Characters: Tomás Darquin, Tianmun
Darquin looked up from his packing to answer the door. “Yeah?”
“It is I, sir. Tianmun.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “Enter.” He went back to work as the door slid open and Tianmun stepped into his quarters. “I was afraid it was gonna be Morgan or Captain Hale–or somebody I didn’t think of–coming to bite my head off about the Medlab thing.”
“There might be some…consternation.”
He threw a glance over his shoulder to see if she was grinning, which she was. It took him a year to figure it out, but he was sure. Tianmun did have this thing about sarcastic puns.
“But if no one else has expressed such feelings now,” she added quickly, “it seems unlikely that anyone will raise the subject again.”
“Thanks.” His voice was flat and the smile that followed blunted any edge it might’ve had.
“I mention it, sir, because I don’t think there is any need for you to leave.”
“I do.” Darquin closed up his pack and slipped his duster on. “I think we all need a little cooling-off period before we have to work together on the next big crisis, whatever that is. And I sure need a break. Besides, the Brakiri Day of the Dead isn’t going to come around for another 200 years. When am I going to have a chance to see that again?”
Tianmun nodded. “Yes, I remember the security briefing. I might have read about it when I was still in temple. You’re curious?”
“You got it,” Darquin said with relish. “I’ll probably just hang out in one of the Brakiri sectors overnight and come back on one of the morning supply shuttles. Speaking of which–” He tapped the desk clock by his bunk. Snatching up his pack, he sprinted for the door. “–the next supply shuttle’s gonna fire up any minute. Gotta jump!”
“Safe journey, sir. Ah, no, wait!” When she realized he wasn’t about to turn back, she tapped her link. “Computer, 4-29 Tianmun.”
“Destination of the next supply shuttle?”
“R’nasqa Village, Qbru’Kiwis region, Abbai 4.”
Inspector Isseoja watched her fellow Abbai constables bring in a Brakiri gang, tightening the purple shawl over her shoulders. A strange chill permeated the air even in the R’nasqa police station. And it was only nightfall.
Observing the grim expressions and ornate tattoos on their faces, she waited until the Brakiri had been booked and taken away to approach the watch matron. When the watch matron stood up from her console, the inspector raised her hand to indicate she didn’t have to move.
“Good evening, Inspector.”
“No need for formalities.” Isseoja smiled and pulled up a chair. “So, good sister, who are those Brakiri?”
“Zhardatu,” the matron said wearily. “But we were expecting them this time.”
Isseoja nodded. As she had thought, they were members of the local crime gang. “They were taking advantage of the festival tonight?”
“Precisely. Day of the Dead observances apparently must be held on Brakiri soil, even when they are not on the homeworld. And as is often the case, the Brakiri solve their problems with money. The town elders have agreed to ‘sell’ all communal property to the Brakiri for the duration of the night.”
“Which the Zhardatu Chadi was trying to make more permanent?”
The watch matron nodded. “Fine print and hidden clauses in the contracts. Brakiri officials will let us try them under Abbai law. We shall look further in the morning.”
“The patrols are not that busy,” said Isseoja.
“I feel differently, Inspector. In all honesty, I believe we will be fortunate if anyone stays on watch throughout the night.” She pointed out a monitor at her console. “Please, look here.” She waited for the inspector to join her before continuing. “You can see the commissary on this screen.”
Inspector Isseoja nodded. She saw three Abbai constables at a dining table in a far corner. One of them was in tears while her cohorts were speaking to her, stroking her quivering shoulders. “Is that Constable Fominba?”
“Correct. The other two were on patrol when they found her in a much more emotional state than you see there…claiming she had just seen her children.”
“But she lost her entire family when the Shadows attacked Homeworld.” When she heard no answer, Isseoja looked up at the watch matron who had been nodding slowly, with meaning. “Is she irrational? Drugged, perhaps?”
“Medical scans are negative. We must find a telepath if we’re to learn more. And there is certainly more.” The watch matron brought up the duty roster on her screen. “Three others on watch now have reported similar situations.” She opened duty reports next. “Citizens have even called for assistance, claiming they have seen or spoken with people who should be dead. Abbai, Brakiri, humans, even Minbari. Some visitors, mainly local citizens. Sometimes distraught, sometimes elated. Or questioning their senses. The only commonalities are these alleged encounters with the dead.”
“Have you contacted the elders?”
“No response, Inspector. We are still trying.”
“Is this happening in any other villages?”
“Not yet. External communications must be malfunctioning. Technicians are looking for the source.”
Inspector Isseoja shook her head, then a thought struck her. “But we can still summon patrols on their comlinks.”
“Yes.” The watch matron sighed, her fists planted on the console, clearly frustrated. “Perhaps we should call on the Anla’shok. Their ship is geosynchronous orbit with us, to keep any raiders away from the festivities, but–”
“For all we know, that’s exactly what we have,” Isseoja said. “Call them now.”
As the watch matron opened a comm channel to the Phoenix, Inspector Isseoja leaned back in her seat and pulled the folds of her magenta gown more tightly around herself as a chill ran through her mango skin. And it was only nightfall.
...Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye, Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? – William Blake, "The Tyger"
Copyright (c) 2000 Joe Medina. All rights reserved.