Before the Darkness Ends

Characters: Katia Santiago, Dr. Kim Matsumoto

For the first time in what felt like an Age, morning found Kim rested and focused enough to do some real good in her duties. Descending in a lift toward the docking bays, she reflected on the fact that amazingly nothing had exploded, imploded or otherwise fallen apart in over twenty-four standard hours. Getting rid of the dread that it would all change any moment would take longer. There was enough to distract her though, first in all the scattered boxes throughout the bays; the collections of supplies and equipment that made their way down to the only safely operable area on the ship. Heavily reinforced because of the gaping dangers of so many large airlocks and bay doors in one place, it was no wonder it became a haven in the wake of battle.

The Phoenix was going to need a complete overhaul, and it meant rescuing anything that was salvageable from the mess and removing it until such time as the great ship was ready for service again. It could be a couple months before that time came, but Kim couldn’t help plotting her plans for the future. Lost in thought, she never noticed the lift stop to take on another passenger.

Nor did she sense just who it was until Katia Santiago appeared past the opening doors.


 

Katia was on her way down to the brig, anxious to check on Dunstan. She had other things on her mind than watching for those she passed or approached, and so hadn’t noticed Kim’s presence inside the lift. When it opened to reveal the other telepath, Katia blinked and smiled tentatively before asking, “Mind if I join you?”

“Not at all.” Kim sounded perfectly civil, but Katia couldn’t comfortably tell if she was seeing the masking calm of Kim’s upbringing — still so eerily like Nathaniel — or the real signs of forgiveness. Their road together seemed to be made of nothing but bumps.

Katia entered the lift and turned toward the door, telling the computer, “Brig level.” She stood there, back to Kim, wondering if she was being watched, wondering what she could say. Finally she tentatively began, “Kim…”

“Yes?”

“I … wanted to thank you. For helping me understand … when I went in after Kordieh…” Hesitantly as her words came, Katia was finding her apology easier than before.

“You were doing what probably half this ship would have wanted to.” Kim shrugged with understanding. She knew how easy it was to give in to the emotions, especially when they were redoubled by outside pressure. She continued, simply, “Fortunately I don’t have to judge anyone’s actions in this. And beyond that you’re a Ranger; one of us. I had to help.”

“I don’t know what I would have actually done, if you hadn’t,” Katia answered with a sigh. “It just seems I should have tried to control myself. But, then again, if I had, he would still be in that condition too,” she continued and then suddenly became quiet as she finished, “Or dead.” Katia actually seems a bit sad at the prospect of Kordieh’s death.

“Maybe. In any case, a lot of might-have-beens.” She watched the other woman as she spoke, still not sure what to make of it all just yet.

Katia bit at her lower lip before saying, “I am totally baffled by everything that has gone on these past few weeks. The betrayal of Kordieh. His subsequent healing…. he is truly going to be okay given time, you know?” With that, Katia shook herself out of it and smiled slightly before continuing, “I don’t understand it myself, so I don’t expect you to. ”

Kim kept her thoughts to herself, wondering if the time need might take his whole life, with all that happened. And some would never forgive him. Instead she approached it in a different manner, remembering where Katia had ordered the lift. “So you go to visit, then?”

“I do,” Katia answered with a nod and then looks at Kim, “He has to have someone on his side.”

Kim answered, seeing no way to deny that. “Probably so.” She looked past the other woman as the lift stopped. “This is your deck.”

Katia glanced distractedly as the door began to open, answering, “So it is…” Then, as if getting her courage up, she reached over and pressed a button to keep the door closed a bit longer. She looked around a bit uncertainly before starting, “Kim….”

Kim’s expression was only one of mild curiosity. Katia’s mind was the only one on the ship into which Kim could not always see.

“When we were doing our time jumps…” Katia began, and then stopped, not sure how to tell her what had happened.

Kim nodded. “We all have. Pretty… surprising.” She was thankful she didn’t flush easily.

Katia continued, knowing she need to get this out, “Well, I took a jump forward…. Kayla and Kira… Well, they were there.” She bit again at her lower lip, her uncertainty showing through, “And, they didn’t hate me… they called me ‘Mother’….”

The Science Officer’s eyes widened in surprise, “Your daughters from…? But how?”

“I don’t know how, but… I do know now that I have to try to get them back! It is obvious that we will be together again!”

Kim glanced at the other woman, uncertain now, but knowing why she was the one hearing about it. Her brother. These were her nieces they were talking about. It was always difficult to imagine they really existed, that Katia was really her sister by marriage, but it wouldn’t forever be ignored. It was her responsibility, but…. She tried to protest,knowing she had to, “But this is Mars we’re talking about. And the war isn’t over. We have our oaths here.”

Shaking her head, Katia replied quickly, “I know. I think I will wait until the war is over, but… I have to go back to Mars and find them!” A visible shudder passed through Katia’s body at the thought of returning to Syria Planum… and who else she might have to face again.

“Then I will have to help you,” Kim replied quietly with a nod.

Katia blinked again, a bit in surprise. She had hoped to hear this, but at the same time, dreaded dragging the other woman into the situation. Wanting to make sure Kim knew what it would entail, she cautioned, “It may mean seeing Nathan….” she drifted off at that, not quite sure how she would even react upon seeing her husband once again. The man who had been instrumental in taking her children away from her. The man who had never loved her, only used her.

“Then I see him again. I couldn’t do any less.” Kim replied simply, and then paused before continuing, “He may have been a failure to my family and yours — to humanity for that matter — but it does not change the fact that he is my brother and these are my nieces as well. Family is my responsibility.”

Nodding sadly, Katia replied, “I’m sorry to drag you in like this… but, I don’t know if I can handle doing it alone.” The Chief Engineer paused before continuing with an offer, “If and when they come back, I want them to know their whole family… not just me.” She looks pointedly at Kim at that, hoping the other will accept the tentative offer. “I have no more family, Kim, I refuse to do that to them as well.”

“Whatever you wish. I… would be honored.” Kim responded in quiet surprise.

At that, Katia smiled a bit, nodding as her eyes tear up slightly. “Thank you.”

Kim looked about to say something, when suddenly the lift makes a protesting alarm. Both women wince at the sudden noise shrieking in the quiet of their conversation. Kim changed her words with a nod, “I’d best let you go. And when this war is past… speak to me again and we’ll figure something out.”

Katia nods to the other woman before glancing up at the alarm and murmuring under her breath, “I have to do something about those things.” The she glances once again at Kim and replies, “I will. One day.” And, at that, she bowed to her and then finally let the door open, quickly slipping through the opening on her way to see Dunstan.

Kim’s eyes followed, the day’s fragile confidence lost. As the doors closed, trapping her with so many new truths to face, she slowly slumped against the wall. Some day, somehow, she would have to go back to Mars.


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