The Captain’s Table – Ryleigh Grey
Posted on September 1st, 2020 by Kathryn Harper and Ryleigh Grey
by Ryleigh Grey and Kathryn Harper
Ryleigh was stretching and checking her shoelaces carefully. She had arranged to meet Captain Harper for an early-morning jog, and had already gotten the holodeck program running, choosing the scenery of Port Defiance in Washington State, reflecting the natural beauty of her hometown. She leaned into a calf-stretch, waiting for Harper to make her own appearance.
Captain Harper arrived at the time they had agreed on, entering the holodeck with her hands stuffed into the pockets of a green windbreaker that overlapped her similarly-colored running shorts, and was not surprised to find that the marine was already present. With a sunny smile, she greeted Captain Grey, the tone of her voice matching that of her expression. “Good morning, Ryleigh!” She took in the program as she began to stretch and added, “You have chosen a lovely spot for a run! Where is this? It looks like the Pacific Northwest.”
Ryleigh grinned, looking at Harper. “Good morning, Captain Harper, and yeah, it is! I lived not far from Port Defiance for the majority of my teenage years.” She rolled her shoulders slightly as the familiar lop-eared tan and black head of the Grey-Jasper family dog made an appearance out from under the bench. Sol barked excitedly at seeing Harper, wriggling out to greet the Captain. “I figured this would be a good spot for a morning run… I didn’t think you’d appreciate the flatlands and cacti of Texas.” Ryleigh grinned with laughter, checking her laces once more before dropping into her last round of stretching.
While bending over to pet the dog, Kate nodded her agreement up to Ryleigh. “This place is certainly nicer to look at. Commander Wright is from Oregon, so I have become fond of the region.” She ruffled Sol’s ears and cooed, “Who’s a good girl?!” before returning to her warm up stretches by pulling on the tips of her white trainers. “It has been a while since I have been running with a marine, but I will try to keep up!”
Sol barked at the praise, wagging her tail strongly as her owner chuckled, tugging her own sweater off and lightly bouncing on her toes. “Go on, Sol.” The dog bounded off, vanishing into the holodeck-produced undergrowth, leaving the two women alone. Ryleigh looked at Harper, expression unreadable as usual. “Do you feel ready to start? Or do you need to stretch a bit more? I’m fine with either one.”
As she settled into a few deep lunges, Kate answered, “Just let me finish these and I will be ready.” A couple of minutes later, she stood and took a deep breath of the cool morning air. Deciding that the windbreaker was overkill, Kate shed it in favor of the racerback sports bra she wore underneath, also green. After pulling her red hair back into a tie, she smiled at Ryleigh and nodded. “Ready when you are, captain.”
She grinned, stepping into a fairly easy jogging pace to start off with. “Alrighty then, also watch out for Sol. She has a habit of saloming between ankles that we can’t seem to break.” Ryleigh warned, keeping the set pace easily. “Thanks for joining me this morning, Captain… but… I did want to talk about the previous mission, the one with the reactor and all that unexpected business… if you feel okay with that topic of conversation.”
With her ponytail swaying behind her, Kate jogged alongside Ryleigh, finding the pace to be easy and invigorating. “Of course. So much is strange about that, and still unknown, and I do not mind. With what we remember going through, the desire to talk about it is perfectly normal.”
Ryleigh smiled slightly, nodding. “Yeah, agreed. That was unusual… and that’s coming from a Marine who’s supposed to be prepared for anything unusual that happens.” She joked, risking a quiet laugh before turning back to focus on the trail. “What… do you remember happening there? Because, I’m not sure, but I think… we might all have been remembering different events.”
