As G’fen entered the gym, he found it was almost empty, except for one other Ranger, standing in one corner of the room. He watched her for a minute — it looked like she was practicing with two swords, one in each hand.
She noticed that he was watching, and she stopped to talk to him. “G’fen-san,” she said, setting the blades gently on the floor. She was wearing a close-fitting, sleeveless shirt, and her arms were covered with brilliantly colorful markings, almost down to the wrist. “Have you come to practice?”
“Yes, it’s about time I sharpen my skills again…” G’fen drew out his Ta’shee.
“If we take some care, perhaps we could see how Narn techniques compare to those of the Kinsei,” she said, picking up the blades again. As she did so, he noticed that her left hand, which she used to hold the shorter blade, was missing half of its smallest finger.
“Shall we?” G’fen started into the cat-like stance customary with all forms of Narn fighting.
She smiled, bowed from the waist, then raised the blades, standing ready.
G’fen started by meeting his blade with hers, and the two went at it for a few moments. G’fen found it challenging to deflecting the pair of thin, slightly curved blades, but after several exchanges he succeeded in striking the smaller blade in Yoshino’s right hand hard enough to knock it out of her grip. It went spinning away to clatter on the floor.
She stepped back out of the fight, shaking her head. “That is my weakness,” she said. “You found it!” She went over and picked up the smaller sword. “I still haven’t completely compensated for the missing finger.”
G’fen had seen missing fingers — not to mention missing arms and legs — before, so it didn’t bother him. “But you are still a worthy opponent….”
She bowed and smiled. “I still have much to learn. You are very skilled yourself. I haven’t had the chance to duel with a Narn before.”
G’fen bowed, and practiced some moves on his own on the mat.
“I hope we have an opportunity to practice together again,” Yoshino said as she took her leave.
G’fen practiced alone for a while, until Kordieh, looking tired and with a bruise across the top of his nose, entered the gym. “Hello, G’fen,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here!”
G’fen wasn’t expecting to see Kordieh either. “Hello, Dunstan,” he said, as he stopped and went over to his friend.
“Forgive me if I seem … not all here, if you know what I mean,” Dunstan said. “I was working the graveyard shift in Medlab, and something actually happened.”
“Really? Anything exciting?”
“You could definitely say that. Unfortunately, I’m not supposed to talk about it,” Dunstan said a little uneasily.
“Oh, come now, Dunstan!” G’fen laughed. “It’s not like it’s a Centauri or anything…”
“No, it’s worse than a Centauri,” Dunstan said. “It has to do with the technomage. And honestly, I can’t tell you more than that.”
G’fen gave a disgusted sound. “Oh Dunstan, you can tell me…”
“Honestly, I can’t.” Dunstan’s voice was starting to rise in pitch. “I don’t like keeping secrets … it messes up my head. But a fireball would mess it up a lot worse.”
G’fen smiled. “Quite true….”
Dunstan drew a deep breath and relaxed a little. “Anyway,” he said, grateful for a chance to change the subject, “you must be rather busy yourself. I missed you the other night when you were going to come back to Medlab and meet me.”
G’fen was no longer bursting with energy. It was as if someone had thrown a switch; he instantly shut down and looked close to death. “I … was busy …”
“What happened?” Dunstan asked, tilting his head sideways a little to look at his friend. “I mean, can you talk about it? You look like you should.”
“It is not our custom to speak of such revelations…” G’fen seemed to be staring into the wall.
Kordieh rubbed his hand through his hair. He couldn’t help but wonder if G’fen was simply stalling. “Well, if you say so,” he said. “If you change your mind though … I mean, I’d like to help.”
“I know you do … and I thank you.” From a deep pocket, G’fen withdrew the denn’bok he had received.
Kordieh’s eyes widened. “That looks old, really old,” he said. “Where did you get it?”
“It was…a gift…” Every word came slowly, as if having to be dragged out of the Narn.
G’fen turned his head from Kordieh, and then turned back and looked at him. “Ayeshalan.”
“Ayeshalan?” Kordieh’s eyes were wide. “But I thought you and she were at odds … I mean, you were saying how arrogant she was and …” he stopped, shaking his head. “I don’t understand.”
“Nor should you,” G’fen replied.
Kordieh puzzled a moment longer, then asked, “When did you get it?”
“The night I was called to speak with the captain and the Chief…and when I was supposed to meet you.”
Kordieh took a few steps over to the wall, and slowly sat, letting himself slide down the wall to the floor. Tired as he was, he was still managing to put together a picture from the small pieces the Narn was giving him. “So,” he said finally, “she must have left it for you before she went on the mission, knowing she might not come back. That being so … she must have thought a lot more of you than you realized at the time.” He looked up at his friend. “That must have been an awful shock for you.”
“To say the least…” G’fen’s words trailed off a little. “The Exec and the Chief acted so very strange during the whole thing….I just couldn’t place my finger on it at the time. And they’ve given me the oddest glances since…”
“They’re probably asking themselves the same question you’re trying to figure out.”
“And what question is that, exactly?” G’fen snapped.
An image of the night before, a budding fireball in Ryath’s delicate hand, flashed through Kordieh’s mind. But he kept his face calm. He was too tired to be afraid of his friend’s quick temper, anyway. He simply looked into G’fen’s face and said, “Why?”
“Why what?” G’fen said, a little irritated.
“Why did she do it — why did she leave you a gift, especially such a valuable one?”
“Because she did.” G’fen’s tone left no doubt — this ended the discussion.
Kordieh took a deep breath and rubbed his eyes. “Mon ami, there is one thing about you that never ceases to amaze me,” he said. “You have a talent for beginning to offer a deep, probing revelation, and then closing the door on it.” He smiled, in hopes of taking any sting out of his words as he got to his feet again. “The Minbari could learn from you.”
G’fen simply smiled, and with a brief bow, left the gym. Kordieh looked after him a moment, then headed over to the parallel bars to start his workout for the day.
Copyright (c) 2003 Jamie Lawson and Nick Wistner. All rights reserved.