Points of view
Author notes: and here is the new chapter. I hope you will enjoy it. The character list and links can be found here
When preparing this mission, Nike Astrea had to think about a lot of details regarding Terran culture and the SGC. The fact that the Foreign Affairs Department decided to send her rather than a human was one of them. She wasn’t sure that the Terrans could actually make the difference so her strategy was to answer honestly about her being a bioroid if asked and not to mention it otherwise.
The composition of her escort had also needed careful planning. The presence of a telepath was a rather dangerous gambit, but a necessary one. Despite the reassurances of Samantha Carter and Shunya Chidori, treason was still a non-negligible probability. Again, the psi talent of Lt Cmdr Gutierrez was not something she would mention. Said Commander had told her quite sensibly that she would stay passive and mostly watch for aggressive thoughts directed at them. The telepath’s skills as a first contact specialist were also an interesting bonus of course.
Similarly, Lieutenant Kuramitsu was a way for her to have heavy support without being as obvious as being escorted by a Mobile Infantry Squad. The battlemage was also to watch for demonic infiltration at the SGC. The regular medical checks the personnel went through made the presence of actual demons unlikely, but a black witch or warlock or a possessed individual was again a non-negligible probability.
The disorienting effect of the wormhole ceased as she materialized out of the Astria Porta. She quickly took in her surroundings. The room was typical American military architecture, a deep part of the NORAD complex in Cheyenne Mountain from the reports she had seen. She thought that would have to take care not to show too much knowledge about the complex. It did come from the conquistadores’ debriefing, but some here could think that Samantha Carter talked too much.
She saw some of the SGC’s main people down the ramp, among which the rest of Samantha Carter’s unit: SG-1. General Hammond was just entering the room. She wondered what had delayed him.
“Pleased to meet you, Colonel O’Neill,” she said, “I am Nike Astrea, ambassador extraordinaire of the Republic of Mu.”
“Pleased to meet you too, though… given the matters we are supposed to discuss, I was expecting only military emissaries.”
“Our government thought that if we wanted to be a sovereign nation, we had to act as such.”
Her eyes recorded the reactions, her augmented senses taking in variations in heartbeat, breathing rate or body temperature. Without it, she may have believed that the colonel was just a blunt military man, contrarily to Daniel Jackson whose gaze made it very clear that he understood the breadth of her statement.
“Please allow me to make the presentations. This is my assistant Kade Peabody,” said Nike while presenting the Wau man. “And these are Lieutenant Commander Mercedes Gutierrez, Lieutenant Mihoshi Kuramitsu and Master Chief Hiroshi Saito. They are part of our Recon Force and their team took part in the capture of the conquistadores.”
“Captain Laval sends his regards,” said Psi while shaking O’Neill’s hand. “He told me to tell you that he has a nice bottle of rum in his office for your next visit.”
Jack could not prevent a little smile and he understood some things better about the woman’s uniform. Pierre Laval was a name he had heard from his black ops days, often related to missions in Sub-Saharan Africa that needed ‘some French touch’. The Air Force colonel knew that the Legionnaire and he shared a taste for carrying their orders creatively. If these two women were in his troops, they had earned it, period. However, this raised another very big question. Laval had not been part of the Foreign Legion contingent present to play an elite ‘enemy’ commando during the maneuvers, nor was he on the guest list. So what the hell were you doing in Sunnydale, Pierre?
He turned his attention back to their guests, noticing how each of them moved as they progressed through the halls towards the conference room. The ambassador that, in his opinion, only missed the pointed ears to be one of those logic-driven Vulcans was discussing with Hammond while Daniel was more interested in the furry alien. That left him and Teal’c with the three Muvian soldiers.
Saito was by far the least remarkable of the three. Without the black ‘cyber-patch’ on his left eye, he looked like an average Japanese man. With the right suit, he would lose himself in very easily in the Tokyo crowd. He walked silently with precise moves and O’Neill thought he was used to stay immobile for a long period of time. Combined with the very intense gaze of his right eye, the colonel was pretty sure he had guessed Saito’s specialty: sniper. This is the kind of adversary I do not miss… the whole concept is totally alien to Jaffas, with their imprecise staff weapons and visible plasma shots. Wonder what kind of rifle he is using…
The two others were less easy to define. He turned to Gutierrez, noticing once again what had troubled him when he heard her very Spanish name. She looked like she belonged to Southern India.
