Photographs and Memories
Characters: Tomás Darquin
Okay, I think I got this thing working. I’ve been working on you ever since Mars, you damn– Oh. Good.
Anyway, I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. So much has happened. Lots of changes. Total chaos. Sometimes I wonder if this is what making history really feels like. Does it feel the same for a kid at the Battle of Gettysburg or one of Sun Tzu’s generals, as it does for me?
It’d be nice if it all came to something. More than just some kind of a footnote, written really small in the margins, next to the official story before it crowds us out completely. The Rangers, that is.
Like I said, though, a lot’s happened. It’s only been a few months, but since I’ve been on board the Phoenix, I’ve been in the middle of two or three space battles, one major encounter with collateral damage in one of the meditation rooms, a really hairy ground engagement on Minbar, a big shake-up here among the crew…and I found out my head’s been messed with.
Computer, provide links here to the relevant data files and log entries. With security restrictions as they apply.
Heh. Amazing how quickly I’ve taken to Security detail.
A few days ago, we docked at Babylon 5 to drop off all the wounded and refugees from the civil war on Minbar. We were allowed to come and go as we pleased–within reason, of course–so lots of the crew went back and forth between B5 and the Phoenix. My group had to make sure that anyone even near the shuttles was accounted for.
I had to coordinate with the station security chief, so I was busy for a while. It’s not Michael Garibaldi anymore, which is too bad. Like I said, a lot of changes. Still, the new guy isn’t so bad if you deal him straight from the top of the deck. I wish I could say that about most people nowadays. For some reason, he kept asking how we could stand the fabric in our uniforms.
I shrugged and said, “Maybe the Minbari ran out of body armor.” He stopped talking to me after that.
Once everything was secure aboard ship and with the personnel transfers, I put Tianmun in charge and I let the shuttle go back to the Phoenix without me. There was something I had to do back on B5, before I lost my nerve. I took some extra time to brace myself; waited till I was through Customs before I hit the link. I put in a call for Bev.
As I thought, she was on duty. For all I know, I probably flew back and forth past her Starfury a few billion times. I left a message, telling her where she could find me. And after the big emotional build-up to get my nerve up to call her. Talk about anti-climax.
I went Downbelow for a while after that. I knew how long the patrol shift would take, so I figured I had enough time to check on a few people I knew just before I found the Rangers…or they found me. But anyway, Downbelow seems to have gotten a little better, at least for the lurkers I used to know.
Now that Earth is putting the screws to any business done around B5 territory, some people are actually recruiting lurkers for halfway decent jobs. And with so many Rangers hanging around, especially those of us who keep an eye on Downbelow, the crime rate’s gone down. Hardly permanent, either one of ’em, but it’s good to have it while we got it. Not that it’s changed all that much–people still living like garbage cans, making nests out of the remains of some greedy slob’s good fortune.
I didn’t see everyone I knew down there. Unfortunately there are a lot of lurkers Downbelow. And even more trouble; I think I must’ve walked in on more than a few attempts to lean on easy marks. I think I got a glimpse of Nev and Aunty Tran. I actually had a chance to talk to Max. Still cute as ever, and just as off-limits. She collects problems and emotional hang-ups the way most people attract lint.
After that, I dusted myself off and went up to Earhart’s for a drink. A few people there actually remembered me, a couple pilots and the bartender.
And then Bev showed up. She actually dressed up for the occasion. I’m not sure I can go into any details without getting mushy right now. She looks good in green, though. Heart-in-the-throat time. I’ll leave it at that. She was really excited about seeing me, more than I expected. She called to me when I was talking to the others, then she came up to me and gave me a regular bearhug. A big squeeze-’em-till-their-eyes-pop kind of hug. I must’ve been blushing. The pilots had big smirks on their faces.
That’s when I had that drink, something brought in by one of the League worlds. Must’ve been paint thinner in a past life.
She did a double-take and pointed out a few bruises, around the left side of my mouth and along the edge of the jaw. They’ve healed up for the most part. I forgot about them because…well, basically, they stopped hurting. It took me a sec to realize what she was talking about. “What the hell did you get yourself into now?” she said. My reputation precedes me.
Well, I had to tell her about the evac on Minbar. Near Yedor, I think. To me, no matter how hard I tried, it sounded like an elaborate fish story, something pretending at history. A big battle, doom all around, battle cries, all that stuff. Sort of “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” But all the people there at the bar were gathering around, taking it all in like kids around a campfire. I just shrugged it all off. Too embarrassed to do anything else.
Once I was done, Bev volunteered for the hot seat and told me what she saw at Coriana Six. Her flight element rode in on the White Stars’ jumppoint just in time to see hell broke loose between the Shadows and the Vorlons. She had a hard time describing everything after that: huge ships like mountains of rock jumping in from nowhere, blasting both sides, everyone else in the middle…and then weird visions of Sheridan and Delenn. A surreal picture, like some child custody battle. Then it was all over. It put my story to shame, thank God.
Bev and I took off after that. Mainly my idea. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon telling stories about doing heroics on other planets, and I wanted some time alone with her.
She wanted to go to the Gardens, so we had to take the Core Shuttle down. A little creepy, though, when you remember what happened to John Sheridan two years back. I kept looking around for suspicious packages. Except for a few techs, it was just us in the Shuttle.
