The Challenge

Characters: Katia Santiago, Nathan Matsumoto


 

Katia stood in her office, a bit bereft, knowing that there was not many living souls left on the ship. The decision to stay with her had come shortly after her last meeting with Dunstan. And, now he was gone as well. The feeling of being alone, fought to crowd into the many thoughts as they flew through her mind on how to begin the refit and restructuring of the Phoenix main systems.

She stepped out into Main Engineering and glanced around, a sudden comforting aura surrounding her as she walked over to the main console and glanced around at the nearly empty room. Katia swore sometimes that the ship herself was alive, and trying to communicate with her, if only through random emotions and flashes of ideas. But, that was impossible, wasn’t it? She shook it off, intent on trying to start some of the legwork for the repairs and refit that would be taking place soon all over the Phoenix.

Only two others from Engineering had made the decision to stay with the ship itself until she was pulled into drydock to begin the repairs. Katia wanted to prepare the outlined plan on what would be done first and so on, so that when they began the work, they could continue on until it was complete, without massive interruptions. As it were, it would probably take them at least two months to do the repairs and refit. the Chief Engineer even had some ideas on how to make some systems faster, and more powerful then before. Especially the Defense Grid.

As she pulled up the schematic for the ship, and overlaid the damage they now faced, her sorrow grabbed her and threatened to pull her down. The whole of the top portion of the ship was almost completely gone. They were lucky they still had a bridge. Then again, the reinforced area surrounding that portion of the ship was built to withstand just about anything. Including sabotage.

The pain that Kordieh was now enduring could never make up for the deaths of all those people. Katia knew that much, but she also believed that one day, when he had paid for his crimes, he would take his place with the Rangers once again. It would be a long, hard road for him, but it was something she knew how would be able to endure and sustain himself through. She was holding on to that like a lifeline. Helping him, was something she couldn’t do much of. He had to grow, experience, and learn all on his own. But, the Engineer knew she could stand by him and support him, however silently, from the background, as he did. He knew what he had done was wrong, now he had to pay the consequences, and would be lucky is someone seeking revenge didn’t try to speed that along. Katia just hoped he would be safe, down in Tuzanor.

It was going to take her at least two to six months to complete the repairs, depending on how many people they were able to recruit to help. With the current staff of thePhoenix Engineering crew, that would definitely be six months or more. If they were able to receive reinforcements from Minbar, perhaps that would be lessened. Katia hoped the latter situation would be the case. Her need to return to Mars as soon as the war was over, so she could retrieve her daughters was tearing her apart inside.

In fact, she had wanted to share that desire with Dunstan on their last visit. To confide in him, feel his support as she made her decisions. She shook her head, all these new feelings crashing over her, making her unsure what she was even wanted anymore. It was nice, though, to have a friend to lean on. She hoped that Kordieh felt the same.

Returning to Mars was something that she feared and dreaded more then anything else she could possibly imagine. The Corps would have it’s hands on her in an instant, if they were able. And, she would be walking right into their hands, into the nest of the vipers as it were. Nathan would make sure she were caught if he ever suspected she was returning.

She remembered his expression from the last time she had seen him, back in Earthdome, before she had managed to escape and make her way to the Rangers. The brief cold fury in his eyes at her rebellion, at her betrayal of the Corps. If not for that sight, she could have imagined he didn’t care.

She knew he had never loved her. There was no anger in him, that she could see, for her having turned to someone else to receive the love she had so needed. It was only the betrayal to the Corps for which he condemned her, nothing more, nothing deeper. Realizing that, after years of convincing herself of his love, was a bitter blow she still ached from. No one mattered to him, but the Corps. Not his wife… not his children. She never knew that more clearly than that last time they had spoke.


 

“The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father. How could you do this, Katia? After they took you in… nurtured you… taught you?” His words were quiet with condescending regret and the disappointment he held for her that always worked to belittle her and her emotions — and too often had worked.

“You mean after they taught me how to hate? How to give up my children with no hope of ever seeing them again? How to destroy everything I once held dear? I ask you, Nathan… how can you stand up for them, after the atrocities you have committed in their name?” she countered scathingly, “Are our children learning the ways of the Corps, Nathan? Are you indoctrinating Kayla and Kira to be good little soldiers for them? Don’t become too complacent, because one day, I promise you…. I will come back for them. They are my daughters, and you can’t keep them from me!”

She had almost screamed the words at him that night, so many years ago, when he stood there, looking down her with that condescending patience. He had known full well what the Psi Cops had in store for her, and felt no fear from her hollow words.

It had been too much for her to bear silently. She had struck out at him then, trying to sear his mind to that place where once exposed, would forever leave him an emotional blob, unable to comprehend even the slightest coherency of thought. At that moment there were no ethics or sense, just rage. But he had felt her attack, anticipated it, in fact. He did not even bother with a mental retaliation, simply throwing her to the ground with a physical attack she had no way of avoiding. It shattered her concentration in an instant and left her with a throbbing headache for the energy she had expended.

“Don’t ever threaten me, Katia. It will be the last mistake you ever make again,” he said in a deathly quiet voice, that broached no argument and promised all the terrors she could imagine. And, she had believed it…..


 

Believed it then, and she believed it just as much now. If he were to catch her or even get a breath of a thought that she had returned to Mars for Kira and Kayla, then he would do far worse than just kill her. She knew it…. and Kim probably knew it too. But, this was something she couldn’t just let die. Kayla and Kira were her daughters. She had carried them, loved them, and bonded with them during the nine months they had been inside her, and she would free them from the tyranny of the Corps at the first chance she got.

Finally, the schematics in front of her coalesced in front of her once again, and she pulled herself out of the pit she had fallen. “You can’t do this to yourself, Katia. That is in the past, you are no longer that person. Don’t let them drag you down again!” she thought to herself, fighting against the instincts that had plagued her for so many years. There were other ways of dealing with her problems without wallowing in the anger and denial she had placed around herself for so long. Now was the true test. The question was….. Was she ready for the challenge?


Copyright (C) 1998 Tamara Friese and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.