Who Are You, Part 3

Characters: Ryath Oaks, Tomás Darquin, Terry Hale, G’fen

When she exited her Flyer, Ryath had expected some show of force, but what greeted her was more like an ambush. Security guards lined up just in front of the ramp, and more stationed at different levels all around the docking bay. Every rifle in the room was trained on her.

Standing at the foot of the ramp was Darquin. She allowed herself a moment to collect her thoughts and feelings before proceeding down the ramp.

“Tomas!” she nearly shouted. “I didn’t expect you to greet me!”

“The Captain’s got this thing about her Rangers being in someone else’s control.” His PPG pistol let out a shriek as it powered up. “So do I.”

“I’m no stranger, Tomas.” Her voice lost its playful tone, reverting to its usual shade of control.

“You are now. And it’s gonna take more than your bag of tricks to change my mind.”

She blinked. A wave of sound, an ambiance of long-remembered songs, sent ripples through the background noise of thoughts. It wasn’t the familiar push of telepathic force, only a fraction of resolve, like pebbles tossed into a lake. But that vapor of guitar licks and percussion was a stubborn knot in the docking bay’s psychic tapestry. He was shutting her out every way he knew how, doing it well.

Judging from her sensors, he didn’t know it either. His pulse and respiration had gone way up.

The stand-off lasted a full second before Darquin spoke again. “Well, you said you wanted to see the Captain. If you’re coming, let’s get moving. This way.”

Keeping one eye on her the whole time, he led her out into the rest of the ship. Every few meters of corridor, a security team was there watching, armed with PPG pistols and rifles. Darquin gave each team leader a glance until they reached a lift.

“Okay, Ryath, what’s going on?” When he got no reply, he tried again. “Important, huh? With the war and everything, it must’ve been tough just to find us, let alone get here. Saw it on ISN? The war, I mean.”

Again he waited, giving her a chance to jump into the conversation. “Maybe you heard about the business in Quadrant 37? We could’ve used some…magic or something. That time.” He turned cold. “I knew one lady who could’ve used it.”

Ryath stopped just as they were about to enter the lift. “Tomas.” Her voice softer now. “I know what happened, and I’m sorry. But there was nothing I could have done. I cannot save the universe. Only a select few with….” Her voice faltered as she realized what she was saying. Her own loss. “Within it.”

Tomas glanced into her eyes, lingered on them, no doubt reacting to the crack in her voice. His own, that had been so hard, softened a little. “I’m sorry, Ryath.”

She turned away from him to gather herself. He waved the other security guards away.

“I kinda forget…techno-mages are still people, I guess.” He set his hand against the edge of the lift door, holding it open for her. “If it’s something you can talk about….”

She calmed herself and followed him into the lift. “No, Darquin. I am fine.” She put her hand on his shoulder. “But if you need to talk?”

Darquin shrugged, a rueful grin on his face. “If I knew where to start, we’d be here all day.”

When they reached Deck 5, Darquin ushered her past the security checkpoints, into a section reserved for guest quarters.

“We arranged some quarters for ya, for as long as you’re here. In case you need some time out of your ship. You can stretch out, meditate, whatever you need.” He waved her to the door. “This’ll key itself to your voice.” He smirked. “More for your privacy than anything else. The lock’s a pushover for folks like yourself. Anyway, the Captain will see you before too long.”

He moved to leave, then changed his mind. “Uh, Ryath. I gotta ask. What’s going on? Hell broke loose the last time you showed up. And the start this time is about as bad. Not a great track record.”

Ryath smiled. “Tomas. Against all theories, trouble doesn’t follow me around. I just know where it’s going to be. And try to beat it there!”

The door slid open as if on cue. She looked around the room. It was small, with two armchairs, a sofa, and a small kitchenette. The bedroom was through the back.

“No. I’m here for another reason, Tomas.” She sat in one of the chairs. “There is something I need, and something the Rangers need from me.”

She watched him for a reaction, but found none.

“Not sure about the wind-up. Nice pitch though.” He leaned against the open doorframe. “You gotta admit it’s kinda strange. What would a techno-mage ever need from us mortals? Seriously. What could we possibly have?”

