Characters: Katia Santiago, Terry Hale
The lift moved swiftly through the ship as Katia stood waiting, anxious to check on the systems there. So far the ship had performed well during their first venture away from Drydock after the refit was completed. The only problems had been minor adjustments and tweaks to get the Phoenix to operate at her optimal standards. The Chief Engineer had avoided going to the Bridge as long as she could, but there were certain items she felt it necessary to check on her own.
Finally, the lift opened and she entered the Bridge, taking a quick glance around, feeling slightly relieved not to see Morgan there. She moved quickly over to the Engineering station and took over from the Minbari Ranger that was on duty.
Across the Bridge by the viewports, Terry Hale sat with her thoughts elsewhere as she looked out into hyperspace. They had a few hours yet before they were expected to reach Abbai territory and she was taking advantage of the downtime.
As she glanced over, noticing Katia, she frowned slightly, reminded again of unfinished business. She had yet to speak with the Engineer about her escapades on Mars. Perhaps now was the time to broach the subject with the young woman. She decided to wait until Katia is done and about to leave, using that time to contemplate the best course to take with the erratic Engineer.
Katia began tapping the sequence for the diagnostics she needed to perform and watched as the information scrolled in front of her. She hadn’t noticed the Captain sitting quietly near the viewports and seemed totally focused on her work. A few readings were slightly off and Katia compensated by isolating the problem and starting the proper repair sequence.
Just as she was about to finish up, Katia heard a calm voice order, “Katia, if you would join me here when you are done.” Katia blinked in surprise, glancing back to the woman she hadn’t noticed previously.
“Yes, Captain,” Katia replied promptly. Hale nodded in acknowledgment and then turned her attention back out to hyperspace.
Katia stared down at the console in front of her, knowing what the Captain was going to discuss with her. She wished that everyone would allow Mars to stay behind her so she could move on, but it seemed she was doomed to relive the nightmare over and over in everyone’s eyes. The thoughts of the rest of the crew had suddenly piqued at the sound of Hale calling over the Engineer. She did her best to force those minds out and concentrate on finishing the task at hand.
When the readings and sensor feeds were done, she downloaded the information to her office in Main Engineering and quietly turned, stepping over to join Hale by the viewports. She stood there, off to the side, waiting for the Captain’s attention, not wanting to disturb Hale’s inner contemplation.
The Captain glanced up and waved over to one of the benches built in under the viewports, indicating Katia should sit. The Engineer moved over and sat, not sure why the Captain wanted to speak with her, but was afraid her earlier thoughts were correct. She stayed silent, believing that to be her best move at the moment.
Not one to linger in pleasantries, Hale stated, “I’ve been meaning to speak to you about your activities while on shore leave.”
Katia nodded, her inner fear justified. “Yes?” she asked with an outer calm that belied the tumultuous feelings inside.
“You took some terrible risks out there, with yourself and others.”
Staring out the viewport, Katia considered that for a moment before answering, “Yes, I did. And would do it again given the opportunity. But, Captain, there was only supposed to be two of us on that mission. The others … came along for the ride you could say.”
In frustrating, the Captain returned severely, not liking the way Katia brushed it all aside, “Two, four, six, it doesn’t matter. Had you been caught, do you realize how far the problems would have reached?”
“We did our best to dissociate ourselves from the Rangers while on Mars, Captain,” Katia explained, trying to allay at least some of the Captain’s concerns.
“Including it’s ethics,” Hale said sharply.
The Engineer turned her head as her mouth tightened, doing her best not to allow her anger to overwhelm the situation. She could not understand how the Captain could accuse her of that, considering all the other options she could have chosen for her trip to Mars. Her voice strictly under control, she responded to the accusation, “I refuse to get into that, Captain. I did what I felt was necessary at the time. We came out of it alive.”
Terry sighed and looked out the viewports. Why did she keep letting her own temper get ahead of her sense? It wasn’t how she had wanted to approach the situation. She took a few moments to find that center she had somehow lost hold of too often of late. “Your reasons for doing it are understandable, but how far you are willing to go has worried me. You keep on the path you’re going, someone will likely end up dead.” Inwardly, she grimaced at the cliche of it.
