Personal Log: Sedai, Katriel

Personal Log.
Sedai, Katriel

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Katriel sat back from her console, lifting her arms and arching backwards a bit over the back of her seat in a relieving stretch. Between the straggling reviews from the fleet crisis and new recruits coming in, she'd never been quite so swamped with work before.

For a few indulgent moments, the counselor held the position and allowed the blood to rush to her head while she eyed her upside-down room. There, Fairy was snoozing on top of — of all things — a moderately sized white box. This gift, for which she did eventually send a profuse 'thank you' comm to Traise's wife, reminded her that she was scheduled to attend some sort of mandatory hologrid recreation in two days. It was the sort of thing that she would normally attempt to avoid like the plague, but she had to admit she felt overworked. Besides, she had required just about every one of her patients attend, so she couldn't afford to look quite so hypocritical.

Katriel straightened up with a sigh and returned her attention to the console, pulling up Captain Tanis's record so that she could submit her addendum to it. She was about to close the file when she noticed that Tanis had very recently been assignmed. To Project Citlalicue? On borg assimilation reclamation?

The counselor frowned at the console and her already submitted report. She had not advised that Captain Tanis be kept from missions involving the borg, but seeing him so quickly placed on one made her reconsider.

Well, the assignment had been made before she had a chance to turn in her report, so no matter what her opinion was, it would have been too late. She'd just have to send Quaen and the commodore a brief and unalarming comm in the morning...

Katriel’s mood was dark. There was no reason for it as far as she could tell, but all day she had been plagued by an inability to focus or relax, so the work piled up and her mysterious frustration mounted.


Parry, counter, beat. Point.

When she finally gave up on work, she found herself pacing towards the hologrid to work off some steam. But instead of loading up her usual recreational program, she had asked the computer for a fencing simulation instead. And so that was how the counselor came to taking out her inexplicable aggression by attempting to eviscerate her virtual opponent. For nearly two hours.


Parry, riposte, parry. Point.


Feint, beat, lunge, parry, riposte. Point.


Despite her aching muscles, Katriel lunged, her sabre thrusting forward. The computer faltered back, bringing up his weapon to parry, but spurred on by some unknown frenzy, she pushed her attack. Another straight lunge, parry, beat attack found the computer disarmed and pressed up against the wall, the tip of Katriel’s sabre pointed at his heart.

Breathing hard, Katriel held the pose for a long moment, her muscles quivering from more than just exhaustion. She choked on an exhale, her sword arm dropped to her side, and her chin bowed down to her chest as she succumbed to the feeling of, not fury, but sorrow.

In the still fencing gauntlet, the empath quietly grieved for reasons she did not know.


((post Waydi first contact disaster))

Safely ensconced in her quarters finally, Katriel winced when she caught sight of her reflection for the first time. An inch long disruptor burn remained on her right cheekbone, and an angry red slice stretched diagonally down the length of her neck on the left. Neither were painful anymore, but the severity of the original injuries were such that multiple sessions with a dermal regenerator would be necessary before the visual traces would be eliminated entirely. The physician on the Sahara, satisfied that he had done all he could, had given Katriel leave to take care of the remaining damage at her leisure.

“Computer, please cancel my appointments for the next three days and hold them for rescheduling.”

The computer chirped its confirmation as Katriel trudged over to the bed, falling back onto it with an exhausted sigh. Stars knew she wasn’t exactly vain about her appearance, but she knew from previous experience that her patients would frequently be too preoccupied with her well-being to concentrate properly on themselves, so it was generally better to just reschedule when possible.

“Incoming subspace communication from Brian Sedai, U.S.S. Sirocco.”

“Damn it,” Katriel muttered to herself, hauling herself into a sitting posture. “Computer, accept transmission, audio only please.” Another computer chirp confirmed the link had been made.

“Hello, Brian.”

“Hey, Owl. Something wrong with your video feed, or are you answering calls in your underwear today?” Brian’s warm tenor sounded through the room with humor.

No, I just know you’d freak out if you could see what I looked like right now. She bit back the response. “Ha, ha, ha. Sounds more like something you would do. In fact, didn’t I hear that one time you and … what was her name… Sarah something?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. WHO told you about that??” Brian sounded incensed. Katriel could just picture him, eyes narrowed, with his head tilted towards the ceiling as he considered which of his friends he’d have to strangle for telling his innocent baby sister about one of his less dignified moments.

“Oh, ah, I don’t recall,” she fibbed, easily, and tried to push away the flash of guilt for the little pile-up of white lies she was feeding him. It’s for his own good, she reasoned, he’d worry for nothing otherwise.

“Mmmrrrr,” was Brian’s skeptical response. “So how’d the diplomatic meeting go? I haven’t seen anything in the news about you starting an interstellar incident, so couldn’t have been that bad, right?”

“It… ah…” This time, she wasn’t quite able to come up with a lie fast enough. Even if she had, it’d have been too big.


She exhaled. “Not… so well. The Klingons knew about the meeting. We were barely started when they ambushed us.”

“… stars. You’re all right? How many casualties?”

Katriel got to her feet, feeling unable to sit still while recalling the events. “The Waydi Ambassador was one of the first to fall. I… I had my sabre with me, so we were able to fight our way back to the beam-in point. We lost none of our party, but before we could warp, the Brunton – the diplomatic corps escort – was destroyed.”

A beat of silence went by before Brian’s voice returned.

“… Well. I’m sorry for that. It must have been harrowing. Good thing you’re pretty quick with a blade. Or used to be, are you keeping up with your drills?”

“There wasn’t a reason to, until now,” Katriel grumped, pacing around her small bedroom. “I’m sore now, but I did okay, I guess. Klingons aren’t exactly the quietest thinkers.”

“Not a negligible advantage, for sure. But they have superior weight on you. You’re sure you’re okay?”

Katriel grimaced as he touched on precisely the reason she got the slice down her neck to begin with. She had gotten into a blade lock with a Klingon Blademaster which, in hindsight, had been an exceptionally stupid move and a mistake she’d likely never make again. It had lasted only a couple breaths before she had been overpowered and just narrowly spun back and out of the way.

“Yeah, just a scrape or two. Nothing to write home about.” Just don’t ask me to turn my video feed on.

“What’s going to happen next? With the Waydi?”

Katriel sighed as she paused by the bookshelf, running an idle finger over random items on the shelves. “I don’t know. The ship we rendezvoused on did manage to get away, so it’ll report back to the Waydi and… well, who knows what they’ll say?”

“I’m sorry, Owl.” Brian’s tone had just the right amount of sympathy. Katriel often thought he’d make a better counselor than her. “Tough break all around, isn’t it?”

