Peter Carlacci was heading down the corridor to his temporary quarters on Babylon 5, feeling more cheerful than he had in quite some time. A large, flat box was tucked under his arm, and he was looking forward to sharing the contents with Mira. As he approached the door, he saw Ryath standing there. The technomage looked small, tired and sad.
Pausing a few steps away, he said gently, “Ryath? You okay?”
Ryath had heard him coming. She had wanted to retreat. She didn’t want to have to deal with anyone, let alone someone who was so obviously happy. But what she found she really didn’t want to do was to invade his happiness. Still she stood there staring at the door, unmoving. She considered projecting an illusion over herself, to make it seem as though the wall simply took a strange turn, but to do that would have meant deceiving him. She knew her footing with the Rangers was tentative; she didn’t want him to misunderstand the reason why she would hide.
So when he spoke to her, she slowly turned her head to look at him. The small, grey box held carefully in front of her. As she looked at him she wished he was Dunstan. She could talk to Dunstan; could tell him everything she needed to. For a brief moment her eyes showed all her emotions, but just as quickly they turned cold.
She smiled, but it had no warmth to it. “I am …” she nodded slowly. “…alright. Thank you Peter.”
Her eyes dropped to the box under his arm. “Looks like we have both found what we wanted.” her voice carried the same coldness as her smile. She couldn’t let her guard down now. Even though every fibre of her body was screaming for her to go, get in her Flyer and finish the task before her. To send Olyn on his final journey. But she wouldn’t leave without Peter, and knew to do so would finish her relationship with the Anla’shok. Still she didn’t move towards the door, or Peter.
“Wouldn’t have been able to do it without your help,” he said, his voice still pitched low and gentle. “You need some time on your own? We can find another place … I can find my own way back to the Phoenix once Mira gets herself settled here. Whatever you need.”
His offer shook her from her inward focus. Why? Why would you make such an offer? Do you intend on returning to the Phoenix? No. If I don’t return with you then I will not return at all.
“Time alone? No. No I’m fine. Just…just a little tired,” she lied, having been the only one who slept for nearly the whole journey to Babylon 5. “Let’s go in. Show Mira what you have. And finish our arrangements for settling her somewhere.” If she couldn’t speak to him about what was in her box, she would distract him with what was in his, and the reason they had come to Babylon 5.
Slowly, stiffly she moved towards the door. She had programed the probes outside to recognise their heat signature, and to unlock the door as they approached. The door swung open and she stepped inside.
Ryath quietly moved behind the kitchen counter and carefully set her box down, out of the way. Carlacci followed, shrugging inwardly. Once in the room, he called out to Mira, as he opened the box and spread the contents out on the table.
It was a Centauri dress, a style that a human would have probably called neo-Renaissance; a thing of beauty in earthy colors of satin, velvet and lace.
Mira woke instantly when Peter called her name. But she spent a moment in panic, unable to remember where she was. It passed quickly with a rueful thought chasing it, No wonder I don’t sleep anymore, if I act like this when I wake up.
She straightened her dress and slipped into the main room. The first thing she noticed was Ryath trying not to be noticed. It made her pause. The technomage didn’t seem injured, although she looked like she might have been recently which simply confused the doctor. A life time of ingrained respect/fear of technomages was warring with the urge to go and give her a thorough examination. In the end, the fear won out.
“Are you feeling well, Technomage Ryath?” Mira stood close to Peter as she asked her quiet question.
The question surprised Ryath. Mira had not spoken much to her since they had rescued her from Centauri Prime. And now the concern for Ryath showed how quickly she was re-adjusting to being free. Ryath replied “A little tired. As I explained to Peter just now. Nothing more.” With an afterthought she felt her reply was a little too convincing, but didn’t think either of the Rangers would question her further.
Mira spent a moment wondering what had happened to her that could have made a Technomage tired before she finally turned to the table and gasped. The dress was beautiful, worthy of her Uncle and Aunt the tailors. It was like a spill of garnets had fallen there in all their colors from burgundy to tan. “Oh, oh, Peter.”
He simply smiled. “If I have to leave you here on the station,” he said, “I want to be sure you stay in style. I have a very old friend who opened her shop in the Zocalo, not long ago.”
Her hand only shook a little as she reached out to stroke the skirt. “This is too much, Peter. It is too beautiful.” All thoughts of tired technomages had fled her mind before images of how she would look in this beautiful dress. She looked up at Peter. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Say thank you,” he suggested, “and go try it on!”
Copyright (c) Niki Hipwood, Mona Hinds and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.