Tentative Steps

Characters: Katia Santiago, Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Margaret Morgan

Katia walked down the hall silently wondering if she should be doing this, but feeling the need to talk to one who had helped her to come to terms with a few things. But she also knew that she wouldn’t be received with open arms by the Chief Science Officer either, and she slowed as she saw Kim’s quarters up ahead. She approached and pressed the door chime, hoping Kim was in, just wanting to get the uncomfortable encounter over with.

Silence. Katia shifted back and forth nervously. Finally she realized that she didn’t sense another person on the other side of the door and turned to leave. Just as she did, Kim turned the curve in the hall and started when she saw Katia outside her door. Katia glanced up to see Kim and smiled nervously as she watched closely for Kim’s reaction. She knew without sensing that the Science Officer wasn’t happy to see her.

Kim took a deep breath, slowing a moment before she picked up her pace again. With her face smooth and shields tight, she approached, not meeting Katia’s eyes.

Katia spoke quietly, “Kim, I was hoping maybe I could talk to you for a minute.”

That made Kim stop outside her door and hesitate. She plainly didn’t want to let Katia into her quarters, but at the same time, she didn’t particularly want to air grievances in public. They’d already had a few rounds of that. Kim sighed, the last argument taking hold as she tapped her door open and waved Katia inside.

Katia nodded, hesitating slightly as she contemplated leaving, but turned and walked into Kim’s quarters anyway. Certainly she was uncomfortable, but more determined to say what she came to say.

She was quickly struck by how different they were. Kim’s quarters were littered with various mementos, slightly chaotic, but comfortable and making Katia’s rooms seem stark by in comparison. But then again, she hadn’t had much time to grab anything when she had left Earth one step ahead of Psi Corps. Running for her life, the last thing she had thought about was grabbing anything other than the bare essentials and the clothes on her back, and now she regretted that.

Kim let the door close behind her and walked past Katia, picking up a few folders off a chair. “I hope you don’t mind. The place is always on the edge of disaster,” Kim said and Katia could tell that she was retreating into the social niceties in order to deal with the situation. She watched as Kim put the folders on the table and straightened to look over at her.

Katia looked around and nodded, replying, “That is alright… I didn’t come here to see your quarters. I felt I needed to talk to you about a couple of things, and this seemed the best place to do that.” Katia looked at Kim and bit her lower lip, not sure how to verbalize the things she had been thinking and feeling since their encounter in that bay.

Kim waited silently, curious at this development.

“First of all… I wanted to thank you for making me realize a few things back on the station. You, uh, made me remember some things… and, for that, I will forever be grateful to you.”

Those words struck Kim out of the blue, her surprise evident on her face. It was apparent she had expected some form of battle before long.

“You helped me realize it is time I stopped running from myself. Because I will never be able to do it. Thank you,” Katia added.

Kim, looking like she needed it, stepped back and sat down sharply. She finally managed to get out, “I… you’re welcome?”

Katia took a deep, steadying breath, happy that she was finally able to talk to Kim… and relieved that Kim hadn’t exploded like she had feared she would. The Engineer watched Kim closely as she continued, “I am sorry if I took you by surprise with this… but, it seemed the only way to tell you… Just to come out and say it.”

“What changed your mind? I mean, I was nearly certain you weren’t coming back,” Kim asked in honest curiosity.

Motioning to a chair, Katia asked, “May I?” When Kim nodded, she sat slowly, collecting her thoughts and attempted to make sense of all that had happened in the past few days. “To tell you the truth, I was certain I wouldn’t be coming back either. And then, as I sat there, in that bay… everything that I had let myself become came crashing in on me. At first, I really hated you for what you had said, and for doing that to me,” She finished in a whisper, “But it was all the truth.”

Kim smiled faintly. “Half-expected you to take a swing.” Her smile turned rueful. “And for half of it, I really wouldn’t have blamed you.”

At that, Katia finally smiled slightly herself, “I, er… think I learned my lesson on that one.” Kim rubbed her jaw in such a way it could be a tease if Katia dared to believe it. “Good. If it helped… all the better.”

Katia blinked at Kim, not sure how to take that, choosing to ignore it and go on, “But, what you said made too much sense for me to just dismiss it so callously. Kim, I have been running. And, I did make those oaths for a reason.” She sighed and finished, “And you were right. I talked with an old friend and it brought more things back into perspective. Quite a few things actually.

“I also wanted to apologize for attacking you. I know I had before, but… I felt it didn’t mean a thing under the circumstances. Kim, I am sorry for attacking you like that. I wasn’t attacking you, I realize now… but… a ghost from the past. And, for that I will never be able to make up for!”

Kim shook her head at that. “I don’t really blame you. Not now. This is Nathaniel we are talking about.” She grimaced slightly.

“Yes, it is,” Katia responded, looking down. “But, you are not Nathaniel. And, I didn’t equate that at the time. I saw his face in yours, and… it was too much.”

“He was family,” Kim said, reaching for some way to explain it for them both.

Katia replied, “I’m sorry I didn’t give you a chance. Just because he is family… well, like you said, you two don’t exactly see eye to eye. He can be a very charismatic individual when he wants to be. He can also be the worst person anyone could ever come across.” She sighed at that thought, remembering.

