Characters: Margaret Morgan, Katia Santiago
The hall was almost deserted by the time Katia strolled down on her way to the mixer. She had originally planned on staying away, but figured it would do her some good to get out and socialize a bit with her other crewmates. The others in Engineering had made it quite clear that they expected her to be there, which basically had shamed her into making an appearance. Which, she knew, had been their plan all along. She couldn’t help but have her mind flash back to the last time she had gone down the hall on her way to a gathering like this. She and Dunstan had barely touched, and that was when she knew what was going to happen to the ship. They had all come a long way since then.
Katia entered the room and glanced around, not sure whether she even wanted to be here. She sighed and decided to make the best of it while she was there. She turned and walked over to get a glass of juice and then find a quiet corner somewhere to relax.
The Executive Officer stood off in the corner near the food with a drink in hand. She was only making an obligatory appearance as the XO and wanted nothing more than to get out of there as quickly as possible. She glanced up and saw Katia as she entered, continuing to brood silently in the corner.
As she approached, Katia paused slightly, almost imperceptibly upon seeing Morgan there near the food, but continued in that direction anyway. It wouldn’t do to appear as if she were avoiding the XO, though she wouldn’t mind doing just that. Even after the Mars fiasco, their relationship was strained at best. She knew Morgan didn’t care for her, and preferred to stay out of her way every chance she got.
As Katia approached, Morgan greeted her politely, with nothing more in her tone, “Katia.”
Katia returned the greeting with a nod and approached the table. “Morgan,” she returned, a bit unsure of herself.
“You are well?” Morgan asked politely, staring past Katia’s left shoulder, not looking at the Engineer.
“Yes, and you?” Katia answered in the same manner.
Morgan nodded and then said, “A friend of yours sent me a thing.”
Looking confused, Katia answered, “A thing? Friend? Who?” She realized she was sounding very stupid, but was unable to understand just what Morgan was speaking of.
The XO frowned at Katia, focusing on a point beyond the other woman’s shoulder. “A sphere. It came from Minbar.”
Katia’s brows furrowed together, as she sensed from Morgan that this topic was very uncomfortable for the XO. She was beginning to understand just what the other woman was saying, but wasn’t sure she was reading the situation correctly. “I’m not sure I quite understand … ” Katia stated and glanced up at Morgan, then away out at the room to see who else was there.
“It took some skill to craft,” Morgan stated, still frowning.
“I see,” Katia answered slowly, not sure she understood at all, but getting annoyed with the vague banter. She just wished Morgan would get to the point of what she was saying.
“Do you not have a friend in custody in Tuzanor?” Morgan asked testily.
Katia’s voice tightened with strain at keeping her emotions in check, but she somehow kept her voice quiet as she responded, “I have a friend down in Tuzanor, yes. Which is more then I can say for some people around here. So, what is your point, Morgan?”
Scowling now, Morgan replied, “He was busy while we were on Mars. I have proof of his craftsmanship.”
Katia nodded sharply at that and returned, “What, did you think he was down there on some sort of vacation?”
“Did I say that?” Morgan said with a snarl.
At that point, Katia realized their conversation was taking a very bad turn and took a deep, steadying breath to try to get herself back under control. As she did her best not to raise her voice she answered, “No, you didn’t. Then again, I am not quite sure just what it is you are saying.”
“Apparently, it was for my part in that … debacle.”
“Ah…I see. Well, I can promise you … that sort of… debacle …won’t happen again.”
Morgan shook her head and replied at that, “It’s how life works. You can’t promise that.”
“No, I suppose not. But I can promise that you won’t have to worry about being involved,” Katia stated sharply, glaring at the other woman.
The Executive Officer snorted and replied, “How? I went by choice, not force.”
“Because maybe next time I will make sure I don’t leave any way for you to follow. Do you think I enjoyed having you dragged into it?” Katia asked sharply.
Morgan narrowed her eyes at Katia, but managed to keep her voice down, “It does not matter. I was there, to help.”
Taking another deep breath to try to calm her anger, Katia grudgingly admitted, “You’re right… you were. And, if it hadn’t been for you … we may not be here right now at all.”
“I was only muscle, and early warning. You had the true work,” Morgan returned.
Katia glanced down and said quietly, “If you can call it that.”
“Effort, then,” Morgan offered and finally looked at Katia for the first time.
The Engineer glanced up at Morgan and took another deep breath, her anger subsiding slightly, giving as much of an apology as her pride would allow, “Look… I’m not exactly sure how we got down this road… I… didn’t mean to.”
Morgan hesitated and then grunted as she replied, “We are shipmates. Civility is expected.”
With her mouth tightening a bit, Katia replied, “You’re right. On both accounts.”
“Look, I don’t like you, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t fight to the death for you,” Morgan stated with a scowl, not sure she even liked that particular loyalty.
Katia glanced away and then back at Morgan, her face and tone impassive, “Well… I’m glad we have that out of the way. I have always wondered where I stood with you.”
Baring her teeth in a tight smile Morgan replied, “I at least no longer am about to kill you where you stand.”
Not able to help herself, Katia chuckled darkly as she stated with a sarcastic tone that didn’t hold a nasty edge, “Well, that’s a nice change. Nice to know I don’t have to watch my back when you are around.”
“‘Nice’?” Morgan asked with a slight glare.
“Perhaps a bad choice of words,” Katia modified and paused before continuing, “But, just so you know… the feeling is mutual. If something were to come down… I would do everything in my power to protect you as well.”
Morgan stared at, wondering just how truthful the Engineer was being and nodded, “We are Rangers.”
Nodding in acknowledgment, Katia replied, “We live for the one… we die for the one.”
“It makes us one, live or die,” Morgan returned.
Katia smiled slightly and replied quietly, “Agreed.”
Morgan looked at Katia instead of through her and said just as quietly, “Thank your friend for me, though it was not necessary.”
Nodding in acquiescence, Katia replied, “I will… he will appreciate that.”
Morgan nodded and glanced around, uncomfortable once again, “I do not like parties,” she said, completely off their original topic of conversation.
“Neither do I.” Katia said in agreement as the uneasiness of the situation washed over her as well.
© 1999 Tamara Friese and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.