Location: Paradise Outpost
Sitting on the Bridge of the Fire Queen, Katya sighed as she stared at the empty ship. Qaraq and her crew had promptly disembarked after they returned to Paradise. Katya's attempts to show off her new craft to Qaraq almost ended in disaster when the Breen laid a trap for them. Her own hubris had almost gotten them killed. Embarrassed, she had dismissed everyone as soon as they safely returned to Paradise, but Katya had remained on the Bridge, pretending she needed to perform a post-flight systems check. In reality, Katya just wanted time by herself to relax and forget about it.
She had been on the Bridge by herself for some time when the doors slid open and it was quickly followed by a loud, human groan.
"Dios mío!" Mauricio cried, face contorted. "It's like a sauna in here!"
Katya's Chief of Security entered the Bridge flapping his hand wildly in front of his face, in some attempt to waft away the intense heat inside the room. Katya had used her craft's Ultra-Plinian plasma weapon during her outing and it emitted an intense heat within the ship as well; the controls for the cannon used a uniquely Anh'Iranian technology based on pure energy. The result of use was an oven-like atmosphere in the Bridge.
"Is it?" Katya asked with a shrug. "I don't notice."
"You've got that Anh'Iran skin." Mauricio remarked, pulling at his top desperately as he felt the sweat already starting to form. "This is too much for me."
Katya casually nodded, still unfazed, and said, "We'll leave then; I'm done here anyway." She released herself from the Command Chair and strode past him. "Lest you dissolve into a puddle."
The two exited the Bridge and off the Fire Bird, Katya looking listless as she entered the docking ring of Paradise. The cooler air of the Outpost hit her and she felt uncomfortable, realising how unnatural it was for her Anh'Iran heritage to be in such a lower temperature environment. For Mauricio, it was a relief from the heat of the Fire Bird and he let the coolness wash over him welcomingly.
"So I see you've got a conference call with the Kch'Tak Foundation on your schedule." Mauricio caught up to his bosses' long strides. "Anything I should know?"
"Yes," Katya nodded, "The Foundation have made overtures towards joining the Resistance. Their weapons manufacturing business will be essential in protecting our forces."
Mauricio tilted his head slightly, "Last I heard they were strictly neutral. They don't care about who wins, as long as they can sell arms."
"That's true." Katya shrugged, "But the Alrakis Pact have come in with their own technology and armoury; they don't need the Foundation. And the Pact have been attempting to close down their transport routes, which has restricted the Foundation's trade deals. So, the Kch'Tak are choosing a side."
Mauricio couldn't hide the concern upon his face as he walked, and he was hesitant to respond in case it started an argument. But he remembered that he was not employed to hide his opinions, so he cleared his throat, "So they're only doing it to protect their profitability?"
"I assume." Katya said.
"They were prepared to sit on the sidelines while the Pact ran rampant over the Expanse but now that it's effecting their business, they want to help?" Mauricio was indignant. "I'm wary they're just being opportunistic."
"I agree." Katya merely stated. "But they are choosing our side, so I will be opportunistic as well and accept their help. We need it." Mauricio opened his mouth to speak but Katya interrupted. "I don't expect them to pledge allegiance to our cause, I just need the ability to defend it. The Foundation will provide us with that ability through their business. It's a good deal, Mauricio."
The Spaniard was not convinced. He carefully replied, "But... there are... rumours that the Kch'Tak Foundation uses slavery. Do you know that?"
Katya's stride broke for a second but then she kept going, trying not to be fazed. "I am aware that they require supply worlds to meet high productivity levels. What those suppliers do to achieve those levels is not the Foundation's responsibility. But I do know that they will provide necessary support that will see all our worlds protected from the Pact."
"Is this what the Resistance believes in?" Mauricio pointedly asked. "Stopping the Pact, no matter the cost?"
Katya halted and turned to face him, her tattoos glowing with intensity, "I do not have the luxury of being particular at this time, Mauricio. We need all the help we can get to prevent the whole Expanse from becoming slaves to the Alrakis forces. I have to make these choices, whether you agree or not."
Feeling he will get nowhere, Mauricio held up his hands. "Okay then. My disagreement has been voiced." He started to back away, "I just hope it's worth it."
Mauricio disappeared into the crowds of Paradise and Katya watched him leave with a disappointed frown. She knew he was right to be concerned, and she valued his input, but she also wished he would see it her way, too. She didn't like that the Resistance were entertaining an alliance with an organisation like the Kch'Tak Foundation, but it was the reality of their situation. She needed them.
With a sigh, Katya continued on towards her office.
"MY INFANT!" Suddenly boomed a female voice. Katya stopped to see her mother striding across the promenade, a look of thunder on her face.
"Malka?" Katya regarded her approaching mother with a confused look. "What is it?"
"The Sisters have reported to me that you took the Fire Queen out for an adventure today!" Her mother exclaimed angrily. "To show off to your Broot friend?"
"Yes. It is my ship, is it not?" Katya responded defensively, taking a step back.
"They report that you almost got them and Mr. Qaraq killed, too!" Malka continued. "What is the meaning of this? We did not come all of this way from Anh'Iran and gift you that craft so that you may endanger our lives!"
"We were not harmed." Katya insisted, "Once we detected the trap, we quickly returned home. We are all safe."
"It was reckless for you to travel that far from Paradise and the rest of the Fleet in the first place." Malka did not concede her ground. "We could have lost you, Qaraq, and our ship. What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking we had an opportunity to remove a tactical advantage from our enemy." Katya explained with a shrug. "Without the advance scout, the Breen are flying in blind to this area."
"But now they have seen our ship and advanced on our position." Malka replied. "It was dangerous, my infant."
Katya shook her head and turned away. "I don't need this from you, Malka." She said softly, "I am struggling enough as it is today. My human, Mauricio, has already been defiantly questioning my choices."
"My infant, we cannot destroy the Alrakis Pact by sheer force of will alone." Her mother said with a sigh, seeing the pain in her daughter's face. "We must do it together." She reached out and put a gentle hand on Katya's shoulder.
Katya nodded as she looked back to her mother. "I don't know if I'm making the right choices, my mother. What if... what if I cannot lead?"
Malka tilted her head and smiled, "You have gotten us this far, my infant. You will see us through the intensity that is to come. But you must rely on those you have gathered around you for help. Listen to us, let us help you."
A tear fell down her cheek, Katya agreed. "I will."
"You are not alone." Malka said firmly, bringing her in for a hug. Katya was touched by the motherly gesture and allowed herself to be hugged. Her mother whispered, "And don't go taking your ship on any more solo adventures."
Katya smiled, "I won't."
"Come, we must drink tea and discuss your human." Malka said confidently, looking towards the office. "Did he get all pink in the face when he was angry? I love it when they do that."
Katya laughed loudly.