Why We Fly
Posted on August 3rd, 2016 by Kathryn Harper and T'Lira
by T’Lira and Kathryn Harper
Having been released from Sickbay, T’Lira intended to go to her quarters and try to sleep without the minor distractions of being in an infirmary, but decided against that. After a few minutes of wandering the corridors in an attempt to find something to do, she remembered that Captain Harper had requested a meeting. Logically, it would be prudent to do so as soon as possible, of course. So, she made her way to the bridge and quietly crossed the bridge to the ready room and pressed the chime.
Harper sat behind the desk reading a PADD containing biographical information on candidate pilots. Production of the Mustang fighters had resumed, and her ship’s offensive capabilities were incomplete without the fighter wing at full strength. She looked up when the chime rang and answered, “Come in.”
With a slight tug on her tunic, T’Lira stepped in. “You requested to speak with me once I was cleared for duty, Captain.”
The captain could not help smiling at the sight of the Vulcan woman on her feet again after such a tragic accident. “Yes, lieutenant, please come in and have a seat. I can not overemphasize how good it is to see you here instead of in sickbay.”
T’Lira nodded slightly as she entered and took a seat. “It is certainly agreeable to no longer be in Sickbay. One can only stand so much time in one place.”
“That, I understand,” Harper remarked, remembering her own stays in sickbay. After taking a moment to regard T’Lira across the desk, she continued, “Listen, T’Lira… Given everything that has happened, I do not wish to rush you, but I do have pressing concerns to deal with as captain of this ship. I must ask if you have had any time to consider whether or not you wish to return to flying fighters?”
“I… have given it some thought, yes. Had this been a few weeks ago, I would not have hesitated in instantly requesting to return to fighter duty. Now, I am not entirely certain,” T’Lira responded.
“I cannot fault you for your uncertainty; I must admit that I even went through a bit of it myself, but the decision was ultimately made for me.” Frowning as she recalled her own struggles following the battles with the Tzenkethi that left her fighter wing decimated, Harper could certainly commiserate with the lieutenant. She was unsure what a Vulcan would actually feel after both surviving such an ordeal and then losing her unborn child in a freak accident, but Kate could imagine her own emotions in such a situation would be ruled by fear and despair. She clasped her hands and gently asked, “May I ask what it is that has you hesitating?”
It took a moment to find the right words, but they came. T’Lira placed her hands in her lap and began to explain, “I have a son, on Earth. His name is Taril. He was an orphan after the Hobus supernova. He already lost both of his parents. I do… enjoy flying, greatly, but if something were to happen, he would be left alone. I do not know if I could risk that. Before, I would have been willing to. But now, I have… reevaluated.”
Harper nodded slowly in understanding, questioning whether she really wanted to try to convince T’Lira to return to flight, since she had never completely resolved that debate within herself before being promoted to Captain. Asking herself that question now, with the benefit of the insight gained from her therapy, Kate decided that she would choose to fly again, and owed the wing an earnest effort to persuade a skilled pilot to return. “T’Lira,” she began, letting the Captainly tone slide from her voice as she emphasized with the other woman’s position, “why do you put that uniform on?”
T’Lira blinked, confused for a moment, but she answered, “I do so because it is my duty. It is my duty to protect the ideals I stand for and to protect the Federation. It is also my duty to have a part in new discoveries that can expand our understanding of the universe. Why?”
“Because it is the same as climbing into the cockpit of a Mustang. The fighter is a tool that allows you to protect those values you hold dear by directly defending your shipmates, your wingmates, and the innocents that we all strive to safeguard.” Kate rose from her chair and walked around the desk to sit on it, facing T’Lira, and looked her in the eyes. “Last time you flew a Mustang, you likely not only saved Atlantis from destruction through your contributions to her defense, but you saved my life as well. Neither of us would be here had you not flown.” She left the unspoken implication that Taril would be just as alone to hang in the air between them.
T’Lira flicked her gaze to her hands before looking back up, “It is a… far riskier way to do so, however. I know that flying is something that I… enjoy and that I wish to continue doing, but I am unsure if that balances the risks.”
“The worst injury I ever sustained in my Starfleet career was taken when I was sitting right out there at the helm,” Kate said, gesturing at the ready room door as she felt the now-familiar tingle of phantom pain from those wounds in her abdomen. She dropped her hands back to her lap before continuing, “The price we pay for putting on the uniform can be high, whether or not we are in a Mustang or on the bridge of a mighty Sovereign-class. I have been shot down twice, and while I am not saying that there is no additional risk inherent in flying, you have a natural talent for it and pilots like you in those cockpits make us all safer.”
“I am certainly gratified that you are so confident in my abilities,” T’Lira looked back down for a few more seconds before continuing, “I know that there is something of a shortage of pilots at the moment. I will… do my best out there, should the fighters be needed. I have one request to make, however.”
“What is it?”
“The next time we are in the Sol system, I wish to bring Taril aboard, to live here. I wanted to ask your permission first.”
Kate smiled, sensing the emotional subtext that the Vulcan woman would not have even acknowledged existed. A starship was not the safest environment to raise a child, but it was not unprecedented, and besides, how could she deny such a request of a grieving mother? “Of course, T’Lira. I would be happy to see that happen.”
“Thank you, Captain,” T’Lira replied, with a very slight nod, “Was there anything else?”
“Not right now; it is simply good to have you back,” Harper answered. With a smirk, she then quipped, “Watch your ass out there, Sehlat, since you no longer have me to do it for you.”
“I will do my best, Captain.”