The body leads, but does the mind always follow?
Written by Khylaren
Released 3 Feb 2003
What was that smell?
Katrina Kim rolled over in her bed, burying her nose in her pillow in a vain attempt to block out the offending odor that had managed to bring her out of a rather pleasant dream. After several seconds of trying to breathe through her pillow, Katrina gave it up for lost and sat up, her pert nose crinkling in irritation. She pulled her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, resting her chin as she tried to identify the smell, which reminded her of the way their cat smelled whenever she accidentally got wet.
The movement caused her pajamas shift, chafing her neck in an irritating fashion. She pulled the neckline of the pajamas away from her skin, glancing at the chronometer on her bedside table. Realizing it was time to get up and get ready for school anyway, she sighed, and quickly stood up and stripped off her pajamas, making a beeline for the bathroom. She hoped that having the door shut between her and the odor would help block the smell. She also hoped that by the time she finished showering, the offending odor would be gone.
Katrina caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and smirked. Her hair, as usual, was sticking up in a wild mess, looking as if she had been taking grooming hints from the Kazon. There wasn’t a brush invented that could tame her unruly locks today, she thought ruefully, washing it was the only way to go.
Stepping into the shower stall, she reached for the control that would activate the sonic setting, anticipating the feel of having her skin scrubbed clean. However, when the shower activated, instead of feeling the pleasant hum as the sonic waves did their work, a discordant rattle vibrated the bones in her skull, making her feel queasy. Immediately she shut the shower off, taking a few deep breaths to restore her equilibrium.
Shaking her head to clear the last of the vibration’s unpleasant effects, she switched the shower to hydro instead, making a mental note to let her parents know that the sonic setting of her shower wasn’t working properly.
As the steam rose from the warm water, Katrina stepped into the spray and hissed in surprise as the water hit her bare skin.
Quickly she stepped out of the water and checked the temperature setting, blinking in surprise as she noted that the temperature and pressure was set to normal. Shrugging, she adjusted the control to lower the temperature a good 10 degrees and decreased the water pressure slightly, and stepped into the spray once more. Finding the new settings were much more tolerable, and she found that she could stand it long enough to finish her shower.
The knock on the door startled her.
"Katrina, are you almost done? Breakfast is waiting for you." Her mother’s voice came sounding slightly muffled through the door.
At the mention of food, Katrina’s stomach rumbled loudly.
"Be there in a minute."
Her hair, when dried, seemed to have a life of its own, springing free from the brush as she tried to style it into her usual fashion. Hair that escaped the brush continuously fell forward onto her face and she pushed it back irritably. Sighing, she reached for a headband pushed her hair back away from her face. A quick glance in the mirror confirmed her opinion that the headband made her look like she was 12, instead of 14, but it was too late in the morning to do anything else.
Since nothing else seemed to be going right for her this morning, it didn’t surprise her that the clothes she had picked out to wear today seemed to have been ruined by a replicator malfunction. Her favorite sweater made her skin itch unbearably, and the skirt felt far too stiff against her skin. With a snarl of annoyance, she tossed the clothing into the recycler and reached for another shirt and pants. To her relief, the replicator didn’t seem to have been malfunctioning when it made the soft cotton shirt and pants, and she was able to finish dressing without any further problems.
Katrina left her room and headed for the main living area of their quarters. The smell, whatever had caused it, seemed to be gone, and Katrina’s mouth watered hungrily at the plate of pancakes her mother placed in the center of their dining table.
"Did you sleep well?" her mother asked conversationally as she finished replicating a pitcher of orange juice and bringing it over to the table.
"Mmm..hmm," Katrina eyed the stack of pancakes, her stomach rumbling rather audibly once more, much to her chagrin.
Annika’s eyebrow slightly and she cast a smile at her daughter. "You may eat. Your father will be joining us shortly. He would not want you to starve while waiting for him."
The young Romulan resisted the urge to stick out her tongue in response to her mother’s gentle teasing, knowing the gesture to be an immature one. Katrina had been trying very hard lately to act more mature. With maturity, she knew, came additional privileges –, which included more free time to spend with her friends. With that in mind, she decided to wait for her father, waiting being the more mature thing to do.
Luckily, her wait was not a long one, for her father, dressed in his uniform, stepped out of her parent’s sleeping area and made his way over to where she was sitting, pausing just long enough to kiss her mother on the cheek as he walked by. Out of reflex, Katrina ducked as her father’s hand automatically shot out to tousle her hair.
"Dad!" She looked indignantly up at him.
Harry Kim regarded his daughter fondly, trying unsuccessfully to hide his smile in response to her ruffled expression. He carefully schooled his features into a serious, somewhat apologetic appearance.
"Sorry, princess. I keep forgetting."
He would keep forgetting, Katrina groused inwardly. He’d been mussing her hair every morning since she was old enough to sit at the table with the adults. It had only been through a recent plea to her mother to politely remind her father that Katrina was no longer a little girl, and would not necessarily appreciate him messing with her hair. It had been only partially successful; her father only remembered half of the time not to do as had been his habit for nearly 11 years. Luckily, she had been getting better at ducking.
Katrina stifled a sigh and smiled at her father, who took his seat across from her at the table. Her mother joined them almost immediately, bringing the small bottle of maple syrup to set in the center of the table.
Her father served himself first, sliding the plate of pancakes towards Katrina so that she could help herself off of the stack. She deftly speared two cakes and placed them on her plate, immediately dousing them with a liberal covering of maple syrup. She slid the remaining cakes towards her mother and poured herself a glass of orange juice.
"What was that awful smell this morning?" she asked as she placed the pitcher of juice back in the center of the table.
Annika raised her eyebrow in surprise. "Smell?"
Katrina nodded, using her fork to cut a bite of pancake. "It woke me up."
Annika shook her head. "I did not smell anything," she paused, looking questioningly at Harry. "Did you?"
"No, I didn’t. What did it smell like?" He directed his question at Katrina.
His daughter wrinkled her nose at the memory. "Like a wet cat. It was awful. You didn’t smell it?"
"You don’t suppose Petra got into the sink again, do you?" Harry asked, referring to the family cat, which had the very un-feline habit of finding any water source and rolling in it.
Annika shook her head, raising an eyebrow. "She’s been sleeping at the foot of our bed since I woke. Perhaps something may have traveled through the ventilation system into Katrina’s room?" Annika asked, taking a sip from her glass of juice.
Harry shrugged. "Possibly. If it did, then someone else may have also smelled it. I’ll have Naomi look into it." He smiled at Katrina. "Nothing like a mystery to start off the day."
Katrina raised an eyebrow at her father in an unconscious imitation of her mother and put the bite of pancake in her mouth. The moment the food touched her tongue Katrina gagged, hastily spitting the bite of pancake into her napkin.
Her parents stared at her in surprise.
"Whatever is the matter with you?" Annika asked, shocked by her daughter’s behavior.
Shuddering from the aftertaste of the pancake, Katrina reached for her juice to wash it away before answering her mother. The mouth-puckering sourness of the juice made her sputter in surprise.
Her father’s frown mirrored her mother’s.
"We raised you better than that," her mother said sharply. "What are you doing?"
Katrina dropped her head, feeling her cheeks flush with embarrassment.
"I’m sorry," she said quietly, looking back up at her parents. "Something is wrong with my food. The pancakes taste like salt, and my juice has gone sour."
Her father looked at his partially eaten plate of pancakes. "I didn’t taste anything wrong with these, and they came from the same plate." He looked at his daughter with concern. "Are you feeling all right?"
Katrina shrugged, pushing her plate away to hide her embarrassment. "Sure, I mean, it’s nothing. I’m fine."
Annika reached out and touched Katrina’s forehead. "You don’t feel feverish, but perhaps you should go to sickbay and have Dr. Saldeed examine you."
Katrina moved away from her mother’s touch, pushing herself away from the table. "No, I’m fine. I gotta warp, Mom, or I’ll be late for school."
Quickly grabbing her school bag, Katrina slung it over her shoulder and headed for the door, pausing long enough to give both her parents a kiss on the cheek.
"Have a good day, Katrina," her father said, giving her a quick hug, trying not to look as concerned as he felt.
"Remember you need to do your homework right after school if you are going to your language lesson with Dr. Saldeed later," her mother reminded her as she returned her daughter’s kiss.
"Yes, Mom. I will." Katrina resisted the urge to roll her eyes long enough for the door to their quarters to shut behind her.
Captain’s log, Stardate 76634.3
We are currently en route to the Talaxian colony of Rivex on an emergency mission to deliver a vaccine against a local plague. From the few communications Talax has received, we’ve learned that a large portion of the colony has already fallen ill and that they’re not responding to local treatments. Since the Enterprise is much faster than anything in the Talaxian fleet, we have a much better chance of arriving on the scene before any fatalities occur. Minister Dexa was most apologetic in her plea for our assistance, and I have assured her that this mission is not an inconvenience – especially since Talaxian lives are at stake.
A Talaxian transport rendezvoused with Enterprise at 0900 to take aboard two specialists in Talaxian viral medicine. Doctors Artix and Kelix have been working with Dr. Saldeed to replicate a large quantity of the vaccine. They are optimistic that this vaccine will succeed in treating the colonists of Rivex. I can only hope that they’re right.
"Computer, end log."
Captain Harry Kim sat back in his chair, reaching for the cup of herbal tea that sat cooling on his ready room desk. He had just taken a sip when the chime to his door sounded.
"Come in," he said, placing the cup carefully on his desk beside his monitor.
The door to his ready room swished open, admitting his first officer. From the expression on the Klingon’s face, Harry had little difficulty guessing what Kalan wanted.
"What can I do for you, Commander?"
Kalan stood at the end of Harry’s desk, arms stiffly at his sides, ignoring the chair that Harry offered.
"Lieutenant Wildman reports that we will be arriving at Rivex in approximately two hours, sir," Kalan said, folding his arms across his chest.
"Very good, Commander. Was there anything else?"
Kalan frowned. "I am concerned, Captain, that the Talaxians are taking advantage of our good will. How many more ‘errands’ will they request of us before we can return to our original mission to explore this quadrant?"
Harry leaned forward, looking slightly upwards at him. "I understand your concern, Commander. However, this mission is no simple errand. Lives are at stake here and we have the genuine opportunity to prevent possible deaths of people we consider our allies. We have precious few of them out here, right now, Commander, and while I won’t allow our need of their good will to put is in a position where we are taken advantage of, this mission is exactly the type of endeavor that Fleet Command had in mind when they sent us out here."
Kalan nodded, his scowl disappearing. "I understand, sir. You realize that I had to voice my concerns."
Harry smiled. "Of course. I would expect no less from you."
Kalan’s eyes narrowed slightly, uncertain if his commanding officer was serious or not.
"Is there anything else, Commander?" Harry asked, privately wondering if he offended the ever-serious Klingon.
"Thank you, dismissed."
Harry watched Kalan’s back retreat through the doors and sat back in his chair, reaching once more for his tea.
Katrina stepped out of the lift and jogged down the corridor, hoping to catch her friends before class started. She stopped outside the classroom door and peeked inside, checking to see if Pana, Tiffany, and Bree had arrived before her. She didn’t see her friends among those few students who were already sitting at their desks, and she peered down the corridor once more, shifting her weight slightly to lean against the wall.
Several moments passed and it was nearly time for class to begin before she saw her three friends walking quickly towards the classroom. A wave of irritation rose when she saw that Tiffany was walking arm in arm with Curtis Obadae, their heads close together in a conspiratorial manner. The expression of barely concealed humor on Pana’s face, however, dispelled any annoyance she was feeling. Pana rolled her eyes in the couple’s direction and Katrina grinned in response.
Bree was still rubbing the sleep out of her eyes when they arrived to where Katrina was waiting.
"Where were you guys?" Katrina demanded. "We were supposed to meet before class."
"I’m sorry, Katrina," Bree looked unhappy. "I overslept, and Pana waited for me, so I guess it’s my fault we’re late."
Katrina felt bad – she hadn’t meant to sound so cross with her friend. "That’s okay. I understand – it’s been a weird morning for me too."
Pana’s antennae perked up slightly. "Really? What happened to you?"
But Katrina was distracted for the moment and didn’t hear Pana’s question. Jason Lowe had just walked by, passing close by her on his way into the classroom. And he had given her a little smile just as he had walked by her.
"Hello? Enterprise calling Katrina Kim," Pana smirked, prodding her lightly on the shoulder.
"She’s light-years away, Pana," snickered Tiffany, who had finally disentangled herself from Curtis long enough to catch what was going on. "Her mind is on something much more interesting than us." She tilted her head playfully. "Why don’t you just ask him out? Then you can stare at him all you like!"
Katrina scowled, her irritation rising once more. "Not everyone is as obsessed with boys as you are, Tiffany!" she snapped crossly. "I wasn’t staring!"
Tiffany stepped back, a look of hurt confusion crossing her features. She was used to teasing Katrina about Jason, and Katrina never seemed to mind it before. "I’m s-sorry," she stammered faintly, wondering what had happened to her friend this morning that had put that look on her face.
Seeing the hurt look on Tiffany’s face, as well as the looks of surprise on Pana and Bree’s, caused Katrina’s temper to subside, and a feeling of dismay to take its place.
"I’m sorry, Tiff. I didn’t mean to bite your head off," Katrina said, dropping her head slightly. "It’s not been a good morning."
She didn’t have time to explain, however, because the professor had chosen that moment to step out into the corridor where they were standing and politely inquire as to whether or not they planned to attend their classes this morning.
The four hurried into the classroom sheepishly, taking their assigned seats. From time to time, Katrina caught each of her friends looking at her curiously, wondering what it was that had their friend acting so out of character. It was a question that plagued Katrina as well.
Ensign Miral Paris smoothly guided Enterprise into orbit above the blue planet below them, carefully matching speed with the planet’s rotation so that they remained in place just above the main continent where the colonists of Rivex had settled.
"We’re receiving a communication from the surface, Captain," Lieutenant Wildman reported.
"Patch it through," Harry replied, settling himself comfortably in his chair next to Kalan.
The viewscreen in front of them flickered briefly, and the image of a matronly Talaxian woman appeared before them.
"I’m Captain Kim of the USS Enterprise," Harry said to the woman. "We’ve come in response to the distress calls you sent to Talax."
"I’m First Elder, Martixa, leader of this colony. I thank you for your response, Captain Kim. The situation down here has grown progressively worse, and I was afraid help wouldn’t arrive in time." She looked greatly relieved.
"We will be beaming down immediately with the vaccine along with two medical personnel from Talax. Our ship’s doctor will accompany them and assist with the dispensing of the vaccine," Harry replied. "Will you send us the coordinates?"
Martixa nodded at someone who was off-screen. Seconds later, Lieutenant Wildman reported that they had received the coordinates which would take them to the center of the village.
