In her temporary bunk in the Tuzanor Ranger barracks, Cat awoke to an incoming message. She said, “Yes?”
“Hello, sleepyhead!” It was Eddie, one of her mates on Storm Squadron. He’d warned her he’d give her a wake-up call when it was time to head out to the Phoenix. “Are you ready to go?”
Cat smiled. “Yeah, I’ll meet you guys down there in a minute.” She yawned.
“All right, see you then!” Eddie said. Then the screen turned off.
Cat got up and brushed her hair, then grabbed her bag and headed off to meet up with everyone else.
She walked through the Ranger compound and the airfield outside. When she saw a few people from Storm Squadron standing in front of a hangar, she knew that she was in the right place.
“Good morning, Ranger Rosha,” Lazaret said.
“Please, call me Cat,” Cat replied with a small smile.
“Very well … Cat,” Lazaret replied.
“Morning, Cat,” Brenda said. “You ready to see the Phoenix?”
“Of course, I couldn’t be more ready,” Cat said as they walked into the launch area and onto the shuttle. Cat sat down next to D’val and greeted him with a smile and a nod then looked forward as the shuttle blasted off the ground and went upward into the air and into space.
Within a few minutes the Phoenix came into sight and Eddie exclaimed, “There it is! See it, Cat?”
“Yes,” Cat smiled. “It’s very beautiful.”
Before long, the shuttle reached the docking bay and docked. As everybody got out, Brenda said, “You could go to your quarters and get settled in, or you can go check out our ships. I’m going to have a look at my ‘Fury, make sure she’s good to go. What would you like to do?”
“I think I want to go check out the ships,” Cat answered, “see what they look like and all.”
“All right,” Brenda replied. “Follow me!”
The docking cradles for Storm Squadron were on the opposite side of the deck from the shuttle bays. The row of six fighters sat neatly in their spaces. Each had the twin-wing construction typical of all Starfury fighters, with the elongated fuselage of the Thunderbolt class.
Brenda paused at the first fighter in line. “This is Storm One,” she said. “She’s all yours … you can even do nose art on her if you like.”
“Wow…” Cat said. “That is cool.” She smiled, then started to think about nose art she wanted on it.
Brenda pointed out a human with long greying hair who was working on the next ship. “You run into any problems with your fighter, tell Max there about it and he’ll see you right.” She craned her neck to look at the last ship in line. “Heya, the Chief’s here. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
“Chief?” Cat asked, puzzled.
“Security Chief Darquin,” Brenda said. “He flies Storm Six … also plays a really hot guitar.”
Cat simply smiled, because she didn’t know how to reply to that. They walked down the line until they reached the last fighter.
They found Darquin leaning on the side of the Thunderbolt, in uniform except for his duster, obscuring the nose art. As he went over a checklist, the datapad was casting a dim glow on his tan features. A Japanese manga character on the fuselage, a laughing girl with white-gloved fingers making a V-sign and her brown hair in a pony tail, was peering over him.
He looked up as soon as he heard them approach. “Hi, guys! Just going over Storm Six, thinking about changing the paint job.” He looked up at the manga girl nose art and sighed. “I just don’t have the heart. Or time.”
He glanced at Cat and Eddie, brightening with renewed enthusiasm. “Hey, the gang’s all here.”
“Got the band aboard, at least,” Brenda said. “I thought you might want to meet our new squadron leader.” She patted Cat on the shoulder.
“Storm One, welcome aboard!” He squinted, trying to set free a thought. “Cat Rosha, right? I went over your personnel file a few weeks ago.”
“Oh really?” Cat replied. “Did you find out anything good?”
“Well, you got a good splash rating and you probably annoyed the same people I did when we were in EarthForce.” He smiled. “Other than that, not a lot.”
Cat smiled back. “Good,” she replied.
A moment passed in silence, then Brenda looked at Darquin. “Don’t worry about her. She never has a lot to say.”
Cat smiled and nodded. “Yup.”
Looking back to Cat with a grin, she added, “And don’t you worry about the Chief either. He’ll give you a hard time if he can, but his blood’s worth bottling. Especially in a firefight.”
Blinking, Darquin stared. “I hope nobody on Abbai heard about that.”
It was Brenda’s turn to be startled. A tart reply died on her lips as she met his eyes. “Sorry,” she said after a moment, offering Darquin a wry smile and a clap on the shoulder. Her next words were soft. “I forgot how close it was, back there. I’m so used to taking it all in stride, you know?”
He smiled back, blushing. “Normally I would’ve, too. Minbari healers work faster than I do, I guess. Thanks.”
Cat looked puzzled and whispered to Brenda, “What are you guys talking about?”
Brenda whispered back “Long story, I’ll tell you later.”
Cat replied with a nod then realized that there was a moment of silence which was a perfect time to tell everyone about the meeting tomorrow.
“Umm…Before I leave, I just wanted to let you guys know that there is a meeting tomorrow morning at 0900 ship time between Storm Squadron and Desell Squadron. Please be there. Now I must go find my quarters. Good day to you all.” Cat smiled and left with a bow then headed down the hall to find her quarters.
She found them and walked in, then put her things away. She then became curious and wanted to see the rest of the Phoenix. She started walking out of her quarters and took one last look before she left to explore. She became happy when she realized she might be here for a long time, then turned her head forward and strolled out.
Phoenix–“Much Needed, Much Required” c 2002 Jamie Lawson, Catie Dwinal, Joe Medina
Babylon 5 tm and c 2002 Warner Bros.