Peter Carlacci sighed as he let his head drop back onto the pillow. He’d just finished the first of what promised to be many physical therapy sessions, to make sure the synthetic skin grafts followed the proper path. It wouldn’t do to end up with webbed fingers. Or worse. But he’d never imagined the simple act of repeatedly stretching out his fingers, closing them into a fist, and back again, could be so exhausting.
His gaze flickered toward the Medlab entrance, and he smiled –hopefully the new arrival was here to visit, now that the crisis that had gripped the Phoenix was over. He could use a friendly face — one that had nothing to do with the Medlab staff.
“Hey, vato! ‘Sup?”
Carlacci called out as best he could. Even his voice felt rusty. “Tom! Here to see me, I hope?”
“That was the plan!” Darquin grabbed an empty chair and set it down next to Carlacci’s bed. “Sorry I haven’t been around much. Been playing X-O. I’ve been trying to keep up on your condition, though. Y’know, you got burned just like James Hetfield.”
“The lead vocalist for Metallica. Neat, huh?”
Carlacci’s eyes rolled up a bit, but he smiled. “Do I get my own groupies, then?”
“Uh, well, maybe once we reach Minbar. You got a few people waiting for you there.”
“Hope so. What’ve I been missing?”
Darquin sat back, gathering his thoughts. “We took care of the hostile. It’s a long story, but we managed to coax a non-aggression pact out of them. In exchange, we have to make sure nobody else comes out this way.” He grinned. “That won’t be too hard.”
Carlacci smiled, a little. It still felt a bit lopsided. “I know we’re good … something else besides?”
“Um, well, you’ll see it in the reports later. Basically it all started with an old grudge against the Vorlons. That’s why they attacked the Phoenix, but not the Thunderbolts.”
“Riiiiight. Vorlon tech.” Carlacci sighed. “Are we ever going to find the last of their messes, I wonder …?” Darquin shrugged. “Yeah, who knows. But anyway…like you said, I can read the reports. Any news from base? I know they got a report on the attack. Candace must be going nuts.”
“Well, she’s gonna have to be patient,” he said. “We’ve sent word that we’re on our way back. The mission report itself is classified, so beyond us, only the Council are going to get the details.”
“Makes sense …” Carlacci lifted his head, looking at Darquin carefully for a moment before letting it drop to the pillow. “I know I’m not in the greatest of shape, so maybe I’m seeing things, but … you wouldn’t be holding something out on me, man?”
“I’m in charge of security on a Ranger ship,” Darquin smirked. “I don’t tell you about a lot of things. And I wouldn’t tell you anything that wasn’t in your best interest.”
“I know,” Carlacci said with a sigh. “I also know you wouldn’t come here just to remind me. So … tell me I’m imagining things, or spill. Please?”
Darquin glanced away. “Promise you’re not gonna do or say anything.”
“That bad, huh?”
“No static, ese. That’s the deal.”
Carlacci was silent a moment, looking toward Darquin, the beginnings of a very unpleasant idea beginning to stir at the back of his mind. “Okay, I promise.”
“Okay. Remember what you said earlier about Candace going nuts? She’s got it covered. Tried to swipe a Minbari shuttle, didn’t leave the launchpad. I’m making her wait until we get back,” he added loudly and quickly. “And so will you.”
Carlacci’s head shot up from the pillow, his mouth frozen open in protest and finally closed, before his head fell back, eyes closed. After a moment of thought, he lifted his left hand, waving it gently like an eager student in class.
“Go ahead,” Darquin sighed.
“How did you find out about this?”
“She called me. Sech Nelier gave her permission, I think. Since you were in Medlab and we were on alert, I was the only person aboard she could call.”
Carlacci chuckled. “If I know the Minbari, she was told to fess up. And that she had to fess up to you …” He grinned despite himself. “Presuming they don’t kick both she and I right out of Tuzanor, I’m gonna be hard put to think of a bigger punishment for her.”
“You could make her file all my music crystals.”
“Followed by six months on a temshwee farm. Gaaaah ….” Still swathed in loose dressings, the fingers on Carlacci’s right hand started to twitch, and several fine beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. “I just don’t get it. She’s always been a sensible kid. Why do something like this now?”
“She’s still a kid,” Darquin said. “Pretty independent one, too.”
“Yeah. Had to raise her that way — never had the heart to leave her with my folks, so she’s always been with me. Guess I’ll just have to deal when I get back. In the meantime, I’m with you. She can wait. And think it over.”
Darquin nodded. “Sorry I didn’t tell you right away.” He smirked again. “Like father, like daughter.”
“No problem. Haven’t been able to think straight much until now anyway.” He looked at Darquin, and a smirk of his own crept across his ravaged face. “Um … did something else happen to you while I was out?”
“A few things,” Darquin said with a chuckle. “Emergency field promotion. First contact situation. I got to walk on part of a Dyson sphere, waiting to get splashed. Y’know, stuff.”
“Seems like I missed out on a lot of fun,” Carlacci said. “‘Course, since you outrank me, I guess I shouldn’t be ragging you, but … you know … you’re glowing.”
Darquin frowned, confused. He looked over his shoulder, then down at his arm. “What do you…I don’t–” Then he caught the knowing glint in Carlacci’s eye. “What? What?! I don’t pump you for info about your love-life, do I?”
He glanced over his shoulder again. The Medlab staff had become his captive audience.
“But I don’t!” he told them.
“Okay, okay! Peace…peace!” Carlacci flagged off the confused medics, repeating in Centauri and Minbari. As the Medlab staff started turning back toward their own tasks, Carlacci looked at Darquin. “Sorry.”
Darquin answered with a shy nod, blushing. “Between Earthforce training and growing up Catholic, I’m lucky my head doesn’t explode.”
“You’re with friends now,” Carlacci said. “And honestly, congratulations. She’s a helluva woman.”
“We’ll see where it all goes from here,” Darquin said, wistful. “Maybe I should go before Dr Lanconi loads us both up on tranqs.”
Carlacci caught his glance at the other patients’ beds in Medlab. “Anything new on the Captain? Has her condition changed?”
Darquin shook his head and sighed. “I wanna believe she’ll come out of it any moment now. But she’s been down for days. As soon as we’re back in familiar territory, we’re gonna max out the ship’s engines, in case we need any medical facilities on Minbar.”
“Hopefully we won’t need them,” Carlacci said.
Darquin nodded, reluctant to say anything else, looking back into the rest of Medlab despite himself.
ISA Phoenix–“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” © 2006 Joe Medina & Jamie Lawson
Babylon 5 tm and © 2006 Warner Bros.