Despite the parallel waves of Rangers running through the ship’s security center, it took only a moment for Darquin to become aware of a tall figure at the entrance. Leaning beside the door of his office, he watched him stand quietly near the doorway.
Dunstan Kordieh’s hands were clasped lightly behind his back, and his eyes were focused past the holoprojectors and workstations, on the doorway that led to a holding cell.
His tongue to his teeth, Darquin summoned him with a piercing whistle and a wave. The other Rangers paid it no mind, accustomed to their superior’s harmless and well-intended temerity, until Kordieh nearly jumped out of his own skin.
Darquin stepped forward, wide-eyed and hot-faced as a Minbari Ranger was moving to Kordieh’s aid. “That’s all right, I’ll take care of him.” He turned to Kordieh as the Minbari nodded and left. “Sorry, I’ll try not to do that from here on out. My office is this way. We can talk in private.”
“Maybe I should be the one to apologize,” Kordieh said as the door closed behind them. “I’m afraid I was thinking … about the last time I was here. Not a habit I should get into.”
“Well…I guess that’s why we’re here. The ship has changed a lot, but a lot of the crew is the same. You knew that already, I’ll bet.”
Darquin moved to take one of the chairs in front of his desk, hesitating. Years ago he would’ve been the one hauled in front of the desk. Now he owned it. He shrugged and offered Kordieh the other chair.
Kordieh took it, trying to be relaxed. “I’m here to report in, as you asked. I hope I can report in to Doctor Brannon soon — I haven’t been able to locate her yet. I have spoken to Healer Daanike though.” He smiled. “I think she has a soft spot for me.”
“Then it’s a miracle she ever let me back into Medlab!” Darquin snickered.
A grin flashed across Kordieh’s face, fading slowly as he spoke again. “I presume you wanted to see me to go over rules,” he said.
“Mainly I wanted to give you an idea where things stand.” Darquin sighed. A year ago, he was one of many who wanted to space him, but now Kordieh made Lady Day look like a whiner.
“You, uh…you won’t have the same privileges,” Darquin said. “Your computer access got scaled back real far. Your comscreen is kind of on probation. Onboard vid access is all you’ll get, but you can call the Station House whenever you need Stellarcom or whatever. And this is important: if there’s a technical problem, get someone else on it. After all the upgrades, the ship’s pretty good at recognizing individual users. It remembers.” He hesitated. “The computer system … didn’t … react real well to your old access code. Even before we locked it out. Engineering thinks it’s the, uh, the Vorlon tech.”
The sequence of expressions that crossed Kordieh’s face was remarkable. His first reaction was that of the engineer he had been. “That would make sense,” he said, “I remember we were still trying to gauge the level of sentience the Phoenix has when …”
Then the comprehension sank in. His eyes went wide before they were hidden by his hand, rubbing across them. “Mon Dieu,” he said. “Of all the people I hurt, killed, I never thought of thePhoenix herself.”
“All I meant was–oh, great,” he grumbled, chastising himself. He grabbed Kordieh’s bent arm. “Hey. Come on.” He gave him a hard shake. “Kordieh! Dunstan, listen! You can’t help anybody if you lose it now, man. Ya hear me?”
Kordieh nodded, looking up and meeting Darquin’s eyes steadily. “Yeah,” he said, blowing a long, slow exhalation through his nose. “Don’t worry. I’m still with you. It just means … one more person I need to make things up to.”
“We’re all makin’ up for something.”
“That’s true,” Kordieh said, sitting back in his seat a little. “Makes me think of my brother, the last time I talked to him.”
Pursing his lips, he was at a loss for words. “I’m sorry, I never met your brother.”
“We were identical twins, but our personalities were very different. He was afraid of me, I think — the last time we talked, he apologized to me for that. For not doing more for me when he was alive. Even he thought he had something to make up for.”
“Well…most people do, right? Everyone’s got a reason. It’s the easiest part. What we do about it, that’s different.” Darquin sighed. “Always different.”
“You talk like you’ve been there yourself,” Kordieh said.
“A few times.” He shrugged it off. “The Earth-Minbari War. And other things.”
“I … I don’t suppose I could help?”
Darquin smirked. “A second ago I thought you needed help. Nah, I’m all right. Let’s get business out of the way. If you got any questions, just sing out.”
Kordieh nodded. “I will. One question on my access. Would I be able to look at any of the tech data on the Phoenix, or will that be restricted?”
“Your computer access got scaled back pretty far,” he said, almost apologetic. “Real-time schematics and tactical data are out. Declassified info is okay. Everything gets log either way. You’re basically on probation. Onboard vid, limited out-calling, cultural library access, and that’s it. For anything else, you have to call here.” He shrugged. “So, um, on the bright side, you can punch up Jane’s Interplanetary.”
“I’m sure my new work with the healers will keep me busy,” Kordieh said, “but I admit I hope that we’re not too busy.”
Darquin nodded, a solemn look on his face. “Amen, brother.”
Kordieh’s mouth opened briefly, then closed again. He took a deep breath, then spoke quickly. “Well, I guess I should be going and let you get back to your work.”
“Sure, just let me know if–”
As Kordieh got to his feet, he suddenly reached over and gave Darquin’s arm a squeeze, meeting his eyes for a moment. Darquin was beginning to think that he might’ve said the right thing for a change.
“I guess if you need me, you’ll know where to find me,” he added with a wry little smile.
“I better.” Darquin added a gentle, playful hint of a threat to his voice and topped it off with a quick grin. In his heart, he wished him well. It just wasn’t in his job description.
Phoenix–“The News Is Bad” c 2002 Jamie Lawson & Joe Medina Babylon 5 tm and c 2002 Warner Bros.