Characters: Tomás Darquin, Dr. Kim Matsumoto
Kim was sitting at one of the tables in the Minbari restaurant, apparently alone, eating lunch while she went over some last-minute work for the Phoenix. The burble of the communal fountain and the rustle of the surrounding garden made it easier to slow down, to think. The place was rapidly becoming her favorite hang-out spot.
She glanced up, curious when she felt a familiar brush against her mind. Her eyes slid right over him for a moment, then snapped back. Darquin was walking into the restaurant, his backpack over his shoulder, a weary smile plastered on his face as his leather jacket and faded jeans earned the odd stare from the local clientele.
He waved her as she looked up, smiling as he went to her table. “Well, my cover’s been blown,” he said as he took his seat. “How ya doing?”
“Just fine. What about yourself?” Kim brought a few of her things to order to give him a little table space.
“The usual,” he shrugged. “Lots of business, a smidgen of pleasure.”
“Just tell me there’s more to that pleasure than just getting looks from that outfit of yours,” she said.
“Well, a little!” He chuckled despite himself. “You’d think they’d never seen gleamin’ hot threads from another planet before. Probably my last chance to wear ‘em for a while.”
“I’d have thought they’d at least seen wilder things of late. I heard the Mutai was held here just shortly after we got in.”
“Yeah, some kind of exhibition. I thought about going, but I needed the rest. I’ll download the vid.” He pulled a datapad out of his jacket. “Things are plenty wild for us right now.”
“Yes? I’ve… not been keeping up with the news.”
He sighed, steeling himself. “Well, that’s one of the things I had to see you about. The Ranger Council is going to reinstate Kordieh.”
For a while, Kim couldn’t do more than stare. “Are you serious?”
He nodded, solemn. “Cap’s agreed. And so far, he checks out.”
“If that’s the way it is then…. but what can I do for you?” Kim asked, then immediately after thought she knew after all.
“I’m running some background checks and I want to be thorough. He took a hit when the Mars Embassy was bombed, but everything points away from him. If you look into it and get the same results, we get a better picture. I’m already looking into keeping him watched on board.”
“So you want me to scan him,” she said. “And probably keep scanning him from time to time.”
He grimaced. “Uh, no. No, I couldn’t ask that. Not even if I had to. I meant, y’know, investigate. All I want is someone outside Security on this.”
He was tensing, resisting. It made sense and yet he didn’t want it to. His frustration pealed like a malformed bell, clashing with the serene background thoughts of the Minbari town around them.
Kim immediately found it easier to offer her help. “But it would help, wouldn’t it?”
He resigned himself with a sigh. “As a last resort, I guess. What I was really…. Well, you and Morgan know each other’s moves, you know where you stand with each other. And I don’t expect her to just go along with it just because the Council said so.”
“Probably not, unless she got a personality transplant since last I saw her,” Kim said with a quirk to her lips. “But even if I did intend to get a reading of him it wouldn’t be so… Psi-Corps. If he’s having trouble, I’ll be able to pick it up. A mental meltdown isn’t a quiet thing, you know?”
“Nope.” He added with a sardonic grin, “And I can speak from experience.”
“Unfortunately.” Kim paused, then offered, “Why don’t you have some lunch? You don’t *have* to be anywhere, right?”
“For once, no. Uh, need anything to drink?”
When she felt a wall of sound rise up around his mind, she sat up, curious. “No. I’m fine.”
Darquin waved a waiter over and, using the more humble tense forms of religious caste Minbari, made a quick order. The requested mix of worker caste and warrior caste dishes earned a strange look from the Minbari waiter. A tall cylindrical cup arrived at their table post-haste, releasing flower-scented steam.
“So how did you manage to find so much work to do? This is only the second time since leave that I’ve had to attend to anything.” She waved at the short stack of papers and data pads. Supply lists, crew changes.
“I sure don’t go lookin’ for any. Most of it is tying other people’s loose threads. The techs installed tac chambers, so I had to take a refresher. That was easy. New Thunderbolts and cargo came in, so I had to make sure those were secure. I got some new personnel files to go over– already did some. And I had to deliver a message to Kordieh, long before the Council jumped in. If we hadn’t gotten synched up with Stellarcom again, my fun meter would’ve been really pegged.”
“You tempt me to jam your mailbox or something. The last time I saw you have real time off — the last time I’ve really seen much of you at all — was on Earth, wasn’t it?”
She could feel the mental cringe in his head at the mention of Earth.
“Yeah, seven months ago.” He drank some of his tea and looked into it, sighing. She didn’t have to be a telepath to know he was wishing for something stronger. “That was a mixed bag in itself.”
“I know. It’d be nice if we could see family and friends just once, without… drama attached to it. Though I suppose that would be too easy.”
He sighed. “You can’t go home again, they say.” An unexpected bitterness trickled into his voice. “I always hated that old line.”
Kim chose then to take a long sip from her own cooling cup of tea, to look him over. “So what’s happened since then? Earth, I mean.”
“Man, it’s been all over the map. Carter has to face the Council for all that business he started in Medlab. And the folks in Storm Squadron actually got me the mother of all guitars, just to get me into their band. I’m just glad to be away from the Abbai system.”
Kim felt a confused surge of anger, guilt and curiosity. In some ways she might as well be meeting a new person. “You never did tell me what got so terrible at Abbai.”
“Having to see so much of what was going wrong.” A shadow of sadness rolled across his eyes. “And that Brakiri festival. I figured it’d be a blast. Dia de Las Muertos, skull candy, trick or treat. I grew up with stuff like that. But that time…I’m not sure what the hell happened.”
“You and me both.” Kim pushed aside her plate and folded her arms on the table top, looking down at her sleeves. “I didn’t think something could be so good and bad at the same time.”
