Characters: Tomás Darquin, Terry Hale
Deck 7, Security Office
Tomas Darquin marched to his main station and promptly collapsed into his seat. The drills were going well, but his heart wasn’t in it. Recognizing the burdens of command, he made himself supervise and appraise each drill in person ever since the big briefing, and did his best to keep his hang-ups to himself. Responsibility, he’d been taught, should be worn, not carried. But his heart was millions of klicks away… on Babylon 5. And he wasn’t even sure if that’s where it belonged.
One part of him demanded discipline. Another part advised calmness, quiet contemplation. Childhood memories of a rainy night on a desert road lurked somewhere behind his ear.
He told them all to get fragged. He pulled out a data crystal from underneath his dark tunic and, looking over his shoulder at the closed doors just in case, cued one of the U2 albums on file to time-code 4:19, and programmed it to start again from the top.
"BOOM cha, BOOM cha, Discotheque, (I can't, get, I can't, not enough)--"
It was his favorite coping mechanism — adrenaline triggered by an old, old song that reflected his angst till it felt like fuel. Bubblegum scented, laced with forgotten innocence.
"--(I can't) BOOM cha, (get) BOOM cha (I can't), (not enough) Discotheque--"
As ancient electric guitars warbled across his consciousness, he leaned back in his chair and put his booted feet up onto the control console. “Thanks, guys. Thanks again.”
Much further down the corridor, Captain Terry Hale stepped onto Deck Seven and began the final leg of her journey to the Security Office. The size of the ship still amazed her. The familiar surroundings of a White Star vessel stretched out in front of her where she kept expecting it to stop. Sometimes it made her feel like Alice after one mysterious bottle too many. But for now the Phoenix was hers, and she had to be familiar with the entire ship, from the schematics and designs specs to the personnel.
After a conversation or two she’d done some studying, searching through the computer archives in the hope to get a feel for the history and people that inhabited the Phoenix. But it was all data collected when the subject knew that she or he was being observed. And the rest from home… well, who was to say if the “crimes” that pushed them from their lives were the convenient creation of Clark’s regime or dictated truth? Taken literally, half the crew should have been in prison or out an airlock. And funny, Shaver’s name topped the list again — for war crimes. What to believe?
A few personal visits –a surprise– was in order.
When she reached the Security Office, she got her surprise, all right. She tapped the doors open and nearly got bowled over by the incoming wave of manic percussion, voices processed through filters and desperation, and multi-layered digital cacophony. This was the sort of cheesy, seductive noise she would’ve expected in a seedy dive on Mars. And there among the elegantly sculpted Minbari workstations, humming consoles and shimmering hologram displays that floated in midair was a dark-haired human in Ranger uniform with his feet propped on the desk in front of him, nodding in time with the merciless drum beat.
This was the same officer she’d seen at the briefing a few hours ago who’d said nearly nothing, soaking in information.
Darquin swung his feet down to the floor as he spun his chair around. “Uh huh–“
After spending so much time with the Minbari, the sudden sight of long red hair and the faint spray of freckles was enough to knock him over with cultural shock and then he realized who was in front of him. Their latest CO. He slipped out of the chair, barely recovering from his fall in time to halt his descent and stand at attention. “Yes, sir?”
Terry Hale gave him a lopsided grin, holding her elbows and quite possibly laughter. “At ease. This isn’t the EF.” She waved at his chair. “Do you have a few minutes?”
“Uh…sure.” He reached across the console to shut the music off before going back to his seat. “Still used to the old training, I guess.”
“Oh? Unfortunately I don’t know much about you or anyone here.” She leaned back in her chair. “Which is why I’m here.”
“I’ll help if I can, sir.” Darquin shrugged and smiled awkwardly. “I haven’t been here that long myself.”
Hale nodded thoughtfully. “But, as you are in security… well, you’ve the access.” A small, confidential smile snuck across her mouth. “So, tell me. Are there any problems or facts I should be aware of about here?”
“Mm, uh….” He glanced at the door. “A few personal bits among the crew. A couple… infractions. Nothing serious as yet.”
“Anything that could endanger this mission?” She broke into a wry smile. “Nothing is normal in this situation. You have to understand how I worry about the cooperation of this team.”
