Preview and Prelude

Characters: Tomás Darquin, G’fen

Once the shuttle Lartiel crashed out of Minbar’s atmosphere, Darquin handed off to the co-pilot and stepped into the passenger section, stopping at G’fen’s seat to pat him on the arm.

“You’re in luck.” Grinning, Darquin pointed at the viewport beside them. “You can get a look at her on this side.”

And as the shuttle leveled out, the Phoenix glided into view. She had the snow-blue coloring and the round, tapered nose of a White Star and the three-fin configuration of Minbari warships…not to mention their size. It inherited its elongated dart-like shape from the ancient Tinashi-class frigates that survived the Shadow War, but its power and sleek design was a gift from the Vorlons. The Phoenix seemed to shimmer with magic and anticipation as it grew larger and closer.

G’fen turned toward Darquin. “I never expected to see something so…beautiful!”

“The Minbari definitely went to town on her,” he answered, smiling. “You should’ve seen her a year ago–”

The ship made a small bounce. G’fen’s red Narn face became green…well, as green as a Narn face can get.

“One sec.” Darquin reached for an overhead compartment and offered him a skintab patch. “All the new traffic must be kicking up some extra turbulence. Slap that on for five seconds. Once we’re done in Security, I have show ya around real quick.”

G’fen took the patch, and started to apply the patch to his skin. Another bump prevented him from doing it. G’fen then vomited, and the stench was horrible.

“Then again…” Darquin’s eyes began to water as he tapped his link. “Get us docked ASAP. And tell maintenance we got a chunder. Ask Max. He’ll know what it means.” He gave G’fen a gentle pat on the shoulder. “Sorry, man. But hey, we might get faster clearance!”

G’fen tried to look like he was feeling better. “That’s always…good. So, who is this Max guy?”

“He’s a tech with Storm Squadron…the first guy I met when I came aboard, come to think. He keeps on the latest fighter tweaks, things like that.” Darquin smirked to himself. “And he’s the bass player in the ship’s resident rock band.”

G’fen sat puzzled for a few seconds. “Rock band? I don’t believe I understand.”

Darquin blinked, ready to ask what planet he was from, then stopped himself when he looked into the Narn’s mottled features. “Er, yeah. A band. A group of musicians. It’s called a rock band because they–what am I saying, it’s ‘we’–we play a kind of music called rock ‘n’ roll.” He shrugged. “It’s a human thing.”

A light of recognition came into G’fen’s eyes. “We have opera. Is this similar?”

“Well, Martian neo-goth rock is kinda like Narn opera….” Darquin waved off the comparison. “I’m not sure how it is for Narns, but for humans, opera is really formal. Often for really educated folk. But rock music is for the, uh, the lower classes.” A smile shone across his face. “It’s music to dance to, romance to, and annoy your parents with.”

Sha’kara. I now understand. Sha’kara is what you would call our Rock ‘n Roll.” The shuttle was now closer to the Phoenix. “Certainly a beautiful ship.”

Darquin nodded. “Sure hard to get tired of–” Stray chunder fumes snuck into his nose, cutting him off his mid-thought. He froze long enough to hold down the gag reflex. “Um, tell ya what. I’m gonna buckle up. Looks like we’re ready to dock. I can take ya directly to your quarters on Deck 5. Once you’re settled in, we’ll go down to the Station House and I’ll show ya the ropes.”

“I’m very excited. I’ve been waiting so long to have an assignment! I’m ready to start right in.” G’fen’s face was no longer sickly. In fact he seemed very pleased.

Darquin gave him a hearty pat on the shoulder before he took a seat beside the boarding hatch.

Watching the viewports, G’fen could see the hangar doors grow closer and open. The stars disappeared with a muffled clang, replaced by flickering running lights and hissing air pumps. Grinding servomotors announced another wave of light as the inner doors opened, revealing the docking area as the shuttle rolled forward.

When the shuttle finally stopped and sank with a thump, groaning engines winding down, Darquin stood and slapped the hatch control. “ISA Phoenix, Deck 18 docking area! All right, people, get your gear and let’s move! Find a lift and hit your quarters. The computer system will register your voice there. Check your commscreen for roster updates and report to your post. If you don’t go to your quarters, you’re screwed–you don’t get computer access, got it?” He took a breath and went back to yelling his lungs out. “Medlab One is on Deck 8, Medlab Two on Deck 21! Security–” He clapped G’fen on the back and steered him to the boarding ramp. “-goes this way!”