"Thank you, again, Captain Kim. Your help is most appreciated."
"You are welcome, First Elder. We will see you shortly. Enterprise out."
Katrina rubbed her forehead, feeling the ridge that protruded slightly above her slanted eyebrows, the ridge that marked her distinctly as Romulan and not Vulcan. She could feel a headache forming right behind it, an ache that caused her ears to ring and her temper to fray. As she attempted to concentrate on the lesson her teacher was giving, Katrina became aware that she was uncomfortably warm, and that the air in the classroom was almost stifling. Tugging at the neck of her shirt, she leaned across the distance between her desk and Pana’s.
"Is it warmer in here than usual?" she asked, pitching her voice for the Andorian’s ears alone.
Pana’s antennae twitched slightly in response and the blue-skinned girl shook her head slightly, her eyes never wavering from the teacher as her fingers flew over her HPADD, taking rapid notes.
Katrina sat back, stifling an irritated sigh. In the last few moments, it seemed the temperature in the room had climbed several more degrees, and she could feel sweat breaking out on her forehead. She glanced around the room, taking note that none of her classmates seemed to be affected. Her gaze lingered briefly on Jason, and she felt the familiar fluttering of butterflies in her stomach as she looked at him.
The object of her regard looked away from the professor with a frown, and as if feeling the weight of her gaze, turned his head slightly to look at her. Katrina felt the blood rush to her cheeks and she looked hastily away, giving extra attention to the diagram the teacher was drawing on the overhead display.
It seemed as if the lunch hour would never come teacher finally released them for their lunch break, Katrina wasted no time getting her school bag and heading for Pana’s desk.
"You still meeting us for lunch at the Galleria?" Pana asked, her brow furrowed slightly in concern for her friend. Katrina did not look good, her already fair skin was much paler than normal, and she appeared to be sweating.
The young Romulan shook her head at her friend, rubbing her hand over her forehead. "I’m not feeling very well at the moment," she said, grimacing slightly. "I think I may stop by sickbay first." She opened her eyes just in time to see Curtis and Jason head for the door, Jason casting a glance over his shoulder at her before the door hissed shut behind him.
"What’s the matter?" Tiffany joined them, followed closely by Bree.
"You look terrible," Bree added.
Katrina snorted, dropping the hand that had been rubbing her head to her side. "Thanks. It’s probably nothing. Just a headache." She didn’t mention that the heat in the room was nearly intolerable.
"Do you want us to go with you?" Bree asked, her dark eyes mirroring her concern.
Katrina shook her head, embarrassed at the fuss her friends were making. "No, I’ll be fine."
Well, you know where we’ll be," Pana said lightly. "We’ll make sure to leave some dessert for you."
Katrina managed a smile. "If I don’t see you there, I’ll be back for second-half."
Tiffany and Bree nodded, heading off for the Galleria. Pana regarded her friend for several more seconds before finally gathering her school bag up and heading for the door.
As the door closed behind Pana, Katrina laid her head briefly on her desk. The metal felt blessedly cool against the warmth of her cheek. After several moments she lifted her head and stood up, slinging her bag over her shoulder and heading for the classroom door, hearing it hiss shut behind her as she headed for the lift.
First Elder Martixa wasted no time in leading Dr. Saldeed and the two Talaxian medics to the large building that under normal circumstances served as the colony’s meeting hall. It had been converted into a temporary hospital in order to deal with the increasing number of colonists who had fallen ill. Simple cots lined all four walls of the hall, and several rows of cots stretched across the center. Nearly every cot, Harry saw, was occupied
Harry and Lt. Krell waited alongside Martixa, staying well out of the way as the colony’s healer met with Doctors Saldeed, Artix and Kelix and put them immediately to work.
"I must thank you again, Captain Kim, for your help," Martixa said quietly. "We’ve lost 12 colonists so far, and I’m afraid if you hadn’t arrived when you did, we would have lost a great deal more." Her face was creased with worry.
"Dr. Artix and Dr. Kelix are certain this strain of plague will respond to the vaccine they have brought," Harry said, watching as Dr. Saldeed administered a hypospray to a young Talaxian girl who looked to be about Katrina’s age. "Apparently it is similar to a strain that broke out on Talax many years ago."
"Yallos Fever," Martixa nodded unhappily. "Supposedly the strain was wiped out years ago. We certainly haven’t seen an outbreak of anything like this in my lifetime." She sighed. "I don’t understand why this has happened. The planet was thoroughly investigated before we were allowed to settle here."
"Have you had any visitors besides ourselves?" Krell asked with a thoughtful frown.
"Of course," Martixa replied with surprise. "We receive shipments of food and other supplies regularly from Talax. Eventually, we will be self-sufficient and will no longer need to import the supplies we need. Our hope is to be able to produce enough surplus that we will be able to trade with Talax and our sister colony, Previx, for those items that we are unable to produce here."
"Approximately when did the first signs of the plague begin, First Elder?" Harry asked, following Krell’s lead.
Martixa frowned. "It’s been about six weeks. Vallex came into the town to see our healer, saying he wasn’t feeling well. Brux, our healer, treated him and sent him home. I don’t know that anyone has seen Vallex since then." She turned to Harry with an expression of dismay. "I’ll send someone to check on him immediately. So many townsfolk have fallen ill in the past few weeks, I never made the connection until now."
"Is there any way of checking to see if he had contact with any of the trade ships recently?" Harry asked quietly.
"You think he picked something up from one of the traders, don’t you?" Martixa said, shaking her head. "If he had, wouldn’t it have spread to Talax as well? Wouldn’t we have heard about it by now?"
Harry had to admit she had a point, but it still seemed a possibility that he couldn’t ignore.
"What about a biological weapon?" Dr. Saldeed’s approach had gone unnoticed until now. She stopped next to Martixa, folding her arms across her chest.
"What do you mean?" Martixa asked. "Someone deliberately planted this plague? Why would anyone do such an awful thing?"
Saldeed’s eyebrow lifted slightly as she looked at the older woman. "This is a rich and fertile planet, full of natural resources waiting to be plundered. Colonists would be considered a hindrance, not an asset. And," she added slyly, "As I’m sure you know something like this could be engineered to simply cause trouble between new allies."
Krell was nodding, and even Harry found that Saldeed’s explanation seemed more likely than anything else they had come up with, especially in light of more recent developments between the Haakonians and Talaxians. Not everyone was in favor of the alliance.
"Captain, I’d like your permission to investigate this a bit further," Saldeed said, turning towards him and dropping her arms to her sides. "I would also like to visit the outlying farms to make sure we don’t miss any more plague victims. I’m sure there are those that never made it into town."
"Good idea," Harry replied. "Take Mr. Krell with you. Perhaps, First Elder, you would allow my chief of security to look over your shipment records?"
Martixa nodded, obviously troubled. "I still can’t believe someone would do something this deliberately awful." She didn’t notice Saldeed’s sarcastic snort as she continued. "I appreciate your help in this, Captain."
"You are welcome, First Elder," Harry said honestly. "I truly hope our suspicions are incorrect."
Katrina stepped through the doors of sickbay, doubts rising as to the necessity of the trip. Her headache had greatly lessened during the lift ride to sickbay, and she found the temperature to be tolerable once more. She was beginning to wonder if she really needed to see Dr. Saldeed, especially since the older Romulan tended to get annoyed easily by Katrina’s impromptu visits.
"Is there something you needed, Ms. Kim?" Nurse Baker asked, having noticed Katrina’s arrival.
"Is Dr. Saldeed available?" Katrina figured that she might as well see the doctor, since she came all the way to sickbay already.
The pretty nurse shook her head. "No, I’m afraid not. She and our visiting Talaxian medics left about an hour ago for the surface to treat the colonists on Rivex. Is there something I can help you with?"
Disappointed, yet relieved, Katrina shook her head. "No, it can wait. Thanks!" Before the nurse could question her further, Katrina spun on her heel and made a beeline for the exit.
Berating herself for wasting part of her lunch hour, Katrina dashed for the nearest lift that would take her to the Galleria, anxious to join her friends. She still had twenty minutes, plenty of time to eat and share ship’s gossip with them. At the thought of food, her stomach rumbled alarmingly, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten much of a breakfast.
Impatiently she waited for the lift doors to open. She stepped through them the moment they opened wide enough to admit her, and immediately she began searching for her friends. She wasn’t prepared for the wave of sound that hit her as she entered the main eating area, and the combined odors of food and drink rose in a wave of smell that made her stomach clench in nausea. Katrina blinked, her eyes set on the table where her three friends sat, determined to ignore her body’s weird behavior and enjoy what free time she had left before class began once more.
"Feeling better?" Pana asked her as she slid into her seat, dropping her school bag to the floor between her feet.
"Much," Katrina lied, reaching across the table to the replicator so she could place her order. Moments later, her lunch materialized, and she eagerly grasped the plate, sliding it in front of her.
"Pizza, again?" Bree asked, wrinkling her nose at Katrina’s plate. "Don’t you ever get tired of it?"
"Nope," Katrina replied, clenching her teeth as the smell of her food hit her with a vengeance. She closed her eyes briefly, fighting against the nausea and the headache, which had returned full force.
"You aren’t feeling better," Tiffany accused. "Didn’t you see the doctor?"
Katrina shook her head and immediately regretted it. The movement made the headache worse.
"Hey! Mind if we join you ladies?" A familiar voice caused Katrina to open her eyes and look up. Her misery only increased as she realized that Curtis and Jason were standing next to their table, obviously wanting to join them.
"Sure," Tiffany answered with a grin, her friend’s condition momentarily forgotten. "Have a seat."
Curtis slid into the seat next to Tiffany, his arm going around her shoulders possessively. Jason stood for a moment, contemplating the two other empty seats before taking the one next to Katrina.
"Hi," he said, giving her a smile that under normal conditions would have melted her down to her toes.
Katrina smiled falteringly, wishing she didn’t feel so miserable. "Hi yourself," she replied, trying to sound normal as possible.
If Jason noticed anything odd about Katrina’s behavior, he didn’t comment, but instead turned his attention to the others at the table, greeting them in turn. Conversation quickly turned to the latest homework project that was coming up, and speculation as to who their partner would be.
Katrina tried to follow the conversation, but between the noise, the smell of food, her headache, and Jason’s proximity, she couldn’t concentrate. After several moments, Jason noticed she hadn’t said anything and turned back to her.
"Hey, who do you think you’ll get?" he asked.
Katrina stood up hastily, pushing her plate into the recycler and grabbing her bag from under the table.
"I just remembered, I’ve…I’ve got an errand to do before class starts. See you in class." She moved unsteadily away from the table, keeping her head down and concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. She didn’t see Jason’s expression of surprise and dismay at her abrupt departure. She just knew she had to get out of there – fast!
Thankfully, no one else stepped into the lift with her, and when the doors closed, she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes with a sigh.
There was definitely something wrong with her, she admitted to herself finally. Probably a lot of somethings. She found herself wishing she could just crawl back in bed and pull the covers over her head.
In the quiet of the lift, her headache receded once more, along with all it’s accompanying symptoms of irritation and nausea, leaving her to think freely once again. She was uncertain what to do at this point. Dr. Saldeed was away from sickbay, and she didn’t feel like confiding in Nurse Baker. If she contacted her mother, she would most likely make a big fuss, something Katrina didn’t want to go through today either.
She sighed again, and opened her eyes, feeling much closer to her normal self. For now, she decided, she would return to class and try to stick it out. The whole thing was weird, embarrassing, and annoying, and as Katrina walked back into her classroom, she found herself fervently hoping that it would all go away.
The damning evidence was found in a mostly empty grain storage bin, the main storage area for the colony’s grain supply.
"The last shipment we received from Talax was part of a trade agreement between Talax and Haakonia," Martixa explained as she led them through the building. "Every man, woman and child received a share of this grain."
Dr. Saldeed’s expression was grim. "There’s an unusual strain of bacteria present in the remaining grain that I would like to take back with me and examine more closely. If my suspicions prove correct, this is the source of the illness that has been plaguing your people."
Harry winced at Saldeed’s turn of phrase, wondering if she used it deliberately. Saldeed and Krell had returned from the outlying farms with mixed news. They had managed to treat those colonists who had not come to the village when they had fallen ill, and everyone they had treated were showing definite signs of improvement. However, in the six weeks since the farmer, Vallex, had fallen ill, more than three people had died, including the unfortunate farmer.
It had been Krell’s idea to search the food stores, particularly those shipped from Talax, and to uncover their origins. Martixa had been horrified at the idea that the colony had been deliberately poisoned, but like Harry, wanted to get to the truth of the matter. All of the shipping agreements had been poured through, and the most recent shipment had arrived approximately six weeks ago.
"I think it would be best if all of the remaining colonists receive vaccinations, since everyone, most likely, has been exposed," Dr. Saldeed said in a much kinder tone. "And any grain that remains needs to be destroyed."
Martixa took a deep breath and nodded. "Unfortunately, that is probably for the best. Luckily, our first harvest should be coming in about a week or so, and enough people ought to be well enough by then to bring it in."
With Martixa’s permission, Saldeed gathered several samples of the grain, placing them carefully in her medical bag.
"Dr. Artix and Dr. Kelix have requested to remain behind on the colony, with your permission, First Elder," Harry said quietly, watching Saldeed work. "They both feel they could be of more use here than at home, on Talax, where there is no shortage of medical personnel."
Martixa nodded with a relieved smile. "That would be wonderful, Captain. I’m glad they want to stay. I know Brux will appreciate having them around as well."
"We’ll let you know when we have more information about the bacteria strain, First Elder. In the meantime, if there is anything else we can help you with, please let us know," Harry said sincerely.
"I will, Captain. Thank you again for all your help," Martixa held her hands out in a farewell gesture.
Harry touched her hands briefly. "I’m glad we could help," he said, releasing her hands to tap his combadge. "Kim to Enterprise, three to beam up."
The second half of class began well enough for Katrina. In the relative quiet of the classroom, Katrina’s headache faded into the background, and she was relieved to find that she no longer seemed to be experiencing any other ‘weirdness’. In fact, she felt energetic and alert, and fully able to concentrate on the professor’s lesson on atoms.
"Each of you will be paired with another student to build a study model of an transuranic atom, and provide a complete presentation on its properties and applications," said Professor Solett, the elderly Vulcan science teacher. "I expect you to finish your project by end of class tomorrow."
Katrina grinned, casting a glance over at her friends. Whenever their teachers broke them up into study groups, Tiffany would usually work with Bree, and Pana would work with Katrina. This always made doing schoolwork much more enjoyable.
"I have selected partners for each of you this time. I believe it will benefit some of you to work with different partners than you usually select," the professor continued, bringing Katrina’s attention back to the front of the class. "I’ve noticed that some of you tend to socialize unnecessarily in lieu of completing your projects," he added sourly.