“Let me guess,” said the woman with a gentle smile, “you are troubled by the mismatch between my name and my appearance.”
“Well… normally I would just think something like: okay, she’s an alien. But you Sunnydalers are from around here so…”
“I suppose you saw what happened to Julia Donovan during Halloween?”
“She changing into a Zentraedi? Yes… the whole planet saw it. That’s what happened to you… may I ask in which direction it went?”
“I was born in a small village in Yucatan and immigrated to the US when I was five. I was a cop in Sunnydale when Halloween gave me my current face.”
“Hem… how does it work? Sorry if that’s private.”
“The process itself is not private. How each of us feels about it generally is. It is however better that you understand the process we went through. We call this the Changing and it affected most of our population, though the degree varies. For most, it is very light, just a little adaptation as we were touched by what happened during Halloween. But for people like me, those we call Changed Ones, the change was more drastic. During Halloween, I became another person in body and mind, a person that exists in another timeline. When the effect ended, I was left with a changed body and part of her memories. We call the latter a persona. She and I found a balance, merging to become a new person.”
“That’s how you signed up?”
“That came later. I first tried to carry on with my old life, staying a cop in the Macross City Police Department but as time went by… I realized the half of me that was born in another universe missed something. The ‘other me’ works as a scientific officer for a peacekeeping corps that roams the whole Milky Way in her timeline. I just missed flying.”
“Yeah, I know that feeling,” said the colonel, remembering his seldom used fighter pilot qualifications. “And Laval gave you your current rank right away?”
“I suppose one could call it wartime promotions. It may change as we settle, but the current idea is that skillful people rise quickly. We also give to people whose persona held a rank a similar one. My current rank is similar to the one the other ‘me’ had at the end of a war in her galaxy.”
Teal’c had observed the Muvian warriors. Before joining SG-1, he probably wouldn’t have been impressed that much. Since then, long observation of Samantha Carter and Daniel Jackson had taught him to look for other kinds of strength.
Hiroshi Saito was for him the easiest to understand. His moves reminded him of some hunters he knew, the kind who stalked silently and took out their quarry without sound. The two women… there was something with them that made his symbiont feel slightly uneasy. In fact… the feeling was similar to the one Samantha Carter triggered when he saw her prior to her departure.
Thank God, Halloween happened!
It had been one of those nights where her posthuman mind sorted out random bits of memories or, in other words, she had ‘one of those dreams’. Given how her brain was wired, she had something of a mixed blessing regarding those. She always remembered them.
This one had toyed with one of her recurrent fears: ending up as a vampire. Given how she had been at that time, before the merging with her persona force-fed her with a hefty dose of common sense, the probability was… non negligible. Thankfully, Halloween had happened and they had rid themselves of all undead vampires. The next thing they needed was access to the Alteran anti-vampire weapon that Merlin told them was hidden on the planet Dakara.
She didn’t even want to consider what would happen if she was turned now. Well… to be fair, she had considered it, because she was wired to consider all strategic and tactical options to make a sound decision. The conclusion had been quick. A vampire Harmony Kendall would have been nothing out of the ordinary in Sunnydale’s undead fauna. A vampire Tessa Kalinin, possibly keeping all her Whispered abilities… better not to think about the consequences.
“No, no plan about this… I definitely don’t want to end up as paranoid as Batman…”
She stretched to fully awake herself, her gaze falling on the desperately empty place next to her in her bed. She would have liked a certain someone to notice the barely decent black silk nightshirt she was wearing. A pity Mister Mardukas is meddling so much with me and Sosuke-kun… I barely managed to arrange one proper date in the last month.
Well… date was perhaps pushing it a little. She had managed to lean a little on him on observation deck while they watched the stars without having him turning all stiff at the thought of becoming too familiar with his superior officer. Even bringing him to that point, having him call her Tessa instead of Captain, had taken a lot of work. But with my first officer doubling as my chaperone… Either he thinks I may slip back into my old self-destructive habits… no, he probably thinks I’m too good for him, that I should consider someone with a better standing… as if I could be… satisfied with some kind of boring noble.
