Characters: Candace Carlacci Devine, Elora Morgan
Candace Carlacci Devine paused outside the door of the Benedictine school. She glanced at herself in the polished black stone of the entranceway, straightening her duster jacket and brushing a few strands of hair out of her face and tucking them back into the ponytail tied at her neck. She almost looked like a real Ranger, she thought, except of course there was no Isil’zha badge at her shoulder. Maybe in another year she could begin the real training.
Setting a polite smile on her face, she rang the bell.
A novitiate answered it, pleasant. “Hello! How may I assist you?”
“Good morning, Brother. I made arrangements with Brother Romanos to visit one of your students today.”
“Oh, yes, Miss Devine. I was told to expect you. Right this way, please.”
She followed through the warmly lit passages, to the office of Brother Romanos, the dean of the teaching staff. She greeted him with a smile and a polite bow. “Good morning, Brother Romanos,” she said. “How is Elora?”
Brother Romanos stood and bowed in return, Minbari-fashion, then offered his hand. “Difficult,” he answered honestly, with a wry smile.
She took it, a firm clasp as her father had always taught her. Taking an offered seat, she asked, “Can you tell me some about it? I’d like to help, but I can do that best if I know what’s going on, I think.”
He nodded. “I think it can best be described as refusing to fit in. Perhaps she thinks we’ll send her back to Babylon 5 if she doesn’t cooperate.”
“Could be. I remember, a couple years ago, when Pop joined the Rangers, it was real hard for me, being here and him being gone so much. Before that, he’d taken me along wherever he went.” She tugged at the back of her ponytail, thinking. “Would you let me take her out of the building? I thought maybe if I showed her some of the sights around the city — do the whole touristy thing — maybe she’d talk to me a bit.”
Brother Romanos had to consider carefully, after Elora’s behavior. But this girl seemed nearly a member of the Anla’shok herself, never mind her father. Finally, he nodded. “As long as you are aware of the possibility she might try to get away.” But then he smiled. “After, you are welcome to join us for supper, if you can.”
“As long as I check in, shouldn’t be a problem,” she said. “Can I see her now?”
“Of course. She is in the study hall.” He rose again, to escort her. She followed quietly, and waited in the corridor when the dean entered the study hall room to fetch Elora. Her father had told her that the girl was a little younger than she, and passed on the information from Morgan about what she was like. Candace only hoped that she could help.
Elora listend to Brother Romanos’ offer without appearing to. She had found that if she pretended not to speak English, she would be left alone, except in class. Except she had become even more lonely, and she didn’t think she had anyone fooled. After a few moments she stirred herself, and interrupted him testily. “Ie, ie. I will go.”
When she came out of the study hall, Candace smiled. “Hi, Elora,” she said. “I’m Candace.”
Elora looked the older girl over. “I thought we were the only kids here,” she said bluntly, of the other students at the school.
“Pretty close,” Candace answered with a shrug. “I’m the only human kid in Tuzanor.”
“Can we get out of here?”
Candace smiled. “Sure, come on.” She headed for the front entrance, having noted the way when she was escorted in.
Brother Romanos watched them, still wondering if this was a good idea, but they couldn’t keep Elora locked up until she turned 18.
For her part, Elora was doing her best to mask her interest with the sullen lack of she had been practicing.
“So,” Candace said once the door of the school had closed behind them, “have you seen any of the sights of Yedor?”
Elora shook her head. “Only through the windows on the way in. I am not trusted. How did you end up here?”
Candace spoke as she led the way to the nearest tube station. “I came with my Pop when he decided to join the Rangers. I stay in Tuzanor and study while he goes out on missions and stuff.”
“Sure is fun, just being dropped wherever it’s convenient,” Elora grumbled, also proving her English was much more colloquial than she had let on recently.
“I know,” Candace said. “Before he joined the Rangers, Pop and I travelled everywhere together.” She tried to think, figure out what was the best thing to say. At least Elora was talking, and the last thing she wanted to do was mess that up. “But then, there’s a big difference between working a passenger liner, and what the Rangers do.”
“Hmph. Glorified heddlu,” she grumbled.
“Que?” Candace stopped just inside the doorway of the tube station, and looked down at Elora. “No hablo Cymraeg, pero hablo Espanol muy bien.”
Elora’s eyes widened. She hesitated, then the corner of her mouth quirked upward. “I only understood ‘Cymraeg’ of that.”
