It was into the evening when a weary Yoshino finally turned over the bridge Ops station to Darion and set off in search of Darquin. The Station House informed her that he was in one of the Deck One meditation rooms.
Not a bad idea, she thought, as she rode the lift upward. Her own emotions had been in a churn all day. No doubt Darquin’s had been the same –probably more so, given all that had happened.
She entered the room quietly, slipping off her shoes and picking up a mat at the door. She spread the mat out opposite the one where he sat and settled herself, closing her eyes and slowing her breathing.
He didn’t seem to notice her. Several minutes passed in contemplative silence. Then words seeped out of his mouth, weary and slow, but warm. “Marina-chan.”
“Sorry to disturb you,” she said. “I owed you an apology, though.”
“Hm?” Darquin opened his eyes and turned to face her. “I don’t understand. Did I miss something?”
“On the bridge, this morning. After you sent G’fen packing. I started to cry, because there was too much going on, too fast. It wasn’t just the Entil’zha going missing, the bombing, or that mikaijin ranting. It was one of the things you said to him. You called me ‘your girl.’ You’ve never said that about me before.” She blinked hard. “Actually, no one ever has.”
Darquin blushed, crestfallen. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I guess I just felt kinda protective and…I spoke out of turn.”
“No, no,” Yoshino said quickly. “I didn’t mean it like that at all! I wasn’t offended, I …” her voice trailed off for a moment. When she spoke again it was quieter, but firm. “I’m honored. And grateful. At the time … to be so crushed by everything else, and so happy about that … it was just all too much. I wanted to apologize for … losing it.”
His face faded back to its usual tan and he gaped, astonished. Then he snorted as he tried to stuff down a snicker. “I think we switched places. You sounded like me for a sec, and I think I just tried to be hyper-Japanese.”
She smiled, reaching across to gently pat one of his knees. “Maybe … we’re closer to one another than we thought.”
“Ah, yeah, I guess so. It’s been a long time since….Well, I haven’t been that close in a while.” His eyes turned to the floor, blushing again.
She gently withdrew her hand, sitting back. “I honestly didn’t mean to embarrass you,” she said.
“It’s okay,” he chuckled. “It’s not fatal.”
Just then, Darquin’s link chirped. “Darquin. Go.”
“Urgent mail. Text message for Darquin.”
Yoshino gaped. “It’s the ship’s computer system.”
“Yeah, I have my comm account set to alert me whenever anything’s marked ‘urgent.’ This is the first time I’ve gotten a text message this way.”
She watched Darquin as he tapped a few keys on his link and checked his datapad. Judging from the sigh and weary smirk he made, it might not have been as serious as she feared.
He offered his datapad to her. “You’re gonna get this in a minute.”
Yoshino couldn’t help but chuckle a little when she read it.
“I gotta pick up….” He trailed off as if he’d forgotten something, shrugging in defeat. “My guitar. Gotta figure out a name.”
“For your guitar?” Yoshino said, amused.
“Yeah, an old blues tradition. We can talk about it later. See ya in Cargo Bay 7!”
Meanwhile, Brenda Mawarra was ready to explode.
In the wake of Ayeshalan’s death, Eddie had gone into one of his rare funks, and she knew enough to just stay out of his way until it passed -otherwise they’d end up biting each other’s heads off and making a far worse mess.
Truthfully, the death of She Who Must Be Obeyed had upset Brenda, too. Along with everyone else aboard the Phoenix, Brenda had done her best to cope. She’d just about burned out the simulators, tinkered on her fighter until Max chased her off the flight deck, and sat in her quarters staring at the walls until they just about started moving.
She finally couldn’t stand it any more.
She sent a message to the rest of the band, flagged urgent:
Sea Changers - I have got to play or go absolutely berko. Meet me for rehearsal at 1900. - Brenda
The band all met outside Cargo Bay 7 on Deck 19, instruments in hand, on their backs, or in tow. They heard her long before they entered their rehearsal space. A deep, resonant tone was rolling out of the cargo bay, at once rising and falling, blending and oscillating, telling the world-weary tale of eternity without the confines of words.
Eddie’s eyes widened. “Brenda’s busted out the ‘doo,” he said in a low voice.
Darquin wandered into the crowd formed by his bandmates, his jet black guitar slung over his back. He shrugged and muttered, “She sounds pretty sober to me,” before he went in.
Brenda sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the drum kit, which was only partially assembled. She held a hollow stick in front of her, a gnarled but polished branch of some unknown ancient tree. Eyes closed, she played by blowing into one end, varying the sound entirely by breath.
Darquin waved in the rest of the band, pulling his guitar around himself as he approached with a cautious reverence normally reserved for church and Minbari temples. He said nothing, waiting for a sign from Brenda.
The song came to an end – or at least a pause – and Brenda opened her eyes, laying the instrument across her lap. “Hi, Chief,” she said, looking up at Darquin with a smile. Glancing past him at the others as she got to her feet, she added, “I’m really glad you all came.”
