by Silent Bard
"Last boarding call for the 1400 shuttle to McKinley Station." Katie closed her eyes and leaned back in her seat. The trip only took an hour, but that was just enough time for a catnap before arriving at the station. Though only fourteen, this was far from her first trip on the shuttle and she was completely relaxed even though she was flying alone. Her father, Admiral Edward Janeway, had been assigned to McKinley for the last six months. Katie made it a point to visit him every so often when she got the chance. It was the only time she got to see him lately.
She dozed through the pre-flight, barely registering the additional occupants settling into her aisle. The shuttle took off and Katie felt the familiar sensation of space flight that managed to tingle all her senses in that delightful way. She had known since a young age she was destined for Starfleet, not only because she idolized her father and wanted to follow in his footsteps, but also because she truly loved being in space. Her little sister Phoebe hated it and tended to get space sick anytime they had to take a journey.
Katie continued to doze through the first half of the trip to McKinley Station, until something prickled her senses and she started coming awake. She kept her eyes closed to see if she could figure out what had awakened her. She felt like she was being watched; not just a casual observation but someone was staring at her. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she opened her eyes searching for the perpetrator who would spy on a sleeping girl.
The only other occupants of the shuttle in her vicinity were a young couple sitting across from her. They were human, probably in their late twenties. On the woman�s lap was a baby, and it was the baby who was staring at Katie. Katie looked at the baby. She was cute, a tuft of blonde hair and the bluest eyes the young girl had ever seen. Those eyes were locked onto her face with the most serious, contemplative expression. If Katie didn�t know better she would think the baby was almost studying her. However, the child couldn�t have been much older than a year. It was eerie however, how intently the girl was looking at her.
Katie smiled at the baby then shifted her gaze to the mother. "She�s adorable. How old is she?" The mother had been studying a PADD and looked slightly annoyed at the interruption.
"Hmm?" she asked, almost reflexively, then after realizing what Katie had asked she looked down at her daughter and smiled softly, turning back to Katie with the smile. "She just had her first birthday."
They continued to chat for a few minutes, the woman telling Katie that they had been visiting relatives on Earth. The couple lived on a colony and it was the first time they�d been back to Earth in several years. The conversation switched to how the planet had changed in the last few years. During the entire ten minute conversation the baby had continued to stare at Katie as if she were the most interesting thing the young girl had ever seen. Katie started to feel a little self conscious and she reached her hand up to smooth her hair, thinking perhaps it looked a wreck due to her nap and that was what was holding the girl�s attention.
The mother finally noticed her daughter�s rapt attention to Katie. "She is really fascinated with you," she said, almost in wonder. "Would you like to hold her?" she asked Katie.
Katie was about to say no; she never really did well with children, for some reason they didn�t like her much. However, something compelled her to say yes. She sat the baby on her lap and smiled down at the girl whose stare had gotten even more intent. There was something about the blue eyes that held Katie�s attention. They seemed to hold a message that she couldn�t quite decipher. She looked into them and felt a sense of peace that she had never felt before. It scared her a little at how overwhelming the feeling was.
Suddenly the baby reached up and grabbed a handful of Katie�s hair. Holding the clump of hair in her chubby little fist she declared quite loudly, "Red."
"That�s right sweetie, she has red hair," the mother beamed at the obvious brilliance of her child.
The girl had a pretty strong grip for a baby and Katie wasn�t quite sure how she was going to get her hair back in one piece when she reached out to tickle the little dimple in the girl�s chin. The smile that lit up the baby�s face was incandescent and Katie couldn�t help but grin in response. The child was cute, but when she smiled she was angelic. The baby let go of Katie�s hair and seemed to pat the older girl�s cheek, then yawned.
Katie returned the girl to the mother just as the pilot announced they were beginning the docking procedure. Her attention went to gathering her belongings and she put the couple and the strange but beautiful child out of her thoughts. She walked off the shuttle and towards the Starfleet command center on the Station, looking forward to seeing her dad.
"Wave bye-bye, Annika," Erin Hansen told her daughter who clumsily waved goodbye to the departing figure. "Bye," Annika Hansen called out to the retreating form of Kathryn Janeway.