Chapter 3 - Ready to Re-Write History?
A cold hand clenched at Kati's heart for a fraction of a second at hearing Marla McGiver's calling her 'Katie'. Before panic could set in however, her mind supplied the answer: Katie was a common shortening of Kathryn, the name Khan had given her as an alias. Clever, to give her a name so similar to her own to make it easier for her to adjust to it, though it may have been a simple coincidence, as her research had already revealed to her that she had in fact adopted the name and background of the woman who took her place in her pod.
"Yes, hi, nice to meet you. I'm sorry I wasn't here when you got back, I would have helped you with your things." Kati said with a charming smile as she shook the woman's hand. She had thought a lot in the past few days how she wanted to play things with her intriguing roommate. She held potential to be either a great asset, or dangerous enemy, and while part of that would come down to the woman's own nature, a larger part of it lay in Kati's own hands. If she wished to make an ally of Marla McGivers, she had to first make her a friend.
"Oh no problem, I didn't have much since I left most of my things here, it took no time at all. I was just about to get a cup of tea actually, did you want one?" The redhead asked, turning away to the kitchen.
"That would be great, thanks. I'm just going to go change, I'll only be a minute." Kati accepted, hurrying to her room to change out of her jogging clothes into something more casual, though she left her hair tightly tied back.
"How'd you take your tea?" Marla's voice called through from the living area.
"However it comes, I'm not fussy." She called back, checking her reflection once more before going out.
"Oh I'm very picky when it comes to tea." Marla laughed, carrying two steaming mugs over to the sitting area and handing one to Kati as they took seats "Have you ever tried proper tea, actually from the leaves rather than a replicator?" Kati shook her head, lying of course, but she could hardly reveal that that was all she'd had in her day. "My mum has her own tree, makes it as often as she can, it's lovely. People say you can't tell the difference with this replicator stuff, but when it comes to tea... Better than nothing though." Marla finished with a shrug, taking a sip with a satisfied sigh.
"It sounds like you really take your history seriously, even liking your food and drink prepared the old-fashioned way." Kati quipped as she took a gulp of her own, hoping to draw Marla out on the subject.
Marla laughed. "Well I wouldn't go that far, tea is one thing, but I sometimes have to wonder where people used to find the hours in the day to cook meals from scratch every day. I mean they did have ready-meals in the late 20th to early 21st centuries, which they could just-" She cut herself off with another laugh, "Oh there I go again. Sorry, just ignore me if I keep on about it, you're right, history is something of a passion of mine."
"It's fine." Kati laughed with her, "You're not boring me, yet. Actually, I have to admit I've been intrigued by all these pictures and sculptures since I got here. Did you do them all yourself?"
Marla nodded, giving a humble little shrug. "When I get inspired by what I study, it brings out the artist in me."
Kati got up, putting down her empty mug and taking a closer look at a painting of Leif Erikson. She had seen it plenty of times in the last week, but she still found fascinating. "You have a talent. The detail…"
"It could be better." Marla admitted, standing besides Kati with her mug cradled in both hands. "That was one of my first, I tended to shy away from backgrounds back then. But now we have a holosuite at the uni, we use it quite frequently in history, and one of my Professors, Mr Walker, he says I could book it out for myself sometimes for inspiration. I did one just before I left for break, come see." She beckoned proudly for Kati to follow her into her room. Kati felt a slight twinge of guilt at her flatmate's confidence that she wouldn't have previously invaded her privacy, when she had, but it was pushed aside. As suspected, Marla lead her to the picture of Khan, beaming at it as her pride and joy, and Kati knew she would have to be on her best game if she was going to prevent herself giving anything away, and get all she could out of Marla at the same time.
"Who is he?" She started, with the same hushed respectful tone that would be expected in a library.
"You don't know?" Marla looked momentarily shocked, and Kati worried she'd made a blunder already, but then the artist laughed "Sorry, sometimes I forget not everyone is as obsessed with history as I am. His name was Khan Noonien Singh, a great leader of the augments in the late 21st century." Her eyes fixed once more on the picture as she said it, her pupils dilated and a slight flush appearing across her cheeks.
"You sound like a schoolgirl with a crush." Kati pointed out, laughing with genuine delight. This would certainly make matters easier if it was ever necessary to reveal the truth of matters to Marla.
"Is it that obvious?" Marla's blush deepened and she bit her lip slightly, "I know it probably sounds crazy, but there's just something about the great men of history that makes modern men pale in comparison."
"I suppose. But would you really include Khan Noonien Singh as a great man? I mean sure, he was supposed to be some kind of superman, but he was a tyrant wasn't he? A despot." The words tasted like the foulest of blasphemies, and Kati hated saying them, slandering her great leader before a potential ally. But it was the commonly accepted belief in this time, and to say any different could mark her for who she really was. "All the augments were, that's why we fought them." She added for good measure.
"That's what most history books would have us believe." Marla sighed with a doubtful turn to her lips and eyebrow.
"A historian who disagrees with the history books, now that's got to be a first." Kati folded her arms and leaned back against the doorframe, casual challenge in her manner, as though daring Marla to defend her people. "Go on, you've got me curious."
