Mercy, Pure and Simple

Characters: Tomás Darquin, Katia Santiago

Deck 18, Docking Bay

Tomas Darquin scrolled through his checklist one more time, sighing loudly as he plopped his free hand on top of his head like some cartoony version of Rodin’s Thinker. Medikits, PPG rifles and handguns, extra power caps for them, and emergency rations were all accounted for. He’d even remembered to stop off at his quarter to pick up his bokken.

He was fresh out of excuses to put off making the call. Sooner or later, he’d have to do something about the altercation between Kim and the new Chief Engineer. The gentle rumble of the attack shuttles powering up drowned out his swearing.

Holding his datapad under his arm, he brought the link on his hand close to his mouth. “Chief Engineer.” He waited for the comm system to buzz her link.

“Santiago.”

He rolled his eyes. The wait hadn’t been long enough to suit him. “Uh, Katia, right? I’m…This is Security Chief Darquin.”

It took him a while to continue, longer than he’d have preferred. But then, he thought, it might make her sweat for a second. This was serious business, after all.

“I know we’re close to launching, but could you help me make sure all the shuttles are good to go? You know, a walk around all the spacecraft.”

Santiago took a few seconds before answering. “Sure. Hold on.”

He closed the channel fast, shaking his head as he stepped behind the shuttles for a better look at their engines. What the hell has he gotten himself into now?

When he saw the dark haired woman come out of her shuttle, anxiety ran over him like a plague of ants. Desperate for a distraction, he stuck his hand into his pocket, pulled out a data crystal at random, and pulled up its file catalog with his datapad.

He smiled briefly. He’d wondered where all that Jan Hammer was. He selected a track, knowing it’d probably disappear from his link into the background noise, but listening for it all the same as Katia Santiago walked toward him.

“You wanted to see me.”

To the point, cutting right through the pretenses. Darquin couldn’t help but smile sheepishly. “Uh, let’s go this way.”

He led them on a path that slowly took them past each shuttle, as if inspecting the engines, but far enough from them that they wouldn’t have to raise their voices. She shot a glance at him during the tour, as if demanding an explanation.

“I saw what happened earlier,” Darquin said.

She maintained an icy countenance, appraising, but defiance pulled on her face like puppet strings. “You’re going to put me on report?”

He sighed. “Not if I can help it. Command’ll hear about it eventually. There’s nothing I can do about that. But sticking you two in the brig? That won’t fix the real problem.”

She looked into his face, searching. “Which is…what?”

Finally he stopped and turned to face her. “You’re going into a combat situation with a gun in your hand, and sooner or later, Kim’s back’ll be to you –“

Katia went several shades lighter. “I wouldn’t do that!”

Darquin let himself loosen up. “That’s all I needed. See you when it’s all over.”

She moved toward her shuttle, then stopped. “Darquin, what would you have done…?”

He nodded slowly half to himself, showing that he understood: What would he have done if she answered differently. He said nothing, glaring right into her eyes, then walked away.