Three Sorceresses

Characters: Katia Santiago, Klevetati Yoshino

Katia was standing in the lift, on her way back to the bridge, dreading the fact that she would probably see Shaver while she was there, when her link chirped. It was one of her engineers, relaying a request from Operations. “Sir, they have just asked for a major rerouting of power to AI and auto-repair systems…”

She blinked in surprise. “They are what?!? Why? There is no reason for that yet. We have other concerns at the moment…” What could Ops possibly be thinking? “I will confirm..do nothing until you hear from me.”

When the lift doors opened, she headed over to engineering station first, looking over at Ops. The officer there had her head low over the console, oblivious to anyone else. Then, Katia glanced around and was relieved to see that Dylan wasn’t on the bridge at the moment, and relaxed as she checked the status of systems, nodding with satisfaction as she watched the preparations. Why could Ops want this power reroute now, she wondered again.

Deciding to find out what is going on, she walked over to ops quietly.

Yoshino stared at the console, as if she could transfer more power to the Phoenix’s artificial intelligence by sheer force of will. Softly, she said, “What could be taking so long?”

Katia, now just behind her, smiled and said softly, “You are the new Ops officer, correct?”

Yoshino shuddered violently, startled by the unexpected sound. Automatically, she responded, “Yes, I …” Then, as she realized who had spoken, she jumped to her feet and bowed. “Anla’shok Klevetati Yoshino, at your service, Chief Engineer.”

Katia waved dismissively. “Please, relax…and, you can call me Katia, please! I hate formalities.” She smiled, trying to put the woman at ease, though she couldn’t help but wonder what she had heard that made her seem so nervous. Well, I can only hope that she has no preconceived ideas and opinions about me that I have to try to battle against as we try to work together. I have had enough of that. Katia thought.

Yoshino, though, quickly nodded and resumed her seat. “Katia, then. You may call me Klevetati, if you wish.”

Katia smiled, relieved that there didn’t appear to be any preconceived notions to be cleared up. “Klevatati then…” There was so little time to spare for that. Which brought her back to the business at hand. “All right, now, I understand you have asked for some major power to be rerouted at the moment. I would like to know what for…we have all available power already committed.”

Yoshino replied, “Captain Hale and I have been analyzing the data from the …. encounter …. the White Star 21 had. We believe by sending that same data to the Phoenix’s AI, she may be able to learn something and help us prepare ourselves.”

Katia nodded in understanding. “That it could, but our resources are stretched to the max, and you want more power sent to AI? That will stress the last of the preparations, and I don’t know if that is a good idea either.”

Yoshino pulled her long white hair away from her face, absently smoothing the wild strands back into a single snowy avalanche, as she spoke. “I know it is a difficult request. I do not want any critical systems shorted….just some nonessential ones. The more power we can spare to the AI, the faster the Phoenix’s –” she paused, searching for the proper phrase — “learning curve will be.”

She fixed her pale eyes on Katia’s violet ones–not threatening, but steadfast. She had to convince the chief engineer of the importance of this. “And that could make the difference between surviving — and not.”

Katia considered what the Ops officer had told her. She glanced up to the front of the Bridge and then back at the waiting Yoshino, making her decision. “We can’t spare much, but what we can, I will give you.”

Yoshino rose and bowed again. “Thank you, Katia.”

Katia returned the bow with a slight smile. “You are welcome, Klevatati.” She tapped her link and told engineering to do what they could to help. Looking back up, she said, “Would you like to join me for a cup of coffee so we can discuss what we might need from each other during this mission?” She smiled. “So we can get a feel for what each other expects from the other, actually…”

Yoshino returned the smile cautiously. “I think that would be very wise. One moment.” She turned to her console, quickly entering a sequence of commands. “I have instructed the Phoenix to tell me if she discovers anything important. I am now at your disposal.”

Katia nodded and led the way to the conference room with the coffee, walking over and getting herself a cup at once. “I really need this, I think.”