She got up, looking at herself in the mirror. Her Changing had left traces. The most obvious one were the silver hair and grey eyes but she had also gone from ‘toned, sexy cheerleader with a gorgeous tan’ to ‘petite, sophisticated lady with delicate alabaster skin’, even losing a few centimeters in the process. Physically, Harmony had disappeared, letting fully the place to Tessa, at least in the beginning.
She started to go through her morning Tai Chi routine. This was something she owed to Harmony. Granted, her former cheerleader self had used Kathy Smith videos for her workouts. Tessa had felt she needed something more cerebral and the meditative quality of Tai Chi suited her. Martial art training had also done wonders for her coordination and spatial awareness. A decision of the Chiefs of Staff of the Muvian Spacy had also seriously stacked the odds in her favor.
All Muvians were now cyborgs as they all had nanomachines colonies augmenting their immune system. Most Muvian military personnel were now one step further. Alterations developed for the Galaxy Police officers in the Tenchi Universe were being applied to all soldiers. Tessa and her crew, given their deployment far away from the fleet, had been among the first to be augmented. She smirked as she remembered how Melissa Mao had nicknamed the process that put the standard Muvian soldier slightly above the peak of human physical capacity: the Erskine package. In all of her lives, she had little interest for American comics but she had quickly found the reference to the origin of Captain America. And now the Agora is discussing about making that package standard for all population and including it in the hereditary nanotech augmentations. I know that some civilians already received it, like Kaname or Misa Ditchik’s youngest daughter. After all… why not?
Given the others implants she had, like the cyber-brain that helped her to make the most out of her Whispered abilities, she had herself a rather liberal point of view on cybernetic augmentation. This was maybe a point in which she differed from Teletha Testarossa, or from Harmony. To be fair I differ from them in many points. For Harmony… I’m not unhappy about it now that I know the part the Hellmouth’s empathic field played in creating my former slutty, bitchy self. Not that it will prevent me from using my experience in certain matters with Sosuke-kun...
She turned her attention to her quarters before thinking of Sosuke led her back to her bed and to another kind of solitary exercise. She was quite familiar with the place now and she had to recognize that Kaname had good taste, even if she was a little miffed that it was her friend and not her that had been the architect of the Thuata de Danann II. She had been far too busy compiling all the data they had about the Goa’uld.
Outside of the bathroom, there was only one room not including her office, through which she had direct access to the Combat Information Center. The bed was good and big enough for two, which had provoked a rather suspicious gaze from Mardukas. She also had a living room and a small kitchenette. Not full appliances as she usually ate in the mess with her officers but on some mornings, she appreciated to be able to have breakfast here.
“Sorry to interrupt, Captain,” said a feminine voice coming out of nowhere, “but there is a transmission that needs your immediate attention.”
“Thanks, Dana. Can you play it?” she asked while going to the kitchenette to prepare herself some tea.
A hologram materialized in the living room part of her quarters, displaying an image of an apparently human woman. Tessa winced as she knew better. This was Bastet, a rising star among the Goa’uld System Lords. A second image soon appeared, this time of Cronus, one of the most powerful System Lords.
“Pause. Method of retrieval?”
“Probe twenty-three, currently attached to Bastet’s flagship,” said the AI.
“Last known positions of Bastet and Cronus’ flagships.”
Another hologram appeared, this time a map of the galaxy. Cronus and Bastet were part of the alliance Heru’ur gathered to face Sokar. As all of these were currently busy fighting only a few dozens of light-years from Caerleon, she had inherited the task to monitor any moves from their part in the rear lines.
She listened as the two System Lords exchanged ‘pleasantries’, noticing their expressions and decoding several levels of implied statements.
“Pause. Which ciphering was used for this transmission?”
“Variant A, Captain.”
“Their standard diplomatic code… either they’re leading us around or they don’t care if someone in the vicinity is listening.”
She looked at the map, noticing the short distance between the two System Lords. It was possible that given the fact they were almost in the same star system, they had disregarded some security for what had begun as a ‘casual’ conversation. Cronus would have taken more precautions given his fear of Tok’ra operatives… but Bastet is still new at that game…
She poured her now ready tea. Contrarily to Tessa Testarossa who drunk hers with milk like some British Lady, Tessa Kalinin, or, as her father sometimes called her, Teresa Andreievna Kalinina, had made a point to honor her Russian roots, adding some drop of lemon juice in hers.
