Characters: Tomás Darquin, Katia Santiago
Katia led the way from the Core Shuttle station in Brown Two and down the hall, looking for her rented quarters. Darquin walked close behind, keeping up with her as he whistled a tune off and on. She smiled occasionally as it changed in midstream as if he was either trying to remember it or re-compose it as they went.
“I hope the shuttle gets here soon, because I am not sure I want to hang out here for too much longer,” Katia said.
“You know, I feel kind of the same. B5 does that sometimes, I guess,” Darquin responded.
“Some people can’t leave the place.” Katia shook her head, unable to fathom it. “Yes, I find it hard to stay.”
“Maybe we’ll be lucky and the shuttle’s fueling up.”
She smiled at the wishful thought. “This is our luck you are talking about here. I don’t think we have anything even resembling good luck.” She stopped in front of a door, nodding as she recognized the numbers on the door of her quarters.
Darquin turned and casually watched her back as Katia moved up to the door. “We do,” he said with a smirk, “just nothing we’d know on sight.”
Katia typed in her entry code and the door opened. As soon as it exposed the room, the telepath blinked, sensing another presence, a familiar one already in the room. The Security Chief, ever wary, let his hand rest near his folded pike and turned as the door opened. He could tell something was up just from the cable-like strands of tension in Katia’s neck.
Gasping slightly in surprise, she stepped inside quickly. “Calvin? What are you doing here?”
Darquin was startled by the stranger’s presence and palmed his folded pike as his mind instantly slipped into patches of music. Katia was instantly aware of her shipmate’s reaction, gulping at the knot of dread in her throat, hoping this wouldn’t end in a battle. The tall dark man stood his ground, cool and collected as if unaware of the emotions already in play.
“Katia, I was concerned about you. You didn’t tell anyone you were leaving,” Calvin said, his voice full of meaning.
“That’s because I had to get away to process it all. I didn’t realize there would be a problem with that,” Katia stated, instantly on the defensive from Calvin’s tone of voice and the other emotions she was sensing from him. She moved further into the room so that Darquin had room to enter. He followed her closely at first, wary and uncertain.
“There is nothing wrong with it, Katia. We were just concerned about you is all. Afraid you would fall prey to… others.” Calvin aimed a slightly disdainful glance at Darquin.
Darquin stared for a second, pretending to be clueless. “Oh, sorry, do you mean me?” Then to Katia he said, “Now I know how my grandfather felt when someone first called him a beaner.”
Katia sighed and shook her head as she replied to Calvin, “Calvin, I haven’t fallen prey to anyone. This is Darquin; I serve with him on the Phoenix.” She glanced over at Darquin in apology. This was the last thing she’d expected to get him involved in.
Calvin stepped forward, stating his point home plainly and with deceptively high volume, in a confrontational stance worthy of a prosecutor. “Don’t you mean served? If I remember correctly, you had agreed to join us. We want to help you, Katia.”
Katia caught sight of a frown on Darquin’s face and a crackling, bitter resentment inside him practically burning at the accusations. “I’m sorry, Calvin. I have decided to stick with the Rangers. They have always been there for me… and personally I think you all are being a little harsh. Not everyone who is ‘Normal’ is out there to use us.”
Calvin snorted, “Try telling that to some of the others downstairs.”
“Hell, they can read me and find out for themselves, for all I care,” Darquin offered.
“No, Darquin.” She waited until she made eye contact with him, and was sure he was listening. “Sometimes trust has to enter in somewhere.”
“They’ve been hurt too many times to do that.” Meeting Calvin’s eyes, he added in a chill tone, “I understand that much.”
Katia looked sad as she commented on Darquin’s comment, “So had I, or so I thought.”
“Katia!” Calvin took another step forward, flagging his outrage with a wild sweep of his hand. “You can’t just say you are with us, and in the next few hours disappear and say you aren’t going to join us! How do you think that makes us feel? Especially when you come in trailing one of them–”
Darquin shook his head, an evil smirk on his face. “Offhand, I’d say hating me is making you feel like a million bucks, Sparky.”
“Calvin, you can’t just force someone to stay with you. I have free choice. I understand the pain you feel… but you can’t blame everyone who isn’t a teep!” Katia argued.
