Command After Hours: Down, But Not Out
Posted on March 20th, 2019 by Kuari and Kathryn Harper
by Kuari and Kathryn Harper
Once her wife had left to return to their quarters in hopes of getting some sleep after the traumatic day, Captain Kathryn Harper slid down into her biobed and pulled the sheet up to her face. Several minutes passed as she lay on her back staring at sickbay’s ceiling, as if the answers to the questions that would keep her from sleeping were written there. With a long sigh, she sat back up and let the sheet fall away; her mind was still racing with concerns and worries that would not permit sleep, at least not yet.
Kate raised a hand to feel her face, idly wondering if its swelling had gone down any. Although her broken jaw and cerebral edema from the Ykavosh’s brutal surprise attack had been surgically repaired, her face remained swollen and slightly bruised. She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, once again testing her jaw, and her tongue subconsciously found her broken teeth. Those were due to be repaired tomorrow once the swelling subsided, and she found herself grateful that she could not feel her face or her teeth, thanks to the wonders of 24th-century medication.
The door to sickbay swished open as Kuari trotted through, her eyes actively seeking out Harper’s position. She was eager to give her good news, but selfishly, she wanted to see how her friend was doing. Moving through the corridors was a welcome reprieve from worrying about an imminent attack, but that didn’t make the matter any less pressing. Kuari had handed off the bridge to the night shift, and even though it would be difficult to sleep, she had to keep the rotation going so that she could continue to command the next day.
It didn’t take long to find Kate, sitting up in the bed as she was. The overhead light, though softly luminescent at the late hour, showed just how different Kate’s face looked, making her at first unrecognizable. Kuari hesitated very little, though, coming to Kate’s side within seconds, a look of concern in her expression. “How are you feeling?”
“Heeey, Kuari! Thank you for coming!” Kate’s face brightened at the sight of her friend and executive officer, and with a jagged smile, she answered, “As for me, well, I do not feel anything, thanks to the doctors. I am much better than I was when I got here, though.”
Kuari could better see Kate’s face since she had stopped bleeding, but the swelling had not been there when Kuari had last seen her, so she had to take Kate’s word for it and offered her a smile. “I’m glad to hear it. I thought you would want to know, I talked to Admiral Blackthorne. He’s sending reinforcements to protect the colony. There’s been no sign of the Xovul.”
“Thank you,” Kate said as she closed her eyes and let out a long breath. “Knowing that will help me sleep a little better tonight.”
Kuari gazed at Kate’s face for a moment more, her own stress reflected in her friend’s expression. She lowered her hindquarters to the floor, deciding she should at least get comfortable for a few minutes. Her eyes darted aimlessly around sickbay as she thought, her tail finding the biobed behind her and tracing its mounting. Kate had to be even more frustrated than she was. Kuari could command the ship while waiting for the Xovul’s imminent attack, but she didn’t want to. Kate wanted to command, but she was unable to. Kate also was attacked by their leader, and she would no doubt be taking it personally, at least in part. She had a score to settle.
She looked back to Kate, offering a heartening expression. “We’ll be ready for them when they come back.”
“Yes, we will,” came the captain’s simple answer. The statement hung in the air for a few moments until Kate noticed that she had subconsciously clenched her fists, tightly squeezing the sheet into wrinkled disarray. With this realization, she dipped her head and, without looking away from the disheveled bedding, confessed, “I should have seen it coming. How did I miss it, Kuari? Did our recent two successful first contacts cause me to ignore the red alert klaxon blaring in my head the entire time the Ykavosh was explaining their inflexible beliefs, thinking that I could befriend them anyway?” Kate finally turned her head, her moist eyes finding Kuari’s, seemingly pleading for reassurance.
Kuari stared back at Kate, eyes unwavering and unblinking. “I didn’t see it coming, either.”
That came as a surprise to Kate, and it took a moment for it to sink in. Kuari was usually on guard, vigilant against threats to her captain and crew, always a Marine despite her new rank and position. If Kuari had truly not anticipated this either, then that was at least a small comfort, albeit one that did not change the situation. “He was sizing us up the entire time, seeing if we would just accept their ways, and if not, how much trouble we would be. There was never any intent to peacefully coexist, and it makes me feel…” She trailed off before almost whispering, “Foolishly naive.”
Kuari looked away, nodding, her heavy eye ridges furrowing. “Which we shouldn’t be, given our experience. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking while you’ve been recovering. We’re wary, yes, but we also represent Starfleet, and the entire Federation. Our founding purpose is to meet new races and accept those that wish to join us, to be diverse but united, so that we are all stronger and live in harmony. It’s a principle the Rucara agree with, and if our planets were closer, I have no doubt Ruka would join.” Kuari turned to meet Kate’s eyes. “If that makes us naive, then so be it. The Ykavosh is treacherous, and if we didn’t see it coming, then neither will other species like us. We have to fight back for them, and when the Xovul return, the Federation will show them what we’re made of.”
She was right, of course. In her time as XO, Kuari had shown a knack for putting things in perspective that Kate had come to rely on, and this was no different. Some might even mistake the Rucara’s boundless optimism for the naiveté Kate had just accused herself of, but Kuari was correct in stating their duty to defend others from the Xovul, hardly a naive viewpoint. After drying her eyes with the edge of the crumpled sheet, Kate looked back to Kuari and said, “You are right. It was not foolish or naive to attempt to befriend them, even if it seemed unlikely. We tried, and we have their answer. Now, we have a job to do.”
Kuari sat up a little straighter on the floor, her wings pulling together behind her back, and nodded curtly, wearing her best Marine expression. “Yes, we do.”