“Resume,” she said as she sat on her couch.
She grumbled as the message ended. This was definitely not good. Bastet had learnt of Sokar’s objective and the two Goa’uld had agreed to send scouts on a side of the nebula that was dangerously near of Caerleon. I wonder who’s Bastet source or if this is a trap to incite us to move… we need more insight on them. Very well…
“Has this been transmitted to my father?”
“Good. Redirection order for all probes in sector 41 per 26 per 63: search for small cloaked vessels spying on System Lords Ha’taks, probably of Tel’tak variety. Is Mister Mardukas already in the CIC?”
“Open channel, audio only.”
She might be more daring than the rather innocent Tessa Testarossa, but seeing her in lingerie was reserved to only one man… if she finally managed to get him alone in her room that is.
“Mister Mardukas, briefing of all officers in two hours. We’re going to look for the Tok’ra.”
Georges Hammond looked at the Muvian ambassador. He had decided not to use the word Sunnydaler anymore, not even in the privacy of his thoughts. He was pretty sure that Nike Astrea had been chosen for this mission because her presence itself was a statement. She was a reminder that the Muvians were not Terrans anymore. Just like in Dune. There are plans within plans. Oh, it’s subtle and a lot of people, among which far too many politicians, would probably only think she is another cold-hearted technocrat that got sent by incompetent people without ‘real’ diplomats. Fortunately, I have met enough people from alien cultures to know that what we consider proper may not be the case elsewhere… particularly when I have to consider non-humans.
He had been thankful that he had let Daniel Jackson lead the discussion. His good nature and respect for truth had been met with respect from the ambassador. Jackson had also been actually able to reply sensibly when Nike had started to cite Plato to illustrate a point.
In the last hour, the Muvians had presented them with the data they had on the NID teams, which had led O’Neill to exit the room to give orders to detain some people before they disappeared, while Teal’c had volunteered to give a tour to Kuramitsu and Saito. That left him with Daniel and Harriman taking notes.
“Do you have an idea of where their off-world base is?” asked Hammond.
“We do not know about one for now,” replied Nike. “From what we know, they were under orders to bring back the artifacts they stole to Terra. Now that you seized their Astria Porta, their stranded teams will have to reorganize… the whole question boils down to how effectively these teams can communicate with their Terran backers without it.”
“What do you intend to do?”
“Our intelligence service is still on alert regarding any person matching the other conquistadores for which we have reliable facial recognition data. We will of course proceed with capture if possible and transfer them here.”
“Regarding the two you want to keep, how will they be treated?” asked Daniel.
“Those we ‘want’ to keep actually asked to be judged under the laws of the Republic and volunteered to give information in exchange for leniency. They have deduced that their chances to survive here on Terra are slim.”
Daniel nodded somberly. He knew how the military would handle people guilty of high treason.
“So they won’t be executed?”
“Probably not. Interrogation revealed that Kershaw realized they had gone too far and Cummings is a cat burglar that got blackmailed into the operation and was looking for a way out that would not end up with him being shot. Both show sincere desire to atone.”
“Are you sure of that?” asked Hammond.
“Yes, General, we are sure. As our laws give them the possibility, they agreed to our equivalent of the polygraph, which means a complete scanning of their memories. Their contents are now part of the evidence for their case. I cannot give you any official assurance on the trial’s outcome, but my estimation as a simple citizen is that they will spend some time in prison.”
“It is not a question of length. They will stay until the psychologists decide they have atoned.”
“And if they don’t? For life?” asked Daniel.
“No. If they cannot be redeemed, then why should society waste resources on them? Personality Death will be applied for such cases.”
“This is a form of death penalty?”
“Yes and no,” said Psi, “This has been subject to intense moral debate for us. What I can tell you without speculation is how it works. The mind is erased and replaced with an artificial one. The body goes through some modifications to avoid prejudice through recognition and the new individual starts a new life. After that… did we kill him or give him a chance to start over? The debate is still running. Like death penalty, this is not something we use lightly.”
