Suite for Surrender and Retreat

Characters: Tomás Darquin

Aboard White Star 39, Tomás Darquin was met with bemused glances and respectful nods from his fellow Rangers. He came aboard in his civvies — jeans, old boots, and a leather jacket over an old T-shirt.

But the crew knew a man on a quest when they saw one. Darquin spent much of his time in the meditation chambers, clearing his mind, resolved.

When it was time, he went down into their small hangar compartment and boarded an old nondescript shuttlecraft. Inside he squeezed himself into a secret compartment deep in a pressurized cargo container.

White Star 39 launched the shuttle into the cosmic forest fire called hyperspace, just off the beacon of the Cargen system jumpgate. It was a risky manuever, but this way the shuttle could shuffle itself into the next convoy of transports and freighters bound for the Cargen transfer point.

Darquin watched conveniently placed pressure gauges and listened. Then came the automated symphony of docking and loading, the bone-rattling percussion of docking clamps and groaning hatchways. He settled in, arms around himself, and went into a meditative state to conserve air.

His container transferred to the orbital platform and later a Centauri transport. At the right time he climbed out, dragging his few possessions along, and headed for another cargo hold in another freighter. He edged his way to the Centauri homeworld one ship, one jumpgate at a time.

Passing through a loading area, he walked into the shattered concourse of an overpopulated spaceport. Tall, once resplendent windows had been boarded up along with the fragmented ceiling. Would-be travelers from different worlds shambled back and forth, huddled around gate terminals, waiting, eager to go home after weeks of waiting.

With a scratchy week-old beard and handfuls of dust to top off the disguise, he trudged into the weary masses of the capital city beyond. Heavy cloud cover, fed by the particulate remnants of the bombing, smeared sunlight and sky like old varnish. Scorched opulence and hard faces lined the broken streets, even more than the residual ash. He tasted metal with every breath. The lion of the galaxy had indeed been brought low.

And somewhere among the debris and despair was Mira. He had a general idea of where to find her. Peter Carlacci had briefed him well. But Darquin moved with deliberate caution. This was enemy territory, unfamiliar to him, practically a trap just waiting to clamp down on him.

On his first night, he stayed in the barely intact lobby of an imploded building, sharing a fire with a few Centauri. They tried to rush him in his sleep. He kicked two of them in the sides. The anatomy was different, but a low blow worked in any language.

Darquin caught sight of Mira two days later, then tailed her for a few more days after that to get her daily routine down. Seeing her again after almost a year made him smile despite himself.

But she had changed. The way she carried herself was guarded, even more than he’d expect of someone living in door-to-door devastation. Her jaw was tight. Her eyes were cold enough to chill his marrow, even with a glance.

Darquin withdrew, taking a winding path back to her apartment building, into her place to settle in. A Centauri opera playing over his earphones hid his thoughts, along with a lingering sense of dread.

He pulled her isil’zha pin out of his guitar case, contemplating the battle-scarred emblem, waiting for her to come back… wondering.

ISA Phoenix: “Suite for Surrender and Retreat” © 2009 Joe Medina

Babylon 5 ™ and © 2009 Warner Bros.


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