“Mmm,” Katriel murmured her assent, her eyes turning sad as her fingers swept over a photo frame that contained a happy looking couple therein. Her fingers dropped away as she turned, shaking her head and changing the subject. “So! How’s your work going? Did you ever get the right composition of soil for those seed samples?”


((kind of continues here…))

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((post Casperian Embassy tragedy))

((boy, I only seem to write after bad things happen, huh?))

It was at about 0700 hours that found Katriel fumbling with the lock of a foreign apartment, with a key leant to her by an old colleague. Doctor Harper had originally been taken aback at seeing Katriel's familiar face, but he quickly swept that aside to demand that she take his key and retreat to his dwelling for a shower and sleep, as it was a scant three blocks away. Knowing that temporary living quarters would be difficult to come by in the aftermath of the disaster, Katriel tiredly agreed and paid as much attention as she could to Harper's geographical directions. She only had to comm him once, when she got lost.

As tempting as it was to flop onto the nearest soft surface and pass out, Katriel forced herself to locate the bathroom, equipped with a – thank stars – water, instead of sonic, shower stall. She flicked the button panel for hot water and as the small room filled with steam, the Betazoid turned to blankly study her reflection in the mirror.

Nineteen hours working at the crash site, and it showed. Her uniform, loaned to her by Starfleet emergency personnel, was more black than blue, caked in grime, ash and sweat from when she had trekked through the debris, helping to lift wreckage off of broken, buried bodies. More red than white, with streaks of blood from when she lifted, with as much care and respect as she could manage, the dead into body bags and tagged them with shaking fingers for transport.

She had only been able to endure the strenuous physical labor for so long and removed herself to work the remainder of her time in the makeshift triage center, administering hypos and dermals for survivors whose afflictions ranged from mild eye irritation to second or third degree burns. A few more serious cases of lost limbs and blood transfusions had to be maintained until transport to the nearest, or second nearest, hospital could be arranged. And there had been a few brief words exchanged with Commander Dae, who had stopped in the triage center to see if she was situated to her satisfaction. Katriel had thanked him again for his assistance, promising him a duel at some later date.

But for the most part, it was an endless line of faces in discomfort or distress and the empath had nearly buckled under the emotional strain more than once. If it weren't for the likewise strength of the determination that underlined every worker's countenance, Katriel would have asked for a psilosynine inhibitor.

Now slightly more removed from the crisis area, Katriel reflected that it seemed more like some sort of strange distant nightmare than reality as she stripped out of the uniform and stepped into the warm water stream. She had originally been compelled to volunteer for the relief effort due to the nearly forgotten dredges of loyalty that she felt; her medical internship had been served here on Casperia Prime, in the medical facilities of the very Embassy that had been brought down. Most of her friends from that time had moved onto other things, but there had been a few acquaintances she remembered fondly that had perished in the disaster.

Doctor Harper, probably the only surviving Casperian with which Katriel had any substantial attachment, had been a supervising authority and had luckily been off-site at the time of the accident, but he had lost dozens of colleagues. No one had time to grieve.

Though her original flight to Casperia had been somewhat ill considered, she thought now that perhaps she would feel better if she split her time between continuing to fulfill her counseling duties on Argo and doing what was needed here on Casperia. It was not too long a journey to make often and the Casperian Starfleet medical branch was now severely understaffed. She had some passing familiarity with the way things were done and could, possibly, be of great aid, even beyond the initial crisis period.

That decision made, Katriel dried herself and exited the shower, still tired but feeling cleaner in both body and mind.

((If you liked this entry, then maybe you would be likewise interested in knowing what research I did.))


((Look, nothing horrible happened and I’m writing an entry! Backdated to Thursday, while Katriel is on the Sutherland.))

The doors of 4-Forward swished open and Katriel, dressed more casually now in jeans and her one of her favorite jackets, stepped in with a PADD tucked under one arm. For the most part, the lounge of the U.S.S. Sutherland was fairly standard and Katriel quickly staked out a quiet, out-of-the-way table that suited her.

It might seem odd that the counselor so often chose to bring her work out to public venues, opening herself to potential distraction. But in actuality, Katriel found recreational lounges to often be the best places to get things done. Since these areas were so frequently saturated with the relaxed emotions of other patrons, Katriel could often siphon off that feeling into her own mood, making herself more productive. It didn’t always work out that way, of course, but it was often enough that she still continued to risk bringing her work out.

So that was why she found herself in the Sutherland’s lounge, with a PADD full of reports and briefs that she had copied from Argo’s counseling department. There was a great deal she needed to review before the ship returned and she’d prefer not to waste any time playing catch-up when they arrived. That she might also be able to repay a favor to Commander Dae while she was here was just the icing on the proverbial cake.

About four briefs and fifty minutes later, the doors swished apart and a trio of Ensigns slogged into the lounge. The counselor’s glance flicked up immediately and tracked their progress as they wearily moved from the doorway to their favored table, where the promptly flopped down and started engaging in half-hearted small talk.

From her table, Katriel observed their flagging postures and unhappy countenances. All three, she could see and feel, had their minds on Casperia. One couldn’t stop feeling angry at the Casperia Air tourline, he was so certain that the whole incident could have been prevented if the pilot of the cruiser had paid even a hair more attention during his morning briefings. Another couldn’t get the images of the countless rows of body bags out of her head. Eventually the three couldn’t even fake interest in conversation anymore and the table fell silent as they stared out at the stars.

Katriel waited a moment or two longer before picking up her things. She called for a new tea and made her way over to the Ensigns’ table.

“Hello,” she greeted calmly, when none of them noticed her approach. Three pairs of eyes snapped to her in startlement and one of them, a male Ktarian, stood up abruptly.

“Lieutenant Sedai.”

“Just Katriel is fine, I’m not on duty and neither are any of you.” Katriel nodded in approval as the ensign slowly moved to sit again. “May I join you?”


((A week after Okeg’s Address))

“Medical lab to Counselor Sedai.”

Katriel was so absorbed in whatever she was reading that she hadn’t really paid attention to where the call was coming from. She absently tapped her badge.

“Sedai here.”

“Counselor, Ensign Muire is awake and asking for you.”

Katriel dropped her PADD with a clatter.

After the doctor on duty had shown her in, Katriel approached Muire’s sickbed with mild trepidation. She inhaled silently in order to achieve some semblance of calm and spoke.


“Counselor.” Muire’s voice was a little hoarse and she tried to shift herself to face the source of Katriel’s voice. Katriel briskly sped up her approach and moved into Muire’s line of sight, which did seem to calm her a little.

“I’m here, Ensign. How are you feeling?” A strange question for an empath to ask, isn’t it? But it was a legitimate tactic in the counselor’s arsenel of verbal cues. Something to help her more rapidly assess what trauma Muire might have sustained during this ordeal.

