– IV –
Star entered sickbay and after a quick survey she found the person she was looking for in his office. She stepped up to the doorframe and leaned casually against it while considering the ebony-skinned doctor sitting behind his desk. It took him a few moments to realize that he was being watched.
“Commander,” he said as he aimed a furtive glance at the Trill woman before returning to his work. “How can I help you?”
“Has it really been that long?”
Katanga looked up again, a clearly puzzled look on his face now.
She simply returned it with a smile. “I understand that the package has changed a bit.”
“The … package?” the doctor said with confusion evident in his tone.
“Well, yes, I’d say this one is at least 20 kilos lighter, with fairer skin and, oh yeah, the curves.”
“Commander, I am not quite sure what you are trying to …” he stopped himself as she began to walk into the room with her emerald colored eyes sparkling like diamonds. “My God, I know that look,” he said as he stood.
“I’m glad you recognize something, even though you’d think the name would have been a dead giveaway.”
“Dezwin?” he said, a huge grin now forming on his dark, bearded face as he began to round his desk.
She shook her head. “Not any more. I go by Tazla these days.”
“Dear Lord, I didn’t even know,” he said and quickly hugged the first officer. When he let her go again, he took another good look at the Trill, studying the attractive woman in front of him from head-to-toe. “You changed,” he said with a dry grin.
“You can say that.”
“You know it never occurred to me. Not even once, that you could be Dezwin. Or should I say, have been Dezwin. I suppose I always thought of you … of him, as Dezwin Sigus and not Star. It never registered with me that you have the same name.”
She nodded. “It can get a little confusing.”
The doctor sat against the edge of his desk as he continued to consider the woman in front of him who had just been revealed as a dear friend of his a long time ago. “My God, Dezwin Sigus, now Tazla Star. What a crazy galaxy we live in, huh? I see you’ve decided to pursue a different career path.”
“The joining affects us all in different ways.”
He nodded. “I recall. Dezwin couldn’t wait to leave Starfleet after it happened to him, frustrated by the sluggish manner in which the upper echelons responded to medical emergencies throughout the galaxy. Even after he helped me set up MAAP,” Katanga said, referring to the Medical Assistance and Advisory Program which Dezwin and Katanga had created within Starfleet Medical as an interstellar agency to assist with medical crisis throughout the galaxy.
“Same thing happened to me,” Tazla said. “I felt my drive and determination double almost overnight after I had joined with the Star symbiont. Suddenly I just couldn’t become a captain fast enough.”
Katanga’s features darkened noticeably. Like many others in the fleet, he too had heard about the exploits of Captain Star and her subsequent downfall. But until now he had never made the connection. “Things didn’t quite go the way you had hoped.”
She shook her head sadly. “No, they certainly didn’t.”
Katanga stood and put a hand on her shoulder, adopting an almost grandfatherly smile. “I don’t know what happened to you that led to the things that happened. I don’t know the details or the circumstances but I know Dezwin. Hell, I probably knew him better than he knew himself. I have to believe that whatever you did, your intentions were pure. You tried to do the right thing but sometimes, no matter how hard we try, in the end it just doesn’t work out that way.”
She looked pained. “I’m not entirely sure I deserve your absolution.”
“I do and that’s all that matters, you understand,” he said, his tone taking on a sharper edge. “Yes, I’m sure you’ve made mistakes and if you could go back you’d probably do things differently now. But that’s not a luxury we have. From what I’ve heard you were duly punished for your transgressions. Now is the time to put this behind you and focus on how you can be a better person from now on in. I know Dezwin knew how to do that, so do you.”
Tazla looked almost grateful at the unconditional trust her old friend was willing to place. It had been the first time since Michael Owens had decided to take a gamble on her and allow her to stay onboard as his first officer that anyone had shown this kind of faith in her. It was refreshing. “Thank you. This really means a lot to me, Eli.”
“Nonsense,” he said quickly. “You don’t need me to tell you any of this,” he said and tapped her stomach. “All you need to know is right there. If you are in doubt, just go talk to Dezwin, he’ll tell you.”
