Characters: Tomás Darquin, Dr. Kim Matsumoto

Babylon 5, Shuttle Bay

Darquin marched to the shuttle, sending a flurry of Ranger grey folds all about him with the momentum. If he didn’t leave now, he’d never leave again. After standing in line to run his kendo stick through Security (just in case they had any unexplained broken ribs in their short stack of unsolved cases), he realized how much he was going to miss Babylon 5. He’d only been there for a short time before he went AWOL, and now that Nightwatch was gone, he finally got a chance to enjoy the station. Just in time to leave again.

He took his seat aboard the shuttle as fast as possible, dumping his pack into the empty seat beside him and laying his kendo stick across his lap after strapping himself in. He was looking forward to feel it rise into his hands when they hit space. In minutes, Babylon 5 flew past his window in a series of blurred impressions of the hangar areas. Before his heart had a chance to ache at the loss, stars swam across his view.

The cycle of life again, he thought. Loss and gain, pain and growth. He was old enough to realize that his sentimentality was little more than bittersweet indulgence. Aw, hell. Everyone needs a hobby.

Something, white and vast like Moby Dick, sailed into view. Darquin looked through the viewport out at the next chapter of his life, the Ranger Ship Phoenix. His face opened up like a flower, his eyes and smile wide.

From the moment he set eyes on the Phoenix, Darquin took every chance to look around it and gawk. As soon as he cleared his things through, he looked all around the shuttle bay like a tourist, then ran straight for the fighter bays. He found a few fighters, a Thunderbolt Starfury and two alien starfighters he’d never seen before, sitting on the deck while techs were performing checks on them.

“Boom-cha….” The techs turned around, startled. “Sorry, guys. Couldn’t help it. Those new ships are amazing!”

A Minbari tech stepped forward and greeted him with a small nod. “They are Zen’Thas Fighters, a hybrid of Vorlon and Minbari technology.”

“I hope we got some flight simulators aboard,” Darquin said. “One of these days, I’ve got to take one of ’em for a spin. Oh sorry, Tomas Darquin. I’ll be with Storm Squadron.”

“Ah, you must be Dar-Quinn, the new pilot.”

“It’s Dar-keen, actually. It’s all right. Humans make that mistake all the time. Is Storm Leader around?”

“I’m afraid not. He has disappeared.”

“Um…okay, I guess I’ll just report in to the First Off–” He stopped when he realized the tech was giving him the same regretful expression as before. “What. Him too? Okay, how about the Captain?”

“Captain Narsh is on board, yes.”

“Whew. I was afraid I’d have to wait till Entil’Zha was back. No, wait, the Science Section is on Deck 9, right? I’d better go there first before this AWOL virus starts to spread….”

Darquin poked his head through the doorway of the Main Science Lab. “Uh, Dr. Matsumoto?”

“Yeah.” She stood behind a counter, keeping her attention tightly focused on a flatscreen display.

He pulled the rest of himself into the lab and joined her. “Hey, somebody’s actually home. I was afraid you went out with the rest of the command staff.”

“Out with what?”

“Sorry, I didn’t introduce myself.” He offered his hand. “Tom Darquin. I signed on to be a lab assistant.”

As her face lit up, he didn’t realize how downcast she really looked. But now the gloom was in the process of getting nudged aside for the moment with a thankful smile. “Welcome aboard, Tom. Nice to have another person in Science.”

“Thanks, I’m looking forward to it. This’ll be my first chance to do this sort of work in years. Which reminds me. I got Starfury detail on top of this, so I’m liable to get called to the Batpoles without any warning.”

“And probably in the middle of data analysis,” she said with a smirk.

Darquin smiled back at her, admiring her face for a moment. As he flashed on memories of his Academy days, the fragrances of cherry blossoms and girls he yearned for as he watched them walk past the dojo…he realized that Dr. Matsumoto was raising an eyebrow at him. And then he remembered that her bio referred to latent telepathic ability.

He would’ve sworn in his mind, but he was afraid she’d hear it. But it was only a second; could she have really picked it up? he wondered.

“Looks like you just got aboard.”

“Hm?” Darquin realized he was still carrying his things. “Right! I’m just used to it, I guess. Aw, gee, look at the time. I’d better check in with the Captain before he decides to leave the ship too.”

“You said something about that before.”

“Well, someone told me that the leader of the Starfury squadron and the First Officer left.”

Dr. Matsumoto furrowed her brow. “This is the first I’ve heard of it.”

“Same here. Nobody told me about a field trip. Maybe the Captain can tell me what’s going on.”

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