Pandora's Box #22 - 23 "Dancing Skeletons"


<Lounge, USS Pegasus>

Lt. Black wandered into the lounge, her shift having just ended. She picked up her usual favorite drink at the bar, then glanced around at the various tables to see if she saw anyone she recognized, anyone she might want to go talk to.

Kristiana was standing near one of the viewports, looking at starfield flying by. She had a drink of a clear crystal blue color in her right hand, her left arm still in a sling. She looked thoughtful, slightly preoccupied.

Kitty noticed the XO near the viewport. She hesitated for a moment, considering leaving the woman to her own thoughts, but then she decided to approach anyways. After all, if Kristiana wanted privacy, she'd be in her quarters, right?

The russian woman glanced over as she sensed Kathleen Black approaching .. Gave a nod. "Lieutenant .. " before taking another sip of her drink, continuing to look out the viewport.

"...Kathleen... or Kitty. I'm off duty, my shift just ended. How are you doing? How's your arm?" Kitty offered a friendly smile, then took a small sip from her dark, steaming mug.

"Oh .." A soft sigh from the XO, shoulders slumping slightly. "I'm ok. Just .. thinking about heading home. To Earth, I mean. Lots of closets there, closets with skeletons in them."

"Where are you going to go, when you get to Earth?" Kitty frowned. "I've been rather looking forward to it, but you don't seem very happy about it."

Kristiana shook her head a bit. "I don't know yet where I'll go. If I go anywhere at all.Maybe I'll just stay behind, on the ship, there's always stuff to do for an XO. If I can get rid of this blasted sling by the time we reach earth I might even log some time on the holodeck."

"Oh, I've been using the holodeck. It's small, but size doesn't matter once the program loads," Kitty replied enthusiastically. Then the enthusiasm faded from her voice. "I've been running some of the Academy training programs, trying to get back up to speed." She looked around and gestured towards a nearby table, small and unoccupied. "Do you want to sit down?" she offered.

"Hm ?" Petrova glanced over to where Kitty motioned. "Oh .. yeah, sure." and moving to sit down at the indicated table, turning her full attention on the petite asian woman in front of her, now, listening.

Kitty sat down opposite Petrova and sipped from her coffee again. "I've been revisiting some of my old combat training. I... don't want to get caught unawares. I don't think I did a very good job last time. I'm a good shot, but when people are actually shooting at Me... it's very hard to concentrate." She said the last bit in annoyance, as if speaking of a particularly troublesome engine repair instead of a battle.

Kristiana would nod at that. "Yeah, I know how that is. What I do is, try to actually not think about the fact that they're shooting at me. Just .. make sure I'm behind cover, and shoot at them. I concentrate on those two things, nothing more." Ofcourse there was a lot more to it than that, but she was keeping it simple for now .. Especially since Black was an engineer, and not expected to get into armed combat very often.

"How do you do that?" Kitty regarded the older officer with something like awe. "Not think about the fact that someone's Shooting at you? That sort of thing just kind of.. sticks.. in my mind, even afterwards," she admitted.

The russian woman had a ready answer. "I find that I can only concentrate on so many things at the same time, especially during combat. What I do then is concentrate on finding cover, and returning fire. If I concentrate on those hard enough, everything else fades into the back of my mind."

"Oh." Kitty took a moment to mull that over in her head, and she took another sip of her drink. Then she smiled slowly, the kind of smile that starts in the toes and spreads all the way up to the face. "I'm going to end up getting addicted to this stuff," she said idly, looking back at her mug. "It's coffee with chocolate in it. The guy who runs the lounge does a really good job making it."

Kristiana chuckled a bit at that .. nods "Yeah .. He has a way with a great many things. It'll be .. interesting, having him around, that much is certain. Did you talk with him yet ?"

"Sure did. I came in here looking for some coffee. He's a bit strange, but I think he's probably harmless." There she went again, giving a straightforward answer without thinking. She blushed a little, glancing down, hoping that she hadn't just embarrassed herself too much.

The older woman laughed. "Harmless, eh ? He didn't try to get you to go on some sort of date or another with him, then ?" taking another sip of her drink, amused.

"Well, no, I don't think so," Kitty said contemplatively, sipping her coffee. "He offered to show me some Risa simulation on the holodeck, but I said the planet was generally boring. He told me that there were places where you could get into a string quartet, though, so if we ever go by there, I'll have to check that out. He was a bit silly with his compliments. He kept forgetting what he'd told me, I think, because he kept repeating himself. But I wouldn't hold that against him, he's probably just preoccupied."

"Or he's just trying to get into your pants." Kristiana idly replied, taking another sip of her drink, then looking Kathleen over a bit .. Giving a slight shrug. "I can see what he likes about you, you Are cute. But still .. Take this little word of advise from me .. Watch out with where you let him take you."

That got a reaction. Poor Kitty kerblinked and choked on her coffee. She recovered long enough to hear the comment about being cute, and she choked again. When she could finally breathe properly again, she was laughing in disbelief. "Well, you've got to be kidding! I'm a geeky engineer person. And he.. he's like.. well... like a kittycat. Friendly and purry, yes. But.. well... nothing like 'my type'. I never thought for a second that he was Serious."