Darquin sighed. “Yeah, I think I do. Look… there’s this tension, personal stuff between a few people here. It got official real fast, and there might be some bad blood about that.” He blushed. “Partly my fault, since I tried to keep it hush-hush.”
Hale nodded to herself again. “The original incident, though, it’s settled?”
“As far as I know. Nothing public, anyway. Commander Shaver pulled us over the carpet, and the others had to swallow it. That’s it.” Thinking, his eyes wandered a moment. “Have you… talked to him yet?”
“Briefly, a number of times.” Captain Hale let a moment pass. “But unfortunately I have been hearing about him… more than I care to.”
Darquin squirmed a little, re-adjusting his posture. “Well, there might still be mixed feelings, like I said. Or are we talking about something else?”
Hale took her time, evaluating. “I’ve had some cryptic comments about him, many of them having to do with Vorlons. At the same time, the attitude of other crewmembers doesn’t bode well. I have to be able to trust him, and yet there is this.”
As if squinting to watch the horizon, he scowled in surprise. “The Vorlons? I never heard about him having any kind of connection with the ambassador on Minbar. Or the ones on B5.”
“His file is singularly unenlightening, and those I could ask are unavailable now.”
“That sure sounds like the Vorlons, I’ll give you that. So this isn’t just rumors we’re talking about?”
“When a number of the comments come from command officers, I can’t cast them aside so easily.”
Darquin winced as if pinched. “Aye,” he mumbled, the Spanish equivalent to “ouch.”
Sighing, Hale scrubbed her face briefly. “Well, if you don’t know, it would be pointless and unproductive to canvas the ship. I’ll just have to keep an eye on him, then.” This time, her smile had only a faint touch of amusement.
“I’m afraid so,” Darquin said slowly. “I’m doing my best to secure the whole ship against sabotage, but if the Vorlons are in this… we’ll need more than just bigger guns.”
“Oh, the Vorlons are gone.”
Hale’s voice was firm, certain. Her facial expression changed as if responding to a memory. Darquin began to wonder: Was she there when the Vorlons left… in the fire at Coriana Six?
Hale returned to her earlier demeanor with barely more than a blink. “Tell me, this personal incident before Shaver. Did it involve Santiago in any way?”
“Um, yeah,” he said softly. “It happened just when we were moving out to get refugees off Minbar.”
“Then perhaps just a collection of personal grudges,” she murmured, mostly to herself. Darquin nodded briefly to agree, even if neither of them seemed positive on the assumption. Hale cleared her throat. “Well… Nothing I can do but fret over at the moment.” She looked up to make eye contact, then added blandly, “It would be easier if we didn’t have the Hellfire in this. Frankly I don’t trust the lot further than I can throw their ship.”
“Because they’re Earthforce?”
“Because they’re mercenaries.”
Darquin exhaled. “Double ouch.”
Captain Hale folded her arms, grimacing. “If we’d had the White Stars and crew to spare….”
“So should I expect trouble from that front as well?” Darquin gave her a nervous smirk.
Her mouth quirked. “Well… I’ve no intention of having them over for tea. With luck, we can get through this mission as quickly as possible. But until then, though I hate the division of resources, keep an eye on them?”
“No problem. I know someone just right for the job.”
Hale nodded and allowed one genuine, heartfelt smile to shine through. “Good. I doubt they would turn on us…. Sheridan isn’t a fool, but still.”
“Well, he’s sending us in, isn’t he?” He bit his lip to hold back an evil grin.
Hale let out a peal of startled laughter. “Indeed.” Slowly, she got to her feet. “Well, that’s all I can think of to interrogate you on at the moment.”
Darquin gave her a quick nod and stood as well. “A pleasure doing business with you, sir.”
She nodded back to him and made her way around her chair. “Oh, and Darquin? If anything changes, I want to know personally. You let Shaver know, of course, but I can’t wait on the chain of command.”
He paused. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Her facial expression softened, then she gave him one last nod before going out the door. He watched her leave, thinking. They had politely skirted the issue, throwing a euphemism in between them so they could dance around it. Unable to say what was on their minds, Darquin decided that if they had to dance, he might as well be a good dance partner and follow her signals. Until he could think of a better dance step, anyway.
Returning to the data crystal he left in the reader port, he started searching for a Dire Straits album. It only seemed appropriate now.