Who Are You, Part 4

Characters: Ryath Oaks, Dr. Kim Matsumoto, G’fen

(edited w/ permission by Joe Medina)

G’fen escorted Ryath back to her quarters. Strangely, the Narn was obviously uncomfortable with Ryath being aboard but as they passed other Rangers he walked taller, proud of his responsibilities.

Ryath avoided all eye contact. She struggled once more to maintain a stable telepathic wall.

G’Fen left her alone in her quarters, stating he had other duties, but if she needed him just to call him on his link. She thanked him and collapsed into a chair as he left.

Ryath had been so debilitated by the pressure and noise in her head; she had forgotten to plant a probe outside the door, or even on G’Fen. The pressure grew and the voices began to shout. It was all she could do to stop herself from pounding her fists on her temples. How did telepaths ever learn to tolerate this? She rubbed hard against her temples, easing the pain a little.

Then suddenly it cleared, leaving her in total silence.

She accessed her internal sensors. Everything was within normal range. She called on her external sensors, seeking an energy source that could block her telepathic ability. There wasn’t one. However she did detect someone outside her door.

The breathing and heart rate were a little elevated, but then she had found most of the Rangers she had encountered showed this reaction to her. Ryath assumed it was G’Fen, and resumed her investigations of the sudden telepathic silence. She got up from the chair and ran her hand over the furniture–nothing worth her concern there.

She was walking to the bedroom when the door to her quarters opened. Immediately the pressure on her mind increased. G’Fen was there in the hall, looking in. An Asian woman was standing just inside the doorway, returning her regard.

Ryath quickly produced a name from her internal records. “Anla’shok Matsumoto.” Ryath bowed her head slightly.

The door closed behind Kim and the pressure in Ryath’s head vanished. Something was muffling the cacophony of others’ thoughts: something in the ship’s construction.

“Greetings, Ryath. The Captain asked me to see you. Is now a good time?” Kim stepped forward, hands clasped loosely behind her back, and there was a serene silence that Ryath had not felt from the rest of the crew. This was her requested telepath.

Ryath took a chair. “Please. Make yourself comfortable. This may take some time.” She indicated the chair opposite her.

Kim bowed her head and took her seat, a fastidious sweep of her hand smoothing her clothes. A hint of nervousness? Ryath had not the opportunity to study the woman’s habits before to know for certain.

Kim nodded. “The Captain said you needed a strong telepath. I believe I’m sufficient for most tasks, but I need to know more,” she said.

Ryath sat forward and rubbed her hands together. She conceded to herself that she was nervous, probably even scared. She didn’t know how to control her telepathic abilities very well, and with the added strain, she didn’t know if her instincts could be controlled. “Let me explain what I would require of you. Then you can decide if you are willing to be a part of this.” Ryath’s voice was calm and soft. She was trying to gain Kim’s trust just enough to be willing to do this. “Firstly. You should know that I am acutely aware when a telepath tries to scan me. So please don’t try until I ask you. I realize that a deep scan could be painful for both of us, yet it could be necessary. I will try not to resist, but it is in my nature to fight off any attack. Secondly, you should also know that what you will discover about me will change you perception of the Shadow War greatly. And you will know things only another techno-mage knows.”

“What I am going to tell you now must never be told to another being. Even if you decide not to do this!” Ryath was rocking back and forth slightly. “I’m a tele–”

“A telepath,” Kim said before she could finish. “Yes, I know. You’ve been projecting wildly since your arrival.”

She smiled slightly at Ryath’s expression. The technomage suddenly understood how others must have felt when she spoke of things they had thought were secret. Ryath wondered now whether the telepaths on Mars had been simply waiting for the right moment to attack, or if she truly had managed to control herself there.

“I didn’t know it was you,” Kim added, “not until I found out you were the only visitor to the Phoenix. I can help you control it, if you like. But I interrupted. Please, continue?”

Ryath coughed to clear her throat. “Whilst doing a deep scan, you are to look for a bright golden light. Go to it, touch it with your mind and tell it to open. Then you must get out as quickly as possible. If you do not…I don’t know….”

She stopped rubbing her hands together. Pacing, she kept shaking her head. She didn’t realize she could be so afraid–afraid of surrendering herself to another. Ryath somehow knew that if Kim wanted to, she could terminate her with a single thought. Kim could find the center of the tech inside Ryath’s mind…and turn it off.

Ryath stopped pacing, turned and looked at Kim, who remained calm as she listened and waited for Ryath to finish. “If you remain connected to me, and what I think will happen, happens…I don’t know if you will ever be the same again. Part of you will be locked in my mind.” She shook her head yet again, emphatic. “I don’t want that, Anla’shok Matsumoto. I don’t want that at all.”

“I certainly wouldn’t either.” Kim smiled gently. “What do you think will happen when I open this…golden light?” To Kim it sounded like programming, a mental representation for something done to shut away a memory, a truth or some command buried behind a mental block.

“It’s not so much a golden light, but a….” Ryath stopped herself. This was something Kim didn’t need to know. The silence in her head had lulled her into a false sense of security.

“It doesn’t matter,” Ryath said abruptly. “All you need to know is that you must disconnect properly and quickly!” Ryath was getting jittery. The more she thought about what could happen, the less she liked it. But she knew if she was to have any semblance of control, she needed to do this, and she couldn’t do it by herself.