The Ensign cleared the hoarseness out of her throat before speaking in a stronger tone. “I’m… okay, I think. A little stiff. And… tired.”

Katriel’s spirits sank just a little. The response, while true to her empathic sense and not entirely negative, was not the one she was hoping for. Though they had only met once before, Katriel had recognized Muire as a cheerful and humorful individual. So the counselor had thought it might be possible… but there was no point in speculating about it now.

“No surprise there. Your body’s been through a lot,” was all she said, keeping her tone even. “Do you remember anything?”

Muire was silent for a while and her eyes traveled away from Katriel’s face to the ceiling. “Yes. I remember … all of it, I think. It’s difficult to say. So much of it felt … feels like it was just a dream. Especially when – … But. It must have been real. Because … here I am.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Katriel asked. The slight bitterness in Muire’s tone and her subdued behavior caused the counselor a pain that was almost physical. A few beats of silence had gone by before the Ensign could work out an answer.

“… No, I don’t think I do.”

Katriel let the silence reign for a few moments more.

Then, “While I was on Casperia,” Katriel kept her tone casual. “I was having tea with a few colleagues, one of which was a Betazoid woman. She had just met her betrothed for the first time and spent at least half an hour talking about her human fiance, who was a horse racer and breeder. It reminded me of you and your equestrian training.”

Katriel enjoyed a brief flicker of satisfaction when the anecdote succeeded in its purpose. Muire was distracted from her own plight, at least temporarily. The ensign’s eyes turned away from the ceiling and returned to the counselor instead.

“You remember that? My horse jumping?”

“Certainly. I haven’t had much experience with horses myself, but I’ve always thought they were very beautiful animals, so of course I’d remember you mentioning it.”

“Hmm. What did you mean, about the woman meeting her fiance for the first time?”

“Ah. Her parents probably arranged her marriage when she was very young. It’s an old Betazoid tradition and really not practiced very much anymore, but some families still like to try it.”

“What about you?” Muire asked. “You’re Betazoid. Do you have a betrothed?”

“No,” Katriel chuckled the response. “At least, not that I know of! But my parents had very little interest in Betazoid traditions, I’m sure this is only one of many things they ignored.”

“Oh.” Muire paused. “I know I should be disgusted by the idea of arranged marriage, but part of me thinks it might be kind of nice to have all the uncertainty and work done for you already, as long as your partner isn’t… you know, hideous.”

“Perhaps,” the counselor smiled faintly. “Though I’ve always thought that anything worth achieving ought to take at least a little work, otherwise you won’t know how to appreciate it when you have it.” Katriel’s reply was measured. But Muire seemed to catch on that the counselor wasn’t just speaking of relationships anymore. Again, they sat in silence for a moment or two.

“I was having some really terrible nightmares,” Muire suddenly spoke in a rush, as if she might forget the words before she could use them. “Before the President came. I can’t even remember what was happening in them, just that I was frightened. And in pain. I thought… I thought they might’ve just been … leftovers from assimilation, but now I think they must have been related to what was happening to me, physically. Maybe… maybe if I had–”

“Muire,” the counselor interrupted sharply, seeing so clearly where the ensign was heading with that particular train of thought. “Anzhela,” she said, her tone gentler. “You couldn’t have known. I’ve read your file, you’ve had occasional nightmares ever since you were liberated. There was no way you could have suspected that these would be something different.”

There was a long silence, but eventually the ensign nodded, resignedly.

“The Captain I … shot. Is he all right?”

Katriel permitted herself a small smile. Good, she’s no longer focusing on herself. “Captain Traise is well. He was only barely grazed and was released the same day. He asked about you, actually.”

“… He did?”

“Yes. There are quite a few of us who were concerned that you might blame yourself for what happened. But… you should know that even while it was happening, it was obvious to many that you were being controlled.”

“… Yes. It is … tempting to do that, isn’t it? But… I know better. At least, I keep telling myself that I know better.”

Katriel met the ensign’s gaze and nodded reassuringly. “Good. I know it seems like a pointless exercise, but continue to tell yourself that. And outloud, if you can. It’ll become easier each day, and you’ll believe it a little more every time.”

“Yes, I remember,” Muire affirmed. “So what happens now?”

“You’ve been granted leave for six months. I imagine when you’re well enough to travel, we’ll arrange for you to return to Sol.”

“Will… will Starfleet ask for my resignation?” Muire asked.

“They’ll want to do a reassessment in six months to see if you’re fit for duty. If you’re not, then yes, Starfleet would have no choice.” Katriel was surprised, pleased, and impressed when Muire’s countenance only seemed to steel at her words.

“Then… I’ll do my best to be fit in six months,” Muire said. And then, miracles never cease, the corners of her mouth actually twitched into some semblance of a smile. Katriel almost gaped to see it. “But … maybe I should think about getting out of security. It doesn’t seem to agree with me, after all.”

It was, perhaps, still too early to say. Maybe Muire’s optimism was fueled by guilt, rather than determination. Or from a build-up of restlessness, after having been in stasis for so long.

But as new starts go, Katriel couldn’t be anything but grateful.


Katriel was not at all prepared for the surprise waiting for her when she arrived on Casperia Prime that morning.

“Here you are finally, owl-bird,” the familiar, mockingly exasperated tenor halted Katriel in her tracks as she disembarked from the civ transport. “Starting to think I had the wrong planet.”

“Brian!” A few quick paces was all that was necessary to bring the siblings close enough for a bone-cracking hug. “What are you DOING here?” Katriel’s voice was both deliriously cheerful and demanding at once.

Brian grinned as he released his sister, but rather than relinquish her entirely, he promptly tugged her in the direction of the nearby replimat. "The Sirocco’s in orbit. We’re on leave for a couple weeks, before we start our new project in… " and here he paused for dramatic effect. “… the Kormino system.”

A second or two ticked by as Brian waited for Katriel to digest that information. “… But that’s only an hour away from here.”

“That it is! Hope you’re not too horrified at the idea that I’ll be able to check up on you almost whenever I want, again,” Brian teased her. “At least, whenever you’re here.”

Katriel was still gaping at the very thought, but she quickly lost the dazed expression and smiled. “No, of course not!”

“Good, good. Sit, I’ll get us tea,” Brian offered as he deposited her into a seat and whisked away to the nearest replicator.

Katriel sat waiting, bemused and overwhelmed all at once. Certainly they had just spoken last week, but today marked the end of the longest interval they’d gone without visiting. With Katriel’s posting to Outpost Argo as the starbase was in its infancy, she had been unable to leave during the holiday period and the Sirocco’s projects and research never took it anywhere near the front lines.

