Culture Clash

Characters: Peter Carlacci, G’fen

G’fen entered the Phoenix’s bridge in search of Peter Carlacci. He’d come from the pilots’ briefing, hoping to put his experience in Narn space to use. He stopped in front of the navigator’s station, where a man with a large nose and dark hair was pondering several star maps. “Are you…Carlacci?”

The man turned to G’fen with a bright smile. “That would be me,” he said. “You must be G’fen. What can I do for you?”

G’fen replied, “I thought I could be of use to you while we are in Narn space. I have much experience in this sector.”

“Great! That would definitely help. I want to make sure we don’t run into anything, either on our way or when we get there. Pull up a chair while I bring up the sector maps.” His hands started flying over the console, and he glanced over his shoulder at G’fen without interrupting the fluid movements. “By the way, welcome to the Phoenix. Good to have you.”

“Thanks, it’s an honor to be here.” G’fen pulled up the chair and began to look at the maps. “You plan to make a jump at the Kotok colony?”

“Right. There’s no regular beacon there, so I’ll have to plot the jump manually,” Carlacci said.

“There was a big battle at Kotok during the last war with the Centauri,” G’fen said. “It left a very large debris field, concentrated here.” He pointed to a spot on the map.

Carlacci winced. That had been the very spot he had been plotting the Phoenix’s inbound jump. “You’re sure about this?”

“Very sure. I’ve traveled through that area many times.”

“Well, thanks,” Carlacci said, as he began to make notes on the map. “That could have damaged the ship pretty bad if we’d jumped into the middle of it. I’m glad you came over with this. I wonder if I should go talk to D’val, if he’s spent any time in these sectors.”

“I heard talk about that Narn when I first came on board. I haven’t had the chance to talk to him yet.”

“I’m afraid I haven’t really talked to D’val either … sure you’ve noticed already, it’s a pretty big ship. I know he’s one of the Starfury pilots, so if you wanted to find him, down on the flight decks would probably be a good place to start.”

“I’ll have to do that sometime.” G’fen looked through some more charts. “So, Mr. Carlacci, where are you from?”

“Texas,” Carlacci replied with a smile, which widened to a grin as he saw G’fen’s blank expression. “A part of Earth,” he explained. “Actually, not too far from the part Chief Darquin’s from.”

“I see now. At first I though you said Tech’su’us, an ancient Narn city at the base of the G’quan Mountains.” G’fen gave a small chuckle. “You can see why I gave you a blank stare…”

Carlacci laughed. “That’s a good one, all right. I’d like to see it sometime … that’s a part of Narn I haven’t really been to.”

G’fen was noticeably surprised. “You…have been to Narn? This is most surprising to me.”

“Oh yeah,” Carlacci said, brushing back a stray lock of hair with one hand. “Between the Earth-Minbari War and when I joined the Rangers, I worked on freighters and passenger liners. Been all over the place. Didn’t really see as much of Narn as I would have liked — a lot of the parts I did see reminded me of home, actually.”

“Very few humans have ever been to Narn. You seemed to make up for the rest of your people!” G’fen gave a little laugh. “Well, the ancient city of Tech’su’us is off-limits to Outlanders, so that’s probably why you didn’t see it. It was the city that G’quan lived in.”

“He was the prophet who helped unite the people of Narn, wasn’t he?”

“You are correct. He united all of Narn against the Darkness. G’quan used our remaining Mindwalkers — what you would call Telepaths — and drove the Shadows from our world.” G’fen bowed his head for a brief second. “He was the best of us.”

Carlacci nodded solemnly, reaching under his collar and pulling out a small medallion on a chain around his neck. “I hope he’s watching us,” he said, closing his hand around the medallion. “I think we’re gonna need all the help we can get.”

G’fen noticed that Carlacci had something closed in his hand. “That we will…If you don’t mind me asking, what is in your hand?”

Carlacci opened his hand, revealing the worn silver medallion resting on the palm. It depicted a human with huge feathered wings, carrying a flaming sword. There was writing around the edge, in a human language G’fen didn’t recognize. “Saint Michael the Archangel,” Carlacci explained. “A … I guess you’d say, a representative, a messenger, of the God I believe in. He’s supposed to keep special watch over soldiers and police.” His mouth twitched into a wry smile.

G’fen was quite intrigued, but confused as well. “And, who is this God you worship?”

“It’s sort of complicated, but I’ll try and keep it simple. I believe in one God, a single omnipotent being who created the universe and everything in it. When I die, my soul will go to be with God for all eternity. That’s the gist of it, I guess.” He chuckled. “Father Alvarez would probably want me to recite the creeds to you or something, but if I did that, we’d be here all night hashing out questions.”

G’fen chuckled. “Then I won’t ask more of this bird man. We worship our prophets and spiritual teachers mostly.”

“There are a lot of human religions like that,” Carlacci said, slipping the medallion back into his shirt. “Not everyone who belongs to my religion believes this, but I think all religions have truth in them. Whatever you do to connect with something greater than yourself, if it works for you, that’s a good thing.” He chuckled wryly. “And like I said earlier, we can use all the help we can get.”

“We will all need help before this is over…Centauri always have to have it all. Always making a mess, and terrorizing the weak. Maybe this time they will finally be put in their place…” When G’fen ended, it seemed that he wasn’t even talking to Carlacci anymore, but just himself.

“Maybe so,” Carlacci said. “I know the Centauri as a whole have done some terrible things, to your people and a lot of others. Can’t help but wonder though, if this time someone else is pulling their strings.” He looked across the bridge, to Yoshino at her Ops station, head lowered and face knotted in concentration.

G’fen mumbled something in Narn, and turned back to Carlacci. “I don’t mean to sound rude when I say I think you are dead wrong. This is typical Centauri terror, and I refuse to believe that someone else is behind it all.”

Carlacci closed his eyes for a long minute. When he opened them again, he managed a nod to G’fen, his look inexplicably sad. “I guess I can’t blame you,” he said, “everything being as it is. Don’t worry. This ship can take anything they have, easily.” He tapped his console, which displayed their destination. “If they don’t back off when we get to Quadrant 37, there will be an even bigger debris field than at Kotok, by the time we’re done.”

G’fen had an almost evil smile on his face. “The more debris the better…” The two were silent for a few moments. “Tell me, do you think that any fighters will be deployed to help in wiping ou… convincing these Centauri to stand down?”

Carlacci nodded. “No doubt. Probably both Storm and Desell.”

“I’ll have to see if I can give them a hand…” G’fen gave another glance at the charts. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

“You’ve given me a great deal of help already,” Carlacci said. “If you haven’t already, you may want to see if you’ll be needed in the tactical chambers, too.”

G’fen rose to his feet. “Well, it is nice meeting you Mr. Carlacci. I will have to check with Chief Darquin when I get a chance.” G’fen gave the customary gesture of departure.

Carlacci watched him go, and then turned back to his station, rubbing his forehead with his fingertips.

Copyright (c) 2002 Jamie Lawson and Nick Wistner. All rights reserved.

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