Reaching the docking bay at last, Yoshino turned on her EVA suit’s magnetic boots, bringing her feet to the deck with a solid thunk that rattled her knees and did nothing to ease the ache in her muscles. Zero gravity or no, she’d been pulling her body mass through tunnels and around the corpse of the WS24 for close on ten hours, and it was long past time for her to get back to the Phoenix.
A shuttle was waiting, and Yoshino could see several other members of the Phoenix crew wearily boarding. Then she saw, leaning against a bulkhead that afforded him a view of the entire bay, Anla’shok Darquin. She stepped toward him, and over the open link, could hear him humming. She listened, catching him switch to a lazily undulating mumble, and suddenly she could feel the burning tingle of the needle across her back–a body memory.
“Anla’shok Darquin?” He turned toward her. “The Beatles, isn’t it?”
He nodded, casually adding, “Goo goo gah joob,” as if it were a coherent statement.
She drew herself up and said, “I am returning to the Phoenix. To the best of my knowledge, the only members of Team Two still aboard are Chief Engineer Santiago, whom I left in Main Engineering, and Anla’shok Matsumoto and Darion, who are preparing to go outside to extract a portion of the hull for analysis.” She paused, not sure of the propriety of what she was about to say next. “Shouldn’t you be getting back, sir? You’ve been here over sixteen hours.”
He gave his head a shake from inside his helmet. “Can’t. I wouldn’t feel right with me over there and so many people–”
The shuttle pilot leaned out of the hatch, waving to indicate he was ready for departure. As Yoshino began toward him, he held up a hand. “I’m afraid that’s it for this trip,” he said. She nodded, watching as the hatch closed and the shuttle was released from the deck with a chain of heavy clangs underneath, making a quick departure.
She kept watching far after it was gone, then paced around the bay a little, frustrated. She should have been back on the Phoenix. She had to do something, but there was nothing here to do….
She looked back at Darquin, casting her mind back to their first meeting, in his office aboard the Phoenix. She’d been nervous, afraid that he’d be upset about her bringing a cat aboard. But he’d simply said, “As long as she doesn’t get into any critical areas — like the bridge or engineering — she can have the run of the ship, as far as I’m concerned.” So unruffled, so relaxed, so … different from anything she’d ever known.
She turned and walked back over to him, feeling a little foolish. She wasn’t used to just striking up conversations — still, it was better to talk than to stand silent and let all the emotions of the day overwhelm her.
Darquin had resumed his humming, and that at least gave her a place to begin. “My … artist was very fond of the music of that time period, so I heard it quite a lot,” she said. “Do you like contemporary rock music as well?”
“Mmmmh…yeah, a few,” he said with a shrug. “I was just raised on the classics.”
“Back on Earth, I listened to a lot of music while I worked,” she said. “I particularly like what some of the new groups have done with the … classics. Like Colour out of Space.”
He suddenly looked as if he had an itch somewhere deep in his EVA suit. “Oh, I don’t know. They do so many covers, they make Van Halen look avant-garde.”
“Then you’re a devotee of Van Halen.”
“Not exactly. I can’t get over wanting to kill David Lee Roth every time I see him.”
Her head bowed like a branch under a heavy snowfall, and she turned away so that he wouldn’t see the flush over her cheeks. Before he could ask what the matter was, she said very softly, “I don’t agree with you….I feel disloyal.”
For a moment he was too stunned to speak. “Disloyal? We’re only talking about rock bands, right?”
She was silent for a long time, letting the words — and their implication — sink in. It doesn’t matter. It truly doesn’t matter. The Anla’shok truly are different, not just in what they do, but in what they are.
“Since I came to the Anla’shok, I have thought that I do not want to be what I was before,” she said at last. “When we have talked, especially back at Babylon 5, I have thought….you could teach me some things. Like how to relax. How to have fun.”
“Good thing you met me now instead of a few years ago.” He snickered under his breath. “It would’ve been raising hell in bars back then.”
“That was…fun to you then?”
He stared into the docking bay. “No,” he said quietly. “Just alive. Having my feelings, or whatever makes me me out there, not locked up where no one can see it. To me, that’s all fun is.”
Yoshino smiled as she followed Darquin’s gaze, and then felt the vibration through the bulkhead that heralded its opening to admit another shuttle. When it landed, she helped Darquin load it with the equipment that the boarding parties had brought over: strings of emergency lighting, power packs, miscellaneous odds and ends. Finally she headed up the ramp, turning back toward Darquin one last time. He had resumed his place, waiting. She waved, and though the glare made it hard to see his face through the EVA suit mask, she thought she saw him smile.
Copyright (c) 1998 Jamie Lawson and Joe R. Medina. All rights reserved.