“Mint’s still your favorite?” A mug hovered in front of her suddenly and she shook herself out of her reverie, accepting it.

“Yes. Sometimes I’m in the mood for something else, but usually…” Katriel shifted her duffel off her shoulder and set it on the far end of the table as Brian pulled out a chair and seated himself. But something about the bag caught his attention.

“… Why’s your duffel covered in sand?”

Katriel froze. “Uh.”

But by the expression on Brian’s face, it was far, far too late. The question had prompted recent memory to rise to the forefront of Katriel’s mind and with the siblings’ close bond enhanced by physical proximity, the male Betazoid had pretty much the whole story in seconds. Katriel feared the worst as she watched her brother work his jaw for a moment.

Eventually, though, all the older Sedai did was shrug. “Not really your usual type, is he?”

“… I don’t have a TYPE!” Katriel’s protest was squawked indignity.

“Don’t you? I mean, I’m pretty sure your past relationships have all been with … Academics,” he said, diplomatically.

Katriel huffed at him as she petulantly played with the tag of her tea bag. Some things never changed; she always felt younger and slightly less mature when her brother was about. “I was going to tell you the next time we called.”

“Pfeh, don’t worry about it,” Brian swallowed a sip of his drink. “I won’t say I’m totally at ease with it, but I can’t really object to a man who can make my little sister forget herself and laugh.”

Katriel tried to swallow the sudden lump in her throat. “… Thanks, Brian.”

“You’re welcome, Owl. Do you have time to visit the Sirocco with me? I have some materials in my lab that’ll properly preserve those flowers of yours.”


Katriel was in the staff breakroom, musing over a mug of tea, when the sound of aircraft tugged her attention towards the window. She watched as a small squad of cargo vessels dipped out of orbit and headed inland.

“They’re carrying materials for the Embassy construction.”

The Betazoid turned her head towards the voice of the male human, perhaps eight or ten years her senior, just entering. Doctor Harper nodded to her in greeting, then again towards the window as he moved for the replicator to get his own breaktime beverage. “Just started last week.”

“What’re the estimates for completion?” Katriel asked, more out of making conversation than any real interest. The other doctor merely shrugged.

“Three to four months, if I’m not mistaken. Although I hear they’re planning to get the medical wing done first, to relieve the pressure on Cadence. We might be going back there in as little as two months, if rumors are to be believed.”

That made Katriel blink and her lips quirked into an amused smile. “Is that so? Seems like you won’t be needing me around for much longer, then, will you?”

Harper shook his head, joining her table with his own mug of raktajino. “Didn’t realize you were so eager to get away. Has it really been so terrible?” Katriel suppressed a laugh.

“Oh, no, it’s been lovely being back here. Kind of a nice change of pace from being station-side and no one’s countenance could possibly disagree with this weather.” Katriel smiled a little. “But the schedule leaves… something to be desired, I should say. It’s… challenging, keeping up with two different commitments at once,” she shrugged, a little helplessly.

“Hmm,” Harper’s tone was strangely noncommittal. But before she could inquire, he laid a PADD in front of her, the screen of which displayed a patient’s file.

“Who’s this?” Katriel asked, dragging it closer for a look.

“Thayl, Andorian pilot. You might not recognize his name, but no doubt you’ll recognize the accident that landed him here. He was navigating the Air Casperia tour cruiser that crashed into the old Embassy.”

Katriel’s eyes flew wide open. “That’s him? I … I didn’t know anyone aboard either vessel had survived!”

The doctor heaved a small sigh. “No one else did, and he very nearly didn’t as well. He managed to get a parachute, but was struck by some wreckage as it exploded. He had full body third degree burns and countless broken bones.”

The counselor sat very still, staring blankly at the pilot’s service photo on the PADD, unable to prevent herself from imagining the same face with the injuries described. “How is he now?”

“Well, it took nearly three weeks to regenerate and heal all his various injuries, then another month and a half for physical therapy. But all in all, he’s doing pretty well. Physically, anyway.” Harper slanted her a look at that.

Katriel recognized the unspoken request. On the books, she was primarily serving as a physician while on Casperia Prime and her time was rarely allocated to psychological needs. That didn’t quite stop Doctor Harper from periodically pointing out patients who he thought could really use someone to talk to and Katriel was always happy to oblige.

“Unfortunately, he’s being discharged today, so…”

“I have time, I’ll go check on him now,” Katriel responded promptly, polishing off the remainder of her tea and standing, intending on bringing her empty mug to the replicator to recycle. But just as she deposited her mug onto the replicator platform, a near-deafening klaxxon suddenly crackled over the comm system. Katriel exchanged glances with the other doctor and both of their faces paled a little when the alarm volume was reduced by a fraction to make the announcement that followed easier to hear.

“All available medical personnel, please report to transporter room for imminent departure. Arka II patrols encountered True Way resistance. Casualties expected. All available medical personnel, please report to …”

Doctor Harper stood wordlessly, leaving his mostly-full mug of raktajino on the table, with no hint of regret on his face. He collected Katriel by the arm and guided her out of the breakroom with him, gently.

But the counselor couldn’t help sending one last, single backwards glance towards the PADD left on the breakroom table and remembering Thayl’s face on its screen.


It was just barely entering the evening hour when Katriel swept back into her quarters with half a growl stuck in her throat. She tossed her small stack of PADDs on the nearest flat surface with an unattractive clatter, spared one breath for an extensively exasperated sigh, then drifted towards her console and eased into the chair.

With the last of her appointments cleared, the counselor had retreated to her quarters with particular haste. All day, she had endured sympathetic glances and concerned emotions from the other counseling personnel. No one was able to restrain themselves from offering a quietly sorrowful “I’m sorry” or a gently encouraging “I’m sure they’ll find their way back”.

And Katriel was dead sick of it.

She inhaled a steady breath through her nose, trying to achieve calm, and attempted to turn her focus on the display. But her gaze seemed to go right through the console she was seated at.

Katriel reminded herself that she couldn’t really be upset at anyone. After all, thanks to her usual reticence at sharing details of her personal life with colleagues, none of them had any way of knowing that she was… technically… no longer anything to anyone who had maybe-possibly vanished along with the ill-fated Praetorian station. Even her brother, temporarily removed to Memory Alpha for research, was out of the loop.

She hadn’t meant to be secretive, but the subject just hadn’t come up. And now, amongst all of the would-be well-wishers, it didn’t seem like the time to correct people’s assumptions. So the counselor stiffly endured everyone’s sympathies, however misdirected.

A metallic clunk distracted her from her thoughts and she glanced up to see her rogue feline, sprawled on the coffee table and all twisted up in a string of flowers, next to a small blue vase on its side. Katriel climbed to her feet and walked over, wordlessly up-righting the vase with steady fingers. Then she patiently knelt and set to untangling the purring feline from her floral confinement.

