Morgan hurried into the mess, afraid she was going to be late. But while the hall was still crowded with Rangers both coming and going, it didn’t take her long to realize that Kordieh was not there.
Frowning, she nevertheless took a seat to wait for him, in case he had been held up.
Fifteen minutes passed, but there was still no sign of him. She drummed her fingers on the table, then got up to find him. She would start at his quarters, instead of paging him.
There was no response to her first sound of the chime. Morgan waited, then tried again. Surely she would have heard if something had happened to him?
Abruptly, the door opened. Kordieh was sitting up on his bed, trying to straighten his rumpled dark hair. He startled. “Margaret! Good heavens, what time is it?”
“Nearly 1830. Forgive me, I did not realize you were sleeping.” She felt more than a little foolish now, for panicking.
“I don’t usually sleep at this time, although my shift doesn’t make for a normal schedule. But … it has been a very long day.”
“Yes, I know it has been. But I had to be sure he… That you were fine.”
“Yes.” He sighed. “I don’t think I’ll be talking to G’fen for a while, though.”
“Ah. I hoped he would listen to you, as his friend.”
Kordieh shook his head. “I think he hates so much he cannot even see it. And I … well, I made a few mistakes myself.”
She sniffed. “It has been a day for that.” Then Morgan hesitated. “Would it help to talk? Unless you want to go back to sleep, of course.”
“No, that’s all right. I have to go on duty at 2330 anyway.” He laughed. “That shift always sounds ironic …graveyard … moreso now.” He gestured toward the room’s one chair, inviting Morgan to sit. “He talked about, ‘did I know what it was like to watch my family die.’ Well, I do. I couldn’t help thinking about Lucius.”
“Of course you couldn’t. I would be surprised if you didn’t.”
“Unfortunately, that made me lose my temper. I suppose it could have been worse. When I did see his ship, dead in space, I lost my mind …”
“I am sorry, Dunstan,” she said softly.
He shook his head hard, then smiled at her. “It’s all right. I’m starting to feel sorry for myself. That’s not good. We should talk about something else. What is going to happen to G’fen?”
“Demotion. Limited duties, menial.” Her mouth quirked. “I am tempted to teach a remedial military etiquette course.”
“And once again, I find myself thinking, it’s too bad we can’t have a full blown mah’uzeed here.”
“For us?” Morgan tried to joke, but she had been heartily wishing for that very thing herself.
“For us to use .. and him to build.”
“Ie. Perhaps it would give him the time to think he should have.”
“It helped me, goodness knows.”
“It did. But not only you,” she added.
“Oh?” he asked, sounding surprised.
“I needed my own peace, from grief, and anger. Without the mah’uzeed, it would have been longer coming.”
He smiled. “I’m glad I could be a part of that.”
Morgan colored faintly, and she looked away, embarrassed. “Yes, well…”
“I spoke to Chief Darquin earlier,” Kordieh said quickly, changing the subject. “Then, there was no news from Centauri Prime. Has there been anything new?”
“Not really. I could make sure you get updates, if you wish it.”
“If that would be all right. I do worry about Mr. Carlacci. And Ryath.” He hesitated invoking the last name, as if unsure how it would be received — or how he himself felt.
“I do also, at least about Mr Carlacci.” She didn’t try to hide her ongoing mistrust of the technomage; she was fairly certain he wouldn’t buy it even if she tried. “Even if getting you access to the feed is a problem, I can give you the news.”
He nodded. “I would be grateful.”
“Then I will see to it.”
He nodded. “Is there anything else I can do to help? It seems like the most I can manage is as I told Chief Darquin, to stay out of the way and not be a distraction.” His tone matched the self-deprecating smile.
“You are worth more than that,” she said firmly. “You do your work well, and you listen well too.”
“Thank you,” he said. “I do my best. If there is something I can do, to help any of you, do please tell me.”
“I will.” Morgan stopped, rubbed her face with her uninjured hand, sighing. “Make sure we do not have a repeat of today?”
“If I can, I will,” he said.
She smiled faintly. “Good. It has made me feel old, and I despise that.”
“You look like you could use some sleep,” he said.
“Perhaps, but then I would be up long before my shift begins. I am grouchy enough already without that.”
“Something to eat, perhaps? We were going to meet for dinner….”
“That would probably be a good idea, if you feel like it,” she agreed.
He stood up, trying to brush the wrinkles out of his uniform. “Yes.”
Morgan stood also, waiting on him.
He gave up on his appearance and headed for the door. “After you?”
She went first, as ever slightly bemused by his persistent manners. Soldiers, miners, and space tramps – her general cohorts – had long since forgotten those social niceties.
Copyright (c) 2003 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.