They had returned to the Phoenix, the mission a success. She had left Peter to his own thoughts most of the time. She hadn’t wanted to intrude, or disturb them.
Ryath watched Carlacci descend the ramp to greet Tomás. It was like watching two old friends meeting for the first time in a long time. Darquin hadn’t been sent to escort her. That was obvious by their greeting. But neither had the Narn G’Fen. This she took as a good sign, that they weren’t putting their best and physically able on her.
She was hidden in the shadow of the airlock; the hood of her coat pulled over her head casting a dark shadow over her face. She saw Darquin’s eyes flick to the ramp as he asked questions of Carlacci.
She stepped from the shadows and walked slowly down the ramp, all the time her eyes scanning the bay for Dunstan. She stepped from the ramp and it immediately retracted back into the Flyer. The airlock door slid across and sealed, leaving no telltale mark on the surface of the ship.
As soon as she was out of her ship, she felt the oppressive watch of the Phoenix, like spiders crawling over her back. Something had happened! And the Phoenix had disabled all but three of her probes. Those that remained were in Kim’s quarters, Medlab, and a cargo hold.
Darquin looked serious, more so than usual. Peter turned briefly to Ryath, his face showed his emotions. She didn’t need to read him. She knew he was angry and concerned.
Darquin grinned at her. “Hey, blondie.”
He was trying to make it sound light, but she sensed the weariness in his surface thoughts as it crept into his voice. She could feel in the decks above them, like a chill in the air. And not for the first time, music wafted from his mind. Songs, backbeats, and guitar riffs cross-faded into one another. She began to wonder if he ever thought of anything else.
“Anla’shok Darquin.” She inclined her still hooded head to Tomás. She looked again for signs of Dunstan, but now she sought for clues as to what had happened while she had been away.
“No armed guards, if that’s what you’re looking for. Just me.” He shrugged, smiling. “Like I was saying to Pete, it pays to call ahead. We’ve had all the heartstoppers we can take for a while.”
“Something happened after we left,” Ryath said.
Darquin answered with a solemn nod. “Oh yeah,” he said with meaning.
“It sounds like G’fen is up for misconduct,” Carlacci added.
“A long trip back to Minbar. That’s what he’s up for.” With a subtle change in her facial expression, Ryath prompted him for more. “When we found out the Centauri were being bombed, G’fen lost his mind. He thought it was party time.”
“In the station house?” Carlacci said.
“No, right there on the bridge. Half the command crew was there. We told him to knock it off. Boom. He starts giving some lip. He was entitled to his opinion, the Centauri were evil, la la la, on and on. He was a Narn. All of a sudden, rules didn’t apply to him. The chain of command, the Ranger code, nothing.”
Fool of a Narn! Couldn’t keep your mouth shut. I wonder if you’d be so happy if you knew how many Narns were still in Centauri prisons when the attack started. She removed her hood and placed a gentle hand on Darquin. “If there is something I can do?”
Darquin sighed, his expression softening, and grinned. “No, Ryath, I don’t think so. It’s a Ranger problem. But thank you. And thanks for helping Peter.”
She smiled in response, something she had found herself doing a lot more since involving herself with the Rangers. Removing her hand, she stepped level with Tomas. They moved off towards her assigned quarters, and Peter followed a little behind.
“I would ask a favour of the Captain and you, Tomás.” She continued on before he could switch thoughts and ask questions. “I have a funeral to tend and would very much like Anla’shok Kordieh to attend.”
He exchanged a glance with Peter Carlacci. “I, uh, could run it by the Captain,” he offered. “Fair warning though. I might have to send someone else along.”
She thought quickly on his comment. “That would be acceptable if it were Peter or you. I’d rather not have the whole of the Phoenix knowing my business. But as Peter already knows, and you and the Captain need to know in order for Dunstan to accompany me.” She smiled. “I’ll await your decision.”
“I’ll let ya know what the Captain says.” Darquin chuckled. “If it was up to me, all I’d ask is, ‘Have him back by 2300 and don’t fly drunk.'”
She grinned at the joke. “Thank you, Tomás. I’ll wait for the Captain’s decision in my quarters.”
“Right this way.”
She stepped aside to allow another Ranger to pass, falling a little behind Darquin. Following him she asked, “Would you let Dunstan know I’d like to see him?”
They stopped outside her assigned quarters. “And if any more information is needed to convince the Captain, I’m sure Peter can fill you in on the details.” She looked to Peter briefly, nodding her approval for him to tell what he knew.
“Such as they are,” Peter said. “Half of it would be my deductions, anyway. I have some calls I need to make. If either of you need me, you know where I live.” He hefted the small sack he was carrying, adding, “I’ll be having a little party in my quarters, maybe tomorrow. G’fen is not invited.” Turning, he rounded a corner and was gone.
Ryath turned to Tomas, “Testy isn’t he!”
He shot a glance at her, startled. As the shock wore off, he tried to squelch a laugh in his throat. “You’re fun to be around, but you got all the tact of a mini-nuke. You’re welcome to rest up here while I go upstairs. I’ll buzz ya when I get the word.”
The grin on her face quickly disappeared as she realised that G’Fen was really her problem, having arranged for him to be on the Phoenix.
Copyright (c) 2004 Niki Hipwood, Jamie Lawson and Joe R. Medina. All rights reserved.