Characters: Dr. Mira Trassano, Terry Hale

Mira sat on the Observation Deck cradling her bottle of brevari. The others had been gone for sometime now and the bottle was half gone too. I suppose I should save the rest of this, she thought as she said another prayer and took another swig. But, maybe not. She heard the faraway sound of the doors swishing open and wondered if she should pretend not to be slightly drunk. Bah! That’s nonsense, Mira. If you’re going to be drunk, you might as well be honestly drunk. She heard a voice that she didn’t immediately recognize, “Doctor Trassano?”

“Yes? Come, friend. Sit. Have a drink with me. I guarantee that this,” she shook the bottle a little, “is the finest brevari on the ship.” Mira chuckled at her own joke and patted the step beside her. “Of course, it is most likely the only brevari on the ship. Sit. I would offer you a glass, but I did not bring one. Only a bowl for the dead. However, I can assure you that I have no contagious diseases. I am the doctor. I should know.” She turned to smile at her companion’s knees as she added. “Sit. Grief is most easily borne by many pairs of hearts, as my Father once told me.” Mira looked up to discover the face of the Captain. She briefly wondered if this was a bad thing.

Hale smiled faintly. “Thank you, but I think I’ll pass… for now.” She looked down a moment at the doctor then took the offered seat. “You look like you’ve had enough, though,” she said, but not harshly.

Mira sighed. “I was thinking that very same thing a little while ago, but I had to finish praying for the dead.” She gestured at the bowl and the window.

Mira stared down into the small bowl of brevari at her feet. Hale leaned forward, elbows on her knees, looking out at hyperspace. Yet another few hours to kill, though it felt more like it was killing them. She couldn’t seem to find the words to say. Ones of any use, anyway.

As if there hadn’t been a pause, Mira continued, “But then, I decided that becoming one with my inner self might not be such a bad idea.”

“I should think that it would more likely make you one with the floor,” Hale commented dryly.

Mira simply laughed. “We Centauri believe that drinking until you pass out is a religious experience.” Then she shrugged. “But I will have to be careful. This is my next to last bottle and I have to save some for the Festivals that come later.” Mira put the bottle down and started to cork it with the extreme care of a drunk. She stared at the bowl again and then added some more brevari to it before re-corking it.

Hale couldn’t doubt Mira’s seriousness, but also didn’t doubt there was more to this than tradition.

“Are you going to be all right?” Hale asked quietly just as Mira said, “And how are you feeling, Captain… you look none too good yourself, you know.”

Hale chuckled at their simultaneous questions. Mira grinned. Hale took in a long breath and looked out the windows. “I’d be lying if I said I was well, and we can leave it at that.”

Mira sighed again. “It seems many of us are `in the same ship’ as you humans say.”

Hale didn’t correct the Centauri woman’s misquoted idiom. She simply said. “I know. Knew this would be trouble but….” She shook her head at the enormity of the situation.

“You may not know, my people feel it is our duty to take joy from our duties, but–” Mira stopped and chuckled as she realized she had stepped all over the Captain’s words again. “My conversational timing seems to be out-of-order tonight.” She winked. “I might be more drunk than I thought.”

Hale gave the doctor a wry smile. “Maybe.”

“You did not expect so much trouble? Surely nothing good has ever come from being in this space.”

“Considering there is the popular claim that no one comes back alive, yes. We’re doing better than average.” Hale added to herself, But not by much.

Mira nodded in drunken wisdom. “Aahhh… but are we truly alive anymore? I do not hear laughter any longer… I do not hear outrageous rumors… only whispers of fear and strangeness and death.” She sighed.

Hale ran a hand back through her hair. She couldn’t deny the doctor’s words, or find an answer that would help. “I know. But we can’t turn back–”

Mira shook her head. “I’m not sure that would help, even if we could. We’ve all seen too many horrible things.” The plump Centauri frowned and muttered, “We had to do too many horrible things.”

Hale looked over. “What things?”

