Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Billy Nichols
Kim leaned back into her chair, resting sore muscles. Beyond her private space, the science labs were taking shape nicely. Shelves were filling out, tabletops could be seen and all of it was starting to make sense. It would not be long before they could all turn from housekeeping to science again.
That, and she now had a moment to see to her personal effects. It started at her desk with the small pile of packages from Minbar. Setting her mailbox to play and read her mail as she worked, she set to the first of them.
It had been brought by Daanike a few days earlier, but more curious than the nurse-turned-messenger, was who it was from. Wondering, she pulled the box open, to be startled by a sparkle of light that only increased as she pulled her lamp over for a better view. She withdrew the palm-sized, crystal sphere from its box and turned it on her fingertips, watching the light cast out to the walls. For a few moments the mail faded to a mumble in the background.
Drawing her eyes away, she peered into the box for the paper she’d noticed. It was a hand-written note: “Katia has told me all that you did to help her on Mars. To express some part of my gratitude, I have made this gift for you. Please accept it, from one who cares about her and is grateful beyond measure that she has such courageous and loyal friends. Dunstan Kordieh.”
He was, if nothing else, confusing, Kim thought. And what was this about Katia? She frowned slightly, puzzling over it. Away from the ship these months, it appeared she’d missed more than a few rearranged decks. Whatever it was, she hadn’t seen it in Katia the days they had spent together on Mars and during the escape.
She turned her chair and reached to set the crystal on one of the shelves behind her desk. It dimmed in the shadows, but not completely, powered by something within. Leaving it to ponder over another time, she turned back to her desk.
She was chuckling over a gift (which was more like a boast) from one of her friends in her training days, when a now-familiar voice plucked her attention back to the mail.
Billy’s voice emerged, soft but also a little subdued. Kim glanced to be sure the door was closed.
“‘Lo, lass. Hope this gets to you before you’re off again, or it’s not so secret you can’t get mail. Just wanted to see how you were doing.” He sighed. “I miss you. There’s not much else to say. Work goes. All the danger of my last job on Mars without the challenge. Mental challenge, I mean. Not trying to sound conceited, but I worked for that. Here, there’s no place for me to go. Can’t force out anyone with more years here, like Reece.
“Sorry, rambling there. How are things with you? I miss you. I know, it’s your work, but… Try to be careful? You’re a long way from anything so often, I… I worry.”
A long silence stretched, to be broken suddenly with quick, uncertain words. “Sounding like an idiot. Better shut up now, before I embarrass myself more. Take care of yourself, lass. Write if you can.”
Kim smiled sadly. Sometimes she wasn’t sure just who she’d met that first time on Mars; it certainly wasn’t who she knew now. Somehow, despite the corruption, war, and wounds, the mask hadn’t become the man. What was there behind sometimes baffled her, even as it delighted. It had been a long time since there had been need, or a reason to be strong enough for someone besides herself.
“Computer, stop and record this reply to that message.
“Hello, Will. Of course I have time to write. It’s all quiet right now. The Phoenix is in hyperspace as I speak, showing us what she can do. Inside… it’s a lot of unpacking, for the labs and my quarters — just about everywhere in the ship. The most danger I could get into right now is driving my staff to their wits end with changes.
“Anyway, to be serious, I wish I knew some way to make your work feel more worthwhile. I know it’s for fairness, but I can’t see what good there is in wasting your talents. I wish people could see that and do something about it. I’ve wished a few times you were with us, as well as me. The Rangers… they’d jump at the chance to get people who can think quick and the ethics to back them up.
“I’m sure you’re turning red now.” She chuckled softly. “Well, it’s true, so don’t even try to contradict me. It’s not good to lie.
“Well, I should probably get back to things here. I’ve a few more things to do before the party. You heard me right. Can you picture Rangers having a party? No solemn ceremonies, bells or chant. I suppose you can hand that to our doctor. If a Centauri doesn’t know how to pull it off, she’s an impostor.
“I’m going to wear that dress I got in the Zocalo. You know what it looks like, but if you write back soon, I just might have a picture to send back.
“Take care of yourself, okay? I wish I was there. Pretend I am. It shouldn’t be too long before we can talk properly again.” She paused, considering her words. Was there any real reason not to speak, if it was true?
“I love you, Will.”
“Computer, end message and send.”
... And yet I quickly might arrive Where my extended soul is fixed, But Fate does iron wedges drive, And always crowds itself betwixt. – "The Definition of Love," Andrew Marvell
(c) 1999 Leslie McBride and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.