“Well, at first, I woke up naked in the wilderness with only Commander Kuari nearby,” Kate began as they fell into step. The memory provoked an involuntary shiver as she continued, “So cold! We fought to survive for a few days until we finally came across the house where we all found each other. Kuari’s aerial scouting revealed a city, so we packed up to move there in hopes of finding why we were stuck — you were injured, yes? Yes, I remember Lieutenant Navarro dragging your sled the entire trip, which ended when we found a nice hotel to set up our base in. We restored power by cleaning the rooftop solar panels, and it ended up giving us a relatively comfortable home where we spent the next year scouting the city, but…”
Her voice fell as another solemn detail came into focus through the misty haze of the strange memory. “Commander Ilaihr went missing, and we presumed him to be dead.” After a few silent footfalls, she concluded her summary of their strange shared experience. “But then our scouting team found some kind of reactor near the transcendence arch, and the last thing I remember is actually getting to fly on Kuari’s back to quickly get there and help figure it out. We must have been successful… does that fit with what you remember?”
Ryleigh nodded slightly, glancing to check where her dog was before returning her attention back to the Captain. “Yeah, I was injured cleaning the solar panels from the roofing,” she winced. “I need to apologize to him for that… and possibly bake something in return for dragging me for all that way.” She chuckled, keeping her pace.
The Marine glanced down at the path briefly before turning back to look at Harper. “Yeah… there was a reactor, but I don’t exactly remember what happened after we found it, it’s like everything went dark then I woke up. You know, like those dream snippets from the older movies. But other than that, sounds like you and I had very similar encounters.”
“Everyone that I have talked to about it has a similar recollection. Even if that year did not truly happen within this timeline, we all remember that it did. Our shared experiences make it real, at least to us. As for how it ended, I wish I knew, but at least it did end and we are back home.” Their footfalls, still in step, rhythmically punctuated a few moments of silence as Kate’s thoughts lingered on trying to remember anything past that wonderful flight on Kuari’s back. Nothing obvious was forthcoming, but she did take notice of a dim sense of pain around the periphery of the subject, but the pain seemed strangely foreign to her, as if it belonged to someone else. Unable to discern anything further, Kate resolved to think more on it later and continued, “While I am certain that Lieutenant Navarro would appreciate a cake of gratitude, what he did is something I hope any member of this crew would do for any other. It is just what you do for your family.”
Ryleigh nodded. “Indeed. This is something I like about working on starships, everyone’s one big family… compared to other places, or even having to go against others all the time.”
“That is the environment I try to foster. Knowing that someone always has your back means a lot when we are out here doing what we do.” Kate turned to regard the other woman as they ran, taking in her facial expression for a few moments for any clues about her overall well-being, then finally asking, “How have you been since our return from that place? Are you coping well?”
“I’ve been pretty well, I think… I mean, having Ethan onboard and Sol to help when the memory-dreams do make reappearances help quite a bit, but it’s still very confusing. I can’t help but wonder how that all happened, or even, who was responsible for giving us those memory-dreams.” Ryleigh responded, glancing at Kate as they jogged. “It’s just confusing, and I don’t do those confusing things well, I like being able to put the pieces clearly together in one picture, not missing details that could explain why we were the ones affected.”
She sighed, narrowly missing stepping on her dog’s tail as Sol made a reappearance from the bushes to sit right in the middle of their trail, panting heavily. “I want the information, I want all the details so I can make the most clear picture of what happened to us… none of this blankness preventing us from recalling the details. The more information I have, the better I can piece together on what happened and what happened to us.”
“An understandable reaction,” Kate began, able to empathize with Ryleigh’s feelings on the matter. “I have now studied the Gencodians for ten years or so, and every answered question raises many more. Our recent experience leaves so many more questions than anything else has, so if you need to talk, I am always available, and I believe that everyone who was with us would also be willing.” Settling back into silence for a few minutes that saw their jog turn into a proper run, Kate returned to reflecting on that year, attempting to coax out any more detail that could offer further insight, but instead found herself enjoying the run and the scenery. Changing the subject in an attempt to lighten the mood, she wondered, “I hope your shoreleave was enjoyable?”
