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Re: CO Captain Kathryn Harper

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 11:33 pm
by Holly Kolodziejczak
:: wild applause ::

Well done and well put, as valid then as it is now!

And damn, do I love a good parade...

Re: CO Captain Kathryn Harper

Posted: Thu Sep 08, 2016 8:00 pm
by Rodney Quinn
Hold up. Wait, wait, wait. Wait.

Are you saying there's more to Risa than anonymous sex and drunken hoverball? :?:

In all seriousness, lovely work. Don't give those sumbitches an inch, Kate!

Re: CO Captain Kathryn Harper

Posted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 12:23 am
by Rodney Quinn
Oh, and don't let those evil Admirals push you around, either!

Re: CO Captain Kathryn Harper

Posted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 1:34 am
by Luceo
Thanks all! And yes, there's more to Risa than sex, but the hoverball IS where it's at.


Posted: Sat Dec 31, 2016 8:02 pm
by Luceo
by Alexis Wright and Kathryn Harper

“Captain’s log, in what will likely be my final entry as Commanding Officer of the USS Atlantis. Admiral Blackthorne and Captain T’Kirr are safely aboard, and pending their restoration to active duty status, I will return command of this vessel to the Admiral, assuming that he wishes it.” In Lexy’s quarters, Captain Kathryn Harper paced as she listened to the recording that she had made at the end of that tumultuous, yet ultimately triumphant, day of duty. As it continued, her tone had become increasingly cold, her typically fast and clipped speaking cadence even more precise and sharp than usual.

“For whatever value this record may hold, it is my genuine belief that the organization known as Section 31 has, at least in this matter, acted in flagrant violation of Federation law in their detention of two highly distinguished Starfleet officers, thus justifying my actions in effecting their rescue. Admiral Smith’s orders that detained us at Starbase Vinland were clearly in support of this illegal effort, and were therefore rendered invalid. While I am under no delusions that I will not be required to answer for what I have done, my only regrets are the lives that were lost in bringing justice to the officers that were taken from us.”

“Should this log stand as testimony, let it be known that in my time as Commanding Officer, I have attempted to hold myself and this crew to the highest of standards in service of the values of the Federation. If my career is ended by this, it was not worth continuing without those values. End log.”

Harper let out a quick breath and clapped her hands against her thighs, then turned to face the couch. “How was that?”

Lexy, who was curled up at the near end with Anna purring in her lap, took a thoughtful sip of her tea before responding. “I think it was quite good,” she announced with a nod, “And you stated it very well. I wonder, though, did you want to mention anything about the computers we seized, or the prisoner, or… Commander Vallero?” The last two words were spoken with hesitance, and the eyes that looked up at Kate grew troubled.

Sitting down beside Lexy, Kate answered, “No. They are in my briefing for the Admiral, anyway, and that log is meant to be fairly high-level.”

Deciding not to press further just yet, Lexy nodded as she placed a hot cup of tea in Kate’s hands. “It’s chamomile,” she said with a small smile, “I thought it might be nice to unwind a bit… at least until some headway is made on the computers. I keep thinking that there must be other prisoners out there, and that we have to get to them before Section 31 decides to… destroy the evidence, as it were. But perhaps I’m being overly pessimistic.” She closed her eyes with a sigh, then opened them to stare down into her own tea. “I have to keep reminding myself that they’re really alive and we really saved them. It’s surreal.”

“Mmmm,” Kate agreed through a sip of tea. “We really did it, did we not? I keep expecting to wake up from this dream, back at Vinland, without them. While they may have to amend the stages of grief to include finding out that the deceased are not really dead, then successfully rescuing them from exile by a shadowy organization, for now, I just feel profound relief.”

“Yes, of course,” Lexy said, turning to nod at Kate while crushing down her persistent worries, “Though I imagine that giving up command to return to your previous roles was somewhat bittersweet?” Tilting her head, she watched for Kate’s response to the sensitive question.

