Who Are You, Part 5

Characters: Ryath Oaks, Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Dunstan Kordieh


(edited w/ permission by Joe Medina)

At Ryath’s scream, Kim broke off the scan. A hand came up to massage at her temples, and found her face wet with perspiration. Kim took several deep breaths and did a mental check of herself.

At least she had found what Ryath was speaking of, knew it could be done, and she could disconnect quickly, without any lasting damage to herself.

Ryath was slouched over the arm of the chair, barely conscious, still twitching. She was breathing heavily, and mumbling.

Kim drew herself out of her chair and knelt next to Ryath. “Ryath?” She shook her gently. “Ryath, are you all right?”

Ryath lifted her head to look at Kim. Her eyes were red from tears and stress. She swallowed hard. “I’ll be all right.” She couldn’t form a smile, no matter how hard she tried. Instead she let Kim ease her against the back of the chair.

Kim went to the kitchen and rushed back with a glass of water, helping Ryath hold the glass to her lips. “We should wait a while before we try again. To give you time to recover.”

“No!” Struggling to sit up, Ryath swallowed hard again. “I need to do this now. Or I will never do it!”

Kim made to complain, but Ryath held up a quivering hand to stem the comments.


Sighing, Kim went back to her chair. She took a deep breath and began again. The images she saw before rolled in again like the tide, details blurring as she sought out where they had left off.

It was easier this time. Ryath was in no position to fight, even subconsciously. Now she kept hearing the other Being. It was encouraging her to continue, egging her on faster and faster. She saw the golden strands of the Being entwined in Ryath’s brain. Its thoughts were Ryath’s and vice versa. There, Kim found the center Ryath had described to her.

Open, Kim thought, summoning her will. Make yourself known.

Quickly Ryath started to disconnect, passing out, the last protection she could provide for Kim or herself. As Kim spoke into her mind, Ryath felt a stabbing pain lance her skull. She knew her eyes were now open, but saw nothing. She heard Kim withdraw from her mind. She heard another voice, one she recognized, but had heard only occasionally. A golden light formed in her mind, and began expanding throughout her body. As the light expanded, so did the pain. She screamed again, unable to comprehend, unable to stop the soul-numbing assault.

Kim was exhausted, a migraine chiseling at her eyes, turning her stomach. She rested her head in her hands and closed her eyes. When Ryath screamed again, she pushed her own discomfort aside long enough to examine her.

The mage was dripping wet…and glowing.

Kim didn’t know what to do. She quickly removed Ryath’s coat and undid the tunic underneath she was wearing. Even Ryath’s chest was glowing a golden color! Kim stood and looked down at Ryath’s limp body.

Kim glanced at the comm-screen. Ship time, 0338 hours. It had been nearly six hours since she first arrived in Ryath’s quarters. And she needed medtechs on the double, preferably ones that could keep their mouths shut. As if things weren’t complicated enough….

Between ragged breaths, she shouted at the nearest comm-screen. “Medlab!”

“Medlab here, tracing your signal. I’ll call Doctor–”

“Just get someone to the guest quarters now! Hurry!”

Kim sweated through the next few minutes, weighing options if Ryath resisted even while unconscious, when the door chimed. “Open!”

When the door opened, she looked over her shoulder and blinked. “Kordieh?”

Dunstan Kordieh smiled sheepishly from the doorway. “I was the only one on call.”

Kim waved him in and stopped him before he got more than a yard away from the closing door. “Keep this quiet.”

Dunstan looked over Kim’s shoulder to the form slumped in the two chairs in the center of the room. Looking back to Kim, he nodded.

Kim let him through. She watched as Dunstan cracked open his medical kit and began to examine the shivering techno-mage.

“She is going into shock,” he said, bewildered.

Kim took a blanket out of the bedroom and wrapped it around Ryath.

Dunstan was listening to Ryath’s chest. “I don’t understand. Her heart is in a good rhythm. Her blood pressure has risen somewhat. Her breathing, fine. Pale. I wonder what happened….”

Kim sighed. If they were fortunate, Ryath hadn’t heard him.

He shone a penlight in each of Ryath’s eyes, gasping. “Mon Dieu….”

“What?” Kim leaned closer.

“This.” Dunstan shone the light in her eyes again. They were awash with a golden liquid.

Kim stared, then glanced at Kordieh, searching for an explanation. “I’ve never seen that before.”

Dunstan collected his instruments. “She must go to Medlab. I shall call Doctor Brannon and the others again–”

“No, not yet! No one else can see her.”

“I cannot help this woman, I tell you!” Dunstan Kordieh held his breath, shocked by his own outburst. “I, I’m sorry. I cannot proceed without supervision. I’m not even qualified.”

Kim felt sympathy for him. He was concerned, cornered, and right. “I’ll notify the Captain, but no one else must know. Understand?”

Kordieh sighed. If he was going to persist in the argument, Ryath cut him off with a burst of coughing. Both of them returned to the techno-mage.

“It is dangerous enough that you know what you do. And for that I am truly sorry.” Ryath sighed heavily. Dunstan got up and refilled the glass with water, handing it to Kim.

“I made the decision. I’ll live with the outcome,” Kim said simply.

“Matsumoto.” The sound from Ryath was barely audible. “Kim?” She tried to lift her head but it was like trying to raise a ton of stone.

“I’m right here Ryath.” Kim slipped a hand behind the woman’s head, supporting her in a more comfortable position. Kim accepted the glass of water from Dunstan and brought it to Ryath’s lips. “Here. Drink a little of this.”

