Becoming the Opponent

Characters: Katia Santiago, Klevetati Yoshino

Katia had stepped into the shower before Yoshino awakened, but the fact that she was awake when Katia emerged wasn’t particularly surprising. Katia realized quickly, though, that Yoshino’s awakening had not been a pleasant one.

She was sitting up on the thick mat that served for her bed, naked to the waist. Her white skin was covered in an amazing tapestry of tattoos in a rainbow of colors, but even that was not what drew Katia’s attention first. Rather, Yoshino was clutching one hand to her chest, rocking back and forth with small moans of pain.

Katia gaped for a short second, her glance taking in all the colors radiating off of Yoshino’s pale skin. Then she pulled herself out of it and rushed over to the woman, crouching down in front of her and laying a hand on her shoulder. “What’s wrong?” she asked in concern.

With a deep breath and clench of her teeth, Yoshino stopped rocking, and looked up. “A … bit of phantom limb pain. It hasn’t happened to me for a few months.”

“Phantom limb…” Breaking off, Katia glanced down, for the first time really noticing the loss of one of the Operations officer’s fingers. “I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?” She moved around and sat down next to Yoshino, her hand still on her shoulder reassuringly.

Yoshino sighed gently. “Maybe go put the water on for some tea? This will pass soon enough.”

“I will do that,” Katia said quietly with a small smile as she stood and moved into the living area. She quickly moved into the small kitchenette and took the teapot, placing it on to heat up. When she returned, Yoshino had slipped on a simple shift that left her arms bare — covered with tattooing almost to the wrist. “It should be ready in a few minutes. Are you sure you are all right?”

Yoshino nodded slowly. “It’s already passing. Usually I can ignore it, but it caught me by surprise this time. I’m sorry for worrying you,” she said, managing a bow even while sitting.

Katia smiled and shook her head. “There is no need to apologize. It just took me by surprise is all. I had honestly never noticed it before.”

“This?” Yoshino displayed her left hand, which Katia could clearly see was missing most of its little finger, including both knuckles. “I try not to call attention to it.”

“Well, I suppose that is why I never noticed it before. Let me get some tea for you. Do you need anything for the pain?”

She shook her head. “Thank you, but no, it is already passing now. I would be grateful for some tea, however.”

“Then I will get some. Hold on,” she stated and moved back to prepare the tea as Yoshino had taught her when she first moved in. While she was at it, she fixed herself a cup as well, having found she really liked it.

Yoshino had not moved when Katia returned, but was clearly more relaxed than before. “You’re looking better,” Katia stated before moving to hand the other woman her cup and then sat down next to her. “I wish there was more I could do.”

“It’s all right,” Yoshino said. “What’s done is done, and I must make my own peace with it, in time.”

Katia crossed her legs in front of her and then glanced down at the floor at that, her mind instantly thinking of Dunstan… and herself, and how that sounded so familiar. “I think we all have to do that in one form or another,” she offered quietly.

“This…” Yoshino gestured with the damaged hand — “was one form of payment. But not enough, which is why I am here.”

Katia looked up at Yoshino sharply, wondering what she was talking about before asking, not wanting to pry but felt the woman needed someone to talk to. “What do you mean?”

“Have you heard of the yakuza?”

Katia closed her eyes, trying to remember where she had heard the term. “Vaguely,” she said as she opened her eyes again, “a group in Asia….” She shook her head. “I can’t seem to remember much more then that. I tended to deal with more external influences back on Earth.”

“An ancient criminal order. I was one of them.”

“You?” she asked, with a bit of shock. “I would have never thought…”

Yoshino looked away. “I was young … and very lonely. They gave me a place to be, a job to do.”

“I suspect they attract quite a few people that way. That must have been a very difficult time.”

“It never bothered me, until after, to be honest. I fled Earth in fear for my life, and joined the Rangers when I realized I needed to give back all that I had taken over the years.”

“How long were you with them?”

“Ten years.”

Katia glanced down into her tea and took a sip, not wanting to seem as if she was prying.

“Do you really want to hear my story? I must say it’s hardly pleasant, not something I go out of my way to wish on anyone, even the knowledge.”

Katia smiled slightly at that. “Actually, I did not wish to appear like I was prying into something personal. But, I am always willing to offer an ear.”

“I was hardly the image of a gangster. I barely knew one end of a gun from the other. But I did know computers, and I knew mechanical systems. I became quite the masterful saboteur.”

Katia looked over at Yoshino, listening silently.

“I did what I was told, not really paying much attention to what I was really doing. My oyabun took care of me, so I obeyed him, like the father he was to me.”