“Of course it was. I would be lying if I tried to pretend otherwise behind the guise of false modesty.” Kate glanced away, finding the window; she was reminded of the large ones in the ready room, and the many times she had looked through them for answers. “I cannot say that I always dreamed of commanding a starship, especially given my strange path through Starfleet… but, it certainly affords a unique opportunity to make a difference, that I found myself unexpectedly drawn to. And some parts of the job are just, well, fun.”

“Is a command position something you want to pursue? You found yourself drawn to it, parts are enjoyable, and you took to it well and quickly. It would seem a shame to give it up indefinitely. Not to mention that it’s rather… unorthodox to have a helm officer with the rank of Captain. ” Lexy was truly curious about this, and she was indeed nervous about the answer, but she knew she was avoiding the question she really wanted to ask out of a desire to avoid conflict. She made an effort to sound casual, but the anxious chewing of her lower lip betrayed her.

“That may be my official rank, but I am also supposed to be officially under arrest, so my future is uncertain.” Kate shrugged and continued, hoping to assuage Lexy’s obvious concern that her rank could force her to transfer to another ship, “What I may or may not wish to pursue is not even worth considering until we see how this situation is resolved. Right now, for us, Atlantis might as well be the only ship in the fleet.”

Realizing that she would have to face potential conflict if she wanted answers, Lexy took a calming breath and a sip of tea before embarking on what was likely an unwise course of action. “Given the situation, I can’t help but wonder why Vallero left in a runabout before we departed via slipstream… surely Command would have some significant questions for him, if my deductions regarding his affiliations are correct.”

Not expecting this topic to come up, Kate looked away and stared at the wall for a few seconds until she figured out how to answer the question, eventually deciding on the truth. “Daniel left because he asked to be allowed to try to aid our cause from elsewhere, and I permitted it.” She turned back to find Lexy’s eyes again before finishing, “And I believe that he will.”

Lexy searched Kate’s eyes for reassurance, and then broke her gaze away. “I know you’re tired of hearing this, but I have to wonder if your history with that man has—” She stopped abruptly, realizing that what she had been about to say would have been monumentally stupid. Instead, she reached out for Kate’s hand. “Look. You know that I trust your judgment and I would follow you anywhere. Right? It’s just that I don’t trust him.” At this, she locked her eyes back up to Kate’s, radiating earnest sincerity. “I love you, Kate Harper. And if he betrays you… well, I can promise they won’t take you without taking me.”

With a squeeze of Lexy’s hand, Kate smiled through suddenly moist eyes, the unexpected profession of Lexy’s willingness to defend her catching her off guard. “I love you too, but please, do not ever—” She gathered her composure before starting again, not wanting to consider the original thought, “I will tell you what I told him when he asked it of me. Perhaps history will judge me as an idealistic, naive fool that set herself up for betrayal, but my intuition tells me that he genuinely wants to help. I knew Daniel Vallero once, and the man that tried to get us to kill innocent Romulans was not him. The man that left here yesterday was.”

“I hope for all of us that he stays that way,” Lexy said, breaking away again as she moved to set her tea down on the table. Anna leapt down in protest, and stretched luxuriously before padding away to seek less volatile bedding. “My intuition is suspicious of him, but… I’m prepared to trust yours over mine.” Sitting back up, she snuggled into Kate’s shoulder. “And whatever you were going to ask me not to do, I’m sorry to disappoint…” Her voice was soft and somewhat muffled by Kate’s sleeve as she explained, but her tone was matter-of-fact. “It’s absurd to expect me to do nothing if they take you. If you would do nothing in the reverse situation, then I’ve dramatically misunderstood how this relationship stuff works. Because to me… if we were atoms, our valence electrons would be a perfect fit, and that bond makes us both better.”

