Doors of Perception

Characters: Dr. Hellecat Brannon, Tomás Darquin

Helle Brannon had been avoiding the high-tech slab that sealed her inside the brig.

It was heavy, several centimetres thick, and had the same auto-repair ability that the rest of the ship had. It was designed to hold even a Minbari. Looking at it made any of her hopes for freedom ring hollow in her head.

So she sat on the floor, staring at the walls when she wanted to keep awake. Sitting on the bunk, even set level for the comfort of humans as it was now, only gave her a clear view of that door.

She jumped when the locks clacked and the cell door rolled into the adjoining wall, the noise unnaturally loud in the total silence of the brig. And the sight of Darquin crossing the threshold triggered a surge of tension that ran right through her body, ending at her fists.

“Just tell me the patient has been restrained,” she said, all of the recriminations she’d been practicing for hours flying straight out of the window.

Darquin nodded, speaking quietly. “Pretty sure. Why?”

“As much as you might want to think that I’m violent and out of control for no particular reason, that woman’s strength was incredible.” Helle gazed past him, at the doorway and the corridor beyond. “I don’t want any of my team hurt, especially when I know from first hand experience how dangerous she actually is. Maybe it’s a side effect of the drug she’s on, I don’t know….”

He set himself down beside her on the floor. She refused to acknowledge his presence by moving away.

“You should have that seen to,” he said.

“What?” Unbidden, her head turned so she could see him gesture vaguely to his cheek. She glanced at the smudges of dried blood on her fingers and, out of instinct, brushed the scratches on her face. She chided herself for responding at all.

“Taken care of. It’s just a scratch. One of the nurses already took care of it. It’s a good thing too–since I’m not allowed to do any medical work.”

Darquin kept silent and let his eyes fall to the floor in front of him, instinctively knowing the floodgate was about to open.

“You just waltzed into Medlab and totally undermined any tiny amount of authority I may have still had with anybody! I have tried so hard to make up for my mistakes. I’ve worked my ass off to try and…” She brushed the edge of her bunk with a halfhearted backhand. “Forget it.”

“No. I can’t.”

“That’s right, you can’t, can you? You had to be tough. You had to drag me out, in front of my staff, without even stopping to ask me–the only one who was actually there–what happened.” She stopped and drew a shaky breath.

“How could you do that to me, Tomás?”

“I screwed up. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” Helle covered her face with her hands, resisting the urge to claw his face or hers. “My God. No, I’m sorry, Mr. Darquin, it doesn’t work that way–”

“Don’t ‘Mr. Darquin’ me, Helle. You know me.”

“Well I thought I knew you.” She balled up her fists against her knees. “What I didn’t know was it was once guilty, always guilty with you.” She waited for him to fire back. Maybe he didn’t need to; he had total control over the situation. Over her.

She sighed. “Just tell me when you and the Captain want me to leave.”

“What?!” he said, turning to face her.

“I don’t seem to have much choice do I? I’ve screwed up my place here every which way possible. I’ve betrayed all the confidence Mira showed she had in me, I… I actually hit a fellow Ranger! I mean, that in itself… None of the medical staff have any respect for me and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to make it better. Carter was right. But….”

“But what?”

“The Phoenix … is my home,” she whispered. “This crew is all the family I’ve ever had. I don’t want to leave, Tomás. But I don’t see an alternative.”

“I do.”

Darquin got up, sat on the bunk, and spun about until his legs were flat against the wall as if he was lounging about in zero-g.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Taking your place. You’re free to go.” He looked up at her. “Back to work. Y’know, leave?”

A sickening wave of part-hope, part-fear at the thought of walking into Medlab gathered in the pit of her stomach.

“What? No. Don’t be ridiculous. Get up, Tomás.”

“Dead serious, Helle.” He was almost cheerful. He crossed his legs at the ankles, one foot keeping rhythm with a song only he could hear. “Now get the heck out of here. Tianmun?” His Minbari aide appeared at the doorway. “Will you escort Doctor Brannon?”

“Yes, sir. This way, Doctor.”

Helle managed half a syllable before Tianmun gently took her arm and guided her into the corridor.

“What’s our status?” Darquin said.

“Singing Wolf, Numen, and Villiers are ready for their new assignments,” said Tianmun. “Singing Wolf and I have reactivated Doctor Brannon’s original access codes as well as our new ones. Yours have been locked out.”

“Okay.” He didn’t sound enthusiastic, but resigned.

Helle looked at her, then at Darquin, who was still sitting upside down against the wall. “You’re really doing this.”

“It has already been done,” Tianmun said as she bowed her head. “Doctor Brannon.”

“Toldja,” Darquin said. “I’ll give you a proper apology later, in Medlab. Once someone springs me. Later!”

As the door to the brig rolled shut and its locking mechanisms hammered themselves into place, Helle looked on, dumbfounded. She wondered if she might still be dreaming. Might be still lying on that miserable Minbari torture rack in there euphemistically referred to as a bed.

She looked hard at the door. It looked exactly the same on this side as it did on the other. It just felt different on this side. Very different.

Copyright (c) 2000 Denise Cox and Joe Medina. All rights reserved.


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