Characters: Tomás Darquin
Main Security Office
It was already late by the ship’s clock, but Darquin has some business left before he called it a day. He’d been doing his best to put his blinders on, deliberately blotting out any personal issues or feelings in his head, something he learned when he first went into EarthForce pilot training. The aftermath of the fight when Katia Santiago tried to knock Kim’s block off was intense enough, but the aftermath was producing even more heat. And he had his own problems, coping with the effects and the recent discovery that his mind had been tampered with when he was still in diapers. All those things had been bouncing around in his head and he had to push them out, at least for now. He had a job to do.
He took a seat in front of the main console, glancing up at the tapestry of monitors for security cams all over the ship as he made notes on the ship schematics he kept on his datapad. “Computer, download and review today’s security logs.” He dutifully droned his password when the computer asked, leaning forward to watch the data as it came in scrolling down the screen of his choice.
He nodded to himself. One of the younger Minbari in his department was still on duty. Her security log had not been closed for the day.
“Computer, I want to send two messages. The first one, at all security personnel: ‘There will be a meeting for all senior staff at noon, ship time. We will go over contingency plans in the event of an enemy boarding. All non-attendees may receive the meeting’s agenda and minutes in text or vid on request.’ End first message.”
Darquin smiled to himself. His aunt would’ve gotten a kick out of seeing him set up a meeting, formal lingo and everything, just like her.
“Okay, second message for Ensign Tianmun: ‘I wanted to speak with you in private, preferably before tomorrow’s meeting if possible. If you can join me tonight, I’ll be in at the shooting range in the Rec Area for another hour.’ End message. Attach that to the ensign’s copy of the first message, then send all.”
He checked the camera monitors a last time, lingering on the image of Katia Santiago sleeping in the brig, her arms over her face as if in hiding. He bit his lip; till then, he could maintain a business-like aplomb about appraising young Ensign Tianmun. Even to someone who wasn’t familiar with Minbari custom, her service record was one that gave witness to her industrious and ambitious nature. Now he could only think of the fact that, if she hadn’t beaten him to the punch and told Commander Shaver about the brawl, he might’ve been able to get some control over the aftermath.
He stormed out of the Security Office and went straight for the shooting range.
When he got there, rushing through the rest of the Rec Area, he went straight for the nearest computer-controlled PPG prop and the VR lenses on the racks by the door, thankful that he was the only one there. He said to the computer, “Gimme multiple aggressors, with increasing difficulty,” as he strapped the bendable lens-frame to his face and left his datapad on the racks. Before the computer even said it was ready, he stepped onto the virtual shooting range, an empty space about three meters square. Scanning the room with the snub-nosed gun barrel, he snuck into the empty space, looking for the first thing to kill.
The first humanoid shape came charging into his view with a gun. Darquin dropped to one knee and nailed it with a two-round burst, rising to swing his gun back and forth again as the humanoid shape flickered into nothingness. The next one brought friends along, forcing him to fire twice, throw himself toward the nearest wall as the computer sent across his ears the hiss and dull roar of PPG rounds in flight. Flattening against the floor like a bear rug, he fired another four rounds over his head. All his virtual opponents were gone when he was done.
“Right. Who’s next.”
He allowed himself a smirk. That was the name on one of her aunt’s old rock albums.
The next batch of targets were stepping into view, some of them carrying rifles or swords.
And then the door behind him opened. He threw a quick glance over his shoulder to see a young female Minbari step into the room, then ducked. The PPG reports from the naked walls gave her a start.
“Toss me another gun!”
“I do not under–“
“Another gun! Throw it! Now!”
Under the sizzling of heavy crossfire, the Minbari took a gun from the racks behind her and did as he asked. The moment he caught it with his free hand, Darquin fell onto his back and swept both guns over the room in front of him.
“Computer stop! Computer stop!” he shouted.
As an unsteady sense of peace fell over the shooting range, Darquin swept both guns over the room. He got onto his feet and faced the young Minbari who only stared in disbelief. “Uh…hi. Tianmun?”
She nodded slowly, her dark eyes open wide. Obviously she had no clue to how to interpret what had just happened.
He tucked the guns under his arms to welcome her in proper Minbari fashion, bringing his hands together. “Security Chief Darquin. Let me put these away so we can talk.”
Only after he put the guns and his VR goggles back on their original shelves, did she speak. “I take it this is–“
“No…I don’t think so somehow,” he said between ragged breaths. “That’s why I wanted to talk to you. You don’t mind speaking in English, do you?”
“No. I believe I am…conversant?”
He spun around with a bewildered smile on his face as he took his datapad. If she hadn’t been Minbari, he would have been certain that she was being sarcastic. “So how familiar are you with the, uh, differences between our cultures?”
“I have a passing familiarity,” she said. “Ours is very orderly. Yours is more….”
He nodded, grinning. “Complex. I never had a problem with that.”
“Even during the war between our two peoples?”
She was baiting him earlier. “You might as well be working for ISN. Sheesh! You’d have as much luck making Entil’zha cry.”
She turned her eyes downward. Whether to hide her face in shame or outrage, Darquin wasn’t sure. Either was just as likely, even among the Minbari.
He opened the door and led her into the rest of the Rec Area, where two humans were spotting for each other in the weight-training area. “C’mon. To answer your question, no. In fact I got into a lot of trouble because I refused to be ‘anti-Minbari’ or whatever. Part of the reason I had to join the Anla-shok in the first place.”
She watched him closely. “Why?”
“I’m a rebel basically. I’ll do what the government or my commanding officer says, sure, but not because they said it. Leaders come and go. I gotta do what I think is right.” He looked directly into her eyes. “Which is why you found that security camera footage.”
She stared at him in disbelief. “You deliberately left evidence?” He nodded. “Why did you not report the infraction?”
“Ensign, I wasn’t sure what the hell the infraction was. What’s the point of getting people in trouble for the sake of it? I needed to know why a senior officer attacked another, then make sure I could prevent it from happening again. But once I did, I knew exactly what I’d have to say in the report.”
“You never filed a report,” said Tianmun.
“I was too busy organizing all our refugees from Minbar. It’s not like we can expect a bunch of Minbari to lie down on the floor without a big to-do.”
“Did you find out what you needed to know?”
“Yeah, I did,” he said wearily. “I figured it could wait till we got back from Minbar.”
“What did you learn?”
“It was a misunderstanding. The lunatics running Earthdome right now ruined a lot of lives. The Chief Engineer thought she’d found someone who helped ruin hers. After all the madness we left on Minbar, you’ve got some idea what it’s like, don’t you?”
Tianmun nodded slowly with the painful knowledge. “I had thought that a pair of humans became overwhelmed by whatever it is that makes your people so…complex.”
“You mean you thought that most humans are a little insane.” Guilty silence. “Maybe we have a lot more in common than we think.” Darquin grinned evilly. “My condolences.”
She looked up at him as if he’d threw water in her face, then relaxed when she saw him smile. “I will not be punished?”
“Uh uh. In fact, I put you in for a commendation.”
The news stopped the young Minbari dead in her tracks. “Perhaps I should read more books!”
Darquin stopped and turned to face her. “You sure you’re Minbari?”