That Which Breaks, and That Which Bends

Characters: Margaret Morgan, Ayeshalan

Ayeshalan made her way through the Phoenix’s bridge and toward the office of the Exec. The room was alive with emotionally charged voices, exchanging the most unbelievable of tales. Clearly, Ayeshalan thought, she had not been alone in her experience. And yet, she still felt alone.

Inside the office, Morgan was sorting through paperwork, but not really paying attention to it. She felt profoundly grateful for the interruption of the door chime. “Yes?” she called.

Ayeshalan opened the door, taking a single step in. “A few moments to make a report, Anla’shok Morgan?” she asked. The Minbari pilot presented herself as neatly and unruffled as ever, but as Morgan looked closely, she could see the signs of sleeplessness in her face and single eye.

“Of course. Sit down, if you like.”

Twitching her duster tails neatly aside as she took the offered seat, Ayeshalan looked closely at Morgan. She too looked as if she hadn’t slept, and kept squinting, as if the room’s dimmed lights were too bright. “Are you … well?” she asked.

Morgan paused, then answered with a faint smile. “Tired, and hungover, but… yes, I am.” She tipped her head a little. “It doesn’t look like you slept much better.”

The Minbari hesitated before speaking, until she finally remembered the meaning of the word “hungover.” Despite a considerable amount of time spent working with humans, she didn’t consistently recognize the signs of overindulgence in alcohol. “I was woken from the floor of the pilots’ ready room to do an emergency run to to the planet and back,” she finally said, with a sober, almost grim expression.

“Ah,” Morgan said, nodding then looking down at her desk. There had been too many such runs lately.

“I would have made this report yesterday,” Ayeshalan went on, “but I was sent on several other missions … and then there was the … Brakiri festival.”

“No worry – we’ve all been a bit… busy.”

Ayeshalan drew a deep breath. “Anla’shok Morgan, if I may … intrude with a personal question?”

Morgan looked at her, considering. She hesitated, then said, “Ask, if you wish.” It was clear from her tone she wasn’t committing herself to answering it.

Almost to herself, Ayeshalan said, “Curiosity has always been my worst fault. Did you have … a visitor last night?”

After another pause, Morgan said, “I did. May I guess that you did as well?”

“My husband.” She looked for a minute at Morgan, considering what she knew of the Phoenix’s exec. “You seem to have an appreciation of irony that is particularly well developed … so perhaps you will be able to appreciate this.”

Morgan considered, then gave a non-committal sniff. “Perhaps.”

Ayeshalan was not sure why she suddenly felt compelled to tell all of this, and to a human besides, but she went on nevertheless. Who was she to deny her own heart? “He died … at the Battle of the Line.”

This finally provoked a visible reaction, as Morgan sank back in her chair. “Ie?”

“We were both there, on different ships. You may have heard that some Minbari commanders chose death rather than the ignominy of surrender. So it was … with Terron’s ship.”

“Yes, I have heard.” Morgan’s voice was quiet. Thinking of it, the utter senselessness of it, always made her feel ill.

“After ten cycles, I could finally say goodbye. I could finally let him go … aah!” She cut herself off abruptly, tossing her head in frustration. “Forgive me, Anla’shok Morgan. I do not even know why I feel compelled to speak of all this.”

“There is nothing to forgive,” Morgan said, adding quietly, “I lost … someone once also.”

Ayeshalan bowed to her, murmuring a few words of Minbari. Morgan recognized them from her training in Minbari culture and ritual. Roughly translated, they went, “In the voice of our lamentation, we who are different are become the same.”

Morgan inclined her head, accepting the other woman’s expression of sympathy. “It was on the path to Earth’s civil war. A foolishness, though no one asked me.”

Ayeshalan remembered a proverb the elders of her clan were fond of, and repeated it for Morgan. “If the generals asked the soldiers first, there would be half so many battles.” For herself, she said, “They did not ask me either … nor Terron.”

“I did not guess they did.” Morgan’s teeth were bared, but not in a smile.

“I am of the warrior caste,” Ayeshalan said, pulling herself straight. “My family have been of the Fire Wings clan for fifteen generations. I was born and trained to serve, by fighting, and dying. But not for no reason.”

“I chose to serve — I was not born to it. But never without a reason,” Morgan agreed.

“Perhaps it is well, then, that we have both ended up here. In all my time with the Anla’shok, they have done nothing without reason. No one will have his life cast away for nothing.”

“Yes. And there is a… a completeness here. Two halves coming together.”

“As it was prophesied, so long ago.” Ayeshalan reached up to touch her Isil’zah. It was the second she had worn, this one with a human standing opposite the Minbari.

Morgan had a matching one, that she always marveled at. “An amazement, it is,” she said.

Ayeshalan was quiet for a while. This was an important moment, and she waited to be sure it had been well experienced before she turned back to business by saying, “And so, we come to our work here. I have found a group of raiders trying to overwhelm a group of miners in the planet’s south polar regions. I wish to take a shuttle and two Starfuries of Storm Squadron to deal with them.”

“Approved, and gladly,” Morgan said, nodding. “I only wish I could go with you,” she added with a smile.

“Is there a reason you cannot?”

“Well, I… ” Then she really thought about it. “I suppose not.”

The Minbari’s mouth split open in a sudden, almost wolfish grin. “The briefing will be in half an hour, in the pilots’ ready room.”

Morgan answered it with a grin of her own. “Aye-aye. Provided I can find my flight suit,” she added, admitting how long it had been.

Ayeshalan rose from her seat, and bowed before turning toward the door. “I thank you for the honor of your confidence.”

“No, thank you for trusting the rustiest pilot aboard.”

As Ayeshalan bowed again and departed, Morgan leaned back in her chair again, but relaxed this time. She grinned, anticipating the action to come.

Copyright (c) 2001 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.


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