Breathe Deep the Gathering Gloom

Characters: Tomás Darquin


Deck 4, Service Bay

The blast from overhead fell on them as if it carried the first few levels of the ship along with it. Metal groaned with a forceful shudder, sometimes screeching. Under the deafening wall of noise, they could hear screams and crystals shatter in the distance. And as Tomas Darquin raked at the end of Kordieh’s pant leg for a firm grip, blinding white pain passed over his eyes and darkness spurted all over his sight.

He quickly resalized that, after that, there were no emergency lights, no noise, or even deckplates to bounce off of. Even when he spent most of the Battle of the Line blacked out after ejecting and crashing nose-first into the Moon, he wasn’t aware of the nothingness between the crash and being dug out of the lunar dust. But now he was aware of himself and nothing else like consciousness floating in a jar, suspended in ink. For a moment, he wondered if he was dead.

A turbulence of thought, memory, and sensation shoved him out of limbo. Rolling and rotating head over heels, he began to suspect that he might’ve been dreaming and somehow managed to stay lucid. That made him more nervous than the prospect of being dead; what if everything he knew–Earthforce, his parents’ disappearance, the Phoenix–was a dream?

He wasn’t waking up, not getting any definitive answers. So much for being lucid.

And then an eerily smothering consolation poured over him, strangely familiar, intimate and sanguine…dim lamplight, a stony ceiling from the dimmest of childhood impressions. He gasped with pleasure, halted the breath out of shock. He was home, in one of the Arizona arcology flats. But somehow none of the brushstrokes overhead triggered thoughts of his aunt and uncle’s place; this place was different.

Then a stranger’s loomed over him without warning. The man’s face looked gaunt in the stretching shadows of a poorly lit night as he glared directly into him.

Darquin recognized the eyes. He saw them with the help of a friend. Kim managed to guide him through the mental wall. On the other side of it lay the knowledge that his parents stood by while a Psi-Cop wiped out something in his memory and abandoned him on a desert road in the middle of the night and the rain.

He reached out for the stranger’s neck, eager to crush him for all the years of nightmares and the last few months of flashbacks, when he saw how minuscule and pudgy his hands were…like a baby.

“Do it…before Juan comes back.”

As before, his mother had just declared sentence. The stranger in Psi-Corp black stood over him, prepared to execute it. It was happening again. This time he’d be aware enough to understand, to anticipate all the nightmares he had to look forward to.

He screamed, but all that came out was a baby’s voice.

The pitch-black avalanche rolled in as memories got pulled out of place. The bricks of the psychic wall were being slapped into place. The Psi-cop’s grey eyes were beginning to fade out of sight.

It was about to happen as it had before, except now Tomas Darquin had almost 30 years of hate and jubilant rebellion to draw from. He had been trained to fight by his own kind and challenged by kindred spirits to master the application of force and terror.

Anla-shok…mora’dum…by God, I’m at least gonna fight, he thought.

With the conviction of all the songs he’d ever heard in his life, his adult consciousness reached out between the diminishing gap in the psychic wall, intent on fulfilling his escape. And when he felt his fully grown hand latch onto the Psi-cop’s neck, he recoiled in shock. As the impression of solid flesh and raw violence turned liquid, he heard the man gasp in kind.

Wha…?

Wuh-wait…stop! Feeling brick under his feet, Darquin looked out into the wide dust-colored eyes that towered in front of him. He didn’t bother to wait till he understood what was going on, and called out again. Listen, dammit! I won’t let you do it, not again!

The stranger’s eyes instantly materialized beside him, gaping.

Yes, it’s me. Darquin suddenly felt his shape solidify, the comforting flow of dark Ranger garb draping him.

The Psi-Cop’s bony face popped into existence in front of his. You’re an adult–

Yeah, long after you screwed me up. Don’t ask me to explain ’cause I can’t. All I know is you can’t deny me anymore and I’m using it for all it’s fraggin’ worth.

No! Your lives depend on this!

Darquin reached out again, smiling inside as he got a fistful of black uniform and pulled the Psi-Cop’s presence closer. Don’t gimme that. You weren’t here trying to keep it together when a ship full of people are counting on me. Who are you?

Listen to m–

What the hell d’you want from me! Why are you doing this!

The Psi-cop’s mental voice became flat and cool like steel. Your family is in danger, damn it. You can’t stop me.

Darquin felt something press down on him, smothering him. As the weight forced to him to knees, crushing him like a high-g turn, he clawed his way down the Psi-Cop’s body, slipping down and dangling over nothingness till he managed to shove some of his fingers into one of the Psi-Cop’s jackboots.

You can’t kill me either.

The Psi-cop looked down at him, then let his eyes wander in search of his next move.

Darquin found himself on his back at the Psi-Cop’s feet, smiling up at him. Gotcha there. This is one problem you can’t stomp on. Didn’t work for the Minbari or Knightwatch, so it–

“Minbari?”

Darquin found himself on his back at the Psi-Cop’s feet, looking up at him with an evil grin. For the Psi-Cop, the Earth-Minbari War was almost fifteen years away. You’ll meet them soon enough, Darquin answered.

Thomas, listen–

I’m not letting go. You’ve been a part of me too long. Who the hell are you!

The Psi-Cop tried to pull away, but Darquin was already climbing up his body, refusing to fall into the encompassing limbo. We’re taking a big risk as it–

NAME!

Pippodemus!

Get real.

Nicholae Pippodemus! I swear, now let go, damn it!

Darquin climbed his way back to the Psi-cop’s throat, digging his thumbs into the fleshy sensation of a neck. Just this once…this moment’s mine.

A blinding flash tore Darquin away and swallowed his awareness, earning a second unspoken scream from him.


 

Immediately hearing sparks and alarms, Tomas Darquin found himself on his hands and knees, looking down through acrid, thick smoke at Dunsten Kordieh’s body on one of the decks of the Phoenix.

“No….” Darquin rammed his fist into the floor. “No! I had him!” He arched his back, looking past the deckplates and the chemical haze to reach out to the faceless universe. “I was there! I HAD HIM!”

He let himself fall to the floor, shoving dust and debris aside, mumbling and sobbing. He was only vaguely aware of the devastation around him, completely oblivious to Kordieh’s motionless, catatonic form slumped on the deck only centimeters away from his dirty fists. Horror twisting her face as she saw Kordieh’s body, Tianmun climbed over the fallen fragments of girders and ceiling, putting her arms around Darquin, smiling gently her thanks for words that would inspire a son she had yet to conceive.

Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day's useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold-hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the color from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white,
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?
– The Moody Blues, "Nights in White Satin" (epilogue)

Copyright (c) 1998 Joe Medina. All rights reserved.