The Thousand Shocks That Flesh Is Heir To

Characters: Katia Santiago, Dunstan Kordieh

It takes love over gold

and mind over matter
to do what you do that you must
when the things that you hold 
can fall and be shattered 
or run through your fingers like dust.
     – Mark Knopfler, "Love Over Gold"

Katia leaned against the lift’s wall, feeling it drop sluggishly toward the level of Security — and the Brig. She held Dunstan Kordieh’s Isil’zha in her hand tightly, her eyes squeezed just as tightly shut as she realized what he must be going through.

She took off her Isil’zha, replacing it with his. Her pin dropped to the floor with a clatter as the lift opened in front of her. She leaned down and picked it up, putting it into her pocket as she exited the lift and turned toward Security.

Kordieh sat at the small table in his cell, a scroll spread out across it and falling over the sides. He pinched his brows together with a thumb and forefinger, trying to remember the intricacies of written Minbari. The one thing that surprised him was that though these words had been written by Valen a thousand years ago, the language was remarkably modern.

Katia entered main security, glancing around for the security officer on duty at the moment. Darquin sat behind the desk, one leg in a metal cast sticking out from behind the battered console. She turned toward him as he looked up from contemplating several data crystals between his fingers. No doubt part of his music collection, Katia thought.

Darquin was more than a little dubious when Katia requested to see Kordieh, which really didn’t surprise her. She knew she had a reputation, even before she had tried to kill the man she was now asking to see. But after a few minutes’ explanation, he agreed, and escorted her back to the only occupied cell.

Katia stepped into the cell, smiling slightly at Dunstan, waiting for Darquin to give them a bit of privacy — at least as much as the security cameras would allow — before saying anything. Kordieh looked up at the sound of the door sliding open and then shut, his eyes widening as he saw Katia there. “Santiago?”

She nodded slightly and moved a bit further into the small cell. “Yes, it’s me.” She looked down at him, searchingly, hoping he was still doing okay.

He stood, offering her the only chair. “Here. Sit down? I’ll take the bed.” His expression was still leaden with weariness, but as Katia looked deep into his dark grey eyes, they returned her gaze solidly, without fear.

“How are you?”

“As well as can be expected, I think,” he said with a soft sigh. “I’m still alive, at least.”

“That’s a start,” she said quietly, then sighed as well. “I talked to the Captain, she told me what happened.”

“Did she give you my Isil’zha to keep?”

Katia nodded, her hand moving unconsciously to the pin at her shoulder. “Yes, she did. I wish things could be different, but I know payment must be made for what has been done.” She shook her head, amazed at her sudden forgiveness and softness even now.

Kordieh lowered his eyes as he walked over to the Minbari bed and stepped onto it, leaning back a little. “I know. I told the Captain that I wanted to live so that I could at least try and make some of this right.”

She looked at him, suddenly feeling moisture in her eyes. “I don’t know if that is possible. You may spend the rest of your life trying. But I have faith that you can do it.” She thought about how close she had come to killing him, and realized that she was speaking a little for herself as well.

“The rest of my life? If that’s what it takes.” He shook his head. “I still can’t comprehend. So much destruction, so many dead. All because of me. All for nothing.”

Katia blinked, his words cascading over her and finally opening up the realization. “Wait, you think you caused all of the damage to the ship? All the dead?” she asked quietly.

“Didn’t I?” He spoke with no trace of sarcasm or rancor.

She shook her head slowly, looking at him with the horror she knew he was feeling. “No!” She swallowed hard, remembering the time jumps — the battle — the darkness. “Immediately after your bomb …we encountered some aliens. Friends of the Vorlons.”

Kordieh pinched his brows again, trying to fish a moment out of the quagmire his mind had been in the last moments before the explosion. When he spoke, it was barely audible, little more than an exhalation. “So Darquin was right. There was someone else out there all along.”

Katia leaned forward. She had to get through to him. “The damage you caused was grave, Dunstan. But, that is not what caused the ship to be in the desperate situation we find ourselves in now.

“It caused serious damage. But only about half of what you see now was caused by your bombs.” She looked down. “I could have recovered the ship much better if it hadn’t been for the compounded problem of the aliens.”

Kordieh nodded slowly. He wanted to believe her, but he could not let himself off too easily, either. “I understand. Still, if even one person lost their life through what I’ve done, the debt is there. I’ll pay it, whatever it takes.”