Hammond looked at the Muvian officer. This was not the first time she intervened to give a more emotional counterpoint to the ambassador’s logic. Contrarily to some other diplomats he had met, Nike did not seem to be bothered about that. No, probably rather thinking it is logical for her to make use of the skills of her escort.
Some levels higher in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Rodney McKay was working in his laboratory. He looked at a picture of the woman of his dreams. He knew she barely tolerated him while he had difficulty to prevent his sarcastic self from ruining any faint chance he may have had with her. Anyway, it doesn’t matter now… She probably won’t come back and if she’s changing into what we think she is… she might find me yummy, in the literal sense of the word.
He looked at the copy of the Dragonlance Chronicles on one of his shelves. True he wasn’t an elven prince but there was maybe a little chance. In the meantime, he would do his best to keep her place in SG-1 warm.
He put the picture back into a drawer and came back to his experiment, looking at the artifact one of the SG-Teams had found recently. Basically, it was working like a tunneling microscope, only faster and with better definition. It was therefore the perfect tool to observe how they could augment the yield of their Naquadah reactors. However, he still had to create a basis of knowledge by observing standard reactions.
He rubbed his eyes then verified the controls before coming back to the screen. He called the log on the computer plugged to the artifact and saw it again: Oxygen changing into gold in some kind of eerie blue light. Mass had just appeared and formed stable atoms. He started a full diagnostic. It came back with a result that left him shaking: no technical issue.
“No… not possible. It’s just like if the laws of physics decided to take a day off!”
Exactly one level below McKay’s apparels, Mihoshi restored her calm as she entered the sparring ring of the gym, wearing only shorts and a t-shirt. As Tara, the idea of facing a big man like Teal’c, even in a friendly sparring match, would have terrified her. The Mihoshi from the Tenchi timeline would probably have panicked at some point and won through some embarrassing bit of luck. Not that she would have minded. After a year of meditation, I understand fully why the original Mihoshi is like that… well most of the time.
Halloween had happened at a very peculiar moment in the Tenchi Universe, or from another perspective, just another normal day for that very peculiar household. As Joyce and Buffy had confirmed her, the original Mihoshi had just received a severe head trauma. Thanks to the near invulnerability caused by the probability warping, she had been mostly unharmed. Except that the bubbly, clumsy blonde she had been since another ‘accident’ happened had disappeared, replaced by her original personality. Mihoshi-Tara had discussed the problem with Psi who had come with the theory that the ‘bubbly’ Mihoshi was a coping mechanism created to allow her to forget something.
Mihoshi-Tara was not too keen on digging further but she had been forced to compose with a Mihoshi far different from the one of the Tenchi anime. Rational, supercompetent and workaholic were three words that defined that Mihoshi who was a lot nearer from Motoko Kusanagi than from some dumb blonde. This was the person she had to merge with, a person who had been trained in martial arts since her early childhood, because the Kuramitsu Clan only bowed to Jurai’s Royal Family in matter of military traditions. So she had coped and trained to merge all of her parts together, which had led her to approach Drusilla. The kung-fu mistress had quickly found many similarities between the Kuramitsu family style and a well-known Chinese one. Mihoshi had trained hard to refine all of her persona’s training. And what happened in Vis Uban proved me I can fight without shaking… even if it’s without my magic this time.
“Are you ready?” asked the Jaffa.
He had proposed her to spar as a way to break the ice. They couldn’t really show them the interesting parts of the SGC anyway. She had agreed, saying she had heard stories about his valor from other Jaffas.
“I’m ready,” she replied, smiling and bowing to him.
He bowed back, observing the low stance she had taken in a fluid move. He had already seen it when he had asked some of the SGC instructors about Tau’ri martial arts, to compare them to the Mastaba of the Jaffa. Chinese Kung Fu… let’s see which style.
They erupted into action and he quickly realized that she was faster than him, her moves almost a blur. The way she held her fingers gave him the last clue he needed: Eagle Claw, a very aggressive style based on speed and precision. He had to use his reach and greater strength to keep her strikes from connecting. He started to use more kicks and allowed himself a little smile. This was a lot more interesting than he thought it would be.