The delightfully scientific analogy provoked a spontaneous giggle from Kate in defiance of the moment’s gravitas. “I do so love it when you talk science to me... and you are right. If it were reversed, I could not bear inactivity, so thank you for pointing that out, for your faith in me, and for your steadfast support while I was in command.”

Remaining snuggled against Kate’s arm, Lexy offered a slightly embarrassed shrug. “Science, I know. Romance, not so much… except that there’s no need for thanks. I’m happy to be at your side, and I hope the feeling is mutual.” She paused for a moment, then pulled slightly away to give Kate a quizzical look. “That… is how this relationship stuff works, right?”

“Yes, love, that is how it works, and apparently I just needed you to remind me of that.” Kate smiled fondly and trailed a few fingertips down Lexy’s cheek before taking in a breath to speak, but instead stopped to look around the room. The thought had come to her to once again ask her lover to move in with her, but she reminded herself that Lexy had told her to wait six months. Still, the moment just felt right, given both the timing and the circumstances, so Kate concluded that it could not really hurt to bring it up once more.

Her view returned to find those big blue eyes looking up at her questioningly, and unlike the first time she asked, this time Kate did not feel nervous. “I am quite glad to have you at my side, so that feeling is definitely mutual, and I would like it very much if you were there even more often. My things are already being moved back to my old quarters, and it would be much easier to integrate yours if they were all to be unpacked at once, you know.”

The questioning look turned first to confusion, then quickly to uncertain understanding. “Are you saying… what I think you’re saying?”

Laughing, Kate nodded. “I know it has not been six months, but it seemed like a good time.”

Lexy blinked once in surprise and sat up, meeting Kate’s eyes as if to confirm she was serious, then blinked again and let her focus fade as she turned inward to consider. Only a few beats of silence passed before she turned back to Kate. “I did say six months,” she said with a serious expression, “and it has only been four. However,” she spoke over Kate, and raised a finger to prevent further interruption, “that was with the assumption that you would be the Captain going forward. To give us time to deal with all the change. But now… everything’s going back to more or less the way it was before… so… okay.” Breaking into a nervous smile, she nodded. “Yes. Let’s do it. If you’re sure.”

A jubilant smile lit up Kate’s face before she pulled Lexy into a tight hug. “Yes, Alexis Wright, I am quite certain that I want us to live together!”

After long moments sharing a happy hug, Lexy withdrew and stood up, looking around her quarters before turning back to Kate. “And you mean… today? I should call the movers?” At Kate’s smiling nod, she darted over to the console to make arrangements, but paused and looked up. “And… Anna too?”

“Of course, Anna too! What kind of monster would expect you to leave your kitty behind?”

Blissfully unaware of the tribulations of unpacking into cohabited space, Lexy grinned and arranged for the movers to come right away. “They’ll be here soon! This is all so exciting! And so sudden…” Looking around once more with a thoughtful expression, she finally turned back to Kate. “You know, I’m kind of going to miss this place. I have some good memories here.” Gently, she took the teacup from Kate’s hands and set it down on the table before straddling her lover with her knees and plopping into her lap. With a mischievous grin and a husky voice, she purred, “We have half an hour… wanna make one more?”

“Oh, the ‘quickie,’ yes?” Smiling up from under her eyelashes, Kate squirmed with eager desire and pulled Lexy closer before lowering her voice and responding, “Mmmm, I accept your challenge.”

Dirty Laundry

Posted: Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:27 pm
by Luceo
by Alexis Wright and Kathryn Harper

Lexy was curled up in her customary corner of the couch with a sleeping Anna in her lap and a book in her hands. The book was all but forgotten, however, as she was instead focused on the source of increasingly loud banging noises and what she could only assume was swearing in several exotic languages from the next room. After listening in quiet amusement for a few moments, she called out, "Do you need help with something, love?"

Kate’s head appeared, poking out of the bedroom through the open door. “I cannot find the uniform I wore yesterday!”