“‘I don’t speak Cymraeg, but I speak Spanish quite well,'” Candace said. “I guess my point is, if we want to understand each other — and I do, honestly — we’ll have to settle on a common language.” She smiled.
“Sorry. Cymraeg is… uncommon. I’m surprised you even use the right word. I just…” She shrugged. “I’ll stick to English.”
“Okay.” Candace walked over to a ticket dispenser, slid her cred-chit through, and retrieved two tickets, handing one to Elora. As they stood on the platform, she added, “Sounds like you’ve got a problem with the Rangers.”
The younger girl’s face lost it’s relaxed look. “Glorified police is all they are.” She squinted in the direction the tube would be coming from.
Candace bit her lip hard on a tart reply. Socratic method, come on, kid. “Oh really?” she asked, doing her best to sound genuinely curious.
“An officer can live anywhere. Why here? And she’s an engineer anyway, not law enforcement.” Grumbling, Elora wouldn’t look at Candace.
Candace was silent on that for a minute, as the train arrived and she boarded with Elora. As they pulled away, the train ran slowly through a section of tunnel that was being repaired. “Look at that,” she said quietly.
She glared over at Candace. “What?”
“All that damage,” Candace said. “Someone planted a bomb. There was an explosion in the tunnel.” Her voice sounded alomst distant. “So this is the station where it happened…” She shook her head. “Never mind,” she said. “I guess it’s not really important.”
She looked back, trying to see the damage. “Not important?” she repeated, angrily.
“Well, it has to do with the Rangers, believe it or not,” Candace said, trying to keep her voice matter of fact. “How about this — I’ll tell you the story and you can decide if it’s important or not? If you want to hear it.”
Elora glowered at the older girl, not sure what to make of her. Then she settled back. “If you feel like talking.”
“I guess it was a few months ago. Like I said, someone set off a bomb, which badly damaged the tunnels. There was a train going through at the time. There were a lot of people on it — I think it was around midday or something. The train came apart, derailed, tumbled over. Lots of people hurt.”
She looked out the window into the dark, trying to imagine the scene she was about to relate. It had become a lot more about Candace herself, and what she felt for the Rangers, than about Elora — she had to admit that to herself. But for now, so be it.
“Some of the machinery began leaking. Coolant, I think, very poisonous. A man on the train — a Ranger — got a lot of people out of the wreck and back to safety. He nearly died doing it.” She gave the quickest of glances to the girl beside her. “Sorry for going on. I just wasn’t expecting to be right where it happened. That’s all.”
“You don’t have to ge a Ranger to do that,” she protested softly, but she was thinking and not merely reacting now.
“No, I guess you don’t,” Candace said, “but it’s the sort of thing the Rangers do — oh, this is our stop coming up.” She got to her feet. Elora followed her silently. She had lost interest in their destination, but from introspection.
Candace let her think, as they walked out of the station. Their path took them along a street which made a broad, sweeping curve upward, along the edge of a high hillside. A temple stood at the crest of the hill, its crystalline walls and spires looking as if they had been carved out of the living stone itself.
Elora had opened her mouth to say something, but stopped when she saw the temple, mouth gaping.
“It’s called the Cliff Temple,” Candace said, also looking up. “The name in Adronado — the religious caste Minbari language — sounds a lot prettier, but it also takes a lot longer to say.”
“Can you say it?” Finally, Elora sounded her age, still full of wonder.
“I’ll try.” Candace closed her eyes, trying to make sure she got the long, lyrical phrases of Adronado correct. It was still her weakest of the Minbari dialects. She blew a deep breath when she’d finished. “I think that’s it.”
“Wow. No wonder Modryb Meg likes it.” She forgot for a moment to be defensive at the thought of her aunt.
“Shall we go have a closer look?” Candace gestured upward.
“Oh, yes, can we?”
“Sure, come on.” Candace resumed walking along the path, and after a few minutes they had reached the main entrance to the temple. In front of them, the tall doors stood half open, allowing the faint sounds of a chant to drift outward; behind them, a large plaza with a bench along one low wall offered a grand view of the city.
Elora boggled at it, then closed her eyes to listen to the chant. Oddly enough, it sounded familiar, even though the language was unknown to her.
After a moment, Candace touched her lightly on the shoulder. “We can go inside and hear better, if you want,” she said softly.
Elora nodded. Opening her eyes, she smiled faintly at Candace, unguarded.