“Her condition must be examined,” Kordieh whispered, “by Brannon or Daanike–”

“Who’s that? Who’s in here? Kim?” Ryath tried to move. She opened her eyes and stopped still. “My eyes…?”

Kordieh grabbed her wrists as she was about to rub her eyes. “No, ah, please. Wait. Stop, I, I mean you no harm! I am Dunstan Kordieh. Medtech assistant.” He let her go as soon as she stopped struggling. He checked her eyes again, certain of his facts before he relayed them. “There seems to be some…film or liquid on your eyes. There is no apparent damage, but…you must go to Medlab. My superiors can analyze–”

“NO!” Ryath shook her head. “No doctors!” She stumbled, scrambling to stand, but with the two Rangers there took the initiative, guiding her to the couch and into a more comfortable position. “Kim. The same deal. The same deal as with you. For him, okay?”

“Eh?” Kordieh turned to Kim. “A deal? What does she mean?”

Kim nodded to her, pulling him aside. “Yes, all right, I understand.”

To him, she whispered, “Protect her secrets, that’s all that matters to her now. Whatever you learn, it must stay between us and Captain Hale.” Kim hesitated, looking for words, no time to figure out what was happening. “Ryath…will protect you.”

“Protect? I-I-I’m sorry, I must be brusque, but this woman is the one who needs protection. Medical aid, most of all! I don’t understand this, this–”

Behind them a flash of light and heat bloomed, a fireball in the mage’s left hand, crackling with every spasm of her fingers. “Blind I may be, but I’m still dangerous. I don’t need eyes to find my target.”

With her free hand, she searched for her coat pocket. Fumbling, her perspiring fingertips collected swarms of mote-like probes. She ran her right hand through her hair, a grand luxuriant gesture to misdirect her audience, to deposit probes all about her head.

The tech was responding quicker than she remembered. To think of accessing the probe was enough, and the image of Kim and Dunstan appeared in her mind’s eye.

Kim was tense, holding her ground, edging one hand to her side most likely to reach her fighting pike if necessary. Kordieh was gaping, gasping as he shielded his face with his hands.

“Ryath, stop!” Kim shouted. “Stop it! Or the deal’s off!”

Ryath quenched the fireball spell right away, closing it in a fist. Her point was made, and she had tested the patience of her hosts enough.

Kim shook her hand, sighing. “I have to go. I need some rest. Ryath, Kordieh will help you. You can trust us.” She patted Ryath’s arm, rough and weak with fatigue. “I’ll come and see you tomorrow.”

Ryath reciprocated, placing several probes on Kim as she did. Even to the mage, it seemed underhanded. But it ensured Kim’s safety as well as her own.

Kim reached out with her mind, guiding Ryath in shoring up her mental barriers. “You should rest too,” she said. Inhaling to gather her strength, she nodded to Dunstan and quietly left.

Ryath sat back. The pressure of telepathic background noise was gone, at least for now. Ryath associated with some of the organelles. Only three-quarters of them were still operational. Most of those were repairing damaged areas of the brain. The others were keeping vital organs supplied with nutrients and oxygen. An organelle answered her query with a neural scan. Neuro-receptors were out of sync. Synaptic relays were struggling to decipher jumbled signals even now. Some brain tissue was malfunctioning, in some areas dying. Ryath knew if she was to recover fully she would have to rest for some time.

Time she just didn’t have.

Ryath was terrified to move. She knew she was weak and had lost some co-ordination. She couldn’t allow Dunstan to know how badly she was damaged.

“You should go too, Dunstan Kordieh,” she said, hoping he’d get the message.

“No,” he stammered, “unacceptable. You…shouldn’t be alone now. And my shift will be over soon.” He picked up the stray blanket and threw it over his shoulder. “I can help you to bed. Where you can rest properly. Ah, if you wish. I shall wait here…on the sofa.”

Ryath was going to complain, but Dunstan had her in his arms before she said anything. “Thank you, Dunstan Kordieh.”

“Call me Dunstan, if you wish.” He took a half-step back. “Or Kordieh. As most others do.”

Even as he set her on the bed and spread the blanket over her, Ryath could feel his embarrassment. She tried to scan him, but got nothing. She tried again.

This time, she got a fleeting glimpse of a guilty man struggling with the fact he still lived.

“Let it go, Dunstan,” she mumbled, drifting off to sleep.

Dunstan stood there and watched her. He had never even seen a Techno-mage before. She seemed not nearly so terrifying as the Ranger elders – or she herself — had him believe. Now, he thought, she just looked like any other woman, albeit one with troubles. He looked more closely at her — the short blonde hair plastered to her head in perspiration; the gentle rise and fall of her chest. And yet she seemed to know….

Blushing, he shook his head and started back to the main room.

On his way out, he looked over his shoulder at the techno-mage. She was at peace, graceful even in these moments of weakness. Strange that he should feel comfortable with her, he thought, knowing she could kill with a single stroke fazed him very little.

Then again he had made that assumption about everyone long ago. He smirked, thinking of all the tribulations it had gotten him.

Sighing to himself, he turned his mind to more practical things like waking medtechs before their time and finding a blanket for himself, knowing the former might take some time.

He walked to the main room and laid on the sofa. Pulling the blanket up over him, he closed his eyes. And for the first time in a while he fell straight to sleep.

Phoenix–“Who are you, Part 5” © 2003 Niki Hipwood, Alida Saxon, Nick Wistner, & Joe Medina

Babylon 5 TM and © 2003 Warner Bros.