Authors: Jeri Taylor
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction
at his feet would have distracted him. He was working-he
was always working-on a starship design, and the various
clicks and beeps of his padd punctuated the silence in the
room, offering odd counterpoint to the sonorous clock.
Kathryn loved hearing the sounds of the padd; they were
oddly soothing, a reminder that he was there, a connection
to him. Sometimes she pretended the sounds were in fact a
private code they shared, that he was sending her messages
that no one else could interpret.
"Daddy to Goldenbird . . . my ETA is fifteen minutes . . .
rendezvous with me in my study at sixteen hundred hours . .
. this is top secret . . . Daddy out. his Kathryn smiled as
she snuggled in the kneehole. Maybe it would be only
fifteen minutes more, maybe it would be longer. But the
reward for her patience and stillness would be worth it:
she and Daddy would do their games. She would have him to
herself for a time. And for that, Kathryn would gladly have
sat quietly under the desk for hours. She'd been spending a
lot of time in Daddy's study lately, ever since Your Sister
had come to their house. Your Sister didn't seem to be much
more than a wriggling movement inside a soft blanket, but
her arrival had had a profound effect on the household.
Mama was hardly ever in evidence now, except when she
walked with the small bundle in the blanket over her
shoulder, patting its back and singing softly to it. So
far, Kathryn had not heard Mama singing her song to your
Sister, but knew that was because Mama and Daddy had not
yet decided on a name for this new presence.
Kathryn had her own thoughts about that, but so far no one
had asked her. Her father's leg shifted slightly next to
her and she sat up quickly. Did this mean he was almost
done? Was he closing up his padd and getting ready for the
games? She held her breath, afraid of causing distraction,
but she continued to hear the sounds of the padd. Daddy
wasn't ready yet. She settled back again, mind running over
the games, practicing, readying herself so she would be
She intended to surprise Daddy by knowing every single
thing today-and even more-so he would ruffle her hair and
say, "That's my Goldenbird . . . what a clever girl you
are!" The prospect of hearing those words made her heart
She sat like that, contained and quiet, for another half
hour. She could tell because the grandfather clock chimed
every fifteen minutes, and there were four fifteen minutes
in each hour. Two of them was half an hour.
She had figured that out when she was three.
She heard a familiar click and realized that Daddy had
snapped shut his padd. She held her breath for a moment,
for sometimes he would open another, but she saw his legs
withdrawing from the desk. He was done, and she knew
exactly what would happen next.
Now she heard him pacing the room, as though looking for
something. "No, not there," he intoned, and she smiled. A
few seconds later, he said, with a hint of exasperation,
"Not there either. Hmmmmm."
Her smile grew as she listened to this careful ritual. "I
could swear I heard a little bird in this room . . . but I
can't find her. Where could she be? Is she hiding in the
Now Kathryn had to cover her mouth with her handsin the
replicator! How silly, how could she do that?
She felt a giggle building. "Oh-oh . . . maybe she got into
the fish tank . . . she's after my African lionfish . . .
you naughty bird, you'd better not bother my lionfish!" Now
the giggle was starting to tickle her throat; she tried to
push it down and instead it came out through her nose as a
little snort. "What's that? What did I just hear?" His
mock-stern voice moved closer to her.
She scrunched into the tiniest ball she could become and
covered her face with her hands. Then she heard his voice
right next to her. "Why . . . it's a bird all right. It's a
Goldenbird, and she's hiding under my desk!"
Now Kathryn looked up as she felt his hands on her,
pulling her out. She shrieked with glee as he picked her up
effortlessly and swung her around the room. "Goldenbird is
flying . . . all around the room . . . up . . . and down .
. . and down . . . and up . . ." Kathryn's laughter pealed
as her father swung her in delicious circles and dips and
then finally lowered her to the floor.
"More, Daddy, more," she pleaded, but he knelt down close
to her. "I'm sorry, but we don't give free rides around
here. What do you have to do for a ride?"
"And how do you do that?"
"Win the games."
"Are you ready?"
"Yes, Daddy, all ready."
His wonderful face looked down at her. Gray eyes twinkled,
sandy brown hair fell over his forehead. Daddy's face
always looked happy, she thought. "Very well. Did you work
on the sevens?"
Kathryn took a breath, plunged into the scary unknown. "I
worked on the sevens . . . and the eights. And the nines."
His look of amazement was reward enough for all the work
she'd done. She giggled again, delighted that she'd
surprised him. She knew he'd never have expected her to
learn so much.
"Eights and nines, eh? Those are very big numbers for a
little girl. Are you sure you want to take this chance?
You'll win your ride if you just get the sevens."
"I'm ready. I can do it."
"But if you make a mistake on the eights or nines . . . no
ride." "I know."
He smiled, and his look of genuine pride made her shiver.
"Well, then. Nine times eight?"
"Eight times seven?"
"Seven times four."
"Eight times eight."
"Nine times . . . eleven."
She paled. They'd never gone past the tens. She had
memorized everything up to a multiple of ten, but eleven
represented an area of computation she'd never considered.
"That's not fair, Daddy. We've never done elevens."
"You've proven you can memorize very well. But it's
important you learn how to think about numbers.
I'm expecting you to move to the next level of
Her mind threatened to panic. She couldn't do this, he was
betraying her. How could she answer something she'd never
even thought of? She would have to admit to him that she
couldn't do it.