Mira shook her head again. “Nothing.” She rubbed her eyes and bare scalp. “Nothing to be concerned about.” Then, she grinned. “But, later, when you hear rumors about me,” She said with a chuckle, “believe every word of them.”

Hale frowned. “Doctor. What is it?”

Mira laughed. “I’m afraid I was seen screaming at our ‘guests’.” She shrugged. “Stress-related breakdown, I suppose.”

“Somehow, I doubt you looked out of place with the lot of us.”

Mira looked at the brevari and decided against it. “Now, that is a sad comment, Captain.”

Hale sighed. “Yes it is.” She stood and walked toward the window. “And frankly, I don’t know what to do about it.”

“If the crew is a badly off as I was at the time… none of us will be good for much for very much longer. But, I feel better now.” She smiled at the captain and joined her at the window. Mira pulled out her hipflask. “Water?” She offered, sloshing the contents of the flask.

Hale managed a small smile. “On that, I can join you.”

Mira nodded and passed the flask. “If this were Homeworld, I would have a party, a Festival of Life, perhaps,” she said idly.

Hale took a cautious sip first. “Party? Here?”

Mira laughed. “Gods, No! I don’t even want to think of the logistics of that! Besides, Centauri are different… we always feel better after a party. In fact, during the Xon war, there was a great festival every year to count the living and grieve for the dead. Afterwards, we would return to the fight feeling much better.” She shook her head. “But, I’m sure that Humans and Minbari are different. Why, I still can’t understand either of your races’ humor!”

Hale laughed. “Sometimes I can’t. There are times I feel I’ve been away from home for centuries.”

Mira agreed, sadly, “Yes, I know what you mean.”

“But as for parties… I cannot speak for the Minbari, but some Humans do hold Wakes, like you describe. Well, almost,” she amended, thinking of the other Centauri she had met.

“Wakes? What an odd thing to call a festival.”

“It’s after a funeral, if I remember. I don’t know why it’s called that.”

Mira went back to her seat on the step and fell into the deep thought that only drunks can achieve. “Perhaps there should be a party then… a Wake, a Festival, something.”

Hale took another sip of the water then quietly put down the flask at Mira’s side. She blinked at the doctor. “You can’t be serious.”

“Why not? Laughter is a great healer. I am certain that, like you, there are many who knew those that died. If there is no cleansing, there is no way to heal.” She nodded firmly. “This might help.”

Hale grimaced. “But the mission. We’re just hours from the planet.”

Mira nodded again. “Perhaps then, after the… what do you call… away mission?” She swigged some water. “Besides, a party of this magnitude will need much planning.”

“We can’t leave the ship defenseless.”

“Of course not… a party in shifts. After you go off duty, you report to have some fun.”

Hale opened her mouth to find another sane reason to deny this from happening. She couldn’t seem to find it.

Mira chuckled, oblivious. “But, then… who am I but a drunken alien doctor?” Her chuckle turned into a laugh. “And I pity the poor fool who would have to organize the monster.” She shook her head and swigged more water.

Hale looked at Mira, a speculative smile forming. “Why not you?”

Mira choked. “GAH!” She looked at Hale in horror.

“It’s your idea.” The Captain folded her arms. “Who better?” Her amusement was growing by the minute.

Mira spluttered. “But… But!”

“If you can do it, I’ll look the other way. Common sense should have me denying it.”

Mira got a slight grip on herself. “But, you’ll need a doctor on the away missions… if I’m involved in party plans I wouldn’t be able to go!” She was delighted at finding a way out of the horrendous task.

“Your assistants would do, would they not? They are fully capable doctors.”

Mira deflated. “Gods, you’re not going to let me out of this are you?”

“Certainly not. And your people do have the market on this sort of thing, wouldn’t you say?” Hale pointed out, then added as a cautious afterthought, “Just don’t get too wild.”

Mira groaned and lay back, so she was flat on the floor. “When I finally haul you in for a physical, I may have trouble forgetting about this, Captain.” She threatened.

Copyright (c) 1998 Mona Hinds and Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.

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