"Well everyone knows politics often has a way of influencing how history is recorded, making the victors look blameless and the losers look deserving of destruction. But a true historian's job is to look at all accounts without bias and establish the truth of events." Marla started by explaining, perching casually on her bed.
"It doesn't sound that different to law." Kati pointed out.
"I suppose it doesn't. In fact…" Marla propelled up, putting her mug down on her desk as she pulled down one of the historical volumes on the augments that Kati had previously examined. She rifled through its pages, finally finding the one she wanted and waving Kati over to look, pointing triumphantly at the page. "Here, here's the record of the final trial of the surviving augments of the eugenics wars. Give it a look over, and you tell me, as a law student, what is missing?"
With a pounding heart, Kati pulled the book towards her, the words coming to life in her mind, echoing in the voices of those who said them, voices she would never forget. She took a minute to make Marla believe she was reading it over, but she didn't need to to answer Marla's question.
"A defence." She breathed, just glad her voice didn't shake with the emotion.
"Precisely!" Marla agreed jubilantly, oblivious to the depth of Kati's feeling. "I mean, I know very little about law besides historical points, but something seems off about the whole trial to me. It might make an interesting case study for you."
"I'm sure it would." Katie agreed, hardly able to believe how the perfect cover for her researches and the perfect accomplice had just fallen into her lap.
"I was actually planning on writing my thesis on the true history of the augments and the eugenics wars, maybe we could help each other out." Marla continued, meeting Kati's eyes with equal excitement brimming there. "What d'ya think? Ready to re-write history?"
In the few days before term was due to start, a fast friendship started to grow between Kati and Marla. Though as genuinely as Kati was finding her feelings of friendship towards Marla, she couldn't forget the need to stay on her guard, sharing only the most innocent facts about herself and being purposefully vague about her past. If Marla noticed, she didn't comment, though sometimes Kati thought she saw a sympathy in her friend's eyes that suggested she had picked up on her reticence, but was letting it be out of kindness. Kati could only hope others would be as generous.
Their first day arrived in no time, and armed only with her DataPADD, Kati waved goodbye to Marla, whose classes were held in a different campus across the river, and made her way to her own class. The room was laid out like an amphitheatre, with arcing rows of seats looking down on the professor's currently unoccupied desk. Of the students, gathered in chatting clusters around the room, Kati observed that twenty-one were human; two Bolian were sat together at the front of class and one female Vulcan exchange student sat separate from the rest, quietly observing. Not wanting to alienate herself like the Vulcan, Kati made her way towards the main cluster, seating herself one seat over from a young, blonde haired male student. Almost immediately he turned to her, and she gave him a meek smile.
"You don't mind if I sit here, do you?"
"Not at all." He shuffled further round to her, leaning one arm across the back of the chair between them, and holding his other to shake hers as soon as she'd put her Padd down on the slimline desk. "The name's John, and you are?"
"Kathryn." She stopped herself adding her faux last name, not wanting to sound unnaturally formal.
"Nice to meet you, Kathy. Oh, and this is Mike, my roommate." He gestured to a lad with short brown hair in the row in front, who gave her a grin and a nod, "and my girlfriend, Suzette." He finished after a getting a nudge and fake cough from the girl with a blonde bob beside him.
"Hi." Suzette waved leaning around her boyfriend and giving Kati a speculating once-over. Whatever she saw she said nothing, but her smile was a little strained and fake as she continued. "So do you know anyone here?"
"Uh no, my roommate is doing history, she's over the river."
"What about your boyfriend?" She swiftly followed up, the question clearly loaded.
Kati hesitated a second - it was a question that surprisingly hadn't come up with her roommate, though she had been prepared to say she didn't have one for the sake of simplicity. Now though, taking in Mike's obviously interested stare, and Suzette's purposeful posing of the question, it seemed an alternative answer would be better.
"He doesn't go to this school. We've got a bit of a… long distance thing going on." She supplied, just enough detail to prevent further questions, but nothing to trap her later on.
"Must be tough. But don't worry honey, you can stick with us." Suzette kindly offered, visibly more relaxed now she knew that Kati wasn't a threat to her relationship.
"Yeah. And y'know if the long distance thing doesn't work out with your current boyfriend, I'm right here." Mike teased, with the ease of a playboy, causing Suzette to roll her eyes and John to give him a playful kick.
"Oh give it a rest, Mike."
A small giggle escaped Kati at their antics, just as movement caught the corner of her eye from the professor walking into the room. A hush descended across the gathered students, turning back towards the front in their seats as he walked straight up to the electronic whiteboard and scrawled across it, the handwriting transforming into typed text as he went.
Innocent until proven guilty.
"Alright class, my name is Professor Austin, and by way of introducing yourselves can anyone tell me where this quote is from, and what bearing it has upon criminal court proceedings?"
When Kati returned to the flat, she found Marla had beaten her back, already curled up on the sofa with her Padd on her knees, her hair up in a messy bun on the top of her head, and a mug of tea besides her, still mostly full and apparently forgotten. She spared only a brief glance at Kati as she walked in, her eyes drawn back to what she was reading immediately as if by magnetic force.
