Assigning the Roles
Characters: Terry Hale, Jordan Toussaint
“What are you thinking?”
Terry sighed, turning her eyes away from the window. It was alarmingly late in the morning. “That I should have stirred myself several hours ago. It’s too much to hope the universe has stopped for me.”
Jordan shaped a wistful smile to mirror the one on Terry’s face. “Improbable, but it would be nice.”
Mustering her will, Terry sat up and put her feet on the floor. She couldn’t recall the last time she spent so much time in a bed resting or otherwise (short of the medical facilities). It was a guilty pleasure, but not quite terrible enough right then to help her struggle to be responsible.
Behind her, the sheets rustled, letting her know Jordan was trying to follow her unenthusiastic lead. Terry got to her feet and wobbled off into the bath room. She bypassed the large tub, and went for the shower. Preset to her tastes, she was soon under warm water. Faintly, she heard Jordan moving about, and when those noises were close, she called.
“How long are you here for?”
Jordan shuffled back to stand near the shower door. “For a while, at least. Minbar got your call for more help, and so I got the shuttle over from Drazi space. I am yours to dispose of as you wish.”
Dripping soapy water, Terry cracked the door to look at him. He was being honest, and there was a smile on his face at seeing her expression.
“Pretty amazing luck that they’d pull you, for me,” she said.
He laughed. “So mistrustful. I don’t exactly see our betters as matchmakers… do you?”
“Matchmaker, no,” said Terry immediately. But many of the leaders back on Minbar were also their teachers. They knew a great deal about their students. And while she didn’t see them as meddlers, she believed they would do their best to provide opportunities for change, and betterment. Terry closed the door again, and finished washing up. When she stepped out, it was into a towel. She smiled as it was wrapped around her, and held fast with arms.
“So… what do you want to do with me?” he asked.
“Skipping the first few impossible ones right now… I might just let you into the engine rooms, if you promised to be good.”
Jordan gave her a look of mock hurt. “You’re telling me to be good? The stories I could tell about you…”
“Me? I’m innocent, and that’s blackmail you know.”
He grinned. “Well I wouldn’t want you feel mistaken in your opinion of me.”
Jordan Toussaint had, for a time, been what was kindly called a salvage expert. Like Terry, he’d had a few years of dubious worth before falling in with the Rangers (and then becoming one of them). Because of a mistake and a good deal of injustice, his career as an engineer had degenerated. He reached an all time low when all the work he could find was out of Earth territory, stripping wrecked and abandoned ships for anything of worth, sometimes rather soon after operating ships were reduced to drifting tombs. Carrion birds to the raiders hunts, on the worst days.
Raiders left the salvagers alone most of the time… as the salvagers were sometimes the only ones to go to for parts and repairs. Jordan had learned to fix numerous sorts of ships and while he tried not to work directly for raiders, it was ridiculous to pretend all those who bought from him had honest purposes. The people with the conscience and without the means to get out of that life tended to turn to drink, or something harder if they could afford it.
Terry had first seen him when a cargo ship she crewed on needed some emergency repairs, and docked at a Narn space station. His ship (and so his shop) had been in the adjacent bay. She met Jordan directly at one the bars – something the “free market” space stations had no lack of. When he accosted her, he spoke expansively about her beauty and begged her to let him buy her a drink. Terry had been unimpressed, being the only female human in the place and he was already quite a few drinks in, and likely couldn’t see straight.
It would have been their last meeting if it weren’t for the fact that part of the cargo ship’s problems was a dead engineer. Jordan repaired the cargo ship, then docked his little ship with it and crewed alongside Terry for the rest of the run. It is impossible to avoid a person forever on a ship, and sober he was quite a different person.
Owing to the fringes of society they were forced to work in –and perhaps with a little unconscious effort– she ended up running into him fairly often even after their ships parted ways. He stayed sober for longer and longer stretches, and he didn’t even go away when she kept saying no to his advances and finally explained why. After a while the only important thing they didn’t know about each other was that both of them had come to work for the Rangers. That secret hadn’t come out until they ended up on Minbar for training, each seeing the other at the first lesson. The only time afterward that he had managed to shock her as deeply, was when she’d believed he was dead.
“I’ve always wanted to have a peek in there. I’ve been told there have been some interesting advancements over the White Star Class,” Jordan said, bringing Terry back to the moment.
“I believe so, though I’m not the person who could rattle off the details from memory. Anyway, I expect you’ll know everything before the end of the week. I’ll be lucky if I get to see anything of you until you’ve explored,” Terry said, grinning. “I need to go up to the ship tonight, so I can give you the tour then.”
“Sounds good. What’s in store for you this afternoon?”
“A public session at council, and then I’ll likely be cornered a couple times after that, for missing this morning.”
“All right. I’ll come with you, be your guard for the day.” When Terry lifted her eyebrows at him, he added, “You should have one, you know.” He sounded quite serious.
“I’m a Ranger, Jordan. I can take care of myself.”
“You’re a public figure right now, Terry. I’ve seen you on ISN a few times. The last thing I want to hear is someone has taken a shot at you in revenge for one of your Rangers closing down his gambling den, or whatever,” Jordan argued. “Besides, I need to get up to speed on the situation here. I expect a council session will tell me more than I want to know of what’s going on behind the public statements.”
“All right,” Terry said quickly, and a little loudly in the effort to silence him. She didn’t have time for a verbal wrestling match, and he knew it. “In that case, we’d better get dressed. Council begins in an hour.”
Once decided, it only took them a half hour to get dressed and head out. Terry could follow the path back to the council hall in her sleep. It proved useful then, when she put half her attention on going quickly through her messages. Those from the Day of the Dead were more than a little disturbing.
Jordan listened to her muttering and didn’t interrupt until she made a comment about just going back to the ship right then.
“Whatever it looks like, your people seem to have it in hand Terry. Let them do their job, and you keep up with yours.”
Startled, Terry looked at Jordan. She hadn’t had anyone speak so bluntly to her for quite some time. As an equal. When she said so, he looked at her with an arrested expression and asked, “Do you think I should stop?”
“Certainly not,” she said so fiercely that it surprised a smile on to his face.
“Apparently I’ve been gone too long,” Jordan said.
“That should have been obvious before now.”
It wasn’t appropriate for them to show affection in public and on duty, but Jordan found an excuse to touch her back as they steered aside to let a vehicle pass in the road before the council hall. He gave up the contact reluctantly as they ascended the steps.
When they stepped inside, Terry’s link gave a chirp, but when she tried to open the line, nothing happened. Stepping aside of the traffic, she tried to establish a connection back to the ship to trace it’s origin.
“Nothing,” she muttered. “I don’t need this right now.” She looked to Jordan, but he didn’t have a link, not properly a part of the crew yet.
“Give it here, and I’ll see if I can get it working.” He took the link and glanced at the emptying hall. “You’d better get going. I’ll be up in the gallery. See you at recess.”
Terry tossed him a smile, and hurried off to the councilor’s entrance.
Copyright (c) 2001 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.