On course for Zagros 7 to wait for new orders, the crew of the Ranger ship Phoenix was coping with the shock of victory. They had defended the jumpgate in Quadrant 37, but lost one of their own.
Yoshino and Darquin continued to meet for dinner, which was now a daily routine. Thanks to the hectic schedule, they went straight to Yoshino’s quarters carrying boxed meals to see more of her video collection.
On the program that night: complete coverage of the 2261 Aki Basho, the autumn sumo tournament in Japan last year. She was excited, urging Darquin to hurry despite herself, crowing as she led him through the ship. After giving it up to get the ship upgrades done on time, she finally had a chance to see it. As soon as they were seated, she loaded the data crystal and activated the monitor.
Shortly after dinner, he’d fallen asleep. She was too engrossed to notice him leaning against her shoulder until she looked at him, grinned, and patted his dark hair. Well, he did say that he might. She often found sumo relaxing herself…that is, when she wasn’t cheering the game at the top of her lungs.
Then she saw his face twitch. His body shuddered beside her. Breathing faster, his face losing color, he waved one hand in his sleep as if keeping something at bay. When he blurted out a mangled whimper, Yoshino couldn’t help but hold him close.
He woke with a gasp, stiffening as if stung, and grumbled in disgust. “Damn it.”
Yoshino loosened her hold on him a little, poised to let him go in case he’d be offended. “You were having a nightmare,” she said gently.
He frowned at first, as if annoyed with her stating the obvious. Then he propped his face up on his knee. “Yeah. Been a while.” He sighed. “Got myself half convinced I got it beat, I guess.”
“A recurring nightmare, you haven’t had for a long time?” she asked, trying to understand.
“A couple, yeah.” Darquin rubbed his eyes. “For as long as I can remem–” He snorted, amused. “Long story.”
She offered him a sympathetic smile and a gentle rub of his shoulders. “I know what recurring nightmares are like,” she said. “Did you want to tell me the long story?”
“I….” He sat up and thought. “I guess you have a right to know. Kim already does. And I filed reports, so the Captain and anyone else higher up could find out whenever they want. But you have to promise not to tell anyone else. It’s…dangerous.”
She gave him a nod. A strange dread gripped her chest.
“I was barely out of diapers when all this got started,” he said. “I kept dreaming that my parents were leaving me and my brother and sister on a desert road somewhere, in the middle of the night. Every night. Everybody figured…what they call it. ‘Abandonment issues.’ When I was in the Earth-Minbari War, the nightmares kinda…evolved. Sometimes it’s my parents and the road. Sometimes it’s the war, or new stuff leading the old, or the other way around. It’s all mixed up now. But I thought that’s all they were. Bad dreams.
“With Kim’s help, I found out they weren’t. That dream about my parents and that desert road…that was real. A suppressed memory, some kind of mental block put in by a Psi-Cop.”
Yoshino’s pale face seemed almost translucent with horror. “Why? Did you ever find out?”
“Man, did I.” He held his breath as if to constrain his bitterness. And failing. “My parents were part of some medical research group or something, connected to Earthgov. Through that, they found some new drug someone was working on. And the Psi-Corps wanted to keep it quiet.”
She shook her head slowly. “The Psi-Corps … this is a horror. They ruin the lives of the very telepaths they are supposed to protect … and now they are so drunk on their own power that they will kill anyone to protect it. And what they’ve done to you … ” She could find no more words, flexing her fingers to keep them from balling into fists.
“Well, not just me.” He started a series of nervous taps on the tatami mat beside them. “My brother and sister too. My folks still don’t know, not the whole thing. My aunt and uncle, I mean. They suspected for a long time. When I found out what happened to my parents….” He shrugged, spiritless. “I just couldn’t tell them.”
She covered her eyes with her maimed hand, trying to squeeze away sudden tears. “All your family? I — ”
“Uh, well…most, I guess. I just….” Darquin sounded bewildered and numb, as if he was hearing the news at the same time she was. Moving closer, he patted her arm. “We’re okay though. I’m sorry. I didn’t want it to sound like a martyr jag.”
She shook her head again, trying somehow to knock the atrocity into some sort of reason. “At least poor Kitsune could run. But you, your brother and sister — just children….”
