Characters: Klevetati Yoshino, Terry Hale
Terry Hale was sitting in her quarters, for once not on the way to a collapse for a few hours, but rather taking an opportunity to catch up on paperwork where she could find a few moments alone. People were less likely to interrupt her here, when it was quite rare she used it for anything other than a place to sleep. She was surprised then, when the door chime sounded.
“Come,” she called, putting down the folder in her hand and glancing to the doorway.
Slightly self-conscious in her borrowed Centauri party dress, it was Yoshino who entered. “Captain? Please forgive the unusual attire. I was on my way to the wake when I got word from Darion — we have some results on your request. I assumed you would want to know at once.”
“No, no, not a problem. Thank you,” Hale said, but couldn’t help glancing first at the tapestry before her eyes. The sleeveless dress revealed a brilliantly colored dragon curling up the length of Yoshino’s left arm and a phoenix, wings and talons aflame, flying up her right. The heads of the two mythical beasts rested on the front of her shoulders, standing guard over her heart.
Hale stood. “So, what do you have?”
“We have located a likely star system approximately twenty light years distant, sir.”
“Too far for any kind of readings? Any radio frequencies or other ‘noise’ of civilization?”
Yoshino paused, squeezing her eyes shut for a moment as she thought. “We have been picking up such ‘noise,’ as you say. It is yet rather faint, but what we can piece together suggests this may be the homeworld of our quarry. A small colony or base would be easier to miss, accidentally or on purpose.”
Hale nodded, pacing a bit across the living area. “Good. Now how to approach this in some kind of logical way?” She spoke softly, mostly asking herself. It was a problem that had been occupying her thoughts for days now. “I can’t help but wonder how many sensors we’ve tripped already, but we’ve not known them for what they were.” She sighed.
“It is more Anla’shok Morgan’s place than mine to suggest tactics, sir,” Yoshino said, “but… I would have one suggestion.”
“We can only pick up so much information at this distance. I would suggest perhaps a quick jump into the system, drop a few remote sensor probes, then jump out again to a safe distance.”
Hale frowned over the idea. She wasn’t sure there was any such thing as a safe distance, but the idea was something to consider. “Just how quickly can the Phoenix recharge its jump engines?”
“We can recycle the engines in a little over five standard minutes, sir,” Yoshino answered calmly. “It is pushing the design parameters slightly, but we have done so in the recent past successfully.”
Hale’s eyebrows lifted in slight surprise. It was impressive. “All right. Well, I’ll consider it then. Good idea.”
Yoshino paused, considering the change of subject. “Captain?”
“Are you going to join us at the wake?”
Hale glanced at her folder of papers. There were things she could work on, but… “I’d been seriously considering it,” she said, “after a little work.”
“Good. I think you should be there, both as captain, and…” She paused again, glancing at the floor uneasily. This was even less her place than suggesting tactics.
“And?” Hale prompted mildly.
“You deserve to enjoy yourself, too. It’s going to be a good party.”
Hale smiled slightly. “I’m sure it will be. And…” She glanced around. Did she really have to be here now, stalling? “I suppose there’s no better time to see for myself. After you?” She waved to the door.
Yoshino smiled and bowed, preceding her captain to the door.
Hale followed, to and in the nearest lift. “Deck One,” she told the computer.
A few moments later, Yoshino stepped out of the lift. Music drifted across the corridor from the opened observation deck. “I believe one of Storm Squadron has brought his keyboard,” she said.
Hale listened. “Not bad. The last time I heard live music, well… far too long, obviously.”
Yoshino entered main observation room. It was a vast swirl of activity, light, talk and music. Hale, a step behind, took it in. Such a change from what she’d been seeing in the halls and galley these past days. A small smile began to cross her face.
“Captain, I need to check in with Doctor Trassano, so I will leave you here,” Yoshino said. “Please enjoy the fruits of your inspiration.” She smiled.
Hale’s smile widened. She gave a half-bow to Yoshino, who glided away through the crowd, a swirl of white and rainbows above and green below, like a meadow after a shower. Hale let her gaze sweep the crowd, nodding to a few in recognition, and began a slower path through. Idly, her glance went to the hall as she passed a doorway.
A tall, not quite gaunt figure in a dark Ranger cloak filled the open space like a bad omen. Hale paused, taken aback after the first glance as she recognized the man. But…
He stared at her for a moment, his dark gray eyes seeming to look more through her than at, then he sharply turned on his heel and fled down the corridor.
Hale, stunned, wove her way to that door and looked out down the hall. “Lucius?” she called.
But there was nothing but empty hallway.
Memories could haunt, but the dead did not return to the flesh, her mind insisted. Lucius Kordieh had died on the White Star 24. She’d seen his face in Dr. Trassano’s records, pale and waxy with death. Almost at once, her mind began to rationalize, to fix the impossibility. It could not have been him, she saw. It was just a close resemblance, on a day when the dead would be closer to mind.
She turned away and let herself be swallowed up by the party.
Copyright (c) 1998 Jamie Lawson and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.