Initially, he had just been curious to spar against a member of a species built for war and Lieutenant Kuramitsu had agreed to oblige him. From the way the Zentraedi were described in Robotech, he had expected a utilitarian style similar to Special Forces training, not… an art.
From the sidelines, O’Neill could only nod appreciatively. He sparred enough often with Teal’c to know that the Jaffa moped the floor with him if he went full out but their sparring was almost brawly. Here, it was like seeing a tiger and a panther facing each other, both gracious and deadly in their own way. Teal’c was fast and reasonably agile, his moves giving an impression of mastered strength. Mihoshi was… flowing with that dance-like quality Chinese martial arts sometimes took.
“Beautiful, isn’t it, Sir?” said Saito.
“Did you know she was that good?”
“More like guessed… her Sifu is very demanding and students that don’t have talent and dedication don’t make it past basic courses. In a real combat, this would be a lot harder for your friend though.”
“Dim Mak is an essential part of the Eagle Claw style.”
Jack wondered where he had heard this when he remembered a Simpsons episode where Bart claimed to have learnt the Touch of Death. But… that didn’t work in real life, no? Yeah… just like dragons and sorceresses…
“I have to thank you for this occasion to spar, Lieutenant Kuramitsu. Is your style common in the Muvian Spacy?”
They were both resting a little after their fight, walking almost leisurely towards the locker rooms.
“Actually, it’s a family style.”
“I thought Zentraedi didn’t have families.”
“That’s true for the ones from the Macross universe, but I come from a different timeline where my ancestors founded a true culture and call themselves Seniwans. The Kuramitsu have been soldiers for many generations and… we have many traditions.”
“On another subject, what is your opinion on the war between Sokar and Heru’ur?” asked Teal’c as the elevator’s doors closed on them.
“Sokar is looking for us,” said Mihoshi rapidly, wondering if she was not about to make a diplomatic faux pas.
“Is that why you hid?”
“No, he started to search once he realized we were immobile. Part of his fleet was looking for us in the nebula. Once we realized who he was, our Intelligence Service tipped Heru’ur about his survival, which limited the forces he could commit to search us.”
“Pitting your enemies against each other is a clever move, but you do not seem to like it. Why?”
“I know that our technology in the hands of a System Lord would be a disaster, so I soothe my conscience as well as I can, Teal’c. It remains that we started a war that will cost thousands of Jaffa lives. They do not deserve to die for such masters.”
The rebel Jaffa bowed to her.
A few hours later, Hammond sat with SG-1 and Nick Ballard in the conference room. Their visitors had gone back to their base and they had settled for a return visit in four days.
“I would like to have your impressions on our visitors,” said Hammond. “Doctor Jackson?”
“For some things, they are like the Tollans, General. They have a huge respect for knowledge and science. Contrarily to the Tollans, they seem willing to trade.”
“What can we offer them? Their technology is even more advanced than the one of the Goa’uld,” said McKay. “The little peek I had at one of their pocket computers was enough to make me sure of that.”
“Services, probably,” said Ballard, “like recognizing the Republic of Mu as a sovereign nation publicly.”
“About what we could guess of their civilization?” asked the General.
“They could as well be full aliens and yet their past on this planet is blatant for who can see,” said Ballard who had studied the Muvian Constitution with his grandson. “A lot in the way they do things is an answer to problems existing here. A fundamental point is that they seem to have something we lost during the last decades. They have… faith in science and technology and are profoundly optimistic.”
Hammond nodded. He remembered his own childhood back in the fifties. Some things were bad but there was a faith then that tomorrow would be better. Somewhere along the way, stories about the future started to tell less about exploring new frontiers and more about dystopian worlds and technology became a worrisome monster. In many ways, hope had been replaced by fear.
“Teal’c, I heard you sparred with Lieutenant Kuramitsu.”
“I was curious to see if a human-sized Zentraedi was that different from a human. She is almost as strong as me and a little faster, which made for a very interesting fight. She has been trained in a style similar to the Eagle Claw style of Kung-Fu. I cannot tell if this is common among Muvian warriors. She also expressed what I believe is genuine sorrow for the Jaffa that will die in the war between Sokar and Heru’ur. If she is representative of Muvian warriors, we can count on their honorability.”
