen by humans. It could have held Dane Wesson, reunited with his brother and figuring out what to do next. It could have been another of a similar type, or maybe one that was completely different. Anyone or anything could have been on board.
But then again, it might have just been a shooting star.