Letter Home

Characters: Mira Trassano, Peter Carlacci, Tomás Darquin

"I ran with the moon and I ran with the night.
The three of us were a terrible sight."
– Emmylou Harris, "Deeper Well"

As he returned from his latest physical therapy session, Peter Carlacci was startled to see a small box sitting next to his computer terminal. He settled into his chair and picked it up. To his surprise, the only clue to its origin was a hand-written annotation in Minbari — it had come from Centauri Prime. Working slowly, using one hand, Carlacci opened the box, looking a bit bemused as he pulled out the item inside. “Socks? Knitted socks? I didn’t know Centauri did knitting.” Unrolling the socks, he found a data crystal. He leaned over and put it into the computer.

“Warning,” the voice of the computer said. “This crystal will self destruct in 30 seconds after being removed from the reader. It will also self destruct immediately upon the second failed passphrase attempt. Passphrase clue is –”

Here Mira’s voice came across. “What subject did we study together on Babylon 5?”

“Speak passphrase now,” the computer resumed.

Carlacci closed his eyes, then took a deep breath. After a moment’s thought, he said, “Comparative anatomy.”

“Message decrypting,” the computer said. “Message plays.”

The opening shot was a close-up of an ornately decorated bodice in periwinkle and navy with gold accents. The owner of the bodice was obviously the camera operator as the audio kicked in on a lengthy tirade against technology in Centauri. As the camera operator backed away from the camera, there was a juicy cleavage shot before a smile popped into view. Then, Mira backed up some more and sat down. The screen showed her seated on the edge of a cot in a very drab room that seemed only more drab in comparison to her courtly dress. She had cut off her lock of hair, leaving a smooth skull.

“Hello, Peter.” Mira smiled calmly into the camera. “I hope that you are well and aren’t too upset about the lack of letters. I write imaginary letters most every night, but since I’ve been having trouble figuring out how to send them to you, they stay imaginary. I miss you and love you so much.” She was obviously wistful and a little sad. As she continued to speak, she adopted a manner of forced cheerfulness.

“As you can see, I have been doing well. I changed my style a little. I thought a more somber look would lend me some credence. I hope you don’t mind.” She touched her head a bit self-consciously.

“I am working with an older more experienced gentleman and have been meeting all sorts of extremely interesting people. I think you’d like them. When we are together, we are simply terror-ahble. I’ve recently made the acquaintance of another gentleman who has a number of interesting friends as well. We are thinking to throw a small party and introduce our friends to each other. We’ll have a grand time standing around talking about all the people we know in common and what we would like to do to them…oh…” She laughed. “…with them.”

Mira’s smile became a touch frozen as she focused into the distance. There was silence for a few moments. She returned to the camera with a startled blink. “I seem to be easily distracted tonight. I apologize. I miss you. It would be a wonderful thing to be able to have a conversation with you for even a small while. I have so much that I would like to talk to you about. This dark night has stretched so long already and I fear I cannot last until the dawn.”

Her voice had fallen to almost a whisper as her eyes became more haunted. Suddenly returning to her forced levity, she chirped, “I was reacquainted with a childhood friend of mine a few days ago. She had done very well for herself. Married the governor of a small island-city. She always was ambitious, even when we were girls together. I fear she over-reached herself lately, though. She had changed into a very shadowed person….oh dear.”

Mira sighed and smiled sadly at the camera. “I talked about her in past tense, didn’t I? Damn. I don’t think I can send this message after all. But, it helps me to pretend that I am talking to you, Peter, so I suppose….” Another sigh. She looked down at her hands and dropped pretending to be lighthearted.

“She was trying to get her husband to work for the Shadows — or more precisely, their allies who are still here. She had long since sold herself to them and wanted him to join her. He was so in love with her that he would have done it. I couldn’t get her to change her mind. I’ve been a doctor for a long while now. I thought I understood how delicate the balance of life was. It’s a web of fragile lace that will collapse into a tangled mess with the snip of only one line. There are so many different lines that can be snipped. I thought I knew. But I never knew how easy it was to do the snipping.”

Mira looked up from her hands, her dark eyes full of confusion. “She wasn’t evil, exactly. I wasn’t upset. She wasn’t even threatening. She never knew what happened when I poisoned her. It was so easily done and then I just left. No one knew that I had been there. I calmly walked out of the café, leaving her alone in the booth already dead.

“It’s not the killing that disturbs me. The fact that I’m not disturbed, disturbs me. Peter, how do you know when you’ve become a monster? How will I be able to tell? I’m afraid of meeting you again someday when all of this is done and finding that you don’t see in me anything of the woman you fell in love with. I’m more afraid of looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself. But, most of all, I am afraid I won’t remember who I was before I become an assassin.

“Please, Peter, remember me. When we meet again remind me of the Old Mira so that perhaps we can resurrect her.”

Another voice called from outside the room, “Doctor! We need you!” Mira immediately stood and turned away from the camera. The screen went black.

Taking care not to disturb the crystal in the reader, Carlacci looked over at Tomás Darquin in the chair beside his. Darquin was crossing his arms.

Carlacci waited, slowly rubbing the newly-regrown skin along his right cheek with his thumb. “Well, say something.”

Darquin waved him off, buying himself a few more moments to think. “There’s a few things I have to do first.” He looked him in the eye. “Then I’ll be on my way.”