Characters: Phoenix Crew
Democal pushed his covered gurney through the corridors, smiling as he led his fellow Minbari in the gurney armada across Deck Two. Doctors Trassano, Brannon, and Evers turned away from their unconscious charge from the Vorlon cryo-tubes, poking their heads out of Medlab to watch the procession of Minbari acolytes piling into the lifts, all going to Deck Two to join the migration of wheeled trays. A few decks below, Kim Matsumoto stepped into the doorway of the Science Lab to follow the procession.
The sight put the rest of the crew on edge. They were all on the same side, but after the Earth-Minbari War, seeing Minbari in formation for any purpose always induced a sense of foreboding. Security personnel noticed the caterers’ migration and, one by one, word of it reached every member of the command staff of the Phoenix.
In his office, Security Chief Darquin hit the mute button on his console as his link buzzed. “Damn–I mean, Darquin, go.”
“G’ren here, sir. Something is happening on Deck Two, from the galley.”
“No, not yet.”
Yoshino Klevetati furrowed her brow, wondering if this had to do with the galley’s requests for more power as she told her assistant Darion to cover her Ops console. First Officer Morgan stepped out of the command chair and followed her off the bridge, curious since she’d never heard of Minbari migrating before…at least, not this time of the year.
Chief Engineer Santiago exchanged a glance with Ensign Awenata as the call came in over their comlinks. She rolled her eyes and told Miina she knew all those questions about human food were going to be trouble.
Roland DeVries led the open speculation with the other pilots in the hangar bay while T’rar mimed his thoughts on the subject, pretending to gag himself on a Starfury thruster assembly.
In the captain’s office, Terry Hale propped her elbows onto her desk and let her face fall into her hands, certain that this was all part of a Shadow plot to drive her mad.
Security Chief Darquin and G’ren, a Narn who’d recently joined his team, led the rest of the command staff to the Shadow’s Corner (which had recently been officially indoctrinated as a bar with a brawl). Standing at the door, they stared at the vast formation of metal wheeled trays. Democal beamed at his fellow Minbari in the formation, full of pride. He assumed that the command crew had been dumbstruck by gratitude.
First Officer Morgan pointed. “What the hell’s that?”
“They look like pies,” Kim said, staring in disbelief.
“I know what they are!”
Captain Hale walked to Democal at the head of the spearhead formation. “Where did you get these?”
“Yeah, we’re about 50 parsecs into Vorlon space!” Morgan said. “We must be hundreds of light-years from the nearest bakery.”
Doctor Trassano tapped her gently on the shoulder. “A few hundred more would be better.”
Bobby Evers furrowed his brow as he turned to his superior. “Why do you want to go further?”
“A Centauri pastry chef. Much better than the bakery on Bab–”
“Mira,” Morgan said, glaring over her shoulder at her, “do you mind? Let’s get back to the situation at hand.” She threw the Minbari galley staff a meaningful look.
Democal stepped forward, hands clasped, smiling proudly. “We decided to experiment with new presentations of traditional foods–”
“More grains and temshwee eggs?” Captain Hale said.
A collective groan swept through the room like the chorus of an Easter mass.
Kim leaned over to Morgan. “I had enough of that when I was still training on Minbar.”
“Somebody shoot me,” Darquin muttered.
“No, no!” Democal said quickly. “Nothing like that. You see, we learned about human foods and mastered one of your most treasured desserts. A change of pace, as you say.”
Yoshino, stirred by curiosity (whether inborn, or as a result of having been well-trained by her cat, who can say), stepped forward and began inspecting the contents of the trays at closer range. “Lemon meringue…chocolate French silk…oh! Coconut cream, my favorite!”
The others started filtering into the room.
DeVries looked at another tray. “They’re all cream pies,” he remarked. “This reminds me of an old movie.” He picked up a pie, balancing it in his palm and drawing his arm back —
“No, no! You’ll ruin it!” Democal cried, leaping toward him. He snatched at DeVries’ arm, and sent the pilot and pastry flying in opposite directions.
DeVries skidded across the floor on his backside, fetching up against the bar, and without pausing to draw breath uttered the fateful words.
Pandemonium erupted as several of the command staff snatched up pies and hurled them. As Democal tried to pick up the pieces, he moaned, “I prayed over this all night–” His wail of dismay soared over the room until abruptly silenced with a hiss-thwack of a key lime impacting on his eyebrows and lower bone crest.
Mira was half turning, a pie in one hand, when a coconut cream caught her full in the side of the head. She glared at a madly giggling Evans, who said, “At least you don’t have to wash it out of your hair!”
“But you will,” she answered, bringing her arm around in a full arc to plant her missile square into his curly locks.
And it just went downhill from there. Before long, even Democal’s Minbari acolytes joined in the melee. Everyone was wearing the sweet badge of courage, except for DeVries, who had several (as a wickedly grinning Narn turned out to have a rapid-fire and deadly accurate pitching arm), and Darquin, who somehow managed to remain unscathed as he made his way to Democal.
“Um, any cake?” he asked the stricken Minbari.
Total silence descended upon the room.
Darquin looked around. “What?”
Whereupon he was barraged by at least half a dozen pies, hurled from every corner of the room.
As the silence born of the end of ammunition descended, Darquin’s voice could be heard, muffled behind the wall of banana cream and toasted coconut.
He spat out a mouthful of pie filling. “I said, ‘curfew!'”
The command staff departed in candied ones and twos, some holding onto one another, some losing their grip in the slickness of whipped cream. They were followed by most of the Minbari cooks, until only Democal and his first acolyte remained.
Watching his teacher survey the room, both of them coated in the fragmented remains of the ceremony, his acolyte spoke gently and with wisdom. “I’m not wiping that up.”
Copyright (c) 1998 Joe Medina. All rights reserved.