With a raised eyebrow, Lexy commented, “Was it in the pile of other uniforms from earlier this week?” The hint of mild annoyance in her tone was subtle, but distinct.

“Yes, where else would it have been?” Kate replied, as if the answer were obvious.

“I got tired of tripping over them, so I dumped them for recycling while you were out playing tennis this morning,” was Lexy’s matter-of-fact response. “But—”

“You did what?!” Kate interrupted, storming into the room. “Why would you think it acceptable to throw away my things without checking with me first?”

Lexy winced as Anna dug in claws and leapt from her lap at the sound of Kate’s raised voice. Shelving her previous thought, Lexy closed her book and spoke in her own defense. “Because they’re uniforms, and we always recycle them! Besides, what makes you think you can just leave a pile of dirty laundry between my side of the bed and the door to our bedroom? As I said, I got tired of tripping over it, so I took care of it for you.”

“I have a system, and I do not need you to take care of it for me!” Kate responded incredulously. “This is how I have always done it, Lexy! It is a routine.

Equally incredulous, Lexy replied, “And recycling them when I take them off is my routine, it keeps things tidy! And this is my home now as well, if you’ll recall, and I can’t relax properly in that kind of mess. If you absolutely must keep them—for reasons that I cannot fathom—perhaps we can at least compromise? I’ll even replicate a hamper for you.”

“Or perhaps you could just tighten up a bit and relax?” With an exasperated huff, Kate added, “Please, just please, tell me you at least had the courtesy to check the pockets before throwing away my clothes?”

After a moment of confusion at the badly twisted idiom, Lexy frowned, a tiny spark of anger igniting within her. “Of course I did, which is what I was trying to explain when you cut me off before! I assume you’re concerned about your forehead ornament—I found it, and put it in the little dish in the bathroom where it’s supposed to go!” With a helpful gesture toward the bathroom, she couldn’t keep herself from making a final jab. “Did you even bother to look?”

“No, why would it be there if I did not put it there?” Kate rushed into the bathroom to verify Lexy’s claim, and upon finding it to be true, gave a sigh of relief before noticing that this room’s floor was also conspicuously clean. With a flash of rage, she marched back into the living room yelling, “But all of my clothes are gone from in there, too!”

Lexy laid her book on the coffee table with forced calm and stood, turning to face her beloved with her lips pressed into a grim line. “Ah. Let me explain: Seeing you in your underwear? Sexy. Personally removing your underwear? Even more sexy. Stepping out of the shower into a pile of your dirty underwear? Not even remotely sexy.”

“Do you know what else is not even remotely sexy?” Kate heatedly asked, then continued without pausing for an answer, “A lack of respect for my boundaries! My favorite bra was in that pile!”

Completely dumbfounded by this outburst, Lexy stared at Kate for a moment before throwing her hands up in the air. “A lack of resp… What about your lack of respect for my boundaries? And I made sure everything was carefully washed and put away, you’ll find your favorite bra in the drawer, where it belongs!” Covering her face with her hand, she tried unsuccessfully to calm down. This irrational side of Kate always confused and frustrated her, and her heart sank as she saw her plans for the afternoon go up in flames. “Look, can we not do this? This is not how I wanted today to go…”

“Oh, really?” Kate jabbed. “Not how you wanted today to go? It certainly was not my plan for an ideal day either, so perhaps you should put more thought into how you treat others, Alexis!”

At Kate’s words, Lexy suddenly shrank as if stung. She had tried to make their home together into a pleasant space, and this was the thanks she got? “Fine. Have it your way. I’m done arguing about it.” Brushing past Kate, she walked toward the bedroom, pausing in the doorway to cut off Kate’s immediate protest without turning around. “I’m taking your advice—I’m going to my room to think about what I’ve done, Kathryn.” Her flat tone carried an edge of snark, and further argument was thwarted by her disappearance into the bedroom, the door abruptly swishing closed behind her.