This last thought ripped through her mind, searing it like
a jagged lightning strike, and she felt the beginning of
tears sting her eyes. Daddy was looking at her, patient but
unyielding. She knew he would not back down, would not
simply take pity on her. He would expect her to come up
with the answer. That realization was somehow calming to
her, and she sank to the floor, sitting with her legs
crossed and her hands folded in her lap, eyes closed. She
forced her mind to close out the room, the grandfather's
clock, and Daddy's presence looming above her. She
concentrated on the numbers, trying to see them in front of
her. Nine tens was easy. She learned weeks ago that for ten
times anything you just added a zero. So nine tens was
ninety. She tried to see them in her mind, lined up in
ordered rows: nine lionfish in one row, nine lionfish in a
second row, nine lionfish in a third row. She proceeded
this way until she could see all ninety fish, whiskered and
malevolent, spread out in her mind's eye. If those were ten
rows, she needed only add one more row.
Eleven rows of fish . . . eleven nines. Ten of them are
ninety, and if she added nine more-- "Ninety-nine." She
opened her eyes and looked up at him. He was regarding her
with a strange expression that she did not come to
understand for a long time.
He swooped down and lifted her up, holding her close to his
chest. For a long time he didn't say anything, and she was
terrified she had made a mistake.
"Is that right, Daddy?" Her voice was a whisper. "Exactly
right." He sat her down and tousled her hair. "What a
clever Goldenbird you are. How did you do that?"
The smile erupted on her face. "I could see the numbers. I
just added another row."
He gazed at her fondly. "You know what? You not only get
another ride-but you and I are going to the cornfields
This was the ultimate reward. Kathryn's favorite place on
Earth was the cornfields of the agricultural park in which
they lived, row upon row of stately tasseled figures,
marching in unison, bending and swaying in the summer
breeze, dancing on the wind. Sometimes when they went
there, she and Daddy invented little stories they acted
out-the cornstalks were Starfleet cadets, marching on the
parade ground, or they were a corps de ballet, with
beautifully gowned ballerinas dancing in unison-and
sometimes they played hideand-seek. Last year, when she'd
watched the harvest, she cried for the loss of her
She put her hand in Daddy's, and they walked out through
the wide doors onto the patio. Her heart was thudding with
happiness, and she wished she could preserve that moment
JANEWAY'S HEAD SHOT UP AND HER EYES FLEW OPEN AND FOR A
moment she didn't know where she was. Childhood memories,
recollections, and feelings hung about her, vaporous and
fleeting. She tried to cling to them but they receded like
shadows in the rising sun. Then the present came snapping
back at her: she was on Voyager and they were in danger.
The Kazon lurked outside the nebula and part of her crew
was stranded on an alien planet.
A check of the time showed that she had slept for over an
hour, though she would have sworn her eyes hadn't closed.
"Janeway to bridge."
"Rollins here, Captain.
"Can you give me an update?"
"Repairs are continuing. Engineering reports that we
should be under way again in about four hours."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
Now was the time to rest, to recharge her batteries in
preparation for the ordeal that lay ahead. She lay down
again, and tried to recapture the comforting feelings of
home and family she'd been experiencing before she woke.
She must've been dreaming . . . but what about? She
couldn't retrieve it . . . every time she thought she'd
snagged something with a corner of her mind, it slipped
away again ....
"RACQUET BACK . . . TURN YOUR SHOULDERS . . . NOW-uncoil!"
The commands were endless. They became a ceaseless drone
in her mind, a part of her unconscious.
"Sleeve to the mouth . . . lengthen your follow-through . .
. racquet face steady . . . level your backswing . . ." Her
tennis coach's voice rolled over the net from the opposite
end of the court as smoothly as the balls she hit. Coach
Cameron made it look so easy. But most of Kathryn's balls
went into the net or out of bounds, no matter how hard she
tried. She "was getting frustrated. Kathryn was on one of
the tennis courts of a small athletic complex near her
home. It was the locus of what were known as "traditional"
games-tennis, golf, and swimming.
Another complex nearby housed contempo-rary activities,
which included hoverball, Parrises Squares, hurdleleap, and
loft circles. That's where Kathryn would much rather have
been. She was good at most of those games. The Indiana
spring was in fulsome bloom, with forsythia and dogwood
emerging in an ecstasy of color. The air was fragrant and
warm; two months later baking heat would join with
oppressive humidity to create a veritable steam bath, but
now the May morning was pleasant. Kathryn, however, had no
appreciation of either the landscaping or the weather.
She jabbed ineffectually at a stray lock of hair that kept
falling in her eyes, trying to hook it around her ear. It
would only fall forward again. There seemed to be nothing
she could do to her thin, fine hair that would keep it out
of her eyes when she exercised.
"Kathryn, come up to the net." Coach Cameron was walking to
her side of the net, racquet in hand. She was a short,
muscular woman with thick blond curls and a smiling face.
Kathryn wanted to look just like her when she was grown up,
but even at nine years of age she realized that her hair
would never look like Coach Cameron's. And neither would
her tennis strokes. "I want to check your grip."
Kathryn put her hand in the forehand grip and Coach Cameron
inspected it carefully. "That might be the problem," she
said. "Your grip is rotated too far to the right, so the
racquet face is coming through at an angle. See?"
She swung Kathryn's arm through an exaggerated stroke.
"You're hitting the ball up, and that's why so many of them
are going out. Turn your hand back this way just a little."
Coach Cameron rotated Kathryn's hand slightly to the left.