Offers and Treachery

Characters: Katia Santiago

Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live.

          – Adolf Hitler

The Chief Engineer sat quietly in the little dining area of the quarters she shared with Yoshino. Progress continued on the repairs of the Phoenix, but she probably wouldn’t be able to move into her own quarters for another month. The outer hull repairs were slowing coming together and would be completed by week’s end, but then would come the tedious work of refitting the interior of the upper five decks. She knew at the onset, that it was going to be a long process, but it seemed to be taking forever, even if they were still on target to complete the repairs within the timeframe she had stated earlier.

Her small breakfast lay on the plate in front of her as she read through some of the latest reports. As she glanced through them, her mind drifted to the search she had submitted for Ryan. The results still had not been returned, and she was beginning to fear that she didn’t want to know the reason for the delay. Maybe he had also been killed in all the fighting, or maybe Earthgov had detected the codes she had used to hack into their system. Either option was not pleasant to contemplate. William and Katia had known Edward and his wife back on Earth, and she knew it would kill Deborah if anything happened to him.

The flyby of the White Stars above the skies of Earthdome had been broadcast on ISN. To see the whole fleet of White Stars flying over Earthdome had truly been a sight to behold. The beauty and majesty of the White Stars set against the very sky she had looked up at for so many years during her youth and adulthood had caused her heart to stop and the breath to catch in her throat. She wished she had been able to see it for herself. But, as she knew that her place was here, with the Rangers, on the Phoenix, she knew she could never return home. Even if she wanted to, she was considered a criminal, and at the least a rogue telepath, and she knew going home would never be an option for her.

Just as she began organizing her day, the Comm rang out behind her, surprising her out of her reverie as the shrill beep rang out in the silence. With a sigh, she stood and walked over to the panel and keyed in her authorization code to check the origination of the transmission: Earthdome. Katia blinked in surprise, and then realized it was probably the response to her inquiries. She quickly tapped the panel and was dismayed to see the face that filled the screen in front of her.

Bester filled the majority of the screen. It took Katia a moment before she had composed herself enough to speak as he said with an obviously forced geniality, “Katerina Santiago. Well, it is nice to finally talk to you again.”

Composing herself as she had done for so many years in Earthdome, she affected an air of unconcern. It had been a necessary defense while dealing with all the political and feigned confidantes that frequented such organization. She had learned the art of aloof distance while growing up in Earthdome, and it had faired her well when she had returned as a telepath to continue working there. Now, it was much more difficult to attain as the strained emotions batted against her well-placed defenses.

The demeanor she presented to Bester as she replied was one of solid confidence in herself and a determination that came across as an aloof bearing like anything he would say would not matter to her. She replied, “Alfred Bester. I wish I could say the same. What, no rogue has seen fit to erase you from the rolls of humanity?”

“No, you could not be so luck as that, my dear Katia,” he responded quickly. “We have known where you were for quite some time now, did you know that?”

Her eyebrow quirked up at that, having expected no less from Psi Corps, but also knowing she was fairly safe while aboard the Phoenix. When she was off the ship, that was a different matter altogether. “Oh? And, what have you found, Alfred? I know I am untouchable as long as I remain on board the ship.”

Bester chuckled darkly, “You can’t remain on board that ship indefinitely, Katia. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, you have been making frequent trips down to the planet, have you not?”

“Don’t threaten me, Alfred. No matter how veiled that threat may be, if you were to do anything to one of the Rangers, it could cause an interstellar incident, and I don’t think Earth wants that at the moment,” she said with quiet fury.

“You are still a citizen of Earth, Katia. The Minbari would not stand in our way. Trust me, I know. I have retrieved a number of rogue’s from Minbar, and I am sure I could find you if need be. Tuzanor seems to be your current destination whenever returning to the planet, am I correct?” He asked quietly, the threat still apparent in his demeanor and voice.

“Bester, what is the point of this call? I know you didn’t call me to threaten me. You would have just snagged me while I was on Minbar and not given me any warning. What do you want?” she finally asked in exasperation, growing weary of the mental games.

The Psi Cop stared at her, his amusement at her discomfiture quite evident on his face, “I have volunteered to be the one to notify you of some good news!”

“Oh? And, what would that be, surrender or die?” Katia answered sarcastically, her face still a mask of impassivity, all the while, her mind was throwing so many images and thoughts at her, it was hard to concentrate on the conversation. Just what did Bester want? He would not have voluntarily contacted her if he didn’t have a hidden agenda behind it. Someone knew from the Corps where she was at all times…which meant someone was tracking her, watching her, and reporting her every move back to Mars. How could she honestly believe she could make it to Mars undetected to rescue her daughters if that were the case?

Her nerves were getting the best of her. Bester had the annoying habit of scaring her to within an inch of her life, yet making her more angry then she thought she ever could be. Her hard fought control and calm was but a fleeting feeling when facing the one who sent her into such a whirlwind of deception and running to save her own life from those whom she had been betrayed by so many years before.

Katia wished she could reach through the StellarCom and just slap that insincere smile right off of his face, as he replied, “No, Katia A chance to get your life back. To return to the one place that means more to you then perhaps anywhere else in the universe. The land where you grew up. Would you like that?”

“Depends on the cost,” she responded, not taking the bait he so skillfully sent her way.