“That is what I need to see Captain Hale about,” she said forcefully. She bounced up and down in the chair. “Mmm…quite comfy!”

He smirked, bewildered and amused.

“Now Tomas, if you would let your Captain know I’m waiting?” She didn’t want to be hard, but she needed him to leave. She could feel herself breaking. The effort to maintain a mental and emotional wall was becoming overwhelming.

“Trust me, blondie, she knows that already. But I’ll tell her.” He went to the door. “Naturally she’ll ask what’s so urgent, but hey, if you can’t tell the head of Security, it must be important. I’d have to tell her, ‘Cap, I tried bribing her with double scoops of yun-yun from the galley and the mage still said–‘”

She forced a smile. “Okay, Tomas! I need to see your Captain to advise her of numbers, and to warn her of a force that might wish the Rangers to fail in their mission.”

He stood away from the door and sat opposite her on the sofa. “Maybe the Drakh? We don’t have a lot on them, but we know they’re out there.”

She nodded. “But they have allies. Working undercover.”

“And in exchange for this info, you want something from us? Did I get that right?”

“I do not want anything in return, but I would request a favor of the Rangers. A moment with a telepath. More precisely, a Minbari telepath of great ability.”

Darquin blinked. “A telepath?” She nodded. “And it has to be a Minbari?”

She frowned, confused by that. A flicker in his eyes raised her curiosity, so she queried her sensors. His pulse rate was up again, not as sharp and sudden a spike as before. And his pupils had just dilated by another fraction. Her reaction had surprised him even more than her request. It got his attention and he was trying to hide it.

“Okay, I’ll look into it,” he said. “If you need anything, G’fen will be outside.”

She smiled, “No, I’ll be fine. But thank you for thinking of giving me a guard. After all you can hardly have a techno-mage wandering the ship?”

Darquin regarded her with a raised eyebrow, grinning. “Probably not. It’d take forever to get all the carbon scoring off the inner hull.”

He bowed to her in the Minbari fashion, then left, the door closing behind him.

Ryath caught a glimpse of the Narn as Darquin left. He seemed bigger up close.

She was glad Darquin had left; she could allow herself to break. She buried her head in her hands and cried. She thought she was done with crying, but being around so much tension and grief stirred up her emotions. This in turn messed with her control–her control of the tech and her control of her telepathy.

She had caught a thought from G’fen as Darquin left. He was afraid of her, had thought that it would be safer if she wasn’t onboard.

Maybe he was right? Ryath was beginning to question her motives. Was she running scared? Did she really need to be on board the Phoenix?

She was about to call Darquin to tell him she was leaving when the door chimed. “Open,” she called.

The door swung open and Darquin stood there with G’fen at his side. “The Captain will see you now.”

He and G’fen stepped to one side. Ryath stood and walked up to them. First she looked to Darquin, giving a slight nod of her head. Then she looked to G’fen, her abilities controlled for now, with an evil look in her eye. He barely stopped himself from stepping away from her.

As she turned to follow Darquin, Ryath smiled. She did so love playing with others’ minds.

They were soon outside Captain Hale’s office. Darquin pressed the chime, and a voice responded “Open!” The door slid away and both Darquin and G’fen entered, followed by Ryath.

“Sir…this is Ryath,” Darquin announced.

Terry Hale looked up from the report she was studying to survey Ryath with cautious curiosity. “Please, have a seat,” she said to Ryath, dismissing the escort with a nod of her head.

Ryath sat down opposite the desk. There was a moment of appraisal between them, then Terry spoke first.

“You’ve either been following us for some time, or quite resourceful in finding us even in hyperspace en route to an undisclosed destination. Neither leaves me with a clear picture of your intentions.” Her voice was soft, almost casual.

Ryath smiled. “Captain. If I had any evil intentions, you would already be dead and I would be on my way to Centauri Prime to get my reward!” Ryath too kept her voice soft, playful.

“I wouldn’t count on it.”

