Who Are You, Part 7

Characters: Ryath Oaks, Dunstan Kordieh, Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Peter Carlacci, Toni Villiers

Ryath had stopped just down a little from her quarters. The light was too bright. Her head filled with pain, even with her eyes closed and the hood of her coat casting a shadow over her face.

Dunstan and Villiers found her leaning against the bulkhead, breathing heavily.

“Ryath!” Dunstan rushed to her side. “I knew it was too early for you to be up and about!” He leaned in close, trying to support her under her arms.

“No!” She threw her left arm out, caught him across the nose with her elbow. He stumbled into the wall behind him, cupping one hand over his nose, and steadied himself with the other.

Villiers came up behind her. “Ryath, you need help. Let us help you.”

“You can help by letting me go!” she snapped at them.

She was losing control. She could attack them and get out of here, but that was the wrong thing to do. Despite conscience and common sense, the fog was rising in her head. The pain and constant probing by the Phoenix were taking their toll. She pushed herself away from the bulkhead and shuffled towards the elevator. Stumbling, she dropped to one knee, her left hand supporting her against the bulkhead, her right gripping her staff.

The elevator door opened. Kim and Carlacci stepped off in unison and stopped, assessing the scene before them.

Peter reached for his denn’bok, but Kim placed her hand gently on his arm. “Wait.”

Ryath raised her head at the sound of the elevator doors opening. She saw them stop and look, their eyes moving from one to the other. Carlacci started to move. Ryath felt the tech itching for action, wanting out of the situation, but she pushed her instincts down.

Kim moved to Ryath, kneeling in front of her. When Ryath started at their arrival, Villiers drew her own fighting pike, placing the end of it gently on Ryath’s right shoulder. Kim followed Villiers’ meaningful glance. Dunstan Kordieh was still holding his bloodstained fingers over his nose. Gaping, Kim reached for her own weapon.

Teeth held tight, Dunstan was inching along the bulkhead as if trying to move away from the pain. Peter went to him and gently pulled Kordieh’s hand to check his nose. “Hang on,” Peter told him softly. “I think it’s just cracked.”

Kim leaned in to Ryath. Don’t fight me. Let me scan you…reinforce your mental wall.

Ryath made no protest. Kim started to scan her. I will help where I can, she sent. Now focus.

Ryath gave a slight nod. As Kim scanned and built up defences, Ryath felt the fog fading. She realised that the urges to fight and flee weren’t hers. It was the tech. She had managed to control the tech’s instincts, if only just.

From this ordeal, she got a revelation. She needed to change her relationship with the tech. Once again, no obvious solution came to mind.

She looked up to Kim, the Ranger’s eyes closed as she concentrated on helping Ryath. Thank you! Ryath thought, and watched Kim’s lips form a relieved grin.

Kim opened her eyes. That should protect you for a while longer. But we should talk. Later.

Ryath smiled, though Kim couldn’t see it beneath the shadow of her hood. “I would like that, Anla’shok Matsumoto.”

Kim stood and looked at Villiers. “Okay, Toni. If we can get Ryath to her ship quickly, we’ll be all right.”

“That’s what we were doing when this happened!” Toni went on to explain in detail as she folded her denn’bok.

Ryath stood and turned towards Dunstan. On her approach, he managed a half step before he was up against the bulkhead again.

Peter watched Ryath carefully, poised to shield Kordieh–not that he knew if he could stop her.

Ryath was still leaning on her staff, not as heavily as before. Light didn’t hurt her eyes so much now. She had only one thought — she had to atone for what she had done to him.

As she moved she reached into her coat with her left hand, retrieving a crystal. She stood before him, transferring the crystal to her right hand and raising her left.

He stared in horror, quivering despite himself. Gently she touched the bridge of his nose, sending cascades of organelles into his body. Then she took the crystal into her left hand to guide the organelles. The crystal glowed. The healing process was well under way. She dropped the crystal back into her coat.

Dunstan reached up to his nose, amazed. The pain was gone. He could breathe more easily.

Ryath removed her hood and bowed her head to him. “I hope we are all right?” she asked, looking back up to him.

Dunstan managed a smile, then gasped as he saw her eyes. There was no sign of the golden liquid, as though it had never been there.

“Can you see properly?” He looked closer into her deep blue eyes.

Ryath nodded. “Are we all right?” she asked again.

“Yes!” he said, a nervous chuckle in his voice. “Quite well, yes.”

She turned and nodded briefly to Peter, walking past him to Kim and Villiers. “I would like to board my ship now. Maybe I can go alone?” She knew this would never be allowed, but tried anyway.

“I can’t do that. A less intrusive escort, maybe,” Villiers replied.

She looked over to Dunstan. “Maybe you should get yourself checked out in Medlab,” she suggested. He nodded and quietly slipped away.

Peter stepped forward. “I’ll escort her to her ship.”

Kim looked to Ryath and Villiers, finding no objections. “In that case, I’ll wish you both luck.”

Kim gave them a nod and went back to the science labs. Villiers gave Ryath one last stare down before moving on. With a gesture, Peter Carlacci led the way to the lift.

Ryath turned to Peter. “So. What can I do for you?”

“I need some information about someone.”

“The Rangers have plenty of ways of getting information. Why don’t you use those?” she asked, testing him.

