The Search Begins

Characters: Katia Santiago, Tomás Darquin, Dr. Kim Matsumoto


The wake continued in full tilt, with everyone apparently enjoying themselves, dancing and singing, and talking, and relaxing. Everyone seemed to be more themselves now, then they have in quite a while.

The background noise of the constant thoughts and emotions of the partygoers filled Katia’s mind with a buzz that she found comforting. It was the first time that she had felt that way since the death of General Hague, and considering what she had just found out, it was amazing she still felt that way about her abilities.

Katia walked through the doors, past the security people flanking them, to the room that held the alcohol and the main festivities. She was trying to determine the best course of action and, as she watched the thriving party crowd, who she could trust here on the Phoenix. It was a disheartening question to have to ask yourself, but it had to be. If another Ranger could kill, then how could she assume anything was safe? There were a few, but very few, who she knew would listen to her and know she’d only speak the truth.

The Engineer made her way over to the drinks and decided upon a Long Island Ice Tea. Just as she was about to turn and go, she glanced up to see Morgan heading toward the same bar as she. She stopped for a second and looked at the Tactical Officer, who didn’t seem to see her. Katia thought it was probably a good thing, since Morgan still didn’t hold her in the highest esteem after the incident in the shuttle bay so long ago. With that, she hurried off in the other direction to continue contemplating her next move.

She finished her drink and headed out to the other room, realizing she had to talk to Darquin. As Chief of Security, he could probably help her out. And he had been on the ship long enough, that she probably could trust him. Katia had seen him out on the dance floor with Kim earlier, and glanced around to see they were still there. She took up position standing by a wall. Katia was still unsure about it, and her silent debate on what to do showed in her face. As soon as she was done here, she knew she would join Kordieh in the search, but what about the others? Should she talk to Darquin now or wait until after the party was over? The sooner the better, instinct told her. Every moment waiting delayed the search. So, she started making her way toward the dance floor, intent on reaching Darquin now to start the search for the saboteur.


 

As much as she was enjoying the dance, Kim couldn’t keep her gaze from flickering occasionally from her partner to survey the crowd. Part of it was purely a matter of pleasure, seeing the changes she sensed in others, but the rest was old routine. She’s held a certain wariness about life for too long to put it aside for a party.

It was during one sweep she saw Katia, and heading their way it seemed. She dismissed the idea a moment later. They were over on the dance floor, but so were a dozen other people. The dance continued, but on the tail end of one song, a temporary lull before the next charged burst of dancing, Darquin tried to follow Kim’s glance.

“Had enough for one round?” he asked.

Kim chuckled and pulled her attention back. “Sorry, habit. But, if you want…?” She had been enjoying herself and really hated to interrupt the dance. She did her best not to seem tired, in case he wanted to give her a rest.

“That depends…,” he answered a bit distantly, following the path of her earlier glance and saw Katia trying to catch them.

Katia kept her defenses up, but she still felt the crowd on the edge of her mind. She closed in on the pair as quickly as she could, frustrated as a few people wandered across her path. She tried to bolt around them impatiently.

Kim leaned toward Darquin, finally realizing the distress in Katia’s tightened face and the desperate cast of her eyes. Kim spoke into Darquin’s ear as the next song blasted the room. “To the edge of the floor?” They both watched as Katia finally stepped around those in her way and then bore down on her objective once again.

Darquin nodded and said, “I think we better.” As one, Kim and Darquin moved to meet Katia halfway.

As she met the two at the edge of the dance floor, Katia glanced back and forth between them, trying to keep herself and emotions restrained. She didn’t notice how poorly she failed, just in her silence, when the greetings during a party should have been made freely. She couldn’t have made a mask of festive cheer that moment if her life depended on it. With the images from er encounter still fresh in her mind, it was hard to keep herself from blurting to everyone they were in danger. She knew they needed to be cautious about this, or the saboteur would take flight.

Kim frowned, sensing the anxiety Katia couldn’t have hid from another telepath. “What’s happened?”

Katia looked at Kim, and then looked around the room, then over at Darquin. “I need your help. And, I think you are the only one who can help me.”

Kim heard the words addressed to Darquin, even if they hadn’t been attached to a name. “Should I go?” she offered into the gap.

Shaking her head a bit, Katia answered, “That isn’t necessary… I just need to know that what I say will be kept between us for now.” With that, Kim nodded in response. Katia looked to Darquin, waiting for his response.

“Fine, so what’s going on?” Darquin asked.

“Here probably isn’t the best place…” Katia’s eyes went back to the crowd behind them.

“We could go into the corridor. It’s quieter.”

Katia nodded shortly and turned to exit the lounge as Kim waved Katia to precede them. The Science Officer was surprised and worried by the level of distress rolling through Katia’s usually strong shielding. Darquin followed close behind them, looking around at the crowd, wondering what the engineer was concerned about.

Once outside, Kim looked down the empty hall and asked, “Now, what’s happened?”

Katia did one of many things she’d sworn not to do. She reached out, telepathically, opening up her mind to the other woman for the first time in years, Can he be trusted? I mean, totally trusted? Katia asked silently. She knew, that despite their problems, she could trust Kim.

Verbally, Katia began, “There has been a situation. The accident that killed Maenier, was no accident. I think we all knew that much by now.”

