Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Tomás Darquin
Alone, Kim slumped sideways in the open hatch of the Valen, more of a collapse that anything controlled. This was getting out of hand. A full eight hours of sleep had done nothing for her. She had thought she was dealing, but she couldn’t even keep her schedule anymore. She’d moved through the morning like a madwoman, inexcusably brushed off her new junior and snapped at Trassano when the doctor was just trying to inquire how she was doing today. And all that only to arrive at the Minbari Flyer an hour early.
Kim thumped her head against the doorframe and closed her eyes.
“Uh, Kim? Is that you over there?”
Kim started like she was kicked, eyes snapping open to see Darquin just a few feet away. She hadn’t heard anything. Ducking her head in embarrassment, she pushed herself up into a more dignified position.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to scare you,” he said quickly. “You okay?”
Kim smoothed a hand back over her severely braided hair. “Oh, fine, sorry,” she said too quickly. “Need something?”
“Not as much as you do. You look like death.”
“How flattering,” Kim said, smiling wryly. “Just didn’t sleep well.”
“Well, I guess I had to do something to balance my first impression on you. Pun intended.”
“I wasn’t offended,” she assured, then glanced away in embarrassment. “I mean, it wasn’t for me to see,” she added hastily.
Darquin shrugged, a slight blush stopping short of a full burn on his cheeks. “I guess I’ve been, uh, nostalgic lately.” Then he changed the subject. “So what’s the heck going on around here?”
Kim sighed. “Think you can narrow that down a bit?”
“I mean with most of the officers being missing. And this Flyer. I was kinda hoping to find out before more people left.”
“It started with 090 getting caught by Psi Corp. Then Morgan and Commander Shaver went AWOL to find him and they got caught.” She shook her head. “And I’m bait for the next attempt.”
“Psi Corps after the whole fraggin’ command staff.” He said it as trying the statement on for size. “Earth’s got their mitts into all of us, don’t they?”
“Isn’t that story for half of the people the Rangers recruit? I know I’d be dead were it not for this.”
Darquin moved closer and leaned against the hull of the ship. “Yeah, I know. Still, it’s…cruel.”
Kim shrugged. She’d seen so much, the depths to which people could sink didn’t often surprise her anymore.
“I just get this strange feeling…they’ve gotten into more than I thought,” Darquin said.
Kim looked at him directly for the first time. There was something personal in his tone. “More than you thought?” she repeated, frowning. “Something happen?”
He stared off into the rest of the launch bay. “Yeah, when Dr. Trassano was examining me, I had a flashback.”
“Of what?” Kim asked, curious, but uneasy as well.
“When I was a kid, I had a nightmare about my parents leaving me on a road. During the exam, it came back.” He sighed something that sounded like aborted laughter. “Very real.”
“That’s…odd. No idea why?”
“The doc found a lot of endorphin activity in my system, but that’s it so far.”
“Doesn’t make much sense to me, but then I’m not a medical doctor.” At his expression she lamely tried a little humor. “Most of what I study is considerably older than you are, and quite dead.”
Darquin didn’t appear to have heard her, caught up in untying this knot. “I don’t know, maybe my memory’s been altered.”
Kim grimaced, looking away. “Something PsiCorps specializes in,” she muttered.
“It’s something to do with my parents. I just hope I don’t end up in a comic book.”
Kim blinked at the unexpected turn. “Comic book?”
Darquin chuckled. “You know, Batman? His parents died and all that?”
“Batman,” Kim repeated, looking dubious. “I’m not up on my Earth history.”
He smiled a bit, then let it fade. “It’s okay, just a joke.”
“Mm. Well, I think life outdoes fiction sometimes, don’t you?” She nodded at the ship around them. “Who’d’ve guessed?”
Darquin gave her an emphatic nod. “Oh yeah! I’m sure they’ll be wondering if all this was for real long after we’re gone.”
“Certainly.” Somewhere she found a genuine smile. “How my sort stays in business.”
He smiled again. This time it stayed. “Reminds me of an old song. My aunt used to play tons of old songs.”
“Something about digging through dirt.” He perked up, like a dog hearing its name called. “Oh right, I ought to check on Gylenn when I’m done here.”
“Ah, how is he doing? I didn’t mean to….” She trailed off, ashamed again.
“He’s okay,” he said, laughed gently. “He’s been a big help organizing the lab data.”
“Needed it,” Kim sighed. “We’ve been so understaffed it isn’t funny.”
Darquin searched for a distraction. “You know, I think he’s hooked on Earth music.”
“Really? Wouldn’t have guessed.”
“Me neither. But he’s been bitten by the bug someplace. I’ll try not to corrupt him too much,” Darquin said, grinning.
Kim chuckled. “Should be interesting to see once I get back.”
“Well, if he starts singing rockabilly, I didn’t do it.”
Kim tried to guess what it was like, but gave it up. “I don’t think I want to know.”
“You probably don’t.” Darquin straightened then. There was no avoiding some subjects… “But about 090. And this trap. Should we get the fighters ready just in case?”
“Not for me to say. This Ranger Solo and I are going ahead. What the Captain has planned….” Kim shrugged, trying to conceal her unease.
Darquin was businesslike. “If Ranger Two’s anything like Ranger One, we ought to be ready for anything.”
Darquin sighed. “Okay. Clear skies, Kim. We’ll be watching for ya.”
“Thanks. And Darquin…?” She paused, hesitant as he turned to face her. She’d never offered anything of the sort before. Hell, she wasn’t even a trained telepath. “If there is any way I can help….” One last moment before committing herself, preparing for the words. “I’m no expert, but I can try.”
“Ah, as long as it’s not…too hard. On you. You got enough problems.”
Kim waved that concern off. “Better to help fix what I can, than dwell on what I can’t.”
“If there’s anything I can do…you know.” Clearly, he had no idea himself, but he wanted to do something for her, at the very least. “Thanks, Kim.”
She nodded and glanced across the bay. “Well, there’s Solo now,” she said, bracing herself.
Darquin pointed to his link. “I’ll be in the lab.”
“See you in a while,” she said. Her crooked smile returned. “I’m real sorry to get out of that work.”
Darquin smirked. “I noticed.”
She dragged herself up with an effort and stepped into the Flyer. “Later,” she called over her shoulder and disappeared.
Darquin backed away slowly, arms behind his back, into the shadows between the beams of overhead lights and the darkness.