Katia’s eyes moved out at the hyperspace beyond the window as well. Her mind suddenly drifted back to her daughters and the darkness threatened to overwhelm her again, a place she could just wither away into if she gave in. Her heart almost half wished she could. In a dead voice she replied with the same assurance she had given Morgan the night before, “I assure you, Captain, it won’t happen again.”
As Hale watched Katia for a few moments, she finally recognized the emotions she saw in the other woman. As a mirror of the hole in her own soul that had been made years before, and newly reopened. Unexpectedly she asked, “What made you try now?”
She looked up at the Captain in surprise, not expecting the question, “It is the first time since their birth that I knew where they were. The Corps did an excellent job of hiding them from me. I found out their father would be offworld, and figured it would be either then … or never.” Katia was keeping her story as simple as possible, not wanting to open up and explain her reasoning behind her trip. It still sounded like a false hope to herself as well, especially in light of recent events and she refused to get into the dreams she and Dunstan had shared.
“You sound very certain,” Hale said, trying to draw the young woman out.
Katia nodded, “I was … too bad I didn’t take certain things into consideration.”
The older woman paused for a few moments, digesting all Katia had said. She was not able to shake the feeling that she was missing something. Something that the Engineer was keeping closely guarded. Hale decided to leave it that way, not knowing how to pursue the issue. Instead, she commented, “A perfect plan rarely remains that way for long.”
“I had my reasons for going. I felt with the information I had, that it would work out quite differently. And, you are quite correct, the best laid plans rarely do work the way we want them,” Katia responded in agreement.
“I am sorry it didn’t,” Hale stated as she rubbed at the indentation left around her bare ring finger, a new habit. “I just hope you can understand my concern as well.”
Katia glanced out at hyperspace again and replied quietly, “I do, Captain. But, at the time I had to put those sorts of concerns at the back of my mind, or I never would have been able to go through with it.”
After a thoughtful silence, Hale said, “I’m of half a mind to send you back to Minbar.”
Upon hearing that, Katia’s heart caught in her throat. To be forced to leave the Phoenix? She had never thought of that as a punishment … the Phoenix had become her home, what would she do if she wasn’t there? The Engineer glanced over at Hale, showing no emotion on her face, “That is your decision, Captain. But, I have been with thePhoenix for almost two years now and no one knows her like I do. I think that would be a mistake.”
“I don’t need to be reminded of your worth here. I’m well aware. I am more concerned, however, about you.” Seeing the way the younger woman’s body had tightened since bringing up Minbar, she held back the rest of what she meant to say. Katia didn’t want the attention or guidance there. She wanted to be left alone. Terry could understand the feeling.
Katia took a deep, steadying breath before responding, “Captain, I appreciate your … concern. I assure you I have come to realize … ” she paused, trying to find the best way to say what was going through her mind, ” … a number of things since returning from Mars. I am more then able to fulfill my duties to this ship.”
Hale watched her closely, trying to reason out what to do next. Finally, with a nod, she stated, “All right. But if that changes … I would appreciate it if you let me know.”
“Understood,” Katia replied with a nod of acquiescence.
The Captain conceded privately that this was as far as she would be able to get with the elusive woman sitting in front of her. She could only hope those closer too her would have a better effect. She turned her questioning to mundane matters, “And just how is the Phoenix doing?”
Relieved at the change in topic to matters more comfortable, Katia gave a brief overview, “Other then normal discrepancies, she seems to be doing fine. A few fluxes, but those will be corrected shortly and are to be expected with no shake down time.”
Nodding, Hale said, “I could have wished differently … ” She shrugged at that and answered by way of dismissal, “But the universe never waits on us. I’ll let you get back to your work, then.”
Katia stood quickly, ready to escape the uncomfortable confrontation. As she stepped away, she paused and said, “I appreciate the concern,” before turning and escaping into the lift.
Watching her go, Hale wished she could be sure she wasn’t just letting the next problem happen, but couldn’t see any other way.
© 1999 Tamara Friese and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.