Authors: Jeri Taylor
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction
tissue. Where the aquarium had once sat was a Starfleet
console; she realized she didn't remember when the lionfish
had been replaced.
Wiping her face, she returned to the couch.
"I'm so sorry, Dad. I guess I've been under some stress."
He looked gravely at her, putting his fingers under her
chin and tilting her head up. "What is it, Goldenbird?" he
asked gently. "What is it, really?"
She struggled with the decision. She'd never complained to
him, never let him see her weakness. It was important that
he regard her as beyond weakness, someone who wouldn't be a
burden to him, or make demands on him, someone strong
She looked up at him now through scratchy and swollen
eyes. "Oh, Daddy, I just want you to be proud of me."
He looked at her in abject puzzlement.
"Kathryn, I am proud of you. There aren't words to tell you
how much. Ask anyone I work with-I'm afraid I drive them
crazy talking about my daughter."
"I've told my colleagues about every honor, every
accolade, every commendation you ever received. And there
were a potful of them. I'm a terrible braggart about my
"Admiral Paris talks about his son all the time. I wanted
you to feel that proud of me."
Her father threw back his head in a snorting laugh. "Are
you kidding? Owen talks about Tom from time to timebut he
isn't in the same league of gloating fathers as I am."
Then he turned to her and rubbed her cheek softly.
"How could you think I wasn't proud of you? How could you
imagine it?" "You never told me," she said simply, and saw
his face crumple. He rose abruptly, moving away from her,
fists clenching and unclenching in distress. He stood like
that for a horrible moment, then turned back to her.
"War takes many tolls, Kathryn. I'm all too aware of the
massive ones-slaughter, torture, misery, starvation . . ."
He moved to sit next to her again. "Those things you can't
I guess I didn't pay attention to some of the others. I was
asked to help prevent war from befalling the entire
Federation, and I never hesitated. I'm still trying." He
looked solemnly at her, his gray eyes burrowing into her,
those kind, loving eyes, urging her to listen, to believe
him, to accept his absolute sincerity.
"You and Phoebe, and your mother, paid the price. I simply
wasn't there when you were growing up. I knew your mother
had enough love to give you, and I thought-I hoped-that
would be enough. But I swear to you, I thought of you every
day, every hour, missing you so much it was like a physical
"And it seemed as if you were flourishing. You excelled at
everything. We were more worried about Phoebe-she lacked
direction, she wasn't motivated. I was relieved when she
found she loved painting, because it gave some focus to her
life. But you-you were never a concern."
Kathryn couldn't ever remember her father talking to her
like that, talking about personal things. She felt as
though she had been unburdened of a huge tumor, one that
had melted into the million tears that had flowed out of
her body, leaving her weightless. She snuggled into her
father's arms again, and they sat for another hour, talking
about her childhood, about Phoebe, about Justin, and about
whether she should take Admiral Paris' advice and switch
her career track to command. Her father was strongly in
favor of the idea because "the best of the best should be
in command-and that's you, Goldenbird."
Kathryn made popcorn and hot chocolate, and they ate bowl
after bowl, washing it down with the velvety sweet liquid.
And later that night, after they'd gone to bed, she woke,
and with the house dark and quiet, her mother and father
sound asleep, she crept downstairs to the study and curled
up in the kneehole of his desk, where she sat contentedly
until the sun rose.
A month later, she, Justin, and her father were seated in
the prototype ship Terra Nova as it entered the Tau Ceti
system. It was an impressive vessel, small and lean, highly
maneuverable-and heavily armed.
It was Starfleet's necessary response to the mounting
threat of war with Cardassia.
Edward Janeway had been working on its design and
construction at the Utopia Planitia shipyard for two and a
half years, had test-flown it himself on numerous
occasions, and was now overseeing its first long-range
flight-a three-day journey to the Tau Ceti system, where it
would undergo a series of experimental flights conducted in
a variety of spatial environments. Lieutenant Justin Tighe
was the pilot. They had spent the previous night at Mittern
Station, enjoying a festive meal with Admiral Finnegan,
whom Kathryn had first met years ago on Mars Colony. His
red hair was now mostly gray, but his sense of humor was as
keen as ever, and they had lingered over coffee, laughing
and telling stories.
Even Justin, not the most social of people, had relaxed
and enjoyed himself, and told a funny story about growing
up on a mining colony. She couldn't remember his ever
having been able to laugh about his childhood, and to her
it was proof that he was truly becoming comfortable with
them. Her heart had warmed as she saw her father and
Admiral Finnegan's response to him: they liked him and
respected him-but most important of all, they enjoyed him.
"On final approach to the Tau Ceti system, sir," she heard
Justin say, jarring her out of her reverie.
"Stand by to execute the warp thrusters maneuver,"
replied her father. The Terra Nova was designed to function
in a variety of battle conditions. One of the innovations
of the ship was warp thrusters, which provided quick bursts
of speed without engaging full warp engines, allowing the
ship to maneuver quickly out of dangerous circumstances,
change position, and return to the fray from an unexpected
direction. Computer simulations had originally indicated
intractable stresses to the hull from the maneuver, but
Admiral Janeway had eventually solved this and a host of
other design problems.