Kate angrily flopped onto the couch with her arms folded over her chest, fuming over what had transpired. A few minutes later, her anger had calmed to mere sulkiness, and she reached for the pillow Lexy had been using. Intending to lie down, she instead paused upon finding a wrapped package, formerly hidden behind the pillow. Opening the attached folded tag, she read the hand-written message: "Happy Birthday to my one and only, with love -Lexy"

“Oh, fuck me,” Kate said aloud. She had forgotten her own birthday, which wasn’t unusual for her, but the realization that Lexy had a gift ready to give her during that whole argument… her face dropped into her upturned palm with a smack. “I am such a zokit jama-na!

After a few moments of self-flagellation, curiosity got the better of her and she unwrapped the package to find a scrapbook. Opening it, she found a small collection of meaningful mementos from the past year: photographs of the parade that had been held in her hometown on Risa, celebrating her as their heroine, along with fan letters from the local children and news articles detailing the story of the first Risan woman to command a Federation starship. Although she was no longer in command and technically a fugitive, it was a quiet gesture of unwavering support from her lover that managed to make Kate feel, in that moment, utterly undeserving of such a thoughtful gift.

Turning her head to stare at the bedroom door, Kate resolved that she must atone for this. Making an effort to at least try to change almost four decades of messy habits would help in the long run, but right now, a cunning smile spread across her lips as she had another idea. Licking them in anticipation, Kate stood and moved toward the bedroom, hoping to showcase her considerable talents in delivering a lover’s apology.

Re: CO Captain Kathryn Harper

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 1:12 am
by Luceo
Fork in the Road, with Alexis Wright: ... t=50#p7072


Posted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:58 pm
by Luceo
by Kuari and Kathryn Harper

“You did the best you could, and you’re not at fault for those deaths. Smith is to blame, and no one else. Don’t forget that, Kate.”

Admiral Blackthorne’s parting words still echoed with Captain Harper as she finished her report on the loss of the Neptune with all but thirty-nine hands. What had he meant? You did the best you could? Did he think that he could have done better? Would Admiral Blackthorne and Commodore T’Kirr have saved more of that crew, or even all of them, had they been in command? She’d never known him to mince words, but given the situation, Harper found it difficult to doubt that the outcome would not have been better with a more experienced commanding officer in Atlantis’s center seat.

The door chimed. “Come,” Harper answered automatically, but not as energetically as usual. Still, the ready room door slid open, and Kuari entered. She was on all fours, and her head was held low on her long neck in front of her. Her large eyes met Harper’s briefly before darting aimlessly about the room, and she trotted all the way to the desk with more energy than she should have felt before the tip of her tail cleared the doorway.

Dropping her hindquarters, Kuari sat on the floor and intermittently glanced up at Harper. “Hi. How are you doing?”

Kate took a moment to regard her executive officer and friend before deciding that the command demeanor would serve no purpose now, and answered truthfully, “I have been better, Kuari. The Admiral assured me that we did the best we could, but it is hard to stop wondering whether or not he and Commodore T’Kirr could have saved more lives.”

Kuari nodded and looked down at the floor. She had wondered how Kate’s call with Admiral Blackthorne had gone. He and T’Kirr were role models to her now, especially T’Kirr as she attempted to emulate the Vulcan’s ways as Executive Officer, and she imagined Blackthorne was the same for Kate. “They might have been able to,” Kuari admitted. After a moment of thought, she continued, “Unless they would have made the same decisions we did. It’s hard to know.” She looked up at Kate. “All we can do is our best.”

“Of course,” Kate began as she stood and made her way around to the front of the desk to lean against it. “But after what we did… the sheer improbability of what we accomplished, I mean, with foiling Section 31. After that, it just felt like we could do anything.” She slid up a bit to sit on the desk’s edge and finished, “That feeling was improper and dangerous, but this… this may have been our Kobayashi Maru.”

