Blue ball #15 - 16 "Unleashed."


[USS Pegasus, corridor]

Kitty walked past crewmembers carrying overnight bags and suitcases with nothing at all in her own hands. She never packed anything when she went home, unless she wanted to take it off the ship. She had such little luggage when she'd arrived that she had nothing that needed to go back, so she walked easily down the corridors with nothing but the clothes on her back. Everything she'd need would already be in her room.

"We're in orbit, Grandma," she'd said excitedly only a few hours ago. "I think I could reserve a shuttle, if I needed to." She couldn't wait to see her grandparents again, but it would take a while to get to their house by public transit. "You don't need to do that, dear," her grandmother had answered, smiling cheerily into the terminal. "Your grandfather is giving a speech on our recent discoveries about the sociology of the bottlenose dolphin. Just transport down to the pad at UMASS, and we'll take you home with us."

With that in mind, she stepped onto the transporter pad. "University of Massachusetts main pad, United States," she told the person behind the controls, and closed her eyes as the transporting process started. When she opened her eyes, she saw a familiar face waiting for her on the other side. Kitty hopped off the pad, drawing a couple of strange looks for her spry maneuver, and hurried for a hug. Her grandmother held her tightly, laughing. "Hello sweetheart! It's so good to see you again so soon!"

Kitty's grandmother hadn't changed much at all. Her white hair was drawn back into an elegant bun, and she wore a pretty blue calico print that matched her kind blue eyes. Her wrinkles were few and had fallen in pleasant places. She was trim and in good shape. "You look wonderful, Grandma," Kitty said. As it happened so often whenever she came home, she felt all of her little worries and frustrations fade away. "Is Grandpa still speaking?"

"He's almost done, dear. You look great! I think your new position suits you." Kitty's grandmother smiled back at her, a hand resting on her shoulder. "That, and something else, I think... but we can discuss that later." Her grandmother was never fooled. She could always tell when something big had happened. "Over here!" the older woman called, and Kitty's grandfather came walking up to them. Her grandfather looked a little older, his face showing more wrinkles, wind-weathered. He had white hair as well, and a white thick beard, making him look like an old sea captain in a child's story. He limped slightly.

"Grandpa!" Kitty hurried to meet him and get another hug. "Was it an ice cream speech?" This was an old habit of theirs, if one of her grandparents had to speak out in public and it was especially tiring or important. The old man chuckled at his granddaughter. "For you, it could be. It could be. I'm glad to see you, kid."

Kitty caught up on 'happenings' amidst a cone of her favorite ice cream, sitting with her grandparents, feeling calm and secure. "What do you plan to do during your shore leave?" her grandmother asked her. "Well, I need to stop at the music store and pick up my order of cello strings," Kitty said contemplatively. "I broke my last spare a few days ago. Then I want to go out sailing, maybe have a picnic... and... I'd like to get my hair trimmed. Well.. not actually trimmed. Uhm... well... Done. I'd like to get my hair Done." Usually her grandmother had simply trimmed the ends of her long hair in the kitchen, and that was enough for her.

"You've met someone, haven't you?" her grandmother asked with a wink. "I can't think of much else that would make you care about the way your hair is cut." "Yeah," Kitty admitted, smiling and blushing a bit. "One of the other officers on the ship. He's about my age, and the same rank... he likes engines and he's quick with plasma equations. And... he's cute." Shyly, she pulled out a PADD she kept in her pocket and tabbed through the files until Evans' crew picture came up on the screen. She showed it to her grandparents.

"Oh my, he's got a mouth like your grandfather's," Kitty's grandmother replied with a chuckle, examining the picture closely. "No wonder you think he's cute." Her grandfather chuckled a little, embarrassed. "Well, engines, and equations, and cute too. Sounds like a good one for you," he said, determined to get a little of his own back. "Would be a cute kid, with your eyes and his ears," he continued casually, and watched as Kitty blushed badly and his wife started choking on her food. The only way anyone could tell how amused he was would be by looking at the sparkle in his eyes and the slight tightness around the corners of his mouth. Kitty leaned back in her seat, starting to giggle and feeling entirely happy... until they rose to leave and she saw the limp in her grandfather's step again.

Kitty didn't mention her concern until she and her grandmother were alone, in the beautiful, circular living room facing out to sea, in her grandparents' house-and-research-lab built on the edge of a cliff face on the Eastern Seaboard. Her grandfather had gone down to check the boats for the night. "Is Grandpa's leg bothering him again?" she asked her grandmother worriedly. "Oh, you know he never complains," her grandmother replied, frowning now, looking concerned. "But yes, it's been giving him some trouble since this spring. The doctors said it's because his bones are aging, and the areas where the bone ends and the artificial bone begins are shifting. They'll need to replace the entire bone, most likely, and then he should be fine if he recovers fully. But you know he's getting old... He'll be alright, though. You know your grandfather. Nothing's going to keep him away from the sea." The older woman giggled, mostly to relieve Kitty's concerns. "Couldn't you see him out there with a peg leg?" Kitty understood that the joke was just to make her feel better, but she chuckled anyways. "Yeah, I could see it. Let me know when he's going in for the surgery. I'll send him a special letter."

Her grandmother nodded and then looked at her contemplatively. "And how about you, hon? How are you handling it? Everything alright?" "I had nightmares," Kitty admitted quietly, "after the attack on the ship, about creaking walls... and.. well, yeah. I had a few waking flashbacks, but just the first day or two afterwards. I haven't had any since. I took a sleeping pill around then, but only for one night. I think the nightmares are less frequent now. I'll be fine." "Are you sure, honey?" Her grandmother gave her a big hug. "You have some time off, you can go back to see your old counselor..." "Grandma, we have a counselor on board. I don't need to see one during my vacation," Kitty said with a slightly amused exasperation. "I'll be fine. If the nightmares are already starting to fade away, then I'm probably getting over it just fine."

"It still bothers me, from time to time," her grandmother told her gently. "There's no shame in needing help." "Don't worry, Grandma," Kitty said with a soft smile. "If I need help, I'll ask for it."


Home and happy:

Lt. j.g. Kathleen Black Chief Engineer USS Pegasus