Characters: Terry Hale, Jordan Toussaint
Terry stopped as she was passing one of the two tactical chambers that were a recent addition to the bridge design. Once a blank sheet of paneling behind the tactical console, the two doorways were a little like trying to look into the cellar back home. Dark, full of strange sounds, and uncertain footing beyond the first step.
“Who’s there?” called Jordan out of one of the holes.
“Terry,” she called back. “I wondered if you were still working on those.”
“Yeah… I thought I’d be done sooner, but two isn’t like one. I’d have gone with a single if it weren’t for the fact that the Phoenix is just too big for one person in a large conflict,” Jordan said. “I’ve about got it sorted out, though. Want to give it a try?”
Terry glanced back at the quiet bridge. Nothing of significance should happen for several hours if not days. “Sure. I haven’t had a go with these things in ages.”
“Hop right in door number two.”
There were a couple hand rails on either side of the hole, but not a support in sight beyond the upper lip of the opening.
“What happens when the physical support systems fail in there?” Terry asked.
“You fall on your ass,” Jordan said frankly, and with a certainty that spoke of hands-on experience. “But it’s not that far a drop. Don’t worry though, all in order today.”
Trusting, Terry stepped out into the dark. For a brief instant there was that feeling like she’d missed a step going down the stairs, an answering spurt of adrenaline, then invisible supports caught her body, brought her down and oriented her correctly within a the sea of stars.
“Best view in the house. Or worst, depending on the situation,” Jordan said.
“No kidding.” Terry reached out her hands into the enormity of space, and there was a bloom of glowing lines and Minbari symbols defining position, weapons’ status and target search. The palms of her hands were met with resistance and she instinctively wrapped her fingers around in an attempt to define its edges. Nothingness conformed to a comfortable grip in her hands and put the functions of the ship’s defenses under her fingers. “Oh.. this is better.”
There was a grin in Jordan’s voice when he said, “Give it a try. It’s on training mode, so nothing’s really going to fire off.”
Terry didn’t need further prompting, spinning and twisting her body around to capture the entirety of the area they were passing through. The weapons responded cleanly to every pressure from her hands. “This makes me wonder why they never put this in for the helm. It’s so instinctive.”
“No reason helm controls couldn’t be transferred to one of the chambers, but yeah, I know what you mean,” he replied. “So you want to have something to shoot at besides stars?”
“Training kit included? Go ahead and pull something up.”
“You bet. I’ll let the Phoenix do a pick here…”
As Jordan’s voice trailed off, the stars blinked out for a few moments, leaving velvet blackness, and the fragile glow of the controls. Then it all came back, in a location that was on the edge of memory.
The kick to Terry’s slow recall came in the form of a Shadow’s mind-invading scream. And then it’s creator rippled out of the void between the stars, hurtling forward.
It was just as well the controls weren’t voice activated – Terry’s throat had closed, the amusement of a new gadget to explore, forgotten. A moment, then her hands squeezes on the controls and she leaned into the barrage of fire sent toward the Shadow ship. Into the silence, sensors read off the damage to both opponents, and then with a second and final scream, the Shadow ship came apart, spinning away into the dark. Terry gulped air, and her eyes wandered to the readings. Energy levels were struggling to rise again after the excessive output.
“Are you all right?” Jordan asked cautiously.
“The Phoenix picked that one?”
“Yeah,” Jordan paused for a long moment, “I was wondering if she was going to do that again.”
Terry ignored the gender-labeling for the moment, and asked irritably, “Wondered? This some kind of experiment?” She was more unsettled by the episode than she cared to admit. Somehow, she had managed to forget just how terrifying the Shadows were, and acted on that fear at the controls.
“Not intentionally,” Jordan said quickly, “It’s just, I’ve let the Phoenix pick for the last dozen times or so… and she’s usually picked the Shadows.”
“And the other ones were the Centauri?” Terry suspected the ship was picking up on the hits on the database, and using the statistics. There was an awareness, after all…
“Yeah a couple were, no big surprise, right?” Jordan said. He sounded a little embarrassed, like he was passing some sort of sensational gossip. “But one of them was something different. It wasn’t anything the Phoenix was going to give a face to. Just this vague ship shape like a practice target, leaving the values open to editing.
“She gave it a name, though. ‘Drakh’.”
Copyright © 2002 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.