Bev and I would exchange glances once in a while, not saying much, smiling as best as we could. Really tense. I’d look at her a little longer than I should, like I used to, soaking in her face, her presence. It always feels like stealing apples off a tree, but I still can’t help it when I’m around her. She asked me if I still had her picture. I said I did, and that it was a pretty picture of her. I didn’t tell her I kept it by me wherever I was sleeping. She kept saying how much I’ve changed. I don’t know, maybe I have. Between getting prepped for Security detail and finding out my memories were altered, it’s easy enough. I haven’t absorbed it all yet. But more than that was bothering her. I thought the old argument about me going AWOL was about to start up again.
We got off the Core Shuttle at the Red One station and weaved through the crowd to get to the park area of the Gardens. It was kind of relaxing at first, walking around living things in such a green, quiet place. And then we went into the hedge maze and started opening ourselves up. She asked how I’ve been, what have I been doing. I told her about some of my flight time since I left EarthForce and me getting into Security. None of the really private stuff going onboard, just that. “I’m still trying to get to know everyone.” I left it at that.
I switched the subject and asked what she’s been up to, mainly trying to find out if she really was seeing someone. The last time I talked to her, it was by vid. I heard someone in her room, and she never allows most people into her quarters. Real territorial.
“Social calendar as full as ever?”
She said it was for a while, that she found somebody she really liked. She thought they had something special, then she found out he was seeing someone else, so that was the end of that. It probably didn’t last more than a few months. I didn’t think she was the kind who’d ever have a whirlwind romance. Me, yes. I’m crazy enough. But I thought she restricted herself to more gradual connections, more careful. She pretended to give the brush-off to any thought of the guy, but I could tell that it still hurt. She kept her arms in around herself, like she was trying to…hold herself together.
“The less said of him, the better,” she said. Sure, twist my arm.
She turned away slightly, but I could see the tears welling up. I felt bad for her. The one time, as far as I know, that she lets someone into her personal life and she gets stung. I touched her shoulder, not enough courage to put my hand on her, just my fingertips. She turned back to me again, and then I don’t remember seeing her do anything else. She put her arms around me and cried her heart out. It was the first time I didn’t hold back whenever we hugged each other. I held onto her for dear life, almost as if I was trying to stuff her into myself. We hardly said a thing, except me saying “I’m sorry,” over and over. I’m not sure who I was apologizing for, him or me.
When we let ourselves go, we had no choice except to look into each other’s eyes. I was afraid she might’ve begun to figure out how I felt about her, but I would’ve felt like a jerk if I looked away. I dabbed at her tears with the edge of my cloak, feeling really self-conscious. If someone was out there in the hedge maze with us, we must’ve been a real sight.
There was a different kind of tension between us after that. We’d been through a lot together, from watching Minbari fighters fly past us without firing a shot to Nightwatch, but we were only friends. She’s always been nice and fun-loving and all that, but that turned out to be just her way of trying to please people. I felt a lot more for her than she did and I knew it, so I kept it to myself. But maybe this isn’t one-sided anymore.
We had to say our goodbyes after that. She had to go meet some friends from her squadron later on. But the goodbyes got really awkward and dragged out. Neither of us wanted to leave. We promised to get word to each other somehow. All the feelings are still up in the air, but hey, it’s looking interesting.
It’s not much in the history of the Anla’shok, I suppose, but I had to tell somebody.
The next day I ended up getting together with a few people from the Phoenix over lunch in the Zocalo. Nothing planned. It just happened. I got to meet a friend of Kim’s and that was fun too. It started to feel like being back in EarthForce again. I wonder if something’s happening with Kim and her friend too. Billy Something, someone who used to be in EarthForce. Kim actually seems a little better for it, either way.
After that, it got really busy after that. We were already making our separate ways back to the Phoenix when it was going on. Susan Ivanova’s announcement that Earth is attacking civilians, Tylo Narsh leaving and Mackey Freise now in command…and the new mission profile. We were practically buried in an avalanche, so much happening at once.
When Captain Freise said we were going into Vorlon space, you would’ve thought we had a hull breach from all the whispers. We all know they’re gone now, but hardly anybody returned from Vorlon territory. All I could say, “Aye-yai-yai.” I might as well, I suppose, with one less member of La Raza onboard, anyway.
All the hull breaching response drills we’ve been doing might pay off sooner than we thought. I’ve put those procedures on high priority for all Security personnel, in the event Vorlon space isn’t completely empty. Or friendly, for that matter. I’ll have to get permission to issue some heavier firepower before we get there…just in case a Vorlon infiltrator has to be taken down. If it can be.
Computer, copy the last reference to the notes in my duty roster. Make a note to speak to Captain Freise and Commander Shaver at the same time, if possible, regarding that subject. I’ve ticked off the XO more than enough as it is. That reminds me. Also note that I should speak to Chief Engineer Santiago re securing her section against sabotage. I haven’t had a chance to talk to her since Minbar anyway. I haven’t had a chance to talk to her beyond official business.
One thing left on my mind: Hearing Bev’s side of how the older races left got me thinking about everything. History. Our places in it. The beginning of some kind of…new age.
Everything keeps changing. I don’t know, is this what history feels like?