All Too Human

Characters: Katia Santiago, Terry Hale

Katia sighed as she pulled herself out of the main engine coupling. Just another hour and she really might have gotten somewhere, but there was a call that wouldn’t be refused. She had enough marks against as it was.

“Korien, please finish the coupling if you could. It seems I have a meeting with the Captain.”

Discreet or ignorant of what Katia was facing, the Minbari nodded wordlessly and moved to take the Chief’s place. Before Katia was even out the door, he was leaning into the engine coupling.

“Bridge,” Katia called to the computer as she strode into the lift. It was a short ride, but she was leaning against the wall anyway, conserving what she had. At this point she was running on pure adrenaline… along with a few stims. She felt if she even dared to sit down, she just might fall asleep. As it was, the floor of the lift was looking rather comfortable…

With a snap and metallic hiss that warned of yet another thing that needed fixing, the doors open to the bridge. Beyond, everything moved in quite order, the last days events only apparent in the scarred and broken consoles. On the wavering screen the glowing lines of a white star drifted, the image of their rescue.

Katia turned away from them to the Captain’s office, and then stalled. The doors stood open, waiting for her. Pushing aside apprehension, she stepped forward and waited to be noticed.

It didn’t take long. “Come in,” Hale ordered, calm but without warmth to soften the edges of her voice. Katia looked down and then slowly entered Hale’s office, moving to stand in the very same place Kordieh had just hours earlier.

“I take it you’re aware of why I’ve called you up?”

Still looking down, Katia replied, “I believe I do, yes, Captain.”

“Attempted murder.” Hale leaned back in her seat with deceptive ease. “It’s hardly a light charge. And apparently it’s not the first time you’ve been inspired to take things into your own hands.”

“No, it isn’t,” Katia agreed. “Captain, I don’t believe I can truly speak in defense of what I did. There is nothing to say. My actions speak for themselves, and whatever you decide, I will submit to.”

Hale sighed. “Just what am I supposed to do with you?”

Despite knowing she was wrong Katia thought it better to say nothing. To say, “I’m sorry, I have changed,” wouldn’t make a bit of difference. This type of thing had happened too many times. Looking at the Captain sorrowfully, she said instead, “I don’t know, Captain. The brig, until we return to Minbar and I can stand trial for my actions.”

“That’s my problem right there. I’ve already got one engineer in the brig, the other’s down, and I can’t afford to have you cooling your heels there as well.”

“I would be willing to continue to work until we get to Minbar, and then disembark once we found a replacement so that I could face the consequences of my actions then, Captain.”

Hale let out a short laugh. “Both of you are being rather agreeable.”

Katia blinked in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“Contrite, cooperative, reasonable. I didn’t think it could be quite so frustrating.” Hale’s mouth was curled up in a strange smile, as if she appreciated some dark humor.

“I am sorry, Captain. Would you prefer I rant and rave and declare my innocence?” Katia said dryly. “I know I was wrong, and that I must accept the consequences for the choices I made in trying to kill Dunstan.”

The worst of it all, was Hale could hardly blame Katia. Savage and certainly illegal, it was still a very human reaction to the horror and rage. One would have had to be a saint to turn from the betrayal easily. She’d developed a considerable respect for Darquin and G’ren, with their self-control and diligence, keeping Kordieh safe in the brig. Hale couldn’t rightly say if she’d have made Kordieh’s stay half as comfortable.

Hale sighed as she considered. “All right. For now, consider yourself confined to quarters when you are not on duty.”

“Uhm, sir? I can’t confine myself to quarters.”

Hale fixed her with a warning look. “Why not?”

“They don’t exist anymore, Captain. Destroyed with the initial explosion of Kordieh’s bombs.” Katia looked Hale straight in the eyes, almost cracking a smile at the irony of the situation.

Hale wasn’t nearly as appreciative. “Temporary quarters, then.”

“My office, sir. I have a cot in there I have been sleeping on.”

“Fine. All right.” Hale took a deep breath, reestablishing her position. “So just what brought on this about-face with Kordieh?” Only belatedly did she notice Katia using his first name earlier.

Katia looks down, seeming to get lost within her thoughts for a moment as she collected her feelings. “I… realized that he and I are more alike then I ever cared to admit too. We were both lost to ourselves. Him by his insanity, and me by my anger. But for the grace of God, that could have been me.”

“And for that, you’ve forgiven him?” Hale said skeptically.

The engineer nodded distantly. “You did not see him, Captain. It was… enlightening. He was wrong, I won’t deny that. He killed many people, and that will never change. But he honestly thought we were already dead. I don’t know how to explain it. He was totally lost!”

Hale was beginning to think she should have gotten some sleep before this. A year or two would do… “Insane, I know.”

“Yes! Totally and irrevocably at that point. I honestly feel that has changed! I have touched his mind, Captain. I know him, and his intentions. He isn’t the same person!”

“Well, you’re right about one thing. I wasn’t there. I can’t see that for myself. Who’s to say you haven’t been fooled… or that maybe I am being lied to right now?”

Katia leaned down and places her hands on the desk in front of Hale, looking earnestly into the Captain’s eyes. “Because, Captain, I have seen every aspect of Kordieh’s mind. He could not have lied to me then, and he won’t lie to me now. And, as for trusting me, sir? That is something I can’t do anything about. You have seen my work, you know my history. The one thing I could never do is lie. You can either accept that as the truth or summarily dismiss it I can’t make that decision for you. But, I can repeat myself, and say that I am telling you the truth as I see it. And leave it at that.”

If there was a lie there, it was one of a confused reality, for Katia believed it. Hale was not blind or questioned her own judgment in some things. Feeling incredibly tired, she said, “Your pledge is all I can hope for right now. The rest… we’ll have to see as we go. Right now I need you down in Engineering, to make sure we get to Minbar. Consider yourself on probation. The only bad news I want to hear from you from now on better be about the ship or someone else.”

Katia nodded, straightening. “Understood. Thank you, Captain.”

“Don’t. I haven’t a choice,” Hale said. Almost as an afterthought, she opened a drawer and pulled something out. All Katia could see was a bundle of fabric until Hale let it fall open in her palm. “Kordieh asked that you be allowed to keep this for him.” The Isil’zah gleamed up from the dark scrap of fabric.

Katia blinked, a bit surprised, before reaching out to take the pin, her hand shaking a bit. “He wanted me to have this?” she said, as if she couldn’t quite believe it.

“Until such time as he can take it back, yes,” Hale said in a neutral voice.

Katia smiled slightly and nodded, acting as if she knew he would be back. “Yes, until he can take it back.”

Hale was about to dismiss her, but couldn’t let her leave without some final warning. “Katia, you came pretty close to the same place. This is your last chance. Next time, if it happens again, there’s not going to be any leniency.”

Katia looked very seriously at the Captain, her eyes tearing up slightly. “Yes, Captain. I understand. It will not happen again. Thank you again.”

Hale nodded. “You should have some help in engineering soon. Captain Janus Jardine is sending over anyone he can to help. I suggest you get down there to meet them.”

“Yes sir.” Katia turned and moved to the door. She never heard Hale’s whispered last words. They were not meant to be heard.

“Good luck,” Hale said, and found she meant it.

(C) 1998 Alida Saxon and Tamara Friese. All rights reserved.

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