There was a long moment of contemplative quiet as Katriel carefully extricated paws, claws and tail from string and petals. But at the end, Katriel only sighed once as she coiled the flowers around the vase once more, then plucked Fairy up in her arms for a brief cuddle.

“… Come on, little monster, time to eat.”


Though her expression was sympathetically schooled, Katriel was dying a little bit inside. This was, without a doubt, the thing she hated most about being a doctor: being the bearer of bad news.

A Risian woman was seated at her husband’s bedside, her expression taut and closed as she emptily stared at his face. She seemed to have barely heard the words that Katriel had spoken to her, of her husband’s slow deterioration, of the facility’s inability to stabilize his condition. But the Betazoid had seen the barely imperceptible shifts in the other woman’s countenance, the signs of a person in a barely throttled panic at the realization that nothing would ever be the same again.

Most of the stories that came through the hospital were sad, of course, but this woman’s ordeals seemed worse than the usual. Her husband, a Haliian and Starfleet officer, had been posted on a patrol escort that met a dire fate in an ambush by True Way forces, just about a month ago. In the devestation of the starship, he had been thrown directly into a series of explosions, exposing him to multiple varieties of plasma, thoron, and metaphasic radiations. Though they had been able to heal most of his bodily traumas, he had remained comatose throughout and the state of his neurological health had been precarious for days.

Eventually they had been barely able to stabilize his neural pathways with synthesized neurons, but his natural telepathic capabilities had been sacrificed in the process. Now they were discovering that after two and a half weeks, his brain was beginning to reject the synthesized cells. He had, perhaps, three or four days of life left and would be bedridden for the duration.

Katriel shut her eyes, but it didn’t make the woman’s grief any less palpable. She shuttered her empathic sense to its natural minimum, but it didn’t help her forget the despair. The usual platitudes flitted through her mind. I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Is there someone I can call for you? How are you feeling? Do you want to talk about it?

“Doctor Sedai?”

She glanced up, startled, at the figure of Nurse Ethily in the doorway, whose expectant expression was openly inquiring as she made a beckoning upnod. Katriel’s gaze tilted briefly towards her patient’s wife, but seeing her still oblivious to her surroundings, the doctor moved for the exit and joined the nurse in the corridor outside.

“You don’t look like you’re ready to go,” Ethily noted. Katriel stared blankly at the nurse for a moment. In her severe preoccupation, she hadn’t noticed that Ethily was not only out of uniform, but wearing a casual sundress that was deeply out of place in the formality of the hospital. A few awkward seconds ticked by.

“The festival,” Katriel realized. “That’s tonight.”

“Very good, Katriel,” Ethily’s tone was sardonic. “We may cure you of your workaholism, yet. Come on, get changed! We’ll wait for you.”

The Betazoid looked over her shoulder and down the hall to see this ‘we’ and, sure enough, there was a group of four other hospital staff, all clearly off-duty and beset by a bubbling excitement that was visible even from this distance. Katriel didn’t begrudge them the emotion at all.

But… Her expression held no regret as she turned back to face Ethily.

“Thank you, but you should go on ahead without me. I have some things to take care of first, but I’ll come join you in an hour or so?”

Ethily’s brows rose again and her face turned knowingly towards the window, where the grieving wife could be viewed still unmoving at her husband’s side. “You sure? Promise you’ll come down in an hour? You won’t forget and stay holed up in the hospital all night?”

Katriel’s lips twitched a fraction. “I promise.”

The nurse’s reluctance was clear on her face, but in the end, she just nodded once. “All right, ONE hour. If you haven’t joined us by then, I WILL come back up here to fetch you, don’t think I won’t!”

“Yes, sir,” Katriel responded, her voice meekly amused. She watched Ethily walk down the corridor, her carefree attitude clear from her playful stride. It seemed no one was surprised at her decision, though a couple of the others waved farewell, and she acknowledged them from afar with a small wave of her own.

Then, after they had disappeared around the corner, Katriel resolutely returned to her patient’s room. The scene appeared to be largely unchanged, but the other woman chose that moment to pull her gaze away from her husband to look towards Katriel’s entrance. Katriel’s focus went straight to her and she kept her tone respectfully soft.

“So… is there anything I can get for you?”


In the early morning hour, the nearly empty hospital corridor was hushed quiet, making the clicking of her boots even more audible as Katriel made her way to the break room.

She winced a little as she rubbed the sore muscles of her shoulder; maybe she had overdone it the other day, fencing against her brother, for the first time in what seemed like ages. He certainly hasn’t lost any of his edge, she thought ruefully.

“Ah, just the person I wanted to see,” Doctor Harper greeted her as she entered the break room. He was seated at the table, a stack of PADDs next to a plate of some dessert item, that he had been consuming. “Come, sit, I have news for you.”

The Betazoid took her time, rounding over towards the drink station to pour herself a mug of tea, first. “Good news, I hope.”

“I think it’s excellent news, but you’re entitled to your own opinion, of course,” the doctor replied amiably, forking another piece of food into his mouth. Katriel came over with her drink and her lips quirked a little as she eyed Doctor Harper’s plate.

“Is that… pumpkin pie?”

“Mmhmm!” The other doctor swallowed his mouthful before continuing. “I had a craving, though the replicators don’t do it justice.”

“… so I hear.” Katriel cleared her throat, drawing out a chair for herself and settling into it. “So what’s this news of yours?”

Harper set his fork down with a careless clatter and reached over to his batch of PADDs, where he hunted a moment or two for the right one, before pulling it out of the stack and handing it off. Katriel turned the PADD right side up and began to read.

“To Doctor Katriel Sedai, on behalf of the board of directors of the new Casperia Embassy Medical Facilities, we are pleased to offer you…” Katriel’s voice suddenly trailed off as the words she was reading caught up with her brain.

“… to offer you the position of First Medical Officer, starting at the facility’s official opening date at the end of next month,” Doctor Harper finished for her. “That is, you would be my first officer, since they’ve made me CMO. Oh, and I know you might need more than a month to tie up your affairs with the Task Force, so I thought that maybe --”

“W… wait,” Katriel’s interruption was bewildered and uncertain. “I … how long have you known about this?”

The other doctor sat back in his seat, expression turning evaluative. “About two weeks, but I’ve been pushing for the board to give you the offer for the past month and a half. There were a lot of candidates to consider – everyone wants to work on a world of perpetual summer! – but they agreed your time here since the catastrophe put you way ahead of the rest.”

There was another beat of silence or two as Katriel did nothing more than stare at the PADD in her hands with mute astonishment.

