Because It’s There
Posted on March 10th, 2021 by Kathryn Harper
The beach just didn’t sound right without birds, at least to ears that hailed from a tropical shore, as Kathryn Harper’s did. Her origin also allowed her to not be bothered by the warmth and humidity of this place, but the somewhat dank and sulfurous smell of it left something to be desired. The constant sea breeze did help keep the scent from becoming overpowering, but without plants to rustle, the wind combined with the absence of birdsong to give the background noise here a lifeless quality. After spending a night in sickbay following the abuse she suffered from being thrown around the bridge during the surprise attack, standing on a barren volcanic island was a marked improvement, despite the heat and lack of birds or plants.
Aside from unseen microbes left in the wake of retreating waves, the island was as lifeless as it sounded, but she didn’t care. Kate’s protective boots crunched as she walked on jagged rock too new to have been weathered smooth by the incessant battering of the ocean, while the wind teased at errant red strands that had escaped her engraved silver barrette. Looking inland, Kate could see her wife taking samples of rocks both solid and molten while the rest of the away team went about their assigned duties. Ahead of her, billowing clouds of steam rose from the lava’s entry into the sea, and as she paused to let her emerald eyes follow the dissipating clouds, her mind started to wander away with them.
The loss of composure that Kate suffered in sickbay may have been facilitated by her concussion, but the feelings responsible for it still lingered. She held no doubts that helping those refugees was the right thing to do, but the injustice of her crew having to suffer for it, many of whom were not even aboard Atlantis at the time, left a sickening hurt within. The lofty ideal that wearing the uniform at all meant standing up for the values she had defended on that day did little to ease her pain. What did help was simply being here, on this lonely atoll, furthering another of the ideals that their uniform stood for — the wonder of exploration.
Their sensors could have told them much of what they needed to know without leaving the ship, and lava samples could have been transported directly into sample containers that could safely hold them. None of this would have told Kathryn Harper what it felt like to stand here, even beyond the sensory details of it, beautiful as they were, but experiencing those while also knowing that she stood on the only island in the great sea covering this entire world. In millions or billions of years, the potential descendants of the microbial life just getting started in this ocean would not even know that pleasure, since it was highly probable that there would be a great deal more land here in that distant future epoch.
Why did Captain Kathryn Harper of the Federation Starship Atlantis beam down here to see this place for herself? Because it’s there.