Characters: Katia Santiago, Tomás Darquin
Katia was still in a state of shock after the accident that took her friend’s life and was furiously working in Engineering to find out why the senseless death had to happen in the first place, bent over the main console, trying to trace the surge to the source. She cursed under her breath, angry she hadn’t been on top of things better to prevent it from happening in the first place. In a lot of ways she felt guilty and blamed herself her friend’s death. But instead of going to Medlab to see what Doctor Trassano found from the autopsy, she was shackled to the master control board, looking for the cause before she’d had time to reconcile her grief.
Katia found more relays affected by the power surge, now marked in burnt red on the console’s animated schematics for the entire ship. Thank goodness no one was near those when it had happened or there would have been more deaths, she knew. Sliding her fingertips across the console, she drew new lines into the circuit diagrams, bypassing the injured relays and rerouting power lines. Like water oozing into fabric, English text and Minbari script, system updates on their way to the Engineering crew, trickled into the edges of the console.
She had been so engrossed in her work that she barely heard the door across the room. Glancing up quickly, she stopped short when she saw the Chief of Security enter, not sure what he was doing here. After their last encounter, when he had placed her in the brig, she had been doing her best to avoid him. Santiago didn’t quite trust him, believing him to be the one who had notified Shaver of the incident in the Docking Bay with Kim, but was willing to let that stay in the past if only to keep peace on the ship.
Darquin looked around at the chaos that reigned in the normally orderly Engineering section. Since her first day aboard, Katia Santiago maintained the Engineering Department with the same diligence given to the alien mechanisms that powered the Phoenix. This efficiency was not only vital aboard such a huge and complex vessel, but also a matter of pride, though none of the Minbari personnel would ever say so. Only a major crisis would inspire the sudden activity that ruled now, raised voices in both English and Adronato, robed acolytes running back and forth with tools, packages, or shell-like spare parts in hand. Everyone was busy trying to determine what had happened and why one of their own had died in such a tragic way.
From his vantage point, Darquin didn’t see any damage in Main Engineering. Someone had died, so he knew there had to be damage somewhere. Catching a whiff of a piercing chemical vapor as he inhaled, he sighed: Someone dying was plenty of damage in itself.
He turned around at the slam of an access panel and found Katia standing over a console, straightening herself now that she escaped the console’s cramped interior. She studied him silently, waiting for him to approach her. That glance alone reminded him of the dreaded incident and putting Katia in the brig a few days later when the command staff found out about it. Gathering his courage in a deep breath, he side-stepped the latest wave of technicians and walked towards her, doing his damnedest to maintain eye contact. All the things he’d thought about saying to her were gone, shoved right out of his head by Katia’s glare, but he never counted on the right words being there when he needed them most.
Katia tried to summon a smile but was unable to under the circumstance, so she nodded instead. “Darquin.” A cordial, clipped greeting.
The Security Chief shifted his footing. “Uh, hi. I just came down to see how things are…going.”
Santiago looked down and crossed her arms in front of her, unabashedly surly. “I just lost one of my best engineers and a friend to boot. How do you think things are going?”
Darquin threw a dark glance at her. “Like watching a wingman burst into flames?” After looking over his shoulder to see whether someone heard them, he continued in a more civil tone as quietly as the chaos in Engineering would allow. “Look…if you don’t want to deal with me now, fine. But I have to be down here almost as much as you do right now.”
Katia nodded slowly and sighed. “I didn’t mean to snap like that. I know you have to be here. That doesn’t mean I like to have Security breathing down my neck while I’m try to do my own investigation.”
She started back to the master control board, hoping Darquin would take it as a hint and leave her alone, so she could lose herself in her work. But she could hear Darquin laugh briefly, halfheartedly, right behind her.
“Maybe I should carry around some breath mints. Thing is, I need your expertise–”
“–to determine if it was an accident or deliberate, right?” Katia said. “Well, that is what I am trying to figure out!”
“Kinda figured,” he said with a nod. “Unfortunately I don’t know much beyond fighters and some of the theoretical stuff….”
“Engineering gets the burden on this one, I know. Believe me, I know! I just wish I had an answer for you! I am as in the dark on this one as you are at the moment. All I want to do is get to Medlab and check on the others, and I can’t!” She threw her hands up in front of her, then glanced at the console readouts in front of her.
Darquin raised his hands as if to shield himself. “Okay, okay.” He let the conversation hit an awkward pause, a breather between rounds, as she turned her attention to the animated ship schematics. “I…could always run over to Medlab. If I keep my link open, you could get all the latest as it comes in. Just as long as we sort things out.”
At that, Katia bit at her lower lip, still trying to determine if she could trust him or not. “You would do that?” she asked, a trace of suspicion in her voice.
Darquin stopped a moment and smiled, stunned by the reaction. “Why shouldn’t I?”
“Because I know I am not exactly one of your favorite people on this ship,” she answered with a shrug. Not knowing what else to say, she opted for the truth.
As quietly as possible, in the chaos of Engineering he stated, “Sooner or later, someone’s going to try to kill us. We’re in this together as far as I can tell.”
Katia blinked in surprise. Focusing on him at last, she answered in a weak whisper, “Thank you.” It was at that point that she realized that for good or not, people were finally considering her a member of the crew.
“Sure. As for all this….” He glanced at the industrious pandemonium around them. “We just need to know if we’ve got a bigger problem than we think.”
“As soon as I know, I will contact you. I hope to have it isolated within the hour and know shortly after that.”
Darquin nodded, adding, “I’m sorry. About everything.”
She nodded back and looked down once more. “I appreciate that.”