“I have a friend who is a telepath. I only know her nickname, Kitsune. She worked for the clan at the same time as I did — not a part of the Psi-Corps, but sheltered and protected by the clan. Not long ago, she had to flee for her life. The Psi-Corps came after her, and the clan could — or would — no longer protect her. I haven’t heard from her in some months now.”
“It’s just as hard for her. I-I’m sure.” Darquin frowned. “I try to keep you out of it and they already dragged you in.”
She looked into his eyes. “Even if it were not so, I would want to be a part of it, for your sake,” she said, a surprising fierceness in her tone.
“But…you barely know me.” His shoulders went taut as if something grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, holding him back. “I, I mean, I know you.” He watched the indigo fire in her eyes, in awe despite himself. “Maybe I thought I did,” he muttered, grinning.
She smiled, lowering her gaze for a moment, then looking back up. “At the very least, you are my friend,” she said. “As for the rest … well, we began this courtship by my saying I wanted to get to know you better, neh?”
“Yeah,” he said, fingering the edge of the tatami again, “yeah, you did. I guess I…I wasn’t sure if I ought to dump something like this on–”
An indignant mew cut him off. Darquin realized Yoshino’s cat had been sleeping on the mat beside them, and was now frowning at him.
He took his fingers off the mat. “Sorry, Kuri-chan.”
Kuri turned her shoulder to him as if in disgust and set herself down to sleep again.
Yoshino giggled behind her hand for a moment, then rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “It’s all right. As you pointed out, we’re all a part of it, whether we want or not. Even Kuri there. She was a gift to me from Kitsune.”
He nodded as he looked back at Kuri. “The Yakuza clan that’s after her…are they the same guys who sent the hitman to Minbar?”
“No, a different clan, the one looking for the swords.” She sat up a little straighter. “They’re not the same as the one I used to work for — that’s a long story itself, I think.”
“Might be even better.” Yoshino caught a glimmer in Darquin’s eyes. “We can make all this work for us. If Tuzanor hasn’t made him yet, we can bring him out. We circulate a rumor around town that Kitsune’s there…and see who starts asking.”
She grinned. “That sounds like a good idea,” she said, then blinked as a thought struck her. “Perhaps Kim’s friend Nichols-san can help us.”
“Wait, it gets better. Listen. Our people catch him, get everything we can out of him. He must have contacts, a slush fund, ways of getting around with no questions asked. We’ll use those to smuggle Kitsune into Minbar–but not through B5. The Psi-Cops are keeping their eyes on it. And they don’t dare go up against Minbari teeps, so they won’t sniff around Minbari space much. They’ll run out of leads real fast. And as long as we make them look in the wrong place, we can look for Kitsune at the same time. All that will give her plenty of time to meet up with us.”
She smiled. “The only other thing we need to do is find where Kitsune herself has gone to ground.” She glanced back at the vid screen, holding on a still image of a very large rikishi twisting an even larger man to the clay. “And I might even know where to start looking.”
“Oh real–” He did a double take. “No way.”
She looked back at him, eyes bright. “Kitsune had several friends among the deshi at one of the sumobeya in Tokyo,” she said. “I asked her once what she would do with all her cats if the Psi-Cops ever found her. She said she’d take them to the beya. If she was able to do that, she might have told someone there where she planned to hide.”
“Or she’s telling us now.” When Yoshino gave him a quizzical expression, Darquin pointed at the screen. “Embedded, in that vid. Or hidden in the data crystal. I need to borrow that.” He got up to stand.
Yoshino’s eyes went wide in comprehension, and she leapt from her seat to pull the crystal from its place. “There is a lot there. Try looking first in Munenorimaru’s matches,” she said as she put it in his hand.
“Oh no, young lady.” Gentle but quick, he snatched her by the wrist. “You’re coming with me. I don’t run out on my dates.” His impish grin turned sheepish. “Besides, I don’t know who Munenorimaru is.”
She blushed, brightly thanks to her pale skin. “Come on then,” she said.
Phoenix–“Very Little Wishes” © 2003 Jamie Lawson & Joe Medina Babylon 5 tm and © 2002 Warner Bros.