Katrina’s smile faded, but inwardly she shrugged. There wasn’t anyone in the class she would mind working with; it just wouldn’t be nearly as fun. She watched with interest as the teacher began calling names, wondering who she would get as a partner.
"Ms. Kim, I want you to work with Mr. Lowe today."
Her heart stopped beating for a moment and she swallowed, not believing her luck. Her stomach fluttered nervously as she stood up, making her way over to where Jason sat. She only hoped she would be able to work with him and not act like a complete herbie.
Katrina took a deep breath and sat down.
"Whoa, I’m not that bad to work with, am I?" Jason joked, smiling across at her, a shadow of worry in his eyes.
Katrina shook her head and smiled back. "No."
"Good," he sat back with a look of relief that was obviously done for her benefit, making her smile again. "You had me worried there for a sec."
Katrina was relieved as well, although she didn’t show it. In those few moments he had said exactly the right thing to set her nerves to rest. "Let’s get started, okay?"
"Right," Jason agreed, reaching for the box of materials that the professor had placed on his desk. "Where do we start?" He slid the box into the center of the table between them.
For several moments, both their heads were bent over the box, examined the contents and picking out the replicas of protons and neutrons they would need to build their model. Katrina tried to concentrate on the task at hand, but as she worked, she began noticing things about Jason that she had never noticed before. A growing, vibrating energy hummed through her as they worked, and she found that she could smell the soap he used this morning, underlying his own, natural scent that Katrina found very pleasant, and very distracting. Jason handed her the piece of foam they would use to replicate the nucleus and their fingers brushed briefly, sending an electric shock up her arm and eliciting a gasp from her that caused Jason to look up.
Katrina snatched her hand away, dropping the nucleus on the table. Her fingers still tingled where they had touched his. She looked down, her cheeks flushed with heat.
"Are you okay?" Jason looked at her with concern.
She was mortified.
"Is there a problem here?" Professor Solett had approached their table to check on their progress.
Katrina looked up, feeling her headache return with surprising vengeance, causing her to close her eyes briefly.
"I’m not feeling well, professor," she admitted opening her eyes to a mere squint. "I’ve got a terrible headache." She wasn’t going to go into any further detail – especially with Jason sitting right across from her. "May I be excused for the day?"
Professor Solett looked at her critically for a moment, noting how pale she looked, despite the blotches of color on her cheeks. Finally, he nodded.
"You may be excused if you go directly to Sickbay. You are not looking yourself at all." He looked over at Jason. "You will be given an extra day to complete your project should Ms. Kim prove to be seriously ill."
"Thank you, professor." Katrina fled the classroom gratefully and without a backwards glance. As the turbolift that would take her to sickbay began to move, she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, wondering once again what was wrong with her today.
Annika looked up from her work with a small frown. Professor Yola Mahat hesitated in the doorway of her office.
"I’m sorry to interrupt your work, Dr. Kim, but Professor Solett is trying to contact you." The Cardassian woman looked apologetic. She knew her superior disliked interruptions.
"Thank you, Professor. I’ll take it in here." Annika turned and activated her private com channel. The Vulcan features of Professor Solett filled the screen.
"I apologize for the interruption, Dr. Kim," he began, "but I thought you should know that I excused Katrina from class to go to Sickbay. She said she was not feeling well."
"Thank you for contacting me, Professor," Annika said, her delicate brows meeting in concern. "She wasn’t feeling herself this morning, I probably should have kept her at home"
"I can send her lessons home with Ms. Limos. I am sure she will be feeling better soon."
"Thank you again, Professor." Annika terminated the transmission. Quickly, she tied up the loose ends of her work and shut her terminal down, her mind already consumed with worry about Katrina. She left her office for the main laboratory, where Professor Mahat was working.
"Dr. Kim? Is everything all right?" Mahat asked as Annika removed her lab coat and hung it on the hook by the door.
"I am leaving for the day, Professor. My daughter is not feeling well and I need to meet her at Sickbay," Annika explained. "Please continue your work. I will read your report tomorrow."
The other woman dipped her head in acknowledgement. "I hope she is all right."
Annika turned away from the door for a moment. "Thank you," she answered coolly, her attention focused elsewhere. "I will see you tomorrow morning."
Stepping into the corridor, Annika made her way to the turbolift, trying to ignore the knot of worry forming in her stomach.
Carefully, Dr. Saldeed set the sample of contaminated grain in the analyzer, entering the commands that would tell it to break down the compound to its very smallest microbe. It would take the analyzer several hours to complete its task, but she hoped the results would give them more information about the nature of the bacteria – specifically, if it had been engineered or if it had developed naturally. She was preparing to examine the sample of bacteria that was growing on the grain when the doors to sickbay opened. When she saw who it was, she frowned, glancing at the chronometer to confirm the time.
"You’re 30 minutes early for your language lesson, Katrina," she said, adjusting the magnification level of the imager. "I’m right in the middle of something. You do remember that I actually have a job on this ship, don’t you?" When Katrina didn’t reply, Saldeed looked up from her work in irritation. Her annoyance vanished abruptly when she saw Katrina’s face.
The girl was pale, sweating, and literally swaying on her feet. Quickly, Saldeed moved to her side, placing an arm around Katrina to support her as she guided her to an empty biobed. She reached for the tricorder without looking for it, her eyes scanning Katrina’s face, noting the glassy look to her eyes and the spots of color on her cheeks.
A quick, initial scan showed higher than normal levels of adrenaline, blood pressure, and rapid pulse.
"My head hurts," said Katrina dully, closing her eyes.
Saldeed’s eyebrow rose in surprise, but she filled a hypospray with a simple pain reliever and applied it to Katrina’s neck. It took several moments for the treatment to take affect, but she could see difference visibly once it did. Color returned to Katrina’s face, and when she opened her eyes, Saldeed no longer saw the haze of pain that had covered them.
"Feeling better?" she asked quietly, placing the hypospray on the table next tot he biobed.
"Yes, thank you. That is the worst it has been so far." Katrina closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead with her hands. Dropping her hands to her lap, she looked back up at the doctor. "I wasn’t sure I was gonna make it to sickbay."
"How long has this been going on?" Saldeed asked, reaching for her tricorder again.
"Well, since this morning, really, I guess, since it seems to be going with everything else weird that has been going on," Katrina said, folding her fingers together.
"Really," Saldeed folded her arms across her chest. "Tell me about the weirdness."
With her headache gone, Katrina found she could think clearly once more. Slowly, beginning with the strange odor that woke her up this morning, Katrina recounted her day.
Saldeed didn’t interrupt her, but as she explained the overwhelming sounds and smells of the Galleria, the strange fluctuations in temperature, and her reaction to Jason, an idea began to form in the doctor’s mind.
"I couldn’t work with him. All I could think about was how wonderful he smelled," Katrina finished miserably. "And then the headache came back again and it was all I could do to walk here."
"Hmm," Saldeed replied, holding the tricorder up for closer inspection. "You’re fourteen now, right?" When Katrina nodded, she continued. "I think I know what’s going on."
Katrina’s expression brightened considerably. "Really?"
"I want to check you biochemical levels, Katrina," Saldeed replied, entering the information from the tricorder into the computer. "And then…"
The doors to sickbay opened, interrupting her train of thought. She was relieved to see it was Katrina’s mother.
"Oh good, Dr. Kim. I was about to contact you."
Annika didn’t hear her words, however, her focus was solely on Katrina. She looked her daughter over with critical concern, and her worried expression changed to one of disapproval as she took in her daughter’s appearance.
"You don’t appear to be ill, Katrina."
She could hear the disciplinary tone underlying her mother’s statement and opened her mouth to explain.
"She isn’t ill," Dr. Saldeed replied, stopping at the biobed next to Annika. "In fact, there is nothing physically wrong with your daughter."
Katrina’s eyes opened in shock and she shot Saldeed a look of hurt betrayal.
"I hope you can explain your behavior then, Katrina. Your professor called me in from work. He told me you were ill." Annika crossed her arms over her chest and fixed her daughter with a stern look.
"As I was beginning to explain, Dr. Kim," Saldeed continued in a slightly more forceful tone. "Katrina is physically normal – normal for a Romulan at age 14." She felt a twinge of satisfaction as both pairs of eyes turned their attention to her. "She’s going through ba’shen, the Romulan mating cycle." She leaned back against the table and crossed her arms. "Once, every seven years, a Romulan experiences increased sensory perception and hormone levels, causing the symptoms that Katrina has been suffering since this morning, including severe headaches if the biochemical levels in the brain become imbalanced. Basically, ba’shen is the biological urge to take a mate."
It took several moments for both Kims to digest Saldeed’s explanation. Annika found her voice first.
"Ba’shen" she asked faintly, shaking her head. "I’ve never heard of ba’shen."
Saldeed snorted. "That isn’t surprising, considering how little the Federation has bothered to really study Romulan culture. The Vulcans have something similar, but they don’t really like to talk about it."
Katrina realized her mouth was still open and she closed it with a snap. A mate, she thought, horrified at the idea. She liked boys well enough – well, one boy anyway – but…a mate??? She’d have to take a mate?
Evidently, her mother was thinking along similar lines. "Katrina is only fourteen," her mother protested. "She’s much too young for any relationship."
Her mother’s comment rankled her, making her suddenly furious. "I’m not a baby anymore, Mom!" She slipped off the biobed in a fluid motion; so angry she was literally shaking. "Don’t treat me like one!"
She barely had time to register the look of shocked dismay on her mother’s face before she ran for the door.
Annika felt Saldeed’s arm around her shoulders before she realized that her knees were shaking, and allowed the other woman to help her lean against the biobed for support.
"Don’t take it personally, Dr. Kim," Saldeed said quietly, without a trace of sarcasm. "Ba’shen causes violent mood swings as well."
Annika wondered why the doctor’s comment didn’t make her feel any better.
"Computer, run program Katrina beta three."
She hated the tremble she heard in her voice. She hated the weak feeling she had in the pit of her stomach when she pictured the way her mother’s face looked just before she ran out of sickbay. She hated how long it was taking the computer to start her favorite Velocity program. Right now, she figured, she hated just about everything.
Anger still surged through her like an electric current, making her pace the confines of the holodeck while the computer finished loading the program. Once the arena appeared, she grabbed the targeting phaser and assumed an anticipatory stance. The computer generated an opponent for her, an anonymous-looking girl, who mirrored her stance across the arena.
"Begin round one," said the computer, and the Velocity disk appeared in the center of the arena.
Katrina was shooting at the target and rolling out of the way almost before the disk finished appearing. It seemed to take several seconds before her opponent returned fire, hitting the disk and sending it whizzing back in Katrina’s direction. Instinctively, Katrina spun and fired at the disk, sending it hurtling towards her opponent too quickly for the computer generated girl to hit it with her phaser. It struck the girl’s chest with a flash of light.
"Round one, Katrina Kim."
"Computer," panted Katrina, "pause program."
The program froze just as her opponent was getting up from the floor. Katrina frowned, looking down at her hand that was gripping the phaser so tightly her knuckles were white. She couldn’t remember the last time she had beaten the computer this easily. Perhaps her settings had been changed?
"Computer, what is the current difficulty setting?"
"Current setting is level three," replied the computer.
Katrina frowned again. Level three was her usual setting. She shrugged, not particularly caring at the moment, only wanting to continue her game with a little more challenge.
"Change difficulty setting to level five."
"Change complete," the computer replied.
She had come to the holodeck because it was as good a place to hide as any, and because she was feeling so full of anger she didn’t know what else to do. She wanted to work off her anger, calm down, and feel in control of her emotions before she saw her mother again. Apparently the anger was giving her an edge today.
"Computer, resume program."
The disk appeared before her once more and she fired at it, tracking it as it flew towards her opponent. The holo-girl fired at it, and Katrina hit it again before it barely began moving in her direction, sending the disk crashing into her opponent once more.
"Round two, Katrina Kim."
Pushing the loose strands of hair back from her sweating face, Katrina crouched again in anticipation of getting the first shot off in round three, when the doors to the holodeck opened.
"Computer, pause program." The sinking sensation in her stomach intensified as she saw someone step through the holodeck doors.
"Mom, I’m…" she began and stopped in surprise. It wasn’t her mother. It was Jason.
"Hi," she said faintly. "What are you doing here?"
"I was going to stop by and see how you were doing, and the computer said you were here. You didn’t have a privacy lock on the door, so I figured it was okay to come in." He stopped inside the door, taking in the scene. "Looks like you’re feeling better." He raised his eyebrows, making the statement more of a question.
"Uh, yeah. I am. Thanks." Katrina watched him as he walked into the arena and eyed her opponent.
"What level you playing?" He turned to look her.
"Five," she replied challengingly. Jason played Right Defender on the junior Velocity team, and she had watched him play on numerous occasions. In Team Velocity, it was his job to fire at the target disk and change its trajectory so that either one of the two Forwards could hit the disk back at their opponents. His hand eye-coordination made him a formidable player. Right now, she felt she could best him without trying.
"Really? You must be pretty good," he replied with a smile, tilting his head slightly to the side as he looked at her.
Something curled and stretched, catlike, in the pit of Katrina’s stomach and she smiled back, showing her teeth. "I am today. Play me a round?" she challenged.
Jason’s smile widened. He was unsure of this more playful and aggressive side of Katrina, but he liked it nonetheless. "Sure. You’re on."
Katrina asked the computer to reset the game and eliminate the holo-opponent. Jason reappeared from behind the changing screen, dressed in his Velocity gear and Katrina spared him an appreciative glance, unable to help herself. He was just so Prime!
Jason caught her glance, surprised and pleased. He gripped his phaser, crouching slightly, balancing with practiced ease on the balls of his feet. He nodded at Katrina.
"Computer, begin program."
"Computer, locate Katrina Kim," Annika asked from the living room of their empty quarters. She had assumed that Katrina would have come here directly from sickbay. Apparently, she had guessed wrong.
"Katrina Kim is in Holodeck Three."
Annika sat back in her favorite chair and sighed. Petra meowed plaintively at her feet, causing her to look down with a small smile. She patted her lap, and the Siamese cat jumped up, landing gracefully on her knees. She stroked the cat gently, feeling Petra’s sides vibrate with her contented purring.
She debated between finding Katrina on the holodeck or waiting until her daughter returned to their quarters. Dr. Saldeed had explained that Katrina’s condition made her volatile and moody. Considering how angry Katrina had been when she left sickbay, perhaps it would be best to give her time to calm down before talking with her. Annika had been shaken by her daughter’s uncharacteristic outburst, and her instinctive reaction was to bring Katrina back to their quarters and give her the rough side of her tongue. Dr. Saldeed’s advice kept her from doing just that.
Annika wanted to know more about her daughter’s condition, but Dr. Saldeed was reluctant to discuss it with her without Katrina present.
"Both of you come back when she’s got her head straight again," Dr. Saldeed said sharply. "I have no wish to explain all this twice."
