Several days had passed since the Presidential Inauguration. An unfortunate misunderstanding between some of the security detail and the religious caste Minbari had been settled – thanks to some fortuitous intervention by President Sheridan and Entil’zha Delenn. Morgan, like the rest of the crew, had been given leave — indefinite, until they were recalled for their next mission.
The one exception, as far as she could tell, was Kordieh. Since the Phoenix’s return, he had been closeted with various members of the Council. Most of the command staff had been called in to report on his behavior during the mission, but none of them had been allowed to actually see him.
She hadn’t had a very restful leave as of yet, being very good at thinking of all the things that could go wrong. But when she was ordered to report to Nesaan, the Phoenix’s liaison to the Council, report she did, as requested.
The anteroom to Nesaan’s chamber was, like most of the rooms in the Minbari-built complex, subtly illuminated with recessed lighting. In this case it was quite dim by human standards. Still, after a few minutes of waiting, Morgan could clearly see the figure walking up the corridor toward her. Dressed in Ranger garb, but still without the Isil’zha jewel, it was Kordieh.
She hesitated just a moment, then stepped forward. “Dunstan?”
He stopped short, his somber expression giving way to a broad smile when he saw her. “Margaret! Oh, it is good to see you! It seems like years.”
“Are you fine? I was worrying…” Morgan trailed off.
He flashed a quick smile. “Quite all right, cherie. Questions, endless questions. A few tests … it seems our leaders want to be very sure of how I acquitted myself out there. And now … I suppose they have come to their decision of what to do with me. I was just called to report to Nesaan.”
“I was summoned as well.” She was mystified at the timing, but didn’t question it yet. The fact that he was smiling and seemingly relaxed helped.
Before he could reply, the door to Nesaan’s chamber opened, an almost silent invitation for both of them to enter. “After you,” Kordieh said.
Morgan smiled faintly and accepted the offer. Inside, she bowed to Nesaan.
The Minbari bowed to them, offering the faintest of smiles. “Thank you for being prompt,” she said. “The matter we need to discuss is not an emergency, but it does need to be dealt with in a reasonably expeditious fashion. Before the Sorna’silat is assigned a new mission, there is another mission which calls for a somewhat … smaller team.”
Morgan resisted looking at Kordieh. “What is the mission?”
“A human telepath, a friend to one of the Anla’shok, has requested safe haven with the Minbari Federation. She is at present hiding on the Narn world of Dra’shu. You, Anla’shok Morgan, will command a Darsa patrol shuttle. Go to Dra’shu, find the human telepath, and bring her safely back to Tuzanor. That is your mission.”
She turned very slightly to face Kordieh, who had been listening with an expression of curious interest — but also puzzlement. “You, Mr. Kordieh, will accompany Anla’shok Morgan. You will follow her orders and serve her, in any way she may need, in all the traditions of the Anla’shok. That is your mission.”
She took a step back, looking at them both, folding her hands within the ample sleeves of her robes. “Have you any questions?”
“No, ma’am.” She was glad she’d been in one service or another for so long, else she’d be staring at the Minbari just then.
“No, ma’am,” Kordieh said quietly, adding, “Thank you.”
“Very good. Contact the Shipmaster and tell him that you have been assigned the Hayn’gok. You may depart whenever you are ready, but within a day. Our representative on Dra’shu, Anla’shok Dan Parnelli, should be able to assist you when you arrive.” She paused a moment, adding, “Good luck. Dismissed.”
“The Hayn’gok,” Morgan repeated, then bowed respectfully before turning to leave.
Kordieh did the same, thinking intently as he followed Morgan out. “Hayn’gok,” he said after a few moments. “Not quite literal, but the closest translation would probably be ‘catspaw.’ Interesting, not to mention the ship class. That translates to ‘chore.’ I suppose we shouldn’t expect an overly elegant craft.”
“I imagine the… vintage of the craft would determine part of that.” Her mouth twitched — she had experienced some of the ships still flying in the Ranger fleet.
“Should we go see right now?”
“Certainly. And I can be ready shortly – I have not done much, this leave.”
“No? Why not? You’re as entitled to enjoy yourself as anyone.” They turned toward the main landing field, walking briskly as they spoke.
“Imagining the worst,” she admitted, with a faint, self-mocking smile.
“You were worrying about me? It’s very kind, but you didn’t have to do that.”
First on her lips was a sharp answer, but instead she managed, “Ie, I do.”
After several steps in silence, he finally said, “Well, it would seem that it’s not exactly the best, but hardly the worst. And we’re getting a chance to work together directly.”
“Ie. Do not think I am complaining about that.”
“I don’t. Have I misspoken? I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
She sighed faintly. “No, it is not that. But worrying is a part of this, ie? And you were with the Council longer than I expected.”
He nodded. “They are being very thorough, which is wise.” He looked around the hall, and pitched his voice lower despite the fact there was no one to be seen. “If they were humans, I would say the Minbari were overcompensating.”
Her mouth twitched, but she suppressed the laugh that was rising.
“Or, alternatively, it’s yet another test … of my patience, and yours. But never mind. It’s done for now.” As he finished, they reached the door to the outside. Tuzanor’s main landing field was just a few steps further on.
Morgan went on through the door, curious about their ship, even though in all likelihood it would resemble a flying brick.
An inquiry at the control tower brought them to the Shipmaster, an older Minbari whose heavy, almost square bone crest would have spelled out his worker caste origins, even if his language had not. “The Hayn’gok?” he said. “Very well. Follow me and I will take you to it.” He paused at the entry to the control tower, pulling two data crystals out of a rack, and a large work apron off a peg.
As the three of them walked across the field, the Shipmaster asked Morgan, “Shok’na, have you any skills in ship maintenance and repairs?”
“Shok’na’li,” she corrected automatically, then continued. “Yes. Why?”
The Minbari glanced from her to Kordieh and back again, then shrugged almost imperceptibly before saying, “The Darsa class vessels we have predate the conflict with your people by about twenty cycles. They have served well, but they have served much. The Hayn’gok has been through many fires in its life. We have done our best, but I can make no promises that it will serve flawlessly.”
They finally approached a small vessel, slightly larger than one of the Phoenix’s Nuthorm-class shuttles. It closely resembled a scaled down version of one of the Tinashi frigates, a roughly cylindrical main fuselage with stubby fins at the back. The hull was patterned teal and dark grey.
She lifted her eyebrows, but didn’t comment – it could have been worse. She glanced at Kordieh. He was studying the ship in front of them with rapt attention and a bright smile, like a child with a new toy.
Morgan suppressed a chuckle. “It will do, Shipmaster.”