Katie was already in bed by the time Phil returned from his session with Doctor Kirby. She barely said three words to him at the gym, breakfast, or during their duty shift. As soon as the day ended, she disappeared off the bridge. Luckily, Phil had an idea where to find her.
The climb up the port nacelle pylon was long and vertigo inducing. Only one ladder led through the meter wide passage inside the strut and the outward leaning angle gave the climber the impression they were going to fall forward with every rung. After five minutes, he finally reached the torpedo bay access hatch that led through the port torpedo storage magazine and into the turret mounted directly between the Pershing's long nacelles.
Phil wasn't a fan of what would come next, but years of sitting in the cockpit of snub fighters had given him powerful control over his stomach. The torpedo magazines and ventral turret were independent from the main hull and automated. As a result, they didn't need gravity to function. The artificial field in this part of the ship was usually turned off to save power. That's exactly why she loved it up here so much, it was quiet and relaxing.
With a deep breath, Phil opened the hatch and wormed his way inside. Instantly, he was floating free. He grabbed onto the metal railing lining the quadruple stacked quantum torpedo racks and began to pull himself the 75 meters toward the entrance to the torpedo turret. The dim fluorescent lighting cast an eerie glow over the Pershing's most powerful weapons waiting their turn in the tubes. He tried not to think about the tremendous explosive power just a few centimeters from his head as he silently slid through the air. Finally, he reached the inner hatch into the turret. He grabbed the access panel and pulled downward. The metal doors slide apart and he saw Katie, floating on her back two meters off the ground between the two massive autoloader cradles for the forward tubes. She had opened one of the external maintenance hatches and was staring out a force field into the black void. Her hair flowed loose around the sides of her head in the weightless compartment.
"If I had wanted to be around people, I wouldn't have come all the way up here, Phil," Katie said not taking her eyes off of space. Phil sighed and pushed his way towards her. He wasn't as comfortable as she was in zero gravity and banged his head on one of the metal beams of the port autoloader as he attempted to maneuver towards her. "Watch your head, grav bunny…" she said patronizingly.
"Not all of us like to float as much as you do," he grunted as he rubbed the side of his scalp. He paused as he stared upwards to what she was looking at. The Pershing was passing near a large cloud of helium and charged hydrogen gas which glowed in amazing patterns as cosmic radiation passed through it. "Wow…" he muttered as the lights and colors hypnotized him.
"Beautiful view, isn't it?" she said moving her arms behind her head like she was lounging in a quiet meadow.
"Kinda seems a shame to keep it all to yourself. Alright, Katie Bug," he said floating to her side like they were in bed together. "What's up?"
"You talked to Kirby last night, didn't you?" she said almost as an accusation.
"I did," Phil replied. "She's a lot more direct than most counselors I'm used to, but I found it refreshing."
"What did you talk to her about?"
"Mostly about Chin'Toka and the Avenger. What it's like to lose control and just fly on autopilot when you feel threatened. She told me that dissociation is pretty normal for well-trained people in situations like that. Why are you asking me this?"
"Because I didn't say a damn thing to her, even though I know she wanted me to."
"Is that what you wanted to do?" he asked.
"Jesus, now you sound like a damned counselor."
"No," Phil said shaking his head. "I just want to make sure that you don't miss an opportunity to get some help because you're too afraid to ask."
"I'm not afraid!" she said turning her head sharply towards him causing her hair to cyclone around her head.
"I know you're not afraid of her, or afraid of the people who did those things to you," he said as they looked back upwards. A pulse of radiation caused the gas cloud to produce a brilliant glow of blue light. He reached over and wiped a floating strand of hair away from her face. "I just think you might be afraid of having to feel the emotions you spent so much time repressing again."
"I've confronted my pain and anger, Phil," she said moving her arms across her chest.
"What about your guilt?" he asked plainly.
"Guilt?" she said skeptically. "What guilt? They did that shit to me, Limey Bastard."
"Guilt that you're still here and they're not," Phil answered. "Guilt that you have a life to live and they don't. That you can still be with family and friends, eat good food, enjoy a drink, take in this spectacular view…" he said before pausing. "Guilt that every time you feel good about your life is another reminder that people you loved don't have that chance anymore because they chose to save you…"
Katie was dead silent.
She closed her eyes tightly. Tiny droplets pushed their way out from her eyes, coalesced, and began to float around the inside of the turret.
"Damn you, Phil," she said. "I hate crying in zero g."
"You don't have to punish yourself, Katie," he said softly as he reached out and caught one of her floating tears on the tip of his index finger. He flicked it into forcefield in front of them. It glittered with an electronic hum at the contact. "Let them go. Let Paul go. They can't rest until you let them. Kirby can help.
It's not a sign of weakness to feel pain. It's a sign of weakness to suffer silently when others want to help you."
"Are you done?" she said angrily.
"Now, I am. Are you coming down with me?"
"No," she said still staring out into space. "But I'm meeting the captain for an acupuncture session before he goes to his meeting with Kirby. I'll be down in about an hour."
"Ok," Phil said reaching out to a support beam to pull himself towards the hatch. "I'll leave the replicator on in case you want to grab a bite to eat."
"Thank you," she said with a tone somewhere between sincerity and hostility.
"It's easy to forget isn't it," he said as he opened the door to leave. "That is around us all the time," he said pointing out to the gas cloud. "It's like all we have do to see how amazing things really are is look up at the right time."
"Is that your attempt at subtlety, Babe?" she asked looking back towards him. "Cause if it is, you suck at it."
"I love you, too, Katie," he said with a grin as he headed back towards the main saucer.