She sat down in the other chair, controlling the urge to twist and rub her hands again. Now she waited for Kim to answer.

Kim was quiet, considering the situation. Truth be told, she wasn’t well practiced in deep scans, though she knew how — Nathaniel had made certain of it. But even for one practiced at it, things could go wrong. No one opened themselves entirely, even if they wanted to. It was so against personal survival, like telling your body not to flinch from fire or close eyes against a too-bright light. And there were details Ryath was trying to hide, explanations she wasn’t willing to give. She would fight harder than most.

Kim could understand the fear, felt its transmission so clearly at some moments it was like standing on a shore when the tide was coming in. With each wave came a crash of noise and a salty tang. Desperation was a dangerous thing.

But could she not help?

“I will do this. But–”

Ryath sighed and leant back in her chair. “Yes! But what?”

“Firstly. The Captain said no harm would come to me after. That is correct?”

“Yes.” Ryath sat back up, wondering where this was leading. “I will not harm you, and for as long as you keep my secrets you will be under my protection.”

“A deep scan is always uncomfortable and it can become very painful with resistance. I will learn things you think you’ll be able to hide. You will want to strike back, any which way you can. Can you control that?”

Ryath’s jaw tightened, but she nodded, desperation making her decision for her. “I will.”

“Then we can begin.” Kim pulled the seat over so she was almost touching knees with Ryath. “Please try to relax.”

Ryath nodded and her eyes met and locked with Kim’s. Shortly she felt the first push in her mind and she fought.

“Let them down, Ryath. Let me see.”

“I can’t–” Ryaths’ breathing became labored, her heart rate increased.

“If you don’t, I’d have to push–”

“Just do it!”

Kim stormed into Ryath’s mind and it instantly protested, struggling wild. Kim was trying to be careful, gentle, but nothing could dampen the pain of forcing another person’s mind open. Ryath gripped the edge of the couch cushion, twitching and shaking.

It was painful for Kim as well. Her own barriers down, Ryath’s thoughts and emotions were like a net of confusion tearing loose, whipping Kim’s psyche raw. Her own first instinct was to back off, guard herself, but she forced herself to focus, to breathe deeply, evenly.

From beyond thoughts of the present came the memories, images of childhoods. One was Ryath’s; the other belonged to a Centauri boy.

Unimportant, Kim thought to herself. Move on.

More images: a man, a father figure teaching Ryath. Convocations of techno-mages, invocations of magic and dreams in a thousand million shades of color, textures too slippery for Kim to readily conceive, myths and shapes from a hundred worlds at their beck and call, raw energies like toys in a treasure chest–

She could see how Ryath performed her magic! Ryath used painted images, brush strokes. Kim lingered a moment in fascination, living the memory.

No…not mine. Wall it off…move on.

A strange jelly-like creature came next, a Chrysalis. She had gotten the name of it from Ryath. Ryath had worn it like a hat and cloak–

PAIN. It crashed down on her consciousness, Kim as well as Ryath, then as now. It was eating her arms, legs, and torso, piercing with sharp flame, gnawing at her with icicle teeth. Only the knowledge that it wasn’t hers kept Kim from disconnecting. Ryath had been in great pain, physical torment, whatever and whenever this was. Then came an intense itching. Kim could not stay long enough for understanding.

Tears were not far from Ryath’s face. As each image appeared for Kim, Ryath was reliving the event. The pain for Ryath was real enough. She had felt it once and could never forget it. The uncomfortable itching that followed made her subconsciously move her hands to scratch.

Something else. Kim probed and felt a tremendous warmth. She knew this feeling. Ryath was in love, but quickly the feeling was diminished. Ryath quelled this feeling herself. Kim saw the object of Ryath’s affections go off on a trip with another woman. That was when Ryath had squashed these feelings.

Trying to stay afloat, Kim realized she was treading through Ryath’s most significant memories.

Sorrow came next. The man had returned, the other woman dead. A feeling of great loss swept over Kim.

Anger. Cowardice. The sight of hundreds of Mage ships flying away into the darkness, slinking off like whipped dogs, filled Kim’s mind.

Fear. Kim saw the man Ryath loved…leave. This time Ryath was afraid, afraid he wouldn’t return. But she was more afraid They would. The image leapt. He had returned flying one of Their ships, only to leave again soon after. This time others left too. Ryath was one of them. The joy of being out in the universe was easy for Kim to understand.

Kim realized the next image was recent. It was the Phoenix in orbit around Minbar. Darquin’s face flashed briefly in Kim’s mind, tinged with–

The moment passed, jumped forward, darkened. A great sorrow and anger entwined. The image to come next made want to Kim gag: teacher, father figure, mutilated.

Kim turned away from this memory, and finally saw it–a golden warmth, lightness, a calming influence. Her mind interpreted it as nets of golden wires before her, all intertwined.

Here there was another voice, not just Ryath’s. Kim pushed one more time. She wanted to find out more about this other Being.

Ryath was a shivering mass, trying to relax, to control her instinct to fend off the attack. Her scream threatened to consume the whole ship.

Phoenix–“Who are you, Part 4” © 2003 Niki Hipwood, Alida Saxon, Nick Wistner, & Joe Medina

Babylon 5 TM and © 2003 Warner Bros.