The Other Shoe

Characters: Katia Santiago

Katia stared down at the Engineers as they continued through their duties. So far, only small adjustments had been necessary to the systems. It looked as if the repairs had been almost flawless, but she wasn’t going to hold her breath on that, so she stared out at the consoles and kept an eye on everything.

Something seemed a bit rough, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it, so she continued to monitor and listen as the ship hummed along quietly. “Dana, can you try realigning the hyperspace buffers. I think that will do it,” she asked of her assistant Engineer.

As the alignments were made, Katia felt the ship stabilize under her and nodded in satisfaction. That had definitely been the problem. She nodded and began moving toward her office. It was time to catch up on some paperwork. The Phoenix continued on, most aboard not even aware of the slight difference in the functionality of the Engines.

She entered her office and reflected on that past couple weeks. Life had been a whirlwind of activity since returning from Mars and more recently Babylon 5. She had gone to visit Dunstan and he had allayed many of her fears about the future. Her heart was still as torn as it had been, and she missed her daughters horribly, but her had helped to realize that the future had not yet been determined for them, and that they would be together to see what the future held for them.

She had returned to the Phoenix shortly thereafter and had begun the final frenzied preparations for their next mission. The Chief Engineer had considered putting in a complaint about not having a proper test flight for the ship, but knew that it would do no good to complain, and had done her best to make sure the Phoenix would fly without any problems. So far, their preparations had worked.

She sat behind her desk and noticed her message light blinking. One text, three voice, and two video messages waited for her. She scrolled through them and Dunstan’s name caught her eye. Katia couldn’t help the smile that came to her face upon seeing he had written to her. Feeling guilty for not contacting him sooner, she tapped the button that would put his message on the screen.

“My Dearest Maia:” she read through it, almost savoring every word. Just knowing he was still out there was enough to help her continue on. Life had grown into a routine the past few days, and this letter was a nice refreshing change to her daily work. She placed his text message in a file to reply to as soon as she finished going through the other messages waiting for her.

It was then that she noticed a Video message waiting for her from a Colonel Ryan. Colonel? she thought to herself. Quickly, she opened the file and listened as he began, “Katia, I hear you have arrived back at Minbar safely. I am very glad to hear that. How the mission went so wrong, so quickly, I am not sure, but I am happy to see you all made it out safely. I just wanted you to know that I am sorry you do not have your daughters. It had been my sincere hope that all would go well and you would finally find some happiness in this life. It seems times haven’t exactly been easy on you lately, but I am sure that one day that will change. Your daughters will one day realize what is going on, I am sure, and you will one day be able to be with them. I am just sorry it isn’t now. Take care, Katia, and know that if you ever need anything, I will be here for you. Colonel Ryan, out.”

Well, it seemed things change quickly in the world of the Earth Force Military, she thought to herself. No one deserved a promotion as much as Ryan did, she thought to herself. She closed her eyes as the anguish threatened to wash over her again at the thought of her daughters left behind on Mars. But, it was becoming more bearable to deal with each day. The pain would always be there, and she would always prefer to be with her daughters, but for now, she knew that was not possible. If it ever were possible, she didn’t know, but at least the pain wasn’t a constant ache inside of her now.

She moved on to the next message — this one from Darquin. Evidently the good Doctor and a couple others had gotten together and invited everyone to a quiet get-together that evening. Katia shook her head, not sure she was wanting to visit with the other crew members in a social setting. It just was too overwhelming sometimes to be in a crowd with so many other people. Her defenses were always stretched to the limit during times like those. Although, it would be nice to be able to relax for a while, and not be stuck in her quarters by herself.

But then again, look at what had happened the last time she had gone to one of these functions. It had been the prelude to the explosions that had destroyed so much of the ship and killed so many of her crew. No, she wouldn’t think about that — it just brought back too many unpleasant emotions to the forefront of her mind. She ached for Dunstan, having to live with so many deaths on his head, but knew he had to endure his punishment. One day, it would be over and they would be able to be together.

Perhaps it would be a good idea for her to go tonight, then she could move past that painful night not so long ago and move past the grief it inevitably brought to her mind. She nodded, secure in the knowledge that would probably be the best solution for her. Besides, a little unwinding was always good for the soul. Or so they said, anyway.

Finally, Katia finished her messages, filing those away in a folder that would need further action on her part, or the Engineering department. Many jobs were coming in now that the crew had returned and they had gotten under way. The small bugs that were supposed to be worked out on a shakedown cruise were being worked on as they traveled toward Abbai space.

Just as Katia opened up a voice file to send to Dustan, she glanced up as her console chimed, “Katia, we have a problem. Jump Engine 2 just dropped to 50% and losing power. We are trying to keep her online, but it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Katia stood and tapped her link, “On my way.” Well, it appeared the other shoe finally dropped. The situation Katia had been dreading had finally happened. Amazing it hadn’t happened sooner, she thought to herself as she quickly moved into Main Engineering and passed through to the Jump Engine Controls.

“All right, everyone, let’s see what’s going on,” Katia said as she began the diagnostic process that would help them in the repairs of the very necessary Jump Engine. “What do we have?” she asked to the room in general.

“The Left Flux Inverter suddenly crashed, leaving us with only the one to try to run the engines. Engine 2 took the hit the hardest and when we were able to adjust the Inverter, the Engine didn’t come back online. We were able to force it to 50% power and get it back up, be then the Inertial Capacitor started to wig out on us,” Dana reported.

Katia was glad to see Dana working the issue. Of all the people she had working for her, this young human woman seemed to have a almost hidden talent for feeling what was wrong with the engines. Almost as good as Katia herself, and Katia’s talent had come from years of working on these engines. The Chief Engineer nodded as she watched the data roll in from the systems affected. This was an annoying problem, but something they would be able to handle quite easily.

As she opened her mouth Dana replied, “The Bridge has already been notified.”

Katia grinned over at Dana, wondering just who was supposed to be the telepath here. “Thank you, Dana.”

“Oh, and Rualen is up inside trying to stabilize the Capacitor,” Dana said vaguely as she began tapping the console in front of her, managing to avert a disaster by forcing the other 2 Jump Engines to take of the slack of the one that was down.

The Engineering Department was in full emergency mode and the team that had been so harmed when the Phoenix was damaged seemed to be working in full tandem together, as if they were one unit again. It was nice to see the harmony again after such a long time. Within half an hour, they were able to repair the damage of the blown system and the ship was again moving swiftly toward their destination.

(c) 1999 Tamara Freise. All rights reserved.

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