Just then Ryath couldn’t help feeling as if something had awakened all around her. Was it the tech or her own mind that sensed it? She maintained her composure, focusing on all her senses and inputs, finding no answers.

Terry sat back, relaxing her posture. “Now, my security chief told me about your proposed ‘trade.’ It’s not a simple thing, to request a Minbari telepath. Unless we can find one in our ranks, there would have to be a formal request, and then transporting the telepath to our location, and in a time of war….”

“Complicated, but less so than if I tried to arrange it myself. This needs to be… discreet. They would find out things that they should not, and I will not allow anything happen to that knowledge.”

Terry’s eyes narrowed, her mouth opening to complain, but Ryath had seen her conclusions and held up her hand to stem the complaints. “No. It is not a threat; in fact it is quite the opposite. The telepath would benefit from my protection for as long as they keep my secrets. Having you provide the contact with a telepath would diminish the risks even further.”

Terry couldn’t argue with the reasoning, even if she clearly wasn’t fond of the situation. “We may even be able to avoid calling a telepath in,” she said finally.

Ryath was aware there was a telepath onboard. The fact wasn’t in the ship’s records, but she’d come across certain indications in the past. Human, most likely. The Minbari and Centauri saw no stigma in the gift and rarely hid it. The Narn were completely devoid of it. But humans… they had reason to hide.

“Whoever you have, would have to be more than a low-level telepath the Psi-Corps somehow missed,” Ryath said.

Terry ignored the leading comment. “I believe the person’s ability is sufficient for your needs. If the person is willing to assist, I will let you know shortly. Now about your offering, Ryath. May I address you as Ryath?”

Ryath nodded. “I am able to tell you that a third of the Narn and Drazi fleets have moved on. As yet, I cannot tell you where, but I think we both know their final destination! And secondly, the Centauri have allies that are quite strong. Tomas — I mean Darquin mentioned them to me earlier. The Drakh.”

“I can’t say as I’m surprised. Our information was leading in that direction, even if it had yet to offer proof we could deliver to the Council.” Terry sighed, turning over the details in her mind.

Ryath sat back watching the Captain, knowing she had held back the involvement of another Mage. Some details weren’t necessary at this time. What could the Phoenix even do about it?

Terry finally stirred, straightening in her seat. “Thank you, Ryath. I would be glad of whatever recorded evidence you could provide, that I might pass on to the Council. But for now, you are welcome to rest in guest quarters, while I arrange your request.”

Ryath bowed her head slightly. “I will advise you when I have a definite location for the missing ships.” She turned and the door opened, revealing G’fen still standing there. Perhaps Terry was right about Ryath’s chances of leaving the ship if she’d done harm to the Captain.

G’fen felt more and more uneasy the longer he saw her. “Um…Are you ready?” G’fen asked almost disgusted.

Kim stood in the hallway of a corridor made remarkable just then by the security guarding one particular set of guest quarters.

She’d been in the science labs conferring with others on the possibility of some archeological investigations at Rolui 4 when she’d been struck by a jarring burst of confusion and grief, soon silenced. She excused herself from the conversation after it came again, like transmission bursts emerging from the constant buzz of static.

There’s a telepath on board, she thought.

But they were in hyperspace, not at some space dock where a new arrival could be easily explained. A talent suddenly manifesting was almost as unlikely. She stepped into her office, tentatively reached out beyond her barriers… and the “noise” stopped.

Or it was impossible to trace amidst the dozens of people on board and the muffling effect of the pseudo-living ship’s walls. She was just about to send a communication to Darquin, when the message arrived from the Captain.

And fifteen minutes later, she was standing out in the hall, still debating her choices. Why am I even hesitating at this point? she thought. A techno-mage would very likely know she was standing here, and the fact that Kim’s thoughts were well shielded would let this woman know there was a telepath standing there. Turning away at this point robbed only Kim of information.

Kim brushed her fingers over the door release and stepped inside.

Phoenix–“Who are you, Part 3” © 2003 Niki Hipwood, Joe Medina, Alida Saxon & Nick Wistner

Babylon 5 TM and © 2003 Warner Bros.