Kuari thought on that for a moment and decided she agreed. A modest grin stretched back on her face. “What do you think? Would thirty-nine be a good score? For a test meant to fail, that is.”

Captain Harper had never taken the infamous test of character while at the Academy, since it was not administered to cadets in the science track, but that it was a no-win scenario was common knowledge. In her countless mental replays of the situation, Harper had certainly not been able to figure out a way to win. “It is going to have to be,” she answered, envying her XO’s seemingly eternal optimism. Kate scooted back a bit more, bringing her right knee up to hold it in her clasped hands before speaking, to herself as much as to Kuari. “Could our predecessors have done better? Maybe. I do not know. But we… Kuari, we saved thirty-nine people. Smith killed the rest.”

“Green as fur!” Kuari replied somewhat loudly, straightening herself. At Kate’s blank look, she smiled a bit more and elaborated. “It’s a Rucara saying. I think it would make more sense to translate as, “Is fur green?” but we don’t say it that way. It means it’s obviously so and I’m agreeing with you.” The Rucara cocked her head to the side. “Funny thing is, our fur isn’t green, it’s clear. Our skin beneath it is green. The deeper meaning is that it’s about perspective, not necessarily fact. If fact can’t explain it, it’s up to you how you perceive it, and it’s encouraged to do so in whatever way makes you go on in a healthier way.”

Harper thought about this for a moment, idly bouncing the leg that her laced fingers held captive. “That makes a lot of sense, but I would not have understood it had you not explained it to me. I should study your language.”

“It gets more complicated when you realize our skin isn’t always green. We can turn it brown. But don’t think about it too much, which is another good lesson.”

“And I thought English idioms were hard.” With a smile at the wisdom of her Rucara friend, Kate offered, “Thank you, Kuari. I needed that perspective.”

Kuari smiled back, this time showing her pointed teeth, but it was tempered by the seriousness of recent events. She could tell this had hit Kate harder than it had her, and she was happy to make her friend and captain feel better.

“Hey, alpha shift is over, you know.” Kate hopped down from her perch on the desk and offered, “What do you say we go for a swim?”

Kuari stood immediately in response, excited. “That sounds great! We could use a good swim.”

“Yes,” the Captain answered with a deep breath, “we certainly could.”

Office Politics

Posted: Mon Oct 02, 2017 8:34 am
by Luceo
Although the Tzenkethi war had ended over two years ago, its losses were still being felt throughout Starfleet and the Federation. The USS Atlantis had been nearly destroyed in the ultimate battle of that conflict and, due to the difficulty and time involved in manufacturing replacement ships of all sizes, still lacked a full complement of fighters. During her last visit to Starbase Vinland, Captain Kathryn Harper had been awaiting a delivery of seven new Mustang Mark II fighters, but had only received two of them before their unscheduled departure. Now, she sat in an office aboard the starbase, having just concluded an argument with Vinland’s CO and CAG that those five Mark IIs in their inventory were earmarked for Atlantis, and should be transferred aboard her ship.

Of course, it would be trivial to contact Admiral Blackthorne’s office and have the materiel transfer orders re-sent. Given her relatively short time in command and desire for self-sufficiency, Harper preferred to at least put in a solid attempt to resolve this herself before involving the Admiral. Before the meeting, she had asked herself, “After all, how hard could politics really be?” The stonewalling she had received answered that question. According to Vinland’s CO and CAG, those five Mustangs were vital to the starbase’s defense, and since Atlantis had never taken delivery, they would remain in Vinland’s inventory until new transfer orders arrived.

This argument was, of course, absurd. While speaking with him, Harper began to suspect that Lt. Commander Yorris, Vinland’s CAG, had assigned himself one of her Mustangs and did not want to return to a Mark I. Not that she could blame him on that point, having flown the Mark II, but Vinland hardly ever saw combat, and given the firepower that a starbase had, their fighter wings were largely focused on training. The logic of it aside, the materiel transfer orders did not expire, so those fighters weren’t in her inventory when they were supposed to be, and from a military perspective, that was really all that should matter.

