Characters: Katia Santiago, Tomás Darquin, Terry Hale
Katia continued pacing in her small office, waiting for Darquin to show up and get the bad news. She was wondering if it would be better to contact the Captain first to let her know the situation, but realized that Darquin as Chief of Security needed to know first and then she could go on and inform the CO. Her pacing continued until finally the computer on her desk buzzed with an incoming call. She hurried over and tapped it on, moving into the line of sight for the person on the other end to see her. It was Darquin.
He peered at her through the screen and froze, taken aback by the shadows surrounding her dropping eyelids. If someone didn’t make the Engineer sleep soon, he realized, she would wind up in Medlab from sheer exhaustion. “Katia… uh, sorry, maybe this’ll wait till later.”
Katia looked at him incredulously. “I don’t feel this can wait. It is important that I get this information to you ASAP. It would only take a few minutes. You can’t get down here for that?”
“I’m just not sure you’ll live long enough. I can check in later if you want to rest.”
“I feel this is important, Darquin. Trust me, you want to hear what I have to say!” Out of sheer emotion, she tried to step forward to get through to him, then stumbled before she regained control of her feet.
He sighed, biting on his lip, deep in thought. Katia held her breath; maybe she’d finally imparted the importance of this information and her reluctance to pass it on over the link. “We gotta do something, but….” Bracing himself for reprisal, he said quietly, “You look like hell.”
Katia shook her head emphatically. “I am fine. I need to be here!”
“We’ll have to get you stuffed and mounted on a plaque to do it, at this rate. Just sleep a little. An hour… something?”
How many people was it now that she’d heard that from already? Too many. “Fine,” she said with a sigh, finally giving in. “I will do that. But you have to promise to wake me in five hours.”
He nodded, relief in his eyes as he grinned. “Promise. See you in five.” With that, he severed the comlink.
The halls were quiet, nothing like the frenzy during the accident, or even the usual activity of a normal day. Katia entered the lift and sighed, “Deck 11.” By this time, she was frustrated with the whole situation. She didn’t want to go to her quarters, but her body was beginning to add its own chorus to the protests that she needed her sleep. There was a faint ringing in her ears and it seemed every joint cracked like she was twice her age.
As the lift started for the deck her quarters were on, she suddenly made a quick decision, and it wasn’t to make her way to bed. “Stop lift!” she said, and then right on the heels of that statement she ordered, “Bridge!” With that, the lift stopped abruptly and then started again, heading in a new direction.
When the lift finally stopped, Katia exited and looked around the bridge. Next to Engineering, the Bridge was the busiest place she had seen on the ship at such a later hour. Margaret, Kim and the other workers were busy at their respective stations but there was no Captain, or Shaver. Of that last, she was thankful for, preferring not to deal with that particular problem at the moment, especially in light of the current situation.
Katia looked around, though, wondering where the Captain was hiding out. Her blurring mind realized the Captain had probably taken to Narsh’s office since one does need to have someplace other than the bridge in order to fulfill the day-to-day duties.
Just as the Engineer made for the office, Kim glanced back from where she stood by the forward viewports, sensing Katia, but she didn’t call out to her. Katia glanced at Kim with a slight smile and nodded a greeting before she finally turned and walked toward the Captain’s office.
Terry Hale glanced up a the sound of the doorchime and frowned. What now? “Enter,” she called wearily.
The door opened, and Chief Engineer Katia Santiago stepped inside, looking even worse than Hale felt. The younger woman hesitated, troubled and plainly searching for a way to approach the issue at hand. It just wasn’t something that was supposed to happen on a Ranger ship.
“Captain,” Katia said by way of a greeting. She finally decided on the direct approach. “I needed to speak with you. About the situation in Engineering.”
“Certainly.” Terry waved her to a seat with a worried frown, knowing if the Chief Engineer had made a special trip up here, she probably would not like the answer. Terry had no doubt from first glance that the dead assistant had been a friend, but there was something more than a personal loss, now. Something more than equipment failure?
Katia slowly took the seat offered and rubbed a hand over her eyes tiredly. “Captain, how secure is this office?”
At that question, Terry blinked in surprise. “As secure as any place on a Ranger ship. What is it, Santiago?”
“I am not exactly sure I trust those measures, Captain. Do you have a way of securing the office further?”
Terry furrowed her brow, very worried now, and turned to the computer open at her desk. From a small compartment meant for loose data crystals she pulled a small cube, and depressed one side. Simple, but effective, the jammer was set on the desk between the two women, a tiny light winking with its operation. When Terry looked up again, she stated, “There, a little something of my own. Now… out with it.”
Katia took a deep breath to prepare herself to deliver what appeared to be the worst of news. “Well, Captain, we have finally found the cause of the accident in Engineering.” She looked up into Terry’s eyes, “And it wasn’t an accident.”
Hale rubbed a hand over her mouth as she swore under her breath. Katia thought she heard… French?