“So… not as excellent for you as it is for me, then, I take it?” Doctor Harper inquired, his voice gruff. “I thought… I mean, I remember when you were finishing up your internship here originally, you were thinking about posting here permanently, but nothing was open at the time. Just figured --”

“No, no… it’s … just really unexpected, that’s all,” Katriel interrupted, a little wide-eyed, sensing Doctor Harper’s mild hurt. “It’s an incredibly generous offer. I’m really… honored.”

Doctor Harper eyed Katriel for a few seconds, skeptically, then blew out a loud, exasperated breath. “Ridiculous girl, don’t try to coddle me with your counselorly euphemisms.” Though his words were scornful, the expression on his face was wry. He picked up his fork, speared a piece of pie with it, and pointed it at her.

“Take some time to think about it, eh? It’d be a big shift, but it’s a lot safer here than it is on that Outpost of yours. Sunnier, too.”


The Betazoid lieutenant and the Andorian ensign sat together at a corner table in silence, both trying to look casual with their slow sipping of drinks, both actually desperately trying to come up with some sort of strategy.

At first, Katriel had intended to use the console to send a message, encrypted or otherwise. But after nearly forty minutes of sending missives on the various, but extremely limited, frequencies available to the basic terminal, she still had received nothing in response and was forced to conclude that either no one was paying attention or outbound communications were being thwarted somehow.

In the end, the console was only useful for calling up the current passenger manifest, which she perused for potential allies. Katriel ruefully reflected that she should be grateful she was able to find even one other Starfleet officer on board, instead of being disconsolate that she hadn’t found someone with more experience in thwarting criminal proceedings. Ensign Ciroe, though not in uniform, had agreed that something should be done, but was just as uncertain as to how to proceed.

We don’t know how many there are, he had thought loudly, knowing that Katriel was specifically listening to him, in order to communicate silently about their plans. And they look just like other passengers. How will we know who is a hostile and who is just a civilian? Even if we disabled one, how will we find the others? What if there are twenty of them on board, far too many for us to handle? You might be able to read their intentions, but I wouldn’t be able to until it was too late. Even in the remote chance that we get the upper hand, they could turn it so quickly by taking hostages.

There were too many variables. The counselor took a deep breath, as if that would bring calm with it, and tried to focus. Then, as sudden as the chill up one’s spine, a memory surfaced and whispered.

… Sometimes, when I get stuck in my planning, I play a little game …

Unconsciously, her gaze wandered over the other passengers, before pausing on one sitting a few tables away. A big, burly alien of some sort, Katriel was not able to readily identify his species, with faint scars patterning his thick skin and no identifiable nose. A being like him looked as though he’d have no trouble subduing any number of hostiles just by flailing his arms. If it weren’t for the tiny spectacles over his eyes and his scholarly air as he pondered over his reading material, Katriel might have considered recruiting him to their cause.

How would he solve the problem…?

Katriel’s lips twitched into a faint smile.

((prequel here))


The counselor wasn’t getting any work done.

The screen of the PADD in her lap went dark, an attempt to power-save as a result of no activity for an extended period of time. Katriel barely noticed as her gaze was perpetually directed towards the window. She watched the starships, like graceful fish, zipping in and out of Outpost space, slowing to maneuvering thrusters, weaving ponderously to their individual destinations.

Her mind felt so full and she sighed. When was the last time she had a choice like this one? Something where there was no right answer, where the decision was hers alone? A few years ago, she wouldn’t have hesitated; Casperia’s offer was the sort of position she had always envisioned herself holding, ever since her Academy days.

But now? She wondered if maybe, in her intent to break the mold that Starfleet had provided for her, she might have overlooked how well-suited she actually was for that path and how it might be capable of bringing her greater happiness.

And there were other considerations, now, too.

If only she could go back in time and convince her younger self that dreams could change, that life is not only full of unexpected twists and turns, but sometimes cycles, too.

That when things go the way you want them to, it’s luck. And when it doesn’t, it’s evolution.

Be brave, little owl.

The idle PADD came alive at her touch, as she navigated towards the subspace comms functions and resolutely tapped out a message. She had a promise to keep.

Thanks for the advice. I’m staying on Outpost.


In her quarters, Katriel waited as the vidscreen indicated that a connection was being made to the U.S.S. Sirocco. It only took a few seconds for the call to connect, likely her brother had been waiting on it.

“Hi, Brian. How’s the project?”

“Going pretty well, thank you,” was Brian’s cheerful response. “We just compiled the results of the latest round of topsoil experiments and everything’s checking out, so we might be ready to close and go onto phase three soon.”

“Neat,” was Katriel’s absent reply as she twirled a length of string to tease Fairy into pouncing.

The elder Sedai glanced over at her through the viewscreen and scoffed. “You’re not even listening to me.”

“I am, too,” Katriel responded evenly, without glancing up. “Finished experiments, all green, phase three soon,” she parrotted back.

“Mmmrrrr,” Brian intoned skeptically. “How’re things with you?”

“Same, more or less. Nothing to write home about.” The lack of new things to discuss didn’t seem to trouble her.

“And how’s Matt?”

Katriel turned her back to the screen so that she could roll her eyes without Brian seeing. "He’s great, just like the last time you asked. And the time before that and the time before that. Honestly, you’re just like – " she stopped before finishing the sentence.

“… Nevermind,” she eventually said. Katriel imagined the sympathetic expression that was probably on Brian’s face at that moment and shook herself. New topic, new topic… oh!

“Actually, something did happen today. I heard back from Anzhela Muire, you remember her?”

“Sure. The ensign-almost-assassin,” he recalled with a nod. “I didn’t know you were still in contact with her. How’s she faring?”

Katriel pursed her lips for a brief moment before answering. “Starfleet’s denied her petition to return to service.” She said the words as if they were sour.

“Not good, then.” Brian looked thoughtful as he leaned back in his chair. “Did they give a reason?”

“Her assessments all came back positive, but… I suppose Starfleet just doesn’t want to take another risk on her.” The counselor’s tone was edged with gloominess. “In her psych files, she’s been labelled high-risk. Even if she seems fine now, her evaluators think that returning to the stress of duty would just be asking for trouble.”

“You don’t sound as though you agree,” the male Betazoid observed.

Katriel was silent a moment as she considered. “I wouldn’t want to pass judgement when I didn’t get to evaluate her myself, but…” She exhaled a tiny sigh. “It just … seems a little bit unfair, you know? What if she IS able to withstand the stress? She’s had a run of bad luck thus far, but maybe she really belongs in Starfleet. And they won’t even permit her to try?”