Hammond thought about his own experience with Lt Cmdr Gutierrez. Like Teal’c, he couldn’t tell if people obviously trained to handle ‘first contact’ situations were exceptions or the rule. What he knew about Admiral Carrington seemed to go in the right direction, though.
“Another important point,” said Jack, “Mihoshi told Teal’c that she wasn’t from the Macross universe. Rodney…”
“You know that she may not come from a universe that became a comic or a cartoon here? Okay, I’ll search,” he concluded, seeing O’Neill’s dark gaze.
Kaname Chidori had spent most of the last month working, often sleeping on the convertible sofa of her office in the shipyard. The official reason, the one she told to others was that she not only had promised herself to finish everything for Christmas, but also the urgency coming from the nearing Goa’uld menace. While these were true, she had another more personal reason: this gave her an excuse to avoid her father. She had a fairly good idea of why he was trying to smother her with attention and affection. She had understood once he had told them why he considered joining the SGC even before Halloween: to give her what she had desperately asked, to get out of Sunnydale’s weirdness. But… Halloween happened and I became a Whispered. The weirdness is part of me now.
She stretched and rose from her desk. She needed a break. Yes, she knew: she would take a walk and get a direct look at the Danann-class ships that had been completed. Since a discussion she had the day before with Joyce, Motoko and Ben Franklin, she had decided to limit her ‘dives’ to control directly the teams of construction AIs to the strict necessary. She remembered it quite well.
“Ben, how does it feel to use a network of supercomputers as your primary brain?” asked Kaname. “You’re receiving billions of data inputs per second so… don’t you feel that we analogic beings are slow?”
“Well… I think that you know the answer as well as me Kaname, but perhaps you need me to say it. For us Infomorphs, sentience is just another software part of the AI package. Like any software, it has hardware requirements. For some robots like the Tachikoma’s, it consumes so much that their performances are not that different from a human with a cyber-brain. For me… even with all the options connected it only uses a tiny fraction of my capacity, so I run several instances of it in parallel.”
“It varies with how many resources a given task needs and how many I need active. Right now, a little more than two thousands. They are not ‘individuals living in the same body’ but only different aspects of ‘me’ that merge and separate from my ‘self’ depending on my needs. I remain limited in that all of these are necessarily copies with the same mindset so I cannot gain some of the benefits of group work. Motoko has been the first to demonstrate that Whispereds had the same capacity, by controlling several cybernetic bodies at once.”
“My limit is at three however,” replied the Chief of Police.
“When I connect with the Shipyard, my conscience expands and…”
“Humans cannot upload themselves in the Net by will alone,” said Joyce, “they need the help of dedicated equipment. But Whispereds, particularly cyborg Whispereds, can. You’re afraid to become too comfortable with a larger brain, right?”
“Yes. Yesterday, I thought about sending what Ben would call an ‘instance of me’ animate my body while the rest of me continued to work. I… I’m actually thankful it freaked the hell out of me.”
“Kaname, even though I build myself this personality to better interact with humans, I know that some of your concerns will remain alien to me,” said Ben. “For example, I have difficulty to understand why some humans consider a simple hardware upgrade like a loss of identity and fear cybernetics. However, I can understand very well your own concern as it is would amount to upload yourself in a whole new core and this is not a decision to take lightly. But tell me: don’t you already use your cyber-brain to multitask?”
“Only in a limited fashion, Ben,” said Motoko. “It’s more like a few background processes ordered by the central software rather than full instances running in parallel.”
The infomorph’s holographic avatar nodded.
“So… what should I do?” asked Kaname.
“Limit your dives in the shipyard network to the strict necessary, kohai,” said Joyce. “Delegate to the semi-cognitive AIs and spend time to see and do things with your body rather than through some cameras. Act as a chief rather than control everything yourself. It will be less efficient but you have taken enough risks with your humanity… and I have checked the schedule, you burnt it at the same time you burnt your limits. All the secondary ships are almost ready. It will need more time for their crew to settle in – a task you cannot speed up – than for the AIs to finish with the small things. As for the city…”
“The last big task is the transfer,” finished the young Whispered, feeling exhausted.