Why were they being so obstinate, then? The flagship of Third Fleet comes to pick up new fighters and they just say no? Harper knew for a fact that Vinland’s CO, Captain Brandis, would not have given the same answer to Admiral Blackthorne. Of course, she lacked his rank and influence, but orders were orders, especially such mundane ones as inventory allocation. Harper shook her head, stopping herself from speculating further on the reason behind their bizarre reaction to her request, preferring to not know the answer since it would likely anger her.

Instead, she tried to find a way to beat them. Harper flipped through the documentation around Atlantis’s last visit here on her PADD, finally pausing on the orders stating that they were not allowed to leave. These were the orders she had ultimately broken to rescue Admiral Blackthorne and Commodore T’Kirr from their Section 31-imposed exile, and how they had been able to escape Vinland stuck in her mind. A wry smile spread across her face as the door opened, heralding Captain Brandis’s return.

“I’m sorry, Captain,” he began, not sounding sorry at all. “We just can’t spare those five Mark IIs.”

“As a matter of procedure, Captain, you and I both know that materiel transfer orders do not expire,” Harper answered as she stood to face him. “Now, I could have the Admiral send the orders again, which I am sure he will find to be a tremendous waste of his time. I could have already done so, even. Or... I could have fabricated new orders.” She paused, letting her reference to the forgery they had committed in their escape sink in before inclining her chin to deliver the dagger. “It is not as if your staff can tell the difference.”

Brandis had taken the heat for allowing the theft of Atlantis, and even though his superiors at the time had been Section 31, the entire situation had been a tremendous embarrassment for Vinland. He let out a sigh, not having expected that she would threaten to involve the Admiralty, or that she would bring up having fooled his operations staff. “Alright, fine, you can have the fighters,” he conceded. “If you never bring that up again.”

“Deal,” Harper quickly affirmed.

Offering a conciliatory handshake, Brandis admitted, “It was an incredibly good forgery, you know.”

Harper tucked her PADD against her chest with her left arm and accepted the handshake. “I know it,” she answered with pride.

An Indelible Smile

Posted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:29 am
by Luceo
by Kathryn Harper, with Alexis Wright

Her command of Atlantis had gotten off to a rocky start, but as she reflected on things while looking out the ready room window before the start of alpha shift, Captain Kathryn Harper found herself to be overjoyed with the recent trend. The Federation was slowly recovering from the Section 31 Crisis, and for the first time in months, the ship’s mission had nothing at all to do with Section 31. Instead, they were tasked with perhaps the most exciting mission of scientific exploration of the century; to directly study the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Even her personal life was unimaginably good; she had just recently become engaged, something that she’d never dreamed would ever happen to her except in girlhood fantasies. Given her tumultuous romantic history, Kate thought that nothing short of a miracle.

Kate regarded the diamond ring on her left hand with a curious smirk, tilting it back and forth to admire the gem’s sparkle. Engagement rings were not tradition on Risa, but she could not deny her attraction to the shiny stone. In all the excitement since Lexy had given it to her at the holiday party, Kate realized that she had yet to call her parents to tell them the good news. She sat down at her desk terminal and placed a request for the communication link to Risa, knowing that soon, Atlantis would be out of range of the standard subspace relay network, so her remaining time to easily call home was limited. While she waited for the link to connect across the incredible distance between Atlantis and Risa, her gaze wandered back to the ring on her finger and the scintillating light it seemed to contain.

The viewscreen finally cut away from the Federation logo after several long minutes of waiting, giving way to the image of her smiling parents, as they always were when they got a call from their only child. “Kathryn!” roared her father, Rolik, his face erupting into delight at the sight of her. He pulled his wife close as he continued in their native language, “It is so good to see you, my girl!”