“I think we felt the same as you,” Yoshino said.
Darquin tapped some unseen keys on his guitar to fire it up. “So … where do we start?” he said, down to business.
“I been thinking,” Eddie said as he unfolded his keyboard and set it on its stand, “Maybe we oughta play a set for everyone. You know, cheer ’em up a bit. We can’t go moping forever.”
“Good of you to come to that conclusion,” Max said, laying just enough emphasis on the pronoun to make Eddie flush. Judging from the dagger-sharp glare Darquin threw at him, Max had beaten him to the punch. And Eddie had lucked out.
“Anyway, I think it’s a good idea,” Max said. “How about the rest of you?”
Darquin’s answer had a noncommittal tone. “Name a track.”
Silence fell as everyone set to thinking. After a moment, Brenda spoke up. “Max, do you have any Elton John in the juke?”
“I should,” he said, fingers sliding across the touch controls of his homemade music archive. “Come have a look, folks.”
The band joined him except for Darquin. He was busy resetting his guitar, mumbling as he worked. “Elton John … Maybe a Steinburger, definitely a tube amp. Some doubling off an acoustic, for a warmer sound….”
Yoshino looked over at him, a gentle smile playing across her face. “You sound … almost like a surgeon choosing instruments,” she said.
“I don’t have a lot of choice,” Darquin said cheerfully. “Different brands of electric guitar often have their own sound. Used to be an engineering thing. Now it’s just tradition. And this babe can do all sorts of things, so if I want a certain sound, it needs work.”
Yoshino looked around the rest of the band’s gear, suddenly thoughtful. “I guess you all have a lot of setup to do. I just have to come as I am.”
“Who can ask for more, huh?” Darquin grinned, still working on his guitar settings.
Yoshino’s hands went to her face in a vain attempt to hide the brilliant blush that ran up her cheeks. Behind her, Eddie suddenly grinned, then lowered his eyes and reached for Brenda’s hand. She took it, tickling his palm with her fingertips.
“Hey, now this might have some possibilities,” Max said, pausing the slow roll of lines across the screen of the juke. “Chief, I’ll bet you know the ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ album back and forwards, don’t ya?”
“Maybe the first side – back when rock albums had a first side.”
“This one had four – wanna come see what I have?”
Yoshino pointed at a title, curious. “‘Funeral for a Friend’?”
“Probably not the best choice – besides, it’s an instrumental,” Max said.
“Maybe if you’re ever running late, Marina-chan,” Darquin added with a grin.
“‘Grey Seal,’ maybe?” said Max. “That’d confuse the Minbari, for sure.”
“We’d have to explain it to most humans as it is.” Darquin looked down the list on the display. “‘Love Lies Bleeding’…we could go straight into it, I guess.”
“I got it,” Brenda said, pointing in her turn. “Now that track rocks for everybody.”
“‘Bennie and the Jets,'” Eddie said. “A lot of piano, but I think we can arrange a good guitar and bass line. What do you think, Chief?”
“Uh, sure.” Darquin smirked. “Good thing I went looking for an acoustic effect.”
“While you’re working on that,” Yoshino said, “I’ll need to review the melody and lyrics.” Her eyes widened as she saw the lyric sheet. “It’s all about a band, too!” she said delightedly. A moment later, she asked, “Does anyone know what a mohair suit is?”
“If I did, I’d probably want to space it,” Darquin said.
Still chuckling, Max offered Yoshino the small earphone attached to the juke. Setting the earphone into place, she closed her eyes and let herself get drawn into the original arrangement of the melody. To Darquin, she looked like she was falling into a trance.
“Yes,” she said at last. “I think it’s perfect.”
Before long, she was ready to sing it with the rest of the band. On the count of four, the band came together for the intro, a slow stomp as if hopping from note to note. Two. Three. Four. With a shimmering cascade of piano keys from Eddie, they relayed their message and purpose. Presence. Theater. Melodrama. No great shakes–enjoy the show.
Marina swayed with the music, eyes closed, back in the trance, deeper now. The guitar parts were accenting on key beats mainly, so Darquin could watch her with ease. She was really letting go, leaving the grief and worries of the last several days far behind. She was changing.
As she joined in with the opening verse, the transition was almost complete. She was crossing the floor and slinked like a pro, staking out a spotlight center-stage. It didn’t matter that she didn’t have one. She was aglow, like gold and midday snow. She was singing about one heck of a show, so she was selling it for all she was worth.
They caught each other’s eye as she hit the chorus. She threw him a flirtatious grin and kept going. “Oh Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet….”
He just had to smile back. After all, he’d been let in on a secret. Under her shyness and proper manner, she was aflame.
His heart was like ice cream on a summer day.
Phoenix–“Have You Seen Them Yet” © 2003 ISA Phoenix
Babylon 5 tm and © 2002 Warner Bros.
“Bennie And The Jets” Lyrics by Bernie Taupin © 1973 Dick James Music Limited