Ciara sat on Ming's sofa as she awaited his culinary efforts. "You really haven't done all that much with your quarters, have you?" she asked.
Ming was busy in the kitchenette dicing vegetables and meat. "No, I've just been too busy since I've come on board," he said. Indeed, he had been busy: between the incident with Karissa and the resulting research project, which had since evolved to mentoring Benson as his mental faculties improved. Very rarely did Ming have time for anything beyond work.
"I can imagine," Ciara said, sensing a minor twinge of embarrassment from Ming. "Oh--I'm sorry!"
"Don't worry about it," Ming replied, with more than a small inkling of what may have embarrassed Ciara. "I've put it behind me."
"That's good," Ciara smiled, still a bit uneasy at what she was sensing from Ming. Ming had taken his feelings of betrayal and anger over what had occurred between him and Karissa and channeled them into an overwhelming desire for vengeance against whomever was responsible. *In the short term, he's fine,* Ciara thought. *But if this keeps up much longer it's going to destroy him...* "You know, one of these days we should try and fix this place up. You've got to have something you can use to decorate here. Family pictures, stuff from China--anything!"
"Actually, I don't," Ming said. "I've never really done much with my quarters. This is the first time I've had quarters to myself, for that matter." He left the kitchen with two large bowls of stir-fry. Ciara gratefully took the dish. "This looks good! What is it?"
"Pork chow mein--or as close to it as I could get with the replicators. I've always wanted to try this with targ, actually," Ming said as he dug in with his chopsticks. "Oh--forgot the tea and the wine!"
As Ming left to retrieve the beverages, Ciara thought about recent events. *Redecorating Ming's quarters will depend upon whether or not we get out of this alive,* she mused to herself.
"You look troubled," Ming said as he returned to the room. "Is there something you'd like to talk about?"
She released a heavy sigh. He wasn't a telepath, but over the time they had been together, he had learned to read the different looks on her face. Actually, as of last, she had had a lot on her mind. Now that they were facing the Kelvans, she knew that there was a good possibility of failure. That they might lose more than just this war . . . "A lot has been troubling me actually," she replied. "It's just a lot of stuff on my mind. The last couple of days have just brought a lot up for me . . . "
Ming nodded. "Worried about the Kelvan situation?" he asked. *Nothing quite like getting it out in the open.* "Is there anything I can do to help?"
She was silent for a moment. "Yes, its the Kelvans . . . I mean, this isn't like anything we have faced before . . . Its up to us to stop them and if we don't . . . We're all dead . . . Then next will be our loved ones, probably before they even find out what happened to us . . ." Her mind was wandering over her past as she spoke. She didn't meet Ming's stare. She just gazed out at nothing across his quarters.
"We're going to make it. We've got Commander Benton and Admiral Pike here. If anyone can get us past the Kelvans, they can!" Ming replied with more confidence than he really felt. "And even if we don't make it we'll at least let them know we're here. Something's telling me there's more than the Kelvans on your mind."
Finally she looked right at him. "Well, it is the Kelvans on my mind . . . But, its more or less, that my father had been playing a lot in my thoughts since this whole thing came to light. Have I ever told you about him?" she asked, her aqua colored eyes looking at him. Every emotion she had was reflected there.
"No, not really, other than the fact that you didn't part on the best of terms," Ming replied, remembering the day he'd reached the breakthrough with Karissa and how the sculpture Ciara's father had given her inspired him.