Yoshino got a glass of water. “This has been a very difficult mission, and it has hardly begun.”

Nodding, Katia said, “Yes, it is. And, it is only going to get worse, I am afraid. If that thing did that much damage to the other White Star, I am just worried what it will do to us. Even if we are larger..if it has enough force, we may be in trouble ourselves.”

“We have observed that whatever the weapons used, they seem to be particularly effective against organic technology.” Yoshino’s brows furrowed in concentration. “Is there any way we could present a less organic profile to the enemy?”

Katia raised one eyebrow, considering the possibility. “Well…it could be possible to at least scramble the readings so that it didn’t appear on sensors so easily. Let me see…” She crossed to the computer console on the conference room table and began tapping away.

“I’m glad you think it’s worth a try,” Yoshino said. “It seems most of the crew is so terrified by this whole mission that they are preparing to die–not to live.”

Katia smiled. “I have come too far to die now! I won’t let them win…not this time!”

“Them?” Yoshino asked, puzzled.

“Psi Corps…,” she muttered, glancing up at Yoshino. “I won’t let them have the satisfaction of my death.” She returned her concentration to the computer screen, but continued to mumble while she worked. “That and the Vorlons or anyone else who might want us dead out here…”

Her tone grew stronger, taking on a dry humor. “And I realized a couple days ago, that I prefer living to the alternative.”

Yoshino was first startled, then thoughtful. “Psi Corps? It would seem we both have powerful enemies.”

Katia looked up. “You too? That seems to be a permanent condition for many people here in the Rangers.” She shook her head. “The refuge from the storm, I suppose.”

Yoshino held up her left hand. “I have learned — in almost the hardest way one can — that I have made many mistakes. I stay here now to atone for them.” Determined, she added, “We must be sure that whatever is out here, it can do no harm.”

Katia blinked at the tone in Yoshino’s voice, then nodded. “Yes, we do,” she whispered. She wondered how the mutilated hand got that way, but didn’t want to pry into what instinct told her was a personal issue. Katia’s voice rose in strength. “We aren’t going to die out here. Of that, I have no doubt!”

“Nor I,” Yoshino agreed. Half to herself, she quoted one of Musashi’s promises from The Book of Five Rings: “You can attain an understanding with which to win against ten thousand.” She pointed to the computer, asking, “Anything yet?”

“Well, I found a possibility, but to do it without damaging the organic hull and self-healing systems is the hard part….If we run a low level electrical current through the ship’s hull it might foul their sensor readings a bit to mask the organic technology. I do believe it is possible, but I need to make sure it won’t cause damage to our systems.”

“I can see where that could pose a problem. Perhaps we should look in on the AI. You and the Phoenix may be working on similar lines!”

Katia nodded. “Possible…all right, let’s go check.”

Yoshino drained her glass and returned to the bridge, reaching the Ops console just as her link chimed. Softly, she said, “Now, my dear, what do you have for us?”

Katia, cup of coffee still in hand, looked down at the console over Yoshino’s shoulder. “Well?”

“She seems to think it can be done. A continuous current, for too long, does risk damaging systems, but run intermittently should be safe. The auto-repair systems are already reinforcing key points of the hull to accommodate.”

“Let’s do it then. I will set up the relays and make sure all is ready.”

“Good. Let me know if there is anything else I can do to assist.”

Katia nodded. “I will..thank you.” She turned to leave, then paused. “Oh, and it was nice meeting you. I look forward to working with you.” She walked to the lift to finish preparing the ship, a smile of pleasant surprise on her face. Yoshino seemed to feel the same way about the Phoenix as Katia herself did, thinking of it almost as another person. It was good to know that someone beyond the Engineering decks truly cared.

Back at her station, Yoshino rested her hands on the elegantly sculpted console. “Well done,” she said softly. Whether she was speaking to herself, Katia, the Phoenix, or all three, she couldn’t be sure.