Kim nodded, as she looked down, an edge of sadness touching her. “Most times… I just hate them for making him. You didn’t know him before–” she swallowed hard but continued, “But we all chose our path in the end and he accepted that one. I’m almost glad our parents died before they could see what he’d made of himself.”

Katia watched Kim with sympathy and said quietly, “I’m sorry for what you must be going through. I know it has to be hard.”

Kim attempted a smile, “Well, it’s the past. We can’t change that. The bad or the good.”

Katia nodded in agreement. “True. And we have to make the best of what we have,” she found herself saying and shook her head in total disbelief at the things coming out of her mouth.

Kim fell silent, as she gazed at her clasped hands, her thoughts elsewhere. Katia looked at Kim and then glanced around the quarters, noticing a picture on the table next to Kim. She studied it closely and finally asked softly, “Is that your family?” The picture, obviously a family shot from some years before showed three children gathered before two adults. An Asian male beside a taller woman with Spanish characteristics. Two girls, one the oldest with brown hair like her mother, the youngest plainly Kim, face framed with black hair and wearing an impish smile that promised trouble. Kim was being held by a boy who looked to be about eleven years old at the time… and it was none other than Nathaniel.

Kim started and nodded slightly as she glanced over at the picture herself.

Katia studied the picture closely and asked, “You were close to Nathan, weren’t you?”

Kim nodded painfully and replied, “He was…” she paused as words failed her and then she continued after a moment in a low voice, “They took him when he was twelve. Just after that picture. Saw him again over the years, but he wasn’t the same.”

“The Corps has a way of indoctrinating the kids into an almost mindless devotion,” Katia said as she shook her head sadly. “In a lot of ways, it wasn’t his fault.” Katia finally looked to Kim again, “The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father. That is what they teach. And, it is hard to fight.”

As her smile twisted at that, Kim replied, “Fooled myself he was still the same somewhere behind that suit. For years…” Kim’s voice hardened as she started speaking of the past. “Until he helped them bury the Mars dig… and our parents with it. That is what I cannot forgive.” Her voice had taken on a knife edged tone, making Katia blink in surprise at the new information.

“I… I had no idea. Did he know?”

“Yes. I found out later when I was stupid enough to ask him for help,” Kim said, her pain showing in her eyes as she looked away. “He commanded my silence — to play along with the lies! Or… die. Oh, he wrapped it in kind words, but that was the whole of it.”

Katia closed her eyes in pain for what Kim had been going through. “I can’t believe he did that…” Her voice dropped to a whisper, “I never thought him capable of….” At that her voice trailed off, Katia remembering Nathan’s blind devotion and his unerring following of all that the Corps told him to do.

Kim blinked quickly, forcing it back down as she whispered, “Well, I hardly believed myself.” Katia watched Kim silently, not knowing if anything she could say would help. Or likely make it worse.

Katia looked at the picture once again, “What about your sister? That is your sister with you, right?”

Kim took a long breath, regaining her composure, “Yes… we never got along.” She smiled wryly. “She’s a computer programmer on Mars, with a quiet little life. Nathan’s got her completely cowed over me, so I haven’t talked to her since I was out of school. Safer that way.”

Katia shook her head. “He is further up in the echelon of Psi Corps, I believe, than either of us ever realized. Or at least a very good pawn.”

“I think you end up a little of both in that place. So many hidden agendas and groups.”

“One day, they will fall. That is when we really need to worry,” Katia said softly in reply.

Kim sighed as she slumped a little in her chair, “Yes. At any rate, we can’t go home, can we? Telepaths.” Kim didn’t even realize that at this point she is emptying her thoughts to Katia.

Katia sat quietly, listening as Kim talked, knowing it could only help her to get her feelings out… even if only for a little bit.

“What a complete mess,” Kim sighed. She began to close up again, remembering where she was, and silence fell on the room. Katia opened her mouth to say something when the door chime rang out in the stillness of the mood.

Kim started, and looked to the door. “It’s Me– Morgan,” She said quietly as she stood.

Katia looked down and nodded, “I… should be going anyway.” She stood quickly, not looking forward to seeing the Tactical Officer at the moment.

Kim fumbled around for something to say, still a little stunned, then just moved to the door before Margaret wondered what the hell was wrong. Katia braced herself, knowing that it would be an uncomfortable situation for all concerned. Kim tapped the door open, and attempted a slight smile for her friend. Katia watched Margaret Morgan silently, trying to smile as well, but not succeeding in the least.

Margaret nodded to Kim, “Cyfei–,” she stopped in mid word, looking over Kim’s shoulder, and her eyes narrowed.

“Katia was just on her way out,” Kim said into the charged atmosphere. Margaret didn’t respond to that, just continuing to give Katia that cold stare.

Katia looked down, “Uh… yeah, I do need to be going… Thank you for giving me the time to talk to you Kim.” At that she moved toward the door trying not to look at the Tactical Officer.

“I’ll talk with you later,” Kim said to Katia but without the same hostility she once held, causing Margaret’s eyebrow to raise slightly at the changed tone.

Katia nodded, smiling a little. “I hope so.” She looked at Margaret and the smile left as she still felt the hostility radiating off of her like a heat. Katia tried to move around her to leave. After a moment, Margaret finally stepped aside to let Katia out. At that, Katia hurried past and made her way down the hall quickly.

Kim didn’t comment, and stepped back into her living room to let Margaret in.

Morgan cast another glance over shoulder before she entered, holding tongue… for now.