Characters: Dunstan Kordieh
"Stuttering Cold and damp Steal the warm wind Tired friend..." – "Black Hole Sun," words and music by Chris Cornell
Dunstan Kordieh stood in the communications alcove, trying to collect his thoughts. The message from Katia had not been entirely unexpected, but some of its contents were. Especially the last, unintended few lines. He considered for several minutes, putting together what he knew until he could understand what they meant.
Briefly, he considered putting off replying, but realized it would be better to go ahead and do so now, while his thoughts were fresh. And, while he still had the nerve. Quickly, he touched the control to begin recording a reply.
“Katia. Dear friend. It brightened my evening beyond words to get your message. My days are indeed busy ones, but the Anla’shok are most kind to me. They seem willing to accept that in my madness I was not entirely responsible for my actions, and look at me now as a soul to be recovered rather than a miscreant to be punished.
“Sometimes I wish my comrades on the Phoenix could feel the same — but then, I remind myself that I did not have my friends and comrades snatched away forever by a madman, for no purpose and no reason. And it is then that I find I too wish to punish myself.
“Do you remember how you found me in my mind, Katia? I revisit that time more often than I would like, and when it happens I don’t trust myself with anything sharp in my bedroom…. Those are my black days, when I feel the grief and guilt trying to draw me back into madness.
“But I will try not to go on about the black days. My routine here is simple enough: most days, I spend the mornings in training to improve my meditation, my Minbari languages, and my understanding of Minbari architecture and civil engineering.
“In the afternoons, I do my labor. Much of it lately, alas, has involved demolition and clearing of buildings too damaged to be restored. I much prefer the clearing part, as you can imagine, though my knowledge of building demolitions has proved useful.
“In the evenings, I meditate some more, and study the sacred scrolls and the writings of past Ranger leaders: from Valen, the first, though Sinclair and Delenn, the latest.
“I am allowed much time to meditate, to think and to rest and refresh myself. You, my dear friend, should try and do the same. I can hear the weariness in your voice. You will do no good for the Phoenix if you rebuild her by destroying yourself. The Shadows have gone, the renegade Clark will soon be gone too. There is time. Take some of it for yourself, I implore you.
“Congratulations on the new engineer you have found! I’m sure, despite her innocence, she carries her own story. Let her add to it in her own way, and she will not come to be bitter and cynical, I’m sure. We humans are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for, I think. I need look no farther than my mirror to prove it.
“I would like to see you, whenever you come. I am not imprisoned here. To use an old, old term, I have given the Anla’shok my parole, and they have accepted it. I come and go through the city of Tuzanor as I wish; I know and they know I will not try to leave.
“I miss Lucius every day, but I have learned, Katerina Maia Santiago, that I miss you even more. Lucius is dead, and if there is an afterlife I will see him then, but not before. You are not so far away, and very much alive.
“You spoke to your daughters before your message ended. I suspect those words were not for my ears, but I feel compelled to address them anyway. I remember what you told me of your daughters, and it sounds as if you intend to travel to Mars to find them again.
“I won’t ask you not to go. How could I? But I will ask you to take care. I know little of the Psi Corps, but I do know they are not to be trifled with. Use your intellect and your heart filled with love. Don’t allow your passions, your fear and especially your rage — no matter how righteous it is — to control your actions. You will fall prey to those who would do you harm, if you do. Trust me on this, Katia. I fought the same battle in my own mind — and lost. We both know the consequences.
“I think I’d better end this message soon. I’ve already told you more of myself and my thoughts than I’ve told any other person living; far more than I’ve ever told another woman. You — married once, having children, perhaps even lovers? — will probably find it funny, but I think of you and sometimes I’m utterly terrified. When I think of what we already are, then think of what we could be, man and woman — I feel like a schoolboy less than half my age. In my obsession, I have cheated myself of so much of life — of living. There is so much I don’t know.
“Adeiu, mon ami.”
He sent the message and hurried back to his room, before anyone else could see that his hand was trembling.