Katia caught his eyes and refused to let him go. She looked deeply into him, trying to convey how she believed in him. When she spoke, it was quiet again. “I know you will. I don’t have any doubt of that.”

He blinked, stirred by the contact. “Did the Captain talk to you about what happened when you entered my mind? I tried to tell her that it wasn’t your fault. That you shouldn’t be blamed.”

A sardonic smile creased Katia’s face. “She has. And, I will be paying in my own way, in her own time. Punishment is yet to be completely determined. I was wrong, Dunstan. I tried to take your life — in payment for everyone else’s — but it wasn’t mine to take. I have to take just as much responsibility for that as you do for what you did.”

“I suppose so. The real world — the world you’ve always lived in — it is complicated, isn’t it?” He sounded almost childlike. “I … I’ve lived my whole life up to now in delusions. They were always simple.”

She looked down to the floor. “I don’t know if you would call what I lived in the real world or not … but, yes, it is very complicated. Never black and white … always shades of grey.”

“I was so sure. Everything made sense. I knew we were all dead, because Lucius was. But then … right after the … the explosion, I saw something. I was — taken somewhere.”

Katia bit at her lower lip and looked back up at him. “Where did you go?”

“Minbar. Our — ” he paused, pained by the fact he couldn’t use that word any more — “the Anla’shok training center. There was a woman there….” He shook his head, trying to remember something which had not yet happened. “Somehow, I saw my own future. I lived. That fact shattered everything I had ever known.”

Katia nodded slowly. “You did. We were attacked with a time travel device of some sort.” He barely heard her next, whispered words. “You are not the only one.”

Curiosity and concern competed for Kordieh’s expression as he looked at her. “What happened to you?”

“I took two trips. One into the past, and one….” her voice faded off for a second as she remembered. “My children were there, and … a man … my husband, perhaps?” She shook her head. “I never thought I would marry again. Or see my daughters either.”

“You have children? What happened to them?”

Katia closed her eyes. “My husband … the Corps … they took them,” she whispered. “Both of them.” She opened her eyes again. “But, in this ‘dream’ I had three daughters.”

“Santiago…” Kordieh looked at her long and hard. “The woman in my — time journey — had just borne me a daughter.”

She looked back at him, mirroring his intense expression, not sure what to make of what he had said. Surely a coincidence…

His voice brought her out of the momentary reverie. “I have a strange question. I hope you don’t mind….” he began.

She shook her head. “I don’t mind, not coming from you.”

“What is your name?”

Katia blinked. The question didn’t anger her, but it did take her aback. “My full name? Why do you ask?”

“Well…” He managed a smile. “I can’t call you ‘Chief’ any more.”

“Katerina Santiago, or Katia as I have been called since I was born.”

“Dunstan, Dunstan Andrew Kordieh. A strange combination — ‘dark stone,’ and ‘brave one.'” He chuckled wryly. “Half right, anyway.”

Though his disclosure invited one from her, Katia still spoke hesitantly. “My … middle name is Maia. I have never much liked it. I don’t know why.”

“Maia,” he said slowly. As she looked up at him, she caught the tail end of a strange, private smile across his face. “I’ll have to find out what it means someday. But I will call you Katia if you prefer.”

She smiled softly. “No, actually you may call me what you feel fits.” She paused, biting at her lower lip. “I don’t know why, but I feel after what we have been through, we are closer. We can be honest with one another.”

“Katia. Mon ami. Mon seulement ami.

She smiled again. “I am not quite sure what that means. I grew up in Earthdome. I was surrounded by many languages, but never got around to learning French.”

“My friend. My only friend. But you look tired. Shouldn’t you rest?”

She looked down, then back up at him. “I have no quarters. But, I suppose the cot in my office is looking rather nice at the moment.”

“Please. We’ll have time to talk again before we get to Minbar.”

Katia stood and moved slowly moving toward the door. “I will make sure of it.” She knocked on the door. As she waited for Darquin to open it and let her out, she turned back, touching the Isil’zha at her shoulder. “I will keep it safe for you until your reinstatement.”

He smiled and stepped off the bed to bow to her. “Thank you.”

Kordieh leaned back on the bed and closed his eyes when she had gone. He couldn’t tell her yet. It was almost too much for him to think about, and he wouldn’t lay that burden on her. Maia. My Maia.

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


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