So, Annika had left sickbay for the Kim family quarters, hoping to catch her daughter at home. She found she was actually grateful for the extra time to think and consider what Katrina might be going through. It bothered her that she had no basis of comparison in her own life, growing up as she had as a member of the collective. Her own ‘coming of age’ had been unique, and she doubted that her experience would be much help to Katrina.
Sighing again, Annika stood up, lifting Petra from her lap and placing her in the chair she had just recently occupied. Staying in their quarters was not helping matters, and she knew she needed to talk to Harry.
"Computer, notify me as soon as Katrina Kim returns to these quarters."
She brushed the few cat hairs that clung to her slacks before heading out of their quarters to the turbolift. Hopefully, she would be able to catch Harry at a good time. She hated to interrupt him while he was working, but knew he would want to know what was going on with his only daughter.
As the lift began to move, she wondered if Harry would have as difficult a time as she was having accepting that their little girl was growing up.
"Round eight, Katrina Kim."
Katrina grinned, panting slightly as she crouched down for the next round. They were tied, an even 4-4, and her opponent was looking both surprised and winded. She was surprised herself at how well she was playing, and she had briefly suspected that Jason was holding back, at least for the first few rounds. But as they had played this last round, she knew he was playing with everything he had.
"Begin round nine."
The disk appeared between them and they shot simultaneously, Katrina’s missing the disk narrowly. Jason’s hit was square and the disk came flying towards her. She rolled, firing over her shoulder and hitting the disk back towards Jason.
"Good shot!" he called, grinning as he fired, shooting the disk back towards her.
Katrina ducked as the disk flew over her head, spinning to fire at the disk before it hit the wall and came back towards her. The shot caused the disk to ricochet away from her like a rocket and she grinned as Jason threw himself out of the way, impressed at the way he was still able to fire at the disk. His shot missed however, and the disk bounced off the ball and headed back towards the center. Seeing an opportunity to good to pass up, Katrina tracked the disk, running toward the center of the arena to get the right angle. Jason’s eyes were also on the disk as he ran towards the center, raising his phaser in anticipation of the shot.
They crashed together in an ungraceful heap, and Katrina thought she could see stars briefly when her head impacted against his collarbone.
"Oof!" Jason grunted, the wind momentarily knocked out of him as he fell flat out on his back, Katrina sprawled halfway across his chest.
For a moment, neither could speak, but could only gasp for breath. Then, almost simultaneously, they began to laugh.
Katrina felt Jason’s chest vibrate with his laughter and she giggled, feeling foolish and silly and happy all at the same time.
"Smack!" he said, still chuckling. "Girl, you have a hard head."
"Well, you have a hard chest, so I guess we’re even," Katrina replied smartly. "It is considered a contact sport, after all."
Her chuckles subsided with his as they both suddenly realized the position they were in. Katrina felt the same dizzying surge of awareness she had felt before when she had been working with him in class, only it was so much stronger she could hardly breathe. Before she could even consider what it was she was about to do, she leaned down and kissed him, feeling the same electric shock as her lips touched his.
Jason’s eyes widened in surprise, and he barely had time to register what she had done before she was pulling away, her face a mask of confusion and embarrassment.
"I’m…I’m sorry!" she managed to stammer, her hand covering her lips as she backed away from him. "I – I’ve got to go!" She ran, making a hasty retreat through the holodeck doors.
Jason lay on the floor a moment longer, stunned and a bit confused. Everything about Katrina intrigued him, but her behavior this afternoon was completely unlike anything he would ever have expected from her. He sat up, wiping the sweat from his forehead, and leaned his arms on his knees, his expression thoughtful. Without volition, his hand reached up and touched his mouth briefly, where he could still feel the touch of her lips against his.
Harry sat back in his ready-room chair, shaking his head slightly.
"Ba’shen? Katrina?" His face was a mask of dismay and worry.
Annika nodded, laying a comforting hand on his. In some ways, the news was harder for him to take than it had been for her. Of course, she’d had a few more minutes to accept it than he’d had.
"Katrina has to take a mate?" Harry swallowed, feeling a miserable and sinking sensation fill his chest.
"I do not know," Annika replied quietly. "I have not been able to get any further information from Dr. Saldeed, and the Federation database is sadly lacking on the subject. For some reason, the Vulcans consider the subject matter to be…offensive."
"Why hasn’t Saldeed given you any more information?" Harry frowned. "This is important."
"She wants to talk to Katrina and myself together."
Harry’s frown deepened. "What about me? I’m her father. Shouldn’t I be there too?"
A faint smile twitched Annika’s lips. "I asked the very same question. You should have seen the look Dr. Saldeed gave me. She said, ‘Your daughter is going through something that she finds very, very embarrassing. It is a sensitive subject for human girls, and it is probably worse for Katrina. Do you really think she would want her father hearing every little detail?’ I had to agree with her reasoning, especially in light of the extreme way Katrina reacted."
Harry sat back in his chair with a sigh, his frown easing gradually from his face. "No, I suppose she’s right. It’s not very fair, though, is it?" He tried to smile.
"I will share all the information Dr. Saldeed gives me, Harry," Annika said gently. "I know you feel left out of this, but Katrina will open up to you when she feels she is ready for it."
The computer interrupted them. "Katrina Kim has arrived at her quarters."
"I have to go," Annika stood up, kissing him briefly on the cheek. Normally, protocol didn’t allow for public displays of affection, but in the privacy of her husband’s ready room, Annika felt it was safe just this once. From the look on his face, he had needed that small gesture. "I will see you tonight."
Harry nodded, watching her go, wishing he could be more than a bystander while his daughter grew up.
I can never go out of this room again, Katrina thought miserably, flopping down on her bed and pulling her pillow over her head. Her mind continued the train of thought, plotting how she could have Pana or Bree bring her all her homework so she could study at home and never have to leave her quarters. And never have to face Jason again! It might work, she thought, until she realized that her parents, her mother in particular, would never go for it, now matter how much Katrina begged.
Thinking of her mother brought another wave of shame and embarrassment and she buried her head deeper under her pillow, tears leaking from the corners of her eyes.
A hand touched her back gently, rubbing it in a familiar and soothing manner. Katrina knew from the touch that her mother was in the room with her, sitting on the edge of her bed, rubbing her back like she always did whenever Katrina was not feeling well.
"I’m sorry," Katrina’s apology came muffled from underneath her pillow. "I shouldn’t have gotten mad at you."
"I understand, Katrina," her mother said quietly, continuing to rub her back. "You are not yourself at the moment."
Her mother’s comment brought Katrina out from under her pillow and she sat up, wiping her face with the sleeve. She chanced a peek at her mother’s face, and was relieved to find no anger in it, only patience and understanding.
"I’m scared, Mom," Katrina admitted finally. "I don’t know what to do."
Annika held her arms out and folded her daughter into her embrace, hugging her tightly.
"First of all, we need to talk to Dr. Saldeed and have her explain everything. From what she told me, I do not think your condition is as dire as you believe it to be," Annika said. "Secondly, I think you need to realize that you are not alone in this, that your father and I will help you any way we can."
Katrina pulled away slightly, looking up at her mother with gratitude and embarrassment. "Dad knows?" she asked, hoping that he didn’t.
Annika nodded. "I told him while you were still on the holodeck. He needed to know how he can help." She stood, holding a hand out to Katrina to help her to her feet.
"Now, shall we go see what Dr. Saldeed has to say?"
The Sickbay computer chirped at her, informing her that the analysis of the grain and bacteria were complaint. Dr. Saldeed ignored it for the moment, her eyes intent upon the HPADD in front of her. She finished reading and gestured at the holographic controls to save the information, pushing her chair away from her desk with a small sigh. The HPADD displayed all the information she could compile on ba’shen, taken from her own knowledge and experience with the subject. She knew that Dr. Kim and Katrina would be returning soon wanting answers, and she wanted to be able to supply them.
A second HPADD displayed her research on modern human attitudes to sex, especially in regards to what they euphemistically referred to as ‘adolescence.’ It made her chuckle when she thought of the way humans seemed to want to deny the fact that their children could have sexual desires and motivations all their own. While the Vulcans seemed to think of their children as miniature adults, lacking only the knowledge and experience that their elders could provide, humans seemed to think of their offspring as untainted innocents, desperately needing shielding from the wickedness of the outside universe for as long as possible. In a way, they were almost as prudish as Vulcans, yet somehow managed to be responsible for a respectable fraction of interspecies pairings within the Federation. Personally, she couldn’t see why both species didn’t just go with the passions of their bodies the way Romulans did. There was enough wickedness in the universe already without having to invent new forms of it from their own natural selves.
Since the usual method of resolving ba’shen didn’t appear to be an option in Katrina’s case, given human sensibilities, Saldeed had searched for alternate methods of treatment. She knew that diet and hormone therapy would help, but there was a piece of the puzzle missing, something she knew would have to happen in order for Katrina to get through her ba’shen successfully. It had taken her down several different paths of thought before the answer finally came to her: the similarity between ba’shen and pon’farr was no accident; after all, Vulcans and Romulans were related. Therefore, it stood to reason that the treatment for Vulcans in a situation where mating was not an option for them would also work for a fourteen-year-old Romulan girl.
With an ironic twist of her lips, she tapped her combadge. "Saldeed to Vorik."
"Mr. Vorik, can you stop by Sickbay after your shift? I…need your advice on something." Saldeed didn’t bother keeping a straight face.
"Certainly, doctor. My shift ends in approximately 30 minutes." She could practically hear the eagerness in his voice – an opportunity to give advice to a Romulan!
"Thank you. That will be fine."
She supposed she should rein-in her less than charitable thoughts towards Vorik. She did, after all, need his help.
Satisfied that she had done as much as she could at this point for Katrina, Saldeed moved back to the analyzer to study the results of the computer’s analysis of the grain and bacteria.
The results were unusual, and she was deep in study when the doors to sickbay opened to admit Lieutenant Commander Vorik.
"Doctor Saldeed?" he inquired, after waiting several moments without gaining her attention.
"Commander," the doctor said, reluctantly pushing away the report. "I appreciate you coming to see me. I have a situation here that I need your advice on."
Vorik’s eyebrow twitched upwards slightly. "I am afraid I have very little beyond the basic medical training, doctor, but I will certainly do my best to help you."
Anticipating his reaction with a small smile, Saldeed came straight to the point.
"I have a patient who is going through ba’shen who, at this point in time, does not wish to take a mate. Since the condition is similar to pon’farr, I was hoping you could tell me if there are any Vulcan meditation techniques you might suggest to help her repress the symptoms, since Vulcans are so skilled at repressing their body’s natural tendencies."
Vorik’s demeanor changed abruptly, although it would only have been obvious to someone familiar with Vulcans. He shifted slightly, obviously uncomfortable with her question and its subject matter. His lips tightened and he turned on his heel to leave.
"I do not believe that is something I wish to discuss with you, doctor. You of all people should know this is not something that Vulcans discuss, particularly with outsiders."
"Outsiders? Commander, what kind of foolish talk is that? Romulans and Vulcans are practically the same species. Just because your people have taken a natural biological urge and turned into this great psychic trauma that…" She stopped herself before letting her annoyance at Vulcan prudishness get the better of her. Saldeed was tempted to just let him leave, but since she truly did require his help, she decided to take a more tactful approach.
"I apologize, Mr. Vorik," she said. "I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t truly need your help." Her tone was appropriately apologetic, with just the right inflection of humility to achieve the desired result.
Her apology was effective enough to cause Vorik to stop and turn back towards her. His expression was stiff, however.
"I don’t need you to go into any personal details," Saldeed spread her hands out beseechingly. "But this patient needs help. Vulcans excel at meditation and it seemed a natural solution that I should ask you." She hoped she wasn’t laying it on too thick.
Vorik folded his arms and closed his eyes briefly, seeming to think. Finally he opened them and nodded. "Very well."
"Thank you, Vorik," she said honestly, silently berating herself for baiting him in the first place. She would have felt very foolish if he had walked out and refused to help her – and that would not have helped Katrina at all.
"There are several meditation techniques used that have proven moderately successful," Vorik said reluctantly.
"Only moderately? How successful is that?" Saldeed crossed her arms, leaning forward in interest.
"It does not always work because it is highly dependent upon the individual’s strength of will," Vorik admitted, avoiding her gaze. His experiences with meditation in the past had been unsuccessful in resolving his condition, but he had been younger and less experienced then.
Saldeed absorbed the implication of his statement with concern. Katrina was only 14 years old – and her strength of will might very well be in question.
"I am curious," Vorik tilted his head slightly as he looked at her. "Why are you asking me for help? As a Romulan and a doctor, you should know more about resolving the condition than I. Surely Romulans have gone through this before?"
Saldeed snorted, dropping her arms to her sides. "This is not typical. Most Romulans don’t ignore their body’s natural drives – unlike Vulcans," she couldn’t resist adding. "This isn’t something I have first-hand knowledge of."
"I see." Vorik’s lips thinned slightly.
Saldeed regarded him for a moment, pushing down the urge to bait him further. "May I have a copy of your meditation techniques to pass along to my patient?"
"Certainly, although I suggest that for someone who has never meditated before, it might be more successful if they have someone to guide them through it."
"I doubt that my patient would be all that comfortable in doing that. She’s a bit sensitive right now and probably would prefer not to have her condition known," Saldeed replied with a sigh.
"Indeed?" Vorik’s eyebrow shot up to his hairline. "I had thought that Romulans did not have a problem with being open about their body’s natural tendencies."
If he’d been anything other than a Vulcan, Saldeed would swear he was baiting her.
"What would you…" she began, and was interrupted by the doors of sickbay opening to admit Katrina and her mother. "Would you please excuse us, Commander? And will you send me the information I requested?"
Vorik nodded, making his way past Dr. Kim and Katrina. The young girl greeted him politely as he passed her, and he responded in kind, his eyebrow twitching with interest as he watched her enter Dr. Saldeed’s office with her mother in tow. Suddenly, Dr. Saldeed’s request made much more sense to him, and he resolved to find his best meditation techniques to send to her.
Saldeed closed the door to her office before settling behind her desk once more. She fixed Katrina with a stern look.
"Are you prepared to listen to everything I have to say without storming out of Sickbay in a huff when you don’t like what you hear?"
Meekly, Katrina nodded. "I’m sorry I ran out like that. I promise to stay and listen."
Satisfied, the doctor leaned back and said more kindly, "Good. I understand why you did, Katrina, and it wasn’t really your fault. But please, try to control your anger at what is happening to you for a moment and listen."
Katrina nodded again, leaning forward with interest as Dr. Saldeed began.
"Very well. In order to understand what is happening to you, you must understand a bit about Romulan biology and Romulan culture." She could practically see Katrina’s ears perk up in curiosity and she smiled.
