A Favor Returned

Characters: Miina Awenata

Miina rubbed her hands together to warm them. Her fingers were cold and were refusing to obey her. Reaching up to where she thought the access panel should be, she sought to reassure Tass, who stood on the deck below and was becoming increasingly agitated. “I’ve found it,” she lied, as her fingers fumbled overhead. She knew he was right, and that she should probably stop, and get them both to medlab. He was probably in much greater pain than he let on, and she knew she was keeping him from getting the attention he needed.

It was clear he wasn’t going anywhere without her, but she was driven. For some reason, she felt that she had to keep going. She sensed she had little time left to make an effective contribution to the operation of the ship and that if she stopped, something would go unattended to, a crucial relay unchecked would fail. And they needed all the help they could get to keep the Phoenix going. There was still a myriad of things that could go wrong, but she shook the thought from her head and willed her fingers to find the panel before the cold claimed her any further.

She heard Tass sigh. “Miina,” he said, his voice suddenly sounding very parental, “I want you to come down out of that junction port…”

“No!” The answer raged within her, but she managed to keep her voice calm. “It will only take me a few minutes to check the backup relays. If anything else happens, they will need to be running at 100 per cent.” Her voice struck a positive note as she found the access panel and opened it. “Besides, I’ve done this a few dozen times in the dark anyway…the last ship I was on seemed to have a glitch in the systems lights. We were always working in the dark.”

“Someone else can check that,” Tass insisted, but his voice sounded far away as she focused her mind on the access panel. Once it was opened, she found that the whole junction felt as if it has been wrenched, and twisted back into shape. She felt for the connectors and nearly held her breath as first one, then the next, and the third were solid. “The ship is up and running…in a manner of speaking,” Tass was saying. “I think it’s time we both got ourselves to medlab…”

She sighed, though not loud enough for him to hear. He was right, but how could she explain to him that she had a ‘feeling’ that she wasn’t quite done? “I’m sorry…it was selfish of me to keep you, ” she said softly. “You must be in pain. I’ll meet you in medlab in just a few…” She gasped as she felt a rupture in the fourth connector housing at the far end of the access panel. The relay would be non-functional. And even if she had her sight back, it was something that might have been easily missed. A cursory glance of the connections would show all at normal. But the rupture was there, she could feel it, but it was on the backside of the junction itself.

She wondered how could it have happened and not disturbed the other three. But as soon as the thought crossed her mind, she suspected that perhaps they had all been ruptured, and that the self-repair systems had only managed to fix the first three. She knew the ship’s systems were being stretched beyond their limits. If the backup relays had been activated, with a rupture of this sort, the whole junction might have blown. Now she prayed that it could be fixed before they had to rely on it.

“Miina?” Tass called to her. “What is it? What is wrong?”

“Number four,” she told him. “Dead.”

“We’ll have to get a repair crew up here,” he told her.

“No!” she said, this time protesting aloud, “It’s way up inside, and I doubt if it could be seen.” She pushed against the bulkhead with her other hand, as if that would hold the encroaching cold away, and steeled herself against the chill. “And I won’t risk someone telling me I’m imagining things,” she managed, “and shuttle me off to medlab while the ship is in danger.” She took a breath. “If these systems are activated, one after the other will blow, and cascade directly into bulkhead… And the ship’s been torn apart enough as it is.”

Tass knew the danger she spoke of. There was a chance that they wouldn’t have to use the backup systems at all. But if they had to… He looked down at his own damaged link, and knew Miina’s wasn’t working either.

“We have to tell the bridge,” he called up to Miina, and turned to find the nearest comm panel.

“Tell them I’m trying to activate the self-repair system in the unit, but that I may need some extra shielding. There’s some missi….” A cold, shimmering haze clouded her mind, and she struggled to push it aside.

“Miina?” Tass called, hearing her voice change and then stop mid-word. “What is the matter?”

She shivered. “Nothing. I’m all right.” She took another breath. “Just a little cold up here…”

“Cold? You are probably going into shock,” Tass told her. “Come down out of there…I’ll call for a repair team…”

“Just call Yoshino,” she told him, hanging on to each word like a buoy that would keep her afloat. “Let her know…” She put her hand over the rupture and it covered the gap. Barely. The self-repair system would normally have repaired the damage immediately, but the strain on the ship’s systems was painfully evident. And without additional shielding, the repair could not be made.

She took a deep breath to clear her mind, and searched with her other hand to see if any of the missing shielding was nearby. She did not dare to move the hand that spanned the rupture, for fear she would not be able to find the damaged area again. She didn’t know quite where she was reaching, but somehow sensed that it was well-hidden. Having no success with finding the missing shielding, she sighed again, and pressed her other hand up against the bulkhead, and suddenly had the feeling as if she was comforting a sick, or injured, friend.

I understand.” Her own words echoed in her mind and a strange sense of deja vu passed over her. Then she remembered.

She had been scanning for damage when her attention had been drawn to a power grid in front of her, her mind clear and unclouded by thoughts or memories, and she noticed one small connection that needed her immediate attention. There had been no words nor thoughts exchanged, as she was, for a moment, connected with the ‘artificial’ intelligence — the Vorlon technology based ‘bio-mechanics’ which made up the Phoenix. Her mind was redirected by some sort of…presence… was the only word she could think of to describe it. Words were so limiting.

“But…” she remembered whispering,”you are not…finished…with me, are you?”

She pressed her hand more firmly over the rupture, and felt a strange sensation as if light were suddenly passing through her hand, and then the feeling of her strength draining from her fingertips. As her fingers spanned the opening, she could feel the shielding first tentatively, and then strong and solid as it followed the form of her hand and bridged the gap. In only a moment, the rupture was closed. She breathed deeply as she was able to let go of the repaired connector.

“Now,” she whispered, feeling her consciousness ebb away, “you are finished with me…”

Copyright (C) 1998 Judy Caswell. All rights reserved.


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