In a Mirror, Dimly
Characters: Klevetati Yoshino, Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Katia Santiago
Katia finally pulled herself out of the tube into Engineering and looked around in the semi-darkness. The emergency lights strung by earlier teams cast just enough illumination to see by, and throw a surfeit of eerie shadows through the vast space. “This isn’t good,” she muttered, walking over to the main console.
Behind her, Yoshino emerged from the service shaft. She looked around the gloom in dismay, but not shock. Her senses had begun to dull to horror, and she was determined not to give in to it, in any case. “It is no different here than anywhere else, is it,” she said, an observation rather than a query.
Katia shook her head, taking Yoshino’s comment literally. “No…maybe worse. I don’t like the looks of things. Dissecting this ship to take some over for analysis will not be easy…” She opened a panel under the main console, looking for the organic memory.
Half to herself, Yoshino said, “If anything about this mission becomes easy, I will be most shocked.” Then, louder, she added, “What can Darion and I do to assist you here?”
Katia continued her thought. “If things have gone far enough, the backup batteries for the memory my have failed, and then we will have nothing.” She paused a moment, considering Yoshino’s question. “See if you can find any ounce of power anywhere in the system… we may need it.”
Yoshino nodded, and she and Darion began examining the generators.
Looking into the console, Katia was confronted with a mass of blown circuitry. She swore softly under her breath and pulled herself further into the panel, toward the hidden paneling that housed the organic memory.
“Katia, I think I may have something,” Yoshino called from across the room. She added softly, “And perhaps another clue, as well.”
Katia pulled herself out of the paneling quickly and bumped her head on the top. Swearing loudly, she stood up, rubbing her head. The soft hood of her EVA suit had done little to ease the impact. “What is it?” she asked, walking over to Yoshino.
Darion said soothingly, “Gently, Katia.”
She glared slightly at him, then said dryly, “Thanks.”
Yoshino was kneeling before a locker containing portable batteries. She showed one to Katia, along with the meter she had attached to it.
“These are chemical reaction batteries. They were drained at the same time as … whatever it was … hit the ship. But after that, they have begun to build up a little power again, as the chemical reaction continued.”
Katia blinked. “How in God’s name….” She took the battery and examined it.
“So can you see what this means?”
Katia nodded slowly, and then her attention was distracted a moment. Even through her carefully placed defenses, Katia sensed Kim drawing near. The other telepath had a presence that was as often overwhelmingly “loud” as psychically invisible… and today wasn’t a good day. Katia could easily sense the horror leaking through Kim’s barriers, walls stressed by the day’s events. Katia decided to ignore it for now, and turned her attention back to Yoshino.
Moments later Kim turned into the open doorway, and tapped on to the open channel to announce her presence. To come up behind in this place silently, she’d have deserved a bad reaction. “Any luck?” she murmured.
Deep in thought, Katia muttered, “It means that whatever hit the ship was a one time hit, not a continuing field….”
Yoshino heard her link chirp, and turned to see her friend. She smiled; seeing another living being in this place made her feel almost like rejoicing. “Kim! I am glad you’re here.” She added brightly, “And yes, I think so. Not much, but perhaps something.”
Katia looked up at Kim with a nod and got to her feet. “Kim…”
Kim nodded to Katia, but focused upon Yoshino. “Good. There’s little to be found in Science, except more questions.”
Darion continued Katia’s thought as he came to join the huddle. “Which makes sense, otherwise our EVA suits and the temporary lighting would have shut down as soon as we got here.”
Kim glanced at Darion. “Oh?”
“If it were a continuous flow, or a dampening field of some sort, all of our gear would have gone the way of the ship,” Katia elaborated.
Kim shook her head. “Yes, of course.” As she realized, her gaze shifted to the engines. She had been running too many hours on too little. “You think it possible to bring some samples back to the Phoenix? If we get enough for a cross section…”
“It is possible, but it won’t be easy…. I think a portion of the hull would be best for that. And I want to bring the organic memory as well.”