They spent an hour testing the new thrusters, which
functioned perfectly. Kathryn enjoyed watching Justin at
the controls, which he handled like an artist, seeming to
become at one with the ship as he worked it through the
complicated commands. Her love for him swelled in her like
a living thing, enveloping her in a warmth of a sort she'd
never known before. She had the giddy and irrational
thought that she didn't deserve this much happiness. "Solar
winds are kicking up, Lieutenant," her father said. "Let's
give the port thrusters one more burst and then call it a
"Aye, sir. It's been a good first run."
What happened then occurred so quickly that, years later,
she couldn't pinpoint exactly what the sequence of events
was. All she could recall was that one moment she heard her
father say "Wind shear-"and the next she was falling
through space, slowly, drifting, vaguely aware of strange
chilly breezes but not bothered by them. She felt as though
she were in a hammock, swaying gently, floating toward the
surface like a scrap of paper tossed on the winds but
settling inevitably lower and lower. There was no sense of
disaster, or even mishap. She felt mildly curious as to
these puzzling circumstances, but not alarmed by them. The
downward drift was so soothing that she almost wanted it to
go on indefinitely. She sailed that way for a long time.
Then she heard a rush of air and her body absorbed a
massive impact; pain screamed through her bones and she
thought they must all be broken. She lay stunned for a 228
period of time she couldn't determine, waiting for the
pain to subside, waiting for her vision to clear-comshe couldn't see. That fact finally registered in her
mind. Only darkness surrounded her, a black, agony-filled
universe that began and ended with her body, racking her,
obliterating her efforts to quell the suffering. She tried,
without success, to use her pain-reduction techniques, then
finally resigned herself to the hurt.
Time passed. She had no clear idea of how long, and knew
she might have been passing in and out of consciousness.
Eventually the pain ebbed and she began to feel tranquil
again; a narcotizing effect seemed to have pervaded her
brain-a natural secretion of endorphins, she thought
instinctively-and she felt consciousness begin to slip
Something was in her mouth. And her nose. She couldn't
breathe, she was suffocating, that was why she was drifting
off . . . strange, that she could acknowledge that she was
dying, recognize the cause, and yet be unable-even
unwilling-to do anything about it. She coughed. Felt a
sudden intake of cold substance, and then choked, gasping,
sucking air but ingesting instead whatever that cold
substance was, wishing she could return to the cocoon of
unconsciousness once more.
Dying, she realized, wasn't frightening; living was
infinitely more difficult.
Without conscious will, she lifted her head. A realization
invaded her mind: she had been lying facedown in a
snowbank. White crystals clung to her face, and to her
eyelashes, obscuring her vision. She dug at her eyes,
brushing away snow and bits of ice, and suddenly she could
Parts of a small space ship were strewn around a vast, ice-ridden landscape; everything was white for as far as she
could see, and the horizon blended almost
indistinguishably into a pale gray sky, making her feel as
if she were inside a vast white sphere.
Snowy cliffs rose abruptly from the ground several
kilometers beyond her, and grotesque white shapes on the
ground, like abstract ice sculptures, testified to the
irregularity of the terrain.
She sat up and involuntarily cried out; bones were broken
for certain. She moved gingerly, trying to get her
bearings, and realized she was sitting on the rear
empennage of the ship. A drogue system must have deployed,
slowing her plunge to the surface, but even so if she
hadn't landed in a soft snowbank she would never have
She had no idea what had brought her to this snowy
wilderness. She could remember nothing that led up to her
present existence, pain-racked and cold, on an unknown ice
planet. How had she gotten here?
What ship was now scattered in wreckage all around her?
were there other people here, too? Other people. A vague
alarm rose in her, but she couldn't identify it. Was she
with others? If not, why would she have been flying alone?
She wasn't a particularly accomplished pilot, it didn't
seem likely that she'd be on a solo mission.
But what was the mission, then? And if there were others,
who were they? And where were they?
Dizziness engulfed her and she lowered her head, trying to
keep blood flowing to her brain. A vast confusion began to
overtake her, and she couldn't think what she should do
next. Lie down again, perhaps. It had felt so much better
to be lying prone, in the pillow of snow and darkness, than
to stare, bewildered, into this milky landscape. She
started to put her head back onto the snow when another
feature of the terrain caught her eye. An iceberg. A huge
shard of jagged ice, jutting from . . . from . . . the
ground? No, icebergs didn't form on land.
There must be water there. Maybe it wasn't an iceberg.
Maybe it was just another of the strange icy formations
that dotted the surroundings . . . but no, no, it was
definitely an iceberg. She was sure of that, but unclear
why she was sure. She became intrigued, then obsessed, with
this question. How did she know with such certitude that
she was looking at an iceberg? She pondered what she knew
about icebergs. They were floating masses of ice, broken
from the end of a glacier or a polar ice sheet. They
drifted according to the direction of sea current. They
most assuredly required a huge body of water to support
them. Ergo, there must be water here. Isolated bits of
iceberg-information came climbing upward from memory like
salmon. Only one-ninth of the mass of ice is seen above
water. The Titanic was destroyed after impact with an
iceberg. Many bergs are tilted, as the result of wave-cutting and melting that disturb their equilibrium. She
glanced up at her berg, and saw it tilted at an angle. It
was rapidly fulfilling the requirements of being what she
was so sure it was. Nonetheless, it was increasingly
important to her that she be absolutely, positively,
unequivocally sure that she was looking at an iceberg. She
forced herself to her feet, shuddering with the pain that
knifed through her with each movement, standing shakily,
light-headed. The horizon swam and undulated like silk