Calvin glared at Darquin, pointing at Katia as he answered him, but there was no sign that he’d heard Katia. “You mean nothing to me. I am here for her.”
“Funny, I was gonna say the same thing,” Darquin shot back.
“Alright, stop it, both of you.” Katia held her hands out to the two of them. “Calvin, I am not joining your group. I have made my decision, and you can’t force me to come with you. I didn’t realize that was what you were all about. I thought you wanted to help, not traumatize people more.”
“Your decision was swayed by one who obviously has some hold over you!” Calvin said. “We can’t allow you to do this.”
Servomotors growled as they rolled the door aside to let into the room the other three telepaths she had seen with Calvin the night before. Darquin quickly turned away from Calvin, trying to focus past his anger, thinking in Adronato to scramble his thoughts. His fighting pike sprang out to its full length, quickly barring the way behind them as Darquin held it out. Then he turned in place to face the door. As Darquin moved to protect their back, Katia glanced over at him, sensing the change in his mind. He was already prepared to fight, and the damnedest part was that she couldn’t blame him. She let a swear word slip through her thoughts.
Katia let her hand slip to her fighting pike as well … but tried one last time to talk. It was their last chance to keep this confrontation from ending in pain. “Calvin, don’t do this. I don’t think Byron would agree with what you are doing–”
“Byron doesn’t think sometimes about what can happen if we just let people walk away!” Calvin snorted, wearing a bitter smile full of anticipation. “But… that doesn’t matter.”
Darquin glanced at the newcomers. “Look, I don’t want to hurt you. But I’ll protect my friend as best I can.”
“She is going with us … you can’t stop us,” the first telepath stated firmly.
Darquin smiled, thinking back to the Psi-Cop he’d knocked down back on Mars. “You’d be surprised.”
Katia glanced behind her to Darquin, ready to draw her own pike. “Don’t do this, Calvin. I never thought you would do something like this…. what happened to you?”
“You don’t want to know…” Calvin answered grimly, “I’m not doing anything that you won’t thank me for later. They have you so wrapped up in their world, Katia. Can’t you see that?” He moved in closer.
The second telepath tried to slink past Darquin, who moved to block the teep’s path. The first telepath glanced over at the third on and, with a nod, they both move to try to move around Darquin.
Calvin continued his approach toward Katia. That gave her the cue she was waiting for and finally pulled out her own pike, realizing they were going to have to fight their way out of this.
Darquin raised his pike and said to the newcomers, “No.”
“You won’t stop us,” the first telepath said. “She is coming with us.”
As the words slid into Darquin’s brain, the first telepath bolted and slammed into Darquin. Darquin quickly drew his pike upward and caught the teep in the throat while filling his own head with the squeal of an electric guitar, slicing the other end of his pike down into the next telepath. Wincing at the the guitar scream in Darquin’s head, Katia moved to help him, but Calvin chose that moment to rush her. She swung her pike around and slammed it into the other telepath’s midsection. Darquin brought his pike around to shove the two teeps aside and turned, ready for the third one.
Shielding herself with her fighting pike, Katia Byron appeared as if from the air, a dark figure with long hair like a mane of gold and dark foreboding eyes, lacking any clue of the slightest effort of ever walking or running there. He stood at the door, calm and still, as if he’d always been there.
Darquin stepped back, holding his pike in an idle spin in front of himself, at the ready in case the fighting around him didn’t cease. The telepaths all backed off and stopped fighting. To Darquin’s and Katia’s amazement, some of the telepaths turned their faces to the ground. Darquin gasped despite himself; they couldn’t even face the new man at the door. He folded up his fighting pike and moved to help them up, grabbing one by the sleeve, offering another his hand and earning a stunned expression in the process.
With a sharp gaze, Byron directed his anguish at Calvin. “What is going on here?”
Calvin stood up slowly, trying to catch his breath as he replied, “I… was just… trying to talk… Katia into… realizing… she needs to be with us.”
“By force?!” Darquin stabbed his finger right at Calvin. “You’re no better than the Psi-Cops!”
“I was told what you had planned,” Byron said coldly. “Unfortunately, it appears the warning came too late. Now the damage is done!” Byron let his eyes melt into a softer, less imposing kind of darkness as he turned to Darquin. “I am sorry for this.”