Halfway down the ramp Darquin jumped off, planting his feet firmly on the deck as he landed, surveying the trim tides of Rangers leaving the shuttle. With a practiced sidestep, Darquin rejoined the crowd and made way for G’fen, waving at him to follow.

The foot traffic persisted in columns of six, past flocks of technicians and plumes of steam, into the corridor beyond without change in shape or speed. Arches of lavender accent lights framed each flowing bulkhead.

“It’s kinda like a White Star, isn’t it?” Darquin said to G’fen. “If we take a longer walk this way, we can take the next lift up to Deck 7.”

“This place is certainly large! When will the ship leave Minbari space?” asked G’fen.

“In 24 standard hours, give or take.” As they approached a waiting lift, Darquin grew serious. “When all sections report in, we’ll assemble for the Naming of Names.”

G’fen listened to the words of Darquin. “Does your security team see much…action?”

“Some.” He stepped into the lift and waited for G’fen before tapping the crystalline controls, sending them upward. “Planetside usually. Investigating, making contacts, shakin’ people down. We hardly ever see trouble on board, but we have to watch for it. If someone tries to sneak aboard, get at our people, or hack our systems, we’re the first line of defense. Luckily no one’s thrown a breaching pod at us.” He grinned. “Probably because they wouldn’t get past the ship’s guns.”

G’fen laughed. “Well, I can tell this is a very powerful ship. Much more powerful than anything else I’ve been on.” G’fen’s face became annoyed. “It may take me awhile to get the hang of these controls here…”

“Yup! Been there, done that!” Darquin chuckled as the lift reached their stop. “And you will too.”

The lift opened onto Deck 7, revealing a corridor much like the rest of the ship. “The walk here–” Darquin waved at the walls around them as they stepped out. “–is a defensive zone. Right now we’re being scanned by wall-to-wall surveillance. A security breach here would trigger the bulkheads, cutting off the lift and the brig from the rest of the ship. If I wasn’t in charge of it, it’d give me the creeps.”

He pointed to an open blast door. “Next stop, the Station House! First door on the right.”

As they walked in, a few feet away from the door, a hologram schematic of the ship floated high above a crystal disk built into the floor. Workstations and equipment lockers sat to their right, dominating the room. At the far end of the room was the door to the Security Chief’s office.

“The security system here is much more advanced than that of B5. I’m not quite sure about the security system parameters. How does it know not to pick up security personnel weapons or someone who has the same kind of weapons as security personnel?” G’fen took great interest in the advanced programing.

“It logs any weapon it can find, basically. Each power source generate a unique energy field pattern. Sorta like its own signature.” Darquin pointed to thin, heavy lockers at the far end of the room. “The armory over there registers all our guns. When the system finds a power source and doesn’t recognize it, alarms go off. You’d have to hack the system–assuming it lets you get that close–or take the energy cap off your gun. Even if it got past a hand search, we can stop `em before an intruder can do real damage.”

“Oh…!” G’fen was even more impressed by the Phoenix than he was before. “So, do any other parts of the ship have this system, or is it just in this area?”

“Our handheld scanners use the same tech, to search cargo and personnel. And Deck 20 has the same kind of defense system for life support and the emergency control room.” Darquin said. “It’s in sleep mode–literally, I’ll bet. In active mode, the ship will put up one hell of a fight.” He shrugged. “We’re just not sure if it can keep out a techno-mage.”

“A Techno-mage?” G’fen was both interested, and confused. “I remember reading about them while training on Minbar, but I thought they all went away.”

“So did we,” Darquin said. “Out there, you never know. That’s life in the big galaxy for ya!”

“I see. Does this Techno-mage constitute a security risk?”

Darquin sighed. “Yeah. In theory. She comes and goes as she pleases. No one ever sees her coming. She knows about a lot about the crew, right down to names.” He looked around the room. “She could be watching you and me right now. But I don’t think she’s a threat. Check the duty log archives later. Keyword, ‘Ryath.’ You’ll see what I mean.”

G’fen got an uneasy look on his face. “Well, for the record, I don’t like it.”

The two continued on their way.

Phoenix–“Preview and Prelude” c 2002 Nick Wistner & Joe Medina

Babylon 5 tm and c 2002 Warner Bros.

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