Katia continued, as all the fragments of information they had gathered began to resolve themselves into a theory. “The organic members of the ship are interdependent of the mechanical… what if it was struck hard, disabling the organic portions of the ship, but only drained the inorganic to the point that she was unable to revive or fix the damage of the organic parts of the ship and she finally gave up and died… given a quick enough burst that could happen in a matter of seconds…”
Beneath her EVA, Kim shivered.
“Which would also explain why Captain Hale’s ship survived,” said Yoshino. “It took a glancing blow, not a direct hit.”
Katia was nodding, deep in thought yet again. “Exactly… but we won’t know for sure until I get the memory and a cross section of the hull for analysis.” She turned to face Yoshino. “And, you have the uplinks of the final moments from the ship, correct? Do you think that will include the ship’s readings just before she died?”
“All on crystals. We can look at it when we get back to the Phoenix. Should I help with removing a portion of the hull?”
Katia gave her a sharp glance. “Have you ever been on an extravehicular EVA?”
Yoshino shook her head. Katia smiled slightly, knowing that an EVA was more difficult than it sounded, and that this was not the time for Yoshino to get her first experience at walking out in space.
“I have, if help is needed,” Kim said briskly, using the opportunity to pull herself back to the here and now. At that, Katia nodded, knowing Kim would be the best for the job at hand. She could sense Kim’s discomfiture, and did her best to block it.
Darion added, “I have extensive experience in deep-space ship construction.” As an afterthought, he added wryly, “Deconstruction won’t be much different.”
“But why do we have to go out?” asked Yoshino. “Can’t we take a section from the interior side of the hull?”
“No, we need the outside to see if there is any residue that might give hints as to what hit the ship.”
“Also, if we were to do it from within, we’d still have to drag it through the maintenance tunnels… not advisable,” Kim added.
Yoshino bowed slightly in acknowledgment. “Point taken.”
Katia nodded at them both. “Okay, let’s do it, then! Let me extract the organic memory first. Shouldn’t take longer than half an hour.” Without wasting a moment, she took one of the batteries and returned to the hole under the console.
Yoshino pulled several more batteries from the locker and placed them where they would be close to hand for Katia. They hung in the air, like the frozen image of a fall. “Perhaps, if there is nothing more I can do here, I should return to the Phoenix and begin analysis of the data crystals.”
Kim nodded. “And I should go with Darion to see about the cross section. Will you be all right alone here, Katia?”
From under the console, Katia answered, “I will be fine… catch you on the flip side, Kim.” No one could see the beginnings of a smile on her face, as she realized Kim was showing concern for her for probably the first time since their altercation. Then the Engineer pulled herself back to the task at hand, as she accessed the hidden panel and began dismembering the organic memory, pulling the batteries in to hook up for power, hoping it wasn’t too late.
“Before I go, a moment, Kim?” Yoshino asked softly.
Kim glanced at Yoshino and nodded, waving back toward the doorway. It wasn’t a necessary move, but rather a force of habit. Switching to a private channel gave all the privacy needed.
Yoshino said, “You will need something to… cut away a portion of the hull.”
“Yes. I was considering calling over for a laser cutter– ”
Yoshino unstrapped her wazikashi and handed it to Kim, holding it out in both hands. Even in the distant glow of the emergency lights, the blade gleamed as she pulled it a few inches out of the wooden scabbard. “Here. She deserves this.”
Kim blinked. She knew very well what it was, and its importance. As a warrior in the bushido tradition, this was not just a weapon — it was part of Yoshino’s soul. “Yoshino… it could be damaged.”
“A chance I am willing to take.” Her hands did not waver. “It is as sharp as any laser beam.”
Kim took it with quiet reverence. “As you wish.”
“Then I will return to the Phoenix.” She thumbed the open channel. “Good luck to all of you.”
Kim caught Yoshino’s arm before she could turn away. “I’ll be taking a break in a few hours,” she said simply, still over the private channel.
Yoshino managed a somber smile. Softly, she said, “Thank you. I’ll remember.”
Kim murmured a farewell in Japanese, then with a glance at Darion, left to her new task.
Copyright (c) 1998 Tamara Friese, Jamie Lawson and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.