Kim blinked, startled to hear another voice sounding in her head, especially Katia’s. She answered back quickly, Completely. It was a moment before she caught up with the second conversation and said aloud, “I’d guessed, from reports, but what have you found?”

“You… found something?” Darquin asked almost on top of Kim’s question.

Katia nodded at Kim, acknowledging what the other woman had said in her mind, knowing she must have startled her. Then she answered, “I have… by accident. And, I think he is going to strike again.”

“‘He’?” Kim asked.

“Yes, he…” Katia said, looking at Darquin, gauging what she had been told by Kim.

Darquin glanced around, out of instinct, watching for someone suspicious. “Great. Do you have anything we can use to find this guy? I’m not sure about the ethics of that right now, but I don’t like the idea of all of us being stuck out here like this with hostile aliens around.”

Katia nodded in agreement, then continued to explain, “I was coming into the party and encountered him. But, I don’t know who he is, or even in what part of the ship he works.”

“You didn’t see who it was, then?” Kim asked.

Katia shook her head and shuddered with the memory, “I, uhm…touched his mind.” Her thoughts were thrown into turmoil just at remembering the pandemonium she had touched.

Sensing the residual chaos seeping into the corridors with them like a chill wind pouring out of a haunted house, Kim instinctively tightened her own barriers. “Okay. Ah…” Then she glanced at Darquin.

“Aw hell.” Darquin ran a hand through his hair. “Back where we started, but now time’s running out on us.”

“He is very chaotic…,” Katia said, a distant look in her eye as she was pulled into the memories. He words came between halting pauses. “He has plans on setting some charges around the upper decks and hull, I believe… it was all a blur, but I believe I got that much out of it… I didn’t have my defenses as firmly in place as I usually do, or I wouldn’t have felt it as clearly as I did… and, my hand came in contact with his…” She shuddered again, pulling herself back to the present.

Kim reached out and almost touched Katia’s arm, knowing the turmoil the other woman must be feeling, “It’s somewhere to start, then.”

“Charges on the hull? What is he, n–Never mind,” Darquin said with a sigh. “Okay. We need to figure where they are. Strategic spots he’d use in those areas for maximum effect. Then sweep ’em out till we find the explosives.”

“I have one of my people working on that right now,” Katia answered.

Darquin nodded, “Good, great.”

Kim furrowed her brows a bit and asked, “Who?”

“His name is Kordieh. A bit quiet, but he is good,” The Chief Engineer answered Kim’s silent concern. The she continued explaining some more of what she had picked up from the unknown mind, “Maenier’s death was supposed to be a…. warning… of some kind.”

With that, Kim’s expression darkened with righteous anger, “But another Ranger? How could he?”

Katia closed her eyes in pain, remembering, “I don’t know.” With that, she opened her eyes again and the other two could see the rage. “I intend to find out.”

“For that matter, how did he make it through the training without anyone noticing,” Darquin added quickly.

Katia shook her head, not knowing how someone with that high a level of discord could have made it through the training, but then, she remembers how angry and full of pain she had been through the training, and realized it could happen. The Rangers were not perfect by any means, and the Shadow war had been a desperate time. “I will personally be joining Kordieh in the search shortly. But, I needed to get some help in this. Maybe you can keep an eye out as well, Kim.”

Kim grimaced and nodded, agreeing, “Well, no point in standing around here any longer. I should get down to my labs. Engineering’s covered by your man, Science isn’t.” Kim didn’t want to even think of some of the things vaulted away in her labs that would be perfect for someone to use if they intended to cause damage to the ship.

Katia nodded, “I know… I don’t know if any of the ship is safe at this point.”

“If you can send a list of possible areas for the bombs, I’ll get some people together and start combing the place,” Darquin told Katia.

“I will. You will have it within the hour.” Katia answered.

“Good. Do you think you’ll need someone to watch your back?”

At that question, Katia shook her head, “I don’t want to scare him off, or give him any idea that I might know. That might tip our hand.”

“I’ll keep my barriers down as much as I can, between us maybe we’ll broaden our range,” Kim said with a nod, then added, “If the ship doesn’t interfere too much.”

Katia furrowed her brows, having not considered that possibility, “I haven’t seemed to have too much trouble with that. But, then, I haven’t exactly been open to the possibility up to now either.”

Darquin said, “Then we better move fast. Till we know who for sure, he’s got the run of the ship.”

Katia nodded in agreement. “I will get on it now. How will we keep in touch on this… the comm can be tapped.”

With an intake of breath, Darquin said, “Damn, you’re right. Okay, maybe a code word we can use.”

Katia started thinking, then remembered something from Earth history, “What if we need to talk, we contact the others and call for a code 911? Then we can meet in my office. Probably safer there.”

“Sounds good to me,” Darquin answered.

Kim said with a faint smile, “Works for me.”

“Okay, then I will get to work. I feel as if we are sitting on a time bomb.”

Darquin said quietly, “Probably because we are.”

Katia had turned to go, then caught Darquin’s comment and stopped dead in her steps. She glanced back at him, and nodded slowly, realizing there was more truth in that, then any of them probably cared to admit to.

Kim sighed, “Thanks, Darquin.” The Science officer turned down another way, hurrying for her labs.


Copyright (c) 1998 Tamara Friese, Joe Medina and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.