She nodded. That was very much like her. She hadn't liked talking about him to anyone. Not even to Karissa, and Karissa was her best friend aboard the Ronin. "Well, my father and I had been very close . . . After my mother died, we were close, but we both were grieving and that started breaking us apart. It affected each of us differently. He did get us both into counseling though, and after that, my life started fitting back together again. Unfortunately, when I found my path in life, it wasn't what my father had wanted. He had wanted me to settle down on Earth to be near him and have children. I wanted to be out among the stars . . . I joined Starfleet against his wishes. Our relationship was rocky the entire time. We stopped talking shortly before my graduation. I had invited him to come, but he never showed . . . Later when I had returned to my residence, I found that sculpture there . . . But we had never talked . . . I don't know . . . Now I'm wondering if that was a mistake. I remember being so angry with him for wanting to dictate my life. Wanting me to marrying my boyfriend at the time to stay near him on Earth . . . And after knowing what I wanted . . . Maybe we were both selfish . . . I don't know . . . All I do know is maybe I don't want to die without telling my father that I really do love him . . . Only, I don't know if I can . . . Its a big conflict in me right now . . . Do I contact him or don't I?" She sighed and ran a hand through her hair and then gently rubbed her head where her Trill spots trailed down.
Ming had never known that she had been involved with anyone on Earth, but managed to hold back his surprise at that revelation to deal with the real issue. "I would contact him, for your own sake," Ming advised. "Even if it goes badly, at least you can say that you did the best you could. And perhaps he's forgiven all. You don't know. And you won't know until you contact him!" he said, taking Ciara's hand.
She smiled sadly and nodded. "He's the only family I have . . . And I'm his only family . . . But . . . I'm not even sure what I'd say to him . . ."
"Maybe you should tell him just what you told me: that you had to discover your own path in life and make your own decisions. What can he do to you here and now?" Ming asked.
She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Nothing I guess . . . Just we haven't talked for so long. Maybe I'll just send him a message. That way its up to him whether or not he ever wants contact with me . . . And if I don't happen to get a response from him before we go up against the Kelvans, then at least I know I told him should anything go very wrong."
"At least your own conscience would be clear that way. And you might find you have more to say than you think," Ming replied. "Would you like me to be there with you, or is this something you should do on your own?"
She thought about it for a moment, thinking of all the things she needed to say. "I think this is something I should do alone . . . But thank you for the support . . . I certainly might need it after I send the message . . . Its not going to be easy for me to do . . . Its been a few years since we've spoken. I just hope he has come to understand my decisions . . . That's all I ever wanted I think . . . His understanding and his support. The two things he didn't give me . . ."
He squeezed her hand. "If you change your mind, you know where to find me," Ming replied seriously. "Now, let's finish up. I've got tiramisu waiting for us as well!"
They continued their meal, steadfastly refusing to talk about anything remotely related to the Kelvans, although Ming did make a mental note to ask about her previous relationship at a better moment. Not that he was jealous--after all, if this man was so terrific why did Ciara go to the extent of joining Starfleet to be away from him?--but he was curious.
After dessert, Ciara felt restless and excused herself. "I think I should probably work on that message while I still feel like doing it," she said. "But we'll get together tomorrow night! My place, this time."
"You've got a deal!" Ming said as they embraced and kissed. He wanted more--oh, so much more!--but sensed Ciara was a little too vulnerable for anything more tonight. *Perhaps another time,* Ming thought. *We've got all the time in the world...*
Picking up on his thoughts, she thought sadly, that maybe they didn't . . . With a final kiss, she vanished out the door.
Ciara sat at her communications console. She had everything set. All she had to do was record her message. She had on her Starfleet uniform and proudly displayed the pips on her collar. If nothing else, she did want her father to see that her choice had not been a mistake. But she didn't want to seem cold and distant. She had fixed her hair so it was soft around her shoulders. Taking a deep breath and letting it out, she steeled her nerves.
"Computer, begin recording," she said.
<Acknowledged> came the reply.
Suddenly, she smiled softly into
the recording device. "Hi, Daddy," she began. "I know you probably
did not expect to hear from me . . . I know its been a very long time and a
lot has happened to me . . . As you can see, I have done quite well in Starfleet.
Right now I am on the USS Ronin-A. But that's not the real reason I wanted to
contact you." Suddenly tears began misting her eyes. "Its because
. . . I . . . I wanted to tell you that I love you, Daddy. I always have . .
. And I just had to tell you that . . ."