"How was your first day?" She murmured, taking a sip of her tea and then wrinkling her nose at how cold it had gotten.
Slow, Kati wanted to say. Do humans really need to take so long to learn anything? What had taken her class all day to grasp, she has assimilated in 5 minutes. If the course was run at her speed it would probably take only a matter of weeks to learn it all, not years. But she had to blend in, take the course at human pace so as to appear human. She almost envied the Vulcan, whose proud features could openly proclaim her boredom at the pace.
"It was alright," she said, instead of vocalising the thoughts in her head. "Nothing too difficult to start with. And my classmates seem nice enough."
"Mm, you'll have to introduce me." Marla said with the vagueness of someone whose mind was only barely on the conversation, while simultaneously trying to be elsewhere. Kati smiled and left her to it for a moment, making a trip to the toilet and then the replicator for her own drink before sitting down opposite her friend.
"What about you, how was your day? You seem pretty engrossed in your studies already."
"Hmm? Oh yeah, we just had the basic 'welcome back' and 'here are some more subjects that might interest you if you haven't started your thesis yet' talks, and then they let us get on with it." Marla answered with a shrug, before frowning at her Padd again. "But I'm still stuck over the same point I was last term. I keep skipping ahead and working on other points, but I have to tackle this eventually or the whole thing comes undone. I just can't see around it!"
"Could I help? You did suggest working together, maybe a new perspective can shed some light on things." Kati offered.
Marla sighed as though she doubted it, but trustingly offered up the facts to her companion.
"It's the second Great Eugenics War, I can't figure out the catalyst. Most historical wars are over some kind of resources, food, oil, land, something one has and the other wants to take by force. Other causes are political, someone killed someone important to somewhere else, or simple conquest. But none of those fit with the Eugenic war, they had already conquered the entire world, before sharing it out among themselves, they pooled all their resources, and I can't find any political motivations either. I'm stumped."
Kati chewed her lip in thought. She knew the catalyst perfectly well, had sat in war councils with Khan as reports flooded them on how one of the other generals Khan had elected to rule a portion of the earth was mistreating its inhabitants. Plea after plea came from the humans, begging Khan's help to free them from the oppression. Khan had demanded Hans stand down, and after being denied, had gathered those loyal to him to march on the continent of America and force Hans to obey. But they had been tricked, though Hans was not as benevolent as Khan, he was nowhere near as bad as the humans had made out. But it was too late, the challenge had been made and Hans was more than willing to answer. The humans stood by as the Augments tore each other apart, then made their own stand against the survivors. The rest, as indeed it all was, was history.
"What about the people…humans I mean?" She suggested, measuring her words to lead Marla down the right track, whilst appearing to know little to nothing about it herself.
"What about them? You think they were the resource the Augments fought over, like slaves?" Marla picked at the thread, but started going down the wrong track. Kati was going to have to give her another nudge in the right direction.
"Maybe, maybe not. That book you showed me the other day about the trial, one of the things it was accusing them of said that they tortured the people and worked them like slaves though."
"Yeah, but that trial was bogus, it was complete bull." Marla defended vehemently, "Every other account I've read of Khan's reign says he was a fair and kind ruler. His idea of justice was swift and merciless, but that just served as a deterrent that helped him establish peace over the regions he ruled. They called him the greatest of the tyrants for a reason."
"And what about the other guy?"
Kati could almost see the lightbulb coming on in Marla's head. She sat up straight and then stilled, eyes nearly glowing with excitement, unfocused and flickering as she chased down all the loose threads in her mind and knitted them together.
"Of course! He was protecting humanity, that's what they were designed for! But then did the humans forget whose side he was on or… oh!" She gasped as the whole picture came into view, "A revolution! They knew they couldn't fight the Augments themselves so they turned them against each other, then used the same lies to sentence the survivors."
"So neither of the Augments were cruel then?" Kati fought to contain her emotions, trying to appear only vaguely interested when inside her a weight was lifting, a giddy joy over this small victory, that felt like a foreshadow of the greater ones she could achieve if they could convince others of this.
"I don't know, the evidence in the trial had to come from somewhere but, it's a possibility!" Marla had no such problems, her excitement spilling over. "Oh but this could be the biggest historical breakthrough of our time! I need to go to the archives, I need more data, evidence to back this up so I can present it!" She gathered up her things in a flurry, disposing of her mug in the kitchen and throwing on her coat. She had just reached for the door handle when she stopped, and instead she ran back to Kati, enveloping her in a crushing hug.
"Thank you! Don't wait up!" And then she was gone, leaving Kati smiling to herself on the sofa.
AN: Hi again, sorry for the delay on this chapter, it was part writers block, part life getting busy. Hopefully I'll get the next one done quicker, and a certain someone will be making a reappearance ;)
Thanks to Sassiebone, Elbafo, galwidanatitud and that unnamed guest for your reviews on that last chapter, and all you lovely followers too for your support.