He hesitated, tapping his cup until he got the words out. “What happened? To you.”
“Nathan showed up in my bedroom. My brother,” she added. “He’s dead.” It was strange to say it aloud, to someone who knew who Nathan was, and what trouble he’d been.
Darquin took a moment to absorb it. “Whoa. You saw him?”
“Touched him. Scanned him.” As he turned away, his eyes wide, Kim kept on talking, exorcising an experience she hadn’t fully grasped. “He wasn’t dead long enough for me to find out before the Day of the Dead happened. He was like I remembered him, but… not. Maybe something like what he could have been, if Psi-Corps hadn’t gotten hold of him.”
“So there wasn’t any knock-down-drag-out with him.” He shook his head, amused.
Kim sniffed. “If that had happened, you wouldn’t have had to hear about it here. ”
“Unless it was in Medlab, with you in the next bunk.”
“I almost would have preferred it. I could have gone on in happy ignorance.”
“Amen,” he said quickly, raising his cup.
“So what horror visited you?”
“Some guy. Class A1 jerk. I barely knew him at all.” He sipped his tea, thinking. “I was expecting someone totally different.”
“No kidding. I’d have expected… your parents maybe. At least someone you liked at one time,” Kim said, too surprised to be anything but blunt.
He nodded. “Me too. I was even lookin’ for someone else. He even threatened to look her up and that just made me mad as….” The choice of words suddenly made him uncomfortable.
Blushing, he had a start at the clatter of his own tea cup as he put it down. “Someone I…never really got to know.”
Kim smiled faintly, sadly. “More than a friend.”
He took a deep breath, trying to focus. “I like to think so anyway, if things were different.” He sneered at himself. “Story of my life, huh? I think that about lots of people.”
“Until now, I guess. But things can change,” Kim says with a tinge of embarrassment. “I know, it sound so… Well, the universe can surprise you in good ways, too.”
“That’s true.” A thought struck him and he quickly covered it up with music. “Getting enough to drink?”
“I can get some more water if you want,” he added quickly.
“I’m not dehydrated. What would make you think–”
“It’s easy to get dehydrated if you’re not careful. And sunburned, especially here. I mean, they don’t really have beaches to speak of, but a day at the beach–or a night, for that matter–”
Kim’s cheeks suddenly bloomed with color, and she ducked her head forward, letting her loose hair fall to hide the embarrassment. “Tomás!” she exclaimed. She stiffened her lip to keep a smile from joining the display.
“What? Just looking out for ya. By the way, are you getting enough vitamins? Vitamin E, especially. You really should take care of yourself. You might catch your death of cold! Mother and I worry about these things–”
“How much did you see? Was it really that bad?” Kim groaned. What made it worse was wondering how many she knew –crewmates, teachers, fellow Rangers– had been passing by just then.
“Me? Not a thing.” He smiled. “Maybe I’m just getting good at this Security stuff.”
Kim swung and missed at a half-hearted attempt at a kick under the table. “Too good. How did you even guess?”
“I had to touch base with B5 Security on some things, off and on. That’s how I knew he wasn’t there anymore. Kinda deja vu. But it looked like he was taking a different route than the one I used when I joined up. When we docked, I tapped into the spacer grapevine in case someone saw him around.” He grinned. “Which he was.”
“You actually checked up on him?” Kim was surprised again. Considering how little they’d spoken in nearly a year, that he would have followed something like that…
“Um, well, if saying ‘Hey Zack, how’s Billy Nichols doing’ once in a while is checking up on somebody, then….” He shrugged. “Um, sure.”
“Not that, I mean… asking around where he got to after that. Well, I didn’t really think to ask you if you’d be able to find out anything since I learned he’d disappeared,” Kim ended lamely, surprised at herself now.
“After all the business with Psi-Corps back on Mars and…uh, that telepath colony on B5…I wanted to make sure we saw them coming. No matter how, or through who.”
“It had something to do with it,” Kim shrugged, and left it at that. She wasn’t free to say how. “Anyway, thanks, even if it is your job.”
“As a friend?” he said with mock innocence, beaming.
“Nice to know you haven’t stopped being a smart ass,” Kim said, grinning.
He laughed out loud, a defiant and unabashedly mischievous cackle.
“Well, you’ve deduced he’s here, and I embarrassingly confirmed other details. I don’t suppose you could go for three and tell me the latest news involving Billy Nichols.”
“I’ve heard he’s been asking about Anla’shok training. Beyond that, I just assumed he was, um, in good hands.”
“I’m impressed, and convinced I need to confiscate your data pads. He is going to become a Ranger,” Kim laughed.
“That’s great!” He slid his datapad out of her reach as he took another sip from his tea. “I hope he likes temshwee eggs.”
“You can ask him. I think I’d better drag you along to dinner. A few of us are getting together as a farewell sort of thing tonight.”
“Sure, need me to bring anything? Vitamin E, oxy-pills? Oysters are good–”
“Bring some painkillers for yourself if you dare to mention that there,” Kim threatened, smiling.
“What, that stuff is for me…to help me run for the nearest shuttle.”
“Uh-huh. And I’m ISN’s Person of the Year.”
“Well, you got a face for vid.” He picked up what was left of his lunch, ready for run for it. “Almost radiant, these days.”
Kim opened her mouth to scold him, then just shook her head. “I’m just going to say it’s nice to have you back. It’s at the Inoruann.”
“Near the spaceport?”
“Right. Be there at 7, okay?”
“Nineteen-hundred it is. I’ll be there with a mariachi band!” he said. “If I can find one.”
Phoenix–“I Got The News” © 2002 Alida Saxon & Joe Medina
Babylon 5 tm and © 2002 Warner Bros.