She smirked. “Doesn’t quite work like that,” she said. Even though it was probably close enough. Those memories after all were still part of her. And the symbiont had his ways to communicate when it wanted to. “But I’m really glad you came here. I think I could really use a friend. It’s not been easy.”
“I’ve noticed this crew is a little wound up.”
“I suppose the war is part of that. They’ve lost some of their own and gone through some really tough missions. And they don’t trust me.”
“I didn’t get that impression,” said the doctor. “The captain seemed to be quite comfortable with having you around.”
She quickly shook her head. “Let me tell you, appearance are deceiving. Yes, he made the decision to keep me around and I’ll always be thankful for getting this second chance, but he’s not comfortable with me at all. He’s been keeping me on the tightest of leashes ever since I came aboard. He practically looks over my shoulder twenty-four seven and to be honest, I’m scared stiff of letting him down.”
The doctor looked at her for a moment. “None of that sounds like a particularly healthy relationship.”
Star sighed and then turned to take a few steps towards the wall before turning back to her old friend. “There might be something that could change all that.”
Katanga looked suspicious. “I remember that tone of voice,” he said. “It’s just like Dezwin used to sound when he came up with one of his rather foolhardy ideas of his.”
“I think there is a spy on the ship.”
He sighed heavily. “Oh God, I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty.”
“Hear me out on this. I don’t have any proof yet. Nothing concrete that I could show the captain. It really just boils down to a couple of suspicious transmissions and a gut feeling.”
“I don’t like where this is going.”
She stepped closer. “Let’s assume for the moment that I’m right. I’ll let the captain in on this now and he’ll probably dismiss it for lack of evidence. But if I’m right, and if I can find out who it is and expose him or her, the captain will have no choice but to start trusting me with my duties. And before long the crew will fall in line.”
“Dez, this is a terrible idea.”
“I need to do something. Right now I’m nothing more than an afterthought on this ship. And at first that was enough for me. Better than to run away from Starfleet and drown myself in Saurian brandy in some faraway sector of space. I need to be more than that. I owe it to Owens to be the best first officer to him and his crew that I can be.”
“And you think keeping secrets from him will achieve this?”
She sighed. “A gut feeling and two unidentified subspace transmissions which could very well turn out to be nothing more than background noise aren’t exactly a secret,” she shot back.
“I still think that this is a bad idea and if you came here to try and let me talk you out of this, let it be known that I’ve tried.”
Tazla shot him a wide grin. “Always looking out for me, huh? I really missed you.”
“Well,” he said as he sat back behind his desk. “I’ll make sure to remind you of this when they throw you back into that stockade.”
She could tell immediately that he wasn’t being serious. “I can make this work, Eli.”
He nodded slowly. “Just be smart about this, alright?”
“Don’t worry about me.”
“Somebody has to.”
She gave him another smile before she headed towards the doors. She stopped halfway there and turned back around, considering her old friend. He still didn’t wear the standard-issue uniform jacket over his blue shirt. “By the way the captain wasn’t particularly impressed with your personal dress code and he wanted me to talk to you about that.”
“Did you tell him that I’m a stubborn old man?”
She couldn’t quite suppress the urge to laugh. “You have to realize that you’re not running your own show anymore. You’re back on a starship and out here, the captain has the last word.”
“I’ve been dealing with starship captains long before our dear leader was even in diapers. And let me tell you something about them. They all like to think that they command everything and everyone around them. For the most part they are right. But from time to time they need to be reminded that some things will always be out of their control. Trust me, it’s healthy. And I should know, I’m a doctor,” he said. “Now get out of here before I’ll start regretting this happy reunion.”
Star chuckled. “Fascinating theory,” she said. “How about you tell me more about the galaxy according to Doctor Katanga over dinner tonight? We’ll catch up and reminisce on the good old times. 2000?”
“1800. I’m not a spring chicken anymore, you know.”
She offered a beaming smile. “It’s really good to see you again, old friend,” she said just before leaving sickbay.
* * *
Read the writer's commentary for this segment here