Snakes and Ladders

Characters: Katia Santiago, Dunstan Kordieh

Katia finally returned to her quarters after being repeatedly assured by Doctor Evers that Cat would be fine. He intended to keep her under sedation until the bone regenerator had a chance to do its work, and she was well on her way to full recovery. At the moment, she was sleeping peacefully, with no dreams to keep her distraught, and would be fine, the good doctor assured her. So, that left her alone yet again, quietly contemplating the circumstance surrounding her new reemergence to her abilities.

She had noticed she had a message waiting, but had decided not to worry about it. If it is important, they can contact me direct, she thought.

“You need to allow yourself to feel, Katia, or you will die inside. And you are so special, I would hate to see that happen.” The memory came unbidden and rushed into her consciousness.

“But, every time I do that, I wind up losing. First my parents, my cousin, my life, and my children. I can’t…” she had argued softly. Fighting against the inevitable end that would consume her life for so many years, before finally dying in a ball of flame fighting President Clark.

William Hague walked up to her, slipping a finger under her chin, forcing her to look at him. “You can’t tell me that I mean nothing to you. And that fighting the coming darkness that we both see means nothing to you. You have the power within you to be whatever you want to be, Katerina Santiago. I have seen it each time your eyes gleam in anger at some injustice done. Fight back, Katia! Open up and let me in, and it will come. You will see. You won’t be so angry all the time! I don’t want to see you shrivel up inside and become miserable because you didn’t want to take the chance to live!”

The memory faded with the feather light kiss he had slowly given her and she came out of her reverie to find her hand on her lips as memory of his touch remained. He had been right; she couldn’t just close herself up in a little box and think that was all right. Her life had become one of isolation and loneliness and it was time to live again. Maybe that had been why she had let herself help Catriona like she had. At this point, it didn’t matter. She felt alive again. The final transformation and emergence from her cocoon-like existence was finally happening, and the life she saw in front of her, though bleak at the moment due to the war, seemed much brighter than before. The walls in place around her were those of any normal telepath going about their duties with the constant background chatter of thoughts threatening to break through.

With that, the Chief Engineer finally stood up and walked over to the Comm and listened to the message waiting. It was from the Captain. Something about a wake for those lost on WS24. She still mourned for Tylo Narsh, their former Captain, although she had not been close to him. But then again, not many people on the Phoenix had. Perhaps Dylan had when he was here, but he was gone now too. As was Maenier. And Alex, though he had not been on the Whitestar. It was still unknown if those on the Hellfire were alive and lost, or if they had perished by some unknown force. Either way, Katia was almost certain her friend was dead. It seemed like those from her past were all gone now. Almost as if it was a brand new life. Time had come to mourn the loss of those who had gone before, and get on with her life.

Yes, I think this is just what I need, she thought. If I don’t get out and try to accept these deaths and the pain, I won’t be able to live again. William was right. I can’t let myself close up like that again!

Katia slowly moved into her bedroom, toward the shower, ready for the emergence of what life held for her.

 The time is now, and I must be quick.  Dead, all dead, and we
 are late.  Too slow, too slow now.  I thought you would wait
 for me, Lucius, I thought you would wait.  But the Captain
 misses you.  She saw me and called for you.
      And these people, these damned fools, they do not
 understand.  They celebrate the lives of those aboard the White
 Star 24, not realizing that we are all as dead as they.  I have
 dallied too long, trying to be quiet, trying to be secret.  I
 can't afford that any more.  We can't afford it any more.
      I must act now or we will all be lost.

After showering and changing into a fresh uniform, Santiago made her way to the wake. She felt as if a million pounds had been lifted off her shoulders and it was amazing how good she felt in the wake of all the sadness, and that strange mission. Cat was still with her in the back of her mind, and she had had to intervene only once to keep the troubling images from entering the other woman’s mind. It seemed they might be making progress, however slow.

As she neared the area, the sounds of a crowd filled her mind and ears with an onslaught of images, thoughts and sounds. For a moment she stood there, reveling in the feel. She still would never open up to anyone else on the ship that she was a telepath, but she knew those who could be trusted. The use of her abilities for anything would be carefully monitored by herself. She would not be used again as she had been by the Corps.

Katia decided to shield herself as she began the trek into the room, but just as she put her hand out to enter, someone rushed past, bumping into her. She gasped with the sensations this new mind presented, a complex series of pictures entering her mind in a rush. The chaotic confusion and irrationality threatened to take hold of her, dragging her down….

 The Phoenix, following the shuttle Slayer, following the
  Hellfire, following the White Star 24, one after the other,
 into the heart of a star.  Transmuting, transforming, from
 ice to flame, from the cold of death to the fire and light
 of eternity, all in an instant.  We are the latest in
 that line, the heirs to the legacy of death in Vorlon space.
 We are past due to join our comrades.
      Placing the charges, spacing them through the upper
 decks, one by one, working them throughout the structure.
 One tiny charge was enough to send Maenier on ahead.  I
 thought it would be enough to warn the others and make them
 understand.  But no.  They are all too blind to see their
 own deaths.  The rest of my charges will send them all -- my
 shipmates, my charges.  Charges for my charges, that's funny.
      ....but all of them will go on to where Narsh and Solo and
 Maenier and the rest all wait for us.
 	Lucius, oh my brother, my mirror, my soul.  I beg
 you, wait a little longer.  It will not take much more.
 Then we will be one again and the torment will be over, for
 all of us.

Before Katia could collect herself, he was gone, a flicker of shadow and dark cloak at the corner of the hallway the only thing to mark his passing.

Copyright (c) 1998 Tamara Friese and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.

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