Characters: Yoshino Marina, Miina Awenata
Yoshino had gotten word that Miina Awenata had been accepted back onto the Phoenix, as Kim’s assistant in Science. She was a little surprised that she hadn’t heard from Miina herself, but she decided to take matters into her own hands, contacted the former engineer, and arranged to meet and talk at one of Tuzanor’s indoor botanical gardens.
She dressed for the meeting as she had often done while on this leave, in distinctively Japanese garb: a pair of wide, split pants over a dark blue yukata.
As she approached the garden’s front doors, she saw Miina, pacing back and forth in front of them. She smiled, and called out. “Awenata-san, it is good to see you again,” she said, bowing.
Miina turned at the sound of her name and saw Yoshino. She had rehearsed this moment over and over in her head. How should she begin? The old words, the old speech patterns began to swim in her head. It would be easy to fall back into the formality of the lyrical Adronato. It seemed like a lifetime ago and countless worlds away that she had actually spoken to anyone without protecting herself with formal words and motions…at least, that is, before Tass.
“But should I greet Yoshino as a friend? Or as a Ranger first?” she had wondered out loud to him. “I didn’t know her well, but…wait, would it be more appropriate to…?”
But Tass had just laughed softly. “Just speak from your heart. You know Yoshino,” he had said. “Just say hello.”
Miina smiled warmly at the memory, relaxed a bit, and bowed slightly in turn. “It is good to see you too…Yoshino…hello.”
“I hope Tass-san didn’t get in too much trouble for sending that message to me.”
“No,” Miina grinned and shook her head. “Not too much. He is impossible. He knows I can never stay mad at him, and he takes great advantage of the fact.”
Yoshino opened the door to the garden, and a current of warm air greeted them as they entered. “You and he have gotten very close.”
Miina blushed and looked away, as if Yoshino could read on her face every tender moment she and Tass had shared. “I…suppose that means you don’t know…” She turned back. “Tass and I married last summer,” she said softly.
Yoshino smiled warmly. “Congratulations,” she said. “That is wonderful. You must be very happy.”
“I am.” The words slipped out almost by themselves. Miina still could barely disguise her joy when she talked of Tass.
“We’ve had need of such joy on the Phoenix,” Yoshino said, her slippers making only a slight rustle on the gravel path.
Miina nodded, suddenly feeling guilty for being taken off the ship. So many lives lost. So much to heal. Did they think she had she abandoned them all? It had been…easier…for her.
Blinded by an explosion that had ripped apart the Phoenix, “easy” was perhaps not the right word, but still… Yes, she had been severely injured, but she was sent home. Back to Minbar, and then, with some to Earth: civilians that had been aboard the Phoenix–and Tass. She didn’t remember much about the flight home, except that Catriona Morgan and Mr. Daley had seemed to have struck up a friendship. But the crisis they left behind on the Phoenix–out of sight, out of mind? “Has it been…very difficult?” Miina asked.
“At times,” Yoshino said. “Something about our long stay on Abbai seemed to bring out the worst in some. And others … including myself … something about that place allowed us to get mired in the pain of the past, for a time.” She closed her eyes a moment, thinking of the Day of the Dead and the chaotic violence that had followed. “But in the end, we prevailed. Over the criminals that were destroying Abbai, and over ourselves.” She smiled.
Miina nodded. “I know the feeling.” How could she put the past year into words? Or should she even try?
“If I may say so, Awenata-san, you seem so different from before. You too are much more at peace with yourself.” Yoshino lifted up a pale hand, revealing a glimpse of a tattooed wrist, to allow a delicate, butterfly-like creature to perch there.
“Yes,” Miina said, smiling again. “Just like your seillia,” she said, indicating the winged arthropod, “…the same, yet …newly born.” The seillia cautiously fluttered its blue-grey wings for a moment and then, satisfied with its new perch, relaxed. Suddenly, an intricate pattern of blues, greys and gold came into focus. “An old wise woman we call “The Grandmother” is responsible for that….” Miina told her. “Well, she and Tass … and my Grandfather …” she stopped for a moment. “And…” She had only said the word out loud several times. “My mother.”
Yoshino tilted her head slightly. “That seems to trouble you.”
“I never knew her,” Miina confessed. “Not really.”
“I don’t understand then,” Yoshino said. “How could she be responsible for your … rebirth?”
Miina swallowed. Perhaps it would have been better to fall back on old speech patterns. See where speaking from her heart led her? She took a steadying breath and closed her eyes for a moment. “Do you know much about ‘The Day of the Dead’?”
Yoshino gasped, her hand instinctively flying to her mouth. The startled seillia flew away. “We … we experienced it too,” she finally managed to say.
“At home,” Miina explained, “on the mountain, we have a kind of …’retreat’ now. There were two Brakiri and …” She paused, thinking perhaps Yoshino needed no further explanation.
She smiled wryly. “They bought the retreat for one day, I imagine. Some Brakiri bought an Abbai village for a day. The Phoenix was in a matching orbit.”
“I didn’t know the details. Just that the Grandmother sent Tass to find me, and made him promise to bring me back.”
“It was an … incredible experience,” Yoshino said. “I learned something I still have to convince myself to believe.”
“I didn’t so much learn something new as I came to terms with something I had known for a long time. “I think that’s what I mean to say anyway, I haven’t had much practice putting it into words.”
“I think my artist told me some things like that too. He convinced me to let go of … some trauma … once and for all. At least enough so that I can live my life properly.”
Miina nodded in agreement. “We carry around so much in our lives and take on more, little by little, and we have no idea what a great burden we insist on carrying around.”