“You’re a regular bleeding heart, Owl. Starfleet’s not just some club you join for finding yourself,” Brian shook his head. “We’re providing a service and have obligations to fulfill. Command owes it to its officers to keep the ranks full of officers who they’re certain can be relied on, especially in possible life or death situations.”

Katriel took a long moment or two to digest his words. Eventually, she just exhaled another sigh. “… I suppose so.”


Sleepless nights were a rarity for the counselor.

Usually her days were so full that it was basically impossible not to drop off right away. But every once in a while, her mind would be too occupied for resting.

Tonight found Katriel curled up on the sofa of the sitting area, her knees drawn up to her chest with her arms hugged around her legs. She was turned so that her body leaned sideways against the backrest, permitting herself a view of the starfield, and a breathing ball of black fur was contentedly slumbering atop her feet. The lights in her quarters remained at the lowest setting.

It hadn’t been a very good day. First had been that business from Starfleet Medical, their request for an extended and detailed proposal on the design of a hybrid medical and disaster relief facility that catered to personnel and civilians quartered in deep space. Katriel supposed it was her unique perspective surrounding the Casperia disaster and rebuilding effort, combined with her work on the now-designated Deep Space station that made Starfleet consider her to be a suitable candidate for such work.

Under ordinary circumstances, she might have been pleased with the opportunity. But by now, Katriel was familiar enough with Starfleet’s more bureaucratic side to guess at what the proposal’s trajectory might look like. It wasn’t the first of such items she’d been asked to deliver and such a document would take at least two or three months for her to research and draft, without disrupting her current obligations.

But more critically, the counselor understood that even if she should come up with something that could be viable, there remained the chance that Starfleet would choose not to fund the proposal regardless, resulting in roughly three months of hard work that’d amount to basically nothing. No one enjoyed seeing that sort of effort expended with nothing to show for it.

Then there was this other incident with the Bajoran detainee, which had introduced fresh doubt to Katriel’s heart. She had struggled with the morality of her telepathic abilities for most of her life and though she had generally developed a philosophy and boundaries for herself, every now and then there would be an incident that caused her to question her choices again.

Esahr’s palpable anger at her confession of the identity of her species was undoubtedly one of these and Katriel had wondered, more than once, at her hypocrisy. Having sensed Esahr’s apprehension and willingness to cause himself serious injury to avoid the threat of Vulcan mind-melding, she had mandated the medical hold to prevent the approach of any of the species. For his safety.

Yet how was what she had done – lingering on the sidelines as Ensign RunningBear made his inquiries, eavesdropping on the detainee’s private thoughts – any better? It was true that she hadn’t taken the thoughts by force, but was it not still a transgression? In some ways, was it not worse? That she accomplished through stealth what a Vulcan would have done with full disclosure?

Katriel exhaled a frustrated sigh.

Her usual coping mechanism would be to consult with, or to vent to as the case may be, her sibling. But the Sirocco had entered a comms-inaccessible range a couple days ago and Brian had warned her that he’d likely be out of contact for another week at least. So the younger Sedai was left with, temporarily, no one.

Who counsels the counselor?

Katriel turned her head away from the view of the starfield and stared for a breathless moment at the empty blue vase on the short table.

Her expression crumpled a little in doubt.


It was moderately challenging, Katriel felt, keeping up with the long-legged Saurian as he briskly made his way down the corridors of the U.S.S. Kindred.

She’d been touring the medical vessel for the better part of an hour, following Chief Medical Officer Kkovug diligently from science lab to sickbay, cataloging the various facility customizations and listening to Kkovug’s detailed and lively anecdotes of the crew’s successes and failures.

The counselor diligently took notes on a PADD, although she was uncertain as of yet how much of the information would be useful. Still, when she had heard the Kindred had docked at DS13, she thought she may as well take the opportunity. If nothing else, getting a glimpse at some of the most advanced vessel sickbays in any fleet might at least lend some inspiration for her work.

The doors to Sickbay-4 swished open and Katriel carefully stepped over the threshold. Her eyes scanned the room layout with reserved interest, as it differed rather significantly from the others. Doctor Kkovug continued his friendly prattle.

“Surgeon’s Bay, we sometimes call it, as it’s primarily Doctor Emryd’s domain. He’s our principal surgeon.”

“Emryd?” Katriel wondered aloud, at the familiar name.

“Hello hello, Kkovug,” sounded the voice of a Bajoran male, stepping out of the office to see who had come to visit. “And who might – … Katriel.” Emryd had interrupted himself, then paused as he got a long look at the counselor’s face. On her part, she could only blink back with bemused surprise. A friendly smile spread across the surgeon’s face. “It’s a small universe, after all.”

“Kjorr,” she greeted him in kind. “Starfleet certainly does seem to make it so, sometimes.”

Kkovug’s head swung back and forth to eye the two of them. “You’re acquainted, then?”

“We dated, for a while,” Emryd rushed the words out, his mouth drawing into a wider grin at Katriel’s muted, but visible, dismay at having that specific aspect of their acquaintance come to the forefront. “While we were both at Starfleet Medical.”

“Oh?” Kkovug turned his curious eyes over to the Betazoid for confirmation. She imagined the Chief was well-acquainted with Emryd’s propensity for exaggeration by now.

“Yes, for a while,” she acknowledged, relaxing a little in her resignation. “But it turns out that learning to be a doctor and dating are not exactly mutually beneficial activities.”

Emryd conceded the point with a nod. “Split up after … what, two months? On good terms, of course. Even did a pretty good job of keeping in touch, for a couple years out.” He tilted his head. “What might you be doing here? Guessing by your surprise, it’s not to see me.”

“Starfleet Medical has tasked the counselor here with formulating a theoretical proposal for a hybrid disaster relief and medical center,” Kkovug obligingly saved Katriel the trouble of explaining. “She thought the Kindred might have some procedures or facility concepts worth carrying forward."

“Sounds dull, though I bet Lozori would enjoy it,” the Bajoran remarked, considering her. “For a moment, I thought maybe we were finally getting some counselors aboard.”

Katriel raised an eyebrow, turning her gaze towards the Saurian. “No counselors on Kindred? Not even for crew?”

Kkovug inclined his head briefly in confirmation and possibly also with a modicum of shame. “We’ve made the request several times, but it’s been Medical’s determination that because the Kindred’s average deployment length is less than forty-eight hours, there is no need to keep a counselor on staff.”

“But you deal with high-trauma patients on a regular basis.” Katriel’s tone was edged with disbelief.

“Indeed,” Kkovug agreed. “And our layovers are generally not long enough for the crew to do much more than stretch their legs a little. But what can you do if Starfleet Medical refuses to uproot personnel?”

The counselor’s hand came up to palm her chin, a mild frown crossing her expression. “Do you dock at DS13 often?”

