I pushed up off the floor one last time and got my knees under me. I had been staring at the pile of books inches from my nose for the last few minutes. They were Connie's books, not yet added to the pile in the common room that someone labeled the New York Public Library. They had titles like Area 51- Revealed? and Great American Cover-Ups.
Our room was big for a spaceship, huge for a place assigned to the army - ten paces across the gray floor that occasionally looked metallic blue or green in a different light. We were assigned roommates. There was still plenty of room on the floor for exercises or routines or knife-throwing if you were really angry and don't want to go out.
(I couldn't have those days.)
Usually Connie was all hips, tightly balled up and facing away from me. But then one day she was just staring at the sky, her eyes really big and her hair floppy. I didn't dislike her.
I got into bed, worked the tie out of my hair, and pulled the covers up over my blue pajamas. Connie started to talk just as I closed my eyes and realized I'd forgotten to turn the light off.
"Where are you from?"
I turned over to look at her. "New York City," I replied. "Why?"
She waited a few moments before responding. "Figures. That's why you make us get everything done so fast."
"...Connie, you don't have to be snide all the time."
"Call me CT now."
I sighed. "Make sure you let everybody know that. We can't have anyone getting confused about who's who over the radio."
The silence was angry. CT was still staring at the ceiling like she was lying under the stars, with the blankets clenched to her face like she was doing it in January.
I said, "We're an elite group. Getting things done fast and well is not an option. It's not a quirk. It's what we do."
"I'm confused. York was just telling me that I shouldn't be so angry too, except he said I should relax. Wash tries to remind me that I'm 'one of the guys'." Her tone gave it quote marks. "And you say 'elite group' and put the pressure right back on."
"Now I'm the one confused. Being elite and relaxing aren't exclusive."
(They couldn't be for me.)
That must have been food for thought for her. She quieted down until I thought of turning off the light.
CT said, "So, what's in the Sarcophagus?"
"I don't know," I said, surprised that she would ask out of the blue.
"He didn't tell you."
I couldn't tell what her tone of voice was saying: it sounded like a little bit of pride, a little bit of sadness. He, of course, meant the Director. I said, "No."
"I thought you were the best of friends."
I said, "The internal affairs team meet with all of us. You know that."
"He meets with you a lot." CT insisted on giving the Director his pronoun, even though an internals meeting usually also involved the Counselor and a tech or two.
I explained. "I'm on the top of the board."
CT did not respond.
It was odd to talk like this with her: not only did we not talk alone very often, the team was not encouraged to discuss missions privately. "We're not supposed to ask about the Sarcophagus."
"Don't you find that strange?" CT snapped. She sat up and turned over, glaring.
"CT, you're suspicious about everything. You don't like when we get a new brand of coffee." I looked pointedly at the pile of books on the floor.
"The box wasn't sealed and this is an experimental program. The Director could have put anything in there." She paused. "I was just trying to keep the conversation work-related." She rolled over onto her back again, and I did too. Was she trying to make small talk? That usually didn't go very well.
(Last time it had gone like this:
Her, coming out of armor processing with her black-patterned bulletproof suit on: "I heard you went to the firing range with Wash this morning."
Me: "We were practicing throwing knives. What do you want, Connie?"
Implied: Not from you.
Her: "Just checking."
Me, noticing that she is looking at her reflection in the glass wall instead of at me, and that she was out late last night organizing the library: "Wait, do you think-"
Her: "It's fine. Who we're friends with isn't a competition."
Me, inwardly: Competition? I'm good at those. I could make it one.
Me: "The team practices. That's how we survive. Don't get distracted."
Her, looking at me now with childishly clear eyes: "For once, I'm not worried at all. I know you're not competing. I see. When you smile at Wash you smile like a model. When you smile at York you smile like a person."
That was how it went.)
I turned back over and burrowed against the pillow, strands of my hair covering my eyes. It didn't matter. I wanted to sleep. I usually fell asleep fast.
But Connie kept talking today. It sounded like she needed to hear the sound of her own voice or to get something out, and it would improve morale if I listened. I opened one eye. She almost sat up, looking around for me, like something had frightened her. When she lay back down and saw that I was looking at her she hunched her thin shoulders and hackled. She hadn't wanted me to see her fear. That was not good for morale either. As a team we needed to trust one another with things. With nearly anyone, I trusted them even in their mistakes. York and I, or Wash, or Maine, could joke around because they were comfortable in their own mistakes.
South blamed her mistakes on anyone besides herself, and Connie was so incredibly uncomfortable with hers that she made everyone else uncomfortable too. They were childish in different ways. Connie was easier to deal with: I was beginning to think I could figure out her childish fears and teach her to calm down.
Except Connie wanted to be called CT, because she did not like her name.
She said, Are you going to turn the light off?"
I said, "Right," and got up. I crossed to the light switch and surveyed the room for a last moment before I couldn't see it any more. My left hand drifted against the door, and I couldn't help thinking about the couch in the common room and how everyone would gather there. Across the room was my locker, my hair clips and lipstick set carefully on its edge in a precise line.
Connie said, "Why do you trust the Director so completely?"
I took one step and stopped. "Why don't you?"
"Because ever since he started that board he's been forcing us to compete. That's not how teams work. And this program - what is he even doing? Why don't we ever hear from anyone in the UNSC besides him and the Counselor? What is that Sarcophagus?"
I said, "This is a top-secret program. It's even secret from most UNSC officers. That explains everything that you see as the Director being malicious. There is no problem."
I turned off the lights, stomped back to bed the best I could in bare feet, and lay back down.
Her voice floated out of the dark. "Tell me what the Sarcophagus is."
"I don't know what it is."
"Tell me what he's doing with it."
"I don't know."
"Tell me you're okay with not knowing."
I closed my eyes. I could hear her moving around, trying to get comfortable. She couldn't sleep. (I couldn't have those days.) I thought that she should try counting sheep, counting hours until the next morning when we had to get up and eat together, our movements synchronized, and do our job. Eight, seven, six, five. I heard shifting sounds. Four, three, two.
Author's Note: This story had a lot of inciting emotions. I dislike Carolina with a passion: among unique female characters like CT and 479 she seemed to me to, especially in the last few episodes of the heist, be falling into the fiery warrior cliche that drove me so enthusiastically away from the female characters in the Star Wars fandom. I can't identify with someone with so much confidence and practical perfectionism, but was told that it might be a good life skill to do so. Therefore, the first person perspective is somewhat therapeutic. It also enabled me to mask with dialogue the fact that I still have no idea what's going on in Carolina's head.
In the middle of writing this I also came across a LiveJournal post from another fandom encouraging writers to do more female-centric gen fic, which is an excellent idea. Unless you really want to exclude it by counting talking about the program as talking about the Director, this fic passes the Bechdel Test.
This also unintentionally became a parallel story to "Left-Side Senses", so I might do a series of "CT has meaningful conversations with everybody" stories.