Calling In the Markers

Characters: Katia Santiago, Dr. Kim Matsumoto


There was nothing to distinguish these quarters as those of a permanent crewmember. The new, shiny walls reflected the light of the lamp on the nearby table and lightened the room more. No knick-knacks, no pictures, no personal items of any sort laid in the austere surroundings, for the Chief of Engineering had none. The couple items she had held on to in the past had been blown out into space along with the rest of her old quarters. She knew she would never see them again, nor get a chance to listen to William’s final message to her because of her own fear that had caused her not to listen to them in the first place. That was what hurt worst of all. She should have at least respected the man she had shared so much of her life with, rather than place the data crystals in a box up on a shelf. But, that was in the past, and Santiago refused to allow herself to dwell on such issues any longer, they brought her nothing but greater pain and anger when she did.

Katia sat in her new quarters, the past couple of months rolling through her head. She held a glass of wine and drank slowly as her daughter’s situation entered her mind once more. Kayla and Kira were the one thing from her past she held onto with passion greater than she had ever had for anything or anyone. They were her daughters, part of her, and pondering the conditions they were in only made it worse. They were still back there, trapped in a life they didn’t even know was a lie and there was nothing she could do about it from the Phoenix. The weight of the situation made her feel as if she were dragging a huge anchor, and there wasn’t a way to cut free.

The papers she had gathered over the past couple weeks lay strewn on the small table in front of her. Katia glanced at the shipping schedules and other information she had collected and she realized that the plan as she had created it could work. The knowledge that she should wait until the dust from the war had settled was in the forefront of her mind, but the anxiety she felt continued to increase as each day passed. She knew she couldn’t wait much longer before doing something.

The Engineer stood and began to pace, from living room area to dining area, and the quicker she paced, the more her thoughts raced over her options. She hurried over to the comm panel and began the process of opening a communications channel. Through Minbar, the relays to Earth, and finally to the White Star where she had to hope the call could get through. While she watched it make the connections, she hesitated over the final command, to name the recipient. Did she have answers to the questions that would surely come? Could she get the help she needed? The computer beeped with it’s request, and before the questions could turn her hand to the cancel key, she punched in her name.

Requesting connection to Anla’shok Kim Matsumoto.


 

Two months had gone since the end of the war and Sheridan’s rise to the Presidency of the newly formed Interstellar Alliance. Kim had spent those days on her first true vacation in years, at her grandparent’s home in Spain. It had been long enough that she had managed to forget her worries and only regretted that her time was almost up. She, like all the others would be expected back soon, for the trip to Minbar and the newly refitted and repaired Phoenix. Now the ISA Phoenix, for the Interstellar Alliance.

Kim took a step into the kitchen to refresh her empty glass and was just about to walk out again when she heard the vidcomm ring out. She veered back and looked at the origination code. She stops in surprise, not expecting to see a call from the ship for a few days yet. She clicked it on and responded instantly, “Matsumoto, here.”

“Sorry to disturb you, sir, but there’s a call here from Chief Santiago that’s stamped urgent. Can I put it through?”


 

The wait stretched out into minutes and Katia began wondering if the communications weren’t down for some reason. Now that she had made her decision, she wanted nothing more then to get through and put her plan into motion. As soon as she heard Kim’s voice from the other end, she snapped suddenly and rushed over to the panel, framing herself in the screen.

“Kim?” she asked reflexively.

Kim sat centered in the screen. Out of uniform, skin warmed by the sun and her hair down, she was almost unrecognizable to the Chief Engineer.

“Katia?” the science officer asked with some surprise, “Is something wrong?”

Katia answered quickly, trying to allay the other woman’s fear, “No…no.. nothing is wrong. I just needed to contact you about something.”

At that Kim nodded but she didn’t relax. A social call was neither the level of their friendship, or something that would be marked urgent. She only knew of only one reason that Katia would want to speak to her like this.

Clearing her throat, Katia continued, “I have been contemplating what we had talked about a while back. Do you remember?” she asked cryptically, just in case someone was monitoring the transmission.

“I remember,” Kim answered with a slow nod. Her body tensed, reality knocking her feet out from under her at the one moment she had imagined it was all behind her.

Katia spoke in a rush forcing the words out before she lost the nerve. Once they were said, “I can’t wait any longer, Kim. I have to go and check it out!”