“How true,” Yoshino said with a small bow. “Now, however, I have a great responsibility in place of the burden.” She smiled a little wryly.
Walking through the garden, they had come to a stone bench, and Miina took the opportunity to sit down, folding her robes around her. “But you’d rather not have the burden back, regardless of the responsibility. Am I right?”
“Very much,” Yoshino said with feeling. “I’ve finally understood I’m the one in control of things. What Sasaki did to me was not my fault. What I do now with my swords, is my decision.”
Miina looked away for a moment. She gazed out over the garden. She certainly had distanced herself from the others in her time on the Phoenix before. Was she supposed to know who Sasaki was? And did she know Yoshino had swords? A rush of anxiety threatened the inner peace she thought she had finally achieved.
And she was back in the shadowy glow of the firelight on the Day of the Dead, feeling joy at the sight of seeing her beloved Grandfather once again, and then an instant rush of icy fear as the slight figure of her mother stepped out from behind the old man’s robes.
“I have brought someone with me this time,” he told her. “Someone who wishes to see you.”
“No!” If Miina said nothing, her mind raged against this injustice. She met the source of her own chilling fear in her mother’s eyes, and automatically began to shield her mind from being scanned. But then she stopped. There was no uniform. No Psi badge. No gloves. Just a slight woman with almost regal bearing dressed in a plain buckskin shift and Miina knew.
Her mother was dead.
In life, she had never looked on Miina with eyes such as this–eyes that knew all and were at peace.
Peaceful. And healing.
Miina drew herself back from her memories. Those she had. Friendship was something she needed to work on. She smiled apologetically at Yoshino. “I think all I knew about you was the little kitten you had … apart from the Phoenix, that is.”
“Of course,” Yoshino exclaimed, covering her face with a hand for a moment. “I’m so sorry. I’m a fool, talking about things you never had a chance to know. Please forgive me. If you wish, I can explain in detail.”
Miina nodded. “I would like that.”
“It’s …. well, there are many details, but I will try to keep them short. Back on Earth, when I was being tattooed, I met many yakuza …. gangsters. Against my artist’s advice, I joined the yakuza clan. When I did, he told me he could not see me any more. But he gave me a pair of swords as a parting gift. It was not too long after that, he died.”
“Let me guess,” Miina said softly. “You wanted to belong?”
“Indeed.” She looked down at her hands, turning them over to contemplate the whiteness of the albino skin. “My country still does not always tolerate someone who is different, as I am.” She drew a deep breath and knotted one hand into a fist as she continued. “After I had been with the clan for some years, I was …. one of the yakuza, named Sasaki, raped me. I used one of the swords to kill him.”
“Oh.” Miina had nothing else to say. Her own past seemed to pale against Yoshino’s troubles.
“Since there were no witnesses, and Sasaki was a favorite in the clan, I was blamed. I tried to atone in the yakuza way –” she held up a hand, showing the missing little finger joint — “but it was not enough. I had to run for my life. My cat and my swords were all I had. It was then that I came to the Rangers.”
“Are they still…looking for you?”
“I don’t think so. But another clan is. They learned the secret of the swords, and my artist told me of it in his return visit. They are ancient weapons. Priceless treasures.” She shook her head. “That’s what I still have to convince myself to believe.”
“It makes you wonder … if he disapproved of the path you chose, of the people you chose … why give them to you?”
“I know,” she answered. “At the time, he didn’t know how precious they truly were. Even so … the sword is the soul of the warrior. I think he wanted to convince me that I could be better than a gangster. That I could be like one of the ancient samurai.” She smiled, looking at the Isil’zah pinned to Miina’s chest. She tapped it with a finger and said, “And as it turns out, he was right. For here we are.”
Miina smiled. “We have all traveled on so many different roads … I had no idea I would end up here …”
“I am glad you have come back. The Anla’shok need you. And so does the Phoenix.”
“I am pleased you think so. Thank you.”
Yoshino leaned forward slightly. “I can’t help but wonder though. How was it you decided to go into science, instead of remaining with engineering?”
Miina smiled. “It is somewhat of a long story, but simply, have you ever had a vision? A prophecy?”
“No,” Yoshino admitted. “Not a genuine one. The closest I’ve had were the occasions we traveled in time on the Phoenix, and my visit from my artist on the Day of the Dead.”
I had a vision when I was very small,” Miina offered quietly. “I was looking into the firelight and I had a vision of a great bird in the flames. I knew it would come and take me away with it. I was frightened, but my grandfather said I would be ready when the time came.”
Miina pulled herself back from her memory and turned to Yoshino. “I suppose you’re wondering what that has to do with switching to Science.”
“In my country, people often take their time getting to the point,” she said with a smile. “I was sure it would all make sense eventually.”
“My memory brought me back to my childhood, when I was very young…when my heart was still…open. I suppose I closed it off in…self-preservation. In school, I went into Engineering because, yes, I had a talent for it, but because you can be…somewhat detached and still perform.” She paused. “Does that make sense?”
“Perfectly,” Yoshino replied. “So science is … the calling of your heart, as the Minbari would say?”
Miina’s smile was genuine, and she nodded, almost blushing. She had managed to explain herself to Yoshino with very little effort. Or was it just that Yoshino was very perceptive? Miina remembered back to the explosion that rocked the Phoenix and she and Tass, both wounded, sought to do the work of one whole engineer. Something in her voice over comm system must have given her away.
“And your status?” Yoshino had asked.
“I am….needed here,” Miina had answered.
Yoshino smiled to herself. “It will truly be a pleasure working with you again,” she said.
Copyright © 2002 Judy Caswell and Jamie Lawson. All rights reserved.