“Me too.” Darquin tried to smile at Byron, failing miserably, and stopped a moment to summon some ritual Minbari phrases to mind. “There shouldn’t be any blood between Rangers and telepaths.”
Calvin’s jaw dropped open as if he’d begun to realize what had happened, sputtering for an explanation. “I… didn’t mean for it to get this far!”
Darquin glanced over at Calvin. “Fanatics don’t mean a lot of things. But our loved ones are just as dead, right?”
Calvin winced at Darquin’s comment, still facing at the ground, unable to bring his eyes up to meet Byron’s.
“Byron, I can’t join you,” Katia stated apologetically, then glared at Calvin. “Unfortunately someone felt I shouldn’t be given the choice.”
“Katerina, I would never try to force anyone to remain with us,” Byron said. “I do wish you would reconsider. We want to help you.”
“I have reconsidered.” Katia retracted her pike and returned it to her robes. “I know where my place is,” she said firmly.
Byron nodded. “Very well. I wish you luck in the future then. You know where you can find us.” He smiled slightly at Darquin. “Again, please accept my apologies for this incident.”
Darquin accepted with a nod. Sarcastically he added, “Welcome to Babylon 5.”
Byron’s smile withered. As if seeking a positive conclusion, he turned back to Katia. “Katerina, please take care. And consider what it was I said,” Byron said gently, somehow managing to emphasize each word without sounding brutal. “Calvin, Detrich, Mark, Jerod… it is time to go.”
Darquin folded his arms, bitter as he watched the five leave the room. Katia just closed her eyes sadly. She glanced down and then up at Darquin. “I’m sorry.”
Actually managing a chuckle, more from nerves then from humor, Darquin replied, “You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I brought you into this. I never meant to do that!”
“If you brought me in, I was the one who decided to stay. It matters to me. You do, I mean,” he added with a smirk.
Katia sat down on the couch and smiled up at him. “Thank you. I honestly didn’t realize… well, let’s just say I am quite good at self-denial.”
He let himself to drop down beside her on the couch. “Nah. Let’s chalk it up to hope and leave it there.”
“Agreed.” She stared into space for a moment, her thoughts a tumultuous mess contemplating the problems ahead for those on Babylon 5. “Sheridan is going to have some problems with them.”
Darquin rolled his eyes and leaned back. “Oh Lord, you’re right.”
Bringing her legs up underneath her, Katia asked, “Why is it I can’t leave anywhere without at least one battle?” She couldn’t help but smile a bit at the thought. Perhaps Darquin’s positive, although cynical, attitude was infecting her, he thought.
“If we were anywhere else, you just might’ve,” he stated.
“What, are you saying B5 is cursed or something?”
He grinned, “No,” he said, grinning, “no Babylon Curse or anything like that. Just that’s the way it is here. Never dull.”
“Wonderful… I could do with dull right about now.” Katia stood and moved over to the comm terminal, tapping out her access code and pulling up her messages. “Well… no messages. I guess that means our shuttle isn’t here yet.” She tapped out a few more orders and watched as the information came scrolling across the screen. “Looks like another 7 hours. So much for a quick escape, eh?”
Darquin shrugged, then smiled mischievously. “Get any movies here? Maybe there’s something good on, now that there isn’t any jamming anymore.”
“Works for me. I’d offer something to eat, except we just got done eating. So, how about something to drink? I think they have this place stocked,” Katia offered, glancing over to the kitchenette area.
“Any coffee? Chai?” Darquin rubbed his face to work out the nervous energy left from the fight. “Hemlock?”
“One hemlock coming right up,” she answered with a grin, rummaging through the cupboards. She pulled out some cups and fixes two glasses. “Found some tea. Not sure how good it is, but it is here.”
“Sure, let’s give it a shot.”
Katia moved over and handed him a cup of tea and settled down next to her with her legs curled up under her again. “I want to get back to Minbar… maybe then I will feel comfortable again. Funny how I consider it home now.” Katia’s mind drifted back to Kordieh, the one thing she felt she couldn’t lose. And yet she found herself afraid that was precisely what would happen.
