Characters: Tomás Darquin
Deck 16, Crew Quarters
The com screen chirped to life the moment Darquin lurched into his quarters. With more life than he had. He went straight to the bathroom sink to wash the blood off his hands. As the sonic faucet massaged off the blood, whipping it into feathery patterns across his skin and down to the drain in thin red streams, the com screen persisted.
He shouted from his place at the sink, loud enough for the computer to hear. “Okay, okay, who the hell is it!”
“Pre-recorded priority message from Commander Shaver.”
He sighed. “All right. Audio only.”
Wiping his hands off, he rushed to the com screen as it played back the message. “Attention–you are all ordered to meet with Captain Narsh and myself in the Conference room in exactly 56 minutes. DO NOT BE LATE!”
He checked the time-stamp on the message. It came in about a half hour ago.
He swore, then decided it wasn’t such an inconvenience after all. There’d still be time for a shower, to wash off the layers of desperation from the last few hours….
In the confines of one of the meditation rooms on Deck One, Darquin wrestled with inner demons while, outside, alien ships attacked the Minbari Flyer shuttle Valen. He sat in a lotus position, grumbling pleas that he not be left alone, shedding tears, grappling with the dream that haunted him almost since birth. An ancient highway ran through the center of his dream, on a desert plain surrounded by moonlight and mountains. And from the middle of the road, he saw his parents driving away, up the paved road into the darkness. Up to now, he’d thought it was only a dream until it began to come to him in his waking hours aboard ship. He had come to focus his mind, to explore the dream if he couldn’t beat it. That very minute, while he whimpered mantra, what few rumblings from the battle outside reverberated through the hull of the Phoenix, he didn’t hear or feel.
Three Minbari in the meditation room with him watched with dread, concern, and grim fascination. They whispered to one another, wondering what they should do. The call to battle stations has already sounded. Even for a human, he seemed to be in great pain, so they dared not leave. One Minbari agreed to stay behind and watch over him.
Darquin would later hate himself for making him stay.
He was still deep in the vision several minutes later when the ship rumbled and shook, knocking him onto his side and back to full awareness. Something shot across his peripheral vision. Trying to follow the blur, he half-crawled into the observation area, where burning debris shimmered and sun-bright beams sliced into the void beyond the wall of observation windows.
He looked through the doorway to see the Minbari in the meditation room, realizing he wasn’t alone.
And this was the observation deck. One of the most vulnerable parts of the ship.
Instinct made him look over his shoulder at the viewports. A huge black mass, possibly another ship, came tumbling at them head over tail.
He bolted straight for the Minbari. “LET’S GET THE HELL–“
The deck rolled beneath their feet like water, shoving Darquin and the Minbari into each other like nine-pins, moments before they even heard the thunder. Sparks flew through the doorway to the observation room. Alarms shrieked around them. Doors clamped shut. The walls groaned. The metal and tangled electrical innards of the ship came down on them in a shower as their toes touched the floor again, falling.
The Minbari fell on top of Darquin, letting out a deep undignified grunt as something heavy thumped right on top of him as well. They somehow landed nose-to-nose, giving them direct eye contact. Darquin couldn’t bear the fear in the Minbari eyes just as they started to glaze over. Looking over the Minbari’s shoulder, he saw the tip of a burnt girder. Blood was seeping onto his arms like morning dew.
He kicked around the fallen crewman using all his strength, sending the girder to the patch of shrapnel-coated floor right next to them, cringing as it let out a clang. For all he knew, the other guy was dead already, but he didn’t dare push him off and risk further injury. He then inched his way across the floor, careful to keep the Minbari on him. He felt the debris on the floor digging into his Ranger’s robes, starting their way into him. He held his head off the ground and continued till they were under one of the slanted bedrests in the meditation room. It wasn’t as sturdy as a table, but better than no cover at all.
Hell of an excuse for not being in a dogfight, he thought to himself in a fit of frustration.
He looked into the Minbari’s closing eyes, speaking in Adronato. “Can you hear me?” Assuming the mumble he just heard was yes, he went on. “Are you in pain? Are you numb?”
Darquin let out a sigh of relief. “What’s your name?”
“I hate to say this…but I have to move you. Ready?”
On the count of three, Darquin slipped himself out and did his best to guide Correil to the floor, his body pushing blackened shards into a small pile next to them. He took a pillow from another slanted bed nearby and darted back to Correil’s side. Correil pulled his head off the floor long enough to let Darquin wipe the rest of the shrapnel away and give him the pillow.
“I’m sorry you have to lie down–” Darquin applied pressure around the spreading scarlet stains over Correil’s shoulder. “–but you’ve been moved around too much as it is. I’m no expert, but you could’ve gotten a spinal injury.”
“I understand.” The cushion muffled his answer.
Darquin brushed the last of the splinters off his palms and activated his link to tell Medlab what happened and where they were.
“Correil? Good news. Medics on the way.”
“What about the hull?”
“No sign of a major hull breach. The auto-repair systems must be working on it. The bulkheads’ll open any minute….What. What’s so funny?”
The Minbari’s frame shook with each wheezed chuckle. “I was supposed to look after you.”
The doors rolled open and let medics into the room about a minute later. One checked Darquin out while the others took care of Correil and slowly put him into a stretcher. Darquin couldn’t help but hover around them while they were working. They assured them that his injuries weren’t as serious as they might seem. They were lucky, the medics told them.
Darquin wasn’t sure if he was ready to believe that yet.
He shambled out into the rest of his ship, trying to hide the bloodstains on his arms and hands till he reached his quarters. There, he got the Commander’s message, washed Correil’s blood off, and as soon as he got dressed, left to get ready for the meeting.
Charging the lift, he cursed to himself. That dream was interfering with his concentration. That stung his conscience. If he didn’t get a handle on it soon, it could happen again. While other Rangers relied on him. In a crisis. In combat. He swore under his breath it won’t get that far. Ever.
But trying to meditate and facing the abyss on his own wasn’t cutting it.
“Destination?” The lift was trying to nag him out his blue funk.
He grumbled at the lift controls, contemplating his actions before he went to the conference room. He decided to check in at the Sci Lab and go over the database for anything the command staff might need. “Deck 9, Science–“
Kim, his CO in the Sci Lab, offered to help him before she left. Maybe this was the time to accept her offer, Darquin thought.
But first, the Sci Lab database. Then the meeting. It would be his best chance to find out what’s been going on and meet the rest of the crew, maybe even Ranger Two.