Characters: Terry Hale, Klevetati Yoshino
Hale settled herself into the Captain’s chair on the Phoenix with a few more misgivings than she’d have cared to admit to, far too many of them smacking of superstitious dread. The creations of ignorance, she always maintained.
And in Vorlon Space, fancy that, she thought, a wry smile creeping up.
Hale leaned closer to one arm of the captain’s chair and tapped the controls embedded into it. It was high time they got over waiting. Work would go some way toward easing the dread.
First, a channel open to the Hellfire. She looked up as the viewscreen shimmered down and the line opened. There was not the face of a Captain, or even a Commander, but rather an ensign on the near deserted bridge. Hale kept her surprise from showing and asked for a channel to Fragomeni, wherever he might be.
“He’s in an important meeting, ma’am. Can I take a message?”
Where did they get this one? A refugee from some temp help Agency? Hale sighed inwardly and informed the man that, “No, he may not.” Closing the line, she dictated a short message, and sent it to the Hellfire to wait on its captain’s appearance.
They were moving out to find the White Star 24. His crew could begin the survey of the first planet and see if there were any trails or clues to the sightings. Fragomeni would not know until later that his wished for interruption had gotten slapped down by an overzealous, would-be secretary.
Messages went out in a similar fashion over the Phoenix as well. She just prayed she got these people’s names right.
“DeVries, I want you and your squad out on scout duty, ASAP. Not telling what condition the WS24 is in. We need as big a sensor net as we can manage. Keep Tactical up on what you find.
“Matsumoto, I need everything your team’s got on the Vorlons and break out the EVA gear. Every crewmember must have a full set, thermals and all. We’ll be getting back to the planets before long, and we’ll need them.
“Santiago, I take it you got your team in? Once you’ve got things settled in, I need reports on ship’s efficiency, and see that you’ve got full teams on during every shift.
“Trassano, you’re probably already on this, but see that what patients you have are fully secured, and turn out any who can be. I hate to plan pessimistically, but best to have all the beds you can free and keep a full crew on at all times.”
Hale paused on sending a message to Darquin in Security. No… she needed to do that one face to face. In private. Her glance flickered irresistibly toward the door of Shaver’s office. There was that meeting to finally get out of the way too, but first things first. She still had Ops and Helm right under her nose to talk to.
Yoshino looked up from her console at the Captain Hale’s approach, and rose to bow, pleased that she would have a chance to serve. “Captain. May I take my turn to welcome you aboard.”
Hale waved her back into her seat, smiling slightly to take any edge off the abrupt gesture. “Thank you…?”
“Anla-shok Klevetati Yoshino.”
“Yoshino.” Hale nodded, placing a hand on the back of her chair. “How are our systems running? Frankly I’m not familiar with a ship like the Phoenix.”
Yoshino allowed herself a brief flush of pride in the magnificent piece of the shipwright’s craft in her charge. “It is not dissimilar to the White Stars, save for its size. At present, all our systems are running at, or very near, full efficiency.” The corners of her mouth twitched slightly in an ironic smile. “We’re as ready as we ever will be for whatever is out there.”
“Good.” Hale gave the console a thoughtful glance, lines deepening around her green eyes. “I’ve already sent the data to Engineering and Tac, but I’d like you to have a look at the data from my last encounter. Perhaps we can find some way to anticipate… With any luck, this ship will be better up to self-repairing from the damage my ship took out there.”
“I only hope things will not come to that,” Yoshino said fervently. “I would very much like to see the data from the last encounter. Perhaps there is a sensor spike, or something.”
Hale leaned over Yoshino’s shoulder and tapped in the access to the files. “Perhaps. And there you are.”
Yoshino brushed a few stray locks of white hair away from her face as she leaned forward to study the data. For a moment she never noticed Hale move away, leaning to speak with the Minbari at Helm. Soon the Phoenix was moving, the Hellfire, and then the planet, dwindling in the distance.
After giving her orders to Helm, Hale returned to Yoshino’s shoulder. “I wish we’d had more time to analyze it, but most of my people were busy plugging the proverbial holes in the dam,” Hale said quietly.
Pointing to the console, Yoshino said, “There is a serious energy spike here, a few moments prior to impact.” Her eyebrows suddenly rose in alarm. “But look at this. Whatever that weapon is, it appears to have been designed to be particularly effective against organic technology.”
Hale grimaced. “Any theories? The only thing any of my people can remember is a blinding flash and–” She snapped her fingers. “We were sliding.”
Yoshino looked puzzled. “Sliding?”
“As if we’d been shoved. It was a miracle we weren’t crushed by the sheer force.”
Yoshino’s voice lowered in horror, though her eyes remained riveted on the data before her. “It is as if the White Star 21 was not damaged, but wounded. Could it… could it have been a living being that attacked?”
“Possible…” Hale frowned. “Something with similar technology, perhaps?” Her voice grew quieter. “I could believe the Drahk, but… it seemed beyond what they’ve shown so far.”
“We didn’t know about the Drahk before,” suggested Yoshino. “Perhaps this is another race, not quite as advanced as the First Ones were, but a bit… ahead of the curve on this sort of technology. It would explain why they are interested in Vorlon space.”
“Just the sort of thing we don’t want to contemplate, hm?” Hale couldn’t seem to help the wry amusement in her tone.
Picking up on it, Yoshino said, “Something I heard once, from a children’s story, perhaps? ‘You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.'” She smiled.
Hale chuckled softly. “Indeed.” Her expression turned thoughtful. “I wonder…. Our ships are supposed to learn. Could it learn from the sensor input recorded from my ship?”
Yoshino’s eyes went wide, her reply little more than a long exhalation. “Yes….” Her hands flew over the console, sending the data to the Phoenix’s artificial intelligence. She murmured encouragement to the Phoenix under her breath. “Quickly, quickly now, my dear….”
Hale watched, smiling a little at Yoshino’s affection. The Ops officer turned toward her. “It will take some time to process, but I will monitor her progress.” She thumbed her link. “Engineering, Ops. Requesting immediate reroute of any nonessential power to the Phoenix’s AI and auto-repair systems.”
“Good,” said Hale. “Hopefully it will serve to toughen us.” She straightened. “Keep me updated.” Checking her link to be sure it was on, she added, “I’ll be away from the bridge for a time.”
“I will keep you informed, Captain.”
Hale nodded, turned away. “Morgan? You have the bridge.” She strode away for the Lift and Security level.