“It was quite enjoyable, I was able to just relax with Ethan and Sol, between working with new cadets, because Ethan and I still help out at the Academy even when we’re on shore leave. Spent some time with family, new cousins, all that stuff… How about you? Was yours good?” Ryleigh paused and looked at Kate with light suspicion in her gaze. “That promotion… when we were all in formal wear, how long did you plan that for, Captain?”
“My leave was wonderful! A motorcycle ride across the Italian countryside with my wife, shopping in Florence, then a trip home to Risa to see my family, then back to Oregon to visit her father. It was heartwarming and I definitely needed it. As for the promotion, the timing just worked out that way; the approval came in as we returned to Earth.” With a grin, Kate turned and fought Ryleigh’s suspicious gaze with a mischievous grin. “Of course, I could have waited until we were back from leave and called you into my ready room, but, compared to a party, where is the fun in that? Besides, what better place to be promoted than dressed in your finest, surrounded by your Atlantis family?”
Ryleigh gave her captain a disbelieving look in return. “Mmh… At least this promotion was better than my first one.” She shuddered, “Bugs… absolute worst thing ever to eat.” The two women continued their jog, Sol staying at her owner’s heels. “At least it wasn’t snake meat, that’s even grosser.”
The Marine actually thought that despite the unexpectedness of their dream-trip to the planet in the past, that this little time spent with her Captain helped her come to understand Kate as a person, and she hoped that the Captain felt that way too. She felt that her Captain actually wanted to get to know the crew, and by doing things like this, it helped her feel more comfortable speaking up in potential action situations. Albeit, she still felt a bit nervous at times, but that was relatively normal around a senior officer. All Ryleigh could do was hope that this didn’t happen again, and that things got back to normal activity… Well, at least, normal activity for Atlantis and her crew.
As they approached the final leg of their run, Ryleigh glanced at Kate from her peripheral vision; she knew that this had been a good thing; it allowed her to not feel as embarrassed as she had been feeling earlier about the fact of the Captain picking splinters from her foot after her incident. After their multiple morning runs in the probably false timeline, Ryleigh felt comfortable enough to actually not just consider Kate as a senior officer, but also as a friend. This run was just relaxing and chatting about their shared experiences in the paradoxical timeline, she figured, and it made her feel much more comfortable with spending time with her Captain outside of shift.
After picking up the pace significantly for several minutes, Kate and Ryleigh eventually arrived at a street cafe with the alluring aroma of bacon in the air hinting at the promise of breakfast. While her initial goal with these one-on-one meetings was to get to know her crew better, Kate felt that this run had just been a capstone on the year they had been marooned together, even if it technically had not been real. During that time, she had seen Ryleigh at her lowest, injured and immobile; but, she had also seen her rise to the challenge of surviving there as a member of a crew relying on each other to do their parts. During the mornings they had run together while stranded in the past, Kate thought that she had started to come to know Ryleigh better, and now she felt confident that her impressions from that ostensibly false timeline translated to the real one.
On that note, after washing down a strip of bacon with a drink of black coffee, Kate presented a friendly smile and offered, “The times we ran together while stuck there were fun, Ryleigh, as was this morning. I would like to do this again, assuming that you do not find running with the Captain to be too awkward?”
“We definitely should, this was fun… and Sol’s tired out, which is good for her and us by extension.” Ryleigh flashed a grin around a bite of bacon, sipping at her cocoa. “It gets challenging trying to keep her from doing utter destruction to our quarters. Next shore leave, Ethan and I definitely need to have you and Commander Wright over for dinner. It’ll be fun.” By this time, the dog was using Kate’s feet as a pillow as she sprawled out under the table, completely conked out.
“That sounds wonderful!” Kate beamed as she lifted another strip of bacon in salute. “Thank you for joining me this morning. It has been a great start to the day.” Yes, she thought, the time she set aside to continue to get to know Ryleigh, beyond just as her tactical officer, was certainly well-spent.