Characters: Sech Nelier, Dunstan Kordieh
To: Anla'shok Katia Santiago, ISA Phoenix From: Dunstan Kordieh, Tuzanor Subject: Personal My dearest Maia: You have been gone such a short time, and yet I miss you as if it had been years. I trust that you are well and safe, along with your shipmates. My life is as it has been since I arrived here -- working and studying, growth and change. I think, after finishing the cleanup of my mah'uzeed, I have more muscle on my arms and shoulders than I've ever had. Some of my clothes may actually fit properly soon. But with finishing the cleanup, comes the next challenge -- creating a design for the restoration of my mah'uzeed. This is difficult, because while I have seen many pictures, it isn't enough. The only answer seems to be that I shall have to see other mah'uzeeds with my own eyes -- and to do that, I shall have to get permission to leave Tuzanor ...
“Explain your request, Dunstan.”
“I thought I already had,” Kordieh said, puzzled.
“You did,” Nelier said. “I would like to hear it from your lips, as well as from your pen.”
“Oh.” Kordieh let his shoulders loosen a bit and smiled. “I’ve finished the cleanup on the mah’uzeed. Now it’s time to rebuild it. But I don’t really have anything to go by, to know what will be right, so I want to visit a couple of the mah’uzeeds in Yedor, or elsewhere on Minbar.”
“Have you not studied the pictures? I believe there are some very accurate three-dimensional –”
“Yes, but I can’t tell how they feel,” Kordieh said, allowing his intensity to overcome politeness. “The pictures are, well, dead. The real thing has a life of its own, a presence that I can’t get from pictures. I need to be inside another mah’uzeed, walk its path. That’s the only way I can be sure it’s an accurate model, something that will work for my mah’uzeed.” He paused for breath, then flushed as he saw Nelier staring at him, wide-eyed. “Forgive me, Sech Nelier,” he murmured.
The Minbari only smiled. “No harm is done, Dunstan,” he said. “I was only … rather startled by your fervor. We had hoped you would take this work to heart, but I don’t think any of us expected you would to this extent.”
“It … I really do want this to come out right,” Kordieh said after a moment.
Nelier nodded. “I understand. We can allow you two days, to travel to Yedor. Come back here tomorrow after the morning meal, and we will have your escort ready.”
When he returned the next day, Dunstan found another person with Nelier in his office — a tall, thin Brakiri, dressed in Ranger garb but without an Isil’zha.
“Good morning, Dunstan,” Nelier said. “This is Karvos, one of our latest class of trainees.” They exchanged brief bows as Nelier continued. “He will be your escort for the trip to Yedor. He knows the city well, so with his help, you need have no fear of getting lost.”
“I take it you understand … the background to all this?” Kordieh asked, doing his best to meet Karvos’ eyes.
“Enough that we don’t need to discuss it now,” the Brakiri said quietly.
Dunstan nodded gratefully and turned back to Nelier, who had opened a wall safe and extracted a small box. “There is one other … control we must ask you to submit to,” he said. “Please pull up your sleeve.”
“What is it?” Dunstan asked as he complied.
“An electronic escort, you might say,” the Minbari said. “A backup for Karvos.” Nelier slipped a broad, thin ribbon of metal around Kordieh’s left bicep. It pinched at first, but then warmed and expanded slightly, molding itself to his flesh. He let his long sleeve drop back into place, asking, “That’s all?”
“It’s enough,” Nelier said. “It cannot be removed without the correct molecular solvent, which has a unique code that only I know. Were someone to try and remove it otherwise, the result would be … unpleasant.”
Kordieh nodded. “Suppose I decided not to come back?”
“Also unpleasant, though the effect might not be as immediate. If the band is not removed within the time we have allotted you, it will immediately begin transmitting your exact location back to us. You’d have a lot to answer for when we picked you up.”
“Understood,” Kordieh said. “You won’t have to worry about that.”
“I didn’t think so,” Nelier replied. “In that case, you are free to go. Be back here within forty-four hours.”
(c) 1999 Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.