Characters: Tomás Darquin, Singing Wolf
Singing Wolf stood in the entryway of the Minbari shuttle, her sharp eyes taking in her surroundings. Although on a Ranger ship, her cautious nature kept her alert and wary. She stepped out acutely conscious of the curious looks she received from several of the docking crew. She had come straight from Earth to Minbar, only to find her belongings she had left behind in Tuzanor had been forwarded to the Phoenix by an overly helpful friend. So, she was reporting aboard her new ship still in her traditional Lakota clothing, a beautifully quilled buckskin tunic over leggings and moccasins. A bone choker protected her throat, and delicate horsehair earrings hung from her ears. She wore two eagle feathers in her long black hair, and streaks of red paint formed lines from the corners of her eyes to her temples. A knife with an elk horn haft hung in a fringed sheath at her side.
Across the hangar bay, a figure in Ranger greys and browns without the usual cloak or coat, an emerald-green Isil’zha on his chest, was waving to her with a friendly smile as he began walking toward her. She relaxed slightly at seeing the familiar face.
“Welcome to the Phoenix, Singing Wolf. Security Chief Tomás Darquin at your service.” He dropped the last hint of formality with an ear-to-ear grin. “Long time no see.”
She held out a hand. “It is good to see you again, Darquin. I admit, I didn’t expect to so soon.”
He shook her hand firmly. “Me neither. I’ll take what I can get, though. C’mon, I can show you the way to your quarters.” Gesturing with a hand holding a datapad, he led the way through the shuttlebay.
“Thank you,” she said with a formal nod. She looked slightly uncomfortable. “I must apologize for being out of uniform. The Minbari, in attempt to be helpful, had my belongings send directly here from Tuzanor. My uniform was ruined in the battle, and I had no opportunity to change before my arrival on the Phoenix.”
“No problem. I’m not exactly strict on things like dress code.” He bent his head to speak into his link. “Four-one-ten, four-forty-two,” he said.
Wolf eyed him thoughtfully as she considered his words to her, unsure how to respond. She decided to change the subject. “Have you been on the Phoenix long?”
“I came here….” Darquin looked to one side, clearly rummaging through his mind. “…almost a year ago, I think.”
She nodded as she glanced away, looking around as they walked through the corridor.
“Why’d you ask?” He looked at her with an evil grin. “You haven’t read my file, have you?”
Wolf turned to observe a work party for a moment, a quick glimpse of her back revealing bright spots of blood on her tunic near her shoulder blades. Before he could say anything about it, she turned back to face him with a glint of humor in her eyes. “Should I read your file, Darquin? Perhaps there is something I should know about my new supervising officer?”
“Sure, if you could use a laugh,” he said as she smiled. His tone quickly turned serious, almost casual in its guise. “Do you still have any injuries?”
She raised an eyebrow, wondering where that question came from. “No, I have recovered well, thank you.”
“Okay.” He surged ahead to stop and claim a waiting lift car, throwing a brief glance around to scan the corridor. “I ask because…Um, forgive me if I’m being ignorant or something, but I thought I saw some blood on your back.”
Wolf’s step faltered and she cursed inwardly. “I didn’t realize… I will attend to it in my quarters.”
Tomás nodded as he led the way into the lift. “Okay, but feel free to buzz Doctor Trassano in Medlab when you need to.”
She shook her head as she followed. “I cannot see a doctor for this, but again, thank you.”
“Deck Five.” He stood silently until the lift began its ascent. “Is it something you can tell me about?”
She sighed. Likely, this white man would no more understand than the Minbari did. Nevertheless, he was her supervising officer, and she would not begin their relationship by hiding things. “Before I left home, my people held a Sundance. It is a religious ceremony which requires a sacrifice of flesh and blood.” She spoke the words without inflection and watched his face carefully. What kind of man was he? Would he scorn her beliefs–or be tolerant?
He simply nodded. “Okay, I was wondering if it was something like that. As long as you’re okay, I don’t have a problem with religious observations.” He thought for a moment. “If that’s the right word.” He then dismissed what he had just said with a wave. “I never was good with formalities.”
She sighed inwardly, now free of the spiritual rock that had been sitting on her chest. Then she smiled, both at his attempts to respond to what she told him, and at the thought of him dealing with the ever formal Minbari and their ceremonies, sometimes seemingly endless even to her. “Not good with formalities? How did you survive your training?”
Darquin snorted, laughing gently to himself. “Barely. Especially when there were any warrior caste around.”
She shook her head, smiling in sympathy. “I imagine your training sessions were quite…memorable for your instructors.”
“Training itself wasn’t so bad. When I wasn’t training was when all hell broke loose.” The lift slid to a gentle stop and opened on Deck Five.
She raised her eyebrows as she looked at him. “It sounds like you have some interesting stories to tell, Darquin.”
He chuckled. “Probably more than my share.”
She smiled as she stepped out of the lift. “Perhaps someday we can trade stories then.”
He followed and they headed down the corridor. “That might be fun, at that.” He motioned with a wave of his hand. “Your quarters are this way. I think there’s a spare uniform there now, but I’ll buzz the quartermaster to be on the safe side.”
She smiled inwardly at his manner of speaking. She had never heard the term “buzz” used quite in that way before. Apparently her English was not quite as fluent as she had thought.
“Thank you,” she said. “Hopefully, my belongings will be here soon as well.”
“I can check and make sure.” He smiled. “When you’re ready later, you can watch me invent your orientation on the fly.”
More interesting phrases. She chuckled softly. “First time, or do you customize your orientations to the individual?”
“My first, I guess. I wasn’t here when the crew boarded after the repairs, so I’ve been playing catch-up ever since.”
She gave him a wry smile. “I am honored. I’m certain we can figure it out between the two of us.”
“Glad to. In the meantime, get settled in and sorted out. If you need anything, feel free to buzz me. I’ll be all over.”
“I will, thank you. Will this afternoon be convenient to begin?”
“Not a problem at all.” He checked his datapad. “Looks like things’ll be quiet until we head out. When I get briefed on where we’re going, I can tell you more.” They stopped at a door. “Here we are.”
He gave her a nod and a gentle smile. “My pleasure.”
She smiled at him, turning her back to the door. “I had wanted to thank you…for your assistance after the battle.”
Even as she said the words, she found herself looking back on the eternity of near panic while she was trapped in the fighter, unable to move, and barely able to breath, the pain overwhelming her before he had pulled her from the wreckage. She could find no words to express her feelings adequately. So she simply returned his smile with a quiet one of her own and prayed that he understood.
A wretched empathy, like the withering brightness of an ember, glimmered in his eyes. “I’m glad you’re with us,” he said quietly. “Take care of yourself, and I’ll see ya later.”
She nodded, and turned to enter her new home.
Copyright © 1999 Joe R. Medina and Sam Stephens. All rights reserved.