"Romulans learn at a very early age about ba’shen. It is a period in life when a Romulan child is expected to ‘come of age’, and take a more mature role in society. The symptoms you have experienced are well known, and a Romulan’s first ba’shen is an easily recognized event that most Romulans look forward to. In simple terms, Katrina, it means they are growing up."
Katrina nodded, although she found it difficult to believe that anyone would look forward to sensory over-stimulation, and severe headaches, not to mention the unpredictable grouchiness and bursting into tears at the worst moments.
"Typically, as I explained before, ba’shen involves taking a mate, although not usually the one you will be paired with for the rest of your life. Unlike some cultures, who have their mates permanently selected for them by their parents early in childhood, a Romulan’s first mate is typically someone older and more experienced; someone to act as a guide to help the first-timer through the experience. Traditionally, Romulans will choose their lifetime mate by their second ba’shen around age 21. Although," Saldeed said dryly, "the tradition is no longer upheld in these more modern times."
"Since you have been raised by human standards," Saldeed continued, "You are not emotionally ready for the physical act of mating. Luckily for us, ba’shen is not a ‘mate or die’ situation." Their relief at the news was so apparent she had to smile. "The periods of uncontrolled emotions and enhanced sensory perception will pass without physically joining with another, but only with help. Otherwise," she paused for effect, "the symptoms will persist for weeks, and possibly the elevated biochemical levels that are causing Katrina’s headaches could cause permanent damage – even to the point of causing brain damage and sterility later in life."
Katrina swallowed audibly, glancing at her mother to gauge her expression. Relief and concern were etched on her mother’s face.
"What do we have to do?" Katrina asked finally, slightly shaken by the doctor’s explanation.
"Treatment," she explained, "will be painless, albeit time consuming for the next week or so." She looked directly at Annika. "I think that Katrina should take a temporary leave of absence from school in the meantime."
Annika frowned, looking at her daughter thoughtfully. "I suppose one of your classmates can bring you your lessons so that you do not fall behind." She nodded slowly. "I will have a talk with her instructors. I’m sure we can come up with something so that when Katrina returns, she will not be behind her classmates in her studies."
Inwardly, Katrina groaned. That was so typical of her mother. She had hoped that she would get a break from having to study.
The corner of Saldeed’s mouth quirked as she caught the exchange. "Over the next few days, I will be giving Katrina hormone therapy treatments that should help to balance out her biochemistry. Also," she fixed them both with a serious look, "it is very important that Katrina follow the diet I have outlined for her. It is heavy in vitamins and nutrients her body will be burning during this time. She is to have as much sleep as possible. Rest is one of the best treatments I can offer to help you through this."
Saldeed reached across her desk tapped a few commands into her computer. "I have made information available to you regarding ba’shen and the treatment regimen I am proposing. You can access it via HPADD at any time."
Annika nodded, calling up the holographic PADD, glancing over it with interest.
Katrina leaned over her mother’s shoulder, catching a glimpse of the menu items just as her mother’s hand waved over the page to turn it.
"Oh, yuck!" she exclaimed, catching sight of one of the menu items. "I’ve gotta eat Leola root?"
"Absolutely," replied Saldeed in a tone that brooked no argument. "Every single thing on that menu is to be eaten. One of the best things to ever come back from the Delta Quadrant was that nasty little root. It’s loaded with more vitamins and nutrients than any other known vegetable."
Katrina sat back in her chair and folded her arms, scowling slightly.
"Finally, I want you to try some Vulcan meditation techniques to help you control the mood swings. I didn’t tell him who I was treating, but I asked Commander Vorik for his help with this. He has agreed to share his techniques and suggested that someone help you through them. I might suggest that you ask him personally to act as your guide and focus. However you have the option of using a holographic guide as well. It’s up to you to decide."
Katrina bit her lip thoughtfully as she considered the doctor’s suggestion of having Vorik help her to meditate. Ba’shen was very embarrassing, but she’d known Vorik all her life. He had always treated her like she was older, more like an adult. She doubted that he would do anything to make her uncomfortable about her ba’shen or having to meditate. She imagined that meditating would be extremely dull – even more so with a holographic Vulcan. Vorik, at least, was alive and breathing, and therefore much more interesting. If she had to meditate, at least she’d do it with a live person.
"Will you ask Vorik for me?" Katrina asked hopefully, directing her question to the doctor.
"I will. In the meantime, I’m going to give you your first treatment, and then I want you to go and eat. You haven’t eaten all day, have you?" Saldeed stood up to get her hypospray, returning with it in hand.
"How’d you know?" Katrina asked sheepishly, wincing slightly as the hypospray pressed against her neck, hissing as it released its medicine into her system.
Saldeed’s eyebrow arched as she looked down at the girl. "I’m a doctor. I checked your triglycerides and your blood sugar levels."
"Why did you not tell me it was this serious, Katrina?" her mother asked quietly from the chair next to her. "I would have never sent you to school today."
Katrina sighed, tugging at a stray lock of hair that had escaped the confines of her headband. "I didn’t want you to fuss over me."
Saldeed leaned forward and said quietly into Katrina’s ear, "Mothers fuss. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It’s much easier on everyone if you let them do it. Then no one’s feelings get hurt."
Katrina nodded and reached over to take her mother’s hand. "Sorry, Mom," she said softly. She felt her mother squeeze her fingers in response.
"I want to see you tomorrow morning at 0630, young lady." Saldeed dropped the hypospray into her uniform pocket. "Now go home and eat, and get some sleep. I’ll let you know what Commander Vorik says as soon as I hear from him."
"Thank you, Dr. Saldeed," Katrina stood up, flashing her smile at the other Romulan. "I’ll see you tomorrow."
"Yes, thank you very much, doctor. I am glad we have you with us," Annika had banished the HPADD and stood up to follow her daughter out of the office. "I will ensure that Katrina follows your instructions as you have laid them out." Her smile was relieved.
"I am sure you will," Saldeed replied with a wry smile. She watched mother and daughter leave sickbay, her expression thoughtful.
"Captain, I’m receiving a transmission from the colony," Lieutenant Wildman reported, interrupting Harry’s thoughts.
"Put it through," Harry said, pushing his worries about Katrina to the back of his mind for the moment.
First Elder Martixa appeared on the bridge’s main viewscreen, looking anxious and worried.
"Yes, First Elder, is there something I can do for you?" Harry asked, leaning forward in his seat in concern.
"I wanted to thank you again, Captain, for all that you and your doctor have done for Rivex," she began, folding her fingers across her midsection and looking down briefly. "I believe that the worst is over. Everyone is recovering well, thanks to your timely arrival." She looked up, her expression both apologetic and hopeful. "It is your generous concern for our people that leads me to ask you for another favor." She hesitated, obviously reluctant to continue.
"What further assistance do you require, First Elder?" Harry prompted, trying to ease her concern that she was overstepping the boundaries of good will.
Martixa sighed, relaxing slightly. "It is our sister colony, Previx. They have been out of communication with Rivex for several days, and when I attempted to contact them, there was no response. I am concerned that they too may have received a shipment of infected grain."
Harry frowned. "Wouldn’t they have contacted Talax as you did?"
The First Elder shook her head. "Previx is too distant from Talax to communicate with our home planet directly via subspace. Any messages they would need to send would have to be relayed through us."
"I understand." Harry replied. "You want Enterprise to investigate the situation on Previx and make sure the plague has not attacked the colonists there?"
Martixa nodded. "I would not ask this of you, if I did not believe the situation merited your assistance. We have shuttlecraft that could make the trip with the doctors and vaccine, but they travel at a much slower speed than Enterprise. I am afraid that if the same plague has infected the colonists on Previx, we would arrive too late."
A question tugged at the back of Harry’s mind.
"Do you typically receive shipments before Previx?"
Martixa’s face was blank puzzlement for a moment. "It depends on where the shipment is coming from," she answered slowly, understanding dawning on her lined features. "The shipment was from Haakonia. Previx would have gotten their grain before us."
Harry nodded, his expression grim. "I would like Doctors Artix and Kelix to accompany us. We may need their services."
"I will inform them immediately." Martixa’s face was pale. She took a deep breath. "Thank you, Captain. I hope we are not too late."
Harry nodded to Naomi to terminate the transmission.
"So do I," he muttered.
Katrina sat at the family table, her chin resting on her hand, picking distastefully at her meal of Leola root, cauliflower and beans. She took a tentative bite of Leola root, shuddering as the bitter taste flooded her mouth. Eyes watering, she took a swallow of water to wash the flavor from her mouth. Choking slightly, she managed to clear her mouth of the taste.
"Mom," she said finally, still gagging slightly from the aftertaste. "I can’t eat this."
Annika looked up from the HPADD, her hand hovering over the page. "You must eat all of your meal," she said in a tone that Katrina knew better than to argue with. "Your body needs all the nutrients that your meal contains."
Katrina made a face, and then sighed. All this because she was growing up.
"Getting older isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be," she grumbled, holding her nose as she took another bite of Leola root.
Annika hid her smile, returning her attention to the HPADD.
Somehow, with many gulps of water in between bites, Katrina managed to finish her meal. She cleared her dishes quickly, returning to the table where her mother sat. She sat back down across from her, propping her chin up on her hands once more.
Sensing Katrina’s stare, Annika looked up from Dr. Saldeed’s data once more and raised an eyebrow.
"You should prepare for bed, Katrina. Dr. Saldeed was very firm on your need for rest."
"Can’t I stay up for just a few more minutes, Mom?" Katrina begged. "I’m not at all tired. I feel pretty good, actually."
Annika eyed her daughter for a few moments longer. "Is there a particular reason you are delaying your rest time, Katrina?" she asked, waving the HPADD away.
Katrina looked down for a moment, thinking carefully of how she wanted to ask her question.
"How did you know when you were ready to love someone?" she asked, looking up finally.
At her question, a slow smile crept across her mother’s face.
"How did I know?" Annika repeated her daughter’s question thoughtfully. "I did not know right away, I suppose," she answered carefully, thinking back to her first steps in her relationship with Harry. "I thought, long ago, that I was not capable of feeling love the way that people normally do. Love, relationships, and emotions were still quite foreign to me when I first met your father." Her lips twitched briefly as she recalled her original blunt approach with Harry, and how, despite her mistakes, it had all worked out in the end. "Your father helped me to understand that love meant so much more than a physical relationship."
Katrina squirmed slightly in her chair, faintly embarrassed at her mother’s openness. "I didn’t mean that, exactly, Mom."
"Oh?" Annika’s eyebrow lifted again. "You are wondering how you will know when you have found the right person?"
Katrina nodded, tucking a stray lock of hair behind a pointed ear. "Yeah. That."
Annika smiled again, leaning across the table to hug her daughter. "You will know when it happens, Katrina," she said softly. "There will be no question in your heart."
"How soon until we reach Previx?" Harry asked, moving to stand behind Miral as she guided Enterprise away from its orbit around Rivex and into open space.
"11 hours, twenty minutes, Captain," Naomi replied after glancing at her HCARS display.
Harry moved away from the helm, glancing at Kalan, who had not expressed an opinion one way or the other with regards to their most recent mission, something that was uncharacteristic of his First officer.
Kalan met his captain’s look and folded his arms, jutting his chin out slightly. "It is a good thing for the colonists that we were here," he said gruffly. "They would not have made the trip nearly as fast."
Harry’s mouth quirked briefly but he refrained from commenting on his First officer’s sudden change of heart.
"I’ll be in my quarters, should anything come up, Commander." Harry said, turning on his heel to walk to the turbolift. "You have the bridge."
"Yes, Captain. I will inform you if any situation arises that I cannot handle," Kalan replied, his dark eyes glinting briefly in humor.
Harry snorted mentally, stepping into the lift. "See that you do," he replied before the lift door closed.
The ride to his quarters was brief, but in the moments alone, Harry’s thoughts naturally returned to his daughter, and he wondered if Annika and Katrina had returned yet from Sickbay, and, more importantly, what they had learned from Dr. Saldeed.
The door to the Kim family quarters opened and he stepped inside, casting a quick glance around for his family. The other two members of the Kim family were sitting at the dining table, each peaceably occupied with their own task. The familiarity of the scene relieved him greatly and made him smile.
"Good evening," Annika looked up first, smiling warmly as she got up from the table to greet him with a kiss.
Harry returned her embrace, looking over his wife’s shoulder at Katrina, who was deeply engrossed in whatever she was working on. He released Annika and walked over to where Katrina sat, smiling down at his daughter.
"Hey, princess, how are you doing?" He sat down in the chair beside her, trying to get her to look at him. "Tough day at work?" he attempted to joke.
Katrina banished her HPADD with a wave of her hand and glanced down at her lap, biting her lip uncertainly. It bothered her that her dad knew what was going on, and the worried tone in his voice didn’t do anything to alleviate her embarrassment.
"No," she said finally. "I’m fine." She glanced up at her mother, who was standing behind her father’s chair, looking at her with a slightly puzzled expression. "I’m tired now, Mom. Can I go to bed?"
Harry sat back as Katrina brushed by him, hurt by her uncharacteristic rejection of his concern. He watched her enter her room, making sure the door closed behind her with a firm swishing sound.
"That went well," he muttered, turning to look at Annika with a sigh. "I suppose she’s going to behave like this for a while?"
Annika nodded and sat down beside him, reaching for his hand. "Don’t misunderstand Katrina’s behavior, Harry," she said quietly, squeezing his hand gently between hers. "She still loves you, she just is uncertain how to act around you right now." She shook her head faintly. "I do not quite understand her behavior myself, but Dr. Saldeed says it is a normal reaction for a girl to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable around her male relations right now." Annika’s lips twitched briefly in a smile. "While I am grateful that I did not share the same experience, I do wish I had some way to relate to what she is going through."
Harry nodded, his eyes on Katrina’s door. "Should I go and talk to her?"
Annika shook her head. "She will come to you when she is ready. She loves you, and if you are patient with her, she will understand that nothing has truly changed in your relationship with her."
Harry nodded again, finally looking away from Katrina’s door long enough to give his wife a small smile. "I guess I’m not used to being left out, that’s all."
Annika kissed his cheek and stood up. "Would you like something to eat? I would like to hear about what has happened with the colony." She moved to the kitchen area and began to program food selections from the replicator.
Harry watched her work, replicating fresh ingredients to prepare one of his favorite meals. Typically, the replicator was used to create the entire entrée, but occasionally, he or Annika would ‘cook’ their meals in a traditional fashion, using ingredients from the replicator to create meals that a replicator couldn’t quite produce with the same, mouth-watering flavors. It had taken a long time for Annika to warm up to the art of cooking, but Harry’s mother had been a patient teacher and the results proved to be worthwhile.
As the smell of vegetable stir-fry filled their quarters, Harry talked about his day, about the colony, the plague, and Martixa’s plea for further assistance with the other colony.