Kristiana smiled a soft, but knowing smile. "I've seen his type before, Kathleen. They charm you with compliments, and show you rare sights that take the mind away on wonderful journeys filled with wonder and amazement .. And then they move in, seduce you, bed you and leave you again in the morning." She finished her drink and would sigh softly. ".. I'm not saying that he's a bad guy, or that you should avoid him or can't go out with him, Kitty .. Just .. Make sure you know what you're doing before you let him take you anywhere, alright ?"

Kitty listened to this bit of advice with increasing astonishment. "I'm not going to 'go out' with him. I've got no interest in 'going out' with him. He's not my type. Besides, I'm not 'looking' anyways. But if he's been 'planning' something... sheesh, is it safe to talk to Anybody?"

The auburn-haired woman would chuckle a bit and nod. "Yes, everyone is safe to talk to, or make friends with. Everyone onboard this ship is. I've got my eyes open, Kathleen, for anyone that would want to hurt my crew - and if I see someone like that, I toss them out of the airlock, preferably during warp flight." She chuckled lightly at the mental image. "So, the simple fact that he's still onboard, serving as part of the crew, means that he's an okay sort, and not out to hurt anybody." She wasn't actively trying to confuse kitty. Not really. Honestly.

"Well... alright." Kitty relaxed, sipping at her chocolate coffee. "Thanks. For looking after us and all." She smiled, and then changed the subject again. "So.. why aren't you enthused about going back to Earth? You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

Kristiana's wryly amused mood instantly melted and she furrowed her brows, narrowing eyes slightly, becoming more distant and cold again. " .. It's personal. Family matters .. Things I've been avoiding, and for good reason."

"I.. couldn't imagine it," Kitty responded softly, frowning. "I love coming home. Although..." She paused for a moment, becoming lost in thought, and then frowned again. "It's a little awkward when my parents show up."

".. How so ?" Kristiana inquired. "You made chief engineer, 2XO, sounds like they should be proud of you .. "

"Well, they are." Kitty smiled a bit. "But, well... My grandparents and my mother don't get along. They try to hide it, try to act all normal since she only ever shows up for special events, for me. Like my graduation. But I can tell that they're not altogether happy with each other." She sighed. "It's kind of like watching a really badly choreographed dance."

Petrova frowned a bit at that. "I'm sorry .. It . .was your grandparents that raised you, wasn't it ?" Remembering something to that effect in Kathleen's profile.

"Yeah." Kitty leaned back a little in her chair. "My parents.. they.. well, I'm not even sure how they ended up together. I don't think they were ever really in love. They never married. My mother got pregnant.. and, well, they're both career officers. That's what they're interested in. So my grandparents, my father's parents, they took me in and raised me."

"They're marine biologists - " Kitty continued " - and they've got more latitude in their assignments, and their living quarters. They taught me themselves, since we kept going out on the boat and I would have missed too many classes, if I'd gone to a regular school. They won't say anything bad to me about my mother. But kids can read between the lines. I think they think she abandoned me."

"Didn't she ?" Was Kristiana's to-the-point reply. "She got pregnant, gave birth, dumped you at your father's parents .. "

"Well, no!" was Kitty's first response, but then she almost instantly began rethinking it. "I mean, not Really... I mean.. well... She does write," the younger woman finished hesitantly. "And she did come to my graduation. So did my father. He comes to visit whenever his duties take him to Earth. That still isn't more than once every couple of years, but, well..." She frowned. "But my grandparents raised me, and I think they did a wonderful job. So it isn't as if I was dumped on the street... honestly." She glanced down at her coffee again. There was definitely a hurt there, even if she wouldn't admit it to her own self.

"Yeah .. well .. " Kristiana was one to talk about this. Really. NOT. ".. What matters in the end I think is whether or not you are proud of yourself and who you became."

"I am proud," she said readily, "and what's more, my grandparents are, too. And in the end, that's what matters to me, that they're proud of me. I can't wait to see them again."

Petrova smiled warmly. "Well, that's good then. That's what's most important."

"Yeah." Kitty smiled back, taking a long sip of her coffee, relaxed. "But I'm sure you've got people who are proud of you too. I mean, who wouldn't be? You're so levelheaded and you always seem to know what to do."

"Yeah .. Well .. " Kristiana didn't share Kitty's optimism. "I'll see it when we get there .. Now, if you'd excuse me, please .. " As she rose to her feet again. "I've got a lot of work to do."

"Ok. I'm sorry if I said too much..." Lt. Black started, and then she unwittingly allowed her blunt nature to come through again. "You're very nice, and an excellent first officer, but boy, are you closed up tight. Is that what always happens, when you get into the upper ranks?" She was asking an honest question, making an honest correlation, in her own quirky way of thinking. She wasn't being sarcastic.

".. No." Petrova replied. "That happens when you have skeletons in your closet that you don't want to think about, be confronted with, or share with other people. Has nothing to do with rank or age or anything of the sort." And with a sigh she'd turn to head out.

"I'm sorry..." Kitty said as her last response, watching Petrova walk off, the continuing nagging feeling in her mind that she'd really managed to mess up something in that conversation. She finally shrugged and turned back to her drink, determined to enjoy the last of it.


Lt Cmdr Kristiana Petrova Executive Officer USS Pegasus "Romulan Boarding Parties are easier to handle than reality."


Lt JG Kathleen Black Chief Engineering Officer USS Pegasus