He signaled for the lift and faced the doors, trying to get the words out. “It’s not easy as it might have been. Too dangerous to make inquiries. It could get…someone killed.”

Ryath nodded. “Yes. Yes. It would be a very unfortunate end to a promising relationship!”

Peter shot her a dirty look, which she ignored. On the surface, her comment only confirmed what the Rangers suspected for a while, that she had been watching them. But now it felt personal. Either she had seen him together with Mira on Minbar, in moments meant for them alone, or she had the entire ship bugged. She might have overheard him talk to Captain Hale. If so, their plan was dead the moment they hatched it. How much could Ryath hear or see? How far?

“And what would be my interest in finding out anything?” The smooth confidence in her voice suggested that she already knew the answers to all her questions.

“Your interest?” He frowned, confused at first. Maybe she was testing him…or playing with him. “Whatever you want. I’d…leave the Rangers if I had to.”

Ryath shook her head as she turned to him. “No, dear Peter, that won’t be necessary. But a favour may be asked of you someday, only one which you can complete with your pride intact.”

She clapped him on the back as the doors opened, regretting it immediately as she lost balance and stumbled into the lift.

He grabbed her arm. “You should take it easy for a bit,” he said as he steadied her against the wall.

She felt dizzy again, wishing she could lay down till it passed. “I’ll be fine shortly.” She sighed heavily.

The doors closed and soon they were outside the docking bay, her Flyer standing out against the pale greys and blues of the bay. They slowly made their way to her ship, Peter supporting her on one side, her staff on the other. The ship lowered a ramp upon her approach. Carefully they climbed up the ramp and into the airlock.

The ramp retracted as the airlock door closed.

“Hey!” Peter cried, startled. “What’s going on?”

“You wish to find out the fate of your lady. Then you must travel with me. I can do nothing from within the Phoenix. And you were the last to speak with her.” Ryath stood up straighter — the probing of the Phoenix couldn’t penetrate the Flyer. “Your ship doesn’t trust me yet. She blocks all I try to do. If I’m to help you, I must get away from this ship.”

Peter hesitated. The way she was talking, he half-expected the docking area to come to life and attack her ship. If the Phoenix really was blocking her powers, maybe he’d had the home field advantage all along, even trapped in her ship.

He had to do a little testing himself. “Don’t you think the Captain would grant me the time — ”

“Your Captain would never allow her best pilot to leave the Phoenix at a time like this! Don’t fool yourself, Peter.” Her voice grew colder. “You are valuable to the Phoenix and her crew. At the moment, Mira is not!”

Ryath accessed her Flyer. The echo returned almost immediately. She put a lock down on all doors except the cargo hold.

She walked away, and he followed her into a large hold with a cryo unit in the corner. He noted that she didn’t go near it. In fact, she barely spent any time in the room at all, pouring on speed.

“You can stay here until I return you to the Phoenix.” She turned to leave, hesitating. Without turning back, she said, “I am sorry, Peter.”

He wondered as the door closed behind her. Sorry for what? Kidnapping him? Putting his career, perhaps his life in danger? Or maybe…she already knew what had happened to Mira.

Spinning scenarios was getting him nowhere. Frowning, he turned his attention to what was in front of him. Naturally the door didn’t open. He approached it, told it to open, passed his hand in wide sweeps over it. No response. Running his fingers over it, he couldn’t even find where it met the bulkhead.

He was stuck.

He sighed softly, running a hand through his hair. The situation wasn’t quite what either he or Captain Hale had anticipated; still, it might work out for the best. He began studying the hold, making notes to himself as he went.

Ryath made her way to the bridge. She knew it would be a while before the Rangers would allow her to leave the Phoenix. In the meantime, she could focus on healing. She sat, and turned her thoughts inward.

One in particular kept coming to her — the thought of Galen and his spells. She had translated them all into her own language, refining her transcriptions, but had actually tried the one for listening to Shadow communications. That impulse was coming from the tech. She could feel it pushing. It was trying to tell her something. She knew it. Perhaps if her telepathy was stronger, she could understand it…maybe even hear it.

But even as she tried to think, the tech kept pushing–insisting–demanding–

“Okay!” she shouted, then lowered her voice. Peter probably already thought she was mad. “Okay. I’ll try it!”

She cleared her mind again. Breathing deeply, she pictured a blank canvas and conjured the spell. At first she thought she must have translated it incorrectly because nothing seemed to happen. Then she felt it, the warmth swelling inside her. She panicked at first, remembering her experience with Kim. The warmth grew, but no pain came with it.

She accessed an organelle and it showed her the tech glowing, the healing in her head gaining momentum, and the tech stretching its tendrils deeper into her organs. Still there was no pain, just an understanding. She understood the wants and feelings of the tech, and knew that it understood hers.

As if she’d flipped a switch, she knew. She knew who she was. She was darkness gone bright. With Galen, Olyn, with every mage that is and ever was, she stood on the edge of darkness and light.

But neither were grey. That role, to stand on the bridge in between, fell squarely on the shoulders of Humans and Minbari.

No, she and Galen were still darkness. Controlled darkness.

Copyright (c) 2003 Niki Hipwood, Jamie Lawson, and Joe Medina. All rights reserved.