“Not as often as we’d like,” Emryd responded, recognizing the increasingly speculative expression on the Betazoid’s face. “Though that may change soon, what with the station’s increasing relevance.” He grinned and put his palms up. “No offense, Katriel.”

“None taken,” was Katriel’s amicable response. “If you like, I’ll bring up your dilemma to the department head’s attention. I think it should be possible for us to consider setting up a rotation of counselors to see to the Kindred’s needs while still covering our own bases. Our staffing has been scaling up as of the past few months anyway and I can think of more than one of my colleagues who wouldn’t mind the occasional, abbreviated ship assignment.”

“Would you?” the Saurian positively glowed with appreciation. “That’d be fantastic.”

“Does that include you?” Emryd wanted to know. Katriel eyed him with mild skepticism.

“I’d consider it, certainly. Admittedly, I would be a logical choice. My patients load has gone down, so these days I mostly only deal with evaluations and the starbase’s miscellaneous personnel review requirements.”

The Bajoran beamed at her. “We should definitely catch up over dinner sometime, then.” His grin became a shade more mischievous. “Say, are you --”

“Yes! Yes, I am seeing somebody,” Katriel interrupted hastily. And then her mouth fell open a little as Emryd deliberately released a thought for her to overhear. “And so are you! You’re not even being serious!”

“There’s the telepath I remember!” Emryd laughed aloud, enjoying Katriel’s exasperation. “Yeah, been steady for over a year, so no need to worry about my preying on you. I really do want to catch up, though.” He smiled plaintively. "Please?”

Katriel just rolled her eyes and shook her head a little. “Sure, I’d like that.”

“I believe I’m better off not asking." Kkovug’s narrowed glance swung between the two of them again. "It’s settled, then. We’ll help you complete your proposal and you will help us with our counseling lack.”

“You’ve a deal, sir.”


Katriel bit her lower lip as she squinted at her desk console, rapidly reading over the language on the screen for the umpteenth time, ignoring Fairy as the feline pawed at the foot of the desk for attention.

The counselor had a remote conference scheduled with Starfleet Medical to review progress on her proposal due to start in less than two hours. She was prepared, of course, but what harm ever occurred in checking things over one more time?

Just then, a message arrived on her console and Katriel very nearly slammed her forehead into the desk when she read what it said.

Postponed. New meeting data will be forwarded to you as soon as known.

Katriel slumped back in her seat with a sigh and glanced down at the feline, who’d given up and gone to grooming, instead.

“Right, whatever then!” she announced to no one in particular.

Then the counselor took up a PADD from the desk and exited her quarters.


((all Bound material backdated by roughly four to six days or something.))

Incoming subspace communication for SEDAI, BRIAN…

---- // MESSAGE ORIGIN: Console SK6, U.S.S. Okoboji
TEXT ONLY. SIGNED: Sedai, Katriel // ----

Going on away mission, no comms after departure. Not sure how long.

Yes, I’ll be careful. Don’t worry!


---- // END MESSAGE // ----



“It’s your turn, girl.”

Katriel blinked her eyes open at the command and found herself staring at a Tri-D chessboard, with only a few pieces remaining to indicate the nearly finished state of the game. Though she had no recollection of any of the moves that had come before it, she nevertheless obediently studied the figures and lifted a knight, moving it forward. It seemed, somehow, the right thing to do.

Turn taken, Katriel became suddenly cognizant of her opponent as the other woman leaned forward with a studious mutter. Her features were unclear, though that hardly made sense considering the short distance between them, but the patterning of spots down her temples and neck made her species clear. A female Trill. Katriel didn’t know very many. Chassy?

The woman reached out and made an abrupt move on the board. “Checkmate,” she announced, gray eyes gleaming with satisfaction. Katriel sat back in her seat, more perplexed that the voice didn’t match with her recollection of what Chassy’s should sound like than at her loss in the game. Her opponent eventually clucked her tongue and stood up from her seat. “Not your best game by any measure. Having trouble concentrating?”

Katriel stared, her head feeling progressively cloudier as she tried to affix her recognition. She should know this person, she was sure of it. But if not Chassy, then who?

“I … I’m not really all that familiar with the game.” That was the problem with being telepathic: people never liked to play thinking games with you.

The not-Chassy made a rude noise. “That’s no excuse for not paying attention and having a plan. Even a bad strategy is better than none at all. Can’t just stumble into things blindly, now, can you?”

Katriel was thunderstruck. Ysra.

Quaen’s first host had gathered up her stack of actual paper notebooks and drifted off. Katriel shook off her stupor long enough to climb to her feet and step after her.

The counselor finally caught up to the Trill in an aisle of the hydroponics bay and listlessly began to follow after the woman as she inspected and cataloged various plants with a cold efficiency that the Borg would envy. Matt had once described Katriel as a ‘comforting’ scientist, rather than a clinical one, and the Betazoid supposed Ysra might qualify as the perfect example of a researcher on the other end of that spectrum.

When the mild humming of the surrounding equipment became somewhat unbearable, Katriel ventured a query. “What did you mean, when you said it was ‘not my best game’?”

“Chess is not the only game,” Ysra responded without looking up from her notebook. “Games of chance, games of love. Games of life or truth. Brain games, mind games. Especially mind games… the ones where you feel guilty and try to understand where it comes from.”

The counselor contemplated that with both discomfort and confusion. Seeing the puzzled look on Katriel’s face only made Ysra shake her head and return to her notetaking. “Shouldn’t have woken Quaen up. What would the Black Market do with a comatose symbiont, after all?”

Katriel was forced to halt midstep as a long-haired tabby feline jumped into her path from between two planters. The creature stared up at her, a little balefully, before vanishing into the foliage of the bottom-most plants. The counselor became conscious of more cats of varying colors, some hiding in pots along the ceiling while others groomed themselves on empty shelves.

“At least with Quaen awake and well, Chassy will continue to exist in a way,” Katriel said the words slowly. “Her memory is preserved, even her mannerisms.”

“Bah. You’re a scientist, same as me,” Ysra’s response was full of scorn. “Certainly I might agree that something LIKE Chassy has been preserved, but you know as well as I that it is not really her. Merely a copy, a facsimile of the precise chemical and neurological balance that composed her state while she was alive.”

Katriel stood frozen at that, unable to move.

“Unless you want to start believing in souls?” Ysra inquired in a dry tone. The Trill woman’s skeptical gray glance landed on Katriel.

The words caught in her throat and wouldn’t leave. I would try, if it meant she could be alive somewhere now.

Katriel’s eyes flickered open and she found herself staring at the ceiling over her bed. The room lights were dimmed low and she hastily sat up and tried to orient herself. “Computer, time please?”

She’d been asleep for less than two.