“Thanks,” Darquin said, taking his tea. After a few cautious sips, he let the rim of his teacup rest his hands, lost in thought. “Y’know, I guess I think of the Phoenix as home. Huh. I didn’t expect that.”
“We have been there for over two years now. I can’t believe it has been that long,” Katia added with a shake of her head.
Sadness welled up in Darquin’s eyes like a faint prismatic sheen. “I can’t believe all that’s changed,” he said.
“I know…life has definitely not turned out like any of us planned, I think.”
He smirked and turned his attention back to his tea. “It’s doing its job, then.”
“Well, life has this thing about throwing us Major League-class curveballs.”
Reflectively, Katia sipped at her own tea. “I suppose it does. The question is, why can’t it every be simple… or even hurt less when it does?”
“I don’t know. The Minbari like to say that we’re always in a state of being born. And you know how tough it was the first time.”
“I think the Minbari understand much more about life than us poor humans ever have,” Katia smiled slightly at that.
“If that’s true, how come we got R&B and they don’t?” Darquin stated with an evil grin.
She chuckled and shook her head. “Well, there is something to be said for classic music, I suppose.”
“Easier to get than the new stuff. You know how much of a pain it is to get recordings of bands in Josephina Duarte’s bar in Downbelow–” Darquin smiled sheepishly, remembering who he was talking with. “Well, probably not.”
“I can’t say as I do,” Katia replied with a grin. “I didn’t even know there were places like Downbelow until I was in college!”
Darquin raised his tea cup to her and answered simply, “Siddhartha.”
“I’m sorry… I do not understand the reference,” Katia answered with a confused look.
“That is the name that Buddha was born under,” he said. “There was this prince in ancient India, Siddhartha, who was forbidden to see life outside the palace, and when he did, learned about poverty and suffering. After that, he wandered the earth for years in search of meaning. Finally he decides to stop under a tree, sits and meditates. Legend has it that when he did that, he found enlightenment. Ever since then, everyone called him the Enlightened One. The Buddha.”
Katia glanced down at her tea. “I suppose there would be quite a few commonalities. My uncle just wanted to protect me.”
With a bitter grin, Darquin replied, “I guess it was like that with my family too.”
“You were raised by your family as well?” Katia asked. “I mean, someone other than your parents.”
“Yeah, my aunt and uncle. I…I think my parents died when I was very young.”
“I’m sorry… I know what it is like to lose ones parents,” Katia replied.
Darquin said gently, “I was pretty sure you would.”
“How old were you?” she asked.
“A couple months ago, I think,” he said, distant.
Katia blinked, trying to put the two facts together. “Only a few months ago?”
“Uh, I mean I was a couple months old. I guess it didn’t feel real till… a few months ago.”
“You had held out hope they may have been alive then?”
“Sort of, I was never sure until then.”
Katia said sympathetically, “That would have to be worse than knowing for sure. I suppose we all live with our own demons from the past.”
“Well… there are demons, and there are demons.”
“I suppose,” she agreed.
Darquin sipped his tea and asked, “Don’t you hate it though when you find out that you need to be a better demonslayer?”
Katia snorted and replied, “I for one always need to be better at that. As evidenced by a few of my past actions.” She glanced down a bit sheepishly, thinking of some of the things she had done to her shipmates.
Darquin shook his head and smiled at her. “Nothing to get hung about, as the song goes.”
“Yeah… thank goodness,” she replied with a smile. “I appreciate all that you have done to help, Darquin. So, now I suppose I owe you one… or more at this rate. You don’t charge interest, do you?” she asked with a grin.
“But I’m always interesting!”
Katia leaned back into the couch, groaning. “No comment! Now, do you have any idea what you want to watch until our transport gets here?” So far she had been doing her best to not allow herself to think or feel over what had happened back on Mars. She knew it would come back to hit her, though … perhaps very soon.
“Um, Rebo and Zooty or…I wonder if ‘Yellow Submarine’ finally got released to the Interweb?”
Katia stood and threw him the chip with the schedule on it as she said, “Here, see what you can find… I am going to go get a quick shower.”
“Gotcha, I’ll knock if anyone calls.”
As she entered the bedroom, she said behind her as the door closed, “Yeah, tell ’em I ran away.”
(c) 1999 Tamara Friese and Joe R. Medina. All rights reserved.