Posted on October 25th, 2019 by Kathryn Harper
by Velina Tailor and Kathryn Harper
Clad in white tennis shoes and green running shorts with a matching racerback sports bra, Captain Kathryn Harper tied her red hair into a ponytail, then began to stretch before her morning run on the holodeck. Today, it was set to New York’s Central Park at the turn of the millennium, and she was expecting a guest—Doctor Velina Tailor, the ship’s Chief Medical Officer. In an effort to get to know her crew better, the captain had decided on a series of one-on-one morning meetings with only one rule: no discussion of work would be allowed.
“Hi Captain,” Velina called, hurriedly stepping through the holodeck doors. Her hair was shoved back in a messy bun and still damp. She’d woken up a little bit late, and had just enough time to shower and pull on a pair of black running capris and a t-shirt before hastily exiting her quarters. A morning person she usually was not, but who says ‘no’ to the Captain when she invites you to go running at 0600? She stood for a minute to decompress, taking in the surroundings. “Oh, it’s beautiful here. The fall colors are perfect.”
“Good morning, doctor!” came the captain’s cheerful greeting. The morning air was cool, but still pleasant, and Kate took a few deep breaths of it as she continued her stretching. “I am glad that you like the program; I find the cool air to be invigorating first thing in the morning. Are you ready to go, or do you need to stretch too?”
“I should stretch first, don’t wanna pull a muscle.” Velina found a comfortable spot on the green grass under a particularly spectacular maple tree with yellow leaves, and began warming up with a few toe touches and arm stretches.
“Just what I would expect my doctor to say,” Kate grinned as she continued her warmup.
“Well, you know what they say, you can take the girl out of sickbay, but… I thought we weren’t discussing work today.“ Velina grinned back, stretching out her hamstrings.
“So, what brought you to choose this spot? Somewhere you’ve lived before?” She queried, looking around curiously.
“No, it is just on the holodeck’s list of suggested places to run, but I do like it. And yes, you are right—no work talk!” Kate took another deep breath as she sunk into a lunge and took another look around the scene from Earth’s history. “I have only been to New York once, and never Central Park, but this is Central Park from four hundred years ago! It is like running through a time capsule.”
After a few more minutes of stretching and idle chat, both women were ready to run, and set off at a brisk pace through the park, but not one fast enough to preclude conversation. Ponytail swishing behind her, Kate looked over at Velina and asked, “So, how did you spend your leave on Risa?”
“I chose to do something besides the beaches for a change. I did a tour of some crystal caves, and some hiking. And a few days at a ski resort. It was very relaxing. I almost didn’t want to come back. How about you?”
“Oh, mostly visiting my parents, but they made sure that the entire extended family got together since I was home,” Kate chortled. “After escaping from that — I love them all, do not get me wrong, but there are so many of them — aside from the usual relaxing on the beach, Lexy and I got to go diving, have dinner with Atlantis’s former bartender, and visit a few other nice places, just spending quality time together.”
“I never had a huge family, it was always just me and my dad, so I never got to experience a large family reunion. It sounds like it would be fun, but I could understand if it gets overwhelming. I’m glad you and Lexy got to have some time to yourselves too.” The two women ran over a wooden bridge, swerving around a gaggle of tourists snapping photos of a waterfall, and continued up the wide path through more colorful trees.
“Yes, I am grateful for the time with her, especially with no ship’s business to interrupt it.” Kate unconsciously smiled for a few measures of their rhythmic footfalls, then wondered, “Just you and your father? I imagine you two must be close, then.”
Velina smiled.”Yes, I suppose you’re right. Especially since my mom died when I was small. He kind of had to fill both roles. I mean, there were a few girlfriends here and there, and one fiancée… he actually remarried about three years ago, finally. My stepmom’s nice, but she never really replaced her, you know?”
“Of course. I would not think that anyone ever could,” Kate sympathized. After several seconds of silence that she spent unsuccessfully trying to imagine someone replacing her mother, Kate decided to move on to a less-depressing topic. “So, aside from hiking and skiing, what else do you do when you are not busy looking after our health?”
Velina saw her mother’s absence in her life as just a matter of normalcy, forgetting sometimes that other people saw it differently; as a subject to be avoided so as not to upset her, or even themselves. She was used to that, and wasn’t a bit surprised when the Captain switched the topic.
“Um… well, I read, paint, draw… The occasional holodeck, a few drinks in ten forward sometimes. Oh! And I’ve been checking in on our baby pterosaurs from time to time. The research station that took them on has been sending me holoimages and reports on their progress. They’re almost fully grown now.”
Kate snapped her head sideways to look at Velina as they ran, her face lighting up into a wide-eyed big grin at the thought of the pterosaurs they had saved, still in their eggs, from an asteroid strike. “Really? I had forgotten about them,” Kate confessed, but after only a breath’s pause in which her excitement welled up again, she continued, her usual clipped, rapid speech even faster than usual, “Please send me the pictures! It would really be quite wonderful to see how much they have grown, especially having seen them as hatchlings.”
“Of course! I’d love to.” Velina grinned at Kate as they rounded another corner in the park’s pathways. “They’re with the exobiology division of Daystrom, in a facility which is a lot like a holodeck but much bigger, so they can fly. Later on, the researchers are considering transferring them to an uninhabited world, but it needs to be one which is compatible, of course.” She jumped over a series of rocks across a stream, waiting for Kate to catch up. “And the search will of course take some time to find the right place for them. Meanwhile, I was thinking about visiting the institute next time I have enough leave available.”
Heartened by the news, Kate deftly leaped across the rocks and upon landing, took a deep breath of the faux autumn morning before settling into a broad contented smile. “It has already made my day, even as early as it is, to hear that they are doing so well,” Kate said as she and Velina resumed their run alongside one another. “Velina — may I call you Velina? — thank you so much for keeping track of them!”
“Sure, anytime.” Velina gave Kate a genuine smile. “Yes, you can call me Velina.” They eventually found themselves at the edge of the park where a small cafe stood on a corner, with outdoor tables populated by a smattering of tourists and locals. “Want to stop and grab a cup?”
They had run for over three kilometers, and Kate thought that was good enough for a morning jaunt with a companion, and coffee did sound enticing at the moment, but what was even more appealing was the scent of breakfast in the air. “I could go for more than just coffee since I smell bacon! Oh, and Velina — if we do this again, and I think that we absolutely should — but anyway, whenever we are like this, you may call me Kate.”
“Oooh, bacon. Breakfast does sound good.” Velina flagged down a waiter who showed the two officers to a table. “Thanks for inviting me, Captain…” she hesitated. “I mean, Kate,” she grinned. “It was fun, we should definitely do this again.”
“It certainly is a great way to start the day,” Kate mused, feeling that taking the time to get to know her crew better was off to about as good of a start as it could possibly be. With a smirk, she added, “And the best part about breakfast in a holographic restaurant after your morning run is that no one there cares how sweaty you are!”