Annika listened as she removed the rice from the heating unit, fluffing it carefully with a fork until satisfied with its appearance. She placed the stir-fried vegetables in a serving container and placed both items on the table, wiping her hands carefully on her apron.
"I hope that the colonists of Previx are well," she said, bringing plates and eating utensils to the table. "Perhaps their communications system has broken, and that is why the First Elder was unable to receive any response to her hails."
Harry nodded, inhaling the tantalizing odors of the meal before him with appreciation. "I hope you are right," he said, watching her remove her apron and place it on its customary hook beside the heating unit.
Katrina’s door opened and she poked her head out of the doorway, sniffing audibly.
"Not fair!" She scowled slightly and padded out of her bedroom on bare feet. "You guys get stir-fry and I stuck with eating Leola root!"
"Leola root?" Harry’s eyebrows shot up with surprise. His expression turned sympathetic. "That’s terrible."
"It was, too," Katrina made a face, which made her father chuckle. His laughter was comforting and familiar, and the uncertainty she had been feeling since he had walked through the door receded enough for her to feel comfortable enough to give him a hug goodnight.
"Sleep well, princess," he said, giving her a brief squeeze. "I’ll see you tomorrow."
He was careful not to show how much her quick hug had pleased him. As he watched his daughter give her mother a hug and kiss goodnight before returning to her room, he found that his heart felt much lighter than before.
Katrina’s alarm sounded harshly against her ears, bringing her out of her sleep with a cry of pain as she flailed for the button that would turn the shrill ringing off. She lay back on her pillows, blinking in the darkness of her room, feeling more terrible than she ever had before. It took her several tries to sit up and swing her legs off the edge of her bed, the movement causing her head to throb in a nauseating fashion.
Her pajamas felt like they were lined with sandpaper, and she stripped them off as quickly as possible, dropping them heedlessly on her bed. Reeling slightly, she headed for her closet, feeling in the darkness for something to wear. Her hands passed over several shirts before she found one she could tolerate and grabbed it. The experience was the same with finding pants to wear, and it took her several changes of socks before she gave up and slid her bare feet into a pair of sandals that didn’t irritate her skin. It wasn’t until she entered the bathroom to deal with her hair that she realized that the lights in her room were still off, and that she had dressed completely in darkness.
"Computer," she said, wincing at the loudness of her own voice. She dropped her voice to a low murmur. "Lights."
Katrina covered her eyes in shock and pain as light flooded the room, blinding her with its brightness.
"Computer," she managed. "Lights, 25% illumination."
Obligingly, the lights dimmed in response, and she found she was able to take her hands away from her eyes long enough to pull her hair back from her face with a hair clip. She looked at herself in the bathroom mirror critically, mentally shaking her head at her appearance. She wouldn’t want anyone from her class to see her looking like this, but for the time being, it was good enough.
She stopped before her bedroom door and closed her eyes before triggering it to open. She felt her way through the doorway, flinching as the light from the main living area hit her, even though her eyes were closed.
"Lights, 25% illumination," she said as quietly as she could manage, seeing the glow behind her lids lessen greatly. Cautiously, she opened them, feeling relief from the glare.
Her mother was waiting for her by the table, her breakfast prepared already. She could see the question in her mother’s eyes as she slid into her seat, reaching for the bowl of cottage cheese and milk in front of her.
"The light hurts my eyes," she said in a low whisper. "Sound hurts my ears." She cast a worried look up at her mother, who merely nodded understandably and didn’t speak.
Breakfast was much more tolerable than her dinner had been, and Katrina found that her appetite didn’t seem to have suffered any. Quickly, she consumed the cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, and milk her mother had prepared, and pushed away from the table.
"Thanks, Mom," Katrina said as quietly as she could. "I’ll be right back."
The door to their quarters opened for her and she stepped into the corridor, squeezing her eyes into the smallest possible slits against the light that blazed in the hallway. As she made her way to the lift, the sounds of the ship assailed her ears, until she finally covered them with both hands, feeling foolish and miserable. The lift doors closed with an impossibly long and loud hiss, and Katrina huddled against the side of the lift, waiting for the sensory torture to end.
She found her way to sickbay with her eyes half-closed, staggering through the doorway with a grimace of pain. To her relief, the lights in Sickbay were greatly dimmed, and she could open her eyes enough to see Dr. Saldeed waiting for her, hypospray in hand.
The doctor didn’t speak, but gestured for Katrina to sit on the end of a biobed so she could administer the spray. After several long moments, Katrina could actually feel the change in her taking place; the throb of the warp engines had retreated to a low rumble, and the lights of sickbay began to look normal once more.
"Better?" Dr. Saldeed asked, pitching her voice carefully so as not to hurt Katrina’s ears.
"Much," Katrina replied with a relieved sigh. "Thank you."
"It should never be that bad again, so long as you are following my instructions and coming here for your treatment," Saldeed replied in a more normal tone of voice. "You only had the one treatment yesterday, and your biochemical levels rose again while you were sleeping."
She had the computer raise the lights to their normal illumination and reached for her tricorder, scanning Katrina critically. Finally, she nodded, pleased with the results.
"Vorik will meet you before his shift for meditation. He asked me to have you meet him at Holodeck One at 0700." She placed the tricorder down and looked at Katrina. "How are you feeling now?"
"Almost normal," Katrina replied with relief.
Saldeed’s eyebrow arched. "Well, it won’t last. Be here at 1200 for your next treatment. Now, scoot. I’ve got work to do."
Katrina slid of the biobed with a smile, heading for the door. As she made her way to the holodeck, she called her mother.
"You are feeling better?" her mother asked, sounding relieved.
"Yes, Mom," Katrina rolled her eyes and stepped into the lift. "Dr. Saldeed said I have to go back at 1830 for my next treatment. I’m on my way right now to the HD for meditation with Commander Vorik. I’ll be home as soon as I’m through."
"Come straight home, Katrina, when you are finished," her mother’s voice sounded firm, even through the com system. "I will wait to go to work until you return."
Katrina sighed. Her mother could be so overprotective. "Yes, mom. I will. Goodbye."
The lift stopped and she stepped out, heading across the corridor to holodeck one. Vorik was already there, waiting for her. She glanced at his meditation robes dubiously.
"I wasn’t supposed to dress for this, was I?" she asked worriedly, glancing up at the Vulcan.
Vorik shook his head. "Special clothing is not a requirement." He gestured to the holodeck. "Are you ready to begin?"
Katrina began to doubt he choice of selecting Vorik over a holographic guide for a moment, but pushed her doubts aside, attempting to assume a more calm and centered demeanor.
Vorik’s program was already running, Katrina saw as she entered the holodeck. She glanced around curiously, noting the bare rock walls and dim lighting from torches set in brackets along the walls. The floor was made up of sand, and in the center of the room, a small pedestal held an unlit candle. On opposite sides of the pedestal were mats, the nearest of which Vorik led her to and instructed her to kneel upon. He took position opposite her on the other mat, arranging his meditation robe so it fell loosely around him. He lit the candle between them, placing the lighter on the sand next to him, and folded his hands, his forefingers meeting in a point.
Katrina copied him, folding her hands in the same fashion, and looked expectantly up at him across the flame. He nodded, approving her posture and positioning.
"We will begin with a mind relaxation technique that Vulcan children are taught as a part of their elementary emotional control training. It is a simple meditation technique that, once you learn it, you should be able to do at will, regardless of your surroundings."
Katrina nodded as she struggled not to giggle. Taking a deep breath, she attempted to school her brain into a more serious frame of mind.
Vorik sensed when she was ready, and began to speak softly.
"See the flame before you, how it burns, how it wavers slightly with your breath. Take the sight of the flame and close your eyes."
Katrina stared at the flame, watching the colors change subtly as it burned, watching it flicker when her breath hit it, memorizing the way the flame moved as he instructed. Then, taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, exhaling slowly.
"Now, picture that flame in your mind, just as you saw it moments ago. Can you see it in your mind?" Vorik asked, his voice rising slightly.
"I see it," Katrina replied with a start of surprise. She found she actually could picture the flame in her mind, just as he had said. It was almost like seeing it with her eyes open.
"Breathe deeply, Katrina, and keep the picture in your mind of the flame," Vorik continued. "As you take each breath, picture the flame growing. See it grow with each breath, focus your will on making the flame grow." His voice had dropped away completely, and silence filled the air between them.
Katrina’s flame flickered behind closed eyes as she concentrated on making the flame grow, taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly. The flame burned steadily, and she willed it to grow with each breath she took. So intent upon making the flame in her mind grow larger, that she let out a squeak of surprise when a hand touched her shoulder.
"I must report for duty," Vorik said by way of apology for startling her. "We can continue our lesson after my shift if you wish."
Katrina nodded, feeling a strange sort of lethargy that made her movements seem slow and heavy.
"I will meet you, then, at 1700 hours." Vorik stood up, brushing the sand that clung to his robes.
"Can I ask you something?" Katrina looked up shyly, still surprised at her ability to picture the flame so clearly in her mind.
Vorik’s eyebrow arched slightly. "Yes?"
"My flame didn’t get any bigger. Did I do it wrong?" she asked hesitantly, not wanting him to be disappointed in her efforts.
Vorik shook his head slightly. "You did quite well for a first-time student. You did not do it wrong."
"But my flame didn’t get any bigger," she said quietly, trying to hide her disappointment.
Vorik, being a Vulcan, did not smile, but Katrina got a sense of gentle humor lurking behind his ever-serious expression.
"That is not the point of the exercise, Katrina," Vorik replied.
Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, Katrina tried again. "Then what was the point?"
Vorik looked up from brushing the sand from his robe. "You feel better, do you not?"
Katrina sat back, realizing that the slowness, the lethargy she had felt at first, had faded away, leaving her feeling – she searched for an appropriate word – it left her feeling refreshed. As if she had just had slept the most peaceful and restful sleep. Finally, she nodded.
"Yes. I do feel better," she replied with a smile. "I feel much, much better."
Vorik nodded. "That," he said with emphasis, "was the point of the exercise."
He extinguished the candle and asked the computer to end the program, walking towards the holodeck doors with a thoughtful Katrina following him.
"It is good that you are feeling better, Katrina," he said with approval. "Ordinarily, this meditation technique is practiced in conjunction with a young Vulcan’s telepathic training. I have adjusted the practice to be more applicable to your circumstances."
"Telepathy?" said Katrina curiously, her attitude now perked up. "I don’t suppose you could teach me any of that? That would be so jingo!"
"It is doubtful you would find it so," said Vorik. "For one, I am not qualified to teach the telepathic arts. And second, telepathy, like language, is best absorbed while the brain is still young and malleable. I fear that you are too old at this point for your mind to adapt to the necessary training."
"Aw, it’s just as well, I guess," she replied with disappointment. "Romulans aren’t even telepathic, are they?"
"That is a matter of some debate," said the Vulcan. "Romulans share a common ancestry with Vulcans, and have only been separated by a mere two millennia. The ability is still there, yet Romulans do not make use of it. Under the Empire, the telepathic arts were banned, the claim being that telepathy was inherently disruptive to the social order."
"But what about today?" asked Katrina. "I mean, there’s a Republic now."
"I am afraid that attitudes that have been in place for so many generations are slow to change. Even today, most Romulans view telepathy with fear and distrust, an unfortunate situation where ignorance and superstition have denied a people access to their own heritage. It is something that Vulcan emissaries are attempting to change, but our advice is falling, as humans would say, upon deaf ears." Turning back to his pupil, Vorik’s tone changed to one more appropriate of a mentor. "I will see you again this evening at 1700." He then got up and left the holodeck, heading back to his quarters to change into his uniform before his shift began.
Katrina watched him leave and then shook her head slightly. The whole meditation thing was weird, for certain, but it was also cool in a way, especially in the way it made her feel. As she headed to the lift that would take her back to her quarters, Katrina debated whether or not she would share her meditation experiences with her friends. Somehow, she doubted that they would find the experience as interesting as she had.
Enterprise flew steadily towards their destination at a steady warp nine, and as Harry reviewed the status reports from Gamma shift, waiting for Miral’s report that they had arrived at Previx, he found it difficult to focus his attention on the previous evening’s logs. Instead, he found himself thinking of Katrina.
She was growing up, and there wasn’t a thing he could do as her father or as a captain that would prevent it. He found himself feeling a little resentful that no one had warned him about daughters and their odd behaviors as they grew older. His friend, Tom Paris, of all people, should have given him a little insight, he thought as his eyes rested on Miral. He knew that there had been some rocky moments in Miral’s relationship with her mother as she grew older, but Tom had said nothing about Miral’s relationship with her father at the time. The thought made him sit up, as an idea formed in his head. Perhaps he could ask Miral to talk to Katrina, since they were quite close, almost like sisters in a way. Maybe Miral would be able to shed a little insight on the whole growing-up thing.
Harry stifled a sigh, shifting in his seat slightly. His own memories of puberty were slightly faded, he realized, and didn’t really help the situation much, since his perspective was entirely male. They were mostly memories of discovering girls, and a few embarrassing moments in class when the teacher decided to call on him at an inopportune time. Harry’s lips twitched briefly as he remembered feeling lucky that he never went through the horribly awkward time of being shorter than the girls in his class, having hit his growth spurt during summer break. He did have a few good memories, he realized, recalling in particular his first kiss. She’d been a few years older than him, and a lot more experienced. At an after-school dance, he’d left the long line of boys too shy or too embarrassed to dance holding up the wall to get something cold to drink. He’d been surprised when Kelly O’Donnell had stepped in front of him, grabbed his hand, and pulled him to a dark corner of the gym. He’d been totally flabbergasted when the most popular girl in school had planted one on him, her breath smelling faintly of the bubblegum she was chewing. At the time, he recalled, it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to him.
Harry’s smile faded as he realized that Katrina had most likely already discovered that there were boys, and he found himself wondering if any boy had kissed Katrina yet. The overprotective father in him growled at the thought of any boy kissing his little girl, but he realized, reluctantly, that it was an inevitability that would sooner or later take place. He couldn’t very well lock her in her room until she was 23.
"Captain, we’ve arrived at Previx," Miral’s voice interrupted his thoughts, and he pushed them away so he could focus on the task at hand.
"Hail them, Lieutenant," he ordered, nodding to Naomi. "Ensign Paris, establish an orbit above the northern continent." According to Martixa, the northern continent was where the colonists had settled initially.
Several moments passed before Naomi reported. "Sir, there is no response to our hails."
Harry frowned. "Scan the surface for Talaxian life signs."
"Aye, sir. Scanning now."
Several torturously long moments passed in silence before Naomi looked up from her HCARS, her face stricken.
"There are no Talaxian life signs on the planet, sir."
Harry sat back, feeling as if someone had punched him in the stomach.
