Characters: Margaret Morgan, Ayeshalan
The Phoenix’s flight deck was quiet. Parked in an orbital drydock, even the great ship’s engines were silent. The shuttles were gone, carrying the last of the crew to Tuzanor. Only the fighters remained — and one of their pilots. Ayeshalan stood beside Desell One, seemingly gazing into its gleaming blue-grey hull.
Morgan had seen everyone else off, now half-considering staying aboard to help with the refit. There wasn’t much for her dirtside. She entered the hangar, then stopped – she thought she had seen everyone off.
Hearing the footstep, Ayeshalan turned and looked up. “Shok-na li Morgan,” she said, bowing. “I thought the command staff had already departed.”
She returned it. “Anla’shok Ayeshalan. I thought everyone but me had left.”
“After such a long mission, one would think we would all have been eager to depart. But here we are.”
“Minbar is home for many, or something is waiting for them,” she answered. It was a mild remark, but also an attempt at fishing. She hardly knew the Minbari pilot.
“I was born on one of the sister planets of the Federation,” Ayeshalan said. “My service to the Anla’shok has taken me many places, and I have never stayed even in Tuzanor very long.”
This Morgan understood. “I’ve never stayed anywhere long at all, even as a child.”
“You have said so, even in the Naming of Names,” Ayeshalan said, pulling at her lower lip with her teeth. “May I … ask you yet another personal question?”
“Go ahead – the worst I will do is say ‘no’.” Morgan bared her teeth with faint humor.
“Have you any offspring?”
That startled her. “Er… No. Never an opportunity, really.” Morgan looked closer at Ayeshalan. “Why?”
“I have one son. An adult now. I have not seen him for a long time, and now, here, I have been given an opportunity.”
“Then why are you here still?” The question was blunt, but without malice.
There was a long silence as Ayeshalan considered. “I … what happened the night of the Brakiri festival,” she began. “I do not know how to tell him about it. And yet, my heart tells me I must. So I wait. Hoping for an inspiration.”
Morgan paused, debating how voice her thought. “If he is anything like his mother, direct may be best, rather than trying to soften it.” It was mostly a guess, but worth a shot.
Ayeshalan suddenly smiled. “Do you know what my son’s career is?”
“None at all.” Now she was curious.
“He does battle in the Mutai.”
Morgan’s eyes widened, startled. “I did not know Minbari participated.”
“There are not many, compared to some of the other races. But Terron has carried himself well for several years.”
“That is … impressive. Most do not last even one, from what I hear.”
“It is a brutal sport. Even many in the warrior caste think so. So you see … yes, my son is a direct person. Perhaps even more than I.”
“It was only a guess,” Morgan admitted. “I’m afraid I don’t know you very well.”
“Nor I you, but perhaps … perhaps this is an opportunity to change that, if you wish.”
She hesitated, but then smiled. “I prefer direct people,” she answered, circularly.
“Then come with me. The Mutai is in Tuzanor tonight. We can watch Terron perform.” She smiled.
Morgan bowed. “I am honored.”
“As am I.” Ayeshalan looked around the flight deck. “Are there any shuttles left, or shall we summon one?”
“The shuttles are all gone but I see no reason we couldn’t take fighters down, to not disturb anyone.”
“Well enough. Do you need to retrieve anything from your quarters?” Ayeshalan placed a hand on the hull of the ship beside her, making it clear she did not.
She shook her head. “The first rule of wandering – travel light.”
“We say the same.” Ayeshalan vaulted into the open cockpit of the Minbari fighter, settling herself into the prone piloting position.
“I’ll see you down there.” Morgan knocked on the hull, for luck, and headed for the line of Thunderbolts.
Copyright (c) 2002 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.