Missing the Manual
Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto, Margaret Morgan, Billy Nichols
The last time anyone aboard the Phoenix had seen Minbar, it was in flames. Stopping on the city causeway, Kim lifted her face to skyline, marveling at the boom of construction that made the city look younger than it was. She doubted Minbar had seen so much change in a thousand years.
Kim sensed more than heard Meg’s approach, and glanced aside to see her friend shake her head over the repairs.
“It’s an improvement, at least, even if everything underneath will take longer,” Kim said, her smile falling crooked with the next thought. “Remember the last time we were through?”
Meg answered with a chuckle that was as wry. “Ie, barely.”
“It does seem an eternity. Though I do remember that pike rather well.” Kim was able to laugh now, if darkly, about the night that had nearly been the end of her life.
“Ie.” Meg unconsciously fingering her own pike, at her hip, remembering how it’d been earned.
“We seem to be rather quick in and out of favor, and back again,” Kim commented, then suddenly changed the subject… and failing to look as nonchalant as she hoped, “Meet you at the other transport? I’ve got a call to make where there’s a working system.”
Meg looked at her and lifted her eyebrows. They both knew the transport had a perfectly good comm system, if you didn’t mind an audience. It hadn’t been a problem before. “I’ll make sure the pilot does not wait,” she teased.
“You’re too kind,” Kim replied with amusement and without further ado turned and strode quickly away with just a brief wave back. Meg returned it and continued on, keeping her ideas to herself… for now.
With her uniform and the gleaming Isil’zah to mark her authority, it wasn’t difficult to find someone to show Kim to a private room. Mindful of the time, she dropped her pack to the floor and quickly tapped her commands into the Minbari comm interface. After a long moment, the alien text resolved itself into the station logo for Babylon 5.
“Enter destination code or ID,” the computer requested.
“Resident, Billy Nichols.”
Billy was just ready to turn light out when computer rang out the incoming call. He started as the pleasant, inhuman voice of the computer spoke.
“Incoming StellarCom transmission. Will you accept?”
“Ah, um. Accept please.” Quickly he got up and walked over to the comm, attempting to straighten his hair. He abandoned the effort when he saw who appeared on the screen. As relieved as he was, he couldn’t hide it. “Kim!”
Kim smiled back in response. Unlike the message that had come in garbled from the Phoenix, she was whole, as far as he could see. It was more than could have been hoped for.
“I thought I’d call and make up for the last transmission. Things got a little interesting,” Kim said and her smile gained a wry quirk.
Billy grinned. “I gathered. How are you?”
“Pretty good. It’s been rough but… I think we made it through. I’m just between assignments right now, but I wanted to let you know we’re doing all right before we head out.”
“Thank you.” The words were sincere, backed up by the new lines that worry had been etched into his face. “Where to next?”
“To Earth,” she admitted, though knew it wouldn’t sound any better. He grimaced and looked away. “I know, but I don’t see any other choice. We’ve got to do it.”
“I know. It’s just I-I…”
Billy wouldn’t look at her, but his concern was plain. It was more than he managed to put in words. “I worry, that’s all.”
An odd expression crossed Kim’s face for a moment. “Well, we’ll be okay. And you know Meg’s too stubborn to go after lasting it out so long.”
She was trying to be light, but Billy couldn’t manage much more than a quirk at the corner of his mouth in reply. “Yeah.”
“We’ll be stopping Babylon 5 for a couple hours at least, three days from now. We’re taking White Star 21 from there.”
That made him look up with a hopeful smile. “Yeah?”
“By transport. The Phoenix will be in drydock for a while.”
Billy frowned, but didn’t ask, knowing the time was short. “Hope I can catch you.”
Kim grinned. “Well, you’re in security. I’m sure you could find us.”
“‘Find’, yes. Time to…” He shrugged, though mentally he noted to find time.
“I know the life. Living it,” Kim said wryly. “But maybe with luck… well, I’d best be going. The transport’s not going to wait just on me.”
“Be careful,” the words were out quick, and then as suddenly a flush crept up from his collar. His Irish coloring was merciless.
Kim smiled briefly and pretended not to notice. “That’s my plan. See you around.”
Billy managed to smile. “If I can help it.”
“Goodbye.” The link closed on her answering smile.
Billy stared a minute at the blank screen, stunned, then leaned his head against the wall with a sigh. Sounded like a complete idiot.
Three days’ Jump away, Kim shook her head at the empty screen, her thoughts not so different. “Well that was graceful,” she muttered at herself. Grabbing her pack she shook off the confusion and dashed for the transport and the comfortable familiarity of routine.
Copyright (C) 1998 Alida Saxon and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.