"Sir, I suggest an away team beam down to the northern continent to investigate. Perhaps there is another reason why we cannot detect any life signs on the planet," Kalan said, turning away from the view of the blue planet that spun slowly beneath them. His frown spoke volumes.
Harry nodded, trying to hold onto hope. "Take a security team with you, along with Doctors Saldeed, Artix and Kelix. Find out what you can."
Kalan stood up and nodded to Lieutenant Krell to follow him. The two men left the bridge, leaving a stunned silence in their wake.
"We’re too late, aren’t we?" Miral asked quietly, turning in her chair to look at Harry.
Harry shook his head. "We don’t know that yet, Ensign. It may be that they had to leave the colony. We won’t know until Commander Kalan reports back to us."
Miral looked at him a moment longer, doubt lingering in her eyes, before she turned back to her station.
Harry tried to concentrate on his reports once more, but found he couldn’t concentrate on them, as the sinking feeling continued to persist. He felt he was just going through the motions. Knowing that Previx had most likely received the same shipment of grain as Rivex had, only weeks sooner, did little to dispel his fear that Enterprise had arrived at the colony far too late to save anyone.
A strong, southerly breeze ruffled the fields of wheat and grain that grew on either side of the main road, kicking up dust devils that fell apart as Kalan and Krell stepped through them, walking side by side. Dr. Saldeed followed them close behind, using her tricorder to scan the buildings that were scattered randomly amidst the crop-fields. Artix and Kelix walked a few paces behind her, their expressions full of dismay as they entered what had once been the prosperous center of the colony.
"Spread out," Lieutenant Krell spoke to the five-man security team that had accompanied them to the surface. "Look for survivors. Report back to me every ten minutes." He watched them go before turning back to Commander Kalan. "We should search the town center," he said, gesturing to the group of larger buildings clustered together. "If they fell ill, they may have gathered in the town hall."
Kalan nodded, falling in step beside Krell once more, his eyes scanning their surroundings for any signs of life or foul play.
Saldeed raised her tricorder, which she had programmed to look for signs of the same bacteria that had infected the grain on Rivex, and scanned the nearest building. She repeated the scans of each building she passed, following slowly behind Kalan and Krell. She had nearly reached the center square when her tricorder gave an affirmative chirp, making her pause before a low, square shaped building directly across from the larger building that most likely was the town’s main hall.
"Commander, I believe I may have found something," she called, before turning to enter the building, not bothering to wait for them to join her.
A generous coating of dust lined the shelves and countertops of the room, telling Saldeed that it had not been used for some time. She followed her tricorder readings to a door behind the main counter, and opened it, sneezing several times as the dust she disturbed with her movements tickled her nose. The lights in the room did not work, and she had to use her handbeam to search the room. She was not disappointed. In the farthest corner of the room were several sacks, one of which had been torn open by a rodent of some kind, and a familiar looking grain spilled out of the opening and onto the floor.
"What have you found, doctor?" Kalan’s voice came from her right, startling her slightly. She turned, scowling.
"Give a little warning next time."
Krell’s cough behind her sounded suspiciously like a snicker, but she chose to ignore it.
"What I found, Commander, is the answer to what happened to the colonists of Previx," she said dryly, raising her handbeam to illuminate the sacks of grain. She gestured with her tricorder. "These readings confirm the presence of the same bacteria that I found on the grain at Rivex." She dropped her arms to her sides, bowing her head slightly. "I doubt that we will find any survivors," she said grimly.
Kalan grunted, shaking his head. "We will look for them nonetheless. The captain would not expect any less."
"We should also try to find the shipping records," Krell added, turning towards the door. "I will check the other buildings. My security team should be reporting in shortly, but I think we should also request additional personnel to help with the search."
Kalan nodded. "Contact the captain with your request. Dr. Saldeed, what are you doing?"
"I’m taking a sample of the grain," the doctor replied with an irritated sigh. "I want to compare it to the sample I took on Rivex." She turned, tucking the sample into her pocket. "Now, shall we continue our pointless search?"
Kalan’s eyes narrowed as watched her walk to the door, and he fell in step beside her once they left the storage facility.
"I do not feel this is a pointless search, doctor," Kalan stressed her title with a small growl. "I find your attitude surprising, considering your profession." He stopped when she did, squaring his shoulders when she turned to face him with a glare.
"If my attitude offends you, Commander, I apologize," she snapped crossly. "My profession does me little good if I arrive too late to save anyone." She continued walking, leaving him standing alone in the street. He watched her for a moment, and then followed her, talking large strides to catch up with her shorter ones.
She glanced up at him briefly as they walked, before looking ahead once more as they made their way to the largest building in the square. Unless looks were deceiving, Kalan understood the doctor’s attitude much better than before. She was angry, but not, apparently, at him. He considered this as they entered the building, pushing open the door that seemed to be blocked by something on the other side.
The object that blocked the door turned out to be the body of the colony’s medic, if the clothing was any indication. Saldeed’s lips thinned as she silently scanned the room, noting the familiar line of beds that were arrayed throughout the entire hall. Every bed was occupied, but there was no life in the building save theirs.
Kalan watched as she examined the body of the medic, her tricorder taking readings of his blood and tissues. She read the results, and put the tricorder away in her pocket. She stood up, brushing her hands against her uniform in a gesture of finality.
Her eyes finally met his, and in their depths, he saw the briefest flash of grief, before she masked her expression.
"Plague," she replied with more harshness than she intended. "These people died nearly a week before we received the distress call from Talax." Her voice trembled slightly, though from anger or something else, Kalan could not tell.
"Krell to Commander Kalan."
"Go ahead, Lieutenant," Kalan replied, his body stiffening slightly in anticipation of more bad news. He was not disappointed.
"I found the shipping records for the grain Dr. Saldeed discovered. The grain was sent as part of the treaty agreement between Talax and Haakonia – part of the same shipment that was sent onward to Rivex." The chief of security’s voice was strained. "I’ve taken copies of the records."
"I’ll inform the captain," Kalan replied quietly, watching Saldeed rub her arms surreptitiously. "Kalan out." He turned towards the doctor. "As soon as the rest of Krell’s team reports back, we’ll leave."
Saldeed nodded, moving away from the body at her feet, wanting to put as much distance between her and the dead as possible. She watched Kalan’s face as he reported their findings to the captain, knowing as well as he did that the news did not bode well for the fragile treaty between Talax and Haakonia. Wars had most certainly been started over less.
Katrina pushed the last neutron into her model of the plutonium atom with a sigh. The physical part of her project was complete. She sat back from the dining table, looking at it critically. It was fairly well done, she thought, but her mother would check it for her, just in case she missed anything. Her homework done, she stood up from the table and stretched, feeling her muscles twinge slightly with the movement.
Her stomach rumbled audibly, causing her to grin. She had been so involved in her project, she hadn’t realized it was nearly time for lunch. Her smile faded as she read the list of items her mother had left for her to eat. Leola root topped the list.
Reluctantly, she made her way over to the replicator, all enthusiasm for eating gone, when the door to their quarters chimed for entry. Katrina glanced at the chronometer and a smile of anticipation blossomed across her face. She had a pretty good idea who would be visiting her at lunchtime.
Her suspicions were proved correct when she opened the door; Tiff, Pana, and Bree stood outside, waiting to be let in, each wearing identical grins of relief.
"I thought you were sick," Tiffany said, following Katrina through the living room into the dining area, dropping her lunch bag on the table.
"Yeah," Pana said, taking a seat opposite Tiffany, next to Bree. "You look pretty healthy for someone who gets out of school for a whole week." She eyed Katrina with a suspicious grin.
"You are lucky," Bree added quietly, opening her lunch sack. "Solett has us dissecting flat worms." She shuddered delicately. "They’re disgusting."
Pana snickered, opening the container that held her lunch of Katarian Noodles. "I didn’t think so," she said, using her fork to lift a bunch of noodles into view. "I thought it was interesting."
Bree’s face turned a slight shade of green as Pana took a bite of noodles, chewing them with obvious relish. "I don’t know how you can eat those after that," she said, swallowing queasily.
"Wait till you see what Katrina is eating," chuckled Tiffany, elbowing Bree lightly. "What is that, anyway? Looks revolting."
Katrina had retrieved her lunch from the replicator and was poking at it experimentally with her fork.
"It is revolting. I think I’d rather eat gagh," she replied, cutting into the Leola root and placing a bite of it in her mouth. She tried to swallow it with a minimal amount of chewing, chasing it down with a hefty drink of water.
"Why are you eating it, then?" Pana asked, her antennae twitching as she looked at Katrina’s plate curiously. "You obviously don’t like the taste."
Katrina sighed, pushing her plate away. "Its part of a special diet Dr. Saldeed prescribed for me."
"So what exactly is wrong with you?" Tiffany demanded, biting into her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
She knew the question was coming, but she still hadn’t quite figured out how she wanted to answer it. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to share all the details with them, despite the fact that they were her best friends. She took a bite of celery to give her a moment more to think. She swallowed finally, and looked at their expectant faces.
"I have a biochemical imbalance," she said, reaching for another stalk of celery, which wasn’t half bad. "That is what has been giving me the bad headaches and other stuff," she finished lamely, taking a bite of the celery.
Pana’s white eyebrows rose briefly. "Other stuff?" she echoed. "What other stuff?"
Katrina pushed the pile of beans around her plate with the end of her celery. "Oh," she answered, trying to sound offhand, "Sensory stuff, like loud noises and smells, and sometimes the feel of my clothes, really bother me. And sometimes I get annoyed for no reason." She glanced up from her plate, trying to gauge their expressions.
"A biochemical imbalance sounds serious," Bree said worriedly. "Is it permanent?"
Shaking her head, Katrina braced herself for another bite of Leola root, gagging slightly at the taste. "No," she said, after another long drink of water. "It should go away in about a week."
"What caused it? Does the doctor know?" Pana asked, closing her now-empty container and pushing it away from her.
Katrina hesitated briefly. "Um, well. It kind of has to do with being Romulan," she said quickly, feeling her cheeks flush slightly with embarrassment. "It’s a Romulan thing," she finished lamely, taking another drink of water.
Pana’s eyes narrowed thoughtfully as she regarded her friend, but she didn’t say anything. Tiffany looked relieved, as did Bree.
"Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s nothing serious," Bree said, finishing her soup with a quick swallow. "We miss you. Class isn’t nearly as fun without you."
Katrina smiled, relieved that her friends had accepted her extremely condensed version of her condition.
Their talk turned to more important things, like the next Velocity match, and before they knew it, the lunch hour had passed and it was time for her three friends to return to school.
"Jason asked about you, by the way," Pana said, smiling wickedly as she headed out the door behind Tiffany and Bree. "He wanted to know if you were okay. What should I tell him?"
Katrina blushed, unable to help herself.
"Well?" Pana asked, her smile growing broader as she watched Katrina. "What do you want me to tell him?"
"Tell him I’m fine," Katrina said, pushing Pana out the door. "Don’t tell him anything else!"
Laughing, Pana nodded and sprinted down the hall to catch up with Tiffany and Bree. Katrina watched her friends wistfully as they turned the corner and out of sight.
"As your former captain, I’d like to be the first to congratulate you both on becoming parents," Kathryn Janeway was saying with a smile, lifting a glass of champagne towards the deliriously happy couple holding a squalling infant. "It is a voyage full of twists and turns, uncertainty and at times, even fear, but the rewards of your journey will bring you joy throughout your lives. Welcome, Katrina Kim!"
Familiar voices echoed the captain’s sentiment, as glass after glass was raised in salute to the new family.
Harry watched, unable to prevent a grin, as Tom Paris stepped into view, holding his glass aloft, grinning at the recording of Harry.
"May your sleep never be interrupted, may your uniform never be spit up on, and may your sex-life never decline." He adroitly dodged the elbow B’Elanna aimed at his midsection. "On a more serious note, may your daughter bring joy and happiness to your lives, as our daughter has brought to ours." His smile turned tender as he looked at B’Elanna, who mirrored his smile with one of her own.
"Daddy, daddy, I wanna see the baby!" Eight-year-old Miral tugged at Tom’s uniform, her chin jutting forward in a way that was familiar to anyone who knew her mother. "Can I hold her now, please?"
"I was a brat at that age, according to my mother," Miral’s voice came from behind him, causing Harry to turn in his chair. Caught in the act of watching the old recording, he smiled sheepishly at Miral, gesturing for her to come into his ready room the rest of the way.
"You were not a brat," Harry said, clearing his throat slightly to ease the knot that had formed there while watching the recording. "You were precocious."
Miral snorted disbelievingly, but she smiled nonetheless. "I’ll remember to share that one with mom, next time I talk with her. Captain Kim says I was precocious." She glanced back at the viewer, smiling as the camera got a close up of baby Katrina and Annika, the latter smiling, holding the kicking and squirming bundle so carefully as if she was afraid Katrina would break.
Harry sighed, blinking rapidly to prevent his eyes from tearing up as the scene changed. This time it was him, fourteen years ago, looking impossibly happy as he held Katrina, who had settled peaceably in his arms and was in the process of going to sleep. Quickly, lest his emotions get the better of him, he shut the recording off, taking a sip of tea to clear the knot that had reformed in his throat.
"She’s grown quite a bit since then, hasn’t she," Miral said quietly, wondering what had gotten her ‘Uncle Harry’ quite so emotional.
Feeling in control of his emotions once more, Harry nodded. "More than you know, Miral." He sighed. "I asked you to see me for unofficial reasons, as I’m sure you’ve gathered."
Miral smiled. "Catching you getting sentimental was a big clue. But I promise I won’t tell Commander Kalan."
Harry grinned briefly. "I’ll bust you down to crewman and have you scrubbing the nacelles if you do, Ensign."
His grin faded, and Miral could see that something was definitely worrying her Uncle Harry. "What’s wrong?" she asked with concern. "Is something wrong with Katrina?"
Harry shook his head. "Nothing is wrong, Miral. She’s just going through a difficult time right now, and I’m worried about her, that’s all. I was hoping maybe you could talk to her." He sighed, running a hand through his hair and looking at the ceiling for a moment. "She’s just growing up so fast," he said finally, looking back at Miral. "I was hoping maybe, since you’re almost like a big sister to her, you could have a little talk with her? Maybe give her an ear as well?"
Miral nodded with a faint smile. "Uh, huh. Is it a boy?"
Harry looked alarmed. "I hope not!" he said quickly. "Why, has she said anything to you?"
Miral shook her head, grinning. "No, but its only a matter of time, you know." She saw his face pale slightly and she relented in her teasing. "I’ll talk with her, Uncle Harry. And if she needs someone to listen, I’ll listen too. But you have to understand something."
"What?" Harry frowned slightly.
"I’m not going to spy on her, if that’s what you’re asking," Miral said seriously. "I mean, I love Katrina like the little sister I always wanted, and I don’t want to betray her trust unless it’s something really serious."