“Papá, Mamá!” Kate answered, also in the Risan tongue. “How have you been?”

“We are well, Kathryn,” Jhnal replied, smiling warmly at her daughter across the vast expanse, “As we are always well. And you? What adventure is our Starfleet captain daughter on today?”

“The greatest yet; a voyage to the center of the galaxy. But that is not even the reason I called!” Each word faded to a smile, the soft expression seeming indelibly carved on Kate’s face.

Jhnal’s eyes betrayed the faintest moment of excitement, but it was masked so quickly that Kate wasn’t certain it had been there at all. “Oh? You do not look worried, so maybe it is something good, yes?”

Raising her hand to show off the sparkling diamond ring, Kate excitedly announced, “Lexy asked me to marry her!”

Jhnal barked a laugh, bringing her hands together in a triumphant clap. “I knew that strange little human would do it sooner or later! And that ring you wear means that you accepted, yes? Your father had begun to worry,” she added, grinning and nudging her husband in the ribs as he grinned sheepishly. “Ha! We are so happy for you, daughter!”

Rolik wrapped his other arm around Jhnal and pulled her into a bearhug, since Kate was out of reach, and his daughter remained respectfully quiet while her father was overwhelmed with emotion. When he finally let his wife breathe again, Rolik wiped a tear from the corner of his eye. “Yes, Kathryn, that you have finally found such happiness in her brings us pure joy.”

“Thank you both. I still can hardly believe it,” Kate gushed, the smile still her resting expression.

“And your Lexy, we worried at first that maybe she was too shy, but when she came to us… she loves you, Kathryn. This is wonderful! Now we will have two daughters!” Jhnal’s excitement was nearly palpable, even through the screen.

“She does love me, yes. Me, of all people! I mean, you two are obviously biased in my favor,” Kate gestured at the viewscreen, “but I had given up on finding actual love years ago. But here… well, here she is.” Kate finished the thought quietly, now having to wipe a tear from the corner of her own eye though her smile remained intact. “I never imagined being as lucky as you two are, in that regard.”

Rolik leaned toward the camera, and although he spoke softly, he still maintained an air of gregariousness. “Kathryn… you were never like the other girls. Always with the playing of the sports, and the studying, and the music… but look what you have done with your life as a result. The first woman of our people to command a Federation starship, who negotiated a historic peace treaty with the Romulans—you have made all of Risa proud, not just us. To do all of that takes someone truly special, since such ability and insight is quite rare, indeed. But when you are so different, it is harder to find the right person to settle down with, though the one you eventually find is likely to be as special as you are. We always knew that you would succeed at this, just like most anything else you have tried.”

“Yes,” Jhnal added, nodding, “You and your Lexy are both special people. It is lucky that you found one another, just as Rolik was to find me, yes?” She favored him with a mischievous smirk before turning back to the screen. “But finding your match is only the first challenge. Marriage is hard, sometimes, and it takes work… so do not think that the hard part is over. The building of the life together is not easy, but if you are both willing to sacrifice for love, then it will be worth the trouble.” Her hand found Rolik’s, and gave it an affectionate squeeze.

“I will remember that. Already, I have learned a few difficult lessons about successfully living with a lover.” Kate snickered, remembering her previous, wholly disastrous attempts at cohabitation. “Another first!”

“We are so glad to see you finally with love in your life. You look so happy, Kathryn! We are proud of all of your accomplishments, but it is your happiness that has always been most important.” The love that filled Jhnal’s smile almost glowed through the viewscreen. “So, tell me,” she continued, looking innocent, “where and when will be the wedding?”

With a hint of red suddenly coloring her cheeks, Kate slowly shrank into her chair as her face slid down into her palm. An exasperated laugh found its way through her unfaltering smile as she lightly reproached, “Mamá!” The joyful sound of her parents’ mirth from the other end of the connection only made her heart feel even warmer.