Characters: Tomás Darquin
Angelina Darquin let herself fall against the inside of her apartment door, slamming it shut behind her, rubbing the dull ache out of her feet as she slipped her shoes off with a weary sigh. She checked the PPG in her tote bag and made sure the safety was still on. She raced out of her waitress uniform, into a T-shirt and sweatpants, swearing to herself just to get her daily dose of rage out of her system. She didn’t feel anything like her namesake.
As she shambled across the room, collapsing into the couch, the comm screen detected her presence and started beeping. Throwing her hands over her face, she groaned, quickly making the transition from groan to full-blown growl in seconds. “What!”
“Three messages waiting. One audio message from Trini Kanno.”
Frowning, Angelina sighed. Trini was asking everyone at work if they could take her shift on Saturday.
The comm screen continued without missing a beat. “One audio message from Deukmajian Collection Services.”
She closed her eyes, shaking her head, trying to wish it away.
“One video message from Tomas Darquin.”
She gasped despite herself. That was a name she hadn’t heard in years, let alone wanted to hear. A chill ran through her fingers.
“Waiting for instructions.”
“Where is the message from Tomas Darquin coming from?”
The comm screen’s lengthy pause was enough to let her know that something was up. Finally, it said, “Unknown.”
She didn’t remember Tom ever being that good with computers. She jumped off the couch to stand in front of the screen. “Play that message.”
The screen went dark for a moment, a loud snap of static heralding the image of her older brother in darkness as if he was in a pit. A single light source overhead splashed over his face and chest. To her surprise, he wasn’t wearing an Earthforce uniform, but the brown and grey of a Ranger. She’d seen a few when she’d first joined the Resistance, then a lot more of them in ISN news reports over the last few weeks.
But her brother… a Ranger?
“Hi, sis. It’s Tom.”
Hearing his voice brought it all back. Her first instinct was to shut the damn thing off and hit something.
Tom seemed to know it, too. His next few words were a desperate tumble as if to beat her to the punch. “I left this message for you, but please listen! We, we need to talk, but I don’t have any time to come and see you.” He sighed. “To be honest, part of me’s afraid we’d try to kill each other if we were face to face. But I don’t think I’ll even be in the system by the time you get this.
“I’ve programmed the comm system to wipe the message and any logs or backups that’d keep a record of it. Cloak ‘n’ dagger, I know, but you’ll understand if you can just hear me out.
“I got something important to tell you. About our parents.”
Stunned, she let her finger fall away from the Stop button.
Tom stopped a moment, apparently trying to gather his thoughts. “This is gonna sound just plain nuts, I can tell you that right off. And I bet seeing me in this get-up will get your hackles up. You’ll probably think I’m just a brainwashed flunky of… some Minbari cult or something.”
She laughed gently. If only he knew what she’d been up to….
“I used to say this whenever we were yelling at each other. But I’m sayin’ it now to let you know I’ll respect whatever you decide.” An earnest expression, something she was never used to seeing, appeared on Tom’s face. “Think whatever you want, sis.”
He took another moment to marshal his will. Angelina crossed her arms and listened as he went on. “The nightmare I used to have when I was a chiquillo… for a while, they came back, so I decided to get to the bottom of it once and for all. I think I have. I’ve talked to Tia Barb and Tio Ronnie, and they confirm it. Our memories were wiped when we were kids. My old nightmare was what’s left of the real memory.”
“What?” She shook her head, chiding herself for talking to a recording, then turned back to Tom on the comm screen.
“Mom and Pop were working at a pharmaceutical group making Dust for the Psi-Corps, some kind of black ops project.” As if he’d heard her fumble over words of protest, he sighed and nodded. “Yeah. Dust. I know. They found out enough that made them want to do something about it, so you can imagine who’d get upset by that. A Psi-Cop, real slimeball, helped them disappear. He was the one who did the memory wipe. When that was done, they took us out to the desert somewhere, probably a few hours out from the arcology, and arranged with Uncle Ronnie to pick us up. It sounds like a lame soap, but so far it checks out, as far as I can go, anyway. The Psi-Corps took Mom and Pop away from us, messed with our minds.” Tom shook his head, looking away from the screen. “We’re not even telepaths. Just a couple of kids left on the back door of one of their dirty projects.”
Angelina turned away from the comm screen, her face blank and her eyes wide with horror. So help her, she was actually believing him. After working in the Resistance, helping a few rogue telepaths leave Mars and hearing their stories about the Psi-Corps, none of Tom’s story seemed like such a reach. She turned back when she heard his voice start up again.
“Looks like the memory wipes didn’t work a hundred percent on us,” he said, “least of all, me. You’d think it’d stick with me since it happened in my formative years. Something kind of… interfered, I guess. Maybe some of the training or… something else I got when I joined the Anla’shok jogged it loose.” An evil grin spread across his dimly lit face. “Or we’re just so damn stubborn.”
Angelina smirked. “Ain’t that the truth.”
“I… don’t know where Mom and Pop are,” he said slowly. “I think they’re dead. I haven’t told Tio and Tia, but–” Even in the dark screen image, she could see muscles in his jaw tighten. “I think the Psi-Corps caught up with them. That Psi-Cop seems to know more than he wants to let on.”
Bitter, refusing to accept the news, she scowled at her brother on the screen. When they were small, Tom seemed capable of saying and doing anything just to hurt her. But now he sounded as if he meant it, and the iron lump of dread in her stomach wouldn’t let her deny it.
“Um….” He looked away, a tear at the edge of his eye as he turned back to face the screen. The wide sea-green gem pinned near his heart shimmered in the single light as he moved. “Angie, I, I’m sorry. I guess that’s all I really wanted to say. We were always tearing into each other only because we were scared. Or angry. All those times I chewed you out, or, or that time I nearly broke your nose… It was dumb, I only did ’cause I needed something to take it out on. We both needed. But we couldn’t see it. I’m kind of embarrassed about that, after all the stuff I did to you. I’m sorry.”
Tomas Darquin snorted, offering a smile full of chagrin. “Sorry, I took longer than I planned. I gotta go. I just thought you oughta hear it from me and not someplace else. I’ll try to get in touch again in a few months.”
Several seconds passed. “I love you, Angie.” The tear at his eye ran down his face in a stream, silver in the one light, just before he turned his face downward. “I’m sorry.”
Static and darkness swallowed the screen, then the Aries DataCom logo swam back into view. With one arm around herself, her fist over her mouth, Angelina exhaled a loud, uneven breath.
Tom had never apologized for anything, not without their older brother or Tio and Tia there to force him, not when the Minbari were on the verge of wiping out the human race. And even now, he couldn’t do it in person. It didn’t seem like enough to sate her pain and rage, the memories of injuries and emotional wounds. Part of her insisted on punishment. It wasn’t enough to simply forgive.
And yet for the first time in her life, Angelina wanted to. Resting her shoulder against the comm screen, she began to cry, holding a stiff grimace of mourning, relief, and pride on her face.
Babylon 5 ™ and (C) 1998 Warner Bros.
Phoenix–“”Your Trembling Arms, I Gently Release” (C) 1999 Joe Medina