Harry nodded slowly. "It’s enough for me to know that you’re there for her right now. I think she’ll talk to you about things that she won’t talk with her mother or me." He smiled resignedly. "She’s at that age now where she won’t confide in me anymore."
Miral leaned forward and patted his hand gently. "I’ll tell you something about fathers and daughters, Uncle Harry." She smiled wistfully. "For me, a father is someone I can turn to in times of trouble, whenever I needed it most. Dad and I have always had a different kind of relationship than the one I have with Mom. I love them both equally, but its…well," she flapped her hands briefly. "It is difficult to explain. But trust me about this. Katrina will always need you, no matter what she might say or do right now. She’ll even realize it herself one day"
Miral’s words warmed Harry greatly. He opened his mouth to thank her when the moment was interrupted by a message from the bridge.
"Sir," Commander Kalan’s voice sounded grimly over the com system. "We are receiving a message from Talax."
"What is it?" Harry’s tone and manner abruptly changed, his brows meeting concern.
"The People’s Assembly is up in arms over the loss of Previx. Minister Dexa reports that several members of the Assembly are accusing Haakonia of germ warfare. She needs to speak with you immediately."
"I’m on my way." Harry nodded to Miral, who followed close behind him as he headed back out to the bridge.
"Ensign, set a course for Rivex. Lieutenant Wildman, please contact Minister Dexa."
"Aye sir," Naomi responded, her fingers moving rapidly over the HCARS. "I have her, sir."
"On screen," Harry said, taking a deep breath as Dexa appeared, looking both frightened and angry at the same time.
"Captain Kim," Dexa glanced briefly to the side and nodded at one of her aides off screen. "Thank you for responding so quickly. The situation here is getting out of hand, and I do not know how much longer I can keep my people from declaring war against Haakonia for what they may or may not have done to our colonies."
"Minister, we don’t yet know for certain that the plague was set deliberately against your colonists," Harry replied firmly. "Our doctors are still studying the samples of grain she gathered from both colonies. I expect to have their report shortly."
Dexa nodded, her expression tight. "I will do my best to keep things calm here, but my people are demanding answers – what would you have me tell them?" she asked angrily.
"Tell them that the answer is coming and not to act rashly. It would be a terrible thing for your people to war against the Haakonians on a suspicion alone," Harry said with conviction. "The moment we have the information, I will contact you. You must not let the Assembly declare war."
"I will await your message," Dexa replied shortly, terminating the transmission. Harry sat back in his chair, rubbing the bridge of his nose to ease the tension that had built there.
"Do you honestly believe that the Haakonians are not responsible for this?" Kalan asked quietly from his position beside Harry.
Harry looked up, frowning. "I can’t say for certain one way or the other, Commander. There’s already been one faction on Haakonia that sided with the Kazon in defiance of the treaty. It could be quite possible that this is yet another attempt to break the accord between the two races." He sighed heavily. "My hope is that it is not the case this time, but only our research will tell in the end."
Kalan leaned against the wall of Sickbay, his muscular arms crossed against his chest as he scowled at the Romulan’s exclamation.
"What does that mean, aha?" he demanded crossly, tired of waiting.
"It means, my good Commander, that I may have found the answer," Saldeed shot back acerbically. "Now be quiet for a moment so I can test my hypothesis."
Kalan’s scowl darkened but he wisely kept silent, watching as the doctor moved from one batch of grain samples to another, her hands moving efficiently as she continued her tests. Several moments passed, and she looked up, holding up a vial with a triumphant smile.
"Well?" he demanded, dropping his arms to his sides.
Saldeed shot him an irritated look, but her smile never faded. "I was right. I was right!" Her fingers fairly flew as she entered the information into the ship’s computer. "There. Now, Commander," Saldeed looked up at him with a cheeky grin. "If you’d be so kind as to pass along this information to the captain?"
Kalan’s scowl faded as she explained her findings. When she finished, he wasn’t exactly smiling, but his expression was much lighter as he stepped out of sickbay and headed for the bridge.
"The shipment of grain from Haakonia was not poisoned, Minister," Harry said, standing in front of the bridge viewscreen. "Dr. Saldeed discovered that symbiotic bacteria live within Haakonian grain."
Dexa nodded for Harry to continue, gesturing for the aide behind her to take note of what he was saying.
"Normally, the bacteria are completely harmless. However, when the grain shipment reached Previx, the bacteria exchanged genetic material with an equally harmless virus that is naturally present on the planet, resulting in a hybrid infectious bacteria strain that is deadly to Talaxians alone."
Dexa held her hand up for a moment, hope beginning to dawn on her features. "I want to be sure I am understanding your explanation correctly," she said. "The plague that struck both colonies was caused by accident?"
Harry nodded. "There was no way you could have known that the bacteria that grows within Haakonian grain would cross with a virus your people didn’t even know existed on Previx."
"I understand, Captain, and I am relieved." Dexa smiled sadly. "It is good news that I will share with the People’s Assembly, though I doubt it will comfort the families of the colonists of Previx." She looked down for a moment to regain her composure. She looked back up at Harry and nodded once. "Thank you again, Captain, for everything you have done for us."
The screen went blank as Dexa terminated the transmission, and Harry sat back down in his chair. There was a moment of silence on the bridge, until finally, Harry cleared his throat.
"Ensign Paris, inform me when we reach Rivex. I’ll be in my ready room."
"Aye, sir." Miral answered, adjusting the ship’s heading slightly with a wave of her hand.
"Commander, you have the bridge."
She had two hours before her meditation lesson with Vorik, and Katrina was wandering the corridors, lost deep in thought. She’d napped for a few hours after her friends left at lunch, but had woke from her sleep restless. She felt confined in the family quarters, and incredibly bored. Deciding to take a walk to take the edge off her restlessness, she had wandered with no particular destination in mind, although she found her feet had taken her to the same deck where the holodecks resided.
Katrina practiced her breathing exercises as she walked, taking deep breaths and exhaling slowly through her noise. She paused before one of the holodecks, contemplating on running her Velocity program, when a familiar voice jarred her out of her reverie.
Katrina jumped and turned, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment when she saw who it was.
Jason smiled, looking pleased to have found her. Katrina found herself smiling back.
"Hi yourself," she said, feeling the now-familiar jump of energy surge through her at his appearance.
"I was hoping I’d run into you," he said conversationally. "Pana said you were fine, but I’ve been, you know, wondering if you were, really."
Katrina’s heart sped up slightly and her head spun with happiness. He was worried about her!
"I’m fine," she said with another smile. "Really. Just some bad headaches, that’s all."
He nodded, "Well, that’s good, then." He shifted uncomfortably for a moment, as if uncertain what to say next. "I, well, I wanted to ask you something?"
Katrina trembled slightly, feeling as if her heart was trying to beat out of her chest, and she leaned against the wall of the corridor. She was finding it difficult to catch her breath.
"What?" she asked, trying to take deep, calming breaths and failing in her attempt to calm her nerves. Her fingers began to tingle, almost like they had fallen asleep and the blood was now rushing back into them.
"Well. I wanted to make sure we were still friends," Jason said, blushing slightly and looking away. "You seemed pretty upset when you left the holodeck." He glanced back at her, and his expression changed abruptly. "Hey, you’re not all right," he exclaimed, his eyes worried.
Katrina’s face and lips had gone numb as she struggled to contain her breathing, her breath coming in rapid gasps. Fear gripped her as her vision swam with black spots.
Jason stepped forward just in time to catch her before she collapsed, his arm supporting her, trying to keep her on her own two feet.
"C’mon," he said, half-carrying her to the nearest lift. "We’re going to Sickbay right now."
"Dr. Saldeed!" Jason called the moment the doors to sickbay opened. He staggered through the door, supporting the nearly unconscious Katrina as he looked for the doctor.
Saldeed’s eyes widened in dismay as she took in Katrina’s appearance, and she helped Jason lift her onto the biobed.
"Thank you, Mr. Lowe. If you don’t mind leaving now?" she requested firmly, her tone brooking no argument from the obviously worried young man. He nodded, turning to cast one last look at Katrina before leaving. As the doors slid shut behind him, Dr. Saldeed reached for a hypospray and pressed it against Katrina’s neck, muttering under her breath worriedly. She waited several moments, her expression becoming more anxious as Katrina’s rapid breathing and pulse did not slow in response to her treatment.
Medicine would be of no use at this point. There was one last option available to her, Saldeed thought. But she was loathe to use it.
Saldeed glanced quickly around Sickbay before taking a deep breath and placing her fingers on Katrina’s cheek, spreading her fingers apart so that the tips touched the girl’s cheek and temple. With another quick and nervous glance around Sickbay, Saldeed finally closed her eyes tightly, breathing slowly and deeply as she concentrated. It had been a long time since she had last reached out to another mind, and she had sworn to herself that she would never touch another person this way again. But the girl needed her help, and she saw no other way to reach her mind and calm her passions down to respond to the hormone treatment. Of course, she was treading into unknown territory here. In all her years, she had never used the ‘touch’ to actually heal someone. Whatever knowledge she possessed on the subject came solely from her readings of Vulcan medical texts, and even those said almost nothing about calming a young girl in the throes of unbridled emotion.
"My mind to yours," she muttered, trying to remember the litany from her readings. In her day, she had never bothered with words, but in this case, it was best to follow the book to the letter. "My thoughts to yours."
After several long moments, Katrina’s pulse began to drop back into a more normal range, and her breathing slowed to match Saldeed’s. As Katrina’s eyelids began to flutter, Saldeed opened her own eyes and quickly dropped her hand away from Katrina’s face. She reached behind her for a hypospray that contained a mild sedative and pressed it against Katrina’s neck. Her expression as Katrina’s body finally relaxed was one of great relief.
"W-what happened?" asked Katrina, her eyes heavy with exhaustion.
"It’s nothing, child," said Saldeed, her mind and body still shaken by the intimate contact she had just experienced. It had been too long, and she had forgotten just how intense the experience could be. It was both intoxicating and repelling. At least this time, there hadn’t been any pain.
"I passed out," said Katrina. "God, I hope Jason didn’t see me like…I mean…"
"Don’t you worry about that," Saldeed added calmly. "Everything will be all right. I promise you that."
Captain’s personal log, Stardate 76640.7
The situation between Talax and Haakonia has been peaceably resolved, much to my relief, although I am saddened by the deaths of the 325 colonists on Previx. Minister Dexa has reported to me that her government and Haakonia have agreed upon a joint inspection and medical quarantine procedure in order to ensure that the tragedy of Previx is not repeated. It was good to hear that the two allies were once again working to achieve a peaceful agreement with each other. I am relieved that this crisis has had a happy ending.
I am also relieved that I can now focus on my daughter, who is slowly, but surely, adjusting to her ba’shen. My wife tells me she should be ‘back to normal’ by the end of this week, but I fear that what was normal in the past will no longer apply. Katrina is most certainly growing up, and the changes are as frightening to her as they are to me. However, Annika and Miral were both right – Katrina did finally talk to me a little about her ba’shen, albeit in a typical, teen-aged round’ about fashion. She told me that, while she did think boys were interesting, she wasn’t ready to fall in love with one of them yet. I’m still not sure how I want to react to her statement, but I’m sure I’ll figure out the right thing to say to her, hopefully sooner, rather than later.
Admiral Janeway did warn me that the voyage of parenthood was full of uncertainty. I suppose I have a much better understanding of what she meant now, more than ever. She was right about the rewards, though. It is most definitely worth the trip.
Katrina hopped up on the biobed, tilting her head obligingly for Dr. Saldeed’s hypospray.
"Last one," she said with relief, grinning at the doctor’s raised eyebrow. "I’m glad this is over. I bet you are, too."
Saldeed snorted, placing the hypospray on the table next to the biobed. "You have no idea," she muttered, but she couldn’t help but smile at Katrina’s relief. "You should still take it easy for a day or two."
Katrina nodded, watching the doctor put the hypospray away. A memory tugged at Katrina as she watched the doctor work, and she considered it for several moments before she finally said. "I didn’t know Romulans could mind meld."
Saldeed glanced at her sharply. "Where ever did you hear such nonsense, child?"
"But I remember you doing that, when Jason brought me in. You helped me calm down. I felt you in my mind," Katrina insisted.
"Stuff and nonsense. I did no such thing," Saldeed said gruffly. "Telepathy is a crutch, an excuse to ignore the body and pry into people’s heads where they have no business being. Romulans gave up that a long time ago when our ancestors departed from Vulcan. And just how would you remember, anyway? You were nearly unconscious."
"But I remember…"
"All I did was offer a bit of bedside comfort, a healing touch. You mistook it for something else in your delirium," Saldeed said irritably. "There was nothing telepathic involved."
Katrina watched the doctor work on nothing in particular for a moment longer, then shrugged, hopping off the biobed.
"Don’t worry, doctor," she said quietly, before she turned to leave. "I won’t say a word about it to anyone."
Saldeed looked up in surprise, nearly dropping the tricorder she was holding.
"I expect you to be here tomorrow afternoon for your language lesson, Katrina. On time, if you please," she said, purposely injecting a bit of sharpness to her tone.
Katrina smiled over her shoulder at the doctor. "Wouldn’t miss it for anything," she replied before the doors to sickbay closed shut behind her.
Saldeed shook her head slightly, unable to prevent the small smile that crept across her features as she returned to her work.
"Double chocolate sundae?" Vic Fontaine’s eyebrows rose playfully as Katrina raised her hand to signal that the dessert was hers. "Here you are, doll. Sweets for the sweet."
Katrina rolled her eyes and stuck her spoon in the ice cream confection, making sure she got equal measure of whip cream and chocolate sauce on her first mouthful.
"I bet that tastes much better than Leola root," her dad joked, nudging her knee with his own from across the table.
"I am certain it does," her mother looked over her vanilla soda at her father with a knowing smile. "Katrina certainly deserves the treat."
Katrina smiled, dipping her spoon for another mouthful. Her parents had brought her to the Galleria as a reward for getting an A+ on her presentation. They had also brought her for the unspoken reason of making her feel better after a week of eating Leola root. She took another bite, listening contentedly to her parents talking, enjoying the afternoon greatly. As she reached to take another bite, her hand froze just above her ice cream, and she felt her cheeks flush with sudden warmth.
Her eyes followed Jason, as he, Curtis, and another boy she did not know, walked casually through the Galleria, headed for the exit. Jason turned away slightly, and, as if sensing her gaze, his eyes locked with hers and he smiled, giving a little wave. Smiling, Katrina waved back, surprised to feel the same jolt of electrical shock along her spine that she had been feeling during ba’shen.
"Katrina, who are you looking at?" her mother asked, after Jason had turned and left the Galleria with his friends.
Katrina sighed happily, smiling at both her parents. "Just some guy I know from class."
As she bent her head over her sundae once more, she missed the look of alarm on her father’s face, and the gentle, loving smile her mother gave him in return.