Katia took a sip of her tea, and reached up to place a lock of hair behind her ear to get it out of her face. “Oyabun?”

“The leader of our clan — our gang. Like the Western Mafia, the yakuza organize on the form of a family, sometimes with real blood ties.”

“And, it never entered you mind, how many lives you were affecting? What types of orders would they have you do?”

“Once … I brought down the entire computer system of a hospital.”

“That can be so impersonal, so removed from what is going on, I can see where you might not realize the damage you are doing. Did it ever cross your mind?”

“Not particularly. Not until I was running for my own life, did I take the time to think. Then I began to wonder if I should have let them have their vengeance and kill me.”

“I think that those who try to carry on and atone for those whom they have hurt have a greater courage then those who choose to give up and die,” she answered quietly, glancing into Yoshino’s face.

“Perhaps. Is that … why you went to see Kordieh?”

A look of surprise passed across Katia’s face. She didn’t think anyone had known where she had been headed. She nodded slowly before responding quietly, “Partially. But, with Dunstan…there is more.”

“More?” It was a single word but still managed to speak volumes.

Katia nodded and glanced down. “Yes, more. It is totally and completely crazy. But, yes, in the end that is what, at first, led me to continue seeing him.”

Yoshino looked at Katia for several seconds before brushing several stray locks of snowy hair away from her face. “A kindred soul,” she said at last.

“Possibly… very possibly,” she paused for a second, remembering her trip to Minbar to see him. She shook herself out of it and looked up at Yoshino, “And, that is why you joined the Rangers? To atone and repay the debt you had?”

“Mostly that, and — ” Her comm screen chirped, and Yoshino quickly got up to look. “It’s a message from Voice of the Resistance,” she said after a moment. “A relay of an ISN transmission.”

The Chief Engineer blinked. “What?” Then she stood and walked over as well.

They stood shoulder to shoulder, watching the message that told of the battle for Earth, Clark’s final treachery, and the triumph of John Sheridan and the Army of Light. The war was over. Earth belonged to herself once more.

Katia paled, her shock evident in her face. Slowly, she sat down on the small couch just behind them.

“Another cycle ends and begins,” Yoshino said softly.

The war is over…” Katia said almost absently, trying to convince herself of the fact.

“This war, anyway.”

She glanced up at Yoshino. “Yes, now the personal wars can begin.” She shook her head slowly, having almost convinced herself that this day would never come.

Yoshino gave Katia another long, silent look. Finally, she asked, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “When are you leaving, then?”

“For Mars?” she asked, surprised the Operations officer could surmise so much from so little. “As soon as I can gather enough information to get us in and out safely. I have to make a few contacts first.”

“So it’s Mars that is your battlefield. Who is going with you, then?”

Katia stood and walked the short distance to the bulkhead, facing away from Yoshino. “I don’t know if she will agree to go or not, but I can hope she does.”

Yoshino waited and sipped her tea, waiting for the rest of it.

“Kim…” she paused as she turned to look at Yoshino, “Kim Matsumoto. My daughters… her nieces, are down there. And, I have to go back to save them.”

“I would go with you, but too many for such a task is not wise. And someone will have to watch over the Phoenix while you are gone. But I can at least offer you a gift and some advice.” Yoshino set down her cup and walked over to her small desk.

Katia blinked, totally shocked at the offer from her roommate. It seemed she had friends in places she didn’t realize. “I am honored by the offer.”

“I only just got this myself,” Yoshino said, opening the desk and withdrawing a small book. “From T’rar, who said he could find another. And so can I. You may find it useful.” She handed it over. The cover bore a Japanese woodcut picture of a samurai warrior, and the title, “The Book of Five Rings.”

Katia took the book and brushed gently at the cover before smiling softly, “How can this help?”

“It contains all the advice you will need. Study it during your journey.”

Katia looked over at her and nodded, bowing slightly in the Minbari tradition. “I will do so. And again, am honored. Thank you.”

Yoshino smiled a little, and bowed from the waist. “The least I can do for a friend.”

Katia glanced down suddenly, her eyes becoming a bit moist as she said quietly, “A friend?” Then she looked up at Yoshino with an openness that hadn’t been there for many years. “Yes, a friend.” She smiled at the woman in front of her.

Yoshino’s pale eyes gleamed. “Let me get some proper clothes on and we’ll find some breakfast. There’s a lot of work to be done today.”

Katia chuckled, realizing she had to finish getting ready herself. “Will anyone be able to work today?”

“With a great deal more joy than before? No doubt at all.”

(C) Copyright 1998 Jamie Lawson and Tamara Friese. All rights reserved.

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