Characters: Klevetati Yoshino, Roland DeVries
Klevetati Yoshino set her shoulder to the broken door of her quarters, wedging it into the small space and pushing to get the door open wide enough to let her slip through. The devastation here was just as thorough as everywhere else on the ship, and the worst part of it was she had neither the time nor the energy to do anything about it. She was here for just long enough to get some real sleep. Stims only took one so far, and Darion had insisted that she sleep — and promised under threat of severe bodily harm to wake her in six hours.
She stumbled her way toward her bed. She was so exhausted that she was practically dreaming every time she blinked. As she reached the low mattress, her foot caught on something. She bent to pick it up, and realized it was Doctor Trassano’s party dress, left here after she had changed at the end of the wake. A party that now seemed a lifetime past, though as Yoshino gripped the now dusty green satin, she could remember at least one part of it quite clearly.
Much to his surprise, Roland DeVries found himself dancing… or at least an acceptable equivalent. As she patiently showed him the steps, Yoshino said, “Your wingman with the keyboard is very talented, Mr. DeVries. And you are not as bad a dancer as you claim,” she added with a smile.
Managing a nervous smile, he said, “Actually, I thought I was being optimistic there.” He could see T’rar out of the corner of his eye. The Narn was smiling. “He’s not gonna let me live this one down…” he muttered.
Yoshino, following DeVries’ eye, glanced over at T’rar, observing his dance style. “And your gunner is… most ambitious.” She looked back to her own partner. “Is it time for me to …. let you off the hook?”
“Too late, I’m thinking, for that. But the song does sound like it’s coming to a close. Thirsty?”
“Yes, now that you mention it. Thank you…”
She began walking off the dance floor. “I’ve been so busy trying to make sure everyone else has some fun.”
“I’d heard you were one of the ones that organized this. Good job.”
Yoshino smiled, a blush showing brilliantly through her colorless skin. “Thank you. Everyone needed it.”
With a gesture toward the refreshment table, he said, “By the way, nice dress.”
She followed his lead, gently going with the flow of people as the music had stopped for a few minutes. “Again, thank you. I borrowed it from Doctor Trassano. I had nothing that was suitable for…” She raised one arm, showing the flaming phoenix, “…properly displaying the art.”
“I was noticing,” he said. “Nice… eh …workmanship.”
“My artist was the first real friend I ever had. The only one who saw me as something other than … a freak.”
DeVries suddenly rolled his eyes as he caught a gesture from T’rar. “Something the matter?” Yoshino asked.
He struggled, trying to find the right response. “Oh, nothing. Just a running… gag, if you will, with the Narn,” he said at last, pointing. “Soon to be suitcase if he doesn’t stop,” he muttered under his breath as he at last got to the refreshment table. “Uh …you have a preference?” he asked Yoshino, indicating the drinks.
Yoshino suddenly felt an pang of ugly suspicion. “What sort of gag?” She struggled to get past the anger that seemed to have come from nowhere — it wasn’t DeVries’ fault. “Just some cold water, if you would.”
“Okay,” he said, adding to the bartender, “2 waters.” Then he turned back to Yoshino, trying to explain. “Gag? Maybe wrong choice of words. He was reminding me of something we were chatting about on the way here. Don’t mind him. He can be, somewhat…paternal at times. Guess it’s something to do with this ‘life obligation’ thing of theirs.”
She nodded, hearing the concern in DeVries’ voice, and regretting her outburst. “I’m sorry. I have … a bad attitude about some things myself.” She paused, trying to think of a way to get past it. “A life obligation? Is that why he is with you?”
“No problem. Get that way myself sometimes.” He glanced back T’rar’s way. “Yeah, he and I go back a ways. Met during the War.”
Yoshino recognized the emphasis he placed on the word. The Earth-Minbari War. She took her glass and sat at the closest empty table she could find, a bit startled. DeVries was not — could not be — any older than she was. “That’s a long time ago, now. What happened?” she asked.