Kim paused, measuring her words. “Even with the war ended, it’s still dangerous out there. There’s no guarantee we can get in–”

“Or out again even if we do,” Katia interrupted then continued, “I know that, and I have to take that risk. I can’t just leave them and do nothing! Not when I know what I know.”

“Yes, but how? This isn’t something we can just throw ourselves into and hope works. We need plans,” Kim protested quietly, trying to feel her way through.

Katia outlined shortly, “I have plans. I have it all laid out how to get in, get them and get out again. I do still have a few friends in high places and I think it can work.”

The Science Officer watched Katia closely. She hoped this wasn’t just another leap-then-look passion she had collided with so many times before. She sighed softly and answered, “You know I can’t say no, Katia.”

Katia nodded slowly before answering, “I know. If I thought otherwise, I wouldn’t have contacted you. But, Kim, I can’t do this alone. I need you there to make it work!”

Kim paced away a moment, her hand coming up to rub the back of her neck, trying to work away the sudden tension that had appeared as soon as she had seen who was on the line. What was Katia going to do? If she didn’t go, Katia was liable to go off by herself on this scheme of hers. That couldn’t be allowed.

And then there were the girls. Kim had an obligation to them as her family to try to take them out of the environment they were in. Her thoughts ran on, conflicting on what she should do, but she always came back around to promises made and the duty she had to those little girls, her nieces. With her back turned to the screen, she said quietly, “All right. Let’s hear your plan.”


 

Kim sat at the terminal glancing through the encrypted documents Katia had sent over. The plan itself wasn’t half-bad, she noted. Not as good as she had hoped, but not as bad as she had feared either. It was still a touchy situation, no matter how you cut it down.

Katia, having been cleared of all charges and no longer wanted by the Government, had been given the option of returning to Earth and her place within Psi Corps. She had promptly refused. This, of course, placed her directly on the Corps most wanted list, and they were doing everything within their power to get their hands on her. She had not left the Phoenix or Minbar itself since they had docked there so many weeks before in such disarray. The Chief Engineer was a walking target away from the safety of the Rangers, and both of them knew it.

Katia wondered briefly how Kim was able to walk free. She figured it was probably one of those few times when Nathan was protecting his sister, but she didn’t pursue the issue, having more important problems to deal with. She watched Kim closely, trying to judge how the other woman was taking her plan, “So, do you think it will work? I know I am not exactly a wonderful tactician, or even a military mind at that, but I have tried to think of everything.”

“I really don’t know, Katia. There’s a chance, but the odds aren’t going to be great. We are just two against a whole group,” Kim answered truthfully, her doubts showing plainly on her face. She did concede a bit when she continued, “But… there’s some chance.”

“Nathan is away from Mars at the moment. I know that much. That should make it easier,” the engineer said, trying to push the issue.”

Kim surprised her by saying, “I know.”

“How?” Then Katia looked at her sharply. “You saw him, didn’t you?”

“Not by my choice. He came here.” she shook her head. “But I think it’s handled… as much as it can be. We’re too public for me to suddenly disappear as they might like to try.” If there was anything else to be said about the meeting, Kim made no move to describe it.

It wasn’t the situation Katia imagined after all, and she was beginning to wonder if Kim was mad, or incredibly gutsy. Either way, it sounded like an incredible risk to be on Earth.

“However, you’re probably right,” Kim said a moment later, reluctantly. “Nathan is still here… and as long as he thinks I am as well, this is the perfect time to try getting them out.” Katia gave a small internal sigh of relief as Kim glanced back toward some other part in the house before continuing, “It’s going to take me a day to get out of here, but I can meet you at the rendezvous point.”

Katia nodded, “Understood. I have a few things to settle here as well. I also need to contact my friend and get him to set things up on his end,”

“Okay,” Kim answered quietly, “See you in three days.” At that she reached up to close the link.

Katia sat there for a moment, realizing it was done. The wheels had been set into motion and it was too late to turn back now. She murmured to herself, “Three days — ” then she, herself, reached up and cut the link from her end as well. She turned and walked over to the papers strewn across her table and began solidifying the plans as they had been laid out.

Kim sat back and took a moment to push herself up from her seat. It was time for a few artful lies.


(C) 1999 Alida Saxon and Tamara Freise. All rights reserved.