“And you don’t know who, right? Or there would be no point in this,” she asked as she waved at the jammer between them.
“Well, I hope I don’t know who, but that will be something I will have to work on with Security,” Katia said. Her mind turned inevitably toward Shaver’s presence on the ship and knew that there had to be something going on with him since they were now in Vorlon space. Maybe the Vorlons were gone, but there were legacies of their interference, and would surely be felt for years. Katia just wished she were able to contact a few people and find out more specifics on what had happened with him and the ships he had been on. There would be some proof she could give…
If only she knew what Hale had already heard and learned, related directly from Shaver. It was one of those ironies of life that could either make you laugh or weep. Perhaps both.
Hale’s eyebrow lifted, unable to read the thoughts that churned. “You have suspects?”
“Nothing that I have evidence to support, Captain, so it isn’t something I will even vocalize. But, I do have my suspicions, be they wrong or not. See, the source of the sabotage was down in the Core, where only a few people have access. Mostly Engineers,” Katia answered.
The Captain smiled faintly, without humor. “And Command or Security. That’s quite a mess,” she said. It was more than just a slight understatement of the situation.
“Exactly, Captain,” Katia answered. “I had hoped to find something as innocuous as a short in the system somewhere, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
“Have there ever been any… violations, odd occurrences before?” Hale asked as she leaned back in the chair. Looking a little haggard herself, she rubbed at the back of her neck, trying to ease the stiffness of tension and sleeplessness away. “Something that would indicate the wrong people were getting about the Core?”
Katia looked at the Captain wondering if she should warn her about Shaver, but then decides that discretion was necessary at this point. Not need to go accusing the XO when she didn’t have all the facts herself. “No, none. I have Darquin checking on that for sure, but none that I am aware of.”
Hale frowned, thinking. “And this all started with this mission?”
“It could be that someone just doesn’t want us to be here, sir,” she answered with a nod, her thoughts continually turning back to Shaver. She looked down at her hands, not wanting to deal with that at the moment. “There is a possibility that the death was not meant to happen. At least I like to think so anyway,” Katia said, trying to find a nicer way around things.
“Whoever it is, by accident or design, they’ve killed a person,” Hale responded grimly.
Katia paused for a second and then said vehemently, “It was one of my people that was killed, Captain. I want to find who did this and I want to do it soon!”
“Maybe this will be the last of the sabotage, but you can count on this person to do his or her best to cover their tracks,” Hale said sharply, taking note of the engineer’s tone. She pierced Katia with a glance. No telepath, but she still saw some things. “And I don’t want another life added to it. You’re not to risk yourself in a personal hunt.”
Katia looked down, and didn’t meet the Captain’s eyes as she replied almost automatically, “Understood.” She knew that she wouldn’t listen to that particular order, though, since Maenier had been her friend. And she knew that would be even more so the case if Shaver had anything to do with it.
“I doubt it,” Hale said with a sigh, seeing something of the mutinous mood. She’d been there herself a few times. “Just… keep your suspicions to yourself and get Darquin to help you. Anyone, but not alone. Call me, even. Understood?”
Katia looked up at the Captain a bit surprised and nodded. “Yes, sir.” With that, Katia stood up stating, “Now, sir, I believe I need to return to Engineering.”
“No you’re not,” Hale responded quickly as she glanced over Katia, taking in her state of exhaustion. “Get some sleep. It’s an order, if I have to press the issue. You’re no use in this state.”
Katia blinked up Hale, “But, sir, I am needed there!” Just then she stood up and wobbled a bit and tried to hide that from the Captain.
“Yes, they need you, but aware. Look at yourself!”
The Chief Engineer nodded slowly before she replied, “I know, Captain. But, I feel as if I don’t have time for sleep! Not under the current circumstances.”
“Look,” the Captain said quietly, “I understand how it feels. I’ve had to see far too many to their graves for my peace of mind. But this self-torture doesn’t help them. It doesn’t help you. If it were someone else in you place, you’d likely agree.”
Katia responded just as quietly, “Probably, but that is them, and not me.”
Hale said nothing, holding her ground. She wouldn’t be denied.
Katia sighed before muttering, “All right, Captain, I will go to my quarters and rest.”
Terry nodded and reached to turn off the jammer. “Six hours, at the least,” she added enforcing the order.
Katia smiled slightly at that as she turned to leave. The Captain already knew her too well. “Yes, sir.”
“And Santiago?” the Captain added as Katia started for the door, “Thank you for coming to me with this.”
Katia turned and nodded. “You are the Captain, sir. Thank you for listening.” With that she turned and left the office.
Terry watched the door close behind Katia, then scrubbed a hand over her face. This was not something that was supposed to happen on a Ranger ship, a betrayal of every oath…
It was going to be a long night.
“Do as I say, not as I do, eh, Terry?” she muttered at herself, but didn’t move from the desk.