Spheres of Influence

Characters: Margaret Morgan, Tomás Darquin

Morgan looked thoughtfully at the now-closed office door before she sat up and reached for the comm. “Morgan to Darquin.”

“Darquin. Go.”

“Do you have a minute? There is an update on our… ‘guest’.”

“For you, boss, I got two. Come on over.”

Morgan chuckled faintly. “I will be right there.” She shut the connection down, stood, and headed for his office.

From the moment he left his quarters that morning, Darquin had staked out his office in Security. The ship’s guest, soon to be the hot topic of the day, was in the forefront of his mind.

He sat at his desk, his attention on either his datapad or the security monitors. And the whole time he half-expected the screens to go dead.

His office room chimed once.

“Come,” he said promptly, standing up.

Morgan stepped in, then waved him back down. “You don’t have to be all formal with me, you know.”

“Sorry,” he shrugged, “Earthforce got me trained better than I thought.”

Ie, and I was just an engineer’s mate for a long time.” She took a breath, considering what she was going to say. “Kordieh asked to see me a little while ago, about the technomage.”

Darquin frowned. “I should’ve guessed. Toni Villiers did her best not to tell me anything. So I pieced a few things together.”

“Technomages seem to take paranoia to an extreme. This seems to be just another case. Kordieh had been called to attend her, in her borrowed quarters.”

Darquin nodded. “Something happened to him?”

“Not immediately. She insisted on going back to her ship and… Well, it sounds like she panicked. He went to help her, and got a broken nose for his trouble.”

“Broke–” He eased himself back into his chair. “Son of a bitch. Just because he wanted to take her to Medlab?”

She nodded. “Wanted to help her at least, since she wouldn’t go there. He said he was afraid she’d kill him.”

“I’ve only seen her take offensive action once.”

Ie, but unprovoked?” Morgan shook her head.

“Hell.” He dumped his datapad onto the far end of his desk. “Now what do we do? She’s got the run of the ship.”

“No, she doesn’t. Sorry – I tell stories badly. Kim appeared then, and got her calmed down, somehow.”

Darquin sat up. “She’s getting better at covering her tracks. Or I’m slipping. Is she okay?”

“I haven’t heard otherwise. Whatever it was, Ryath was thinking enough after to… fix what she had done. According to Brannon, she must have used some sort of nanotech to mend Kordieh’s nose.”

He pulled a face, intrigued. “So much for small favors.”

Morgan nodded. “She went to her ship after that. He came to see me shortly thereafter – his bruise is still spectacular.” She refrained from a comment about advanced technology.

“A year ago,” he muttered half to himself, “we would’ve been on the sidelines–cheering.”

“I know.” She worried at the crease at her knee. That thought still troubled her.

“Okay. So she’s in her ship now. What are our options? Clear the docking area, dog the hatches, and pump out all the oxygen?”

Morgan bared her teeth. “I don’t know, to be honest. I haven’t spoken to the Captain yet.”

“We’ll have to do something. As Anla’shok, there’s no way we can let this go unanswered. We’ll have to confront her and, if she gets hardball on us, somehow try to haul her in….”

“You are right, of course.” Morgan let out a grumbling sigh. “Why us?”

“I’ve been saying that ever since Abbai.” Darquin blushed despite himself. “She must’ve been on to me for God knows how long.”

She frowned a little. “That is her problem, not ours. Paranoia is in our job descriptions.”

“Well, you’ve already heard my best recommendation. As far as I know, no one’s gone up against a technomage before. They tend to work behind the scenes.”

“I do not have a better one. I will take yours to the Captain. For now… just watch her ship. Though I imagine you already are.”

He nodded. “Already in work.”

She started to say something else, then stopped. When it finally came out, it was softer than she had first intended. “Perhaps, if it had to happen…. how would you or I react to that, if one of us were in Dunstan’s place?”

“Me?” He squirmed as the answer came to him. “I…would’ve shot her.”

“At the least. Or tried to. Most everyone aboard ship, for that matter.”

“She’d be real thrilled to know that,” Darquin muttered.

She sniffed, agreeing. “But if she is unstable enough to slug someone for trying to help her, how much worse might it have been?”

“And if she ever decides to take it to the wall….”

Silent, Morgan nodded. Neither had to finish that thought.

“I’ll do some more research,” Darquin said. “I’ll give Comm a heads-up. I’ll have to get several datastreams all running at once for this.”

“Do that. I think for now, we should be thankful it was Dunstan there. We have some time.”

“I’ll check in on him too…being Security ‘n’ all.” He sighed. “Maybe I can offer some.”

“He is fine at the moment. Walking a labyrinth, unless he got held up before he got to it. At least he is not afraid to talk to us. I was surprised. He could have just put it in a report.”

“I guess the Council was right,” he said with a rueful grin. “Who knew.”

“Wiser than I am, that is certain.” Morgan stirred, stretched from having sat too long that day. “Is there anything on your plate I should know about?”

“Nothing onboard. Incoming tac data. The war’s heating up.”

“When did you ever see a war that didn’t?”

He paused. “They attacked the Epsilon gate too.”

“What?!” She half-stood from surprise. How had she missed hearing that?

“We just got confirmation. They held it off, barely. Not a lot of details yet, but it sounded a lot like what happened to us.”

She sat again, feeling old. “I might as well drop Reece in a… discussion between a Warrior and Religious caste. He’d be safer,” she muttered.

“It gets better,” Darquin added. “It could be coincidence, but…we started losing contact with the Narn and Drazi fleets after that attack.”

Cachiad,” she groaned. “What next?”

He grimaced. “That’s what we’re waiting for. Updates from Minbar should reach us by the time we hit normal space.”

Morgan sighed. “Ah, well. If I didn’t sign up for this, I was deluding myself.”

“I think I’ve been deluding myself for years.”

“I could comment, but I will not.” She stood for real this time. “Is that it?”

He grinned. “So far.”

She answered it. “Then just keep me posted. And I will tell you what the captain says soonest.”

“I’ll keep my eyes and ears open.”

Phoenix–“Spheres of Influence” © 2003 Leslie McBride & Joe Medina

Babylon 5 tm and © 2002 Warner Bros.

Have your say