Gathering In the Loose Ends

Characters: Terry Hale

Foot traffic on the piers was almost no existent, the late hour and the threat of rain stealing much of the allure of walking along the docks. Across the water the ever-growing Victoria Island glittered, an earthbound galaxy of lights in the night. A few wavering arms reached towards the mainland, some with festive strings of bulbs running along the masts.

Terry stopped at the end of one pier, letting the sound of the water and wind return to her ears. Just some unfinished business, she told herself, but it didn’t explain her leadened-limbed reluctance to do the job and retreat from the peaceful rhythm of the water and back to her duties. Letting go was not just one step, but many on a steep hill she couldn’t see the top of.

She lost a minute or two staring out across the water, both to lassitude and the expected timeslip intrusion of her younger self. The moment broke, a quiet sigh shifting the paper tucked in her uniform. A cracking voice to the reminder of her second unfinished task. She slid her fingers in and pulled it out, unfolding it into the dim fringes of light from the boardwalk behind her.

Kordieh’s memorial, of course. The parchment suffered a little from the folds and crumpled corners, but the drawing and the list of names were still clear. As sharp as memory. If only it could be released so easily as a piece of paper.

She’d forgotten to check the tides, but when she lifted it and let it flutter out on to the water, the ocean claimed it well enough. It wasn’t long before she couldn’t find it on the waves. It was a while before she stopped starting out at where it disappeared.

All right, Ter, she prodded herself. Get off your hands and do something. The world isn’t going to stop revolving for you.

Far more quietly than she left, she returned to the White Star, glad for the lack of fanfare and media attention. Back to normal…. almost. Baggage dumped in her quarters, and link back on her hand, she stepped briskly to the bridge, wondering at the slightly abandoned feel to the quiet.

She found it barely staffed, and with none of the faces she’d grown used to. Feeling oddly isolated, she said to the room in general, “I take it most took me seriously then, on their vacations.”

“Yes, Captain,” replied a Minbari, one of a majority present. Their numbers were out of kindness to the humans among them so long from home, and a certain wisdom to remain apart from the Earth population. “However, Anla’shok Morgan most notably, and several others have left on personal errands off planet. There are several messages waiting for you, on that regard.”

“Oh?” Had she really been blocking out the comings and goings of her crew that well? Terry just kept herself from frowning.

“They are aware of when we are expected back at drydock. It did not seem inappropriate for them to find their own transportation back to duty. Is there any problem, sir?”

“No. No, not at all.” Terry collected her thoughts a moment. “Well, then, please see that any crewmembers still on leave here are notified we will be departing soon. And… any who which to make their way to Minbar on their own power is free to do so, just so long as it is by the time the Phoenix is scheduled for shakedown.”

“And how long before we depart, sir?”

Terry was tempted just then to say immediately, but as she strode toward her office and the work she hoped waited there for her, she said over her shoulder,

“Twenty-four hours.”

(C) 1999 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.


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