DeVries accepted a glass of his own and moved to sit across from her. “I’m from the Delphi colony, one of the first the Minbari hit. I had nowhere to go when I was evac’d so I joined the Colonial detachment of the Alliance Marines. Back then, the only race that would help us were the Narns. Narn cruisers helped to convey a lot of our raider teams around as well as providing hardware for us to use. T’rar was one of their advisers when I met him.”
Yoshino had looked down at the table as he spoke, thinking back to the time. She had been in her late teens, just out of school. I hadn’t even joined the clan yet, she thought. Looking back up, she said, “And somewhere along the line, you saved his life?”
“He mine, actually, during the war. I was…” She could see him rolling his eyes upward, doing mental arithmetic. “…14 when I enlisted. They weren’t too choosy about recruiting. Things he taught me…well, I’d have been killed early on if I hadn’t listened.”
She couldn’t say anything for a moment. While she was plodding though school, trying not to think about how lonely she felt each day, this man had been fighting for his life and the lives of the entire human race. But so, so young. She couldn’t help but wonder…. “What about your family?”
A shadow crossed his face, leaving behind an uneasy expression. “They…they never made it out.”
Yoshino flushed again, lowering her head in shame. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. Wars are like that.”
A bit surprised by the quick forgiveness, she tentatively looked up. “How did you come to join the Rangers?”
“Clark. At least his Nightwatch goon squads. Not much future for a recruit from the ‘boonies’ when Earthers were getting all the promotions and such. One of my old squadmates joined and recommended me.”
Yoshino sighed, and managed a smile. “I’m glad he did.”
DeVries sipped his water. “What about you?”
Her expression darkened, and she glanced at her left hand almost by instinct. “I … I had to leave Earth. Something far uglier than Nightwatch’s goon squads after me.” She stopped herself there. It was not the place or time. “Tell me, Mr. DeVries, do you fence? Or, perhaps, your Narn friend does?”
“Fence? Not really. All I bothered to learn was the down and dirty stuff.” He chuckled as he sipped. “T’rar’d say I have no sense of style.”
“Musashi based a whole life on avoiding a sense of style, and keeping to the down and dirty stuff,” she said thoughtfully, taking a long swallow from her glass. “Well, I suppose I have troubled you long enough.” She rose. “Perhaps you could tell your friend that I’ve been looking for a sparring partner.”
He nodded, rising. “I will. He’s been reading Go Rin No Sho lately.”
Yoshino smiled, warmed by the thought. “Then he and I will have a great deal to discuss.” She bowed deeply. “Enjoy the rest of the party, Mr. DeVries.”
“And you.” He bowed in turn. “See you around.”
Smoothing out the dress as best she could and laying it out flat on her bed, Yoshino looked around the cabin. Something, she suddenly realized, was missing. Or, as far as she was concerned, someone. A blast of fear brought her to full wakefulness again.
“Kuri? Kuri-chan?” She listened carefully, in case the cat might be caught under something. But there was nothing — not a cheerful chirp, not a frightened cry, nothing. She began looking around the room, gently lifting overturned furniture, shifting piles of debris, and calling, always calling.
But there was no sign of her feline friend.
Before long she realized there was a pattern in the way the debris was scattered. All the lightest things — paper, ornaments, clothing, Kuri’s feathers — were on one side of the room, almost fanning out from a single point on the bulkhead. She bent over, examining the material. One section was a different shade from the rest — a clear indicator.
There had been a breach in the outer hull. Probably from the bomb blasts that had torn away the three decks above. The Phoenix’s auto-repair systems had been able to regenerate the damage, and seal the breach …but what had been blown out into space first? Or who?
Yoshino slipped to her knees, her body shaking uncontrollably. Hot tears ran down the bulkhead as she pressed her face to the inner hull, sobbing.
Copyright (C) 1998 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.