Yes the Transfer… only a few days to brush up things before the big show…
She exited the elevator and looked at her babies, all twelve arranged in a circular way below the observation deck she was standing on. All were almost finished. They just lacked some personal touches to make them fit better with their captains. She frowned as she noticed a strange activity on the deck of one of them. She accessed a nearby camera through her cyber-brain and smiled.
“Well, I suppose it would be polite to go down and say hello…”
Kaname activated one of the antigrav inspection platforms and directed it towards one of the twelve ships and the small gathering on its launch deck. She knew most of the people present, having studied the dossier of each Captain who would be assigned to the Danann-class ships. As she approached, a tall blonde in a pink jumpsuit waved to her. She waved back. Back in Sunnydale, Willow and she had been classmates and things could maybe have blossomed in friendship if the Japanese girl had not been already too far gone to really care. Thankfully, Halloween allowed her to get rid of her despair.
The Whispered stepped down from her platform and joined the assembled officers.
“Hey, Willow. Isn’t the baptizing ceremony scheduled for tomorrow?” she asked To Willow.
“This is the idea of Captain Higano. You’re supposed to have received a memo…”
“I took a day off yesterday deactivated all messages except for emergencies… I can guess what Higano-san wants, though.”
A middle-aged Japanese man came to her and bowed with precision… as one did before his superior. Kaname bowed back, with the deference a younger person owed to an elder. After all, Hideo Higano was almost ninety, though he now looked a lot younger thanks to some time spent in regeneration.
“I am glad to see you here, Chidori-dono,” said the Japanese man with an accent a part of Kaname identified without problem as the one from the Kyoto area. “The ceremony would not be complete without the master who built this ship.”
Kaname did her best to be a proper Japanese girl and not blush. Captain Higano, sometimes nicknamed, behind his back, Captain Japan, had served as a submarine Captain in the Imperial Navy during World War Two. How he had ended in Sunnydale’s nursing home was… a private matter. After Halloween, when they had needed to use every talent possible, a lot of the old timers in that home went through regeneration to regain a degree of youth of their convenience. Hideo Higano had taken the opportunity to join the then forming Muvian Spacy. There simply had been no other honorable choice for this man whose ancestors served as samurais in the army of Tokugawa Ieyasu. And now, he’s treating me as if I was some renowned swordsmith… The fact he fought alongside my grandfather during the war just makes it more aggravating…
“I am glad that my work it will be placed in honorable hands, Higano-taichou.”
“It is me who is honored to command a ship built by such a talented Japanese engineer and who is wearing a name that is an integral part of Japan’s patrimony.”
Both turned as they noticed the girl standing silently near them, not daring to interrupt them.
“Pardon me,” said a young girl in white kimono jacket and red pants, “but we are ready.”
These clothes brought memories to the Whispered. More than once, Kaname-Tokyo had been a part-time miko during temple festivals, selling charms and fortunes. What was done here was more serious. They got to their places while Karura, dressed in full Shinto priest outfit, started to officiate. She immediately felt the crackling in the back of her mind as magic started to gather, flowing from the priestess to the miko assisting her and to the phoenix perched on the nearby control tower.
The ritual seemed… ancient to Kaname. She knew that Karura was from a family of shamans who were supposed to hold traditions going back to the Yamato era but… She concentrated, trying to feel the local Aether. Yes, she was sure of it. The chi of the ship had started to circulate. She listened as Karura called the blessings of the Kami on the ship, particularly calling on one name: Hachiman.
“Dad… Are you alright?” asked Faith, stopping her training session.
“Yes, Faith, I’m alright,” said Mars who seemed… touched by something. “It’s just… what is happening did not happen for a very long time… and for the first time since the Antiquity, I can actually do something.”
The Olympian’s power flared as his Mediterranean features became Asian and immaculate samurai armor covered him. Smiling, the god put his forefinger on her brow, allowing her to feel as he projected his power almost at the other end of the galaxy, through canal opened by a spell. She just stood by, taking in the experience as her father did his godly duty, soon extending it to all the warships assembled in the shipyard.
“You’re doing more than what they asked… I know that’s your right but…”
“Faith, these people are going to make war to the Goa’uld. Of course I’m going to help them, just like we’re helping the ‘Joes’. But there is also another reason. By casting this spell, by calling on my power with all the proper forms… this is opening doors, a lot of doors.”