“Oh, it is a small cost,” Bester said and then glanced down as if to gather his thoughts. He then continued, “See, Katia, I have been asked to notify you that all criminal charges against you in the matter of high treason and conspiracy have been dropped. The saw the necessity of the actions as you chose to construct them, and they have decided not to seek your conviction on those charges.”

Katia’s face exhibited the shock that raged within her at those few words. She wasn’t a fugitive any longer. Slowly, she sat in the chair that was behind her, her face still framed within the screen as Bester caught every nuance of emotion that flashed across her face. The home she had known all her life was yet again open to her to return, if only the Corps would relinquish their rights on her as well. She knew she no longer belonged to Earth, not in her heart, but it was still the only home she had ever known. Her family was all gone, her parent in the shuttle accident when she was still just a child, and then her Uncle and Aunt at the hands of President Clark, but she couldn’t help but long to return to the one place she had always know as home. To see it one last time, that was almost too much to ask.

Her daughters were still on Mars, but if she could one day show them where they came from. Their heritage, their life…her life before the Corps had taken that all away from her. It was as if a whole new list of endless possibilities had been presented to her in the words Bester had just spoken to her. Could it actually be possible that one day she could stand back in Earthdome and hold her daughters hands and lead them in the same steps their family had taken for so many generations before them?

“I see the image intrigues you, Katia,” Bester interrupted her internal contemplations. “Now, I am sure you wonder just how you can make the return to Earth possible for you. I am correct that that is what is on your mind, am I not? I think I know you better then you realize.”

At the tone in his voice, Katia jerked her head up to glance into his eyes. “I think you overestimate your ability to understand me, Alfred. But, continue — I am sure there is more to this offer then meets the eye upon first glance.”

The false smile that graced his face turned into a smirk as he reveled in the words he continued with, “Ah, yes. The other part of the message. Katia, I am sure you understand that even if the criminal charges have been dropped, there is still the matter of your being a blip. A rogue. Someone who can never return without the threat of those very people you are trying to avoid.”

Katia couldn’t help but to chuckle darkly and shake her head as the other shoe finally was dropped and she finally knew what he was leading up to. “In other words, I can return to my homeworld, but only if I allow myself to be drawn back into the fold, is that it, Alfred?”

“Ah — very perceptive of you. I am so glad to hear that your mind has not been dulled with the inactivity you have forced upon it. I hear you have not allowed yourself to even use your abilities since leaving Earth. You know, that truly is a shame, you had such potential.”

“And, I met that potential very well indeed in the birth of my daughters, or so you told me so many years ago. Do you remember that, Bester? Right after Kayla was taken from me moments after her birth. I do not forget the atrocities you have forced me into. Do you honestly believe I could return to an organization that compelled me into abandoning my children like that?” Katia said derisively.

“Now, Katia, you wound me. What you did, you did for the good of the Corps. The clothed you, took you in, and then you repay them by betraying the very foundation we were built upon. I think it if you who needs to re-evaluate the past, you are very deluded,” Bester said, all pretense of geniality gone from his tone as well as his face.

Katia’s hands involuntarily clenched into fists on the table in front of her as the old argument continued anew, opening wounds she had thought were long dead. “You know, Alfred, I believe this argument is one that has long since past its point of getting either of us anywhere. I refuse to sit here and throw old pains back into the fray between us. I have gone on to a new life, and refuse to allow you to pull me down again.”

“Oh, but, Katia. How could you say I am the one at fault here. I am not the one who took your children away from you, or forced you into betraying your world,” Bester returned harshly, angry he had allowed her to pull him into this argument.

She stood and walked over to the Comm panel. Her hand lay softly next to the terminate button as she returned, “No, you are right there, Bester. It was Nathan who pushed me beyond my limits and emotions. And in response to your offer — take it and stick up your, well, be creative, I am sure you can figure a nice warm place to stick it. And, once you are done, give my regards to the bastard, and tell him to watch his back, because one day, when he least expects he will turn around to find me standing there with the knife twisting while I watch his pathetic existence finally come to an end.”

At that, Katia slammed her hand down on the button and a blank screen finally replaced the face she so loathed. She turned and leaned against the panel and held her hand up in front of her, glancing at the redness that had just begun to appear where her hand had met the button with such force it was creating a large welt. Her hand shook in front of her, causing her to become angrier with herself. Her own body was betraying the array of clashing emotions that raced through her heart and mind. How could she allow him to get to her like that? It was a matter of self-righteous indignation to know he had such an affect on her after all these years. Next to Nathan, Alfred Bester was the one man within Psi Corps she wished she could kill with her bare hands sometimes. He had been instrumental in causing the separation of her life from that of her daughters, and one day, she would see that he paid for that dual act of treachery.

The fight had begun, and the one who won would be the one who held her daughters souls in their grasp… their future… their lives. Could she honestly give that up and let them continue on with the grasp of Psi Corps to eternally be damned to think that the treachery and atrocities were just and allowable to commit against another human being? Never would she ever accept that that was even the remotest of possibilities. Her daughters would know who their mother was, and how to live without betraying those they held most dear.

"Psi-Cops are trained to make everyone nervous, but Bester can make even other Psi-Cops nervous."
"Hell, the man can make poison ivy nervous."
     – Lyta and Zack in Babylon 5: "Epiphanies"

(C) Copyright 1998 Tamara Freise. All rights reserved.

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